Monday, December 29, 2008

Provence by Bike

Andy Levine, founder and president of DuVine Adventures, is offering the readers of Provence Post a great discount on two of his all-inclusive Provence bike tours this spring. Book before the end of January and he’ll knock $500 per couple off the price, plus he’ll throw in two Duvine bike jerseys. Choose either May 17th to 22nd or May 24th to 29th and mention Provence Post when you book. The Provence itinerary takes in all the top sites and the most popular villages, including the Pont du Gard, Glanum, Avignon, Uzes, Les Baux, St. Remy, Paradou, Eygalierés and Maussane. The group will ride an average of 20 miles a day on brand-new 27-speed Scott bikes. Lodging is in small but deluxe villas, châteaux or inns, most likely Le Castellas Provence, Hameaux des Baux and Mas de la Rose. Meals are in restaurants considered among the best and most authentic in the region. Wines are included with all dinners and there will also be organized wine tastings of Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Yoga Bike Trips, Walking Tours and Luberon itineraries are also offered but not at the discounted price. For 14 years, the Boston-based Duvine Adventures has offered deluxe bike tours in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria, Argentina, Napa and Sonoma; they now have 19 different trips in nine countries. Last month, the editors of National Geographic Adventure selected DuVine as one of the Best Adventure Travel Outfitters for 2009; the complete article will appear in the Feb. 2009 issue. For info:,, 888-396-5383, 617-776-4441.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Girl Scout

If you have a nice garden, patio, terrace or pool, Tricia Harris wants to know.

An Englishwoman living in Paradou since 2007, Tricia has a successful company that offers painting- and French class-holidays in Provence. And now she’s started a side business scouting locations for photo studios, ad agencies and magazines. “They’re not always looking for a ‘Homes and Gardens’ look,” she says, “but often something surprisingly modest.”

A former account director for ad agencies and photo studios in Manchester, Tricia says the unpredictable English weather often made it difficult to plan photo shoots back home. After moving to Provence, she began getting requests for locations, “but I’ve never had the time to go out hunting for them at short notice,” she explains. So now she’s putting together a portfolio of possible sites so she can respond to these requests quickly.

Tricia’s clients pay between €200 and €500 a day; she gets 15 percent. She says there’s generally little or no inconvenience to the home owner because, more often than not, they don’t enter the house and “they leave everything as they found it.” Harris expects her clients will primarily want locations for spring, fall and winter, because finding them in England is relatively easy in summer months. “Evergreen planting is quite important,” she says, “so the shots don’t reflect any particular season too much.” Tricia will be the go-between to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Interested? Call Tricia: 04-90-97-07-18.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rhone Alone

La Madelène Rhône Wine Holidays tells me there are a few places left in their very-affordable three-day wine course, taught in English and focused on the best of the Southern Rhône. Classes are held in a 12th-century priory and include tastings, lunches (with great wines, bien sur!) and private visits to seven domaines. The course is offered on consecutive Tuesdays in February (3rd/10th/17th) or March (3rd/10th/17th) and each class will have no more than eight students. Your host will be Rhône wine expert Philip Reddaway, who left a media job in London to pursue a wine-tourism career. He holds a three-year diploma from the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust, where he was also approved as a wine instructor. Philip ran successful wine courses in Brighton and London before moving down to Provence. La Madelène is located between Malaucène and Entrechaux, in the foothills of Mont Ventoux. It’s 10 minutes south of Vaison-La-Romaine; 30 minutes from Orange and Carpentras. Throughout the year, Reddaway and his wife, Jude, offer a range of programs including a full-on week-long wine tour and shorter three-day trips. The three-day winter wine course is €95 per person, all inclusive. For those who’d like to stay over, rooms are available at La Madelène for €130 per night. For info:,, 04-90-62-19-33.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Postcard from Châteauneuf

My friend Jancis Robinson, wine writer extraordinaire, is one of the most accomplished people I know. Not only is she the editor of the award-winning Oxford Companion to Wine and co-author, with Hugh Johnson, of The World Atlas of Wine (both standard references worldwide), she has written 20-plus other books, many of which have won major awards. Her column appears weekly in the Financial Times. An award-winning TV presenter and producer, Jancis travels the world conducting wine events, judging competitions and tasting. In 1984 she passed the “fiendishly difficult” Master of Wine exam and, in 2003, was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen, on whose cellar she now advises. As a consultant to British Airways, she treks out to Heathrow every few weeks to taste up to 100 wines blind. And she does charity work…lots of it. Jancis grew up in a tiny village in northern Cumbria, just south of the Scottish border, studied math and philosophy at Oxford and fell in love with wine during a year spent in Provence. She and her husband, food writer Nick Lander, have three children (“vintage-dated 1982, 1984 and 1991”), live in London and summer in the Languedoc. Her “obsessively updated” website,, has subscribers from 80-plus countries. So as though she has nothing better to do, I asked her to contribute to Provence Post. Just back from the southern Rhône Valley, she sent this…

I've started to make a habit of visiting Châteauneuf-du-Pape in early winter to taste the vintage that’s 15 months old. It's a great time of year to escape London for somewhere pretty reliably warmer, or at the very least, sunnier.

Tasting nearly 300 Châteauneufs in three days (blind, thanks to the super-efficient Federation des Syndicats des Producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape) was much less taxing than I expected, mainly because they were so delicious (despite being so young), and partly because they managed to disguise their high levels of alcohol and tannin so well (because the tannins and fruit were so delightfully ripe). Throughout the southern Rhône, 2007 is a great vintage.

The mistral was particularly keen when I arrived to taste in late November, and I was unable to stay at the Château des Fines Roches, with its exceptional view across the plain towards Marseille, since it was closed. The Federation, one of far too many wine growers' syndicates in this compact appellation, recommended I stay at La Sommellerie, just west of the village, and I would recommend it to you. It must be especially pretty in summer, with tables on a terrace by the pool, but I felt very well looked after, even in temperatures so low that the serving staff huddled around the open fire.

I was particularly impressed by a dinner that I (and my laptop) enjoyed in a nearly empty dining room. A lack of customers can instill apathy in many a chef but my foie gras several ways--best with figs and balsamic vinegar--was inventive and well executed. I didn't really need pigeon, and cheese, and a chestnut mousse with almond milk ice cream, but am a sucker for those inclusive menus. The breakfasts were good too. The rooms were spacious and individual and, most important for itinerant website proprietors, there is free WiFi on a mezzanine overlooking the reception.

The wine list looked good but after tasting as many young wines as I had, all I could manage was a glass of white Châteauneuf 2007 to add to my notes. My all-inclusive bill for a two-night stay with one dinner was about €250.

La Sommellerie
Route de Roquemaure

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Provence on Paper

Some years ago, after finishing the book "French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France," I did something I’ve never done: I wrote a fan letter to Richard Goodman, the author. He and I went on to become friends and, because I admire his work so much, I asked him to pen something for The Provence Post, on any subject of his choosing. This is what he sent. What I miss in most of the books and articles I read about Provence is not the food, the wine, the light and so on. It’s books. It’s the literature. I miss the recognition, praise, and the kind of understanding of this culture that can only be gained through its authors. Yes, food and wine and light will tell you quite a bit about a people, but if you don’t know what its sons and daughters have written about the place, if you haven’t seen its spirit distilled and energized and poeticized through their hearts and minds on paper, I don’t think you can truly claim you know Provence. To me, asserting you know Provence without having read Jean Giono, Marcel Pagnol, Frederic Mistral, Colette and others is like claiming you know America without having read Twain, Melville, Dickinson, Hemingway and Faulkner. It’s an incomplete claim.I distrust any person who writes seriously about Provence who does not at least glancingly refer to its writers. Two figures stand out. Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono. Pagnol is the far better known of the two. But Giono, a very different writer, deserves at least as much fame. Giono and Pagnol were almost exact contemporaries. Giono (1895-1970) lived his life in the town of Manosque in Haute Provence. Pagnol (1895-1974) spent his youth in Aubagne, near Marseille. Even in such a geographically limited area as Provence, there are major differences in landscape, such as these, and they encouraged very different kinds of writing. Pagnol was a dramatist, memoirist, novelist and filmmaker. He made films out of several of Giono’s books, and they are wonderful to see; La Femme du Boulanger is exquisite and deeply moving. Many people have read Pagnol’s memoir of growing up in Aubagne, My Father’s Glory, and it’s delightful, but I like Pagnol’s plays best, particularly, Marius, Fanny and César. Set on Marseille’s Old Port, they are compassionate, funny, touching, sweet and powerful. It doesn’t matter that that world no longer exists. The hearts of its people do. Giono is, to my mind, a mystical writer. I’ve never read anyone like him. Not all of his books have been translated into English, but enough have, and you can always start with his famous short book, The Man Who Planted Trees. One of his other better known books, Joy of Man’s Desiring, is available in English. I love Les Grands Chemins, which I do not think is available in English. He loves and respects the farmers and shepherds in his books, the everyday man and woman, so you might compare his work to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, though Giono is more poetic, and closer to the earth. In any case, I would say: if you truly want to know Provence, to feel close to the place in a way you just can’t otherwise, read. Read its great authors. Begin with Giono and Pagnol. There are no greater spirits who have walked and loved this land. Richard Goodman lived in Provence in 1988-'89, in a small village near Nimes, and again, in 1991-'92, in Sanary-sur-Mer. In addition to "French Dirt," he’s the author of "The Soul of Creative Writing." Today he writes for the New York Times, Harvard Review, Vanity Fair, Garden Design, The Writer's Chronicle, French Review and others while conducting writing workshops throughout the U.S. He lives in New York City and can be reached at:, To buy French Dirt: French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France To buy The Soul of Creative Writing: The Soul of Creative Writing

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where to Eat in Avignon

Originally from Illinois, Kate Schertz has eaten her way around the world, a task facilitated by her former profession as an American diplomat. She studied cooking in France, Tuscany and Sicily and counts Turkish cuisine among her star feats. For the past 4.5 years, Kate has been living in Avignon, where she dines out frequently. We asked her to pass along some of her favorite addresses. Bon Appetit!

Le Chapelier Toque. This is my favorite little restaurant in Avignon, not just because of the constantly changing and imaginative menu but also because the chef/owner Joseph is such a delightful person. Originally from Ghana, he trained at La Mirande many moons ago. His tiny restaurant is decorated with pizazz and his presence radiates. Be sure to reserve. 71 rue Guillaume Puy, 04-90-82-29-01.

Bistrot des Arts. Non smoking before it was mandatory, this small restaurant is notable for its excellent art exhibitions and fine wine selection. The owner/maître d’ is the son of a French diplomat and speaks fluent English. He buys quality products at Les Halles but still manages to produce plates under 20€. 24 rue des Lices, 04-90-85-67-21.

Terre de Saveurs. This mainly vegetarian and fish restaurant is run by two women who regularly produce high-quality food at amazingly low prices. Gets full quickly at lunch with regulars. 1 rue Saint Michel, 04-90-86-68-72.

Le Riad. The best Moroccan restaurant in Avignon. Lovely setting, really nice people and service and truly yummy tajines, just a few steps from the Place de L'Horloge. 17 rue Galante, 04-90-82-10-85.

Le Caveau du Theatre. This very Provencal restaurant is consistently good and consistently packed. They offer a wide range of local wines and are well located. 16 rue des Trois-Faucons, 04-90-86-00-34.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh Shoot!

James Desauvage grew up in England’s Lake District and moved to France at age 10. He worked in marketing and communication before making a career switch and opening his own web design and technology business, which is thriving. But a lifelong passion for photography recently blossomed and he’s now shooting professionally, doing weddings, parties, portraits and other jobs for clients of all types. He shoots digitally, in black-and-white or color, and is skilled at Photoshop. He’s very much looking to build his photo business and so I’m spreading the word. To see samples of James’ photo work, go to For info or rates:, 06-76-64-77-05. For more info on his web design and tech work: Below are a few recent photos.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Funny in French

I ran into an English friend, Matt Beer, the other day and asked how his French was coming along. Not so good, was the reply. It turns out that Matt, one of the funnier people I know, still finds it virtually impossible to be funny in French. Because I’m also one of the funnier people I know, I totally relate. I asked Matt to write a little something about that and here’s what he sent.

So the question remains--how does London’s greatest wit turn into Eygalières' village idiot and, perhaps more importantly, why was he so self-delusional in the first place?

The idiot is me and the question remains unanswered. Let me explain. I’ve now been living in France for over seven years and yet when it comes to speaking French--you know, the correct use of the past tense and pronunciation of the word “feuille”—I’m currently locked in an epic battle with my daughter’s pet hamster for the honorary title of “least conversant family member.”

When chatting away at a dinner party, once I’ve discussed how sunny it was yesterday, I’ve run out of conversation. Suffering from acute embarrassment, I invariably get nervous, over-react, bring up the issue of Vichy France and never get invited again.

The excuses? Well…

We only speak English at home--true except when the family want to verbally abuse me and speak in French.

I work solely with English-speaking clients--true except when the clients want to verbally abuse me and speak in French.

I have never been on a language course--true as I wanted to avoid the humiliation of being asked to redoubler.

I have absolutely no aptitude for languages--very true.

My wife has explained to me that when I listen to a song I hear the melody and not the words. She has the opposite problem. Sometimes we merge our skills, sing a song together and embarrass the kids. But, nevertheless, I do believe she has a point. I just don’t hear the language. Add in the Provencal accent and this particular Englishman is dead in the water.

So what to do? Answer--nothing. Just enjoy the hospitality offered to me by some wonderful French friends, never again mention Petain and try at the very least to keep up with the hamster.

Oh and for any French readers “Il faisait tres beau hier, n’est pas?”

Being a qualified divorce lawyer for 15 years, Matt Beer decided to divorce himself from reality and move from London to Provence. He continues to run a legal practice and is also a screenwriter for film and television. He lives in Eygalières with his wife, Annie, and their kids Zazie and Sam. He can be reached at:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monkey Business

Today on CNN, I saw a restaurant in northern Tokyo that's using monkeys as servers. They’ve been a huge hit with customers and, as one patron puts it, “they’re better waiters than some really bad human ones.” Since animal rights laws allow the two monkeys to work just two hours a day, the owner is training three new baby monkeys to join the staff. Actually, monkey workers might be a perfect solution for bar and café owners throughout France who, according to a story in yesterday’s New York Times, are having a terrible time staying afloat. It seems that the bad economy, high costs, drunk-driving crackdowns and smoking bans have put many French cafes in financial peril. I say employing monkeys as waiters here in Provence would save on payroll and provide a spot of entertainment as well. (Plus, they can’t sue for back wages, claim sexual harassment, go on strike or steal your recipes.) To see the monkeys do their thing, click here:
or here:
To read the piece in the Times:

Sunday, November 23, 2008


When I first came to Provence and knew nary a soul, I posted a “looking for English-speakers in Provence” note on an expat bulletin board. I got lots of replies but only one person, Patricia Bachrach, really made an effort. We went on to become great friends, which would never have happened had she not reached out. And now that she’s trying to sell her house, posting it here is the least I can do to re-pay her for her warm and generous spirit. That, and she’ll give me a humongous finders’ fee if it sells...

Patricia spent 15 years renovating her home in Maussane and filling it with her vast collection of antiques. Now she and her husband Alan have decided to downscale and have put their one-of-a-kind house on the market. The house was originally an 18th-century olive mill, many vestiges of which are still intact, and would make an ideal B&B, chambre d’hôte or cooking school. The 800-square-meter house has eight fully vaulted ceilings (12 to 14 feet), four bedrooms, three full baths, a stunning kitchen with a vast Brazilian-granite island, custom cabinetry, SMEG appliances, gas and electric cooktops, two ovens, two rotisserie spits and a wood-burning fireplace for making stews and other winter dishes. There’s a formal dining room with climate-controlled wine cave, family room, sitting room/library, office/den, indoor-outdoor pool and a separate one-bedroom guest house. A large two-story barn could be renovated. Many antiques, collectibles and a number of very high-end wines are for sale with the home. 

The house is on the village outskirts in the foothills of the Alpilles, surrounded by sheep farms, olive mills and apricot orchards. It’s just minutes from Les Baux and St. Remy, 20 minutes from Arles and 45 minutes from Marseille. Asking price: €2.2 million. For info:, 04-90-54-50-94.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


There’s not one but two stories in my in-box this morning about the appeal of Provence for expats. The first one, on, is a bit astounding, actually: it calls St. Remy the second “most idyllic place to live” in all of Europe. First, the intro talks about how Europe has become affordable again for Americans: “Despite the global recession and slumping job market, the timing--and prices--might be just right,” the writers say. “Six months ago, Americans couldn't even mull a move across the Atlantic.” It goes on to say that despite the high price of real estate, Forbes’ panel of travel and relocation experts praised St. Remy for its “rolling vineyards, opportunities for hiking and walking and average conditions some of the best in Europe…” (Speaking of walking, however, am I the only one who’s noticed that St. Remy’s cracked pavement and potholes have reached epic proportions?) The #1 "most idyllic place in Europe," by the way, is Gaiole in Chianti. Go figure! Anyway, read the Forbes article here: The second article, in the Daily Mail, says that despite a slowdown due to the pound’s decline against the euro—and high prices in general—quick (and eco-friendly) Eurostar service from St. Pancras to Avignon has been a huge boon to Brits wanting to vacation or settle in the area. The article encourages wanna-be home buyers to consider lesser-known regions (such as the Gard) and says that while Provençal farmhouses “have nearly all been renovated,” problems in the French wine industry have led to the sale of vineyards which, in turn, has freed up more land for building. Read the article here:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Give a Laptop. Get a Laptop. Change the World...

Here’s a great holiday gift that will not only delight someone you love but also change the life of a needy child. One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is launching its second Give OneGet One (G1G1) program today. Here’s how it works. You buy a specially designed XO laptop for roughly $400 and OLPC will send two: one to you and one to an underprivileged child. Or, you can send one for just $200.

The non-profit OLPC was conceived by MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte in 2002, after seeing first-hand how connected laptops transformed the lives of children and their families in a remote Cambodian village. A seed was planted: If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked? What problems could be solved? These questions led him to found OLPC and the creation of the XO: a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop designed “for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.”

The XO is built especially for kids in remote areas and developing countries, many of whom have little or no access to education. About the size of a small textbook, it has built-in wireless and a screen that’s readable under direct sunlight for those who attend school outdoors. The laptops are durable and highly efficient, able to use solar, human, generator, wind or water power. In some cases, the laptop provides the brightest light source in a family’s home.

The laptops are marketed in large numbers directly to ministries of education, which distribute them like textbooks. Last year’s G1G1 program produced more than 150,000 XOs and allowed OLPC to give away thousands of them, in places like Ethiopia, Mongolia and Rwanda. Today there are hundreds of thousands of children using XOs every day, including over a quarter of all young students in Uruguay. Peru is distributing XOs to more than 10,000 schools.

The XO laptop is designed for kids aged six to 12. OLPC says it’s also a great gift for Western kids but cautions that it has no drive for DVDs or CDs “because kids in developing countries don’t have them.”

This year’s B1G1 program runs through Dec. 26th and is being handled through, which is providing their services at cost. For info: To order:

Saturday, November 8, 2008


In New York, when you don't want to cook and don't want to go out, you order in. You phone the restaurant, struggle with someone's heavy accent, place your order and--voila!--a little man arrives on a bike or scooter with your chicken tikka masala or felafel or borscht or sesame noodles, packed up all nice and piping hot in a bag with a cardboard bottom. One gets spoiled and a bit lazy, you know? But now there are not one but two restaurants in St. Remy that deliver: La Cantina and Nostra Pizza. La Cantina, owned by the couple behind Bistrot Decouverte, offers a full Italian menu including antipasti, salads, carpaccio, bruschetta, pasta, pizzas, a plat du jour and both lunch and dinner.Delivery is 5€. If you want to pick up or eat in, La Cantina is at 18 blvd. Victor Hugo. To order: 04-90-90-90-60. The more casual Nostra Pizza, with a tiny storefront at 24 Blvd. Victor Hugo, offers a wide range of pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches, good hamburgers, salads, savory and sweet paninis and three "menus" with a drink included. Delivery is 2€. To order: 04-90-92-58-83. Next, we hear St. Remy will be getting a Starbucks and a Gap. Joke.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The new owners of the four-star Hotel Les Ateliers de l’Image in St. Remy have created two great restaurant deals for the readers of Provence Post, both good until Dec. 14th. During the week, the three-course luncheon menu (25€) will be offered at the two-course price (19€, including one glass of wine). And on Thursday evenings, one person eats free. Yep—you can enjoy one prix-fixe dinner free (starter, main, cheese, dessert; 43€) for every one ordered (drinks excluded). To enjoy either promo, the hotel asks that you book ahead and mention The Provence Post. To reserve: 04-90-92-51-50. The hotel also continues to offer its popular buffet breakfast daily (19€ for non-guests), Sunday three-course lunch with aperitif (36€) and evening Sushi Bar (Tuesday through Saturday). Plus, they’ve just launched a new food menu in the lounge bar (open at 5 p.m.), where there’s a buy-one-get-one-free Happy Hour between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. nightly. A special six-course 55€ Gibier (Game) Menu will be offered in the restaurant on Nov. 21st. For more info, or to receive the hotel newsletter and invites to upcoming events, email:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


British author Peter Mayle spent 15 years in advertising before leaving the business, in 1975, to write children's books. In 1990, he published A Year in Provence, which became an international bestseller; his books have since been translated into 20-plus languages. Mayle’s novel A Good Year was the basis for a 2006 film of the same name...directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, it was filmed almost entirely in the Luberon. Peter has just finished his 25th book, a novel called The Vintage Caper, to be published by Knopf next year. He and his wife, Jennie, live in Lourmarin. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Peter for Conde Nast Traveller UK and Wine Spectator and so I grabbed the chance to ask him to name some of his favorite local spots.

"The crew of the film (A Good Year) liked the Michelin two-star Bastide de Capelongue, just outside Bonnieux, and so do I. Chef/owner Edouard Loubet has two Michelin stars. It’s where you go for a special meal, a celebration. 04-90-75-89-78.

I love Le Fournil, in the lower part of the village of Bonnieux. The restaurant is cut out of the rocks and you can sit outside by the fountain in summer. 04-90-75-83-62.

Auberge de la Loube, at Buoux, outside Bonnieux, has a rustic menu, wonderful views and horses tethered in the car park. 04-90-74-19-58.

Auberge de L’Aiguebrun, outside Bonnieux, is in a marvelous setting in a secluded valley with an elegant country menu. 04-90-04-47-00.

In Lourmarin there’s a tremendous place which does just steak and crêpes, called Crêperie la Louche à Beurre. It’s very simple but has a wonderful atmosphere. It’s run by a delightful lady named Babette, who was partly my inspiration for the character Fanny in A Good Year. 04-90-68-00-33.

Ansouis is very pretty town and there’s a charming place just down the street from the Mairie called La Closerie. Excellent food and very good value for money. 04-90-09-90-54.

In St. Martin de la Brasque, 12 km north of Pertuis, I like Restaurant de La Fontaine, for very good simple food in a nice setting. The stuffed fleurs de courgettes are worth the trip on their own. 04-90-07-72-16.

L'Ardoise in Cadenet is simple, friendly, very good food and not going to break the bank. 04-90-68-35-35.

And for anyone who loves wine, there’s a wonderful wine store in Apt, La Cave du Septier. They have an extraordinary selection of labels from south and southwest France, run by a very nice couple. And they ship. It’s one of the best wine shops I’ve seen outside Paris. 04-90-04-77-38. There's also the Cave du Château in Lourmarin. They have terrific selection of local wines and olive oils."

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I returned to St. Remy last week to find that my Internet modem was kaput. So I called Frederic Clot, who was recommended to me by friends. He arrived when he said he would and speaks lovely English. He quickly diagnosed the problem and put in a work order for me at AOL and France Telecom. They said it would take four days and it did. When Frederic returned to make sure it was all sorted out, he was also able to fix a problem with my Sky Box and video sender--it turns out he does TV (French and UK systems) as well. Next week he'll come back and install my new WiFi Neuf box and explain to me how it works. I can't recommend him highly enough; please tell him I sent you. His phone: 06-68-82-81-38.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


The French soap maker L’Occitane (and two investors) have opened the 46-room Couvent des Minimes Hotel & Spa in a restored 400-year-old stone convent outside Mane, in the Luberon. (It's about an hour from Avignon.) I haven't been there yet but I hear, from well-traveled friends, that it's amazing. The four-star hotel is home to the first L’Occitane Spa in France. Chef Philippe Guerin, 38, trained with top chefs such as Alain Chapel and the Pourcel brothers in Montpellier; he also worked at the Negresco (Nice) and the Château le Domaine Saint Martin, a Relais & Châteaux in Vence. General manager Pierre‐Alexandre Francin moved over from Villa Gallici in Aix--and was at the Meurice in Paris for more than a decade--so you can be sure the service is every bit as great as the setting. In November, doubles begin at 205 euros and special fall/winter packages are available. For readers of my blog, Pierre-Alexandre is offering an elegant L'Occitane Gift Set as a welcome treat.;

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I just happened on a wonderful new program called MeGlobe. (Register free at and choose a username and password.) It's basically a real time translator for instant messaging, which allows you to "chat" with people all over the world, in their own language. As you type, you'll see your original message as well as the translation of it, into the language of your choice. (There are many, including Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, etc.) For anyone who needs to communicate with non-English speakers on a regular basis, this could be incredibly helpful. An English to French test run just showed fairly good and accurate long as you keep your original message somewhat simple. MeGlobe is still in Beta but try's fun and easy to use. Just remember that the person you're trying to reach needs to sign up as well. If you'd like to try it with me, my screename is juliemautner.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Sommelier Larry Stone was the first American to win the title "International Best Sommelier in French Wines and Spirits" and remains the only American to have earned the title of Maitre Sommelier from the Union de la Sommelerie Française. He is also an English-certified Master Sommelier, one of a handful of people who passed the exam on the first attempt. Today he runs the award-winning Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley and is working on his own wine label, Sirita, named for his daughter. Larry loves Provence and so I asked him to tell us five of his favorite local vineyards.

Updated in 2020: Larry now runs Lingua Franca, a winery estate in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, which he co-founded in 2015, inspired by the exceptional vineyard site in the Eola-Amity Hills that he bought in 2012.

1) Brusset Cairanne and Brusset Hauts de Montmirail, nestled up to the slopes of the Ventoux, produce some of the best wines in the region. (Great olive oil can also be found in the district.) They have a place in Cairanne as well as in Gigondas. Go to Gigondas for the views and local flavor. There are some other great wineries there too, like Domaine de Pallieres and Domaine Raspail-Ay

2) Domaine de Trevallon, 7 km west of St. Remy, is making some of the most original and striking wines in Provence. Because his slopes are north-facing Eloi Durrbach planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, instead of the predominant and traditional Mourvedre, which in spite of that makes a wine that exudes the terroir of Provence and the special soils found in Les Baux (as in "bauxite", i.e. aluminum). 

3) Mas de Gourgonnier, near Les Baux. It's family owned and has been farmed organically for over three decades. They utilize a mix of traditional varieties along with some Cabernet Sauvignon for their red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for the white. Their olive oil is a blend of four traditional local varieties.

4) Domaine Tempier's Bandol Rouge La Migoua, La Tourtine, Cabassaou, and also the Ros are legendary wines which are the product of the genial Lucien Peyraud who passed away a decade ago, but under whose guidance this old family estate, owned since 1834, became the birthplace of a modern Provencal renaissance. This estate continues to be the summit of French Mourvedre viticulture; it's the classic and defining grape from Provence. Located near the town of Castellet, the local color is also attractive yet sophisticated with F1 and motorcycle races taking place here. It was also the location for the Marcel Pagnol film, The Baker's Wife

5) Domaine de Rimauresq is in the Cote d'Azur in the beautiful town of Pignans and makes a delicious and unique white wine from around 85% Rolle, with a little Ugni Blanc. The red wines are also outstanding and the estate was one of the top places after phylloxera beginning in the late 1880s. The winery is modern in technique but the vineyard is old and traditionally farmed. It was acquired in the late 1980s by a Scottish family and is located near Toulon.

Also...Chateau Vignelaure near Rians is making excellent wines...and so is Richaume in Puyloubier (Cotes de Provence), created by a cello-playing history professor and now run by his son.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Think of This Blog as a Bulletin Board

Bonjour! I'm hoping my new blog will be a great way to keep each other posted about things we experience and love here in our little corner of paradise.

I hope that when you discover a charming village, new restaurant, gorgeous hotel, unique shop, great-value wine or anything else worthwhile, you'll share the names with us. If you hear about an upcoming event that sounds like fun--an art show, concert, dance performance, truffle festival, whatever--please let me know so I can post it.

If you're looking to buy or sell something...if you know of groups that need volunteers...or interesting classes...or good deals...or a great beach...or a new business that needs our support...or anything that will make our lives here more meaningful or more me at:

As time passes, I'll see how this works and decide if it makes sense to continue. My dear friend Terry Kelleher got the ball rolling with his website; it served a great purpose and is definitely missed. Now I'm hoping I can take things to the next level and I really hope you'll all participate. All advice and comments welcome!

Finally, a big thank you to Ruth Phillips and Julian Merrow-Smith, my new best friends in the Vaucluse! They were complete strangers when I wrote them this morning to see if the name I had chosen for this blog (Postcards from Provence) was too similar to the name of Julian's blog and website (it's called Postcard from Provence and you see it at and if they'd prefer that I change it. I had barely hit send when they replied that I was welcome to use the name...but because they were so nice, I changed it. And then, of course, it turns out that we have friends in common and share food as a passion....and we're already trading restaurant tips. Julian's paintings are very beautiful and quite affordable; they're sold auction style. The pitcher and brioche at the top of this post are his...and I encourage you all to visit his site, which changes daily.

Best Wishes!