Friday, April 29, 2011

The Book of Ruth: A Memoir of Provence

Through writing about the English painter and Provence transplant Julian Merrow-Smith, I met his wife Ruth Phillips. We felt instantly sympatico although I must admit (and I told her this) that I felt more than a bit indimidated by her accomplishments. These include: fluency in French, two masters degrees and a successful career as a professional cellist. She's also a talented cook, an avid hostess and very happily married to a superb and prolific artist. Best of all, she's just super warm and nice: before we barely knew each other, Ruth invited me to come to a New Years party at the couple's home in Bedoin, near Mt. Ventoux, and told me I was more than welcome to spend the night--so I could be around for their open house the next day.

Anyway, I found out this week that I have yet another reason to admire the lovely and talented Ruth: her new book. 
Called Cherries from Chauvet’s Orchard, it's a memoir that tells the story of the birth of Postcard from Provence (Julian's widely publicized painting-a-day project), the couple's life in France, the life of Julian's paintings after they leave his studio  and, Ruth says, "our own journey towards making a family." Indeed, in the same email, Ruth shared the very happy news that she and Julian had finally been successful in their efforts to adopt six-month-old son Louis Joseph, who had been living in a private orphanage in Mali, West Africa. 

"We'll stay in Mali for ten days or so and then we will bring him home to our tumbledown house in Provence," Ruth wrote. "Just in time for some puréed cherries."

I'm thrilled for them!

Cherries from Chauvet’s Orchard will be available June 1st as a mass-market paperback and Kindle eBook. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters and other major retailers. The book is $16.95/ €11.95/£10.95.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Julian have produced a special edition of the book, to raise funds for the orphanage in Bamako. That edition is limited to 300 numbered copies in presentation slipcases, signed by both Ruth and Julian. The books are already printed; the presentation cases arrive the week of May 9th and they'll be available by mail the last week in May. The special edition price is $35 (£22/€25) and you can order it here.

If you're still not sure, you can read a 48-page sample of the book here. I just read the introduction and already I'm completely hooked...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Woody Allen's "Paris" Opens Cannes Fest

Woody Allen's 41st feature, Midnight in Paris--starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy--opens this year's Cannes Film Festival, which runs May 11 to 22nd, 2011. Robert DeNiro is president of the Jury. See more trailers and read all about the fest here and here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Provence Lotions and Potions on Sale

Compagnie de Provence is having a little sale of their body and bath products on the fashion discount site Swirl, now through Friday April 22. $40 items are now $27; $15 items are $9. Have a look but ends tomorrow. You have to join the site to shop (click here) but it's quick and free. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Prepare for Takeoff and Landing Please

Flying from San Francisco to Paris recently on a Boeing 747-400, Nate Bolt  took 2,459 photos--that's one photo about every two miles for 11 hours--and turned them into this remarkable two-minute video. (If you click the link here rather than the arrow on the video above, you can watch the video full screen and also read some info from Nate about how he did it.)  To see Nate interviewed on the Today Show, click here. Bravo to Air France for saying yes to this endeavor and to Nate for making it happen!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Few Announcements...

First, I wanted to call your attention to my new(ish) blog pages "Advertise on Provence Post," "Where to Stay" and "France Travel Experts." Click the tabs just above this post to open them. More pages will be coming soon but in the meantime, you might find helpful information there. Meanwhile, here are a few other fun things I wanted to share...

Provence Chef named Top Chef

Stéphanie Le Quellec, head chef at the Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche (in the Var), has won First Place in the second season of the French TV cooking competition Top Chef. Her prize? 100,000€. Stéphanie,  28, received an overwhelming 76% of the vote in the finals at the Trianon Palace in Paris on April 5th, with a seasonal three-course meal that wowed both judges and guests. Her dishes? A starter of asparagus and morels; an Asian-style bass, lightly spiced with raw and cooked fennel; and an olive oil ice cream with crushed raspberries. “This experience was very intense to say the least, and it forced me to go beyond my limits in particular in terms of creativity," she says. "I tried to give always my best and worked really hard and today, I am so happy to have won.” Stéphanie is now back in her kitchen at the gorgeous Four Seasons, where she launches a new menu today, to coincide with the re-opening of the restaurant Faventia after its winter break. Stephanie has been at the hotel since 2006 and was promoted to head chef in 2010; this is the first time the menu features only her dishes. At this time, the only Top Chef dish available is a gazpacho of smoked mozzarella (from the run-up to the finals) but dishes from the winning menu may follow.

New Book Club Forming
Tricia Harris, an Englishwoman living in Paradou since 2007, is organizing an English language book club. She tells me "It's principally for the social aspects of it. I don’t see it as being too serious, more an excuse to have a glass of wine and a chat with other English-speakers. It would be a nice way for us all to meet some new people." Tricia sees the club meeting once a month, drawing people from within a 10 or 15 minute radius of St Rémy and rotating the host each session. Interested? Email her:

Vernissage This Weekend

The St. Remy-based ceramic sculptor Catriona Manoury and the painter Nissim (who lives near Les Baux) will be showing their work at the L'Atelier Gaston de Luppe (5 rue de la Bastille, Arles) from April 16 to May 15. The vernissage is Sat April 16 at 6 p.m. and all are welcome. For info: 04-88-65-50-80, or click here. Pictured: Catriona's Spiky White.

Pilates in Provence

Carlos Stelmach and Olivier Coste Renoult have a few spots left in their weeklong Pilates-themed getaway to be held in St. Rémy June 25 to July 2. You'll stay in an eight-bedroom home with a large pool, nestled among olive groves and pine trees in the hills just outside town. Days begin with viennoiseries, juice, coffee, and tea, followed by a Pilates session. Then the group heads off in a mini-bus for the day, visiting sites such as L'Isle Sur la Sorgue for the Sunday market, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Les Baux, Eygalières, the ruins of a Roman town, the abbey where Vincent Van Gogh stayed and kayaking at the Pont du Gard. You return home for another Pilates session, followed by an apéritif and Provençal dinner at home (most evenings). Pilates sessions are in English. For more info, click here or go to You can also see videos of some of the destinations on Facebook. Mention Provence Post and get a 5% discount.

Artist Seeks Work Space
Cabinet-maker Lenny Heitov is looking for studio/work space in St. Remy, minimum space of 50 square meters, to rent or buy. He's willing to renovate/upgrade at his expense and prefers to be within centre ville. Contact him: 04 90 90 50 69 or 06 43 31 99 32 or

New Culinary Tours in Paris and Provence

Diane Shaskin and Mark Craft introduced a generation of Canadians to organic food.  Now the founders of Planet Organic Markets (think Whole Foods, but in Canada) are carrying on their love of food and cooking with their culinary tours of Paris and Provence, brand new this season. Diane gave me a taste: “We'll bake baguettes with a Parisian boulanger, take a private cooking class at the Ritz, make bouillabaisse with a chef in Avignon and enjoy a wine-tasting picnic in the Côtes-du-Rhône." The couple is offering four week-long Paris trips (beginning in late June) and two week-long Provence trips (both in September). For more info: 

Last Minute Rental Discount

 Natalie Milani is offering some great prices on rental of her renovated 19th-century "maison de village" in Maillane, near St. Remy. Pick any week in May, 2011 and she'll knock 25% off the regular price: you pay €1,155 per week. The three-story house has four bedrooms (to sleep 8), a cozy living room, family room with plasma TV, gourmet kitchen, dining room, two washer/dryers, a pool with sunbeds, a BBQ and outdoor eating area. For pix and info, click here or email: 

B&B for the Festival d'Avignon
Michelle Victor has a large bedroom with private bath to rent in her gracious home in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon, for July 1st to 14th, 2011, which coincides with the Festival d'Avignon, which runs from July 6 to 26. The price is 1,000€ total for two people, including breakfast daily. Michelle says that since the master bedroom and bath are upstairs, guests will have privacy on the main floor. Villeneuve is a small, historic village where the Pope's cardinals once lived. The house is in a quiet neighborhood, with a large garden and patio/terrace. It's about ten minutes by car to Avignon and 15 minutes to the TGV (high-speed train) station. Buses and small boats run back and forth to Avignon, Michelle says. For photos and info:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Need a Job?

I just came across one of those "help wanted" ads you can't help but be intrigued by...

We are currently seeking an experienced and exceptional estate manager to manage a magnificent private estate in southern France for one of the world's wealthiest families...
The estate is set amongst extensive grounds and consists of six properties, two swimming pools and a mini-golf complex. The successful candidate will be responsible for all aspects of running the estate, including the management of the various catering, cleaning and gardening staff...This really is a truly amazing opportunity for an individual or a couple to go and live and work on one of the most exclusive estates in the world for one of the most prolific and by all accounts nicest dynasties in the world....

Read the rest of the ad and get info on how to apply here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Provence Book Giveaway

This novel, just published, looks like one I'm going to have to read. Not that I'm brokenhearted or anything but how can anyone resist a story set in the place they live and love? Plus, I'm told the plot contains many things dear to my heart, including shocking confessions, nosy neighbors, enigmatic Frenchmen, old houses in small French villages, lavender, vineyards, warm winds and pistou! Have any of you read it yet?  My lovely friends at Bantam Books/Random House have offered to send a gift copy to one lucky Provence Post reader. Simply leave a short comment by clicking "comments" below, tell us what Provence means to you and we'll pick a winner within a week or so. The rest of you brokenhearted folks will have to order the book on Amazon here.