Secrets of St-Rémy #2: Favorite Places to Eat

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 is full of excellent restaurants and cafés, and Val and I love enjoying their meals, lingering over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. I’ve made a list of our seven top favorites, places we’ve been to many times, from simple cafés to special-occasion restaurants.

Read all about them in My French Life!

Château Chantilly: A Fabulous Day Trip from Paris

When tourists take day trips from Paris, it’s usually to Versailles or Fontainebleau or maybe Giverny. But a hidden gem is the Château de Chantilly. It’s as elegant as Versailles but more intimate, and is just a short hop from Paris.

The château and its vast grounds were the main estate of the Duke of Aumale, son of the last king of France and one of the country’s richest men. He donated it to the Institut de France in 1884 and it has been a tourist attraction ever since.

What’s there to see? Lots! There’s the château itself, in pristine condition, which houses one of France’s most important art collections. There are the exquisite gardens with their mile-long grand canal. There is the equestrian center with its racetrack and fabulous stables. And you can have strawberries with, yes, chantilly cream!

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Secrets of St-Rémy #1: The Must-See Sights

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.

I think the best part of St-Rémy is just wandering its winding streets, but there are three sights I recommend that every visitor see—the outdoor market; the asylum where Vincent van Gogh was treated, combined with the van Gogh walk; and the Roman sites of Glanum and les Antiques.

Let me tell you more about them in My French Life!

The Mystery of French Washing Machines

Val and I are traveling around Europe and have been in France for the last month. I am responsible for doing the laundry in our family, and French washing machines present a special challenge.

Every time we land in a new place, I have to figure out a new washing machine. You would think they would be standardized—or at least kind of similar—but you would be wrong.

Charles de Gaulle famously said of the fractious French, “How can you govern a country with 246 types of cheese?” He could easily have been talking about French washing machines, but I suspect it was Madame de Gaulle doing the laundry while Monsieur le Général sat around eating cheese.

The trick is to find a wash cycle that doesn’t take all day, because French washing machines are a lot like French bureaucrats—they take a long time to get anything done.

Read all about my French laundry adventures in The Good Life France!

10 Great Reads That Will Transport You to France

How would you like to travel to France but not have to get on a plane?

The best way to do it, unless you have a friend with a yacht, is by reading a book. I love books by foreigners who’ve lived in France. They see the country differently than the French do, and living abroad helps them see their own country through new eyes.

I’ve put together a list of my favorite books about France. Some are funny, some are touching, and all are excellent reads. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite yourself!

Read all about it at Frenchly!

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!