Thursday, March 22, 2018

Big Châteauneuf Wine Fest April 7 & 8

The weekend wine festival called Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its ninth year, is a festive rite of spring here in the South of France. This year (April 7 and 8), more than 85 domaines and châteaux will be represented...a great opportunity to meet local producers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get. I'm told roughly 300 wines will be featured.

Each year the Printemps festival invites special guests from other regions and this time it's a group of winemakers from 

As in years past, there will also be special tasting workshops (called Master Classes or Les Ateliers Dé
gustation). These require an additional fee and need to be booked in advance. You can see this year's offerings to the right on the website here but sign up early as they always sell out quickly. Note some are in different locations that the festival itself. 

Eighty-two years ago, Châteauneuf was designated as one of the very first AOCs (Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée) in France.  The AOC decree was first created by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (aka baron Le Roy), a winemaker at Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château Fortia). The first year, there were five villages named: Châteauneuf, Monbazillac, Arbois, Cassis and Tavel. And as the European designation AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is slowly replacing the French AOC for agricultural products, you can expect to see more AOP on wine labels in the months to come.

Les Printemps is organized by by The Young Winemakers Association of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm (Saturday) and 10 am to 6 pm (Sunday). Entry is 10€ per person per day; you can pay at the door. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site.

A list of all participating domaines is here.

For all the details click here and follow the festival on Facebook  and Twitter. If you have questions, you can email:

For nearby hotels and other lodging options, click here

For general info about the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here. Or, reach out to the lovely folks at the Châteauneuf Tourist Office: +33 (0)4 90 83 71 08.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fundraiser for Camargue Cowboys March 18

Let's give it up for the Gardians! On Sunday March 18, 2018 at Domaine Paul Ricard de Méjanes in the Camargue, the Rotary Club des Baux de Provence is hosting a full-day event to raise funds for the Mutuelle des Gardians, which supports the men and women who work the manades (ranches) of this legendary "Wild West" region of Provence. The mutuelle is a supplement,  not unlike the one used for mountain guides, which helps families with expenses following a serious work accident or a death.

"This 'day in the country' will help all of us to better appreciate these amazingly passionate and devoted people," says Larry Ware, vice president of the Rotary.  "It will also help visitors discover the Camargue 'profonde' and hopefully create a closer bond with this remarkable and authentic region and its people.

"We're hoping it finds a place on the Camargue calendar every year," Larry continues. "Two years ago, on a rainy day, we were still able to raise 3000€. This year the weather promises to be wonderful and we hope to do even better."

Larry advises turning up at Méjanes before 10 am. The program begins in the Arena (plaza) at 10:30 with a demo of the "Course Camarguaise," the traditional bull games. This will be followed by a demo by a traditional Camargue bullfighter; neither bulls nor men will be hurt! Then there will be a display on horseback of how the Gardians work with cattle...cows not bulls this time. 

An apéritif and lunch will be served in the restaurant at 12:45. 

After lunch, everyone is welcome to join a roundtable discussion with Camargue residents, dignitaries, ranch owners and Gardians. "This is an important opportunity for the Camarguais to voice their concerns and for participants to ask questions," Larry says. "The roundtable will be in French but I'll be on hand to translate if needed." There will also be activities for kids such as rides on the train to see bulls, horses and birds and a tombola (raffle) for the adults. And all this will be set to the wonderful music of gypsy musicians...signature sound of the Camargue.

"The Gardians are very hardworking, passionate about where they live and work and uniquely authentic." Larry says, "They're truly the soul of the region. This  is such a worthy cause and a gesture of recognition. My club, the Gardians and I  really hope we'll have the pleasure of seeing a number of your readers on March 18th!"

Tickets are 30
€ adults and 15€ kids, which includes all events plus lunch with wine and coffee. All entrance fees and raffle earnings go directly to the Mutuelle.

For questions and reservations:, +33 (0)6 19 05 31 90. Or, send a check directly to Etienne Pirot, 89, Chemin des Oliviers, 13750, Plan D’Orgon, France.

Larry asked me to mention that the Rotary Club Des Baux de Provence is always looking for new international members, both expats and part-timers, both men and women.  "We have a number of English speaking French, German and Belgian members, so language won't be too much of a problem."

Photos: A few of my favorite Gardian shots (courtesy of the Manades Jacques Bon and Hotel Mas de Peint).  The map shows where in the Camargue the March 18 fundraiser will be held. The poster is easier to read if you click on it. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Picasso Opens March 2 in Les Baux...and Paris News

The Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is a magical space in a vast cave-like quarry at the base of the hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence. There in the cool darkness, close to 100 video projectors and 27 speakers generate the choreographed movement of 2,000 images over an area of more than 75,000 square feet, onto walls as high as 45 feet, onto the ceilings and even the floor. The sound-and-light show changes once a year and has become one of the most-popular sites in Provence. Since its opening in 2012, Les Carrières de Lumières has attracted roughly 2.5 million visitors.

The last show, called Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo: Fantastique et Merveilleux, (March 2017 to January 2018) drew 554,000 people. If you missed it, you'll have another chance as it will be reprised this summer as part of a program called Les Intégrales des Carrières; more on that appears below. 

The quarry is now closed, awaiting the March 2 opening of the next show, called Picasso et les Maitres Espagnols (Picasso and the Spanish Masters). It runs through January 6, 2019.

The Picasso show lasts 32 minutes and plays on a continuous loop, tracing a century of modern Spanish painting. Part #1 highlights portraits and scenes of daily life painted by Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Sorolla; part #2 focuses on Picasso. This year's soundtrack--providing the perfect emotion and rhythm as the images dance from sequence to sequence--blends Beethoven, Bizet and Debussy with Glenn Miller, Keith Jarrett, Otis Redding and many others.

Picasso and the Spanish Masters is part a major international initiative called Picasso-Méditerranée, initiated by the Musée National Picasso-Paris. Between spring 2017 and spring 2019, more than 60 cultural institutions are staging programs or exhibits based upon the artist's Mediterranean work.

Following the Picasso show at the Carrières there's a short (nine-minute) program called Flower Power, celebrating the  pop culture of the 1960s and "the idealistic generation that changed the world." Music comes from Jimmy Hendrix, the Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and more. The Flower Power show was created by Danny Rose, an art and design studio known for immersive audiovisual works.

Once again, this summer the Carrières will reprise the last three shows on ten special evenings in July, August and September. Called "Les Intégrales des Carrières," these special 8:30 pm projections will allow visitors the chance to experience ), Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael: Giants of the Renaissance (2015), Chagall: Midsummer Night's Dreams (2016) and Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo: Fantastique et Merveilleux (2017). On each of these ten nights, you'll get to see all three shows. The dates are July 23, 24 and 25; August 6, 7, 8; and September 14, 15, 21 and 22.  Tickets for these special reprise showings are 24 and can be purchased here.

The Carrières de Lumières are located in the Val d’Enfer, a stone's throw from the hilltop village of Les Baux. The quarries here first produced white limestone, used in the construction of the village and its château. In 1821, aluminum ore bauxite was discovered here by geologist Pierre Berthier, who named it after the village. In 1935, economic competition from modern materials led to the quarries' closure. Dramatic and otherworldly looking, the area has inspired artists of all sorts; it provided the setting for Dante’s Divine Comedy and Gounod created his opera Mireille here. Later, Cocteau came to film The Testament of Orpheus in these very quarries. The Carrières du Val d’Enfer have been awarded Natural Monument status in France. 

Formerly known as the Cathedrale des Images, this particular quarry was closed in 2011 and re-opened (after a €2 million re-do) as the Carrières de Lumières the following year, under the management of Culturespaces, the leading private organization managing French monuments and museums.

Based on the success of the digital exhibits at the Carrières de Lumières,  Culturespaces will launch the new Atelier des Lumières in Paris on April 13. Located in a former foundry in the 11th arrondissement, the Atelier will offer three exhibits in two areas. The opening "long program" will focus on Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele while a shorter program looks at the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasseranother artist who symbolised Viennese creativity. To see a very nice teaser for the new venue, click here.

Back in Les Baux, adult tickets to the Picasso show are €12.50, kids under 7 are free. There are also family rates and combined-visit prices (Carrières + Chateau des Baux +Musee Brayer) on the website, along with opening hours, directions and much more. 

Route de Maillane  
13520 Les Baux de Provence 
Tel: +33 4 90 54 47 37

Photos: (1) You can be sure everyone is tres busy at the moment in the chilly caves at Les Baux, putting finishing touches on the upcoming show at the Carrières de Lumières. (2, 3) Two of the many images you'll see in the show: Picasso's 1922 "Deux Femmes Courant Sur La Plage" and "Just Out of the Sea" by Joaquin Sorolla, 1915. (4) This looks like fun: after the 32-minute Picasso sound-and-light show, you'll see a nine-minute projection called Flower Power, celebrating the 1960s. (5) The old bauxite quarry, now the Carrières de Lumières, in daylight. The geologist who first discovered aluminum ore here named it after the village. (6) One section of the vast space is often lit beautifully for private parties and other events. (7) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo. (8) I went looking to see if Picasso was ever photographed in Les Baux and found a number of great shots taken by the late Arles-based photographer Lucien Clergue, on the set of "The Testament of Orpheus," in 1959. To the left of the artist are Jacqueline Picasso and Luis Miguel Dominguin. On the right, Jean Cocteau, actress Lucia Bose and choreographer Serge Lifar. (9, 10) Based on the success of the Carrières de Lumières, Culturespaces will open the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris on April 13. The new digital art center will host three shows at once, in a former foundry in the 11th arrondissement.

For general information including upcoming activities in Les Baux, click here.

Want to spend the night in a quarry? Sure you do! All the details on one very cool Luberon rental are here

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

So...What's Happening?

Quoi de Neuf? This week I thought I'd share a couple short, newsy things that recently caught my eye: a vintage ice cream truck, a new place to store your luggage in Avignon, a farm for fresh flowers all winter, upcoming fundraisers, the starting lineup for Jazz à Juan and some other fun things to do. We're not gonna win any Pulitzers here but hopefully you'll find some things of interest...

Scoop! Vintage Ice Cream Truck Ready to Roll 

My friend Nicola Christinger-Grant and her daughter Victoria Moss are just about ready to unveil a vintage ice cream truck named Esta, after months of restoration. The classic 1976 Renault Estafette is still in Corsica finishing serious cosmetic surgery but she'll arrive in France  at the end of the month. "We thought Provence needed a good old fashioned classic ice cream van," Nic tells me. "Given the sensational weather I can’t believe they don’t really exist! When I first found Esta, she was a total rust bucket...but I knew immediately that I loved her!" As of February, Esta will be ready to rent for all types of events (she's booked for a number of weddings already) and will be rolling up at weekly markets including Eygalieres on Friday, Uzes on Saturday and the July/August Thursday evening night market in Nimes. Esta can travel roughly one hour from Nimes and will serve a range of ice creams (whole milk, vegan, fat-free, organic). The four pix up top show the ongoing restoration; the two below them are "befores." When the work is complete, I'll post more photos because you can be sure she'll be a beauty! The website ( ) is still under construction but email Nicola for info in the meantime:

Got Baggage?

Did you know...the folks behind La Consigne in Nice have opened a second location in Avignon? It's a luggage checkroom where you can store your stuff safely (they've got scanners, cameras and alarms) at super-reasonable prices. Located close to both the Avignon Centre (city) Train Station and the Avignon Tourist Office, La Consigne also rents baby strollers and wheelchairs, offers a bike-courrier baggage delivery service and will store oversized items if you book ahead. Plus, they have free and speedy WiFi which you're welcome to hang out and use. La Consigne Avignon is open May 1st to Aug 31st, at #1 ave Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny, 84000 Avignon, +33 (0)6 63 68 91 09. Lots more info on both locations is on the website here.

Brand-New St. Remy Home for Summer Rental

Ian and Lizzie Ferris are just putting final touches on their new home in St. Remy...but have learned they'll need to spend the summer back in the UK.  That means they want to rent the house out, for the whole summer if possible, or at least for a month at a time, starting in June. You can see it here on Homeaway and on AirBnB. Located less than ten minute's walk from the historic center of the village, it has three double bedrooms, an upstairs bathroom and downstairs shower room, off-street parking in a gated community, a south-facing garden with private pool, A/C, WiFi and a nice modern kitchen. Ian says his ideal would be one family for 12 weeks (mid June to mid September,  €17,000) but will happily consider monthly rentals for June (€6000), July (€7000) and August (€8000). For info:

Shmoozing for Social and Business 

Since I first wrote about it here almost three years ago,  the women's group Network Provence has grown tremendously, thanks to the hard work and creativity of director Rebecca Ronane and the giving spirit of its members. The group now holds regular meet-ups and activities in a variety of Provencal villages (Aix, St. Remy, Maubec, Orange, Eygalieres, etc.) and continues to expand. Pay 50€ to join for a year and attend all the events you want...or pay as you go (most events are 10 each). The group's Facebook page (sign up required) has become an extremely valuable resource for info sharing among English-speaking women of all nationalities in the region. Upcoming NP events include a a crash course in pairing wine with chocolate with Sophie Bergeron in Avignon (Jan 23rd at 2 pm), a talk on happiness by Trudi Bannister in Aix (Feb 13, 3 to 5 pm) and a presentation and light lunch with Nicky Ginsberg, at her new NG Art Creative Residency Program in Eygalieres (March 23, noon to 2:30). See these and other events  (and reserve...and become a member) on the Network Provence site. Questions? Email:

Another Super Support Group for Expat Women

Another networking group that's really gathering steam is called LiANU. It's described as "An Anglophone support group of ex-pat ladies for ex-pat ladies living in, or with strong ties to, the Avignon-Nimes-Uzès region." According to Petra Van Der Wal, one of the group's five informal leader/organizers, the first "Ladies In..." group, Ladies in Languedoc, was created in 2013 and as it grew, a need was identified for other locally-focused ex-pat groups "where you can find a local tradesman or places to buy your halloumi cheese! Ladies In groups are now in Perpignan and Carcassone too...and they've all been likened to a big, chatty, online coffee morning!"  The next LiANU event is a New Year's Dinner, to be held Jan 24 in Nimes; see all the info here. I've not been to a LiANU event yet but a few friends of mine are active in the group and they give it a hearty thumbs up. To get involved, click join on their Facebook page here. If you'd like to start a Ladies In group in another region of France, contact Nicole Hammond by messenger through the LIL group here.  

Friday Morning: Coffee and Cake for a Great Cause
Lucy Bakr will hold a "coffee morning" fundraiser for Busoga Trust this Friday Jan 19 from 10 am to noon in St. Remy, with homemade Gâteau de Roi. Entry is 5€ pp, please. Lucy will also be selling her famous homemade marmalades (including a brand-new batch of orange marmalade & Bergamot lemon marmalade--woot woot!) plus new olive oils, books, DVDs and more. All proceeds go to build wells for clean water in Uganda. The address is: 1 Av Jean Baltus;  park inside the courtyard or on the street. For more info:

Flowers All Winter, Fresh from the Farm

People often forget about their favorite farm markets in winter but the very-popular Boutique at Ferme Fleurie, between Tarascon and Graveson, sells their beautiful home-grown blooms all year long. The prices are wholesale and the flowers are gorgeous! (Read my recent story about them here.)  Debbie, who runs the farm with her husband Marcel, tells me: "All good down on the farm this winter! And full speed ahead for the season 2018!" Deb tells me they have anemones now until May, tulips from the end of February to April,  narcissi and daffodils in March and of course their star performer, peonies, at the end of April through May. For daily hours and what's available, check their Facebook page. The Boutique at Ferme Fleurie is at 4583 Route d'Avignon, 13150 Tarascon. 

This Friday in Avignon: Cabaret at Theatre Le 9

If you're up for some entertainment in English and like to mingle with other expats, this one's for you. This Friday Jan 19 at 8 pm, the Aix-Marseille and Avignon Chapters of Democrats Abroad will team up to take in a cabaret show in Avignon with Stefan Bednarczyk, a stage and screen actor, director, choirmaster, organist and composer.  (Stefan brought the works of Noel Coward, Flanders and Swann and Comden & Green to the stage...and has worked as musical director with the most prominent theaters in the U.K., including the National and the Barbican.) His latest cabaret adventure, "Beyond a Joke," explores in piano and song the works of three of the 20th-century’s greatest satirists: Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer and Jake Thackray. The show takes place at the splendid Théâtre Le 9; I wrote about the theater and its charming owner Hilary when it opened here.  After the show, the group will mingle and meet Stefan over a glass of wine. The theater is tiny and there are seats set aside for the DA group so make sure to mention DA when you reserve. Plus, please bring something sweet or savory to share with 30 people. Tickets are 20 pp. To reserve, call +33 (0)4 84 14 27 28 or email: Then, let know you're coming. For more info:

Calling All Wine-Industry Insiders

All wine pros  (winemakers, retailers, restaurateurs, hotel f&b staff, etc.) are invited to a two-day "Naked Wine Fair" sponsored by the Languedoc-based Vignerons de L'Irreel, a group of local winemakers, on Jan 28 and 29 in Montpellier. Both days, there will be 50 French, Italian and Spanish winemakers present and pouring, along with five artisan brewers. A Sunday evening party will have concerts and a DJ, with lots of Italian charcuterie, the Le Duke food truck and more. More than 200 people have signed up and many more will certainly join in.  The event will be at the Dieze Warehouse, at 188 ave. du Marche Gare. Admission is 10€ and all the details are on the group's Facebook page here.  

Lenny Kravitz to Open Jazz à Juan 2018
And finally, down on the Côte d'Azur, the International Jazz Festival Jazz à Juan (the oldest jazz fest in Europe), has just announced, following a well-established tradition, the names of the first three artists who will perform this year, the 58th edition of the festival. After the opening concert on July 12 with Lenny Kravitz and his “Raise Vibration Tour,” the festival welcomes Chick Corea (one of the most important and influential pianists of his generation), Youn Sun Nah (who has led a brilliant international career exploring in risky ways the infinite possibilities of her voice), and Marcus Miller ("promising an incredible performance!"). The full program will be announced in March. For all the info:,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Deja Vu: Rencontres Photos in Marseille

Every year, the city of Arles hosts the sprawling Rencontres de la Photographie, an international photo festival which lasts all summer and takes over many of the city's historic buildings, galleries and other public and private spaces.  (My story about the 2017 Rencontres is here.)  And this year some of the very best work from the 2017 Rencontres is being shown again, in Marseille.

Called Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! (The World As it Is!), the Marseille exhibit is comprised of eight separate Rencontres shows in their entirety, plus one new show by local photographer Monique Deregibus. Altogether 40 photographers are featured. Admission is free but the show ends on January 7 so carpe diem!
According to the press materials: "The more we think countries are closed off and mired in political or economic crises, the more photographers are there. They reveal, tell, attest, invent, repair and rebuild with their own language, that of the image. They decode the early signs of social change. The World as It Is! offers a journey from the shores of the Bosporus to sub-Saharan border areas, from the divided island of Cyprus to a Libya torn between war and refugees. Come and share this taste for other places at major exhibitions that marked the Rencontres d’Arles this summer with 40 photographers who are wondering about the state of the world."
Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! is at the just-reopened J1 (also called MJ1) terminal building on a long pier near the ferry port in the Joliette district of the city.  The building was entirely refurbished in 2013 as part of the Marseille-Provence Capital of Culture celebrations but according to my blogger friend Sheila at Marvellous-Provence, it's been closed ever since, the victim of local politics and squabbling. "With its huge spaces and spectacular views," Sheila says, "it was easily one of the most popular and most visited venues of that year.  So the fact that it has now reopened--now called the MJ1--is excellent news."

More info on Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! is on the Rencontres site and the MJ1 site.

If you miss this exhibit, the next show at the MJ1 will be part of the Marseille-Provence 2018 festival, featuring six months of events with love as the theme. Officially called MP2018: Quel Amour!, it launches on Valentines Day, runs through the end of August and features 200 cultural events (music, dance, art, etc.) across the region.

Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va!
Eight exhibits on view until January 7, 2018
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm, with special hours Dec 31st.
Free admission
Hangar MJ1
Quai de la Joliette
13002 Marseille

Photos: Three views of the J1 building...and the poster for the show. Top photo by Michele Clavel, second photo by Frederic D. at Third photo (inside the J1 looking out) by Alizé Almozinos. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

One Restaurant I Love: A Guest Post

You can't live in Provence and not be passionate about food.  The cliché is that the French spend much of each meal talking about what they ate at their last meal or what they'll eat at the next. The produce here is so good...and there's so much culinary talent...there aren't enough days in a month to try a fraction of the restaurants I'd like to. Many of my friends feel the same way so of course we trade notes constantly. Periodically someone will rave so enthusiastically about a meal that I'll ask them to share the info with all of us, through a guest post.  And since it had been a few years since I wrote about Jean-Luc Rabanel (one of my favorite chefs) and his outstanding restaurant, L'atelier, in Arles, I was delighted when Keith Van Sickle suggested a guest post about a recent meal there. Keith's bio appears at the end of this text; read on for his Rabanel review!

There are a lot of great restaurants in Provence, with Michelin stars galore like Le Petit Nice in Marseille and Baumanière in Les Baux. But for my money, the best fine dining in Provence is at L’atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles.

In 1999, Rabanel became the first chef in France to earn a Michelin star for an organic restaurant, Coté Garonne in the small town of Tonneins in southwest France. He later closed that restaurant and moved to Provence, renowned for its fresh produce, and opened L’atelier in 2007.  

On a quiet street just off the Place de la Republique, Rabanel works his magic. He calls his approach “Greenstronomie” – light on the meat and heavy on the abundance of Provence. As he puts it, “At the center of my cuisine is emotion and taste, a philosophy based on the vegetable. Vegetables, roots, plants, leaves, flowers and wild herbs thus become the main actors of my creations.”

L’atelier offers you just two choices: the six-course menu (95€) or the nine-course menu (123€). That’s it. On certain days, there's also a three-course option for lunch (55€). You can order wine by the glass, by the bottle, or pick one of the wine pairings chosen by the sommelier (three glasses, 45€; five glasses, 65€). 

The server will ask if you have any food allergies, which is a nice touch. I can’t eat gluten and I normally have to bring up the subject myself, which can make for an awkward moment. I appreciate that L’atelier made this discussion a comfortable one.

My wife and I went to L’atelier recently for her birthday, as it's our special occasion restaurant of choice. We usually order the six-course menu. The courses are small but you always get more than advertised (this year we counted eight courses) so there's no risk of going hungry. 

Plus there's the bread - you're served a selection of five different freshly baked varieties. And lucky me, I enjoyed the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever had.

After a glass of Champagne, the plates started arriving. My wife says that each plate is like a work of art you get to enjoy twice. First you appreciate its beauty, and then you savor the tastes. 

Our meal began with a piece of raw tuna marinated in sesame oil and laid atop sliced celery root and basil. This was sprinkled with a peanut crumble. Oh yes, there were also little pieces of smoky lardon hiding in there. And the flower on top was spicy. All those flavors were nice way to wake up the taste buds!

Next came the sweetest peas I’ve ever eaten, mixed into a fava bean puree and topped by Parmesan foam and a shrimp that had been dipped in ginger and grilled.

After that came mackerel over fava beans and then asparagus with morel mushrooms and white garlic ice cream.

While the menu changes regularly, we were thrilled to be able to enjoy one of Rabanel’s signature dishes. This is an impossibly tender filet mignon of taureau de Camargue (bull) topped with an egg yolk that's been marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar. The combination is to die for!  It was accompanied by too many kinds of vegetable to count.

Then came the desserts, three different ones. The first was a jelly of verbena, topped by pureed Jerusalem artichoke hearts and macha ice cream. The second was a combination of fresh and sautéed fruits with tarragon sorbet. Then came the black-olive cookies and citrus macarons.

L’atelier has two Michelin stars and is unlikely to get a third, even though the food is as good as it gets. Why? Because to get a rare and coveted third star usually means you have to invest millions of dollars in the décor. Rabanel has chosen to keep the décor simple, the staff relatively young, and the focus on the food.

This is the reason that the Gault Millau guide, which rates purely on food quality, has given L’Atelier 5 toques and a score of 19 out of 20. These stratospheric ratings make it one of the top restaurants in France.

Since he first opened in Arles, Jean-Luc has grown the business organically. Once L'atelier was up and running he opened a bistro next door, called À Côté, which remains extremely popular. Then he opened a seafood spot called Iode, which has since closed. 

He also expanded L'atelier, doubling the dining space and adding accommodations. Today you can rent rooms in two flavors: “Les Confidentielles” which is a guestroom plus meals if you want them (breakfast + either lunch or dinner) and “Les Appartés,” which is four rooms with a common living-room area...which you can rent by the room or as a whole.  If you're staying in Les Appartés you can request cooking classes for your group there; classes are also available in the restaurant in the morning for would-be sous chefs who want to cook along with the restaurant's brigade. All the details are on the restaurant's website here.

So if you have a special occasion coming up, or want to taste the best that Provence has to offer, consider a meal at L’atelier in Arles. You won’t be sorry.

L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
7, rue des Carmes
13200 Arles, France
Phone: +33 4 90 91 07 69

Photos: (1-3) A few dishes from Keith and Val's recent meal: raw, marinated tuna on celery root with smoky lardon, a sprinkle of peanut crumble and an edible, spicy flower; 
sweet-pea and a fava-bean puree topped with Parmesan foam and a grilled shrimp; and a Rabanel signature: filet mignon of taureau de Camargue (bull) topped with an egg yolk that's been marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar, accompanied by "too many kinds of vegetable to count."  (4) Jean-Luc with a few of his favorite things. The ingredients are all organic and many are grown specifically for him by friends. Photo courtesy of Le Figaro. (5) The dining room is striking but simple, meant to keep the focus on the food. (6) You'll find hearty, Spanish-influenced bistro fare at Rabanel's restaurant À Côtéwhich is right next door. (7) The rental accommodation called Les Appartés. (8) One of Jean-Luc's many cookbooks. (10) Val and Keith in front of the Château de Vauvenargues (wondering, no doubt, where they should have lunch).

Keith Van Sickle is the author of "One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence," which was published in January, 2017 and is available on Amazon here. He grew up in Alameda, California, and got his first taste of overseas life during a college term in England and later, a six-month backpacking sojourn. Grateful for the scholarships that helped him pay for college, in 1987 he started a foundation that helps students from Alameda pursue their own educations. His career has been in tech, primarily on the finance side. During a five-year work assignment in Switzerland, where they lived in a village with more cows than people, Keith and his wife Val fell in love with the European expat lifestyle.  After returning to the US, Keith helped start a company whose product was so geeky he says he still doesn’t quite understand it. When the couple decided they wanted to live abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig, they decided to invent their own. Now they and their trusty dog split their time between Silicon Valley and Provence, where Keith does financial consulting for startups and Val consults in a variety of fields. Keith publishes a blog called Life in Provence and you can follow him on Twitter,  Facebook and Medium.


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