Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Volunteers Wanted to Restore Medieval Site

If you're thinking of visiting Provence next year, here's a way to learn new skills, give something back, leave your mark on an ancient village and meet people from all over the world.

Since 1969, the international non-profit volunteer program La Sabranenque has been devoted to the safeguarding and restoration of traditional rural architecture in Southern France. They're now accepting applications for summer 2019, to work at the medieval Provencale site and village called Saint Victor la Coste. La Sabranenque hosts 150 to 200 participants of all ages and nationalities annually. No previous restoration work is required but you must be at least 18; the oldest volunteer so far was 81.

Saint Victor la Coste is a picturesque village of roughly 1900 people in a beautiful setting 30 km northwest of Avignon. At the foot of a hill dominated by a medieval castle, the village overlooks a small vineyard-covered plain, with the Rhone Valley in the distance. The territory has been inhabited for several millennia; neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts have been found and several known Roman sites are nearby. Once part of the medieval domain of the Sabran family, vassals to the Count of Toulouse, it's known today for its historic buildings (including an 11th century church and a 13th century fort) and traditional rural village lifestyle.

The re-construction of the large structures in the hamlet is now done. This summer's projects include additional stonework tasks (uncovering and securing structural vestiges, improving dry stone terraces, etc.), establishing gardens and building a shelter for small wildlife.

Six-day volunteer sessions run Monday to Saturday, from June 3 to September 28. A fee of 300€ per week covers lodging (double occupancy, in traditional houses restored by La Sabranenque), all meals and activities. The food is Provençal family-style, featuring local vegetables and fruit, traditional cheeses, bakery-fresh breads and local wine. If you wish to stay two or more weeks, you can use your room and the kitchen over the weekend. There are ten participants maximum per session.

Volunteers work on the site in the morning and are also expected to participate in everyday activities such as kitchen work. Afternoons are free to explore and relax, with some historic tours and guided nature walks provided.

For more info, visit the Sabranenque sites here and here. Or email: info@sabranenque.com.

Photos: Scenes from summers past at La Sabranenque.

Friday, November 9, 2018

You're Invited: Thanksgiving in France 2018

Because I totally live to please you, once again I've rounded up a great selection of American Thanksgiving celebrations here in the South of France and in Paris. Who attends these gala soirées? Local expats of course, but also hungry French folks and other Europeans, travelers, house guests...whomever! All nationalities wanted and welcome! 

Over the years, many of my French friends have told me they love the idea of celebrating this American holiday...to meet new people, to sample unusual foods, to learn the history and traditions. At a friend's Thanksgiving in Provence a few years back, the Frenchman to my left told me he loved how the various dishes were served all at once, all on one plate, rather than in courses. Another said he was looking forward to his first taste of cranberry sauce, which he called red fruits jam

While the literal translation is Action de Grâce, most French people just call it Thanksgiving...except for my friend Philippe who refers to it as Merci Donnant, which he says "means absolutely nothing at all." 

Some of these feasts listed below are hosted by groups and clubs, who love non-members to join in; others happen in restaurants or hotels.  If you plan to be in Paris for the holiday rather than down south, I've included a number of celebrations there as well...and two links to help you find others. 

I’ve only listed the Thanksgivings that still had space available, as of today. Book soon because most have limited capacity and fill up.

For those of you hosting your own Thanksgiving or sharing in the food prep, I've provided three sources for ingredients such as fresh cranberries and cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, stuffing mix and more. When it comes to the big juicy bird, the Paris shop called The Real McCoy sells them both fresh and already roasted; more info about that is below. Elsewhere in France, most butchers will be happy to order a delicious dinde, if given enough notice, and some might even roast it for you. Just remember that the turkeys here in France are smaller than in the US...and don't forget leftovers!

If you're hosting or know of a Thanksgiving celebration that's not listed here, email me the info (provenceblog@aol.com) and I'll happily add it. 

And finally, while we're on the subject, I'm sending a very heartfelt thank you to all of you: for reading and supporting my blog...for sharing it with your friends....for commenting on the stories you particularly enjoy. I wish you all the most joyous and delicious Merci Donnant, wherever you plan to spend it!


The American Club of the Riviera's Thanksgiving is a gala, annual affair...large, elegant and extremely popular. This year it's in the Salon Belle Epoque at the Hôtel Hermitage in Monte Carlo on Thursday Nov. 22, starting with a 12:30 Champagne reception, followed by a luncheon feast of butternut squash velouté, stuffed turkey, apple and pumpkin tart. Book quickly as this event always sells out; 150 people are expected and it's first come, first served with priority going to member families. Last call for reservation payments is November 13th so you’ll have to hustle. All the info is on the ACR website here

MonacoUSA will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner in a private room at StarsNBars (Monaco) on Thursday Nov. 22, with the bar opening at 6:00 pm and dinner service starting at 7 pm. Seating is family style at communal tables. The menu: Stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, peas, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread. Desserts will be apple tart, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and brownies. Also included: a glass of wine, beer or soft drink, bottled water and espresso. On the large screen, you can see the Macy’s Parade, American football and a special JFK tribute. Cost: 50€ members, 55€ non members, 25€ for kids under 12. Space is limited, you must reserve through MonacoUSA and payment in advance is required; no payment at the door and no walk-ins allowed, sorry! All details are on the website here.

The MonacoUSA party just above is open to everyone but for those who don’t want to join the group, the all-you can-eat Thanksgiving buffet will be available at StarsNBars starting at 7 pm. Pricing is 45€ for adults and 20€ for kids, excluding drinks. The restaurant will also be serving its regular menu that evening. And turkey will be available as the plat du jour at lunch, starting at noon, for 18€ including a drink and dessert. To book: + 377 9797 9595. Questions: info@starsnbars.com.

The Riviera Chapter of Democrats Abroad invites you to a festive Thanksgiving pot luck at Holy Trinity Church Hall, at 11 rue de la Buffa in Nice, on Nov. 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. It’s open to members, Americans in the region and accompanying guests. Due to the size of the hall they can welcome just 35 people so you must RSVP. DA will provide the turkey and asks all guests to bring a prepared salad, vegetable or dessert to be shared. (Sorry, no cooking facilities available on-site). The closest parking is Palais de la Méditerranée or Grimaldi and there are several bus stops in walking distance. For a map and details, click here. For more info, to RSVP or questions: dafrance.riviera@gmail.com.


Once again my friend Jon Chiri, an American chef with 20+ years experience working in Provence, will offer a Thanksgiving lunch at Cuisine Centr'Halles, his cafe and cooking school at Les Halles, the wonderful indoor food market in Avignon. On Thursday Nov. 22, Jon invites you to join his family for a special holiday lunch from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. (The market officially closes at 1:30 pm so be sure to seated by 1 pm latest.) The Thanksgiving Plat du Jour (turkey with Jon's version of accoutrements) will be 24€ ...or 32€ with pumpkin pie. Wine and soft drinks are extra. To reserve: contact@jonathanchiri.com or +33 (0)6 46 89 85 33.

The Anglo-American Group of Provence welcomes the community to its annual family-oriented  Thanksgiving in Aix "with a spirit of appreciation for all that we share."  The party is Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4 pm (aperitif) and 5 pm (dinner) at Restaurant Le Verguetier, 7 chemin d'Eguilles in Celony (Aix), across from the Maison de Ste-Victoire. They'll have all the traditional foods: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Cost: Members are 29€ adults, 10€ (age 6 to 12) and 6€ (under 5).  Non members are 37€ adults and 18€ kids under 12. To book: Please specify number of adults and kids (with ages) and send check payable to AAGP to: Mari-Luz Saboui, 25 Chemin de Masse, 13710 Fuveau. Checks must be received by Nov 19. Questions? Email to: bobkeltz@aol.com

Biocoop - La Coumpagnie in Aix will host two Thanksgivings on Thursday Nov. 22. The first is a lunch which owner Rick Harrison says is "mostly for our curious French clientele - and it's always our biggest lunch turnout of the year!" The lunch will be less than 20€ pp.  (To reserve, see below.) Then comes the main event: a dinner starting at 7:30 pm. "We have a wide diversity of Americans, French and English people excited to attend," Rick says. As they did last year, the Marseille Chapter of Democrats Abroad will have their own space at the event and 40 to 50 of their members are likely to attend.  The meal will be 100% organic, 0% GMOs and 100% homemade from American family recipes! The evening starts with spiced wine and appetizers (stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs), then moves on to turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup...yes!), pumpkin and pecan pies and a classic cheesecake. Prices are 29€ adults and 19€ kids under 12; wine and beer are available for purchase. Reservations required for both lunch and dinner: +33 (0)6 81 34 85 74, rick@biocoop-lacoumpagnie.fr. 

Near Forcalquier, the restaurant Le Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue celebrates its annual Thanksgiving on Friday Nov. 23 at 8 pm. On the menu: an amuse bouche, brined and roasted turkey with dressing (made from bio sausage and chestnuts), homemade gravy and cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, roasted local Brussels sprouts,  pumpkin pie and chocolate pumpkin-seed torte with vanilla ice cream. Price is 25€ per person, without drinks. To book: +33 (0)4 92 75 33 00, maryvonne.kutsch@orange.fr.

At the restaurant L'Epicerie de Cecile in Beaucaire, chef/owner Cécile Guillo is all fired up to host her annual Thanksgiving fête, Thursday Nov. 22 at 8 pm. Seating is communal at large tables for 12. The price isn’t quite confirmed but expect to pay 25 to 30€ for dinner (with a couple glasses of wine) and live music (a pianist and a singer performing American hits from the 70s and 80s). Cecile is also happy to offer her traditional Thanksgiving meal on another day for any group that wants to book it, for a minimum of 15 people. To reserve: +33 (0)7 85 40 38 20.


There seem to be more and more Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris restaurants each year, ranging from the very-casual one at the Hard Rock Cafe (11:30 am to 11:30 pm on Nov. 22, 36€ pp, click here to book) to the very-posh one at Ralph's in Ralph Lauren's elaborately appointed store on the Blvd. St.-Germain (dinner Nov 22, with a set menu at 135€, reservations +33 (0)1 44 77 76 00). 

This year, the restaurant Sunday in Soho (at 7 rue Saint Marc in the 2nd arrondissement) will offer Thanksgiving for three nights (Nov. 22, 23, 24), with seatings at 7 pm and 9 pm. The 45€ price includes a glass of Champagne or the house cocktail. Reservations are online only and the owners say “Make sure to bring your appetite (and maybe some stretch pants) because our Thanksgiving feast is no joke!!”

For a few more Paris restaurants, hotels and wine bars serving Thanksgiving, click here and here.

If you want to join a group rather than do your own thing in a Parisian restaurant, sign up for Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday Nov. 20 with the American University Clubs of France. For the 3rd (and probably last) year, they're partnering with the famous Ladurée, known for elegant sweets since 1862, and will be dining in one of Maison Ladurée’s private salons with views on the Champs Elysées. You can have a drink there before, and the dinner officially starts at 7:30 in the restaurant, which is privatized for the occasion. Everyone gets a small gift to take home. Prices range from €72 to €94 pp and all the info is on the website here. Questions? contact@aucfrance.com.

Another club,  The American Club of Paris will hold its annual Thanksgiving at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris 3ème) on Thursday, Nov. 22 at 7:30 pmThe evening includes pre-dinner Champagne, an elegant Thanksgiving dinner, a private visit to the Museum's collections and temporary exhibit (including Country Life: Masterpieces from the Mellon Collection) and after-dinner drinks in the Club Room. The dress code is evening attire/black tie optional and roughly 50 people are expected. Members 150€; non-members and guests 175€. All the info is hereQuestions? contact@americanclubparis.org.

The popular Thanksgiving cooking classes at the cooking school La Cuisine Paris have already sold out...but they have another option for foodie fun that day. Called a Festive Food Tour this “class” explores not American but rather French holiday classics with a guided walk and tastings of wine, cheese and foie gras. All the info is here. The timing is 3 to 5:30 pm Thursday Nov. 22 (leaving you time for Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere) and the price is 110€ pp. For more info or to reserve: +33 (0)1 40 51 78 18, contact@lacuisineparis.com.


MyAmericanMarket.com sells lots of things you’ll likely need to prepare your holiday feast: cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, stuffing, gravy, corn syrup and more. They also have ingredients and treats for other holidays, too, such as eggnog and candy canes. They are 100% online and will deliver anywhere in Europe. The company uses various couriers but plan to order by Nov. 14 to get your goodies in time. Specific Thanksgiving foods are on a special page here. For info: contact@myamericanmarket.com.

The Franco-American owners of My Little America, Todd and Anthony, hail from Ohio and Brittany and launched their mail-order business “to make it possible for Americans and French people who have lived in the US to find their favorite foods easily, wherever they might live....and to help French people discover these ‘new’ and ‘exotic’ products." Today they import a wide range of American foods and ship them throughout Europe; mailing is free within metropolitan France for orders over 99€ and under 10 kilos. For Thanksgiving they sell cranberry sauce (whole berry and jellied), stuffing mix, turkey gravy, corn muffin mix, corn syrup (light and dark), graham crackers, canned pumpkin, cut sweet potatoes and more. See their Thanksgiving selection here. They also sell classics such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Toll-House Chocolate Chips, A-1 Steak Sauce, Jif Peanut Butter, A&W Root Beer and much more. Questions: contact@mylittleamerica.com.

In Paris, The Real McCoy is the Parisian go-to for American foods, particularly at holiday time.  In their shop (no mail order) they’re selling fresh farm-bred turkeys...or they’ll even roast and package it for you with stuffing and roasting juices. (Be sure to order at least a few days ahead.) Their roast turkeys average 5 kilos each; they request a 30€ deposit and then charge 11.50€ per kilo, bringing the total to around 80€. The Real McCoy also sells pecan and pumpkin pies, carrot cakes and cheesecakes...plus a wide selection of Thanksgiving products such as fresh cranberries and canned cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, pie fillings, yams, turkey bags, basters and more. They’re located at:  194 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 45 56 00, us.food@wanadoo.fr. No website but find them on Facebook here

Above: The much-loved, often-parodied painting is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" from 1942. Everyone in it was a Rockwell family member or friend; they were photographed individually and painted into the scene. Learn more about the painting and artist here