5 Favorite Restaurants with a View

Provence’s Luberon Valley is one of the most beautiful spots in France. It is chock-full of restaurants serving excellent food, and I love the ones where Val and I can enjoy a nice view along with our meals.

Would you like a simple café, perfect for an afternoon glass of wine? How about a restaurant with views over the stunning ochre quarries of Roussillon? Or for a special occasion, maybe you’d like to enjoy a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant along a lovely riverbank.

I’ve made a list of our five favorite Luberon restaurants with a view. You can read all about them in Perfectly Provence!

One Thing French People Agree On: McDonald’s

France is the land of haute cuisine, with dishes like escargot and foie gras and bouillabaisse. It’s a country with food so elegant and delicious that UNESCO has declared it part of the world’s cultural heritage. So, then, you might imagine that the French, with their refined palates, would turn up their noses at fast food. But the reality is more surprising.

After a rough start, McDonald’s has become a fixture of the French culinary landscape. It is so popular you could even say it’s about the only thing French people agree on! And while there are a lot of similarities with McDonald’s in the US, the French “McDo’s” are different (and better) in many ways.

Read all about how McDonald’s has captured French hearts in Frenchly!

Is This the Best Mustard in the World?

When people think of French mustard, they usually think of Dijon, the most popular mustard in the world. And maybe they think of Grey Poupon, remembering the funny ads that once made this brand of Dijon mustard a luxury item.

Dijon mustard originated in Burgundy, and today most of it is made by big conglomerates, in factories all over the world. But one company still makes it the old-fashioned way. Moutarderie Fallot’s mustard is made in Burgundy, using traditional methods and local ingredients. And it’s so good that top chefs seek it out for their restaurants.

Read all about Moutarderie Fallot—and how you can tour their facilities!—at My French Life.

Chapeau de Paille Restaurant for Authentic Provençal Flavors

This may be my new favorite restaurant in St-Rémy. It’s where Val and I go for delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Sometimes we’ll have a big platter of steamed fish and vegetables, plus a side of that garlicky mayonnaise called aïoli. Another time it will be lamb shoulder that’s been cooked so long that it practically melts in your mouth. And if we want something lighter, we’ll have a bowl of crunchy raw vegetables to dip in flavorful anchoïade.

Chef Julien Martinet used to run a gastronomic restaurant in Burgundy, but decided he wanted a simpler place in Provence. “Everything  in my restaurant is homemade and there are no shortcuts,” he says. “I’d rather spend hours shelling coco beans than I would fussing things up to impress the critics.” But impress the critics he has, making it into the prestigious Michelin Guide.

Read all about this terrific restaurant in Perfectly Provence!

 

The Apt Market in Provence, One of France’s Best

If you’d like to visit one of the best markets in France, don’t miss the one in Apt, the capital of Provence’s Luberon Valley. Don’t just take my word that Apt’s market is something special: it’s been named one of France’s 100 “exceptional markets” by the French National Council of Culinary Art. Not bad!

The market is the biggest in the Luberon Valley and is also historic—it goes back to the 12th century. It has everything you want: wonderful fruits and vegetables, olives, cheeses, wines, honey, flowers, colorful tablecloths…the list goes on and on. During the peak summer months, nearly 500 vendors sell their goods—if you can’t find what you are looking for, it may not exist!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

The Beating Heart of St-Rémy

St-Rémy has a lot of great cafés and restaurants, but there’s one that really stands out: the Bar-Tabac des Alpilles.

It’s not just that the food is good, it’s also that it’s comfortable any time of day. Whether it’s a coffee and croissant before hitting the weekly market, a glass of wine in the afternoon, or a delicious meal, you can find it here. And even more, it’s an important part of the local fabric of St-Rémy, while also being welcoming to tourists.

Sitting at your table, you might hear Americans on one side of you discussing their travel plans and, on the other side, there will be workers unwinding after a long day. Patrick, the owner, calls his place “A mix of modern tourism and local identity.” It’s family-friendly, and I often see kids there with their parents, having a Coke or a juice. It’s a must-stop for your next visit to St-Rémy.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

No Cooking Required!

Last year, Val and I discovered a great new place in St-Rémy called Chez les Frangins (“at the brothers’ place” because it’s run by two brothers). It’s a rotisserie with fabulous takeout food. They specialize in roast meats like chickens, lamb, and sausages but also have a wide variety of side dishes–roast potatoes, salads, and more. They also do complete meals that you just pick up and take out.

We’ve hosted several dinner parties where most of the meal came from Chez les Frangins. Dinner for eight? No problem!

The next time you are in St-Rémy and want a simple meal at home, or a memorable picnic, drop by and see what goodies the brothers have for you.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

The World’s Greatest Wine Tasting?

How would you like to taste some of the world’s most prestigious wines for only 10 euro, or even for free? Then come to the Salon des Vins in Châteauneuf-du-Pape March 31 – April 2!

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the top wine regions in France, a favorite of connoisseurs worldwide. Its history goes back to the 14th century, when the Pope built his summer palace there. Popes need good wine to drink, so vines were planted and the rest is history.

For being such a wine mecca, the Salon des Vins is remarkably casual. It is held in the town’s community center, a big, plain room that you could imagine being used for Bingo games on a Tuesday night.

The room is filled with row after row of foldup tables, each with a winemaker standing behind it. You just walk up to a table and stick out your glass for a pour, and a friendly chat if you’d like. There is no place for wine snobbery in this relaxed, casual atmosphere.

Best of all, the Salon has offered free entry to my subscribers. Just use the promo code LifeInProvence when you buy your ticket at the website here.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

 

Secrets of St-Rémy #4: Favorite Boutiques

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rèmy-de-Provence, a charming town between Marseille and Avignon. I’ve written a guidebook about the area, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, where I share some of our favorite things to see and do. Now I’ve put together a series of articles I call Secrets of St-Rémy, based on that book.

St-Rémy has plenty of famous places, like the room where Vincent van Gogh once lived, or the fabulous weekly outdoor market. In this article I write about some of my favorite boutiques–where to get great ice cream, for example, or the best chocolates in Provence. And if you’d like to buy some stylish shoes or a new purse, or you need to get your hair done, I’ve got you covered!

Read all about my favorite boutiques in My French Life!

The Best-Value Wines in France?

Just minutes from one of France’s most famous sites, the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, sits the tiny village of Estézargues. There’s not much there, no charming cafés or famous monuments, but on the edge of town you can find some astonishingly good wine.

That’s where the local cave coopérative sits, a big, unassuming building. In a cave coopérative, winemakers share expensive equipment that none of them can afford by themselves. And they make wine together—everyone puts in their grapes and they divide the profits based on the volume that each contributes.

This is the reason that cave coopérative wines are inexpensive. It’s also why most of them are not very good. Think about it: each winemaker wants to maximize the volume of grapes that he or she contributes. And high-volume grapes equal low-quality wines.

The clever winemakers of Estézargues have done it differently. They use the shared equipment to make their own individual wines and keep the profits. This makes them want to grow better grapes and make better wines.

The result is wines with prices that are almost as low as a cave coopérative but with quality that is light years better. Val and I love these wines and go to Estézargues with our friends to stock up every year. We go so often we even have a frequent buyer card!

This is a working winery and not a fancy place, but it does have a well-stocked tasting area. The ladies who run it are very friendly and informal. They let you taste all you want and are not afraid to open a new bottle just for you. They are also happy to give advice – “I think this one is particularly good right now.”

One of the best things about these wines is that they are ready to drink right away. So we usually do that after we buy, heading out to a secret picnic spot the tasting room ladies told us about.

It’s a 12th century church called the Chapelle de la Clastre that sits on a rise with beautiful views of vineyards all around. It has been abandoned for centuries and is currently being restored by a local volunteer group. Next to the church is a big grassy area just perfect for picnicking with our friends. It’s flat and shady and seems to invite you to lay out a blanket and enjoy some baguettes, cheese and wine. And maybe take a nap afterwards.

Santé !