Wednesday, November 10, 2021

You're Invited: Thanksgiving in France 2021


Because I totally live to please you, once again I've rounded up a great selection of American Thanksgiving celebrations here in the South of France and in Paris. Who attends these gala soirées? Local expats of course, but also hungry French folks and other Europeans, travelers, house guests...whomever! 

Over the years, many of my French friends have told me they love the idea of celebrating this American holiday...to meet new people, to sample unusual foods, to learn the history and traditions. At a friend's Thanksgiving in Provence a few years back, one French guest told me he loved how the various dishes were served all at once—family style--rather than in courses. Another said he was looking forward to his first taste of cranberry sauce, which he called red fruits jam

While the literal translation of Thanksgiving is Action de Grâce, most French people just call it Thanksgiving...except for my friend Philippe who refers to it as Merci Donnant, which he says "means absolutely nothing at all." Over the years, we’ve shared many wonderful Thanksgivings together at various friends’ houses. “It’s like having a second Xmas in the same year,” Philippe says. “But I miss that I never got to see the big family argument part you see in many movies!”

As in years past, I’ve only listed below the Thanksgivings that still had space available as of today. But book soon because most have limited capacity and fill up. For a Thanksgiving meal on Saturday Nov. 27 at 5:30 pm at the American Church in Paris--the first American church established outside the United States, with roots back to 1814—tickets are now available to the public online, with pick up at the church the day of.  And there's a special service at 12:15 on Thanksgiving Day, open to all, with a speaker and coffee reception afterwards.

And this year for the first time, I have a Thanksgiving to offer you in Nimes, at restaurant Gamel, and one in Mazan, at the Cafe du Siecle.

In Paris, in addition to lots of delicious sounding eat-in and takeaway options in clubs and restaurants, there's a Thanksgiving baking class that sounds like great fun.

This year what’s different of course is that you’ll need a Pass Sanitaire to attend most of these Thanksgivings. If you’re not sure of the rules, call ahead to check.

For those of you hosting your own Thanksgiving or sharing in the food prep, I've provided two sources for traditional ingredients in person and online; a third shop, called My Little America, seems to have disappeared since I last did this roundup in 2019.

When it comes to the juicy bird itself, order from your butcher or poultry farmer early and remember that turkeys here in France are smaller than those at home. The Real McCoy in Paris sells them both fresh and already roasted.

If you're hosting or know of a Thanksgiving celebration in the South of France or Paris that's not listed here, email me the info (provenceblog@aol.com) and I'll happily add it. Actually, I'm happy to add any Thanksgivings, anywhere in France, as long as they're open to the public and still have space. So fire away...I'd love to know about them.

And finally, a big American hug and thank you from me to all of you: for reading and supporting my blog...for sharing it with friends...for commenting on the stories you particularly enjoy. I wish you all the most joyous and delicious Merci Donnant, wherever you plan to spend it!  

Thanksgiving on the Côte d’Azur

The American Club of the Riviera's Thanksgiving is a gala, annual affair...large, elegant and extremely popular. This year it's in the Salon Belle Epoque at the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo on Thursday Nov. 25, starting with a 12:30 Champagne reception, followed by a traditional American turkey feast with and all the trimmings. All nationalities are welcome but book quickly as this event always sells out; it's first come, first served with priority going to members and their families. Once again, there will be members of  the US Navy and the US Army as well as other distinguished guests attending. Pass Sanitaire required. All the info is on the ACR website here. Questions?  svanessche@gmail.com.

Once again, MonacoUSA will host its annual all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving dinner at StarsNBars (Monaco) on Thursday Nov. 25  starting at 7 pm. This year, seating won’t be at communal tables; you’ll sit with your family or group only. Non-members are also welcome.  The menu: Stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread. Desserts will be apple tart, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and brownies. Also included: a glass of wine, beer or soft drink,  and espresso.  Cost: 45€ adults, 25€ kids under 12.  Seating is limited, you must reserve, last seating is at 8:30 pm and no walk-ins allowed. Health pass required. StarsNBars will also serve a Thanksgiving plat du jour with dessert at lunch, starting at noon, for 25€. To book: + 377 9797 9595. Pass Sanitaire required. Questions: info@starsnbars.com.

Thanksgiving in Provence

As in years past, the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in a private home in Cavaillon, on Thursday Nov. 25 from 2 pm to 7 pm. Yes, there will be political talk (including prep for the US midterms in 2022) but the focus will definitely be food! A full prepared and potluck menu is planned; the potluck will focus on regional US holiday fare. The event is open to all DA members and their families...along with any new Americans in Provence who want to join DA (membership is free at DemocratsAbroad.org).  Note: seats are limited and it’s first come, first served. To book, email Joan Jarowski (joandarcnyc@gmail.com), tell her how many in your party and what you’d like to contribute. Suggestions: A pasta dish, cheeses, veggies or fish, potatoes, yams, turnips, side of vegetarian stuffing, your own favorite salad, whatever!  Expect leftovers and doggie bags!

The Anglo-American Group of Provence welcomes the community to its annual family-oriented Thanksgiving in Aix,  Sunday Nov. 28, starting at 1 pm.  They wrote me this: “Come join us in a festive dining room with garden views and Provençal ambiance and character! We invite all of our members, their children, friends and guests to celebrate Thanksgiving in the spirit of appreciation for all that we enjoy in this beautiful part of the world!”  AAGP membership is not required to attend but a Pass Sanitaire or recent negative test is. The venue: Le Mas d'Entremont, Celony - 315 Route d’Avignon, 13090 Aix.  Aperos at 1 pm, lunch at 2 pm.  Members: 24€ pp, 10€ for kids (ages 5 to 10) and 15€ kids ages 11 to 16. Non members: 58€ pp and 28€ for kids 16 and younger.  Space is limited so reserve asap by sending a check, payable to AAGP, to Michel Parisot, 5 rue Emmanuel Brunet, 13080 Luynes.  Specify the number of member and non-member adults and kids, with kids ages please. Reservations close on November 23 and beyond that date, no cancellations...sorry! Questions? bobkeltz@aol.com or +33 (0)6 37 83 80 45.

Based on the success of their Thanksgiving takeaway and delivery service in 2020, Biocoop - La Coumpagnie in Aix (840 ave. du Camp de Menthe), will offer it again this year...along with an eat-in option for lunch on Thursday Nov. 25. "Our French, English and American clientele really love it," owner Rick Harrison says. Anyone who wants a home-cooked holiday meal without the fuss!”  As in year’s past, the menu (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and classic cheesecake) will be “100% organic, 0% GMOs and 100% homemade from American family recipes.” To come for lunch, no reservations are needed...just show up. For takeaway or delivery, please order with Rick before Tuesday Nov. 22 at 5 pm: +33 (0)6 81 34 85 74, rick@biocoop-lacoumpagnie.fr. 

Once again my friend Jon Chiri, an American chef with 20+ years experience working in Provence, will offer a Thanksgiving lunch at Cuisine Centr'Halles, his cafe and cooking school at Les Halles, the wonderful indoor food market in Avignon. On Thursday Nov. 25, Jon invites you to join his family for a special holiday lunch from 11:30 am to 2:15 pm (when Les Halles closes). The Thanksgiving Plat du Jour (turkey with Jon's version of accoutrements) will be 24€ ...or 30€ with pumpkin pie. Wine and soft drinks are extra. To reserve: contact@jonathanchiri.com, +33 (0)6 46 89 85 33.

At the restaurant L’Epicerie in Beaucaire, the charming chef/owner Christine Nief is all fired up to host her annual Thanksgiving fête, at lunch and dinner, on Thurs Nov. 25. Seating is communal at large tables for 12. Expect to pay 25 to 30€ per person (with a couple glasses of wine) and there’s likely be live music in the evening. Christine will also offer Thanksgiving foods for takeaway but no details or prices are available yet. To book: +33 (0)7 85 40 38 20, niefchristine12@gmail.com. The restaurant has no website but they’re on Facebook here.

Just added! In Nimes, at Gamel restaurant in the charming Place d'Esclafidous, Christian and Morgane are offering a three-course Thanksgiving menu for €35 pp.  Christian used to cook Thanksgiving feasts when he worked in London and is very au fait with what's required!  It's available at lunch or dinner but you must mention Thanksgiving when you reserve. To do that, send a message via Facebook or call: +33 (0)4 66 36 25 80. 

Just added! In Mazan, the Cafe du Siecle will offer a Thanksgiving menu all day. Details weren't available yet when I checked in but it'll be be roughly 15 to 20 euros per person for three courses. Check their website for more info or reach out: +33 (0)4 90 66 9689, contact@cafedusiecle.fr.

PARIS

Thanksgivings in Paris Clubs

The American University Clubs of France (which promotes networking, cultural and business-related events for all American University alumni in France), invites you to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Nov 18 at 7 pm at the Ecole Militaire. Founded in 1750 by Louis XVI for the training of military officers, the Ecole Militaire is an important heritage site that’s normally closed to the public so this is rare opportunity to enjoy exclusive access. A four-course meal will be served, starting with an aperitif and ending with pecan pie. (A vegetarian main course will unfortunately not be offered.) Wine and soft drinks are included. Registration is limited to alumni of American universities that are members of the AUC and their guests...150 people max. Price: 67€. Ticket sales close Nov. 11. For security purposes, you’ll be asked to provide an official ID to enter the building; mask and Pass Sanitaire are also required. Tickets will be sold until November 11 only; order them on Event Brite hereQuestions? contact@aucfrance.com

The American Club of Paris will hold its annual Thanksgiving at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris 3ème) on Friday Nov. 26 at 7:30 pmThis private hunting and nature museum in the heart of the Marais has been described by Smithsonian Magazine as "one of the most rewarding and inventive in Paris."  The evening includes pre-dinner Champagne , an elegant Thanksgiving dinner and after-dinner drinks in the bar.  The dress code is evening attire/black tie optional and roughly 50 people are expected. Pass Sanitaire or equivalent health pass required. Members 160€; non-members and guests 190€. All the info and registration is here. Questions? contact@americanclubparis.org, +33 (0)1 47 23 64 36.

And in a Paris Church...

The American Church in Paris (65 quai d’Orsay) will host a Thanksgiving meal on Saturday Nov. 27 at 5:30 pm. A traditional turkey dinner with trimmings is 27€ for adults, 21€ for kids. Seats (limited due to pandemic restrictions) are available to the general public on the website acparis.org; purchase online and pick up on the day of the event. Also, Pastor Jodi Fondell tells me the annual ACP  Thanksgiving day service will be Nov. 25 at 12:15, with music, a speaker and coffee reception afterwards. The public is very welcome but a Pass Sanitaire will be required.

Thanksgiving in Paris Restaurants

Thanksgiving dinner at Ralph’s Restaurant, in Ralph Lauren’s elaborately appointed store on the Blvd. St.-Germain, is fully booked. But not to worry... each year, more and more Paris restaurants are offering their own. Here are a few of the most-popular ones.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Paris will celebrate Nov. 25 to 28. Details are here.

Thanksgiving at Ô Chateau has become a beloved Parisian tradition. It’s Thursday Nov 25 and all the info is here

The American/Canadian owned restaurant Sunday in Soho will offer both dine in and delivery/takeaway Thanksgiving meals for three days: Nov. 25, 26 and 27. Click for info here.  

On Thursday, Nov. 25, Michelin-starred chef Fabienne Eymard at the Parisian bistro Benoit invites you for farm turkey stuffed with wild mushrooms, with cranberries, gravy and sweet potato gratin (48€). For details and reservations, click here or reach out:  restaurant.benoit@ducasse-paris.com, +33 (0)1 42 72 25 76. 

Lindsey and Justin Kent will offer Thanksgiving for eat in or takeaway at Milagro (85 Avenue Bosquet) on Nov 25, 26 and 27. The menu: turkey, sweet potato gratin, mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread stuffing, kale and Brussels-sprout salad, green beans and pumpkin pie tart with whipped cream. It’s 50€ pp, by reservation only.  Takeaway order deadline is Nov 18. Details and booking here.

Breakfast in America has two Paris locations but will offer Thanksgiving only at the one at 17, rue des Ecoles in the 5th. Seatings are at 6 pm and 8 pm on Thursday Nov 25.  It’s €39.95 and all the details are here.

Thanksgiving Baking Class

The cooking school La Cuisine Paris offers popular mixed-group Thanksgiving cooking and baking classes but they sell out super quickly and, alas, they’re already booked. But all is not lost...you can still take their Thanksgiving baking class on a private basis, throughout the holiday week. See the details here then reach out to them to check your preferred date.

Where to Get Supplies, in Paris and Online

The Real McCoy is the Parisian go-to for American foods, particularly at holiday time.  In their shop (no mail order) they’re selling fresh farm-bred turkeys...or they’ll even roast and package it for you with stuffing and roasting juices. (Be sure to order at least a few days ahead.) The Real McCoy also sells pecan and pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and a wide selection of Thanksgiving products such as fresh cranberries and canned cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, stuffing mix, cornbread mix, pie crusts and fillings, yams, turkey bags, basters and more. They’re at 194 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 45 56 00 00, us.food@wanadoo.fr. No website but find them on Facebook here

MyAmericanMarket.com sells lots of things you’ll likely need to prepare your holiday feast: cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, gravy, corn syrup and more. They also have ingredients and treats for other holidays, too, such as eggnog and candy canes. They are 100% online and will deliver pretty much anywhere in the world. The company uses various couriers but plan to order by Nov. 14 to get your goodies sent to you anywhere in France  in time. Specific Thanksgiving foods are on a special page here. If you have questions, the contact form is here...or call +33 (0)5 34 50 47 36.

Above: The much-loved, often-parodied painting is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" from 1942. Everyone in it was a Rockwell family member or friend; they were photographed individually and painted into the scene. Learn more about the painting and artist here

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Want To Talk About It?


Periodically people ask me where they can get counselling in Provence in English...it’s not so easy to find. So when I come across someone really good who does just that, I’m very happy to share the info.

After training and then working as a therapist in London for four years, my friend Jitesh Odedra has officially hung out his counselling shingle in Tarascon.  

Since moving from London to Provence in 2015, Jitesh has done a variety of jobs including teaching English and consulting to the European Union on their Erasmus Program.

Last year, however, he realized he really missed the intimacy of the work--and saw how Covid amplified a need for therapy--so he decided to update his certification so he could practice here in France.

I did some sessions with Jitesh early this year and found them extremely rewarding.  

Jitesh practices “humanistic counselling” which has developed over the past 60 years within the larger field of professional psychology. 

“The focus is predominantly on the individual’s unique story and their potential to explore,” he says. “It includes self-learning, creativity, acceptance and empathy. My goal is to create a space that’s non-judgmental, supportive and understanding, in a setting that’s always safe and confidential.”

Above all, humanistic counselling adheres to the belief that the client has vast resources for self-understanding, for altering their attitudes and for putting new more-constructive behaviors in place.

“The approach focuses on you and your world,” Jitesh continues, “and provides an empathetic, attentive and accepting space in which you can explore the past, present and future, instead of concentrating on one specific period of time. I believe that our stories, memories and feelings are a good starting point. Therapy enables one to change focus and navigate life in a different direction. Culture and cultural differences make this journey richer and more challenging."

Jitesh works in English and in French, in person and online, for individuals, couples and families of all nationalities. His bright, pretty office in Tarascon is located in a renovated priory adjacent to the Eglise Saint-Jacques, in the heart of the village. Personally, I love the guy and find him funny, insightful, discrete, compassionate and wise...and I think you would too.  You’ll find his bio, prices and other details on his website below. 


Jitesh Odedra
+33 (0)6 16 36 52 62
counsellinginprovence.com 
counsellinginprovence@gmail.com
Ancien Presbytere de St Jacques
Place St Jacques (Rue Emile Zola)
Tarascon 13150

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Win a Three-Week Stay in Provence!


Having led art retreats in Provence for four years now, Nicky Ginsberg has just moved her NG Art Creative Residency & Gallery into a beautiful new space...and she’s giving away a three-week residency in Provence to celebrate. The deadline is October 1 and all the details are below.

Previously based in a lovely old farmhouse in Eygalieres, Nicky’s international non-profit arts association is now permanently settled into a renovated 17 th-century olive mill, nestled in the foothills of the Alpilles mountains. It’s just outside the village of Maussane, a stone’s throw from the historic medieval hilltown of Les Baux.

Christened Moulin de Gréoux some 400 years ago, the grand old property offers international artists, writers, poets, musicians, performers, filmmakers, photographers, academic scholars and other creatives “a place of respite, nourishment and enlightenment to enrich their creative process.”

Moulin de Gréoux was lovingly renovated by previous owners to retain many vestiges from its agricultural past, such as vaulted ceilings, wooden beams, stone troughs and its original olive press. The old stone walls and cathedral-like interior are now home to five guestrooms, a large kitchen, shared studio/atelier, gallery, arts library, piano room and indoor swimming pool. For artists working with clay or other materials, there’s a covered outdoor wet area along with shaded terraces, landscaped gardens and more.

Artists in residence enjoy quiet time to work but also the opportunity to mingle with the public and international visitors at festive dinners, musical soirées, cooking workshops and exclusive vernissage (art opening) events. This open-door philosophy allows residents to showcase their work to a local and wider global audience.

Residents can also participate in communal dinners, cooking workshops with local and international chefs, soirées and performance evenings, professional development and mentorship, seasonal studio exhibits, gallery exhibits, outings of cultural  interest and various networking and collaborative opportunities.

Nicky, a long-time gallery owner, entrepreneur and creative director, founded  the program and now runs it with her partner, aspiring artist Edwin Holder-Vale. (The couple met two years ago in a cooking class in Greece...awww!). You can read Nicky’s bio here and follow Edwin on Instagram here.

For residencies at Moulin de Gréoux, there are four different pricing options starting at €500 a week per person. The program includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner daily, transportation to and from the residency and use of a car and bike for the duration of your stay. If needed, you’ll also have studio space including work stations, easels, professional hanging systems and projectors.

There are also subsidized residencies and a number of sponsorships and prizes offered throughout the year.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in your work amidst spectacular, natural surroundings, I can’t think of a nicer place to do it. Steeped in Provençal history, the area boasts olive groves and mills, vineyards and wineries, a large sheep farm, picturesque town squares, scores of restaurants and cafes and myriad historic sites dating to Roman times and beyond. And it’s all bathed in that famous light that inspired Van Gogh, Cézanne and so many others.

Ok so...on to the contest! The giveaway includes a three-week complimentary residency, breakfast and dinner daily, full use of the arts studio, professional development and mentorship, use of a car, en plein air activities, meeting art enthusiasts and like- minded creative folk, the opportunity to exhibit in a dedicated gallery and more.

To enter, you must be on Instagram so this is a great time to sign up if you haven’t. Then follow @ngartcreativeresidency, share their latest post (dated September 19) to your stories and tag them. Finally, leave a comment about why you want to win! The winner will be contacted via Instagram on Friday October 1. (And while you're at it, please follow me too! I'm here.)

If you miss this chance or don’t win this time around, you can learn all about the residency program and application process on the NG Art Creative website. Future contests and news will be announced via social media and in Nicky’s newsletter, so be sure to sign up for it by clicking the subscribe tab on the website.  

Bonne Chance...and hope to see you in Provence!


Photos: (1, 2) This 17th-century olive mill in Maussane has been converted into a beautiful live-and-work space for creatives of all types. Win the Instagram contest and you'll stay here three weeks. (3) Communal dinners are fresh, local, seasonal, colorful and, I hear, perfectly delicious. No starving artists here! (4) One of the five guestrooms. (5) Previous owners did most of the renovation and built a large lovely pool in an old barn.  (6) The shared studio/atelier is large enough for four people to work at a time. (7) An artist-in-residence doing his thing en plein air. (8) Come in May/June when the poppies are blooming and you'll get to paint scenes like this. (9) Everyone is welcome to use the large, beautiful kitchen. (10) In its new home, the residency program will operate year round. In cooler months, dinners may be served in the dramatic vaulted dining room. (11) Lovely terraces provide quiet spaces for work, lunches and more. (12) One of the pretty restaurants on the town square in Maussane. (13) The first group of artists-in-residence at the Moulin this summer. (14) Nicky and Edwin met in a cooking class and quickly discovered shared passions such as art, travel and Provence.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Heritage Days are Sept 18 & 19


It's that time again: The 38th annual Journ
ées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 18 and 19, in cities and villages all over France. The program was launched by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (officially it's now called European Heritage Days or JEP, for Journées Européennes du Patrimoine). This year the theme is "Heritage for All" and 20,000 sites or so are expected to participate. This is one the biggest events in France and one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The idea is that a wide range of monuments, religious sites, estates, gardens,  museums, workshops, galleries, ateliers, factories and more are open for special visits, including many that are normally closed to the public. Most sites are offering free entry and will have a guide on hand; some are hosting special tours and events (mostly in French). Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. 
Some villages will have events on Friday Sept 17 as well. 

The main Journées du Patrimoine website is here (or in English here) and the department-by-department listings are here. But I'd wait a little while and then check back; I'm told that final event details are coming in slowly as the various sites decide whether to participate or not...and how to best handle Covid protocols. Local tourist offices will have Patrimoine info on their own sites...or will direct you to it if you call...and in year's past I've found that they have the most comprehensive, up-to-date info. 

For example, as of today the department-listings page on the Patrimoine site mentions just one participating site in my village of St. Remy (in Department #13, the Bouches-du-Rhone) but every year St. Remy publishes its own terrific map/guide and this year I see 22 sites listed. You can see and download the 2021 St. Remy program here. Or you can pick one up at the St. Remy Tourist Office or at the participating sites.

To get you started, here are some listings for the six departments of PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur): Alpes-de-Haute-ProvenceAlpes-MaritimesBouches du Rhone, the Hautes-Alpes and the Var. For the Vaucluse, try here and here. And here's the Gard (which is not technically in Provence but never mind). 

And here are the programs for Avignon, Aix, Arles Marseille and Nice. But don't forget about tiny villages, many of which offer fantastic tours, visits and programs as well.  

For events and participating sites in Paris, look here and here

The main Patrimoine website will continue updating their full nationwide map and program here. It's a bit clunky but you're smart and you'll figure it out.

Some events (such as concerts, guided tours and lectures) are happening at specific times, on one day of the weekend on both. And many villages are offering additional activities not pegged to specific sites, such as the historic walking tours that St. Remy is offering on Saturday and Sunday at 10 am (reservations required, call 04 90 92 05 22) and four free jazz concerts sponsored by Jazz à St. Remy (three on Saturday, one on Sunday). 

For additional updates, you can also follow the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine on Instagram and on Facebook

Vive le Patrimoine de France!

Photos: Get out there and explore! A few of the many thousands of sites that have offered or will offer Patrimoine events include the LUMA Foundation in Arles, The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar (Alsace), The Museon Arlaten in Arles, The Confectionery Factory Roy René and Museum of Calisson outside Aix, the fantastical houses of Jacques-Emile Lecaron in Clamart, the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, La Cite Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Cap Ferrat, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Jewish Cemetery in St. Remy, the Gare de Reims, the Maison du Riz in the Camargue, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, the Heliport of Paris, The Château Raspail in Gigondas, the Château d'Aujac and the Palace of Versailles.  At the bottom, this year's poster.

Monday, June 21, 2021

River Kayaking in Provence 2021


On a hot sunny day, river kayaking is a fabulous way to while away a few hours...and doing it in Provence is super easy. You can kayak (and stand-up paddleboard) on the Rhône from Avignon (with views of the ramparts, the Pont St. Benezet and the 14th-century Palais des Papes), but whenever I get the chance, I love kayaking on the River Sorgue, from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in the Luberon. You can also kayak on the River Gardon from Collias (a great way to see the Pont du Gard) and while I haven't done it there myself, my friends and clients who have say it's fantastic. If you've never kayaked before, not to worry! You'll get a short tutorial, there are staffers on the river to help (at least on the Sorgue there are), the kayaks are very open (meaning, on the off chance that you tip, you're not trapped)...and these are not fast-running rivers. Below you'll find the details on everything.

The three places mentioned above are by no means the only places for kayaking in Provence; you can do it in the Camargue, at the Gorges du Verdon and in sea kayaks up and down Mediterranean Coast. If you have a favorite kayak place and want to share the info, please leave a comment below.

KAYAKING ON THE SORGUE


Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is 15 minutes from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and if you hit the big Sunday market or smaller Thursday market there (in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue), kayaking from Fontaine is a great way to spend the afternoon. It’s an easy trip (about five miles) on clear, cool shallow water and you see lots of lovely, lush countryside. You leave your car in Fontaine and they bring you back by bus.  There are two companies that do it: Kayak Vert and Canoe Evasion. Both are outside town with big signs so they’re easy to find. I prefer Canoe Evasion for a couple small reasons but either is fine! If you go with Kayak Vert, there's sometimes a wait at the beginning of the route where you have to go over a dam but there's always someone there to help. Both have small snack bars for cold drinks and ice cream.

With Kayak Vert, you can go at your own pace; with Canoe Evasion you’re sort of encouraged to stay with a group of boats but you don’t really have to.  The trip takes 2 to 2.5 hours and there’s a little break in the middle for swimming or just chilling on the river banks. And don't miss the rope swing!  Whether you swim or not you’ll definitely get wet so plan accordingly; it's good to have a beach towel with you. Also, definitely wear water shoes or grippy sandals because there may be a few places where you have a little walk on slippery rocks. 

Both outfitters give you a watertight container for your stuff (still, let's leave those priceless heirlooms at home)...and life preserver vests...and there's staff here and there on the river to help if you need it.

Here are the two outfitters for kayaking the Sorgue and reservations are definitely recommended!

Canoe Evasion: 2021 prices:  20 pp adults; 10 for kids under 14.  Groups of 10 or more: adults pay 16 each. Payment is by cash, French check or credit card. The price includes your gear (boats, paddles, watertight cans, life jackets) and your return ride in the bus. There’s no minimum age per se, but kids have to be able to swim at least 25 meters and be able to submerge themselves (meaning, not panic if they go under water). In general, the company prefers kids be five or older. Open every day from May 15 to October 15 (but closed the third weekend in September every year).  Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, with departures every half hour, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Bookings must be made by phone  : +33 (0)4 90 38 26 22 (no online booking), canoe-evasion.com, contact@canoe-evasion.net.

Kayak Vert. 2021 prices:  Adults (14 years and older) are  €22 in July/August or  €20 rest of the year, kids (under 14) are €12 in July/August or €10 rest of the year. For groups of 15 or more, adults pay €18 each. Price includes boats, paddles, watertight cans, life jackets and your return ride in the bus. Kayak Vert’s age minimum is six and kids must be able to swim 25 meters.  Payment by credit card only (no American Express).  Open May 15 to October 15. Reservations only by phone:  +33 (0)4 82 29 42 42 or online at canoevert-vaucluse.fr

*A Bit about Fontaine de Vaucluse

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is an interesting village so leave some time before or after kayaking to explore. This pretty little town (population 600 or so) is best known for its deep-water source or spring at the foot of a steep cliff 230 meters high. It’s the biggest spring in France and the fifth largest in the world; it's where the Sorgue River begins and when the water is high and running strong, the source is truly a gorgeous site to see. Even when it’s not at its peak, the river is super peaceful, bringing serenity in the height of the summer crowds. In 1946, Jacques Cousteau and another diver were almost killed searching for the bottom of the spring, at about 100 meters down. (They weren’t even close, as it turns out: the bottom is at 308 meters.) The spring is the only exit point of a subterranean basin that collects water from Mont Ventoux, the Vaucluse Mountains and Lure Mountain. People have lived in the area since Neolithic times (you know, back when you could still find a parking spot easily). Archaeological digs have turned up more than 1600 coins, from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD. 

Fontaine has an interesting museum in an old paper mill (with a cool shop selling all types of paper products, diaries, puzzles, handmade books, stationary and other goodies around the same theme), a museum about Petrarch and one filled with Santons (traditional Provencale figurines). Plus, the village has plenty of cafes and restaurants on or near the water and some cute shops.

And not far from Canoe Evasion is a "parc accrobranche" that kids love. This is one of those ropes courses where you swing from trees on zip lines and such. It's called La Passerelle des Cîmes and friends who’ve been say everyone loves it...all ages. As you approach Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, you’ll see the signs.

KAYAKING ON THE GARDON

To kayak the Gardon River and see the Pont du Gard, the two main outfitters are Canoe Collias and Kayak Vert; both leave from the town of Collias. You can keep the kayak all day if you like but most people like the basic two-hour paddle, taking them 8 km up to and under the Pont du Gard. What a fun way to see this 2000- year-old Roman aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All along the river there are little beaches and places to picnic, swim, sunbathe, etc.  The two-hour time frame is calculated on paddling from Collias to the Pont du Gard non-stop, but you can keep the kayak as long as you like for the same price. As they do on the Sorgue, the outfitters bring you back by bus. 2021 prices: €23 for adults, €19 for teens (ages 13 to 17) and €12 for kids (6 to 12). Cash and credit cards accepted. Reservations not required but definitely recommended – online bookings only. For a family or small group, try to reserve at least a few days before.  

Canoe Collias, canoe-collias.com or +33 (0)4 66 22 87 20 or +33 (0)6 23 65 51 32.

Kayak Vert, Collias/Pont du Gard, kayakvert.com or +33 (0)4 66 22 80 76, contact@kayakvert.com.

KAYAKING ON THE RHONE AT AVIGNON

Run by an association (Canoe Outings Comite de Vaucluse de Kayak) rather than a private company, this is extremely popular with river-cruise passengers, locals and groups, who often bring their own translator or request one because not all the staff speaks English. That said, they're currently the only outfitter offering kayaking in this gorgeous city, their prices are low and they have solid reviews on Trip Advisor . I've never canoed here but I see no reason that paddling around the 14th-century Palais des Papes and the famous Pont St. Benezet wouldn't be great fun. Canoe rental in July/August : 30 mins is €8 pp, 60 mins is €12 pp, 90 mins is €16 pp. There are also three different  “river discovery tours” in July & August – check the website for details and prices. +33 (0)6 11 52 16 73, canoe-vaucluse.frcontact@canoe-vaucluse.fr.

Photo Credits: (1, 2) Kayaking on the Sorgue, photos courtesy of Kayak Vert and Canoe Evasion. (3) Kayaking at the Pont du Gard, courtesy of Canoe Collias. (4) Kayaking the Rhône at Avignon, courtesy of Avignon Tourisme.