The Underground Wonders of Bruoux

What has 40 kilometers of underground corridors, orange walls, and used to grow mushrooms? If you guessed the ochre mines of Bruoux, you win!

The Luberon Valley in Provence is famous for its ochre. It was mined here for centuries and a walk through the brilliantly-colored quarries of Roussillon or Rustrel is like walking through a rainbow. At Bruoux, rather than carving out the side of a mountain, the miners dug straight in, creating tall corridors hundreds of meters long.

You can take a guided tour of the mines that is about an hour long and just fascinating.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

L’Oustalet Maianen Restaurant for Delicious Food

Just a few miles north of St-Rémy-de-Provence, in the quiet town of Maillane, sits a restaurant that is well worth the trip. Consider it if you want to enjoy a delicious meal in a comfortable dining room—or on a shady terrace in warm weather. Val and I love L’Oustalet Maianen; it’s one of our favorite restaurants.

It’s also a family affair, with current owner Christian Garino having taken over from his parents some years ago. What started as a snack bar with five tables has grown and evolved to the point that today the Michelin Guide lauds it for “exceptionally good food at reasonable prices.”

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

Delicious Fish and Seafood in France

I didn’t grow up eating seafood. My family ate fish sticks once in a while and the occasional shrimp cocktail, but that was about it.

Then I married someone who loves seafood, and now we live part of the year in France, where the seafood is amazing and I eat a lot of it. At first I found French menus confusing because there are so many different words for seafood. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was reading about a fish or a fowl!

Now I can navigate the menus, so let me share what I’ve learned.

The French distinguish between poisson (fish) and fruits de mer (seafood, like shrimp and crabs), so I’ve written two different articles. One article is about fish and the other about seafood. In each, I list 10 that you are likely to run across in France. Most will be familiar, but if there is something new to you, consider trying it—you may find it delicious!

Read all about fish in France Today!

Read all about seafood in Frenchly!

Fred Vargas, Master of Crime

One of the most popular writers in France today is Fred Vargas, author of over a dozen policiers (crime novels.) Vargas is unusual both for her background and for the style of her novels, which depart from the usual formulas and clichés of crime fiction. They are fun reads and I just love them.

Not only are Vargas’ books a hit in France, but several have won the Gold Dagger Award, given annually to the world’s top crime novel. In fact, Vargas (who is a historian in real life named Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) is the first author to have won this award for three successive novels! Nearly all have been translated into English.

What makes her novels unusual? They are extremely well-written and they avoid the formulas common to the genre. Her most famous character, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, is the antithesis of the classic hard-boiled detective. He is small, soft-spoken, and eschews normal investigative methods. In fact, he is completely incapable of thinking logically (much to the frustration of his team.)

Instead, Adamsberg relies on a remarkable intuition that even he doesn’t understand, piecing together minor and seemingly unrelated details to solve murders. It is this ability that has taken him from a small town in the Pyrenees to one of the top police posts in Paris.

If you are looking for a fun read with some French flair, check out one of the excellent novels by Fred Vargas.

Read all about it in My French Life!

Going Gluten-Free in France? Plan Ahead!

Six years ago, just after arriving in Provence for the spring, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. This is a total intolerance of gluten, which meant I could never again have a crunchy baguette or a buttery croissant. Horrors!

It took some getting used to, but I’ve learned how to live a gluten-free (and delicious!) life in France. For those like me who are intolerant to gluten, or who know someone who is, I’ve written some guidance for how to go gluten-free in la belle France.

Read all about it in Frenchly!

10 Favorites of St-Rémy

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence, and we’ve explored lots of the town’s nooks and crannies. I was asked to write about my ten favorite things to see and do here, which is hard because there are a lot more than ten! But I did my best and came up with ten favorites. If you ever have the chance to visit St-Rémy, they might become yours as well!

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Roman Provence–Where to Begin?

Way back around 50 B.C., Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (now France), and the area remained part of the Roman Empire for centuries. As a result, Roman ruins are all over France, but the best ones are in and around Provence. In fact, ‘Provence’ comes from the Latin ‘Provincia Romana,’ the name of the large Roman province along the Mediterranean coast.

For history buffs or anyone who would like to see some amazing sights, Provence is a wonderland. It has Roman arenas and amphitheatres, aqueducts and bridges, and ruins galore.

With all this to visit, where do you start?

If you have a limited appetite for Roman history, you might want to visit just Nîmes or Arles, as they each have plenty of Roman highlights. But don’t visit both, as their major sights are similar. I’ve written a comparison of the two cities, so you can decide with one is best for you.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

 

A Conversation with Cheese Expert Emily Monaco

Cheese is one of the glories of French cuisine, but choosing among hundreds of French cheeses can be intimidating. If you have ever been to a French restaurant where they wheel out a big “chariot” covered with dozens of cheeses, and ask you to pick what you’d like, you know what I mean.

To learn more about French cheese and cheese etiquette, I spoke to expert Emily Monaco, an American who has lived in Paris since 2007. Her obsession with all things delicious – but especially cheese – has led her to build a career giving food tours of Paris’s Marais district with Paris by Mouth. She also writes about food and drink for publications including The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and EatingWell.

Learn more about cheese in this fascinating interview in France Today!

The History of Jewish Provence

France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. Half of French Jews live in and around Paris, in neighborhoods like the Marais, Belleville and Le Sentier. The city is home to more than a dozen synagogues, including the magnificent Grand Synagogue.

While Paris is the center of Jewish life in France today, this wasn’t always the case. For centuries, that center was Provence. And the Jews there had a surprising and powerful protector: the Pope.

Read all about the history of Jewish Provence in France Today!