When in Provence….

@benton8tor swears there is nothing more calming that sitting outside in a beautiful Provencal setting with Provencal bread and cheese and enjoying a rose.

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Ahh Provence, the much romanticized region of France, home to lavender fields, small picaresque villages and rose. It couldn’t possibly live up to the hype or can it? The answer is yes it can and then some. Provence will not disappoint and depending on what you love to do, Provence is varied enough to meet almost any need (though if you like snow, head slightly north to Savoie). Like hiking? Well good for you, the Luberon will provide many opportunities for you. Like wine? Provence’s underrated wine region, which is more than rose has just about everything.  Like history? Head to Orange and see one of the best preserved Roman theaters or continue north to Vaison la Romaine.403816_10151083489020140_1435743660_n Like Glamour? Head to the Cote d’Azur for a beautiful tropical feel and plenty of glamour and wealth to spare. Like Food? Well you are in Provence so…. Which brings me to the question. I am in in Provence, now what? Well use my handy dandy but by no means expert guide to help figure out what to do. Provence is large. From Marseilles to the Italian border, the Mediterranean to just north of Avignon on the west, though the Northeastern border is closer to Grenoble. So Provence offers a lot and start with…

  1. Visiting villages. Peter Mayle famed author and Provencal resident has highlighted the allure of a Provence village and they are worth the visit. Especially for those wishing to escape the more tourist heavy settlement along the Mediterranean. Not to say these villages don’t have tourists, they do but they have a quieter more serene appeal. Lourmarin, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gordes,
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    Gordes

    Orange, Manosque are all good starting points  for a visit to Provence. Lourmarin is stunning with lovely sidewalk restaurants and home to the Chateau du Lourmarin. http://www.chateau-de-lourmarin.com/home/ Chateauneuf du Pape is a small village in the heart of the famed Chateaunef du Pape wine region (which is technically a Rhone wine AOC) So when you are there…drink wine. Seriously, you can’t go wrong. Chateauneuf du Pape wine is famous for a reason.

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    wine in Chateauneuf du Pape

    The soils and climate give rise to some very interesting and very varied wines. A tasting visit to Chateau de Nerthe is recommended for its delicious wines, hospitable service, and affordability. The last time we were in Chateauneuf du Pape, @benton8tor decided it was touristy and was in a bit of a mood. Waiting to be seated for lunch, he looked around and remarked ” Well I guess I just have to be ok with touristy food” he sighed as a large tour group walked by. I ignored him after all we were in Chateauneuf du Pape. After we were seated, @benton8tor asks the English family next to us ” How is that burger?” The man replies “It is the best burger I ever ate!” @benton8tor ordered the burger still skeptical, as burgers aren’t very French. But It ended up being one of the best burgers he ever ate. His good mood and my smugness at being right were restored!

    But as I said also visit Other villages, Lancon De Provence along with St Remy De Provence are beautiful, Orange is full of history and Gordes is literally stunning. Cadanet is underrated. There are so many more to visit. I probably should go again soon. http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/

  2. Visit whatever is in season. If you are there in the summer, go see the lavender fields. They are quite stunning and the scent is intoxicating. In the spring see the almond trees, Fall is grape harvest!, mushroom picking and saffron. Late fall and winter is for truffles.

    Either way Provence has lots to offer and check out any market for local in season specialties. I recommend L’isle Sur La Sourge’s market and it is a great place to grab a drink by the river when you are finished! https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g608811-d486621-Reviews-L_Isle_sur_la_Sorgue_Market-L_Isle_sur_la_Sorgue_Vaucluse_Provence_Alpes_Cote_d_Az.html

  3. Enjoy the local specialties. Provence is influenced by it Mediterranean neighbours and from the climate which is hospitable to olives, grapes ect…. Tapenade an olive paste meant for baguettes is a Provencal specialty and absolutely delicious as Provence olives have a distinct flavor. Bouillabaisse is specialty of Marseille and this seafood soup/stew is a tomato based, saffron infused must try. As well the Pissaladière a Provence pizza with onions, olives and anchovies that is delicious. Aoli is a Provencal classic, and this garlic/mayonnaise combo pairs beautifully with fish. Ask for recommendations but Provence is a foodie haven and much lighter fare than that of its Northern neighbours.

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    Tapenade
  4. Try the wine, not just the rose. Provence is famous for its roses for a reason but this means its whites and reds are actually underrated. Despite having the Luberon and Chateauneuf du Pape, in its departments, Provence wine region does not include these heavyweights, they belong to the Rhone so Provence’s whites and reds can be overshadowed. The reds of Bandol and Baux du Provence are bold, structured, and delicious. But delicate reds, easy drinking are also present. You can find wines suitable for a hot day and wines that will stand up to the spicier dishes. Provencal whites are also fresh and crisp, especially in Cassis. Provence wines are much more than rose.
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    Domaine Le Galantin

    Try Domaine Le Galantin in Bandol for all 3. http://www.le-galantin.com/vins-bandol.php

  5. Try Roses. Despite the absolute crime that white zinfandel has committed against roses, roses are not sickly sweet juice masquerading as wine. I know white zinfandel has its fans, but I am not one. Roses from Provence are dry, light, aromatic and unique. Made mainly by the direct press methods which ensures a lightness in colour but not flavour, these roses are aromatic, floral and beautiful. @benton8tor swears there is nothing more calming that sitting outside in a beautiful Provencal setting with Provencal bread and cheese and enjoying a rose. He is right. Provencal roses are like no other and come with their own unique bottle (called the skittle) though not all producers use it. Suffice it to say, the wine in unique so try it.IMG_4754

Provence is beautiful, friendly, can cover any budget and offer much to do but when visiting Provence, I just want to pour glass of wine, smell the lavender and watch the world go by.

5 Recommended Vineyard Wine Tastings in Provence

Pick up a bottle of your favourite, buy some local cheese,a baguette and some fruit or olives and head for the hills and enjoy a wonderful French picnic. Afterwards head back to Bandol for a dip in the Mediterranean and you will have had the perfect Provencal day. Just remember to stop and smell the lavender

Provence the land of lavender and honey And wine of course! Provence has itsown  AOC wine designation and alsocovers part of the the Southern Rhone AOC as well. So your opportunities for tasting are endless, but where to start? Well that can be the confusing part. Do you do a wine tour? Do you just drive up to a winery? How do you manage the tasting? How do you know which are the best? Well a wine tour is a great way to introduce yourself to the region but how to really find those off the beaten path smaller wineries with  delicious wines? Well your best bet is to go to a local tourist office and ask for a map of wineries. My preferred method is get a map, pick one winery and set the GPS. En Route  I will see several other wineries and scream “degustation (taste) stop!”  and order @benton8tor to stop. Side note, this is not @benton8tor’s preferred method. That said, he will be the first to admit that we have discovered some amazing wines this way. Including his all time favourite Provencal rose. So with that, here are my top five recommended stops in Provence.

5. Domaine Le Galantin: Located in the famous Bandol wine region, Domaine Le Galantin is a small tasting room but heavily favoured by locals. Which is always a good sign. We pulled in for a tasting and were warmly greeted by the proprietor. We tasted Cuvee D’Achille white, red and rose. I was a fan of the red.IMG_4968 As with many Bandol wines, it was bold with dark fruit overtones and easily drinkable. But the rose, which was @benton8tor’s favourite was delicate, fruity, bright, and refreshing. The tasting room itself was rustic, welcoming and a definite must stop in Provence. Pick up a bottle of your favourite, buy some local cheese,a baguette and some fruit or olives and head for the hills and enjoy a wonderful French picnic. Afterwards head back to Bandol for a dip in the Mediterranean and you will have had the perfect Provencal day. Just remember to stop and smell the lavender. http://www.le-galantin.com/domaine.php

4. Crous St Martin is in the very famous Chateauneuf du Pape of the Southern Rhone. Just 10 minutes North of Avignon, this region produces some of the most interesting, bold yet delicate and complex reds. Crous St Martin was our introduction into Chateauneuf du Pape. It was one of the best introductions, you could ask for with a total of 6 tastings you get to appreciate the full range of their wine. The wine we bought was delicious. This is Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah territory. Our favourite was spicy with hints of tea and tobacco and lingered pleasantly on the palate. Again what you taste is arbitrary. So many of my friends worry that they aen’t tasting the same thing. My advice is do you enjoy it? Good then drink it and taste what you taste. which as my friend Jeff says it is usually red wine he tastes So relax and enjoy  and remember that Crous St Martin is  a great introduction to Chateauneuf Du Pape. http://crousstmartin.com/history/ .

3. Chateau Calissane- A fabulous Provencal winery near Lancon de Provence. Producing both wine and olive oil for purchase and taste, Chateau Calissane is a delight. A beautiful bright tasting room with local products for sale. However try the winIMG_4806es. These Provencals reds and roses are amazing. 34565_447569215139_4041028_nEasily drinkable, especially in the hot weather, your only challenge will be how much you can fit in your suitcase. The red was my favourite of course with its light spiced, soft cherry notes. This is an excellent wine to try if you are just starting to drink reds! The olive oil was also amazing and Chateau Calissane is a very worthwhile stop. Prepare to spend about a hour here. The grounds are also beautiful. http://www.calissanne.fr/

2. Domaine de L’Olivette- Another Bandol standout and my one of my favourites. This winery is warm, welcoming and beautiful. The wines are amazing as well and inexpensive. Both red and rose are delicious. the red is bold, fruity with complex undertones. the rose is floral, bright and crisp. Again perfect for a picnic or just because. The tastings are generous and you will be back for more! the white wine is also delicious and a rarity in red dominated Bandol. Again as one of the smaller wineries (small being subjective) it has an some wonderful wines to offer that may otherwise be missed so make sure to stop. http://www.domaine-olivette.com/en/nos-vins

  1.  Chateau De La Nerthe – Located in a stunning setting just outside of the Chateauneuf du Pape village, Chateau De La Nerthe offers beautiful wines in a beautiful tasting room in a beautiful setting. I think you get the picture. Chateau De La Nerthe was picked by my trusty Degustation shouting system. Yes I saw a sign that said Degustation and screamed stop. In this case, we stumbled upon one of the very best places to stop and taste wine. The wines are amazing. Spicy with dark fruit and leather flavours, these wines will make you come back again and again. The proprietor is welcoming and passionate about the wine and very willing to answer any questions you may have about the wine including ” May I try another”. A stop at Chateau De La Nerthe is a guaranteed fabulous tasting experience.

Provence is a fabulous opportunity for drive up or walk up tasting. A drive anywhere off the motorway almost guarantees you multiple signage offering degustations. So take advantage of it,  stop and enjoy.  After all you are in Provence.

A Francophile French Favourites

So grab a patio, order your wine, find your favourite specialty to order and enjoy! After all you are in France!

By now, you will all know just how much I love France and part of that love is the French food. The French pride themselves on food, how they prepare it, the quality of ingredients and of course la technique! And if you have ever read a Julia Child or Peter Mayle book, you know just that enjoying french food is a national pastime. That isn’t to say you can’t have a bad meal in France, you can (ahem I am looking at you Cafe Le Dome near the Eiffel Tower) but they can be easy to avoid given the prevalence of quality ingredients, talented chefs and pride in the enjoyment of food. While you can have a great meal anywhere in France, it is important to understand that French food has dominant regional roots and to best enjoy and  try the regional specialties in the actual region  Here is my handy top 10 list/ guide to enjoying French Food.

1. Tapenade in Provence. This Provencal olive paste is best spread on bread but is also enjoyed in Provencal dishes. In a word it is my favouite French dish. Made from either green or black olives, it is savoury and surprisingly mild. Which is not to say it isn’t full of flavour because it is is. Best enjoyed overlooking lavender fields, the Luberon, or the Mediterranean, you can’t go wrong. It goes best with a Provencal rose (if you are @benton8tor in which case you will never ever ever eat the green again) or Bandol red if you are me, in which case you will happily eat both. * I have had great tapenades in both Bourgogne and Bordeaux but nothing compares to Provence.

2. Choucroute Garnie- a Alsatian dish with sauerkraut, ham hock/pork knuckle/salt pork and, 3 types of  sausages (usually Strasbourg, Montbeliard and Morteau) flavored with Alsatian Riesling, 555975_10151083480535140_2025428517_nit is usually a winter dish. And despite my love of tomatoes, vegetables and usually eschewing meat, I love this dish. A definite must try and a dish both Benton8tor ( a dedicated carnivore) and I agree wholeheartedly on. Pairs with you guessed it an Alsatian Riesling.

3. Cassoulet a Langedoc speciality complete with debate on which city is home to the original Cassoulet10517584_10152536479930140_4790389457117546671_n A high  and I do mean high protein dish with white beans, pork sausage, duck or goose or partridge comfit and lamb or pork. slow cooked, it is a truly truly delicious dish but plan to eat light the next day! Drink with a Langedoc red, preferably from Cahors or Minervios.

4. Gazpacho-though traditionally Spanish, French tomatoes are among the most succulent, flavorful and amazing tomatoes you will ever try so it stands to reason with their warm/ hot summers gazpacho in France is amazing. I have tried green tomato gazpacho in Provence and Red gazpacho in Beaune. Both times I have been clamoring for more. In fact after trying gazpacho in Spain and please don’t hate me but the French gazpacho is the very clear winner for its more defined and flavorful versions. A MUST MUST try. Also pairs extremely well with the light but flavorful Provencal reds or  the complex pinots from Bourgogne.

5. Bouef Bourginon- A Burgundian specialty, this beef stew simmered in the famous Burgundian wine, you really can’t go wrong. La Grilladine in Beaune does a superb Bouef Bourginon. http://lagrilladine.fr/ You absolutely must drink this with a wine from Bourgogne. This might be @benton8tor’s all time favourite french dish. So much so he would eat it on a 30 degree summer day. Bourgogne/Burgundy is infamous for its plethora of amazing food so to stand out in this region, the food has to be amazing!

6. Charcuterie- a charcuterie is widely available across France. Usually smoked meats, sausages and pates complete with mustards, breads, cornichons and other picked vegetables, you will no doubt be overjoyed.IMG_5010 I have had an amazing charcuterie at Cafe Absinthe in Paris, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html but for a truly amazing charcuterie go to Lyon, a city famous for its sausages and the more famous Bouchons (small bistro style restaurant) would be the place to try it. That said Restaurant L’Instant in Le Lavandou on the Cote d’Azur serves the often underrated Corsican meats on their charcuterie which still stand as the best I have ever had. http://www.restaurantlinstant.sitew.com/#ACCUEIL.
Pairs best with a regional wine.

7. Gougeres- Burgundy/Bourgogne lays claim to these tasty, mouthwatering choux pastry delights. That said they are widely available throughout France. Made with choux pastry and cheese (often gruyere or comte) they are a great start to your meal or a fabulous snack. The best ones I ever ate where at Olivier Leflaive https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ in Puligny Montrachet in Bourgogne. They were light, fluffy. and full of amazing flavour. Pairs exceptionally well with the whites of Puligny Montrachet. Coincidentally, Olivier LeFlaive is also where I had the best souffle ever.

8. Croque monsieur- the french version of a grilled cheese is usually made with bechemel sauce and gruyere or comte cheese and is a true delight. try the croque madame with an egg on top. pairs well with wines from Bourgogne, Jura, Savoie and Loire as well as Northern Rhone

9. Pastry- French pasties can not be understated. Go to a patisserie with an empty stomach and try!!! From croissants and pain au chocolat to the more ornate pastries you can’t help but have your mind blown. and possible gain a few pounds but oh my will it be worth it!

10. The French are famous for their markets so go for a picnic. Go the the market in the morning, get a baguette, some cheese ( I recommend the goats cheese from Provence) and some ham and veggies of your choice. I obviously pick the most delicious cherry tomatoes. Get some wine and find a beautiful spot (not hard you are in France) and enjoy!!Don’t forget your wine opener as using your shoe and banging the bottle on the sidewalk is more challenging, just ask Benton8tor.  The bread in France is beyond amazing. In fact so much so that my dad buys flour, butter and yeast in Provence when he travels to make bread at home. Apparently this isn’t an unusual thing.

@benton8tor says I need to add these honorable mentions (i.e. his favorites)

  1. Foie gras- widely available, controversial and native to Gascony this delicacy of goose  liver tastes like the best butter you will ever eat.
  2. Charolais Beef- Burgundian of course, Benton8tor swears it is the most flavorful beef.
  3. Coq au vin- Another Burgundian specialty,  it is chicken/rooster slow cooked in Burgundian wine. Drink with a Red Bourgogne.
  4. Jambon au Buerre- A ham sandwich, simple but amazing due to the quality of ingredients. Even better with a hard boiled egg and a Loire rose.
  5. Flamkuche- an onion tart which is a delicious Alsatian specialty. A must must have.
  6. Salads in France- never to be underestimated and always filling.

So grab a patio, order your wine, find your favourite specialty to order and enjoy! After all you are  in France!

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.

Les Beaux Villages last one finalement!!!!

But for a true stunner of a village, you can’t beat Gordes. Gordes, also in the Luberon is literally set into a hillside.

By now, it is clear, I love visiting villages in Provence. Of all that I have visited, I chose my top 4 to highlight. So far I have covered Chataeuneuf-du-Pape (the must for wine lovers, Lourmarin ( A must of lovers of tranquility), and Cadenet ( A must for an authentic French village experience). They all are unique yet quintessentially Provencal. There are most likely no wrong villages to visit, It is Provence after all. I would recommend as well Sault, Orange, L’Ilse Sur La Sourge, St Remy de Provence, Lancon de Provence, Bandol, and Cadiere d’Azur. Though I haven’t been there yet, I hear amazing things about Lacoste, Roussillon, Apt, and Casiss. But for a true stunner of a village, you can’t beat Gordes.

Gordes, also in the Luberon is literally set into a hillside. If you didn’t have defined calf muscles before, a visit to Gordes will ensure you leave with them. To say it is hilly is an understatement. Parking is frightening at best and yes it is probably best to spare your ankles and wear flat shoes. But it is so worth it. Back in 2012, we arrived in Avignon and picked up our rented car. We piled in, ready to set off to Gordes. @benton8tor and I excited to see where some of the scenes from a Good Year were filmed ( the movies starring Russell Crowe is OK but scenery is stunning). My parents on this trip with us in 2012, were in the back. As we drove down the beautiful Provencal roads, more often than not surrounded by plane trees, I was super relaxed. “There is something wrong with the car”@benton8tor surmises. ” No there isn’t” I reply rather huffily. After all, I has markets to visit and wine to drink. “Do you hear that?” from Ben now certain a breakdown is imminent.I roll my eyes, my dad rolls his eyes and my mother pipes up “Yes Yes I hear it too! ” We stop they roll down to the window to discover the sound? La cigale or cicada one of the loudest insects in Provence. We still haven’t let them live it down.

We pulled into our B and B, La Burliere.  http://la-burliere.com/ Normally, I prefer hotels but this place was spectacular. Othumbnail_IMG_6415ur hosts were gracious, warm, and helpful. The property beautiful. Our room had a private balcony and my parent a private terrace. Each room was uniquely Provencal decorated with colours and artists of Provence. Breakfast every morning was delicious with homemade pastries, jams and juices. Seriously stay with them.

But onto Gordes for lunch. The approach to Gordes is nothing short of spectacular. There’s a perfect spot to pull over for pictures but if you are afraid of heights, well it is probably best to keep going

Gordes can be difficult to maneuver but it is full of shops and restaurants well worth the visit.Lavender is very easy to come by as is anything lavender scented.Gordes is a tourist attraction and caters to clientele with money so it can be expensive and busy. But worth it. Out lunch spot looked at first like a typical tourist store. Which it was selling local products. My mom wanted to go in to buy soap (which she did, several times) and we realized they had a patio out back.A patio that overlooked the Luberon valley with spectacular view. So we of course took a seat.I had a beautiful tomato salad. My mother had a ham and melon salad. Which became the bane of my existence as she swore it was so good that that is all she wanted to eat for the rest of the trip.Possibly forever. It has been 5 years, she still talks about it.

Gordes however does have many other restaurants and all that we tried were good. It can get busy and if looking for a quick snack it may be easier to try nearby L’Isle Sur La Sorgue. (also the McDonalds drive through gives beer, we didn’t eat there, just got beer) but for poking around and pure beauty, you can’t beat Gordes, so why not join, ’em?

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lavender fields from Gordes

 

Les Beaux Village Encore of Course

Cadenet is one of those villages often overshadowed by its more famous and well known neighbours. For that very reason, Cadenet shouldn’t be ignored.

Still on the beautiful Village theme from Provence, we have Cadenet. 10 minutes south of Lourmarin, Cadenet is one of those villages often overshadowed by its more famous and well known neighbours. For that very reason, Cadenet shouldn’t be ignored. http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/cadenet/cadenet.htm

A village of roughly 4,000, Cadenet is known for its lake, chateau and basket weaving. Of all the villages I have visited in Provence is is by far the least touristy. In fact on the day we visited (en route to Lourmarin) we only stopped in because we heard it was market day. Unlike many of the other markets, we actually had room to movethumbnail_IMG_6383. It was a fairly big market with all the usual draws, fresh olives, lavender, local cheese, amazing bread and pastry and in season produce. It also had the usual household goods and clothing and mostly importantly  for @benton8tor, Laguiole products. http://www.laguiole.com/index.php?language=en We had heard about Laguiole products courtesy of Peter Mayle books of course and now here were were. We must have walked up and down the market 7 or 8 times, stopping at the stall each time before Ben finally made his choice. When I asked him back in Canada about his favourite thing he bought, it was his Laguoile bottle opener and knife.

That isnt the only reason to visit Cadenet of course,20160905_114558 It is hilly but easily walkable, mainly locals and beautiful patios to enjoy a refreshment. We chose the bar du cours and the service was lovely and perfect for people watching. Cadenet is small but beautiful with excellent local products and a distinctly tourist free vibe.. Cadenet is well worth the time and effort so take time to check it out.

 

Les Beaux Villages Encore

So I figured if Peter Mayle lived there, then Lourmarin must be the THE place for the best, most fresh, most authentic food, the best wine, the most interesting people, the most authentic village, and the most beautiful.

In my last blog, I highlighted my favourite and the most beautiful villages of Provence, France, in particular Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Keeping with the theme, today I am going to highlight the beauty of Lourmarin.http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/lourmari/lourmari.htm Lourmarin is also located in the Vaucluse department of Provence about 40 minutes north of Aix en

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Chateau de Lourmarin

Provence. If I am completely honest, my desire to visit Lourmain was not based off some great local knowledge or heavy research into beautiful French villages. It was simply that the author Peter Mayle lives nearby. For anyone who has ever read a Peter Mayle book, it is almost a guarantee that you too will fall in love with Provence from the words on the page. So I figured if Peter Mayle lived there, then Lourmarin must be the THE place for the best, most fresh, most authentic food, the best wine, the most interesting people, the most authentic village, and the most beautiful. I also somehow hoped I would meet Peter Mayle an we would quickly become best of friends, united in our adoration of France. Shockingly that didn’t happen. I know, i was surprised too.

But we did visit Lourmarin and it absolutely was worth it. Lourmarin is a quintessential French village. After parking the c20160905_124219ar (with fairly ample parking for a village) we strolled towards the village centre. @Benton8tor who finds my Peter Mayle fascination the tiniest bit obsessive was gobsmacked. ‘This place is beautiful’. Lourmarin is beautiful, postcard beautiful and it has the unique ability to be busy but somehow feel both languid and chill at the same time. The perfect place both introverts and extroverts. We spent a bit of time poking around the various shops. Lourmarin has beautiful shops with unique items but runs to the more expensive side. Though small, it has plenty of options for shopping. We walked up to the Chateau de Lourmarin.http://www.chateau-de-lourmarin.com/home/. It was well worth it. The Chateau is often home to concert series and Lourmarin hosts it own summer music  festival. There is a local products souvenir shop on site an of course a wine store with degustation! IMG_4904We walked back to the centre for lunch. Our first choice looked great and was full but weren’t super eager to give us a table. Our second choice turned out to be delicious. It was just a croque monsieur (a more decadent grilled cheese) and fries but it was good. The bread was amazing. Ben seemed to be especially interested in the mayonnaise they provided that was made with Dijon mustard. However when it comes to fries, I am am old school North American all the way. Ketchup for me! and to their credit, they had it and served it to me.

One of the more strange things about Lourmarin seemed to be that they had 3 or 4 random (not stray ) dogs that would just roam the streets. I loved it! Nary a pigeon in site that way. Lourmarin is known as one of the most beautiful French villages for a reason. It is in the foothills of the Luberon, so the countryside is gorgeous, local wine delicious and very friendly.Even if you don’t meet Peter Mayle, it is well worth it.

La Belle Provence

Our first foray in Salon de Provence happened to be during the Renaissance festival in late June. Local vendors sell soaps, treats, and amazing food ( the lavender cookies are out of this world),

Provence, Provence Provence. My love affair with France can be traced to one region…Provence. If you haven’t visited the region yet, you won’t be disappointed. Known for its spectacular colours, lavender, food, wine, and beautiful weather, Provence is a sensory dream. Back in 2010, we knew we wanted to visit Provence but weren’t sure where. We batted around the idea of the more well known cities (Avignon, Marseilles) discussed St Remy de Provence and Aix En Provence, the favourites of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin respectively, but after watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, we settled on Salon De Provence

Salon De Provence located in the Bouches Du Rhone department of Provence is a perfect introduction to. Salon a city of roughly 43,000 people  is often overlooked compared to the more well known villages of Provence ( all stunning and worth visiting n their own right) but Salon is a perfect jumping off point to discover Provence. Salon is famous for being a favorite of Catherine De Medici, Burial place of Nostradamus, and its beautiful Fountaine Mousse a limestone concretions that has had vegetation develop giving it the look of a mushroom shaped tree that is continually producing moisture.

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Fountainne Mousse

We lucked out, staying at the family run Hotel Du Midi just a few short steps from City Centre , was perfect, A beautiful courtyard, very Provencal rooms and fresh made croissants with fresh juice every morning. And the warmest welcome and coldest coke I have ever had in Europe! It as heavenly to go back to this lovely hotel at the end of the day and enjoy some wine we had bought that day and relax in the beautiful courtyard before going to bed. https://www.logishotels.com/fr/hotel/hotel-du-midi-203070?partid=66

Our first foray in Salon de Provence happened to be during the Renaissance festival in late June. Local vendors sell soaps, treats, and amazing food ( the lavender cookies are out of this world),

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Lavender bread

Also blacksmith demonstrations and other Renaissance activities..A must do. This time we happened to be travelling with my parents. Ben, my dad, and I were relaxing at one of the many patios overlooking the festival while my mom went to buy literally everything she could fit into her suitcase (she did eventually have to buy a second one). She came back arms laden with all the new and lovely Provencal products she just bought. She then proceeded to show us each one and who she she may have planned on giving it to. She was especially proud of this beautiful smelling soap. We noted that were were surprised that she bought so much so soap made from donkeys. (Note: donkey products especially soap are quite a luxury item but my mom didn’t know that yet) ‘Donkey soap!! How do you know that?” she yelled all affronted. We pointed over to the booth with the giant picture of a donkey and the signage indicating it was indeed donkey soap. ‘Well’ she scoffs ” i guess that will be for (insert random relative name here).’ Joke was on her though as she probably gave them the more exclusive and luxurious of the products. And no we haven’t let her live it down.

Salon De Provence was also my first foray into Provencal wine. We visited local wineries in the Bouches du Rhone region an tasted some amazeurope-june-2010-257ing red, light as air Roses, an simply Delicious olive oils. We also bought some wonderful Provencal pottery. Provencal wines, especially reds from anywhere other than Bandol are often underappreciated. The wines are really delicious, easy to drink and because they are often undervalued, very very inexpensive. Visiting local wineries, you will often find free degustation (tasting) self guided tours and often olive oils for sale as well.

Salon also offers the Château de l’Empéri a beautiful castle where Catherine de Medici consulted Noseurope-2010-michelle-salontradamus and you can view the herb gardens he started. http://www.salondeprovence.fr/index.php/emperi The views from the castle are stunning and gives an incredible glimpse into the history of Salon de Provence. It should be noted that Adam De Craponne, A french engineer responsible for bring water and canals to Salon is in directly responsible for the herb gardens. And the herbs in Provence are especially fragrant and delicious.

Finally the food in Salon De Provence is amazing. Strong Mediterranean influences with stellar local ingredients. We both had a tomato based pasta with smoked runny goats cheese, hake cooked en papillote, olives, tomatoes and prawns cooked in a giant wok like contraption. Also lavender bread, local cookies and sausage. As well the best gelato to date. It is a gastronomic dream.europe-june-2010-227

 

Salon is a beautiful city, with lots to offer. Don’t miss out.

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All Roads lead to wine…or they should

I have had some of my best experiences this way armed mostly with a GPS, wine map, and sometimes just on a road following signs that hopefully lead to an amazing winery.

One of greatest benefits to travel is wine. At least for me it is and if you are lucky enough to be traveling to a wine producing region, well then the sky may literally be the limit. I have already written about wine tours but what do you do if an organized tour just isn’t your thing but you love wine? Luckily there are options!

My experience with wine tasting directly at the vineyards/wineries so far has been either in France and Canada. Both these countries has multiple wine producing regions with very very different wine characteristics. So pick an area you may be interested in or even better, just pick and area and try something new. In this post I will focus on France but Canada has some really interesting wine regions that I will save for later.

France is a wine tasters idea of heaven, so many regions, so many wineries, where should you possibly start? I don’t have an answer other than just dive in. The very first time we tried wine at wineries was a complete and utter accident but has set me on a path for my very favourite travel activity to date. Now when ever I travel I make sure I have sometime just to explore local wineries.

Back in 2010, I had no idea. @benton8tor an I were in Provence exploring local villages and we stopped at a wine store in Lancon de Provence,. It was the Cave Des Coteaux De Lancon. I couldn’t believe my luck, all this wine and at prices that are actually cheaper than water. Could a bottle of wine actually be 3 euros?europe-june-2010-196 turns out yes and it was an very enjoyable wine at that. However the real bonus was a map of different wineries in the region that the proprietor gave to us. She encouraged us to visit the different vineyards in Provence. Many produced olive oil as well as wine. That afternoon, we visited 3. All were very welcoming and let us taste wine as well as olive oil. Tasting or dégustation is most often free and the added advantage is that you can pick which wines you want to try rather than having then chosen for you. That day we went home with new wines, chats with the staff about the wines and even some pottery. The olive oil was good too.

Sine then I have had some pretty amazing experiences tasting wine. Most tourist offices will provide you with a map or if you are driving you may see a sign that says dégustation and if you are like me you will then scream at your travel companion ‘STOP STOP STOP! PULL IN NOW.’ This means you are cool and collected wine connoisseur and not at all an obsessive wine stalker who may have lost touch with reality in the search for the perfect wine. It may also be pertinent to explain to your driver that an accident isn’t imminent. They will appreciate that.

I have had some of my best experiences this way armed mostly with a GPS, wine map, and sometimes just on a road following signs that hopefully lead to an amazing vineyard.

In Minervois I have tasted delicious wines in the owner’s kitchen. I have had lovely conversationsimg_4969 with small producers in Bandol and Provence. I tasted Rose, something I never thought I would like. I was wrong. I have had some lovely, easy to drink reds from Provence, Some complex wines from the Rhone and crisp whites in Alsace. The point is just to try, to chat and to enjoy.  Ben learned how to get a cork out with out a corkscrew (make sure you have a shoe).  I have even followed what no longer seemed to be a road in Armagnac to taste Armagnac, flocs, and lovely lovely reds from Gascony. I have also chatted with winemakers who love their product and just want you to love it too. Wine tasting directly at the wineries gives the opportunity to have some of the best service and really you get to chat about their wine. They will be more than happy to show it off and have you love it too.

Some tips for wine tasting include:

  1. Depending on the region or the winery check whether or not you need to book a tour. In some of the bigger or better known wineries they may require a booking, not just showing up. However if they have a sign out front saying degustaton, you are probably safe just to roll in.
  2.  Ask their opinion for what order to taste the wines. They know the wines best and will help you get the most out of the experience.
  3. Make sure you have someone to drive.
  4. Take a chance! Some wineries will be very small and rustic, others big operations but don’t assume one is better than the other Just try!

Some wineries I recommend include:

  1. Chateau la Nerthe http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/ in Chateauneuf de pape. Beautiful grounds, very friendly staff and amazing bold wines.
  2. Chateau de Vauclaire in Provence http://www.chateaudevauclaire.com/ Friendly, unassuming and amazing wines. Don’t miss.
  3. Le Galantin in Bandol. Small winery with ridiculously inexpensive and remarkably tasty wines. Service is amazing and you will find many locals as customers. http://www.le-galantin.com/
  4. Domaine Grand Comte in Armagnac. Producer of wine wines, Flocs and Armagnac and you can taste them all. Hard to find but truly modern, beautiful vineyard. Close to Auch.http://www.domaine-grand-comte.fr/
  5. Domaine de L’Olivette http://www.domaine-olivette.com/ a lovely winery in Bandol with one of my all time favourite redsimg_4968