A Week in Provence (with a nod to Peter Mayle)
Part 1 - Gordes, Roman Ruins, Shopping & Eating
Provence was not even on our list until our friends Bill and Sara called to say they were renting a house near Gordes for two weeks, and would we be interested in sharing it with them? It only took a few minutes to decide. We saw orchards of fruits and olives, fields of sunflowers and lavender, cities with Roman and medieval ruins, museums of Cezanne and Van Gogh, charming hilltop towns, ochre clays, stone farm houses in painterly light, and enjoyed Provencal cooking and hospitality. Friends Tom and Carolyn visited the week before us, and brought with them knowledge of the French language and culture, as well as a love of food and a French restaurant guide. We got to eat a lot of lamb, rabbit, eggplant and, of course, olives and olive oil. This was one of our best vacations ever.
The hilltop town of Gordes
Our rental house "La Garance"
We stayed in this modern house outside the town of Gordes, about 40 min. drive from Marseilles airport. We were there in June, but in July and August the pool would be a necessity. Air conditioning isn't as widely available in homes here as in the U.S..
The house, "La Garance", is owned by Beatrice de Montmollin Herman and
her sister Gabrielle. Both live in Toronto. The house is named for a
locally grown plant used in dye making. It was built by their mother,
Nadine de Montmollin, in 1979. Rent varies with the season from $1100 to
$1400 per week. Contact Beatrice by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Roman bridge "Pont Julien" is still in use,
as is this arena in Nimes
and this one in Arles.
The Square House, a Roman building in Nimes, is
where we saw the Mercedes-Benz
Vision SLR concept car out for a promotional film.
We loved the markets
for the flowers
and the bread.
(Le Grillion in Aix)
Here are Sara and Bill with Pat at "Le Mas Tourteron" near Gordes, a
highly-rated restaurant (15 rating in Gault-Millau Guide) run by women.
It is quite unusual in France for women to be chefs. The details really
made for a great experience -- garden with color coordinated flowers,
nice Proven�al table linens, bread in the shape of a small wreath as a
napkin holder. The food was good, too.
Much of the summer dining was outdoors, but
L'Assiette de Marie in St. Remy had only indoor seating.
Other food and restaurants near Gordes:
The Auchan supermarket on the by-pass south of Cavaillon has the best food and gasoline prices in the area. The pastry shop in a little village of Cagtieres-d'Avignon, just west of les Imbert's (southwest of Gordes), has excellent baguettes.
Other restaurants that our friends liked:
a) Ferme de la Huppe (13) just east of Gordes.
b) Auberge du Luberon (14) in Apt.
c) Bernard Mathys (16) just west of Apt.
d) La Feniere (17) in Lourmarin (over the mountains from Bonnieux)
e) Le Moulin de Lourmarin (17) in Lourmarin
All numeric ratings are from the French "Gault-Millau Guide", which uses a 20 point scale. We once heard that G-M had never given a 19 or 20, but G-M has given several 19 ratings to restaurants, including 21 such ratings in 2002. In addition, G-M gave a 20 rating a few years ago to Paul Bocuse, the chef, not the restaurant which was awarded a 19. Thanks to Howard Ellsworth for this correction.
Click for part 2
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