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!

What the French are Reading: The Arab of the Future

One way to gain insight into a culture is to see what its people are reading. Topping the French charts lately has been The Arab of the Future 6, the final volume of a series that has been a massive best-seller in France. It’s a bande dessinée, or graphic novel, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Written and illustrated by Riad Sattouf, one of France’s top cartoonists, it tells the story of his childhood.

Sattouf’s heritage spans two very different cultures. His mother is from Brittany and his father from Syria, and they met when the father was pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne. Sattouf was raised in France, then Libya, then Syria, then back to France, experiencing culture shock every step of the way.

The Arab of the Future is funny, touching, enlightening, infuriating, and much more—it’s easy to see why the French love it. It tells the story of a child raised between two worlds, offering a unique look at both French and Arab societies, and is a great read in any language. For those who want to try their hand at reading in French, a bande dessinée is a great place to start, with lots of pictures to help you along, and not too many words.

Read all about it in Frenchly!

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!

Only in Provence: An Insider’s Guide

Provence is a magical corner of France, with unique sights, surprising legends, and a rich Roman, Jewish, and Catholic heritage.

Would you like to walk through a rainbow? See magic inside a mountain? Learn about the “Babylonian captivity” of the Popes? You can do it all in Provence.

Maybe you’d like to explore France’s best Roman sites, or the country’s oldest synagogue, or visit the grotto where Mary Magdalene spent her last years. Again, you can do all that in Provence.

To learn more about this most distinctive of French regions, read my series Only in Provence in My French Life!

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!

 

Secrets of St-Rémy #6: Animal Traditions

My wife Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-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. This series of articles is based on my book.

Many Traditions

The people of Provence have a deep respect for nature and for the animals that have long been integral to their rural life. And they maintain their traditions, many of which have to do with animals.

One is the transhumance, where thousands of sheep march through town, baaing all the way. Bands play as they go around the town’s ring road, accompanied by shepherds, sheepdogs, and the occasional goat. It’s like a river of sheep!

Another is the festival of St. Eloi, the patron saint of horses. On his day, plow horses are cleaned up, brushed, and wear flower and colorful harnesses. Then they are blessed by the village priest and march through town in a big procession so everyone can admire them.

And let’s not forget the course camarguaise, where little doodads are tied around a bull’s horns and brave young men have to run up and take off the doodads. It’s very exciting and surprisingly, no one gets hurt!

Read all about it in My French Life!

What’s it Really Like to Move to France?

People dream of moving to France, but what’s it really like? Can you make friends? How does it change you?

My Frenchly colleagues Karen Karbo, Catherine Rickman, Philip Ruskin and Caitlin Shetterly have all taken the plunge. Two did it as young adults and have since returned to the US. Two others, both middle aged, moved a few years ago and see France as their permanent home. What have their experiences been like?

Read all about it in Frenchly!

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!