Monday, June 30, 2014

Gigondas Sur Table is Monday July 21

In the heart of the Southern Rhône wine region, the 3rd annual Gigondas Sur Table will be Monday July 21. This year, five top Provencal chefs will serve tasting portions of their dishes--appetizers to desserts--and 40 local winemakers will be pouring. The cheese course will be provided by one of the top purveyors in the region, Claudine Vigier, who has the title Meilleure Fromagère de France. It all happens on the village square (Place Gabrielle Andeol) in Gigondas, from 7 pm to around 11 pm. Tickets are 35€ per person, 10€ for kids under 12, and reservations are essential. To book: or call 04 90 37 79 60. To see the press kit in French, which lists the chefs and winemakers participating, click here. For general info on Gigondas and its wines, click here or or find them on Twitter: @Gigondaswines.

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Bordeaux Wine Fest Celebrates L.A.

The ninth edition of the bi-annual Bordeaux Wine Festival (or Fete le Vin) takes place this week, from Thursday, June 26 to Sunday, June 29. More than 500,000 people—and 800 to 1000 winemakers--are expected to attend and tickets are still available.

The festival launched in 1998 and alternates years with the Bordeaux River Festival.

Featuring wines from the 80 appellations of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine, the Fete le Vin is considered one of the world's premier wine tourism events. Most of the action takes place on the quays of the Garonne River, in the historic heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
The economic impact for the city is estimated at 20 million.

Bordeaux has a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, making it the largest wine growing area in France. Grapevines were  introduced here by the Romans,  probably in the mid-1st century,  and wine production has been continuous in the region ever since.

This year's festival highlights the 50th anniversary of the twinning of Bordeaux and its sister city in the US, Los Angeles. Yep, Los Angeles is the guest of honor!

For me that's especially exciting as one of my greatest old chef pals, John Sedlar, is coming to cook. John is a widely known expert in Latin American and Modern Southwest cuisines, whose latest restaurant Rivera, has been a smash hit in LA for the six years it’s been open.

This fall, he’ll launch Eloisa in Santa Fe, named for his beloved grandmother Eloisa Martinez Rivera, who--along with his mother and aunts--taught John to cook at home in Abiquiú, New Mexico. John's aunt Jerry was Georgia O'Keeffe's personal chef in Abiquiú for 15 years.

John is the only American chef invited to cook at Bordeaux. And boy, will he cook: he'll be presiding over an extraordinary buffet of events throughout the weekend.  These include: a welcome reception hosted by the consul general of the US in Bordeaux, the honorable Thomas Wolf;  one course of a seated luncheon in the Bordeaux City Hall for 150 guests; a “revisiting the hamburger” cooking demo with chef Christophe Giradot (he’s making  ahi tuna burgers with Korean kimchi); Los Angeles-inspired hors d’oeuvres and cocktails for execs of Air France; a cooking demo highlighting the products of Aquitaine; four consecutive nights of a pop-up restaurant in collaboration with chef Francois Adamski of the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gabriele (he’s serving Baja ceviche and squab mole); and the main course of a gala dinner for 350 guests at the Palais de la Bourse. He’ll also present a “deconstructed tequila tasting.”

To help, John is bringing two of his chefs, one media assistant and one agronomist..."because we had three aeroponic towers shipped in advance to grow my Meso-American micro herbs,” he explains. “We're collaborating with the Ecole Horticulture in Bordeaux and then gifting the aeroponic towers to the school."

John also shipped other supplies ahead--his distinctive plates, taco fry baskets—and  he’s traveling to Bordeaux this week with chile pastes, tortillas, corn husks and other ingredients from which he’ll whip up plate after plate of his signature cuisine.

All told, a contingent of more than 50 people are flying in from LA to celebrate the event.

The heart of the festival will be a 2 km-long "wine road" where visitors with a Tasting Pass can discover countless wines and vintages. To chat up winegrowers and merchants, they'll head for the ten Appellation Pavilions and Vintage Pavilions.

As in years past, lots of activities and special events planned are planned. There will be special Wine Festival menus in restaurants, the showing of art by 200 artists, some of them from California, a cinema devoted to classic Hollywood films and the Jardin des Arts, where street artists will be customizing giant bottles.

The Bordeaux Wine School will offer several introductory training courses every day. The 1855 Passport lets visitors to take part in Master Classes on great classified growths in the prestigious salons of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In conjunction, the Bordeaux Wine Festival will host the Bordeaux Music Festival, featuring four concerts in four days (tickets 30€)  plus a sound and light show entitled "Rendez-vous à Bordeaux" and fireworks every evening on the quays.

And last but not least, those who purchase the festival's Vineyard Pass are invited to visit and taste in exquisite châteaux. Different theme tours will depart everyday from the festival.

Ticket options include:

*Tasting Pass (15€ if purchased beforehand, 20€ at the event): 13 tickets + glass + glass holder + " transport ticket + advantages

*Vineyard pass (60 to 145€)

*1855 Passport (65-150€)

For all the info, click here ( To see a video from last year’s Fete, click here. For general Bordeaux info, you can call +33(0)5 56 00 66 00  or go to

Photos: (1) A festival shout out on a gorgeous old facade. (2) Los Angeles-based chef John Sedlar is the only American invited to cook--and he'll be cooking up a storm. (3) Most of the action takes place on the quays of the Garonne River, in the historic heart of the city. (4) There are also gala meals in gorgeous salons. (5, 6) The festival at dusk...and lit up by nightly fireworks. (7) This year's logo.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Celebrating the 4th of July in Provence

All Americans in Provence--along with anyone else who wants to celebrate American Independence Day--are invited to three 4th of July celebrations, one on July 4, one on the 5th and one on July 6th. 

On Friday evening, July 4th, the American Club of the Riviera has arranged a reception and dinner at the wonderful Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat. For all the details, click here

The Marseille Chapter of Democrats Abroad will hold an Independence Day Yard Sale and Potluck BBQ on Saturday July 5. The Yard Sale starts at 3 pm and the BBQ at 7 pm​. The location is 54 rue des Flots Bleus, 13007 Marseille. (Donations for the yard sale are happily accepted but must be received by June 30. For those of you in Aix, there will be a pick up date in late June. For info on donating, contact: Paulette Theodore at 06 84 65 79 30.) To RSVP for the potluck, contact: 06 27 28 28 60.

On Sunday July 6, the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will hold its potluck BBQ celebration at a private home in Isle sur la Sorgue, from noon to 4 pm. This beautiful setting has a large lawn area that borders the Sorgue River and people will definitely be swimming. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share with at least five others, a bottle of wine and something for the barbeque. Camping chairs and picnic supplies are also appreciated. Please RSVP before July 1 to Dennis Shibut and let him know what dish you'll bring to share. His email:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Château Shopping in France?

This is kind of fun: HGTV and Magilla Entertainment got in touch the other day, looking for families who are about to buy and renovate "a castle, château or very large estate" in Europe. If that's you and you want to be considered for a new TV series, you should email: Be sure to include your name, location, phone, photos of yourselves, photos of your new property and a brief paragraph about your story. And if you haven't found the perfect property just yet, you may be in luck...because look what I just found online. This nine-bedroom, 18th-century château above is set on 83 hectares--near Lourmarin and Ansouis in the Southern Luberon region of Provence--and it's for sale. The main house (a Provençal bastide) has more than 1000 square meters of living space, while the property features a farmhouse, hayloft, winery, stables, garages...and even a preserved private chapel with frescoes. It all sits at the edge of a magnificent 31-hectare, wholly private lake. The property is less than an hours drive from Marseille Airport, 30 minutes from Aix. The price is upon request but whatever it is, you're worth it! For more info, click here and then use location Luberon.

Friday, June 6, 2014

This Weekend and Next at the Pont du Gard

The 2,000-year-old aqueduct called the Pont du Gard is one of the most magnificent sites in Provence; I never get tired of tromping around on it, photographing it and splashing around in the water beneath it.  And my favorite Roman relic is even more spectacular when she’s all lit up with video, light, flame and fireworks as she is each summer during a popular evening sound-and-light show series called “Les Féeries du Pont’’ (Fairies of the Bridge). 

This year’s show is called Le Magicien d’Eau. It will be presented four times in June, on Friday and Saturday evenings: June 6, 7, 13 and 14, 2014. Showtime is 10:30 p.m or at dusk. But definitely arrive early as there are some "animations" before the main event, probably starting around 7 p.m. 

Once again, the producer is Groupe F, the internationally acclaimed pyrotechnicians known for shows at the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Olympics. If you want a smile, have a look at their website; their work is over-the-top wonderful. I think the Romans would love it! 

The Pont du Gard site will be open all day, as usual, but separate tickets are required. Seating will be on the right bank of the river so if you arrive on the left bank, you must be in by 9:30 pm in order to cross the bridge; the gates to the Pont du Gard park will close at 9:30. Bring cushions, chairs and blankets or you'll be sitting on the ground; the shops on site also sell seats if you forget. My best advice is sit as close to the bridge itself as possible.  ''And don't forget to bring also warm wears,'' my contact at the Pont du Gard sweetly tells me. 

Tickets for the Les Féeries show range from €16 to €23; kids under six are free. You can buy them online here or at the Pont du Gard box office at any time. They're also available at FNAC, Carrefour, Géant, Magasins U, and Group rates are available (for group rates call 04 66 37 51 10). If you have an annual pass to the Pont du Gard, you get a discount. Parking is free. 

Still not sure? You can see another video from a previous year, click here.  

So what about dinner? Casual food will be sold on site or you can bring a picnic in with you. There's also a restaurant called Les Terrasses that serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine (04 66 63 91 37). A special Féeries du Pont menu will be offered at Les Terrasses but the restaurant fills up very quickly so reserve early

For all the info on the Féeries du Pont show or on visiting Pont du Gard at other times, click here. For historical info, click here. To contact the Pont du Gard directly: or 04 66 37 50 99....and yes, they speak English. 

If you want to catch a Groupe F fireworks show at another time,  go to their site here and click rendezvous to see the 2014 schedule. After Les Féeries du Pont, they’ll be staging shows in Provence on the following dates: 

July 5: Martigues
July 13: Salin de Giraud
July 14: Arles
July 14: Martigues

There will also be a special Groupe F show at the Eiffel Tower this year on July 14, Bastille Day. 

Finally, if you plan to be in Paris this summer,  you can get a taste of Groupe F at the Chateau de Versailles, where they're once again staging their musical fountain display called ''Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes.'' It's on certain evenings from June 21 to September 13 and the schedule is on the Versailles website here. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Have You Herd? Transhumance is June 9...

Monday June 9th  2014  is the annual Fête de la Transhumance in St. Remy, where local shepherds herd their flocks (roughly 3500 sheep and goats) three times around the village's circular "main drag" before taking them up to graze the green pastures of the Alpilles Mountains for the summer months. They say the Transhumance in St. Remy is one of the "100 Prettiest Festivals in France" and even though I can't find that referenced anywhere, let's just go with it. If you haven't seen the Transhumance, it's great good friend Philippe calls it ''sheep cooking in the streets.'' It starts officially around 10:30 am but arrive by 9:30 to find parking. Also, there's an all-day flea market on the Place Republique, starting at 9 am. Other villages in Provence have Transhumance festivals but St. Remy's is one of the biggest and most popular. 

Afterwards, everyone flocks  to the Plateau de la Crau for sheep-herding demos (starting noon-ish) and a community lunch.  Want to party like a shepherd? Here's your chance: The Repas des Bergers de la Transhumance (Transhumance Shepherds Lunch) begins at 1 pm and all are welcome. The menu: grilled lamb chops and gigot, stewed beans, green salad, cheese, dessert and all the wine you care to drink (but don't forget: good shepherds don't let other shepherds drive drunk!) The lunch is popular and might sell out so reserve ahead if you can (call 06 16 78 61 55) and arrive early. Lunch is 25€ per person, 1/2 price for ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under 5.  To get there: leave St. Remy direction Avignon; turn right (direction Noves) at the first rond-point outside town, then turn left at the next rond-point. The street will be blocked so park at the school and walk up the gentle hill about 10 or 15 minutes. Or, just walk from town, which takes about 30 minutes.

For more info on Transhumance, call the St. Remy Tourist Office (04 90 92 05 22) or click here.  And, you can watch a nice video here...

Photos: Thanks once again to Guy Butters for the Transhumance photos. You can visit Guy's website here and see more of his wonderful photography here and here. You can also follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. The bottom photo is courtesy of