Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If You Live in the UK and Love France...

The sponsors of The France Show (January 13 to 15, 2012 at Earls Court in London), are offering the readers of a special two-for-one deal on tickets for this popular French lifestyle expo. (At-the-door tickets are normally £13. Kids under 16 are free.) This year there will be wine tastings, cooking demos, info on relocation and property buying, a wide selection of French properties for sale, tourism ideas, a French marketplace, live music, petanque games, a bistro operated by Mon Plaisir (London’s oldest French restaurant) and much more. For full show info including a list of exhibitors and events, opening hours, a map and more, click here. To get the special deal (two tickets for £13), use the code PRP21 when booking here. Or, to order by phone, call: 01242 264777.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Artist Blossoms in St. Remy

Born on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Willy Dabriou was raised in Paris and came down to Provence to study art in Avignon. He settled in St. Remy in 1996. I've known Willy for years: he and his partner, Cornelius Alsen, have a thriving home-rental and management business here and are involved in lots of local activities. I see them at parties, gallery openings, concerts--and even once bumped into them on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. I knew Willy was a world traveler with a particular passion for North Africa. But I only found out recently that, trapped inside, was a talented artist just dying to bust out. (He also sings beautifully--but that's a story for another day.)

About a year ago, Willy finally gave in to the artistic urge and started making jewelry: beautiful one-of-a-kind necklaces and bracelets crafted from shells, exotic beads, buttons, mother of pearl and more. Then came handbags, belts and the Moroccan-style slippers known as baboushes. Word began to spread and people began to buy. So Willy converted a guest-house on his own property into a workshop and showroom, which is open to the public for the next few weeks. Here you'll find necklaces starting at 35€, belts priced at 35€, funky and fun wool hats and a few gorgeous calfskin handbags (including one draped in skunk pelts, which Willy pronounces skoonk). The selection changes just about every day as new pieces are finished. Custom orders are welcome so if you have a favorite outfit missing that certain something, bring it in or send Willy a photo and he'll create the perfect accessory.

Each time he has a large number of new creations, Willy stages a fashion show, complete with gorgeous models, great music, Champagne, a red carpet and a motorcycle (no fashion show should be without one!). Drop Willy an email and he'll add you to the invite list.

Willy's studio and showroom will be open to the public until January 13th so feel free to drop in. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the blue-hatted mannequin at the gate. If nothing else, you'll make a new friend: a charming and talented designer who had the courage to follow his bliss and transform his passion into an exciting new profession.

Willy Dabriou
#4, rue Emile Daillan
Photos: Willy set up the mannequin to make it easy to find his studio on his residential street; Willy's serene workshop overlooks the garden; a sampling from the newest "Afro-Glam" collection; the letters on the wall out front stand for Willy Dabriou Kreations; dusk falls on the garden, done up for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

J'Adore This Dior Commercial

Have you guys seen this Dior commercial, with Charlize Theron, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe? It was directed by Oscar-winning French director Jean-Jacques Annaud and made using CGI or Computer Generated Imagery. Now I adore Dior even more...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Win This Lovely French Country Diary

A couple weeks ago I borrowed a copy of Pierre Deux's French Country, written 27 years ago by my old pal Linda Dannenberg. I needed a break from work...and a few hours on the couch with this gorgeous book was the perfect way to spend it. French Country is one of those timeless coffee-table books filled with captivating interiors that make you want to pull apart your house and redecorate immediately. It has beautifully researched chapters and sidebars on Provencale history, culture, fabrics, furniture, pottery, gardens and people, to name just a few. I decided then and there that I had to buy a copy for myself...and I planned to go to Amazon as soon as I got up off the couch. But the phone rang and I got distracted and the book--and the plan--were forgotten. And then, in one of those divine convergences of good luck and perfect timing that never seem to happen to me (I always pay full retail the week before the sale is announced), a friend gave me some old books because she's moving away. And lo and behold, there in the bag, was a copy of French Country. Score!

So why am I telling you all this? The book made me wonder what Linda had been up to, so I dropped her a note to check in. Turns out, Linda followed French Country with not one but five successful titles: New French Country, French Country Kitchens, Paris Bistro Cooking and Perfect Vinaigrettes. In between the last two, she collaborated with legendary chef Alain Ducasse on Ducasse: Flavors of France.

Clearly this is not a woman who lies down on the couch to read in the middle of the work day!

But wait, there's more. During all this fancy book writing, Linda has also been producing the hardcover French Country Diary, a week-at a-glance engagement calendar filled with evocative photos and vignettes of France. This is the 24th annual edition and apparently they've sold zillions. (Seriously, how did I miss all this?)

Stay with me here because we're almost at the part where you get free stuff.

So Linda tells me about the new calendar, produced by her company Arts & Style Publishing, and I'm thinking "My readers would love that!"  So I asked if she'd be willing to give one away on my blog and she responded: "Mais oui! Not one but three!"  

How nice is that?

The French Country Diary 2012, with a linen-textured, floral book cover, lies snug within a blue Provençal-patterned slipcase. Each of the 52 week-at-a-glance spreads, featuring photographs by Guy Bouchet, offers an intimate snapshot of the French countryside: gardens, private homes, gastronomy, villages, inspiring landscapes and so forth. Among the memorable spots in this year’s Diary is breakfast at a beautiful inn near Les Baux de Provence,  a postcard-perfect village in Burgundy called Semur-en-Auxois and a peek at an extraordinary Paris apartment furnished exclusively in 18th-century antiques (pictured).  Each spread features vintage French typography and a dates page adorned with a strip of Provençal fabric from Olivades. The Diary includes generous space for jotting daily notes and decorative address pages. It has 128-pages and it retails for $21.99,

To win one of the three copies that Linda is giving away, just leave a comment (by clicking "comments") right below this post. And be sure to leave your email address in the body of your message so we can reach you. To keep things simple for Linda, this giveaway is open only to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada. Or, feel free to enter to give the Diary as a gift to a U.S. or Canada-based friend.

If you'd like to buy the diary, a great gift for anyone who loves France, you can do that here.  It's also in bookstores and on Amazon. Meanwhile, if you don't have the book French Country or Linda's more-recent New French Country, treat yourself to a copy if you can find one online--you'll love it. Or, order a signed copy of New French Country ($40 retail) directly from Linda at the special "friends and family" price of $15. To do that--or contact her about anything else--email her at:  Meanwhile, good luck in our giveaway!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fun Gifts for Francophiles

The Canadian shop Raindrops has this "shit it's raining" umbrella in a wide range of colors. It's $45 (Canadian dollars) for the full size and $35 for the folding version. To see all of them or order, click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

You Cruise, You Lose

The Italy-based MSC Cruises is launching a Dukan Diet-themed cruise in late January designed for passengers who want to to “shed kilos, tone up and tan.” The 11-night cruise (Jan 30 to Feb 10, 2012) has been created especially for French-speaking guests aboard the flagship MSC Fantasia, pictured above.

Guests will have the chance to meet Dr. Pierre Dukan himself at a private onboard party. 

Dukan is an MD, nutritionist and "food-behavior specialist" who created the protein-based diet after 20 years of research. The regime became widely known--and wildly popular--in France in the year 2000, with the release of Dukan’s book, I Don’t Know How to Get Slimmer.  (According to the Dukan website, it “has remained the number one diet there ever since.”)  The Dukan Diet Book, as it’s also known, has been published in 32 countries, translated into 14 languages and sold ten million copies. The book was released in the UK in May, 2010 and in the US in April, 2011.

A team of nutritionists, dieticians and a Dukan-trained physician will be onboard to give advice and care throughout the cruise, which departs Genoa and calls at Barcelona, Casablanca, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Funchal (Madeira), Malaga and Civitavecchia (Rome). Even shore excursions and walking tours of the famous ports where Fantasia docks will be part of the structured program.

At the start of the cruise, guests will receive a diet kit and personal health assessment, then get advice on diet and sports training. They’ll also be invited to daily workshops, culinary demos, cooking lessons and seminars.

I write about the cruise industry often and enjoy seeing how clever companies keep creating new theme cruises to lure first-time passengers and keep regulars coming back. From what I can tell, this is the first cruise in which Dukan has been involved.  And whether you like the diet or not, I think this is a great idea: a week to focus on weight loss and fitness while enjoying the amenities of a beautiful ship. I know quite a few people who would love to cruise but say they’re concerned about the overeating, so for them this could be a win-win. Good for MSC Cruises for the idea and good for the passengers lucky enough to go. And good for Dr. Dukan, who is probably making a bundle!

The Fantasia holds 4,000 people but MSC says it’s too soon to know how many will sign on for this particular package. Prices range from 759€ to 2779€ per person (double occupancy), based on cabin class. For more info on the cruise, click here. Meanwhile the Dukan Diet book is on Amazon US here and Amazon UK here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Want to Help Restore a Medieval Village?

If you're thinking of visiting Provence next it this way and you'll learn new skills, give something back, leave your mark on an ancient village and meet people from all over the world.

Since 1969, the international volunteer program La Sabranenque has been devoted to the safeguarding and restoration of traditional rural architecture in Southern France. They're now accepting applications for summer 2012, to work on the restoration of the medieval Provencale site and village called Saint Victor la Coste. La Sabranenque hosts 150 to 200 participants of all ages and nationalities annually. No previous restoration work is required but you must be at least 18. 

Saint Victor la Coste is a picturesque village of approximately 1900 people set in a beautiful landscape between Nimes and Avignon.  At the foot of a hill dominated by a medieval castle, the village overlooks a small vineyard-covered plain. The territory has been inhabited for several millenia; neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts have been found and several known Roman sites are nearby.

Volunteers may sign up for various sessions in 2012, some of which include cooking and wine experiences. In the traditional program, volunteers work on the site in the morning and have afternoons free to explore and relax. Volunteers also participate in everyday, communal activities such as kitchen work. A Provencale cooking stage, which involves no stone work, is a new program this year.

The various options for 2012 are:  
*Traditional 12-day volunteer sessions (offered June 4 through Sept 22).
*Provencale Cooking Stage (with no stone work).
*Volunteer and Visit in Provence.
*Volunteer and Wine Exploration.
*Volunteer, Hike and Discover Provence.

For more info, visit the Sabranenque site here. You can also email:

Photos: The work, restored village walls, the village from above, more work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Need a Photographer?

Everyone has a great camera these days but there are times when you need—or should use--a professional. I’m often asked if I know a great photographer here in Provence and the answer is mais oui!

Based full time in Arles, Remi Benali began his career in 1989 after receiving a law degree in Grenoble. He worked with the legendary photo agency Gamma for 12 years, including three years as a press correspondent in New York. He’s been freelance since 2002 and living in Provence since 2005.

Known as one of the world’s top travel photographers, Remi has journeyed to work in more than 80 countries, from the North Pole to the Sahari to the remote jungles of Sumatra to the plains of Tibet. His magazine clients rely on him for technical expertise and attention to detail; for his ability to capture exquisite traditions, tribal cultures and man’s relationship with nature; to tell a story in a sensitive, compelling  way.  Remi has worked for all the top publications including Life, The Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Paris-Match, Le Figaro and others; he also shoots for corporate clients such as Apple and Disney.

Most recently, Remi has been hired by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. to document thousands of splendid Roman treasures being pulled from the murky depths of the Rhone in Arles, things like a 2,000 year-old wooden Roman boat, delicate gold rings, coins the size of a dab of mustard, thousands of amphorae and a leather sandal that still bears the imprint of the owner’s foot. It’s a big, impressive two-year gig and his best images will appear in 34 editions of the magnificent magazine in 2014.

But Remi still has time for other clients so definitely consider him for your next job, here in Provence or elsewhere in Europe. He’s especially excited about a new technique he has developed for shooting real estate (interiors and exteriors), so call on him if you’re trying to sell or rent your house…or if, perhaps, you own a hotel, restaurant, shop or gallery and need great shots for your website. Despite his world-class resume, Remi loves working locally too.

"It took some maturity for me to understand a saying we had at Gamma,” he says. “You don't have to take the plane to go to a faraway land…adventure and wonders can be found waiting on the corner of your street." 

For info, a price quote or fine-art prints:

Photos from top: Remi and his dog Ben; Mursi girl in the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia;  Amarvilas Resort, near the Taj Mahal; Balinese girl during preparations for rare Pedusan Alit ceremony; three homes in Provence.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

Mark Craft and Diane Shaskin are crazy passionate about three things: France, food and wine. They live most of the year on Vancouver Island where they pine away for France and count the minutes until they can return. Over the years, the say, they've cooked and eaten their way through a small fortune in France. And for more years than they can count, they dreamed of ways to share the France that they know and love. Finally, they launched Paris to Provence last year, offering culinary tours in France. And this year they launched Paris Insiders Guide, a free online travel guide. They also publish another site called French Things Women Love

But wait, there's more: Mark and Diane have also written three books (when do they sleep?), the latest of which is How to Cook Bouillabaisse in 37 Easy Steps. It's a 308-page travel/cookbook recapping many of their favorite French culinary escapades, with 49 easy French recipes.

"How to Cook Bouillabaisse is us reflecting on how lucky we are to be in France," Mark says. "But I think there's something fresh about it too. To some, Paris and Provence are art and architecture, monuments and breathtaking landscapes, lavender fields and vineyards. But to us it always boils down to one thing--our next meal. Of course there's also our previous meal, and the meal that got away, and what new wines to try! This book lets you spend time with us in the boucherie learning from the butcher how to roast the perfect lamb; in a cooking class at the Ritz in Paris where the chef sings Motown to us; and learning to make authentic bouillabaisse from an eccentric chef in name just a few."

Because they love Provence Post--clearly, this is a couple with good taste!--Mark and Diane are offering two copies of Bouillabaisse as a giveaway. Simply leave a comment below and we'll pick the winners next week. When you comment, be sure leave your email address in the body of the comment or we won't be able to reach you.

If you want to buy the book, you can order it from Amazon US or from Amazon Canada. Or you can order directly from Mark and Diane's website, in which case they'll throw in free shipping for a limited time.

If you'd like a copy of their e-book The Paris Luxury Food Guide, you can download it free if you sign up for their newsletter at Paris to Provence here.

And if you'd like to reach the couple directly, you may email them: or Chances are you'll find them enjoying a long lunch in some sun-dappled French vineyard....or hunched over their laptops at home finalizing details for their next trip. Either way, they'll get back to you as quickly as they can. Meanwhile, enter the giveaway tout suite and bonne chance in winning the book!

*Note: How to Cook Boullabaisse...was just named best Canadian book in the French Cuisine category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Bravo to Mark and Diane!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rocky Top

Philippe Clairo was born in MegèveFrance and now lives in Calgary, Canada where he works as a video editor/photographer for clients such as Tourism Calgary and Nissan. Visiting his Dad in Montpellier last week, he took his stepson to see Les Baux and captured this wonderful image. "Les Baux is always peaceful in the low season and the view is breathtaking," he says. "But I had never been on the very top. So when I came across this view, I had to snap it! This shot is made from three exposures combined together to create a 'high dynamic range' image." If you want this as free wallpaper for your desktop, laptop, HDTV or mobile device,  you can download it here. You can see more of Philippe's gorgeous work on his Flickr page here and on his website here. And if you want to hire him, buy a print or just say bonjour, you can reach him at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks in France? Here's Help.

Thanksgiving is Thursday and that means Americans all over France are scurrying around trying to find cranberries, pumpkin pie filling and of course, the butcher who will order that big fresh turkey even though it's really late. (If you're a turkey, I'd lay very low the next few days.)

While I'm sad to be missing Thanksgiving with my mom and the Minkoff gang at home in Milwaukee, I'm super excited to be having it here in Provence, with a big group of friends and their friends in the beautiful village of Eygalières. We're all foodies, we're all cooking or baking...and we're all thanks-giving to Stephanie Fray, the rock star who's orchestrating this amazing feast. (*If you don't have Thanksgiving plans but want some, see the info at the end of this post.*)

If you're hosting your own Thanksgiving or bringing a dish, there are a few shops that might be able to help you locate that hard-to-find ingredient--or suggest a reasonable substitute. Whether they have what you need for the holiday or not, it's great to know about them anyway, for year-round essentials such as Graham Grackers, Marshmallow Fluff, Coffee-Mate, Peanut Butter, Triscuits and Dr. Pepper! If I were a better person, I'd call around for you and see who has what--but I'm far too busy flipping through Grama’s old recipe box trying to decide what I'm going to make. (You know how, in 1620, the Native Americans went way out of their way to help the newly arrived Pilgrims? I'm not like that.) 

My American Market is a well-established online shop, based in Toulouse, that stocks an enormous number of American products.  Their "Holiday and Thanksgiving" section shows they still have pumpkin pie filling, canned sweet potatoes, pecans, turkey stuffing, cranberry sauce, marshmallows, Crisco, corn syrup, cornbread mix and more--and they're likely to have at least of those items the rest of the year as well. If you order by tomorrow (Monday), you can still get your goodies by Thursday...and there's always express (24-hour) delivery as well.

In Antibes, Geoffrey's of London has been supplying British groceries along the French Riviera for 20 years. They also have American, South African and Australian goodies, in their store and online. They recently launched a home-delivery service, from St. Tropez to San Remo.

In Montpellier, Chuck and Judi Fowler, who hail from Oregon and California, opened the English Corner Shop in October 2010 selling products from America, England and Australia. They're sold out of pumpkin pie mix but they still have cranberry sauce and turkey stuffing. And they’ve posted a pumpkin pie recipe on their Facebook page made from real pumpkin. (Good luck with that!) The English Corner Shop does no mail order or delivery--you have to go in.

The grand-daddy of them all seems to be the shop called Thanksgiving, selling American products in Paris for the last 25 years. (Normally they sell online too but this is such a crazy week for them they've shut down mail-order until early December.) For the holiday, Thanksgiving sells fresh, farm-raised turkeys (remember that for next year), plus cranberries, yams, pumpkin and pecan pies and New York-style cheesecake. But all year round their shelves overflow with bagels and Philadelphia cream cheese, American-style bacon, Cajun breakfast sausages, Tex Mex foods, Maple Syrup, Liption Onion Soup/Dip Mix, Baked Beans, Kraft Mac & Cheese and much more. 

There are certainly other stores, in France and online, that sell American and "Anglo" foods. If you know of any, we'd love to hear so please leave a comment below. Meanwhile, I want to wish you all the happiest of holidays. I have much to be thankful for, such as you guys--my loyal readers--and my loving family and fabulous friends. I'm especially thankful, every day, to have a mom as amazing as mine. Her Thanksgivings (before she finally said basta!) were legendary, with as many as 25 of us around the table. She's a fantastic cook and I'm inspired by her every time I step into the kitchen. (She's also the smartest, funniest, most-capable and loving woman I know. ) I'm also thankful to Barbara Leto for reminding me about some of these great shops. I'd be particularly thankful if the Minkoffs sent me some of their famous Thanksgiving hot fudge. And I'm very very thankful I'm not the one hosting 12 crazy foodies for dinner on Thursday!!

*Note: Hungry for Dinde Farcie and company? I called around to see where you might go but I'm late and a few of the open-to-the-public Thanksgivings in Provence (such as the one at StarsNBars in Monaco and the Anglo American Group of Provence one in Aix), are sold out.  I did find two, one that has seats left for sure and one that might. * The American Club of the Riviera will host a traditional Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, starting at 12:30Turkey and all the trimmings will be preceded by a Champagne reception. It's €80 (members and immediate family), €90 (members of affiliated clubs), or €95 (non-members). To reserve, please contact Jay by Tuesday at the latest: or  call 06-70-30-63-18. * The group called France Etats-Unis will hold a Thanksgiving dinner on Friday November 25, at the Yachting Club Pointe Rouge in Marseille, starting at 7 p.m. I was unable to reach them but if you're interested, all the info is here and you can contact them directly:, 09-71-34-35-78.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Garden Grows on St. Barts

I’ve spent lots of time in the Caribbean and the French island of St. Barts remains one of my all-time favorites. So when my friend James Jondreau told me he was on his way there, I asked him to keep an eye out for juicy news. James is a chef and serious Francophile who splits his time between New York and the Hamptons. “But if I had my way,” he says, “I’d definitely add St. Barts to that list!” On his last trip, James was lucky enough to stay at the very-tony Le Toiny, where he found an interesting story right under his feet: a chef who’s growing his own produce despite some very strong odds. For more about James, visit his blog or email him at Meanwhile, here's what he wanted to share.

Local is an oxymoron on the chic French island of St. Barts, where virtually all the food arrives by plane from Guadeloupe or France. The tiny island is known as "the St. Tropez of the Caribbean" and its grand super marche is stocked with French cheese, pâté and aisles of Champagne. Nothing grows on the rocky island and there is zero agriculture. So for Hotel Le Toiny executive chef Stéphane Mazières to have a garden, like so many other chefs these days, seemed about as likely as winning the lottery. 

But when Guy Lombard arrived at the five-star Le Toiny three years ago as the new manager, Mazières’ dream began to take shape.

Growing up in France, my parents always had a vegetable garden,” Guy explains. Later he oversaw the garden at Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s hotel in the Atlas Mountains near Marrakesh. Despite being told repeatedly that nothing would thrive on St. Barts, Guy decided to give a shot. He was determined to keep food costs under control and to improve the quality and supply of herbs and vegetables for Mazières’ exquisitely beautiful presentations.

Together they decide what to grow. Le Toiny sits high on a hill and has a little land leading to a beach where coconut palms once grew and enriched the soil. Rather than the typical glass-enclosed temperature-controlled greenhouses, the duo went with green cylindrical tents commonly known as hoop houses or hoop-style greenhouses. The temperature hovers around 80 degrees in St. Barts year round, so the tents provide protection from the intense sun--and from the ubiquitous, voracious iguanas.

Guy started with one greenhouse and today has three; one is hydroponic and all are organic. They yield a wide range of produce, including tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and herbs such as basil, coriander and chervil. Le Toiny’s “garden” now supplies 80% of the restaurant’s herbs and about 30% of the vegetables.

“It definitely save some money,” Guy reports, “but locally we also play an education role as we have school children come over for educational projects such as biodiversity.”

Le Toiny, with 15 private bungalows, is one of the most-exclusive properties on St. Barts.  The island has nearly five dozen restaurants--most of them French--and Le Toiny’s Le Gaïac is considered among the very best.  Mazières was named a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef in 2010, the only one in North America that year.

If you’re a foodie, you might want to know about Le Toiny’s new Bon Vivant package, good from March 1 to December 19, 2012. The promo includes a four-night stay in an ocean-view villa with private pool and terrace, two one-hour spa treatments, meals at some of the island’s premiere culinary venues and a 90-minute class at Absolutely Wine, a new wine bar and school. The Bon Vivant package also includes round trip airport transfers, a convertible SMART car and breakfast daily. For more info on Le Toiny, click here.

If you’re planning a trip to St. Barts this winter, here are some events that might appeal. There will be a traditional Christmas Village (December 19 to 23, 2011), with a European-style market and festivities at the harbor in Gustavia. The annual New Year’s Eve Regatta (December 31, 2011) is a “just-for-fun” sail around the island, open to visiting and local boats alike. The St. Sylvester New Year’s Celebration (December 31, 2011) offers live music throughout the evening and fireworks on the docks at midnight. And the St. Bart’s MusicFestival (Jan 7 to 19, 2012) features top classical, opera, ballet and jazz. For more info on the island and its events, click here

And whether you’re already a fan of St. Barts or just dreaming of visiting one day, you may want to check out this gorgeous book: In the Spirit of St. Barths by Pamela Fiori, published in April, 2011 by Assouline. You can order it from the publisher here.

Photos: Le Toiny chef Stéphane Mazières; one of Le Toiny's three hoop-style greenhouses; grilled filet of turbot, with home-grown zucchini, oyster tartar, and lemongrass sauce; all Le Toiny villas have private pools like this one; the hotel's private beach.