This Provincial Life

Bonjour! Today’s the day before the LSAT—the calm before the storm where I get to take one big inhale. I have accepted that I am as ready as I’ll ever be, and just pray that the LSAT gods are in my favor.

Things that I’ll miss about studying for the LSAT:

  • Having an excuse to eat out every day, guilt-free (“Oh I’m far too busy to cook!”)
  • Being able to skip the gym without remorse
  • Basically just having a legitimate hall pass for everything I don’t want to do/want to do

All that aside, I’m over the moon about having my after-work hours to do what I want again, which includes this travel blog. Luckily, while I had my nose buried deep in books, the other half of Catdog graciously obliged to write the last chapter of our travel adventures. It’s a little  bittersweet posting this; each post in this series, though incredibly time consuming, let me relive our escapade (our best one yet) in vivid detail. And now, take it away, Catherine.

Provence, France

There’s a countryside in southern France where there’s far more sky than land and when the sun touches down into the little bit of earth, the light breaks up into a brilliant palette of colors that we don’t even have names for. The clouds are wispy and curly and it felt like we were driving in a little toy car on a little fake road lined with little paper trees in a pop-up book.

French countryside

We drove our little toy car down winding roads and past vineyards and fields littered with Roman ruins until we spotted a small concrete slab marked “Le Mas D’Emilie”. We turned into the narrow drive, tucked away between overgrown trees, and a long gravel road took us to a farmhouse under the biggest moon I’ve ever seen.

That’s the moon, donkey

We stumbled out of the car clutching our McDonald’s paper bags filled with chicken nuggets because we had cracked. We had been averaging 2-3 days per city for two weeks straight and we were tired. Tired of packing and unpacking and almost missing flights and connecting trains and losing our passports and finding our passports, and so when we started playing, “What do you wanna eat? I don’t know. What do you wanna eat?” and the Yelp gods did not hear our prayers, one of us probably suggested, “What about McDonald’s?” in a barely audible whisper because we couldn’t bear the shame. But there is no shame in chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets is our family.

Le Mas D’Emillie

Le Mas D’Emilie was, to me, the best part of Provence. A sweet little gem. Le Mas D’Emilie means Emilie’s house. Emilie is the daughter of Françoise and Pascal Poulet, the charming elderly couple who run the farmhouse bed and breakfast. They don’t speak English so we relied heavily on my “conversational” French, but mostly really energetic charades and Google Translate. We woke up every morning to the smell of brioche and crepes. They bake their own bread and make their own jams and jellies.

Our daily morning spread, compliments of Françoise

They have an olive farm and an old blind black lab named Billy. In the mornings, Françoise smokes hand rolled cigarettes and drinks her black coffee from a bowl. We didn’t get to meet Emilie, but we made friends with her five-year- old son, Mathys (pronounced Matisse like the artist). He drew us portraits and spoke elementary level French with me. I had dreams of never returning home. This would be my life now. I’d learn to bake bread and become a nanny and marry a local chef. It could have been a Disney Channel movie, but there’s nothing cute about a 26-year- old wannabe Lizzie McGuire.

Mathys and his trusty sidekick, Doodoo
Mathys giving us a tour of our bedroom loft


Provence was the last leg of our trip and it rounded itself out nicely as we started learning to be travelers rather than tourists. Between our itineraries jam packed with art museums and cathedrals and this top rated thing on Trip Advisor or that thing that Rick Steves recommended (no disrespect, Rick), we had always had too much to see and do. Then we got to Provence and everything slowed down. We didn’t have any real expectations and we no longer had any sense of urgency. We only wanted to walk around and eat good food.

Good food
Dessert at a local restaurant in Arles

Armed with an old school GPS and a fold up paper map with some places that Françoise had circled for us, we cruised around listening to French pop songs on the radio.

Les Baux

Les Baux

Carriere de Lumières was an art installation. A quarry of lights. We walked into a cool dark cave where giant images of classical art were projected on to the walls of the marble quarry accompanied by dramatic music. It was a novel sort of experience and rated #1 on Trip Advisor of things to do in Les Baux, but it was also number one of twelve things so…

The outside of Carriere
Art projected onto the quarry walls



Arles was a city in Provence that was both idyllic and quaint without lacking Parisian elegance.

Vive la France!
Typical street in Arles

I had the grand experience of dining at a Michelin starred restaurant thanks to Clara because everyone knows she is KING FOODIE. Traveling with her has only further refined my palate and now I have returned home with a taste for finer things, but no moneys. I don’t actually remember what I ordered, but Clara ordered the duck foie gras, duck confit, and chocolate mousse. I remember because she was so proud of herself when she yelled out “Duck, Duck, Mousse!” when our food arrived.

Duck (Foie Gras)
Duck (Confit—Not pictured: MOUSSE!)

We walked down the cobbled streets like Belle and sang slash yelled, “Marie! The Baguettes! Hurry up!” We turned one corner to find a Roman Amphitheater, perfectly preserved. The whole city had remnants of Roman ruins scattered throughout.

Juxtaposition of an ancient Roman amphitheatre and provincial French architecture
View from the top of the amphitheatre
Built during the Roman empire
Somewhat underwhelming if you’ve been to the Coliseum
Made it in right at closing so we were the only tourists!
Looking out over Arles
Straight out of Beauty and the Beast

We walked the entire city up and down hoping to catch some free WiFi signal and then sat on a bench in an empty square and stuffed our squirrel mouths with some bomb éclairs.

Taken with cheeks full of bomb éclairs

Saint-Rémy- de-Provence

Saint-Paul Asylum is a small monastery in Saint-Rémy. Vincent Van Gogh committed himself to this asylum after he cut off his ear as he suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions. During his time here, he was known to have been able to be particularly productive, producing a series of paintings of the monastery grounds. (I may have borrowed from Wikipedia to brush up on some details…)

Entrance to the monastery
Courtyard of St. Paul’s
La vie en rose
Like a page out of Secret Garden
Reproduction of Starry Night, which was painted during Van Gogh’s time in Saint-Rémy
The man, the myth, the legend
Prints of Van Gogh’s paintings peppered throughout the monastery grounds

At the top of a narrow staircase, there was a square window in a stone wall, and out the window we could see the same swirly skies that are depicted in his paintings. He might have been crazy, but we got to see firsthand that the skies are truly swirlier in Provence.

A place of quiet solitude for Van Gogh

We hung a right and stepped into his well-preserved bedroom turned museum. It seemed a little irreverent, but it was mostly humbling to see the physical space that had been occupied by both his impossible genius and sobering madness.

“However, the notion of psychic suffering in this alchemist of the vibration of colours and in this pilgrim of stars, faithful bearer of his truths and emotions…” Mmmm, can you get drunk on words?

We strolled along the monastery grounds enjoying the perfect weather and Snapchatting ourselves holding hands with an iron statue of a life size Monsieur Van Gogh. #Blessed


La Fin

Provence was the perfect low key way to wrap up the most amazing whirlwind trip together. Clara returned to the real world from there as I made my way to London by myself for a couple days and then met my mom and my aunt in Paris. I took them back to Lisbon because I couldn’t not go back, and then to Rome. Looking back at the end of every trip, I come home a little bit changed and a little bit fuller. I travel because it makes me feel small and it gives me perspective. It reveals to me things that have always been there, but I maybe couldn’t see. It teaches me that no matter what far corner of the world I might wander off to, people are the same no matter how different. Traveling is always the greatest privilege, but I’m even luckier because I got to do the whole thing with my beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox.

Beautifully written guest blog. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Merci, Catherine! My journey with Catherine ended in Provence, but I did have a a 12 hour layover in Barcelona before heading back stateside. Mostly I just wanted to eat tapas and drink wine, so I did just that.

Basque style dollar tapas; charged by the number of toothpicks on your plate at the end
Wandering the streets
Casa Batlló at night

It’s been almost one whole year since we embarked on our Europe adventure, and now this blog brings it full circle. Reflecting on our travels now, I really love how we meandered off the beaten path. Am I still paying off Europe debts? Yes. Was it worth it? Also, yes. To quote our hostel mate, Thorin Oakenshield of Gimmelwald, “traveling makes the heart fuller and the mind richer.”

And now, check out the final video montage from Catdog in Europe, and remember—appreciate the little things, always.

Bonus: awesome songs we found while surfing the radio waves in our drive through Provence.

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