The Alpilles from the Air

Many of us love the Alpilles, the “little Alps” that rise between the famous Provençal towns of St-Rémy and Les Baux. Their craggy beauty dominates the surrounding landscape. But outside of taking a plane ride, it is impossible to appreciate them from the air.

Until now.

Gilles Lagnel’s new book, Les Alpilles Vues du Ciel, includes over 100 magnificent photos of the Alpilles and their many attractions.

You can read the full article at Perfectly Provence.

 

A Story of Franco-American Friendship

Today is Bastille Day, with presidents Macron and Trump joining together to recognize America’s entry into WWI a century ago. No matter what you think of the politics of these two men, it is heartening to see this recognition of the long friendship between our two countries.

It reminded me of a story from a few years ago, when my wife and I were living in France…

We were walking through town with our dog Lucca when an older gentleman asked what breed he was. We stopped to talk and he quickly figured out from our accents that we are not native French speakers.

“Are you English?” he asked suspiciously. Relations across the English Channel are not always the friendliest.

His frown became a smile when we explained that we are Americans. He shook our hands warmly and thanked us for “saving” France in 1944.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened. It was always gratifying to know that American sacrifices during the war are still remembered and honored.

When someone thanked us for 1944 we always tried to return the favor.

We would express our gratitude for France’s essential support during our war of independence. We would point out that France is America’s oldest ally.

And we would tell them something that even most Americans don’t know.

There are only two portraits in the House of Representatives, one of the centers of American government. These large paintings hold pride of place, flanking the Speaker’s rostrum. On the left is the father of our country, George Washington; on the right, French general Lafayette.

And the painting of Lafayette came first.

 

20 Books That Have Changed French Lives

France is one of the most literate and literary countries in the world – the average French person reads 15 books a year and French authors have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other country.

But what if it’s all an act? What if, instead of reading Proust and Zola, the French are really binge-reading romance novels while eating pain au chocolat?

I decided to investigate.

You can read the rest of the article at Frenchly.

Benvengudo means Welcome

Just below the famous hilltop fortress of Les Baux sits the boutique luxury hotel Benvengudo.  The name means “welcome” in the local language and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Walking onto the manicured grounds of Benvengudo is like stepping back in time, to a more simple and gracious era.  The hotel provides a rare mix of traditional and modern, and you’ll be reluctant to leave when your stay is over.  You’ll ask yourself – can’t we linger just a bit longer?

Benvengudo began fifty years ago as a simple, four-room country inn and restaurant, built by Daniel and Maryse Beaupied.  Daniel had trained as a chef under the legendary Paul Bocuse before earning a Michelin star of his own.

You can read more about Benvengudo here.

Secrets of St.-Rémy: Parking

The Wednesday morning market in St.-Rémy is one of the best in Provence. And it is very popular, which makes parking a challenge. There are a few spots available in the pay lots and on the street, but they tend to fill up early. So most people have to park far from the market.

This is fine on the way in, but trudging back to your car with everything you bought at the market can be a pain. Isn’t there a better way?

Happily, the answer is yes, and most people don’t know about it.  And it’s free!  It’s a series of parking lots that you wend your way through and you can find parking even on busy market days.

The series of lots is called Parking de la Libération. It’s on Avenue de la Libération, just off Boulevard Mirabeau. But it is not well marked and can be hard to find, even with a GPS.  Here’s how to find it.

If you are coming from out of town, you will probably find yourself on the D99 at some point. This is the East-West road between Cavaillon and Tarascon. Get off the D99 onto the D99A on the East side of town (there are two such intersections.) Go 1.5km, until just BEFORE you dead end onto Boulevard Mirabeau. On your left will be something that looks kind of like extra space between buildings but is actually a driveway. Here’s what it looks like.

Alternatively, if you are coming from St.-Rémy itself, you will probably be on the ring road that circles the downtown. It changes names several times and at one point becomes Boulevard Mirabeau. When you get there, stay in the right lane and take the exit towards Cavaillon.

After 70 meters, at the crosswalk, the parking lot entry will be on your right. Go slowly or you will miss it! Here’s what it looks like.

Turn right and go slowly. You’ll end up in a small parking lot that is always full. Don’t worry, go to the far end of the lot and follow the “Sortie” sign.

Now you will be in a larger parking lot that is also probably full. Drive out the exit on the far side (that is, to the right as you first enter the parking lot.) As you drive through the parking lot, keep your eye out for this sign on your right – it’s the walking path into town.

As you exit this second parking lot, going up a little ramp, you will enter a third parking lot that looks like the second one. On market days it is usually full. Never fear! Keep going, out the far side of this lot and up another ramp.

Now you’ve hit the big lot, with lots of dirt and grass and plenty of parking. I’ve seen it get crowded but never full. You will almost certainly be able to park here.

Now go back to the walking path into town and enjoy the market. But be sure to note the end of the walking path so you can find it on the way back. The path is on Rue Marius Jouveau and here’s what it looks like from town.

When you go back to your car, don’t try to exit the way you entered, as this is a “one way” parking lot. Instead, continue on the dirt road in the parking lot to the far side and go out that way.

When you exit, you can go right (towards Maussane), left (back to town) or straight (other directions). If you go left, be aware that this is a narrow road with two-way traffic and periodically one car will need to stop in a wide spot to let another pass.

Enjoy St.-Rémy!

Meet Provence Artist James Jaulin

James Jaulin spent decades as an antiquaire, a dealer in antiquities, traveling the world in search of rare and beautiful treasures. He now travels the world as a photographer, capturing the beauty of life through his lens.

So what does he consider himself to be first and foremost, a photographer or an antiquaire?

“I am a voyager,” says Jaulin, “and I have been all my life.”

His voyaging began early, as his father was in the French military. Part of Jaulin’s childhood was spent in France, part in Vietnam, and part in Algeria. He found beauty and wonder everywhere.

You can read the rest of the article here.

 

A French Collection

Annette Charlton is a francophile and self-confessed cheese lover who splits her time between Australia and France.  She has a wonderful and informative website called A French Collection (www.afrenchcollection.com) that I encourage you to check out.

Annette recently wrote a great review of my book that you can find here.  Thanks Annette!

Going to the Butcher in France

A French town without a baker – can you imagine such a thing? Everyone would move away!

A butcher is almost as important to French village life. The butcher will sell the usual roasts and chops and chickens, as well as a variety of prepared foods. These really help when you are hosting a dinner party or are too busy to cook.

My wife Val and I live part of the year in St.-Rémy-de-Provence, a charming town between Arles and Avignon. We love going to our favorite butcher shop, a place that has been serving the good people of St.-Rémy for decades.

It is run by a husband and wife who take great care in the quality of their products and service. When you order a piece of meat, the butcher will ask you how you plan to prepare it. Then he will slice off any extra fat, trim around the bone and cut it into the size you want.

If you want hamburger, he will take a piece of beef, run it through his grinder and form it for you. Burger by burger.

Our butcher offers many things fait maison (home made) like patés, ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, salamis, and at least four kinds of sausage. The butcher’s wife dishes out the prepared items and runs the register while the butcher handles all the cutting.

Photo by Jusben at Morguefile.com

We love shopping there because the butcher takes the time to chat with every customer – waiting in line is kind of a free French lesson. How is the family? Are your bunions bothering you? How will you prepare the stew? For how many people? Do you salt your food? Here’s what my doctor says about salting food. Let me tell you, your husband puts too much salt on his food (then the butcher’s wife adds in that all husbands salt their food too much.)

It’s like watching a French sitcom.

Sometimes the phone rings and the butcher answers it – it’s usually an order for a big meal. This leads to a long discussion between the person on the phone and the butcher and his wife. How many people do they need to feed? What spices will they use? Should they pick it up at 11:00? No, maybe 12:00. No, 11:00 would be better. Okay, they’ll come at 12:00.

Once we went to the butcher to get a gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb.) We were having some friends over and figured a gigot would be easy to make in advance and would feed a large group.

We explained what we wanted. For how many people, the butcher asked. Ah, the gigot in my case is not large enough for your dinner for ten, he said.

So off he went to the back to get a larger one. He appeared two minutes later, not with a larger leg but carrying the entire back half of a lamb. Oh, my. But at least the wool had been removed.

This doesn’t happen where we live in California.

The butcher turned on his electric saw and in a couple of minutes the lamb was cut in half, feet removed, trimmed of excess fat, deboned, and tied with string.

Then came the cooking discussion. How were we preparing it? Our marinade and roasting met with his approval, but under no circumstances were we to use a temperature higher than 180 degrees Celsius. The butcher looked at us gravely to make sure we understood this important point.

And did we want the bones he had just removed? We should place them next to the lamb, cover them with some olive oil and butter, and add a full head of garlic, herbes de Provence, and salt. It would make a nice jus for the meat. This kind of advice is common in France.

If you are in a hurry, don’t go to a French butcher because you’ll be there for at least a half an hour. But if you do, the food will be delicious and the floorshow can’t be beat.

Gluten-Free meets Gastronomy

How many great gluten-free restaurants are there?  I mean, really great?

The answer is…not very many.

And how many have won a coveted Michelin star?

That’s easy – just one.  L’Auberge la Fenière in Provence is not only one of the world’s great restaurants, it recently became totally gluten free.  And, oh my, is the food delicious.

You can read more about it here.