Showing posts with label ARCHITECTURE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ARCHITECTURE. Show all posts

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Journées du Patrimoine is Sept 20 + 21

It's that time again: The wonderful annual Journées du Patrimoine event takes place September 20 and 21 in cities and villages all over France; a few have activities on Friday the 19th as well. The program was started by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). This is the 31st year. The idea is that many historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates and domaines are open for visits...along with many private sites that are normally, um, private. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit and most (but not all) offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just seven participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But the village itself has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 20 participating can see it here. 

Here are some additional Patrimoine schedules, or at least the best info I could find online: AvignonAixArlesMarseille, NimesUzesCannesBeaucaire,  Cassis, Fos Sur Mer, Vaison la Romaine and the Vaucluse. Beyond that, you're on your own...but here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence and they should be able to help.

Photos: The poster and logo for the nationwide event...and a selection of local posters.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Art + Sculpture Show Opens Tonight

Sorry for the short notice on this one, folks. But there's a lovely art show and sale opening tonight so I thought I'd slip it in here quickly. The annual show is called ABBYAC and it's on view through September 7 in the gorgeous gardens of the Abbaye Saint-André (at the hilltop Fort Saint-André) in Villeneuve les Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon. Twenty-three artists will be showing sculpture,  engravings,  ceramics and installations. The vernissage (opening party) is tonight, from 6 pm to 9 pm, and everyone is welcome; most artists will be present. Entry tonight and for the duration of the show is 6€ for adults and free for kids under 8; reduced and family prices are available. The show remains on view every day from 10 am to 6 pm. There's parking on the hill so just drive on up...and don't miss the great views of Avignon. The site for the Abbaye (with directions) is here...and there's info in English here...and a bit more info on the show is here. This year's show is in partnership with Galerie 22 in Coustellet.  Bon Weekend!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Et Voila: Le Peninsula!

It took four years and 429 million to complete …and finally the fabulous Peninsula Hotel will open in Paris next week.

It’s the Hong Kong-based company’s tenth hotel, joining properties in New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.

The first guests are set to arrive on August 1st.

Just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, at 19 Avenue Kléber in the elegant 16th arrondissement, The Peninsula Paris sits close to some of the world’s most-famous monuments, museums and luxury shopping. It has 200 rooms including 34 suites, five of which have private rooftop gardens with spectacular views over the city. 

The building itself is a late-19th-century classic French-style beauty.  It first opened in 1908 as one of Paris’ most famous “grands hotels” and, for 30 years, it hosted the rich and famous--along with leading lights in the arts, literature and music--during the Belle Epoque and “Années Folles.”

In 1922, five of the greatest artists of the 20th century-- James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky—had dinner together here. Other historical highlights include George Gershwin composing “An American in Paris” here in 1928  and the Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho--which brought the Vietnam War to a close--being signed here in 1973.

Following the wartime occupation of Paris, the hotel was converted into UNESCO’s headquarters (in 1946), and 12 years later it became the conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The building has been meticulously restored by teams of French master craftsmen, using techniques in use for hundreds of years. Original elements long gone or badly damaged were recreated following extensive research.  Marble, stucco, mosaics, roof and wall tiles, wood carvings, stone work, gold leafing, paintings and a myriad of other elements have been lovingly preserved and painstakingly restored by some of France’s most-revered family firms, known for their work on heritage projects such as the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

The façade alone employed the talents of 20 skilled stonemasons who restored the elaborate carved stone flowers, bows and ribbons. Repairs were carried out where possible, carving missing portions by hand using stone-dust paste. Where the bas-reliefs were severely damaged, the entire section was replaced by new, hand-carved stone, using photos for reference. Each flower cascade took a stonemason three weeks of work…12 hours of work alone for each small bow.

Meanwhile wood-restoration experts individually numbered and removed each original wood panel in the Lobby and Le Bar Kléber: 370 and 130 sections respectively. These were then sanded down, repaired, restored and replaced.

A firm specializing in gilding and restoring handled repairs, gold leafing and hand painting. Their previous commissions in Paris have included the dome of Les Invalides and the Palace of Versailles, while in the US their projects have included the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and the flame of the Statue of Liberty. 

Three basement levels were excavated to create a 1800-square-foot spa, a 20-meter swimming pool, fitness centre and parking for 57 cars.

The Avenue Kléber hotel entrance leads to the traditionally grand Peninsula Lobby, with soaring curved ceilings, magnificent drapery, marble floors and contemporary furnishings. In a second lobby—which greets guests arriving by car--a hand-blown Lasvit chandelier creates a cascade of 800 crystal “leaves,” a subtle homage to the plane trees lining Avenue Kléber. 

With the smallest of them 35 square meters (312 square feet), the guestrooms are among the largest in the city; the company says they’re also the most technologically advanced in the world. Every room has a marble bathroom, a self-contained dressing room, a walk-in closet, a seated dressing table, a valet box for discreet pick-up and delivery of laundry, dry-cleaning and polished shoes, a large electronic safe, internet radio, a weather display panel and –wait for it!—a nail dryer. (Personally, I love the Nespresso machines and the free local and international  phone calls!)

Fully customized interactive digital bedside and desk tablets are preset for guests in one of 11 languages, offering full control of all in-room functions and access to restaurant menus, hotel services and TV channels. In-room LED touch-screen wall panels feature valet call, weather details, thermostat, language and privacy options.

In addition to 24-hour room service, the Peninsula Paris has six dining venues:  The Lobby, LiLi (the Cantonese restaurant), La Terrasse Kléber, L’Oiseau Blanc (a rooftop restaurant, bar and terrace), Le Lounge Kléber (an eight-seat cigar lounge) and Le Bar.

There are also function and banquet rooms,  of course, including a traditional Parisian-style ballroom-salon with a pre-function area for up to 120 people,  and three rooms for smaller meetings and events.

Throughout the hotel, executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel says he’ll be using only the very best of French ingredients and a “farm to table” approach to seasonal cuisine. Jean-Edern was born and raised in Alsace and comes to the hotel from the Middle East, where he was working at the Shangri-La Abu-Dhabi and, more recently, Boca Restaurant in Dubai.

Vichy-born chief sommelier Xavier Thuizat presides over The Peninsula Paris’ extensive wine cellar while indulging his passion for sourcing unique boutique wines from small producers throughout France.

Pastry chef Julien Alvarez hails originally from Bergerac and has won a multitude of awards, including a gold medal in the World Pâtisserie Championship in 2011.

And what about the famous Peninsula cars? Yep, they’re here and at the ready: Continuing the company’s  long partnership (since 1970) with Rolls-Royce, a Rolls-Royce EWB Phantom and a meticulously restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II are liveried, together with two customized Peninsula Edition MINI Cooper Clubman vehicles,  in the signature Peninsula green in front of the hotel. There’s also a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series limousines for airport transfers, sightseeing and trips around Paris.

The hotel’s general manager is Nicolas Béliard , who has extensive experience throughout Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and the US. He joined the company in 2009, at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and became GM of the Peninsula Bangkok the following year.

Hotel manager Vincent Pimont also has years of luxury hotel experience,  in Paris, the US and the Far East. He comes most recently from the Peninsula Beijing.

Opening month specials begin at €750 per night, for a Superior room with full breakfast for two (usually €1,205).

To reserve, click here, go to or call: 08 00 91 59 80 (in France) or 866 382 8388 (in the US). 

Photos: (1) You've arrived! One of the two lobbies, with its hand-blown crystal "Dancing Leaves" chandelier. (2) The Peninsula all lit up and ready to party. (3) Rooftop restaurant views at L’Oiseau Blanc. (4, 5) Guestrooms and marble bathrooms are loaded with luxe amenities and tech. (6) Executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel on the hunt for the best seasonal ingredients and products. (7) The hotel at 19 avenue Kléber opened in 1908 and was known for voluminous spaces, elegant events, beauty and glamour. (8, 9) Countless craftsmen using traditional methods did the meticulously restoration, guided by historic photos. (10) Inviting sweets are among the in-room amenities offered.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Château Shopping in France?

This is kind of fun: HGTV and Magilla Entertainment got in touch the other day, looking for families who are about to buy and renovate "a castle, château or very large estate" in Europe. If that's you and you want to be considered for a new TV series, you should email: Be sure to include your name, location, phone, photos of yourselves, photos of your new property and a brief paragraph about your story. And if you haven't found the perfect property just yet, you may be in luck...because look what I just found online. This nine-bedroom, 18th-century château above is set on 83 hectares--near Lourmarin and Ansouis in the Southern Luberon region of Provence--and it's for sale. The main house (a Provençal bastide) has more than 1000 square meters of living space, while the property features a farmhouse, hayloft, winery, stables, garages...and even a preserved private chapel with frescoes. It all sits at the edge of a magnificent 31-hectare, wholly private lake. The property is less than an hours drive from Marseille Airport, 30 minutes from Aix. The price is upon request but whatever it is, you're worth it! For more info, click here and then use location Luberon.

Friday, June 6, 2014

This Weekend and Next at the Pont du Gard

The 2,000-year-old aqueduct called the Pont du Gard is one of the most magnificent sites in Provence; I never get tired of tromping around on it, photographing it and splashing around in the water beneath it.  And my favorite Roman relic is even more spectacular when she’s all lit up with video, light, flame and fireworks as she is each summer during a popular evening sound-and-light show series called “Les Féeries du Pont’’ (Fairies of the Bridge). 

This year’s show is called Le Magicien d’Eau. It will be presented four times in June, on Friday and Saturday evenings: June 6, 7, 13 and 14, 2014. Showtime is 10:30 p.m or at dusk. But definitely arrive early as there are some "animations" before the main event, probably starting around 7 p.m. 

Once again, the producer is Groupe F, the internationally acclaimed pyrotechnicians known for shows at the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Olympics. If you want a smile, have a look at their website; their work is over-the-top wonderful. I think the Romans would love it! 

The Pont du Gard site will be open all day, as usual, but separate tickets are required. Seating will be on the right bank of the river so if you arrive on the left bank, you must be in by 9:30 pm in order to cross the bridge; the gates to the Pont du Gard park will close at 9:30. Bring cushions, chairs and blankets or you'll be sitting on the ground; the shops on site also sell seats if you forget. My best advice is sit as close to the bridge itself as possible.  ''And don't forget to bring also warm wears,'' my contact at the Pont du Gard sweetly tells me. 

Tickets for the Les Féeries show range from €16 to €23; kids under six are free. You can buy them online here or at the Pont du Gard box office at any time. They're also available at FNAC, Carrefour, Géant, Magasins U, and Group rates are available (for group rates call 04 66 37 51 10). If you have an annual pass to the Pont du Gard, you get a discount. Parking is free. 

Still not sure? You can see another video from a previous year, click here.  

So what about dinner? Casual food will be sold on site or you can bring a picnic in with you. There's also a restaurant called Les Terrasses that serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine (04 66 63 91 37). A special Féeries du Pont menu will be offered at Les Terrasses but the restaurant fills up very quickly so reserve early

For all the info on the Féeries du Pont show or on visiting Pont du Gard at other times, click here. For historical info, click here. To contact the Pont du Gard directly: or 04 66 37 50 99....and yes, they speak English. 

If you want to catch a Groupe F fireworks show at another time,  go to their site here and click rendezvous to see the 2014 schedule. After Les Féeries du Pont, they’ll be staging shows in Provence on the following dates: 

July 5: Martigues
July 13: Salin de Giraud
July 14: Arles
July 14: Martigues

There will also be a special Groupe F show at the Eiffel Tower this year on July 14, Bastille Day. 

Finally, if you plan to be in Paris this summer,  you can get a taste of Groupe F at the Chateau de Versailles, where they're once again staging their musical fountain display called ''Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes.'' It's on certain evenings from June 21 to September 13 and the schedule is on the Versailles website here. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tres Baux! New Hotel & Golf Opens June 1

Roughly eight years in development, the Domaine de Manville will open near Les Baux de Provence on June 1st. It's not every day that our little patch of paradise gets a new five-star resort, not to mention one with an 18-hole golf course, so people down here are definitely abuzz!

Set on a 100-hectare former farm in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains, the property encompasses a five-star ''Country Palace'' hotel with 30 rooms and suites, a gastronomic restaurant and bistro, heated indoor and outdoor pools and a spa.

Surrounding the eco-certified golf course (previously a nine-hole course called Golf des Baux), are nine 2,200-sq-ft. stone-and-glass "shared ownership" Maisons which sleep six to eight each and are available for weekly (in high season) and shorter rentals. Each luxurious villa has a full living room, dining room and kitchen, along with three en suite bedrooms upstairs and a large outdoor terrace. For more info on the villas, click here and here.

Guests in the villas can enjoy all hotel facilities and amenities including the pools, a 24-hour concierge, room service, a 3K hiking trail, yoga, personal trainer, electric and mountain bikes, a private ten-seat cinema, meeting rooms and a Mini Club for kids aged 2 to 7, based in two colorful gypsy caravans under the pines.

The hotel will be soft opening from June 1st onwards, with rooms and suites 15% off until July 1st. Hotel guests can golf as of June but the course officially opens to the public in September.

The Domaine de Manville is overlooked by Les Baux, the beautiful medieval hilltop village with an atmospheric, ruined château up top.  It's a fabulous setting, within an hour's drive of popular tourist areas such as St. Remy (10 to 15 min), Avignon, Arles, the Camargue, Aix, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the Luberon.

Surrounding the domaine, wine lovers will find the 12 gorgeous wine estates that comprise the Baux-de-Provence DOC or Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée; virtually all are open for visits and tasting. An hour or so up the road are Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the other famous villages of the Côtes du Rhone.

This is also serious olive country, where expansive farms produce oils and other olive products carrying the highly regarded "Vallée des Baux de Provence" AOC designation.

Opening Domaine de Manville fulfills ''a lifelong dream" for owners Patrick and Edith Saut, who both come from Maussane, a small, pretty village just down the road. Careers took them off to Paris (where Patrick ran the huge 9000-employee company called NGE) but they always kept the family home in Maussane...and are now based there again full time.

"Even when we lived away from our beloved Alpilles," Patrick explains, "we still dreamt of olive groves, vineyards and the countryside of pine and rock. We still heard the sound of the Provence wind and we knew that we'd come back one day. When we discovered Manville, we knew this was the place. Everything was here: the architecture, the local products, the food – all we had to do was work with it. This is our home and we want our guests to feel exactly the same, that this is their home too."

The name Domaine de Manville pays homage to Louis-Alexandre Blanc de Manville, who, in 1908, built a modern agriculture complex on this land with classic Provencal agricultural architecture: large rectangular stone buildings in a U-shape around a beautiful courtyard planted with ancient plane trees.

The Sauts and their architects felt that preserving the history was essential and made sure to maintain the integrity of both the original property and the natural surroundings. Even the golf course was built to respect the terrain – the greens and fairways geometrically shaped to resemble fields and meant to evolve with the seasons rather than staying green year round.

Meanwhile local designer Annie Zéau did the interiors--no two rooms alike--using natural materials (stone, wood, woven reeds) and local furniture and antiques. A number of rooms have mezzanine floors, ideal for families or groups of friends. Her goal, Annie says, was to create something "deeply comfortable, contemporary, spacious, uncluttered and intrinsically Provençal."

And what about the food glorious food? The chef is Steve Deconinck, formerly of the Michelin-starred Chez Bru in nearby Eygalières.  Born and raised in Ypres, Belgium, Deconinck's impressive CV includes time in the kitchens of superstar chefs Ferran Adrià and Marc Veyrat.  The cuisine will be modern Provençal, he says, low in "food miles" and rich with the flavors of the terroir: "From the vineyards, the kitchen garden, the Friday aioli, apricots, rosemary honey, tomatoes and strawberries from Carpentras – all bursting with sunshine." 

The gourmet restaurant will serve lunch and dinner every day in high season, then switch to dinner only when the weather cools. A bistro will serve lunch only, year round. Both are open to the public as well as hotel guests.

The hotel's general manager is Patrick Nayrolles, who was lured home to France for this job; he was  last working for the Societe des Bains de Mer as director of the Monte Carlo Beach Club on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Before that, he was at the famed Hotel de Paris in Monaco and the Cipriani in Venice. Born in the US to French parents, Patrick comes from some pretty serious hotelier stock: his father, now retired, was the GM of Meadowood in Napa Valley for many years, as well as of the Plaza-Athénée in New York.

The sales and marketing director is Florence Biscarrat, who worked for many years at Hôtel La Mirande in Avignon.

To design the golf course, Patrick Saut--a passionate golfer--turned to Thierry Sprecher, who's done more than 50 courses in 12 countries during a 30-year career.  The Sprecher view is that the terrain and landscape must dictate the character of the course. The fairways will evolve with each season, rather than staying green all year. Olive trees and streams provide natural obstacles. Greens fees range from 35€ (nine holes, low season) to 72€ (18 holes, high season). A wide range of packages are available and you can see all the golf info here. The golf manager is Jeremie Picot.

“The essence of my golf courses is nature above all," Sprecher says. "It's vital to maintain harmony and extend the work of nature. Golfers should feel they are walking on a natural landscape and they should feel a bit of intimidation and a little triumph too. I like to create courses that look and feel old, even though they are new. I like to feel they have existed for many years”.

Double rooms at Domaine de Manville begin at €275 per night, with breakfast extra at 28€ per person. 

Domaine de Manville
Les Baux-de-Provence, France
Tel: + 33 (0)4 90 54 40 20

*Note, my company, Provence Post Travel, would be delighted to assist you with booking rooms at Domaine de Manville, at no cost to you. Email me:

Photos: 1. At Domaine de Manville, the original farmhouse dates to the early 1900s. 2: The ethereally beautiful village of Les Baux overlooks the property. 3: Edith and Patrick Saut came home to Provence to develop and run Domaine de Manville, fulfilling a lifelong dream. 4: A guestroom. 5: The 9-hole Golf des Baux was transformed into the new 18-hole course. 6: Guestroom. 7: Nine rental villas called Maisons are for sale (under shared ownership) and for rent. 8, 9: Two views of the landscape. 10-13: These pretty plates are the work of chef Steve Deconinck, a Belgian chef who worked with Ferran Andria, Marc Veyrat and, most recently, Wout Bru in nearby Eygalieres. 14: Taken in 1965, the B&W photo shows Edith with siblings and cousins at the family vineyard during harvest. (She's at the far left with a cousin on her lap.) The fourth-generation Domaine de Quatre Amours was begun by Edith's grandparents and is now run by her parents and youngest sister. It's between Pezenas and Gignac in the Hérault region of the Languedoc and yes, the wines are served at the new hotel. 15. Patrick and Edith Saut with their kids and grandkids.

Monday, March 10, 2014

American Club of the Riviera Invites You...

The American Club of the Riviera hosts luncheons and dinners throughout the year, featuring speakers on timely subjects. If you don't know the group you might think about attending one of their events or even joining up. The ACR welcomes anyone and I hear their events are terrific. The Club has roughly 100 members, about half of whom are American. The rest come from France, the U.K. Monaco, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Canada and more. 

The next event is March 22nd, starting at noon. This one will be at an elegant 19th-century manor in Mougins, a few hundred meters from Picasso's last house (which is currently for sale for 150€ million.*) Le Manoir de l'Etang is a hotel set on four hectares, overlooking a small lake. Guests will enjoy a three-course lunch with wine, bottled water and coffee. Afterward, a panel of experts will discuss "Africa Today" and the challenges and exploding potential of what many consider one of the most exciting emerging markets of our time. For more info on this event including profiles of the speakers, your menu choices and more, click here.

Pre-lunch drinks on the terrace are at noon and are included in the event price of 45€ members; 55€ guests. The suggested dress is smart-casual. 

The ACR was founded in 1962 as a successor to the US Propeller Club, an American association formed in 1927 in Washington to support and promote the American Merchant Marines. The club was first based in Marseille, before moving to the Martinez Hotel in Cannes and then to Nice, where it has its HQ today. One of the Club's most popular events is its traditional Thanksgiving luncheon at the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, which has been attended by H.S.H. Princess Grace of Monaco, H.S.H Prince Rainier and all their children. Several American ambassadors and high-ranking military officials have also attended Club events. Today the ACR is one of the most-active associations on the Cote d'Azur promoting the historic Franco-American friendship. The current President is Burton Gintell. The group's next event will be a guided visit at Villa Regina Margherita in Bordighera on April 12, with lunch to follow in a beach-side restaurant.

To RSVP to the Africa Today event on March 22, call Cy Todd at +33 (0)6 17 71 71 70 or click here and register with PayPal, wire transfer or check. 

For general info about the ACR, click here:

Photos: Le Manoir de l'Etang in Mougins will host the ACR's March 22nd event. Chef Mathieu Soler runs the kitchen and his cuisine gets high marks.

*Have a look at the Picasso house, being sold by the Belgian art dealer who reportedly paid between 10€ and €16 million for it in 2007.   Formerly known as Mas de Notre-Dame du Vie, the 35-room villa was Picasso's home from 1961 until his death in 1973. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rent This: An 18th-Century Olive Mill

Travel planning for the 2014 season is in full swing and I've been spending a ton of time running around visiting homes and villas of all sizes, for clients coming to Provence in the year ahead. Here's one I just had to share. 

Down a rutted, gravely driveway, on a high plateau in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains, this four-bedroom, four-bath home sits in a gorgeous olive mill built in 1717. I've seen a lot of vacation rentals (in all price ranges) but this is surely one of most unique. 

Converting the crumbling stone building into a welcoming home was a labor of love for its charming owners:  Stephane Blanc (who grew up down the road in the village of Mouriès), his mother, Marie José, and his sister Julia.

Today Stephane is the sales director of the 14th-century Palais des Papes in Avignon, traveling the world (he's just back from China) to lure tour operators and groups to Avignon. But no matter how far he wanders, it's clear Stephane's heart remains here on this 60-hectare property, which has been in his family since the late 19th century. 

The home, called the Moulin de Payan, can accommodate 10 people. The living room has eight enormous ceiling vaults and all sorts of vestiges of the time when it was one of biggest, busiest olive mills around. I'd call the decor rustic, Provencal farmhouse chic; Stephane filled the interior with antiques, painted pieces, big comfy couches, a piano and a handmade dining table that seats 20. You can also eat outside, in the shade of a enormous willow. The pool sparkles in the sunshine, surrounded by a large lawn. Beyond that, you'll see white Camargue horses grazing in the distance and vast fields of Foin de Crau, a highly prized local hay that's used to feed race horses. 

Also on the property are a number of large, unoccupied buildings that Stephane plans to restore one by one. The olive mill was the first project and it took roughly 18 months.

The appeal of this property is obvious: natural beauty, seclusion, history and architectural appeal. Kids will love this place and have fun running around exploring. Stephane speaks perfect English and I sense he does whatever he can to make his renters happy. Marie-José and Julia are very involved in the management of the property and work to insure that everyone gets a warm and personalized welcome.

Five minutes away in Mouriès (population 3000), you'll find all the typical businesses: grocery, produce market, butcher, boulangerie, pharmacy, newsstand, cafes, restaurants and a weekly market (Wednesday). Mouriès calls itself the olive capital of France, with 80,000 olive trees and another 500,000 or so in the surrounding area, which constitutes the appellation Vallée des Baux-de-Provence. Its farms and mills produce roughly 500 tons of oil per year and another 140 tons of table olives. At the turn of the century there were 11 oil mills in Mouriès, of which Le Moulin de Payan was one; today there are still three in operation, all of which may be visited year round. (My friend Anne-Marie Simons devotes a chapter of her terrific book Taking Root in Provence to the Mouriès Olive Festival.)

From what I can tell, the only negative to renting the Moulin de Payan is the access to the house. In the daylight these winding roads are very beautiful, all rolling hills, green valleys, vineyards and olive groves. But at night they can be quite daunting; they're narrow and they're not lit. Still, we all drive them all the time and live to see another it's probably ok.

From the house to Les Baux it's a 15-minute drive; St. Remy is 25 minutes.  The mill is 35 km from Avignon and Arles, 60 km from Marignane (Marseille) Airport. The small, sweet village of Maussane is close by...and dinner there on the church square is a wonderful way to pass a summer evening.

The Moulin de Payan rents for 1500€ to 2500€ per week, depending on the season (if you ask me, the price is low). If you do contact Stephane, it would be lovely if you told him you read about his house here.

Le Moulin de Payan
Tel: +33 (0)6 12 17 17 43
For info in English: 
For info in French, click here.

Photos: The living room is enormous, with high ceilings and eight enormous vaults. The four bedrooms are welcoming and colorful, with lots of light. The kitchen, bathed in afternoon sunshine, faces the dining patio and pool. A living room vignette. Dine in the shade of this enormous willow. Stephane Blanc owns and runs the house with his mom and his sister. The co-op in Mouries sells their own olive oils and other delicious locally made goodies. (If you still need Xmas gifts, they make up terrific holiday baskets.)

*Like this story? Then why not subscribe to Provence Post?  Just click here... 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Three Big Nationwide Events Coming Up

Journées du Patrimoine
This wonderful event takes place this weekend (September 14 and 15) in cities and villages all over France; a few villages have Patrimoine activities on Friday the 13th as well. The event is actually happening all across Europe (it's also called European Heritage Days) and this is the 30th year. The idea is that many historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates and domaines are open for visits...along with many private sites that are normally, um, private. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit and most (but not all) offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. The website with all the sites is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main website lists just three sites in St. Remy. But the Village of St. Remy published its own terrific guide showing 21 participating sites and a map, which you can see here. Click here for the program in Aix; here and here for what's happening in Marseille.  Arles is here and Avignon is here but for the rest of it, you're on your own. To help, here's a list of links to most of the Tourist Offices in Provence.

Tous au Restaurant
The popular annual restaurant promotion Tous au Restaurant is back for the fourth year. From September 16 to 22, restaurants all over France will offer a special three-course prix-fixe menu: appetizer, main course and dessert. The theme is ''Your Guest is Our Guest'' and it's basically a two for one: The first guest chooses this menu and the second guest gets the same menu free. Sometimes drinks are included, sometimes not. The dishes, the choices and the price are all at the restaurant's discretion but I've seen some wonderful meal deals in years past. Some restaurants will invite their purveyors in to meet customers; others may offer kitchen tours or special wine events. This is a great opportunity to try a new restaurant or one that always seemed too expensive. 

Some restaurants will offer special kids menus on Wednesday at noon (because many kids have that day off school). In Valence, for example, Anne-Sophie Pic, the only female Michelin three-star chef in France, will base her dishes on her own treasured childhood memories while chef Frédéric Vardon in Paris will be whipping up some of his kids' favorite dishes.

Tables can be booked on the Tous au Restaurant website, or by calling the restaurant directly. Reservations began on Monday September 9 and the most popular restaurants sell-out quickly, so scan the list and book soon. The website will require some patience so be forewarned. If you click English, you'll still get French. You can't initially search by the name of the town you want; you have to start with the region. (Provence can be found here.) Then, you have to know the department within the region (Bouches du Rhone, Vaucluse, Var, etc.) Only then can search by the name of the town. If you don't find the city or town you're looking for, try spelling it another way. For example, St. Remy only comes up as Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Aix doesn't work, neither does Aix en Provence; it only comes up as Aix-en-Provence, with hyphens. But if you hang in there, you'll be rewarded with two very nice meals for the price of one. The Tous au Restaurant website is here but do check back because in previous years, some restaurants got onboard late.

Fete de la Gastronomie
Another nationwide food promo is the third annual Fête de la Gastronomie, September 20 to 22. This event is international but the French version is meant to celebrate the quality, diversity and rich history of French cuisine...and its recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list.  Last year, roughly 6000 different events and activities took place, ranging from special menus in restaurants, wine tastings, lectures, street food festivals, cooking classes for kids and adults...and much more. Once again, if you click English you'll find most of the event info is in French. But give it a shot anyway. To see what's planned in your area, click here but check back often because new listings are being added daily; there were 6,861 events posted (in France and beyond) last time I checked. 


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