Friday, August 28, 2009

Garden Guru

Lidia Bradley, the friend of a friend in Eygalieres, recently sent me this note...

Dear Julie,
During a tour of Provence gardens organized by Louisa Jones last spring, one of the very beautiful gardens we visited in the Luberon was created and maintained by Jean Luc Le Boursicaud (left), a landscape architect/ designer/gardener who lives in Cabannes, close to the Alpilles. Jean Luc wrote to me recently to say he was looking for work in the Alpilles, and I'm writing to recommend him to your readers. Not only was the garden we visited beautiful and beautifully taken care of, but Jean Luc has lots of experience dealing with owners who are not here all the time. I thought it could be useful for you to know about him. Jean Luc's contact info is below.Warm regards!--Lidia

Jean Luc Le Boursicaud

Monday, August 24, 2009

Provence in the Press

Summer always brings more Provence in the media than usual, it seems. Here are a few articles I noticed in the last week or so.

A tour of the Luberon in the L.A. Times.

From The Independent: the joy of a visit to Aix.

In his syndicated column, Rick Steves wrote about outdoor markets. Here it is in the Chicago Tribune.

Brad and Angelina give their kids a "normal life" in a £45million Provencal chateau.

Revisiting Avignon after ten years, in the Australian.

Taking a tour of Provencal vineyards, in the Sunday Times.

The Telegraph looks at what Pierre Cardin is up to in Lacoste, whether the locals like it or not.

And here's the New York Times' take on the Pierre Cardin contretemps...

Photo by Sankha Guha via The

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where Should We Eat?

I'm always asking friends to tell me about great restaurants they've found around Provence, where the greeting is warm, the food great, the prices fair. At the same time, people ask me the same thing: where should we eat? So I decided to start a new feature --One Restaurant I Love--and anyone who wants can take a turn writing it. This week, our guest reviewer is James Clay, my smart, funny and oh-so-worldly friend in St. Remy. James isn't a hardcore foodie--he actually spends most of his free time making out with his garden--but he throws super parties, loves to eat out and, when invited (or not), is great fun as a guest. (Speaking of James' real passion, plants, in the next week or so I'll debut his monthly column "The Cocktail Drinkers Guide to Gardening." Don't miss it!) But first, let's hear about One Restaurant He Loves: Chez Gigi. James writes:
After 20 years of hanging out in Provence, I've learned to keep a few things secret. So now you're asking yourself then why's he going to tell us about this restaurant? Well I've decided I have to learn to share--they do say giving is better than receiving (though a Cartier watch wouldn't cause a problem for me anytime).

Ok, mustn't lose my train of thought which is so easily done here in Provence in the summer, what with the cicadas chirping away and the heat et al. My favorite resturant in Provence (and oh boy, is it chic--not!), is to be found by the side of the Route National between between St. Rémy and St. Etienne du Grès in Mas Blanc des Alpilles. Chez Gigi can be spotted as you drive (slowly, please) through the little village.

The first time I ate there a few years back I had a Caesar salad which blew me much garlic it could have been called spicy. By French standards, very spicy.

The entrées are imaginative and made with the best local fresh vegetables and meats. In fact, some are so good it's great to chose all of them and eat them tapas style with your friends. 
The principle plates vary from basic pizzas to dorade, ribs, duck, stuffed quail and carpaccio de boeuf with a terrific sauce.
Desserts tend to be fruits in season, chocolate mousse, brownies or whatever else they dream up that day.

Chez Gigi has all the right attitudes toward food and service (which can be mildly erratic but amusing nonetheless). The menu is hand written on boards: another good sign as it changes often. The wines are mainly local and excellent. If the 'vin en pichet' is good, then you know the meal will be too. The bread is great as well.

Owners Michel and Gigi Sivauossian--he's from Nice, she's from Quebec--have travelled widely and, for that reason, the food is so varied and interesting. For a 'local' like me, it's such a relief to find dishes that aren't always typically Provencal.

Michel and Gigi (pictured above) know their market and, as the French say, are 'correct' in terms of cost. Believe it or not you can actually get a three-course lunch including wine and coffee for around 15 € per person. They do dinner during the high season on Friday and Saturday nights...make sure to book for that but it's not neccessary at lunch. And don't dress up--this place is really casual.

There's a 'terrace' (always a high point in my book) and remember this is a fun place so don't go looking for linen table cloths and crystal. I may regret spilling the beans if I can't get a table next Friday night but then I'll know I've 'shared' and that's a good thing, isn't it !? 

If you go, please mention or say I sent you! Bon Continuation!

Chez Gigi
RN #99
Between St. Rémy and St. Etienne du Grès
Mas Blanc des Alpilles
Photo by James Clay.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Don't Miss the Rencontres

My friend Peter Gillespie, who lives near Aix, just returned from Arles raving about this year's Rencontres. If you've never experienced this citywide celebration of photography and graphic arts, Peter says this should be the year. He sent me this short update.

As anyone will tell you, summers in Provence are affairs of the heart: a time for day tripping, slow meals under the shade of a plane tree and long lazy evenings with friends. But Provence is also a land with a passion for summer festivals. From late June to late September, hundreds of events are scheduled offering something for everyone: from music (piano, opera, dance, hip hop) to the performing arts (folk dancing, street theater, open air concerts) and an endless run of art exhibits.

In 2009 the buzz has been all about the Picasso-Cezanne exhibit in Aix (May 25 to Sept. 27, at the Musée Granet) and the 40th anniversary of Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. Les Rencontres is a two-month celebration (July 7 to September 13) of photography, with 66 exhibits in venues ranging from the church of St. Anne and the St Trophime cloisters to the SNCF rail yard where Arles, through an urban renewal project, is reinventing itself as a center for publishing and photographic arts.

Among the headline exhibits are major retrospectives of the work of Willy Ronis and the fine arts publisher Robert Delpire (500 photographs and over 150 books and prints), a poetic exhibit by American photographer and poet Duane Michals, an exhibit of the work of Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama and James Allen’s collection of United States post card photos, “Without Sanctuary,” presented as a memory of mob violence and racially motivated lynchings in the Jim Crow South.

Additionally, lovers of photography will be interested in the work of 15 photographers nominated for a “Discovery 2009” prize of 25,000€. The nominated photographers are listed on the festival website:

Les Rencontres is much more than an exhibit. It's a citywide celebration and it's almost certainly too much to see in a single day. Whether you're an avid photographer or simply looking for a reason to explore Arles, the Rencontres, with lunch at any number of inexpensive sidewalk cafés either on the Place Voltaire or the Place du Forum, would certainly be worth your while.

Admission is by pass, which may be purchased for the day or for the entire season. All but a few of the exhibits require admission. For ticket pricing and information about on-going special events, contact the Arles Office of Tourism, 04-90-18-41-20 or the Rencontres office: 04-90-96-76-06.

Photo: Hyper 08 by Denis Darzacq ( His work is on display at Le Capitole until August 30th. The gallery is at #14, blvd. Emile Zola in Arles.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Passion! Ambition! Butter!

Tomorrow can't come fast enough for foodies here in the States, because that's when Julie & Julia comes out. The new movie has gotten huge press but if you haven't heard about the it, here's the gist. A young woman named Julie Powell, working in a depressing job in lower Manhattan and dreaming of becoming a writer, decides she's going to cook every dish--that's 524 recipes--in Julia Child's landmark book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking...and do it in one year....and blog about it. She called her blog "The Julie/Julia Project" and it was terrific. I followed it--and so did scores of other people.

So there was poor Julie Powell, working all day at that job she hates, then shlepping store to store trying to find all the ingredients, many of them esoteric, that she'd need for that evening's recipe, be it pigs' feet or bone marrow or beef bourguignon or whatever. Then dragging it all home to her apartment in Queens, complete with miniscule kitchen and patient young husband, and spending the whole evening turning out yet another classic French masterpiece (or flop). And then, before falling into bed, writing about it....articulately, amusingly, insightfully. What an amazing, insane, wonderful, terrible thing to do, I remember thinking.

The blog developed a huge following and Julie got a book deal. And now it's been turned into a movie, with a screenplay by Nora Ephron, who also directed. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child and everyone says she's brilliant. Stanley Tucci plays Paul Child the adored husband, the man responsible for giving Julia her very first taste of France. (He was in the foreign service and they accepted a posting to Paris.)

In France, Child "found herself" in the kitchen. She studied cooking at the Cordon Bleu and in Provence, then returned to the US and introduced Americans to French food though her books and TV shows, the first of which, The French Chef, you've probably seen parodied once or twice. Child broke barriers left and right, charmed everyone she met, paved the way for celebrity chefs and did scores of great things for the food world. (Her kitchen is now in the Smithsonian.)

The movie also follows the lives of Julia and Paul Child during their years in France (1948-1954), through Child's memoir, My Life in France (a wonderful book). Ephron, the critics say, has woven the two memoirs together beautifully...two strong and talented women finding professional purpose through food.

Julie & Julia opens Friday in the U.S. and I'll be there for sure, with a gaggle of my foodie gal pals beside me. It opens in the U.K. Sept. 11th and in France Sept. 16th. Reviews and features are all over the internet so I won't bother to give you a link. But I will do as Julia always did and wish you a hearty "Bon Appetit!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Unusual Avignon Apartment Available

My friend Kate writes..."After 5 years, I'm leaving my beautiful apartment in Avignon.It's an exceptional place for which I searched six months. Located on the third floor of a former religious building of the late 18th century (above), the apartment (about 1200 sq ft) has beams in its high ceilings, stonework and a large terrace that gives onto a huge court, yet has all the modern conveniences (elevator, intercom, etc). This is the most prestigious address within the city walls. If this interests you, please contact me at with subject line of Rental 5 Rue du Crucifix. I will send pics. Rent with charges (heat, water, maintenance) will be 1570€. This notice is only meant for individuals. I'm trying to help my landlord who is wonderful and whose wife is ill.""