Sunday, October 28, 2012

You're Invited to Thanksgiving...

As in years past, members and friends of the American Club of the Riviera will gather around elegantly laid tables to celebrate Thanksgiving....and everyone is welcome. The event is Thursday, November 22, at 12:3o and the venue is the gorgeous Restaurant Salle Empire of the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, which will remind you exactly of home (if home was Versailles). This event is always very popular so book early. On the menu? All of the traditional Thanksgiving goodies, only this time they'll come straight from the kitchen of chef Alain Ducasse, not the kitchen of Aunt Shirley. You'll dine with old friends and new, locals and visitors, and some honored guests from the U.S. military. Prices include the Champagne reception, the complete Thanksgiving meal and all beverages: €80 per person (members of the American Club of the Riviera and their immediate families); €90 (members of affiliated clubs); €95 (non-members). Jacket and tie will be required and payment must be received no later than Friday, November 16.  For more info and a registration form, click here.

Another open-to-the-public Thanksgiving is being hosted by The Anglo-American Group of Provence. Theirs will be Sunday November 25, at 4 pm and roughly 70 people are expected. It's at Le Verguetier, a restaurant and party space located at #7, chemin d'Eguilles, in the Aix suburb of Celony. (Le Verguetier is just across from the Maison de Ste. Victoire.) Prices for non members are €32 adults and €16 children 11 and under. For more info or to reserve, contact Judy Hawkins: 04 42 38 57 37 and

The Avignon Expat Group and other English-speaking friends will gather for a Thanksgiving Potluck, Saturday, November 24, at 12:30 pm in Isle sur la Sorgue. It's at the home of Jack Turbiville. To RSVP, choose your dish and get directions:

The lovely new hotel Mas Valentine in St. Remy is serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on November 22nd, prepared by guest chef Melissa Lopez. The 35€-per-person menu includes eggs mimosa as an amuse and pumpkin soup as a starter...then roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, gratin dauphinoise, rutabaga purée en cocotte and Valrhona chocolate pecan pie. To reserve: 04 90 90 14 91, or

If you know of other Thanksgiving celebrations in Provence, please leave us the info under ''comments'' below....thanks! 

Photos: The Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo, home to the Hotel de Paris; close up of the hotel; the hotel's Salle Empire.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jewelry Handmade with Love and History


Isn't it funny how a painting or a bottle of wine or a wonderful meal becomes even more delicious if you know the person or the story behind it? This jewelry has a great story indeed...and the fact that the artist's mom is my good friend makes these exquisite pieces all the more special.

For years I've been hearing Ann Bradley, an Irishwoman living in the Luberon village of Lacoste, mention her daughter Ruth. As in ''Ruth is coming to visit'' or ''Ruth had her baby!'' I only met Ruth once but it was years ago...and brief. Then, just recently, I connected the dots and realized that Ann's daughter is Ruth Ribeaucourt, a faithful fan of Provence Post who writes her own blog called Le Petit Coquin

So here's what happened. Ann moved to Provence in 2006 and at her housewarming party, Ruth (visiting from Dublin), met Raphael Ribeaucourt. ''It was a pretty instant coup de foudre,'' Ruth tells me. ''And the brave man moved to Ireland very soon after.'' The couple married in 2008.   

Ruth had a big job back at home, heading up marketing and publicity for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in Ireland, the studio's theatrical distribution arm. Ruth loved her work but the couple wanted ''some time off the career track'' and dreamed of raising their family in the French countryside. Their first child, Louis, was born in October 2009 and they moved down to Lacoste one year later. Baby #2, Charlotte, followed four months ago.  

Raphael, meanwhile, works as a financial consultant but comes from a celebrated French family named Faure, silk-makers in St. Etienne since 1864. Yep, going back to when Napoleon III reigned in France. The company is now called Julien Faure. 
A couple years ago, Raphael's uncle Julien--the fifth generation to head the company-- opened the archives and gifted Ruth with some incredible echantillons (samples) of ribbons from the late 19th to mid 20th century, all which had been rescued and hidden away for years by Raphael's grandfather, Georges Faure.  And for the last two years, Ruth has been meticulously transforming the ribbons into jewelry such as the pieces you see above. As it turns out, Ruth has been making jewelry since age ten, when Father Christmas gave her a toolbox filled with beads, silver wire and a jewelry pliers. ''This might sound contrived,'' she says, ''but creativity has always been my preferred form of meditation. It nourishes my soul and now that I have the luxury of time (and the beauty of Lacoste), I'm finally able to concentrate on it.''
And concentrate she has! In November 2011, Ruth launched an online Etsy shop called Rubanesque, offering one-of-a-kind handmade cuffs made from antique art deco ribbons. (Ruban is ribbon in French.) Called the Golden Age, the collection was featured on several French blogs including Tongue in Cheek and Trouvais...and it completely sold out to buyers from all over the world. (If you don't know Etsy, learn about it here.) 

Last week, Ruth launched her newest collection: a series of vintage ribbon cuffs (''more modern than my first collection,'' she says), plus antique and vintage ribbon pendants, antique ribbon-on-silk-bobbin necklaces (you can see them here), and delicate antique real gold passementerie trim bracelets, which Ruth calls ''my most-favorite pieces of all.'' She also just added two cuffs, made from 1920s silk in acrylic, and depending on how they sell, is likely to make more. Have a look at her Etsy shop here and I guarantee you'll find something you'll adore...or want to give as a gift.

But wait, there's more! To introduce her line to you, Ruth is offering my readers a 10% discount, until the end of November. Just enter the code NOV10 to receive the reduced price. Ruth will gift wrap if you request it and is happy to ship worldwide.

You can reach Ruth by email at:

Photos: 1. A cuff made from piece of antique, restored French silk fabric, preserved between two layers of arcylic. 2. A one-of-a-kind handmade bracelet made from a piece of antique French gold passementerie trim, with red silk interwoven through the heavy gold thread. 3. Another bracelet made from gold passementerie trim. 4. A piece of antique lace made from real gold, dating to the late 19th century. 5. A silk ribbon cuff in an art nouveau motif, embellished with Swarovski crystals. 6. A gold 'Fil D'Or' ribbon pendant necklace on a sterling silver chain. 7. A beautiful assortment of antique silk bobbins hangs on the wall in the St. Etienne home of Marguerite Faure, Raphael's grandmother. 8. Ruth, at home in Lacoste. All jewelry photos by Robert Hale.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Want to Ski the Alps? Here's Help in English.


If you’re planning to ski the French Alps this winter, a good time to start planning is now. So I thought I’d let you know about Megeve Mike, who’s something of a legend among Anglos who ski in France. ‘’It’s just ten weeks to Christmas,’’ Mike emailed me recently, ‘’and nine weeks ‘til we ski in beautiful Megeve. And for those who want an ‘Early Bird’ trip to Cervinia or Zermatt, that’s just a few weeks away.’’

Born in Maine, ‘’Megeve Mike’’ Beaudet attended the University of Denver and opened Ski Pros Megeve 20 years ago, to bring an alternative type of ski instruction in both French and English to clients from all over the world. I’ll let him explain: ‘’Ski Pros Megeve is not an 'Ecole de ski' in the traditional sense,’’ he says. ''We're  service-oriented American, French and British fully certified independent ski instructors. Each instructor is bilingual and works hard to make your Megeve ski holiday your best ever.’’

Mike offers a wide range of services in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. While the bulk of his business has been built on private and small-group ski lessons for all levels and ages (including kids), he’s also called upon for guided daylong ski tours, heli-skiing adventures, full weekend programs, season passes, equipment rental, lodging and restaurant recommendations. ‘’We’re happy to do whatever you need for a great ski day or holiday,’’ he says.

The company is based in Megeve in the French Alps at the foot of Mt. Blanc: a one-hour drive from Geneva International Airport, a one-hour flight from London or Paris. The village lies in the Haute-Savoie region of Southeastern France and was developed as a ski resort in the 1920s by the Baroness Noémie de Rothschild. Megeve offers Michelin-starred restaurants, stylish shopping and a casino—while retaining its inviting old world charm. ‘’Megeve is a truly civilized ski area with a history that goes back more than 1000 years,’’  Mike says.  ‘’Horse drawn sleighs carry tourists all over during the peak periods and the village still has more than 40 working farms, where milk is produced to make local cheeses known all over the world.’’

Meanwhile, Mike tells me the Espace Mont Blanc ski domain covers a whopping 445 kilometers, has more than 100 lifts, is one of top six ‘’longest skiable areas’’ in France—and offers some of the very best views around. He offers ski services in Megeve, Saint Gervais, Chamonix, Les Contamines and Combloux, while day trips are available to Courmayeur and Cervinia.  More info on Megeve is here. Info on airports, airlines, ferries and car rentals appears on Mike’s site here.  

Once again this year, Ski Pros Megeve will be offering its Cervinia-Zermatt "Early Bird" ski trips, between November 1st and December 15th.  These are two- to five-day ‘’tune up’’ trips for all levels, on excellent snow, in the Italian and Swiss Alps, at 3,380 meters (11,089 feet). Trips are scheduled around your availability and pick up at Geneva International Airport (GVA) is included. 

Ski Pros Megeve
Tel +33 (0)6 81 61 06 15
Skype: mikemegeve
Twitter: @skiprosmegeve

Photos: The Alps surrounding Megeve, photographed by Roger Moss of Megeve from above, courtesy of Mike Beaudet in his element. Megeve dressed up for the holidays, courtesy of Regional map courtesy of Ski Pros Megeve. Piste map courtesy of

Friday, October 12, 2012

World-Class Opera and the Mall!

Ok, so get this. Did you know you can see the Metropolitan Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theater performing live, on the large screen, in high-def, at a shopping mall outside Avignon? The cinema is the Gaumont Pathé, located in a free-standing building in the parking lot of Cap Sud, a large ''centre commercial'' on a busy stretch of the N7 (Route Nationale 7), also known as the Avenue Pierre Semard and the Route de Marseille. (Before I learned about this, I thought the most interesting feature of this whole traffic-clogged road was the delightfully retro Bowling Avignon, tucked away on a little side street.)

But wait, there's more! The same screenings will also be held at certain Pathé cinemas in Nice, Marseille, Valence, Montpellier and well as the rest of France.
The Metropolitan Opera will be broadcast live from Lincoln Center in New York, 12 times between now and April, 2013. Tomorrow night at 6:55 pm you can see the Met's new production of Doniezetti's L'Elisir d'Amour. Then comes Othello (Oct 27), The Tempest (Nov. 10),  La Clemanza de Tito (Dec 1), Un Ballo en Maschera (Dec 8), Aida (Dec 15), Les Troyens (Jan 5), Marie Stuart (Jan 19), Rigoletto (Feb 16), Parsifal (Mar 2), Francesca da Rimini (Mar 16) and Haendel's Jules Cesar (Apr 27). Individual and package prices are available.

The Bolshoi Ballet, the largest ballet company in the world, takes its turn on the big screen seven times: Oct 21, Nov 25, Dec 16, Jan 27, Feb 10, Mar 31 and May 12. The broadcast is live from Moscow and the works include Swan Lake, Don Quijote, Romeo and Juliet and the Rites of Spring, among others. This is the third year that the Bolshoi has participated in the program.

The Netherlands Dance Theater will perform four times: Nov 15, Dec 20, Feb 7 and May 30. The NDT is the largest ''contemporary and neoclassic'' dance company in the world and this 2012/2013 season marks their debut in the Pathé cinemas series.

My friend Barbara Abeille reports that the whole experience is wonderful...that the theater offers comfortable, plush seating...and that it's rarely full. ''It's quite easy to get tickets, either online or at the theater box office,'' she says. ''And I've been quite impressed with how nice and accommodating the staff is at Cap Sud.  Also, if you have to cancel your ticket, it's very easy to get reimbursed, providing you cancel within a certain time frame prior to the performance.'' 

For tickets and more info, the Pathé Cinemas site is here. Select the Bolshoi, the Met or the Netherlands Dance Theater from the menu on the home page, then choose your city from the drop-down menu.

Barbara also clued me in that a similar program--this one called ''So Royal!'' and featuring opera and ballet from the Royal Opera House in London--begins Oct 23 at the Capitole Studios Cinema at Le Pontet, the enormous shopping center north of Avignon. Personally I think Le Pontet is the Tenth Circle of Hell (poor signage, confusing entry and exit ramps, one-way streets, etc.) but you're probably smarter than I am....and you can find info on that program here

Photos: 1. ''Casse Noisette'' (The Nutcracker to you and me) will be shown Thursday December 13 at the Capitole Studios Cinema at Le Pontet. 2. The Bolshoi's Romeo and Juliet is at the Pathé Cinema at Cap Sud on May 12, 2013. 3. The Bolshoi's Don Quijote is at Cap Sud February 10, 2013. 4. Renée Fleming as Desdemona in the Metropolitan Opera's Othello, which you can see at Cap Sud on Saturday, October 27, 2012.

Monday, October 8, 2012

French Food Film Now Playing in U.S.

The film Entre Les Bras, which was released in France in March and Germany in August, has now come to the U.S. It's in French with English subtitles and it tells the story of Michel Bras, one of the most influential chefs in the world, who has decided to hand over his renowned Michelin three-star restaurant to his son Sébastien. Having worked with his father for 15 years, Sébastien is ready. But turns out it’s not so easy to take over the family business when your father is, well, Michel of just 26 chefs in France currently holding Michelin's highest accolade. Filmed in Laguiole in the gorgeous Aubrac region of the South of France, home to the Bras family for generations, Step Up To The Plate (as the it's titled for the U.S. market), offers ''a rare glimpse into the Bras’ culinary process while capturing one of the most closely watched transitions in haute cuisine.'' The film has been selected for more than 30 film festivals worldwide to date.

Director Paul Lacoste has taught film directing for 15 years in Toulouse and at the same time, has directed shorts and medium-length works of fiction. In 2010, he wrote a play about religion and family, directed it, and adapted it for the cinema under the title Les Eaux Fortes. As an amateur cook and lifelong fan of Michel Bras’ cuisine, Lacoste asked the legendary chef if he could make ''a film portrait'' of him when he received his third Michelin star in 1999. This marked the start of a documentary series about nine major French chefs called Inventing Cuisine. In 2010, Lacoste approached Michel and Sébastien with the idea of a feature-length documentary--his first--about the handing-over of the restaurant. To make Step Up to the Plate, Lacoste trailed father and son for a year and edited it into four chapters: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring.

The New Yorker praised the movie as ''an intimate and immaculate film'' while the New York Times said ''If Step Up to the Plate were fiction, its players would deserve an award for best ensemble performance.'' Another review, in the Washington Post, is here.

The movie opened in New York a few weeks ago and is now working its way across the U.S.; it already came out in Taiwan and Spain and will also be coming to Canada soon. To see a list of U.S. cities and release dates, click here; more cities are being added so check back. (Unfortunately neither the U.S. nor the French distributor has info about the film's release date in other countries.) But for more on the film, check out the website and trailer or the Facebook page.

Above: Posters for the U.S. and French version of the film.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Fine French Travel Book Giveaway!

Edwin Mullins was a young boy when he discovered Roman tile shards on a riverbank near his home in Sussex, England. This led to a lifelong obsession with Roman history and for years, he's been scrambling over and under the half-buried ancient Roman ruins of Provence with his eager dog, Star, and beleaguered wife, Anne. The results of these expeditions can be seen in his latest book, The Roman Provence Guide, where he shares his vast knowledge of both the known sites and hidden traces of this ancient empire. 

The 192-page Roman Provence Guide was designed to appeal to anyone interested in ancient Roman and French history, archaeology, travel and more. And Mullins' very-kind publisher, Interlink Books, has graciously offered me two copies to give away here. Details on entering appear below.

Although the Roman Empire was eventually vanquished, its impact on the world has never vanished of course. In Provence particularly, Julius Caesar'’s grandiose plans live on in countless ruined aqueducts, monuments, triumphal arches, roads, temples, amphitheaters, baths, ramparts and other feats of engineering and architecture. Part historical account, part traveler’s companion, The Roman Provence Guide puts in historical context Rome’'s 600-year rule of ancient Provence, which also included regions of the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Rhône Valley. The guide also includes maps, black & white and color photos of the sites, a list of museums and visitor centers and a Further Reading List.

The Roman occupation of Provence (“Provincia” in Latin), lasted six centuries, beginning more than 100 years before the birth of Christ, and surviving until well after most of Europe had become Christian. Today the region remains richer in Roman monuments than any other place in the world, with vast amphitheaters, triumphal arches, paved roads and aqueducts spanning the countryside.

Provence owes its name to Julius Caesar, who described the region as “the Province of Rome.” It was then a much larger area, stretching westwards to include Languedoc and Roussillon as far as the Pyrenees, eastward to the Riviera and the Maritimes Alps, and northwards up the Rhône Valley as far as Lyon. This book covers much of that larger area while concentrating on present-day Provence and neighboring Languedoc, the heartlands of the former Roman colony. 

In the book, Mullins tells the story of how the Romans came to invade Provence, how they stayed to colonize it, and how they transformed Provençal cities into imitations of Rome. He relates how Emperor Constantine brought about the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity from his favorite city of Arles— and how the Romans were eventually driven out by the Visigoths.

The Roman Provence Guide features all the principal sites in the region as well as those rarely visited. It has separate chapters on triumphal arches, aqueducts, farming, city life, bridges and road-building, temples and shrines, theatres and amphitheaters. Another section considers the aftermath of Roman rule, the restoration of ancient ruins, and the debt we owe to the remarkable engineers who inspired the first great achievement in medieval church architecture known, appropriately, as “Romanesque.”

Mullins is a writer, journalist, filmmaker and the former art critic of London'’s Sunday Telegraph. His books include The Pilgrimage to Santiago, Avignon of the Popes, The Camargue, and the award-winning In Search of Cluny: God’s Lost Empire.  

The book is available directly from the publisher (click here or call US 800-238-5465), from Amazon and Barnes and Noble or in bookstores. But better yet, enter to win a copy by simply leaving a comment under ''comments'' below. Please be sure to leave your email address somewhere within the comment box or we won't be able to reach you; simply signing in with your website or Google account is not enough. The more creative your comment, the better. Bon Chance!