Heart and Soul, A Tale of Provence and Bourgogne

If I could have my way I would live in Burgundy for 6 months each year and Provence the other 6 months. Nourishing both my heart and soul.


Its no secret I love France. I love discovering new regions, exploring the vast country and appreciating the regional differences, but that said I always and I mean always want to return to Provence. I mean I absolutely love Provence, the sound of cicadas, the scent of lavender, the beautiful landscape, the taste of tapenade and of course the wine. So I try to pick a new area of Provence each time to explore. The best of both worlds. A new area and still my favourite place. The Provencal lifestyle is appealing as is the food and well just about everything! Everytime I go to France I don’t feel like I have really been to France if I don’t go to Provence. In fact I have called it it like going home.img_3569

But lately I have wondered about that statement. I do love Provence. I feel comfortable there, I know my way around, I love the food, the feel, the welcome but is is where I feel like home? Maybe but Provence is my heart, I love it more than I can say but home? Home to me in spirit is actually Burgundy (Bourgogne). Bourgogne truly feels like home. Just like visiting London on Tower Bridge felt like all my childhood expectations of London coming true that first time, so does Burgundy represent that for France. For one. wine is not only a source of pride and artistry but also identity. Its complex, boutique and like nothing else you will experience. But as well all my culinary stereotypes of France actually have their regional roots in Burgundy. Boeuf Bourgignon? check, Coq Au Vin? check? Charlois beef? check? escargot? check? and the list goes on. Burgundy with its small and beautiful wine villages, dark wood cozy bistros, less crowded local markets, and stunning countryside is where I feel completely at peace and really feels like I am home.

If I could have my way I would live in Burgundy for 6 months each year and Provence the other 6 months. Nourishing both my heart and soul. So if you want to find out just why I love these areas so much here are my tips to make the most of your visit


  1. Try the wine. Provence is vastly underrated for its wine. The roses are well known for a reason but the reds are often overlooked.  Also it is important to note, although part of Provence, many of the wine appellations actually belong to the Southern Rhone AOCS including. Luberon, Ventoux and the famous Chateauneuf du Pape. Make sure to try Chateau de la Gardine http://www.gardine.com/en/ and Domaine Le Galantin http://www.le-galantin.com/
  2. Visit the markets: L’isle sur La Sorgue is my favourite, but @benton8tor prefers the less busy but still great Roussillon and Cadanet markets.
  3. See the lavender fields. Head up to Sault for some truly stunning views and scents!
  4. Try the local food. As I mentioned before Avignon Gourmet tours introduced us to some of Provence’s best food from tapenade to semi dried tomatoes to mussels to pastries I was amazed. Also try Bouillabaisse in Marseille! https://www.avignongourmetours.com/
  5. Relax and enjoy. There is lots to see in Provence for sure but some of the best fun is to be a had a local patio, sipping on rose or another wine, just people watching. Provence is great to unwind, relax, and enjoy.


  1. Go to Beaune the heart of wine county. Stay at the Henri II near the centre. The hotel is beautiful, the service spectacular and it is in walking distance to most sites.  http://www.henry2.fr/UK/index.php
  2. Visit the Marches Au Vin. Understanding Burgundy wine can be intimidating and the Marches Au Vin offers tastings at a reasonable price. The tastings are self guided but their is a roving sommelier and it is a great introduction to understanding Burgundy wines http://www.marcheauxvins.com/?lang=en
  3. Go to the villages in the Cote D’Or surrounding Burgundy. Have a 5 course decadent lunch at Olivier Le Flaive paired with some truly amazing wines! https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/
  4. Enjoy the food! Burgundy is a culinary paradise. The first meal we had in Beaune was at a local spot where my mom ordered the ham sandwich and salad. Both the sandwich and salad was a rather large portion and she didn’t think she could eat it all. We start eating and chatting but my mom is rather silent. She scarfed down her salad and sandwich in record time. ” I couldn’t help it” she says as we sat staring  at her  ” it was just so good.” I rolled my eyes, how could a sandwich be that good? Fast forward 4 years and @benton8tor and I are at the Au Carnot, a beautiful bistro in Beaune and I had a ham sandwich that was that good. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/ But so was the gazpacho and the beef tartare. Same could be said for the food at LA Grilladine, with its pate, beef and escargot. https://lagrilladine.fr/spip.php?article2 Beaune is a foodie and wine haven.
  5. Check out the markets full of amazing food, spices and local goods with considerable less tourists.

If you are going to Provence or Burgundy, you can’t go wrong, after all they are the heart and soul of France (Just don’t tell Bordeaux)

Vines and Voyages 5 Fav Restaurants in France

Le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world

Often when travelling, deciding where to eat can be a challenge. Maybe you have done your research, read the reviews, and made your plan. There is a lot of value to this approach. You are less likely to be disappointing and it can save time but… you can miss out on lesser known amazing restaurants, you can be disappointed and maybe once you are actually travelling you feel like trying something different. Or maybe you take the other approach and decide to ask locals once you are there or simply scout around looking for a restaurant that looks good. Whatever the approach, they all have benefits and drawbacks.

Eating in restaurants and trying different foods is one of my favorite reasons to travel. In France especially, the food is usually fresh, seasonal and regional. Asking for recommendations is key and staying away from restaurants in tourist areas (i.e. Eiffel tour) is key. I have put together a list of my top 5 favorites.

5. Cafe L’absinthe Paris France. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html. Located in the northern part of the Marais, Cafe L’absinthe is a very local bistrot. The service is especially friendly, the atmosphere cozy and the wine delicious and inexpensive. The food is solid. I had the charcuterie and @benton8tor the lamb. Also try the absinthe!

4. Brassiere le Carnot in Beaune, France has the classic French feel. dark wood, french lighting and wine served in beautiful porcelain jugs. thumbnail_IMG_0704Beaune in the heart of Burgundy is the center of Burgundy’s famous wine and the epicenter for Burgundy’s legendary gastronomy. Burgundy is famous for bœuf bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and more. Le Carnot features local ingredients. In the summer the gazpacho is amazing along with the jambon. Beef tartare is a don’t miss. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/

3. Still in Beaune La Grilladine offers amazing set menus featuring Burgundy classics. Both the restaurant and the patio offer a lovely atmosphere.Europe June 2010 393 The bœuf bourguignon is delicious as is the parsilined ham.. @Benton8tor swears by the perfectly cooked Charolais beef and scallops. My dad loved the escargot and my mom had the underrated chicken in mustard dish ( You are close to Dijon so…). The wine is incredible ( you are in Burgundy after all) but ask the servers for recommendations to pair to get the best wine experience. My dad and I had wines from the famed cote de nuit which we loved. Desert for me was pears poached in the the burgundy wine. Definitely check it out. http://lagrilladine.fr/

2. Olivier Leflaive. Well we are still in Burgundy. It is a culinary hot spot so it makes sense. If you are violivier-2siting Burgundy make sure to check out Olivier Leflaive. located in the famed Puligny-Montrachet village and appellation, Olivier Leflaive is vineyard, hotel and restaurant and is not to be missed. The 5 courses were paired perfectly with some of the best wines.2014 We started with the lightest gougeres and moved on to a ham terrine with mustard sauce.We also enjoyed a amazing carrot souffle, chicken and desert. We upgraded to the 7 tasting with our meal which included a a few grand and premier crus. Looking for a wonderful French experience, try Olivier Leflaive. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

  1. Leaving Burgundy fr Provence, My favourite French restaurant to date is Restaurant le Vivier in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is amazing. @benton8tor had researched Michelin starred restaurants and we decided to give it a try. Away from the main drag in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world, followed by a bacon, mozza and tomato soup. My pork course was amazing and my peach and chocolate desert with raspberry sauce was incredible. @benton8tor nicknamed it the space odyssey dessert as when you poured the raspberry sauce on the chocolate sphere, it opened to reveal a peach based dessert inside. The wine was Provencal, light and easy drinking. @benton8tor opted for a rose and pigeon pie. His dessert featured violets from the neighboring Langedoc. the patio overlooks the river and the service is perfect. You won’t be disappointed. https://www.levivier-restaurant.com/cuisine-gastronomique-etoile-restaurant-le-vivier-vaucluse/

There are many other amazing restaurants in France, I didn’t get to mention but asking locals, restaurants featuring regional specialties, or just going to the market yourself, you are sure to enjoy France and its its world famous food.

5 Recommended Wine Tours in Europe

My love affair with wine started in Montreal but took hold in France.

My love affair with wine started in Montreal but took hold in France. Wine is one of favourite reasons to travel. i first started trying to expand my wine knowledge, I started pretty simply, asking for recommendations in restaurants or hotel staff. I was a bit afraid of tours, I thought i would need to know more than Idid and didn’t want to look stupid. I shouldn’t have been afraid, that is exactly what these tours are for, to introduce you to wines, understand how they are made and what you are tasting and finally give you an appreciation and a love for the wine and the art of wine making. I have had some amazing wines by getting a map from a local tourist office and driving to different vineyards for tastings, but that is for another blog. On formal wine tours, I have had an amazing time, met some fantastic new people and tried some of the most incredible wines. Here are my top 5 recommendations of wine tours.

5. Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy. We booked a lunch at Olivier Leflaive based on an article from  of Food and Wine magazine http://www.foodandwine.com/. The lunch came with wine pairings.  Olivier Leflaive is famous for its white wines,Predominantly a red wine drinker,  I was never the less excited as Burgundy is onolivier-2e of France’s more storied, celebrated and revered wine regions and I was about to find out why. Upon booking we were asked if we wanted to include a vineyard tour. Of course we did. And on the vineyard tour which preceded the lunch, we learned all about the vines, the micro climate that contributed to the flavour of the grapes (predominately chardonnay and pinot noir), the impact of the soil, sun and wind on the grape and how trimming the vines impacts the wine. We then took a tour of the winery itself followed by a delicious lunch. The lunch was four courses paired with the vineyards best wines including premier and grand crus. Not to be missed.https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

4. Staying in Pisa and Florence seemed a perfect jumping off point to taste Tuscan wines, in particular the Chianti wines. Knowing very little about Italian wines, I was eager to taste and try. Our wine tour was just a bit too large. Side note, smaller tours are often better and have more times for both questions and commentary. That said, We got to enjoy the beautiful Tuscan countryside, visit a Chateau for tasting with food pairings and enjoy meeting other people on our tour. Our tour guide at the Chateau knew her stuff, explained about the vines and spent a fair bit of time matching the wine tasting to the food and it it really did make quite the difference. All in all, fairly enjoyable but not the most interesting of wines on this tour.

3. Wine Tasting in the Chateauneuf du pape.Avignon is the most logical place to start wine tours for Chateauneuf du pape. Easily one of my favourite wine regions, This Southern Rhone Wine region produces some of the biggest, boldest, most interesting French wines. I didn’t know just how much I ‘d come to adore Chateauneuf du pape wines when I first set out on the tour. Since then, I actively seek them out and the wines areimg_4811 among my favourite wines in the world! Our tour guide paired the wine tastings in the vineyards with a trip to the Roman Theatre in Orange so truly get an understanding of our surroundings. The theatre which is still in use is exceptional but the wines…. were out of this world. There was a wide variety of tastes from the light bodied summer wines to the full bodied flavour packed reds. A definite must for any wine lover.

2. Veuve Clicquot is one of the oldest Champagne houses in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region.europe-june-2010-453 It is also my favourite. The first champagne house to be run by a woman, Madame Clicquot back in 1805, she also invented the riddling process which allows us to enjoy champagne today. And oh how I enjoyed it!!! The Champagne all had remarkably different flavours and we came away with a new respect for Champagne house traditions. https://www.veuveclicquot.com/en-ca

1. For me the creme de la creme of wine tours was http://www.chemins-de-bourgogone.com. Leaving from the Beaune tourist office, thisbeaune-3 small tour takes you through the vineyards of Burgundy. Traveling through villages and vineyards that I had only heard of on a wine label, we one again we immersed in the process of making the wine and the art form and celebration associated with it. I learned to have a new respect for the vines, the workers, the wine maker and most of ll the wine. Stopping in a vineyard which has been in wine production since the time of Charlemagne, we tasted an eau de vie from the grapes of the vineyards were were sitting in. We finished off the tour at a winery for some tastings and I would easily book again and again.

If you j20160825_122632ust want to start exploring wines from different countries and regions there is no better place than Gordons wine bar 47 Villiers St London. Just down the street from Charing Cross towards the Thames, Gordons wine bar is a hidden gem. Marketed as London’s oldest wine bar, the interior is era appropriate, even with its own wine cave  Featuring wines from around the world, even India and Lebanon, Gordons is a must go to try wines and have fun. The server will help you select and you’ll have a great time. http://gordonswinebar.com/

Wine is something many people love but can be a divisive topic. We all have opinions I have often heard and also said  ‘i don’t like white wine’ or ‘I don’t like merlot’ but maybe just maybe after a wine tour you find out you actually do. It is always worth  try to expand your tastes and try something you just might love ( I am looking at you Chateauneuf du pape).