Friday, August 29, 2014

Art + Sculpture Show Opens Tonight

Sorry for the short notice on this one, folks. But there's a lovely art show and sale opening tonight so I thought I'd slip it in here quickly. The annual show is called ABBYAC and it's on view through September 7 in the gorgeous gardens of the Abbaye Saint-André (at the hilltop Fort Saint-André) in Villeneuve les Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon. Twenty-three artists will be showing sculpture,  engravings,  ceramics and installations. The vernissage (opening party) is tonight, from 6 pm to 9 pm, and everyone is welcome; most artists will be present. Entry tonight and for the duration of the show is 6€ for adults and free for kids under 8; reduced and family prices are available. The show remains on view every day from 10 am to 6 pm. There's parking on the hill so just drive on up...and don't miss the great views of Avignon. The site for the Abbaye (with directions) is here...and there's info in English here...and a bit more info on the show is here. This year's show is in partnership with Galerie 22 in Coustellet.  Bon Weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thinking of Buying in the South of France?

Besides ''Are you married to a Frenchman?" "When will the lavender bloom?" "Do you miss New York?" "How did you come to live in Provence?" "Do you ever go home to the US?" "Do you hang out with Peter Mayle?" and "How's your French?"... the question I'm asked most often is probably ''Is it hard to buy property in France?"

The answers, by the way, are:  no, late May or early June, sometimes, long story, yes, no, better every day...and sort of.

If you're curious about that last one--buying real estate in France--Adrian Leeds can definitely help. She makes her living doing all sorts of things (tv shows, blogging, consulting, writing books, workshops) pertaining to the topic. She's not an advertiser on my blog (but should be!) and she's not a friend of mine (we've never met)...but I know and admire her work. And since she has a mini-conference coming up, I thought I'd share the info because so many people I hear from seem to be dreaming of--or actually planning--to buy in France. 

Adrian is the editor of Parler Paris and Parler Nice (which she calls nouvellettres), and the French Property Insider. She appears frequently on House Hunters International as an expert on French real estate...she's been on 19 episodes since 2006. Adrian and her team provide a wide range of services for buyers, sellers, owners and renters in France; you can read about what they do here.

Adrian will present "Living and Investing in France--Nice and the Côte d'Azur" on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. In her words: "You'll learn how to own a 'pied-à-terre' of your own on the Riviera, in Paris or in the countryside that you can enjoy when you want...or profitably rent when you like...or just make a smart investment, plus ask me all of your questions about owning property in France." Lots more info on the conference is here.

The Mini-Conference Details

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
6:30 pm to 9 pm
The Hotel Ellington, #25 Blvd. Dubouchage, 06000, Nice.
6:30 pm.: Cocktails and registration on the patio
7 pm: Presentation by Adrian Leeds
8 pm: Q & A
9 pm: Cocktails/Snacks on the patio:
   Wine/Beer/Soda 5€ 
   Cocktails/Champagne 8€
   Charcuterie or Cheese 8€
Entry fee: 35€ advance, 45€ at the door. Limited seating available. To book for the conference, click here. For general inquiries, email or call: or +1 (877) 880 0265.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Big Lavender Festivals Coming Up

Provence produces nearly 80% of the world’s lavender and the famously alluring flower blankets the countryside every  June and July. That’s when lavender perfumes the breeze…lush rows stripe the countryside in soft-violet-to-inky-blue hues...and traffic slows to an escargot’s pace as travelers leap from rented Renaults trying to snap the perfect photo.  Harvesting continues through September and is mostly mechanized although, in some areas, lavender is still cut by hand and collected in cloth sacks slung over the back. Today, about 20,000 acres of lavender flourishes here annually although most of it is reserved for the making of cosmetics and perfumes (the name comes from the Latin lavare: to wash). It’s hard to find a farmhouse in Provence without at least one lavender bush...and if it weren’t for good old Lavandula, many Provencal painters (and postcard makers!) might go broke. Toodling round the South of France you'll find lavender lurking everywhere: in sachets, in digestifs, in dishes savory and sweet.

The best way to experience the purple reign is out in the shimmering fields…but alas you’re too late for that this year. Still, there are plenty of ways to experience lavender this month, such as a visit to the Lavender Museum (Musée de la Lavande) in the Luberon town of Coustellet. They do a great job of explaining the process of lavender production with interesting exhibits and good English info. It’s popular with tour groups, smells great inside, and offers the ultimate “if they made it with lavender, we sell it” gift shop (€6, daily 9 to 7,, 04 90 76 91 23). It’s just off D-900 toward Gordes.

You can also visit lavender farms and distilleries both during the growing season and afterwards; more on that appears below.

The main commercial lavender-growing area is the triangle between Sault, Banon and Sederon, and another prominent area spreads out on the other side of Mont Ventoux, north of Nyons. The Tourist Offices in those areas will have info on which distilleries and farms you can visit when...and they’ll give you a “Lavender Route” map.

But a really great way to celebrate lavender at harvest time is at a lavender festival. The one in the village of Valreas has already come and gone but two biggies are coming up, in the villages of Sault and Digne les Bains. The village fathers graciously planned them a week apart, so you can hit both. Here’s all the info.


The 29th annual Fete de la Lavande is August 15, 2014. Most activities happen at the Hippodrome du Defends and there’s shuttle service from the village center. 

The day begins with mass at 9:30 at l'Eglise Notre Dame de la Tour and the festival opens officially at 10 am. Ongoing all day are a book fair, art exhibit and sale, arts-and-crafts crafts show, pony rides, a lavender field in Centre Ville, lavender ice cream and much more.  Here’s the rest of the schedule:

10:30 & 3:00 pm: Folkloric parade and exhibition of agricultural equipment.

11:45: Award ceremony for lavender championships.

12:30: Picnic. Open to the public; more info is here. Tickets are 21 euro per person and you can book ahead(04 90 64 01 21) or, if there’s space, join in the day of. 

2 pm:  Workshops and demos on everything you can do with lavender such as essential oils, bouquets, etc.

3 pm: Presentation of the parade groups.

3:30 pm: Lavender games.

5:00 pm: Sault choir concert.

To see the schedule in a PDF, click here.

For more info : 04 90 64 02 30,,

For general info about the village:


The 93rd annual Foire de la Lavande,  runs from August 21 to 25, 2014. There will be 200 exhibitors, food and local products, performances, an art exhibit, demos of the distilling process, a golf tournament, a guided distillery visit, guided lavender walks, evening entertainment and much more.  All events are free and virtually all take place in the village center, on the Place du General de Gaulle.  The hours are 10 am to 8:30 pm daily. Local restaurants will b offering special menus for the duration of the fest. For more info :  04, 92 31 05 20,,


Sault is considered the epicenter of commercial lavender farming in Provence and their Tourist Office can provide great lavender info. Some farms and distilleries around Sault that welcome the public, depending on the day and the season, are:

*Les Lavandes du Gaec Champelle. A large farm with a pretty little shop ; they’ll happily offer you a tour if you reserve ahead, a couple days in advance if possible. They don’t speak much English but they’ll do their best. They have roughly 80 hectares of lavender/lavandin and cereals (primarily wheat or épautre), which they wholesale throughout the region. The farm as been organic for six-plus years.  You’ll see huge hangers of lavender and old machinery that’s still in use. (Located on the Route du Ventoux outside Sault, 04 90 64 01 50, 06 82 53 95 34,

*Les Vallons de Lavandes. A farm and distillery (with pretty chickens!) Here you’ll meet Sylvie Barjot, who runs the show with her mother, father and daughter. The do distillery demos during harvest time, on a set schedule, and guided 20-minute visits are sometimes available by appointment.   Or just drop in, smile nice and maybe someone will show you around. My friend Angela wrote a very nice story about them here. (04 90 64 14 83,

*La Ferme aux Lavandes offers tours of their lavender farm and nursery in summer and also has a "conservatory lavender garden’’ open from mid April to mid October. They have tables and chairs if you want to bring a picnic...and a boutique selling lavender-related products. (On the Route du Mont Ventoux outside Sault,  04 90 64 00 24,  06 82 93 52 09,

*Distillery Aroma'plantes is a traditional lavender distillery in Sault (Ferme La Parente, Route du Mont Ventoux, Sault, 04 90 64 04 02,,

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home from the Market...and Into the Kitchen

Earlier this summer, my friend William Moore, owner of Provence Paradise in St. Remy, began offering a regular Wednesday market tour and cooking class for his guests….and it's been a huge success. Now he’s opened it up to others as well: travelers, locals, anyone who loves the idea of a fun foodie day with new friends. The program is called “Home from the Market... and Into the Kitchen.”

Provence Paradise  is a "hamlet" of seven self-catering rental homes, on an historic property with shared pool and gardens. You can read what I wrote about it, a while back, by clicking here.

Every Wednesday, William’s terrific cook Marie Losada takes a group to the big outdoor market in St. Remy, where they gather ingredients for a splendid luncheon. Then everyone piles into a large kitchen back at Provence Paradise and prepares the meal together, with Marie guiding them. There’s learning, laughter and copious amounts of food made from farm-fresh ingredients.  It's safe to assume that the wine-soaked lunch will go all day…and that you’ll need a serious siesta afterwards!  (There are soft drinks and juices for kids and those who don’t drink.)

A typical meal might be a seafood and avocado starter; followed by fish filet in a ratatouille sauce or chicken Provencal over wild rice from the Camargue; a selection of local cheeses; and a tart made with the fruit of the season. It really depends on what looks best in the market.

The market tour, group cooking session and lunch with local wines costs €60 for adults and €45 for kids age 8 to 12. Add to that the cost of ingredients which everyone shares. Please book at least TEN days ahead and let William know how many are in your party; also let him know how to reach you (home or hotel number, cell number and email, please). The party only happens if there are six participants and the max group size is eight. For more info or to book: or 06 07 82 66 63.

Photos: (1) A guest at a recent "Home from the Market..." cooking session at Provence Paradise. (2) A stall at the Wednesday market in St. Remy. (3, 4) Two of the dishes prepared during a recent ''Home from the Market..." session were a main course of free-range game hen with Provencal "smashed" potatoes and a dessert called "Belle Helène."  The first course was an avocado soufflé with gambas and a cheese course came before dessert. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Biz-Class Airline for Newark/Paris

On July 21, a new "boutique airline" called La Compagnie began offering business-class-only service between New York/Newark and Paris on a redesigned Boeing 757-200. They're currently flying four to five weekly flights, with scheduled departures out of Paris Charles de Gaulle at 5:50 pm, arriving in Newark at 8:30 pm, and out of Newark at 9:45 pm, arriving in Paris at 11:15 am. 

Flights are priced at $1,378 USD round-trip for travel through September 15, 2014. Book before August 30 and fly before September 15 and you can get two round-trip tickets for $2014 USD.

The interior offers 74 “lie-flat” seats in a 2 x 2 configuration throughout a single-aisle cabin. The plane holds 74 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants. 

La Compagnie was created in October 2013 by L’Avion founder Frantz Yvelin with assistance from former Swissair and Jet Airways COO Peter Luethi. The launch follows a fundraising campaign that drew nearly €30 million from French and European investors – one of the largest amounts raised in France during the calendar year. La Compagnie expects to take delivery of its second Boeing 757-200  in December 2014.

In-flight menus are created by Christophe Langree, the chef of the Hôtel Matignon in Paris, which serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of France. Other features are amenity kits including Caudalie cosmetic products, free WiFi and a personal Samsung tablet--uploaded with an assortment of books, magazines, music and movies--for every seat.

To get to Provence, you can take the high-speed TGV train from Charles de Gaulle. It's roughly three hours to Avignon, 3.5 hours to Aix and little bit longer to Marseille. You can see train schedules here.

For more info on La Compagnie or to reserve:  call (800)-218-8187 (from the US) or 08 92 23 02 40 (from France) or go to: