Saturday, May 19, 2018

Party Like a Shepherd on Monday

Wool you be there? Monday May 21 is the 35th annual Fête de la Transhumance in St. Remy, when 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. It's always the Monday of Pentecost and if you haven't seen it, it's great good fun. An all-day flea market and goat-cheese fair starts at 9 am on the Place Republique; the Transhumance starts around 11 am but arrive by 9:30 to find parking. 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 at 12:30-ish) and the Repas des Bergers (Shepherds' Lunch). The event has become super popular and it sold out weeks ago but--lucky you!--my friend William in St. Remy has six tickets to sell at face value (30€ each, cash only please). If you want them, call him quickly +33 (0)6 07 82 66 63 so you can set a time and place to meet. The feast will include 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!

To get to the Plateau de la Crau: leave St. Remy on the D571 direction Eyragues/Avignon; turn right on the D99 (direction Noves) which you'll find at the first rondpoint (roundabout) just outside town, then pass the BricoMarche and turn left at the next rondpoint. The street will be blocked so park at the soccer field or by the school and walk up the gentle hill about 10 or 15 minutes. Or, just walk from town, which takes about 20 minutes.

For more info on Transhumance, call the St. Remy Tourist Office at +33 (0) 4 90 92 05 22.  And don't miss their lovely Transhumance video here.  

Photos: (1) Courtesy of Philippe Donnart. (2-4) Photos courtesy of Guy Butterssee more of  his work here and here. (5) Photo courtesy of Shepherds' Lunch under the trees, courtesy of St. Remy Tourist Office. (7) This year's poster.

Monday, May 7, 2018

You're Invited: A Day for Food, Wine & Fun

The 7th annual Envie Epicurieuse happens Sunday May 20...a day devoted to nature, hiking, food, wine and music. I went with friends last year and it reminded me of one of those weddings where everyone's all pretty and proper at first, sticking with their family and friends, and next thing you know no one's in his original seat, dogs are sneaking cake off tables, people are napping under trees and Grama's dancing with God knows who. Loved it!

This year there's a new venue, the Domaine La Réaltière in Rians, an historic village in the northwestern Var, not far from Mont Ste. Victoire. 

Just like in previous years, the day starts with a guided group hike for those who want it; my contact Aurelie says it's a fairly easy hike that should be do-able for just about everyone. If you want to hike, meet at Domaine La Réaltière at 10.30 am. If you don't, arriving at 11:30 or 12 should be fine.

Following a post-hike apero, everyone will settle in at long communal tables for a fantastic afternoon celebrating local food and wine: five courses paired with eight wines. The day should wind down around 5 pm but if last year was any indication, it won't.

Wines this year will be poured by four of the best winemakers in the area: Peter Fischer (of Château Revelette in Jouques), Christian Valensisi (La Chapelle Saint Bacchi in Jouques), Bengt Sundstrom (Château Vignelaure in Rians) and your host Pierre Michelland of Domaine La Réaltière.

Lunch will be prepared by top chefs Nicolas Monribot from Le Millefeuille and Ludovic and Laura Aillaud of L’Épicurien, both of them restaurants in Aix.

And once again, award-winning boulanger Manu Barthélemy will be on hand bearing baskets of his superb breads. And once again he'll serenade the crowd, singing traditional Provencal songs in his magnificent operatic voice.

The master of ceremonies this year is sommelier Hakob Yessayan, who has worked with some of the top chefs in France including Alain Ducasse, Michel Trama and Georges Blanc. Today Yessayan runs the wine program at chef Gilles Goujon's Auberge du Vieux Puits, the Michelin three-star in Fontjoncouse, over in the Aude. 

Kids are welcome from age 6 or 7. There will be babysitters and a special lunch for them.

Tickets are 110€ per person and 25€ for kids, the max is 180 people and the event will sell out so book right away if you plan to. It's best if you book through the website here but you can also call or email: +33 (0)6 11 53 27 01, Dress is extremely casual, particularly if you plan to hike. Hotel suggestions and lots more info are on the website. Hope to see you there! 

Photos: Scenes from last year's event. All photos by Sophie Bourgeix except the last two.