Interview with Travel Writer, Marianne Furnes
South of France and Provence
It’s truly hard to pick only a very few favorite places as most of my favorite places are in France and there are a lot of them! I especially have a deep passion for the South of France and Provence, and have had many road trips in that area through the years. However, if I have to highlight a few, it must be Uzès, Roussillon, and Menton. They are all smaller villages or towns, very different from each other, breathtakingly beautiful and full of history. Let’s talk about Uzès first.
The Museum 1900 is most definitely a must-see. This is a playful, informative, unusual, and surprising museum for the whole family, founded by one man, Gaston Baron. This private museum is the work of his life.
The Medieval Garden is a 12th-century site at the heart of the city. It’s a living herbarium with 450 varieties of plants living together and illustrate the many uses that were made of plants in the Middle Ages. The strollers are offered fresh, herbal tea to enjoy during a little break, and several times during the season there are different kinds of art events.
The Mediterranean Pottery Museum is housed inside an old oil mill, and presents a huge collection of pottery. Every year from April to October a temporary exhibition is presented on a theme, period, or ceramic trend.
Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge located right outside of the village. It was built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 kilometers to the Roman colony of Nimes. It’s a beautiful and impressive architectural landmark and was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites in 1985.
There are several wineries in Uzès, and even though I’ve only visited one of them, I’ve heard they’re all good and proudly present their locally produced wines. Absolutely worth a visit.
The Haribo Sweet Museum is a great experience for the whole family and for the kids in particular. Sweets have existed for centuries, but the sweets back then were remarkably different from the ones we enjoy today. After this sweet experience you can take a break on the garden terrace.
On our way to Menton, let’s take a closer look at the extraordinary village of Roussillon. Situated in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, Roussillon is famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries.
The ochre pathways are a must, and to be honest—you can’t really miss them. The red, yellow, and brown shades of the earth form a striking contrast with the lush green pine trees and the vivid blue sky.
You can do a bike session—with or without a guide—through the amazing landscape in the area.
Visit the art galleries in the village. They present both paintings and sculptures, and the artists are happy to tell you about their art and their source of inspiration.
The market that takes place on Thursdays in Roussillon is always fun to experience. Thirty different booths are to be found, and the product range includes fruits and vegetables, meat products, furniture, clothes, kitchen utensils, toys, and a lot more.
Place de la Mairie, a square surrounded by 18th-century houses, is a perfect place to sit down for a little refreshment.
The Ecomuseum of Ochre is a must-visit. Based in a former ochre factory, you can discover the world of ochre in the Luberon on a guided tour or at your own pace. There are discovery workshops for all the family along with the art exhibitions.
Finally we’ve reached Menton, also called the “Pearl of France,” the stunning town located right on the border with Italy. The newer and modern part of the town is fascinating with its beautiful hotels, mansions, and long beaches, whilst the old part with its narrow, winding cobblestone streets and colorful buildings is the most picturesque and charming fairytale-like place you can imagine.
Do a guided tour of Menton’s botanical gardens and enjoy the rare tropical species that were brought in by botanists during the 19th century.
Visit the Jean Cocteau Museum and the Bastion to learn about one of the most famous residents of Menton in the decades gone by: Jean Cocteau. He is best known for his poetry, but he was also a novelist, designer, playwright, and filmmaker.
The Basilica de Saint Michael Archangel cathedral is a must-see. With its beautiful elaborate baroque facade and the 53-meter-tall bell tower, the 17th-century cathedral is a landmark in Menton. It’s also home to Menton’s annual music festival, which runs from July to August each year.
If you happen to visit Menton in February, you’ll experience one of the most unique events in the world, the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival). Visitors come from far away to marvel at the impressive citrus sculptures and colorful parades. The festival has been an annual tradition since 1935. Pretty much anything you can imagine to be created from lemons has been made and can be purchased in one of the many shops and boutiques in the town all year.
Maison Herbin is jam heaven for all jam lovers! Herbin jams are cooked and simmered the old-fashioned way, in small quantities. Tasting an herb jam awakens the taste buds and the senses. Have you ever tried coconut jam? A guided tour of the house is always a success and highly recommended.
The Lemon Farm, an exceptional estate of three hectares on the hills of Menton with a view of the sea, is planted with lemon trees and other citrus fruits from Menton and bordered by century-old olive trees and forest of giant avocado trees, promising a tropical atmosphere.
The Perfect Dinner in Saignon, France
I’m passionate about France, and Provence in particular. An absolutely amazing dinner experience in the tiny, little village of Saignon is a must. Located at the top of the village on the remains of the 12th-century Crugiere castle, you’ll find a beautiful restaurant with a 300-square-meter terrace garden and the most breathtaking panoramic view of the Luberon valley. Sitting there sharing a meal with someone you love and watching the sunset feels almost unreal. I believe very few outside of the region are aware of this place, and it’s most definitely one of the hidden gems that my heart jumped up and down to discover.
Hiking + Connecting with Nature
Personally, one of the most important things in practicing self-care is hiking and connecting with nature. Research shows that people who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile. The health benefits of being in nature are many—for example, improved attention, lower stress, and improved sleep quality, mood, and well-being.
Self-care is so many different things, such as working out, healthy dieting, spending time with family and friends, reading, listening to music, meditation, and so on. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself with some self-care today, something that boosts your energy and makes you smile.
Spiritual wellness is an essential dimension for holistic healthcare. Taking care of ourselves is a must if we would like to have a happy, healthy life, and there are many ways to focus on self-care. We all have different desires and needs, and we might experience that it’s hard to achieve what we really need because our priorities sometimes are wrong.
Words from My Father
The greatest advice I’ve ever received was from my father, who lost his fight against cancer in 2003. Only a few days before he passed away he took my hand and said: “Make sure to build yourself a strong foundation in life, then you’ll stand tall through all storms life will throw at you. Follow your dreams and be happy, and always be kind. Always!”
Words for Creatives
Always be true to your signature style, and never doubt that you are good enough.