Thursday, November 2, 2023

Make Your Own Glass Ornaments

In his studio in L'Isle sur la Sorgue, glass artist Guillaume Roux is offering a great idea for the holidays: the chance to blow your own Christmas ornaments (boules de Noël). 

session lasts about 15 minutes, costs 20 per ornament and is appropriate for ages 8 and up. 

"I gather the molten glass on my steel blowing pipe," Guillaume explains, "then hand it to the customer who chooses two colors. Once it's all fused, I take over, shape it into a starter bubble, make everything hot again and then the customer blows his ornament. When it's done, I crack it off the blowing pipe and add the hook." 

Guillaume also offers a more comprehensive four to five-hour "initiation" glass-blowing workshop for 260 per person, for ages 17 and up. 

After working in Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, Guillaume opened his studio As du Verre (Ace of Glass) about 18 months ago. There he produces a wide range of work, both functional and decorative, which he sells on site and at shows such as the annual Rencontre des Metiers d'Art (which happened in Pernes les Fontaines this past weekend). Upcoming shows at which he'll exhibit include Salon Ob'Art  (Nov 24-26, 2023) and Maison & Objet (January 19-22, 2024), a major European event. 

All workshops are by appointment only. "As soon as you walk in, you'll have a warm welcoming!," Guillaume says. "You'll find a wide variety of my creations: tableware, landscape vases, perfume bottles, ambient Lights and more. And once you leave, you will never be the same!"

As du Verre is located five minutes north of Centre Ville (Direction Carpentras), at 165 avenue Saint Antoine, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, 84800. To book: +33 (0)7 49 08 61 70, 

To learn more and see lots of Guillaume's beautiful work, find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, August 14, 2023

River Kayaking in Provence 2023

While the days dwindle down to a precious few (as Willie Nelson says) and back-to-school lurks just around the corner, Provence is still crazy crowded...and hot! In fact, they're saying that this will be the hottest week of the year in France. River kayaking is a fabulous way to while away a few hours, get deliciously cool, have a swim if you want one and see some amazing scenery. Luckily, river kayaking in Provence is super easy and the local outfitters will be open for at least another month or two. I encourage many of my clients to try it and no one has told me they didn't love it. Get out there!

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 the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in the Luberon. You can also kayak on the River Gardon from Collias, a fantastic way to experience the 2000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pont du Gard

Another outfitter I've just learned about is AFDA Canoe, which offers canoe/kayaking on the Durance River, from the village of Lauris in the Southern Luberon. An 8 km route takes you from Cadenet to Lauris (75 minutes) while an 18 km course links Puy Sainte Reparade to Lauris (three hours). Can't wait to kayak the Durance! 

If you've never kayaked before, not to worry! You'll get a short tutorial, there are usually 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.

But the four places mentioned above (the Sorgue, the Gardon, the Durance and the Rhône) 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.


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. Then again, it's great fun any day, morning or 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 (usually with disco music blasting, but in a good way). 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 outfitters have small snack bars (cold drinks, ice cream, etc.), bathrooms and lots of parking.

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 and 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 companies give you a watertight container for your stuff 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: 2023 prices:  €26 pp adults; €13 for kids under 14. Groups of 10 or more: adults pay €20 each, kids (6-14) pay €13. Payment is by cash, French check or credit card. There’s no minimum age per se, but the company prefers kids be five or older; they must be able to swim at least 25 meters and submerge themselves (meaning, not panic if they go under water).  Open every day from May 15 to September 30 (but closed the third weekend in September).  Open daily from 9 am to 3:30 pm, with departures every 40 mins or so. Bookings must be made by phone: +33 (0)4 90 38 26 22  or online:

Kayak Vert. 2023 prices:  €25 pp adults, €13 for kids (6-12). For groups of 15 or more, please inquire. Kayak Vert’s age minimum is six and kids must be able to swim 25 meters. Payment is by credit card only (but no Amex). Open May 15 to October 15. Reservations by phone:  +33 (0) 4 66 22 80 76 or online at

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, it's truly a gorgeous site to see...actually its pretty gorgeous all the time.

In 1946, Jacques Cousteau and another diver were almost killed searching for the bottom of the spring, at about 100 meters down. (As it turns out they weren’t even close: 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 here 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 based on the same theme), a museum about Petrarch and one filled with Santons (traditional Provencale figurines). Plus, the village has plenty of cafes and restaurants right on or near the river and some cute shops.

Not far from Canoe Evasion is a "parc accrobranche" that families 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.


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, between Uzes and the Pont du Gard. 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 fantastic way to experience 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 River, the outfitters bring you back by bus. Reservations aren't required but they're definitely recommended and booking is online only. In high season definitely reserve at least a few days before.   

Canoe, or +33 (0)4 66 22 87 20 or +33 (0)6 23 65 51 32. Prices for 2023: €25 for adults, €19 for teens (13-17), €13 for kids (6-12).

Kayak Vert Collias/Pont du or +33 (0)4 66 22 80 76, Prices for 2023:  €25 for adults, €20 for teens (13-17) and €13 for kids (6-12).


Operated by an association (Canoe Outings Comite de Vaucluse de Kayak) rather than a private company, this experience 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 rentals in July/August are by the half hour: 30 minuntes is €8 pp, 60 minutes is €12 pp, 90 minuntes is €16 pp and so forth. Open daily from 2 pm to 6:30.  There are also three different “river discovery tours” in July and August – check the website for details. Questions? Call +33 (0)6 11 52 16 73 or +33 (0)6 51 60 13 59. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and can be reached at: +33 (0)4 28 70 27 27.

Photo Credits: (1, 2) Kayaking on the Sorgue, photos courtesy of Kayak Vert and Canoe Evasion. (3) The famous source in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Photo courtesy of (4)  Kayaking at the Pont du Gard, courtesy of Canoe Collias. (5) Kayaking the Rhône at Avignon, courtesy of Avignon Tourisme.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Fontenille Opens a Gorgeous Hotel in St. Remy

For a couple of months in spring 2020, during Covid lockdown in France, we were all forbidden from going further than 1 or 2 km from home…unless our work required it or there was an urgent reason, such as helping a sick relative. Writing that now, it sounds so wild and remarkable that the government was able to make 60 million or so people stay home for weeks on end.

Whenever we did go out, we were required to fill out a form saying who we were, where we lived, when we left home and what we were up to. Grocery shopping and dog walking were ok; running or biking were okay as long as we weren't gone longer than hour...and didn't go further than 1 or 2 km. Virtually all local businesses except for "essential" stores were closed (yes, wine shops were considered essential!) and for a while we even had a 6 pm curfew. With few exceptions, the French borders were closed to non residents and the EU borders were locked up tight.

So anytime the weather was nice I grabbed my bike and went out and did 1 and 2 km circles around town. It sounds ridiculous but I loved it. There was virtually no traffic in St. Remy, either in the village itself or in the countryside, and the stillness was breathtaking. I remember thinking Jules, you will never see Provence like this again in your lifetime. 

One of my favorite routes took me past a large, elegant estate, with an enormous front lawn and--just barely visible down a long, platane-shaded drive--a magical-looking bastide. A couple times I stopped at the foot of the driveway to enjoy the beauty of it all...and took some photos discreetly. So intrigued, I went home and Googled the address to see what I could learn about the house and its history.

Turns out the Domaine de Chalamon has existed since the 16th century, when it was called Mas le Tor. After it belonged to the lords Mistral de Mondragon, it was Pierre de Chalamond who gave it its current name, in 1663. The Chalamond family kept it until 1738; it then passed through the hands of seven families until, in 1996, the 20-hectare property became the summer residence of a noble London-based family.

One day I bumped into a friend on her bike who said she had heard it had been sold and that it was going to become a guesthouse…or something.

And sure enough two weeks ago, Frédéric Biousse and Guillaume Foucher, the team behind the gorgeous, five-star Domaine de Fontenille (in the Southern Luberon region of Provence), opened the property as the 19-room Domaine de Chalamon, their first hotel in St. Remy and their 9th property overall (seven in France and two on Menorca).  

Once the purchase was complete, Biousse and Foucher turned to Alexandre Lafourcade of the St. Remy-based Lafourcade Architecture, to handle the transformation from private home to chic country-house hotel.  Alexandre knew the house well, having worked on it in years past with his architect father, Bruno. And of course he knew the clients well, having created two hotels for them already: their very first, the Domaine de Fontenille (in 2015) and the Domaine de Primard, in Catherine Deneuve's former château in Normandy, in 2021.

Biousse and Foucher like their properties to retain the feel of private homes…in fact they often refer to them as "friends houses” rather than hotels.  They strive to keep the soul, roots and charm of each estate intact…each one “telling a story in harmony with its environment…a story that respects the identity of the site and enhances its character and uniqueness.”

The partners also believe that the feeling of experiencing rare moments in an exceptional place is as important as the refinement of the decor. “The challenge,” they say, “is to convey the emotion one experiences when discovering these houses for the very first time.”

Hidden behind cypress hedges, Domaine de Chalamon extends over nearly 20 hectares with one of the most beautiful gardens in the region. Beyond that double avenue of 100-year-old plane trees, the home and its terraces are surrounded by pines and cypress. Various gardens follow one another along the streams that wind through the estate, including parterres of boxwoods and fields of olive trees formed into topiaries. There’s also a heated pool and a tennis court.

“We both come from farming families,” the owners say, “and have a very strong relationship with the land. We fell in love with this house, in the heart of a wild and disciplined nature. These gardens are remarkable…at any time of the day.”

Domaine de Chalamon has a 40-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant run by chef Rémi Falsquelle, who says his Provencal cuisine will be based heavily on produce that’s either grown on the property or sourced from nearby organic farms. Originally from Martigues (not far from Marseille), he worked at the Bristol in Paris (under Michelin three-star chef Éric Fréchon) and in other top kitchens before joining the company in 2022, to train with chef Michel Marini at the Domaine de Fontenille in preparation for the opening of Chalamon. The menu has been described as gastronomic, bistronomic and bistro…so we shall see!

But wait, there's more! Since Chalamon opened two weeks ago, the Fontenille folks have actually unveiled yet another jewel in their growing hotel collection; the Bastide du Mourre soft-opened in Oppède le Vieux (in the Luberon) just a few days ago. And on its heels comes Fontenille Toscana, slated to open this month in Chianti. 

To see all 11 hotels in the Fontenille collection, click here

Domaine de Chalamon
291 Chemin de Chalamon
13210 St. Remy de Provence
+33 (0)4 87 83 10 10
Instagram: @domainedechalamon

Photos: The 19-room Domaine de Chalamon opened two weeks ago in a 16th-century bastide in St. Remy. Alexandre Lafourcade and his St. Remy-based team did all the architectural work while Guillaume Foucher, one of the two owners, handled interior design. The guest house (or "friends house" as the owners like to call it) has a heated pool, a tennis court and a restaurant helmed by chef Rémi Falsquelle, who worked in top Michelin kitchens before joining the mother ship, the Domaine de Fontenille, to prepare for this opening. All interior and exterior photos taken in May 2023 by Gaelle Le Boulicaut, except #4 and #5 (from 2020) and #6 (by Yann Deret). Food photos by Sadik Sans Voltaire. Last photo courtesy of Bastide du Mourre.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Provence Paradise is for Sale

After creating it and running it for 18 years, my friend William Moore has decided to put his beloved Provence Paradise on the market.

This is a historic hamlet of vacation villas on the outskirts of St. Remy, one of the prettiest, most-popular villages in the region.

Comprised of seven separate homes across five buildings—with 17 bedrooms total--Provence Paradise is being sold fully furnished, complete with an eclectic collection of antiques, art, books objets and tchotchkes, collected across France and beyond.   

All the buildings have new roofs, new electrical and plumbing, and reversible gas heating/AC. The roofs and insulation were redone in 2008 and 2021.
“There’s even a large, open-air terrace,” William says, “that’s just right for further development. Maybe a small bar and restaurant? The possibilities are numerous!”

This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in taking over a thriving, turn-key vacation village…where guests enjoy the amenities and privacy of private homes but the community feel of a resort. Provence Paradise has a 5.0 “Excellent” rating and great reviews on TripAdvisor…and a large loyal following with many guests returning year after year. William is happy to include his commercial assets (the Provence Paradise name, the website and a client list of roughly 2000 names) in the sale agreement, if wanted.

Or, the property could be divided and sold as private homes, individually or in clusters, or be converted to long term rentals. 

Originally from Chicago, Willy had lived in Europe for many years before buying the property in 2004 and setting out to bring its crumbling buildings back to life. For 350 years, the Tourtet family made traditional roof tiles and bricks here…but the business collapsed when the men went off to fight in WWI...and either died or came home disabled. The oldest home on the property is La Tuilerie, which was added to piece by piece over 150 years, beginning in 1621. 

“We’d finish one house at a time and then start renting it,” Willy remembers, “which helped finance the work on the next house.  People would say ‘oh what a beautiful house!’ and I’d say ‘want to see what it looked like before? Look over there!’

“It was a total labor of love,” William adds. “You wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”

My clients who’ve stayed at Provence Paradise over the years love the welcoming spirit that William created—through Tuesday cocktail parties by the pool, for example—and unexpected, gracious touches such as the homemade first-night dinner awaiting all tired travelers and the fresh bakery delivered to every house each morning. 

But they also loved having all the modern comforts (washer/dryers, dishwashers, air conditioning, WiFi, etc.) in homes that hadn’t lost their traditional, Provencal feel…with thick stone walls, ceramic tile roofs, vaulted ceilings, beams, fireplaces, painted furniture and Provencal linens. The property itself boasts Roman relics, an ancient aqueduct and a large wine cellar. 

The seven units have fully equipped kitchens, living and dining rooms, and terraces surrounded by plantings that ensure privacy for all. They range in size from one to four bedrooms each and are modular, meaning certain spaces can be expanded for special occasions. The total “built surface” of almost 1000m² includes 780m² of indoor living space. 

All together there’s roughly 2800m² of land, fully landscaped with mature trees, vines, flowers and an automatic watering system. 

In the middle of the property there’s a large swimming pool (6m x 14m, with salt filtration), plus a hot tub, summer kitchen, loungers and deck chairs. The pool and hot tub are heated by hidden solar panels. 

Provence Paradise has three entrances and parking for seven cars but William says that could be expanded to ten or even 12 spaces.

The neighborhood is residential and quiet…but just a 10-minute walk to the heart of the village. 

St. Remy is a vibrant, historic town of 10,000 year-round residents, in the Bouches-du-Rhone department of the PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur) region. Spread out across the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains, it’s roughly three hours south of Lyon and one hour north of Marseille. Hugely popular with travelers and second-home owners, St. Remy is known for historic sites (including the excavated Greek/Roman village called Glanum), its appeal to artists of all types (Van Gogh painted 150 canvasses in the year he spent here), its festive summer events calendar and traditional local festivals, the quality of its produce and the natural beauty of the landscape. Paris is roughly three hours away via the high-speed TGV train from Avignon, 20 km north of St. Remy. 

Many of Provence’s best-known places—including Les Baux, Arles, Aix, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Pont du Gard, the Luberon and Nimes—can be reached in an hour or less. 

Intensely passionate about historic preservation, William says that giving this old property a new life, and sharing it with guests from all over the world, has been more rewarding than he could ever have imagined.  But considering he'd already spent 36 years in international manufacturing before he began building Provence Paradise--and that he had never really planned on a demanding second career as a full-time, hands-on innkeeper in the first place-- he’s definitely ready to turn the page, to focus on family (his four kids and 11 grandkids all live in Europe now) and on travel. 

He's also thinking he may do up a few more more old buildings, like the ones he recently transformed in the nearby village of Noves. "There's magic in old stones," he says, "and they definitely get under your skin!

"This slice of paradise—Provence Paradise--has survived since the reign of Louis XIII!,” Willy continues, “and it’s definitely time to pass the torch. My hope is of course to pass it on to someone who’ll cherish it as much as I have."

For more info:, +33 (0)6 07 82 66 63.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Just Out: Jamie Beck's Provence Book

In 2016, Texas-born photographer Jamie Beck was living in New York—running her own studio, doing commercial work for brands such as Chanel, Donna Karan and Nike and editorial work for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and others--when she decided to take a one-year sabbatical in the South of France.

Her husband, Kevin Burg, was understanding. “I think we were both ready for a little break, some fresh air and a little perspective,” she remembers.

Six years later Jamie is still in France, thriving personally and professionally, and this week is huge for her because yesterday, her first book officially came out in the U.S.  Called An American in Provence (Simon Element, $40), it’s now widely available online and from your favorite bookseller. 

When Jamie sent me an advance copy of An American in Provence last week, I knew I wanted to share her book news with you. But I was leaving on a little trip, had other deadlines and needed to hold off writing about it for just a few days. Still, I thought I’d dip in and read just a bit, then enjoy the rest later when I had time. But at 2 am I was still savoring it and I finished it the next day. I literally couldn’t put it down…it’s exquisite!

Organized around the four seasons, the book is essentially a memoir, illustrated with 204 of Jamie’s lush, evocative photos. But it’s also a cookbook (with seasonal recipes created by Jamie, her friends and local chefs), all of them based upon Provencal ingredients. And it’s a travelogue too, with Jamie taking you by the hand, through text and photos, introducing you to some of her favorite people and places. And it’s a photo tutorial, with solid tips for improving your own images. There are sections on shooting indoors and out; shooting kids, self-portraits and nudes; learning to pose; and yes, even tips on pinning bugs for still-life photography. Anyone who knows Jamie’s work knows how she loves bugs!

All of these things combine to create a passionate love letter to Provence--to the beauty of the landscape, climate, lifestyle and people--and a testament to what can happen when one decides to listen to that inner voice, drastically change their life and take a terrifying leap into the unknown.

So what exactly was wrong in New York? What was it that made Jamie leap?

“I had it all,” she explains, “A ‘dream life’ with a cool job, amazing clients, luxury trips, designer clothes, a cute little vintage Mercedes convertible, a house in the Hamptons, a French-looking apartment by Riverside Park and I could eat at any restaurant I wanted, any night of the week in New York. Full disclosure: I hate writing this out. It sounds privileged and grotesquely shallow. But that is what I was taught to work toward. That is what I was surrounded by, what our culture rewards…That is what I was paid to capture professionally with my lens, the ‘perfect aspirational lifestyle,’ in photoshoots that were all façades. As my mom in her Southern accent likes to say, “All meringue, no substance.”

She continues: “I dreamed of having time to focus on my craft, to explore a richer meaning in my work, but most of my time was spent working for clients, as if I were an unlimited resource, a photographic, copywriting, photoshoot-producing, post-production-editing machine. Until I wasn’t anymore. Until I fried my creative engines.”

An American in Provence is just the latest in a long, long line of creative projects that Jamie has pursued during her time in Provence. For someone who came here to slow down, her output has been beyond prodigious! First and foremost there’ve been numerous fine-art photo projects such as a series of Provencal self portraits and the 60 gorgeous one-a-day “Isolation Creation” still lifes she created and photographed during Covid lockdown. (She sold the images in her online shop and donated funds to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts' Covid-19 Emergency Grants Fund.) More recently, there was a similar project called Rose Month. Then there have been collaborations with a wide range of Provence people, businesses, and brands, including the winery Domaine MilanLuxe ProvenceLe Mas de Poiriers and many others.  And periodically Jamie still hops on a plane to shoot for fashion clients, magazine clients and luxury brands in various far-flung locations…and sells her work online as prints and posters…and markets products based on life in Provence, some of which she creates or co-creates.

She shares most everything on her Instagram (372K followers), through photos, stories, highlights, reels, captions and comments. In Jamie’s hands, Instagram is truly another art form.

One of the things I love about Jamie’s Instagram is how she involves the audience in the process. For example, she’ll write about the experience of finding the right printer or frame-maker and then take you there, through video, to actually meet them and watch them work. Or she’ll share a video of how she creates one of her still-life photos, which is fascinating to see and adds so much to the appreciation of the finished image.

“You’re fun in Provence,” Jamie’s husband Kevin announced, the first time he came from New York to visit her in France. The couple had vaguely talked about the future, where they might live separately or together, but that early trip cemented what was the right next step (and the next and the next) for both of them. Their daughter Eloïse was born in 2019 and Jamie writes beautifully about the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood in France. Today Kevin does all product and digital design for Jamie's company...and produces remarkable “cinemagraphs” and digital art of his own, which you can see on his Instagram here.

I remember talking with Jamie when she was working on the book. She was unsure about her voice, nervous about her approaching deadlines, juggling emotions that ranged from excited beyond words to total imposter syndrome. And now that she's deep into a cross-country whirlwind of parties, readings, signings and more, you can see how delighted she is with the end result. 

"This was the hardest thing I have ever done," Jamie tells me, "and yet (aside from my daughter) the thing I am most proud of in my entire life. It feels surreal. I just keep describing it to people as feeling like a Cinderella moment!"

So what's next for the American in Provence...will she and her family stay? Jamie says the time passed long ago when she and Kevin went from saying “one more month,” to “one more year” to “we live here now.”

“I had traveled for years to the far corners of the earth without knowing this particular kind of comfort,” she writes. “I am not lost when I am here. The second I leave, I can’t wait to get back…I am alive within myself, breathing every fiber of my being.”

“At the end of that very first year,” she continues, “I felt like I was still just beginning a journey of discovery both within myself and of French culture...I didn’t want to leave. And guess what? I still don’t. Like all the layers of human history around me I’m still uncovering, Provence continues to show me things, teach me things, while allowing me to live and breathe with her in harmony and balance.”

For More Info

To catch up with Jamie at a book signing, see her schedule here.

All of the photos in the book are now available as prints; you can buy them here.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A New TV Series from Julia Child's Old Kitchen in Provence

Today the Magnolia Network launched a seven-part "docu-series" called La Pitchoune: Cooking in France, about the Courageous Cooking School, set in Julia Child’s former home in the South of France. Episode #1 is now streaming on the Magnolia app, HBO Max, Discovery Plus and other channels. 

It's a great story! In 2015, Makenna Held happened on an article in the New York Times (“The House that Julia Built”) about La Pitchoune, the home that Julia and Paul Child created on a former potato patch in 1966. The land, on a peaceful hillside not far from Grasse, was owned by Simone (Simca) Beck and her husband Jean Fischbacher. Simca was Julia’s close friend and her collaborator on the Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes I and II.

The idea was that once Julia and Paul had no use for the house, they would return it to Simca and Jean. In the meantime, it quickly become the Childs' cherished getaway and a magnet for food world luminaries such as James Beard, MFK Fisher and Richard Olney.

And now it was up for sale--listed with Sotheby's at €880,000--and back in the US, Makenna was completely smitten. “I fell in love with the heart cut-out shutters, the gorgeous ivy walls, and OF COURSE the kitchen,” she remembers.

Remarkably, Julia’s kitchen (with its now-famous pegboard system that Paul Child designed) was still largely intact “since the last meal she cooked there, a typically Provençale boeuf en daube, in 1992,” according to the Times.

“You could almost say we’re selling the kitchen with the property thrown in,” Alexander Kraft at Sotheby’s said at the time.

Makenna knew right away that “La Peetch,” as Julia called it, would make the perfect cooking school…partly because someone else had already done it. Another American named Kathie Alex (who had come to France in 1979 to take cooking classes with Simca and work as a stagiaire at the legendary Moulin de Mougins) had rented the house and taught cooking there starting in 1993. Kathie bought the property in the late 1990s and was now ready to sell.

Makenna--who describes herself as an entrepreneur, artist and business mentor—wasn’t able to fly to France to check it out herself so she sent a potential co-investor in her stead. They put in an offer and “six months later I was in France!” she remembers. “I left everything behind and more or less moved to the South of France, never having been anywhere near the Riviera!" 

"Yes, I already spoke French,” she continues. “No, I was not a chef. Just a very adept home cook who had a big idea that recipes are great in books but aren’t a great way to teach.”

She bought the property site unseen in 2015. Since then, a lot has happened for Makenna including a divorce, a new marriage and the birth of a daughter named Magnolia. And of course the launch and success of the Courageous Cooking School program which she calls an immersive and (mostly) recipe-free experience. Today she runs the business with her husband Chris Nylund and their “best friends” Kendall and Ross Lane. Kendall is the executive chef while Ross is the beverage director and “the fixer of all the things.”

People who want to experience La Peetch can do it three different ways. You can sign up for The Courageous Cooking School (a five-night, all-inclusive learning retreat), book it as a catered vacation rental (with multi-course meals catered by the staff) or, off season, rent it with family or friends and enjoy full access to our entire batterie de cuisine and no one to bother you so you can cook up a storm!”

And now, thanks to producer Citizen Pictures (and Makenna’s unwavering belief in the project), you can see the whole delicious story unfold on TV…a poignant twist considering Julia’s own legendary TV career, which began in 1962 with her Emmy-winning series The French Chef.  

To read how coincidence, luck, "strategized opportunities" and good old perseverance finally paid off in making this show happen, see Makenna’s Instagram post here.

And then...don’t be surprised if there’s another series one day soon because Makenna just announced that she just bought a restaurant. She's sharing no details yet about what or where but stay tuned!

For More Info...

The original New York Times article is here and the story I wrote when Makenna first bought the house is here

You can follow Makenna in a lot of places online but some good places to start are here, here and here

To learn about Magnolia Network and see the new show in your country, go here and here.

Finally, to see the amazing roster of other shows produced by Citizen Pictures, click here.