Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Two-for-One Meal Deals Oct 1 to 14

From October 1st to 14th, restaurants all over France will be offering special "buy one, get one free" three-course menus in the 9th annual Tous au Restaurant promotion.

Launched in 2010 by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, it's meant to encourage people to eat out: in mom-and-pop bistros, in top Michelin-starred restaurants and everything in between.

So what's the deal? Book online and order the special Tous au Restaurant menu and a second person at the table enjoys the same menu free. (Pas mal!, as the French would say, when something is very good indeed.) Participating restaurants can choose whether to offer the menus at lunch or dinner or both...and on which days at what times. In some cases there's no choice; you eat what the chef is serving. In many cases however, you have multiple choices for each course.  

Last year more than 200,000 people reserved tables to enjoy the promotion in 1500 restaurants. This year, an estimated 2000 restaurants are expected to take part. The booking site went live this morning and restaurants are still being added so if you don't see one you like, check back...but be aware that the most-popular places sell out quickly.

To get started, click here and choose your region or city from the drop down menu. (You might need to play around with it a bit. For example, for Provence you can choose Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur where you'll find all the listings...or choose one of the specific cities that comes up. For Paris you can choose "Paris" or a specific arrondissement.)  Then, click the links to view the restaurants' special menu and prices.  You'll see that most restaurants also publish selections from their regular menu as a convenience...but the two-for-one Tous au Restaurant menu is clearly noted. Then, to see the available dates and times, click the green bar that says Reservez une Table. You'll be asked to choose your day, time and party size...and then be taken to another page to input your name, email, phone and any special requests. I assume they follow up with a confirmation of your booking by email. The site is only in French this year but it's fairly easy to figure out.

If you book and then need to cancel, you can do that through the site as well. If you reserve but don't show, you'll be blocked from making future bookings.

Organizers say the two-week festival is not designed to be a money-maker—many restaurants just break even--but rather to get people out discovering and enjoying. It’s a great opportunity to sample a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try...or to act like a big shot and treat your friends to a fancy meal. Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fall in Provence: Cruising the Rhône

The weather is wonderful in Provence right now: sunny days and cool evenings. In Avignon, a nice thing to do on a warm afternoon is a 60-minute site-seeing cruise on the Rhône that's only 12€ for adults and 2 € for kids age 2-8. When I travel I love to get out on the water, if possible, and there aren't so many ways to do that in my part of Provence. This is a good one: easy to book last minute, super relaxing and cheap!

The 60-minute tour on La Saône sails upstream along the town walls, so you can see the Rocher des Doms and the Pont St Bénezet, the famous Avignon  bridge. Then it heads over so you can discover the Philippe Le Bel Tower of Villeneuve Les Avignon and its historic Fort St André.  

In September, the one-hour cruises are offered at 3 pm and 4:15 pm. Reservations aren't required and tickets can be purchased 15 minutes prior to departure. Cruises run every day, until the end of the month.

A slightly longer "Popes Cruise" leaves at 12:30 and returns at 2:30; it's offered September 28, October 2, October 30, November 8 and December 8.

Full-day luncheon cruises are offered in autumn as well. These include one to Arles (leave at 11:30 am, return at 6:45 pm), one to Tarascon (11:30 to 6:15 pm) and a "Winemakers Cruise" (12/12:30 to 4 pm). There's an afternoon Disco Cruise (with music from the '80s and dancing) and a number of dinner cruises as well. Details about all of them are here. The company operates year round, with a schedule that changes each month. 

To see what's offered each day, see monthly schedules here but be sure to choose your preferred month from the drop-down menu.

Where to park? If you know where the Ferris Wheel is in Avignon, that's a great lot to park in; it's called the Le Parking des Allées de L’Oulle (good luck pronouncing that!). But the Ferris Wheel comes down for the season on September 23 so best to just GPS the parking lot, which is directly in front of the tour boats. Or leave your car wherever it is in town and walk over...the dock is just outside the city walls.

Mireio Croisieres
Le Chardonnay, Le Mireio & La Saône
Allée de l'Oulle 
Tel +33(0)4 90 85 62 25
Fax +33(0)4 90 85 61 14

Note from Julie: Sometimes people ask if they can pay me to write about them but the answer is no, there's no pay for play on Provence Post! I write about the things I think my readers would most enjoy learning about...that's it.  And I make it a point to not to write about my advertisers, for obvious reasons. But no sooner had I posted this story than Google put an ad on my blog for the very same company, Mireio. Those of you who know about Google Adwords know how it works...they place ads on your site that specifically target who they think your readers are and what they think interests them. So if you see that ad like I do (and you may not), well that's how it got there...twasn't my doing and I'm not promoting an advertiser here. I just enjoy these cruises and thought you might too!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Journées du Patrimoine is This Weekend

It's that time again: The wonderful annual Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) takes place tomorrow and Sunday, September 15 and 16, in cities and villages all over France; a few have activities today as well. The program was started by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's called European Heritage Days). This is the 35th year, the theme is "The Art of Sharing" and roughly 17,000 sites are participating. It's one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The idea is that a wide range of historic monuments, buildings, estates, gardens and domaines are open for special visits...along with many sites that are normally closed to the public. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit (most tours and talks are in French) and most offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. 

The website with all the participating venues is here (or in English herebut you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the region-by-region Patrimoine page here lists just two participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But as in years past, the village has published its own terrific guide and this year there are 24 participating sites. You can see them all, with the map, hereYou can also pick up a printed copy at the Tourist Office or at most of the participating sites.

The best idea is to choose the village you wish to explore, pick up or download their schedule as early as possible and map your route, because some events happen only at certain times.

Here are some listings for various Provence departments, to get you started: Alpes-de-Haute-ProvenceAlpes-MaritimesBouches du Rhone, the Gard (not really Provence but never mind), the Hautes-Alpes, the Var and the Vaucluse

And here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence and they should be able to help. Enjoy!