Be sure to visit Saint Remy de Provence on Wednesdays. That’s when they have a huge outdoor market until about 1pm. The streets are lined with vendors selling food, arts and crafts, linens, jewelry, leather goods, candy, junk, etc., and there are lots of street musicians. I loved this excellent duo, although I couldn’t understand what the guy was singing.
This photo’s from an art exhibit (sculptures and paintings) we went to called, “Terre, Arbres & Forêts” (Earth, Trees & Forests) – artwork by artist/filmmaker Vincent Lajarige. This is one of the coolest venues for an exhibition held inside the Chapelle Sainte-Anne in Arles.
I shot this video on a pedestian shopping street in Arles, France one day and just stood in one place with my camera while people watching. Sorry I ddin’t have a tripod so it’s a little wobbly! I really love how the video turned out with the live music (accordion, violin) in the background, the two guys shaking hands but not stopping to chat with each other (does that happen in the U.S.? I dunno.), every day flower buying in the foreground, but what I love especially here is that everyone ignored me completely. I love being ignored! Really. This is what I love about France haha. It sort of reminds me of New York (being ignored) except there’s prettier architecture.
After you finish your walking tour of the Palais des papes (Popes Palace) in Avignon, and take the exit just outside the gift shop, you will be facing La Mirande, a luxury hotel with a Michelin star restaurant, cooking school and salon de thé. If you time it right, which is what we always try to do, arrive during tea time for absolutely delicious pastries and tea, coffee or unrivaled hot chocolate.
La Mirande is an elegant, beautiful, 700+ year old converted mansion, previously inhabited by generations of aristocracy. Now, it’s a little more casual. Afternoon tea is served in an bright, comfortable and protected atrium, a perfect place to rest your feet from hours of walking around Avignon.
The afternoon tea at La Mirande is offered for a flat fee of 11 euros, a steal. Just go help yourself to whatever you want. Drinks are ordered and served at the table. When we were there last, we actually didn’t eat much (not like us, normally!) so the waiter charged us less. Sweet!
Mikael Aupert is the dedicated pastry chef at La Mirande.
4, place de la Mirande
84000 Avignon France
Telephone: +33 4 90 14 20 20
Right about now, when people look out their windows in most of France (and other parts of the world), they’re seeing snow covered trees, houses, streets…well snow covered everything. It’s February, so that kind of weather is not surprising but it’s fairly depressing after a while. So, to cheer some of you up, maybe it’ll be a good time plan a trip to somewhere warm. How about Cannes? It’s not exactly warm there at the moment but in a a short month or two, it should start heating up. This year, will you decide to go the the Cannes International Film Festival in May? How about attending any number of the conferences, trade shows and exhibitions coming up in Cannes like MIPTV or IDEF to name just a few?
It’s probably not too early to reserve a place to stay in Cannes, and if you’re going to the Cannes Film Fest, there’s a very cool accommodation in Cannes, perfect for the celebrity lookiloos. This fully furnished, two-bedroom, luxury apartment for up to three people, not only has gorgeous views of the sea but there’s a terrace with a direct view of the Croisette and the red carpet right in front of the Palais, where the stars line for their close ups! This is ideal for the celebrity star gazers and worshippers.
Back to finding accommodations in Cannes. Born to Host has a long listing of various luxury villas, apartments and yachts to rent while you’re in the City of Luxury whether you’re going to the film festival or not. They will find places for you to stay any time of year, although the best time to visit Cannes, of course, is during warm months.
Born to Host
Telephone: +33 6 37 44 07 44 (Marine) or +33 6 03 44 28 77 (Maurice)
Website: accommodation cannes
If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll remember that we’d gone to Serge Chenet’s new restaurant last year. Since that time, Mr. Chenet earned his first Michelin star, so we thought we’d check him out again. We made it back to our favorite bed and breakfast in Provence – only twice this year!!! – and we decided to revisit one of our favorite restaurants in Provence just a few weeks ago, and we weren’t disappointed. It’s pure yum. If you’re ever in the area please consider having dinner here. Our party of five loved everything and came up with these photos (some dishes are missing):
Pizza grissini, candied cherry tomatoes, herring sorbet on toast
Trilogy of fish, roquette/cheese soup, cow cheek roll
Tenderloin of pork with a soft parmesan polenta and snow peas
Apple Pie Deconstructed
Restaurant Serge Chenet
Le Mas Saint Bruno
Chemin des Falaises
Phone : +33 (0) 4 90 95 20 29 Website
We can’t attest to the food in this restaurant but we can attest to the cuteness of the Deco Cafe. We were in Saint Remy de Provence for their famous, Wednesday street market and walked by this adorable cafe.
We were lucky to stumble upon a charming, 14th century, fortified medieval village called Villeneuve les Avignon (Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, Department: Gard), which sits atop Mont Andaon and is situated just a couple of miles outside of the city of Avignon, across the Rhône River. Instead of passing by it, we decided to see what was within the walls. No regrets because inside those walls we found a hidden gem, particularly the abbey and the Italian style gardens of Saint André.
During the same time as the Avignon festivals (July/August), Villeneuve has its own festivities, Villeneuve en Scène, with over 20 groups performing concerts, musicals and plays. Here’s a quick slideshow of some photos I took.
When I wrote about the Vin de Merde (shit wine), I clearly didn’t expect to receive a bunch of emails requesting how to get some. My apologies for not writing back. I didn’t know the answer at the time. But now I do – because we bought 2 cases (12 bottles) and received them in the mail today. And they’re easy to order, however, you have to be in France.
How to Order Le Vin De Merde, le pire cache le meilleur (the worst hides the best)!
1. Order it by calling Jean-Marc Speziale: 06 11 52 73 94
2. Send him a French check for the required amount (6,50 € per bottle) and include shipping fees as well (approximately 15 € per case of 6 bottles). Make sure you include your shipping address. Mail your check to: Jean-Marc Speziale, Le Vin de Merde, 2AE Les terrasses, 36150 Aniane.
3. Receive your Vin de Merde.
4. Drink your vin de merde.
It took about 2 weeks from the time we sent out the check, so it’s not too long of a wait. It was recently reported that they sold out of their famous vin de merde, but they still have some or they made a new batch (or whatever a “batch” is called in wine language). I don’t know if this batch is any good. We don’t drink wine usually so we will give them all away to friends and family, as a silly gag gift.
A Note about bringing wine back to the U.S.: Most people think that when you go from France to the U.S., you’re only allowed one liter of an alcoholic beverage. That depends on the state’s requirements where you land, so check ahead for specific requirements. And it’s possible that the one liter limitation is only true if you don’t want to declare it upon arrival. For many states, you can actually take more than a liter with you provided it is for personal use, it’s packaged correctly, and that you pay duty and an IRS tax. (taxed at around 3%). I don’t really like dealing with even more redtape or lugging around heavy, fragile items after an 11 hour flight, so we’ll be taking just 2 bottles to the U.S.
Le Vin De Merde Jean-Marc Speziale
2AE Les terrasses
36150 Aniane France
Although there are many ways to explore the Camargue, France’s sprawling area of protected marshland, my personal recommendation would be to see it on horseback. That is, if you’re up for that kind of thing.
Because the Camargue is designated as a botanical and zoological nature reserve, it seems fitting to try to see it all the while respecting nature and the wildlife all around. I love riding and I’d been wanting to go horseback riding for ages, so this was the perfect opportunity, and for me, the perfect way to see the Camargue. If riding on a big animal’s back is not your cup of tea, you have many options: jeep safaris, organized tours, and my second choice for seeing the area, bicycling. With many areas of the Camargue being off-limits to motorized traffic plus the advantage of such a flat terrain, you’re good on bike. Hills will NOT be a problem. Hiking’s also a good choice but you must be in enormously great shape to cover a lot of ground, and to run away from charging wild bulls. Just kidding.
photo from Les Arnelles
Looking for places to rent a horse to ride will not be a problem; they are everywhere. Just check out the place and owners a bit and examine the health of the horses. We visited three places before choosing Les Arnelles. The people working there were great, the horses were well taken care of, and since we had specific areas we wanted to see, they let us customize our ride.
If you plan on taking photos on horseback, I’d recommend bringing a small camera that you can use easily with one hand. I made the mistake of bringing my large camera, which is a little too clunky and heavy to use with one hand (carrying reins in the other hand), which is why I took very few pictures. Also, along the way, I lost my lens cover while we’d been galloping for a stretch. Doh!
NOTE: Don’t forget the mosquito repellent! Also try to bring some binoculars.
13460 Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer France
Tel: +33 (0)603 892 379 | +33 (0)686 601 515 | +33 (0)490 978 286
Website: Les Arnelles
This restaurant’s name probably doesn’t bug other people as much as it bugs me – but what on earth are people thinking in Nimes??? The restaurant is called, “Le Sake,” you know, “sake” being the alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice from JAPAN!? YET. The restaurant specializes in Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. That’s like calling a place Sombrero and selling underpants there.
You know what I mean.
I don’t care if the restaurant is good or not – I’m boycotting!
Before we get into Pink Flamingos, the non-John Waters and non-plastic-lawn-decor-in-Florida versions, let’s talk about the Camargue.
The Camargue is a vast, triangle-shaped stretch of isolated roads, fresh and salt water ponds, salt flats, rice paddies, tall reeds, and nationally protected plains in the south of France (below Arles) – about 360 square kilometers / 930 square miles between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the River Rhône delta. Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland, with the central portion of the Camargue being a protected haven for wild birds. The area is home to over 400 different species of birds. It’s also the main habitat for the famous Toro Camargue (The Camargue Black Bulls) and Le Camargue (White Mane gray horses called Camargue Horses in English), but by far, there’s only one species of birds that steals the main stage here: the pink flamingo. People from all over the world flock to France just to see them.
Camargue’s pink “greater” flamingo, the “Phoenicopterus Roseus” officially, is the largest species of flamingo. Their plumage is pinkish white with black and crimson wings and their unusually shaped pink and black beak acts as a sieve designed to separate mud from food. They honk rather ungracefully and sound similar to the honks of geese. They are very sociable animals and fly in large flocks, and will not breed unless there are huge numbers of flamingos around them, which finally leads to the point of this post!
The best time to see flamingos according to experts is during their reproduction process. Oui, mating season! When is that? In the Camargue, it is recommended to see the flamingos during the winter months, any time between November and March. However, THE most ideal time to visit is actually in January and February according to the Parc Ornithologigue, (where we saw the flamingos) just 4 kilometers from the center of Saintes Maries. 10,000 flamingo couples gather around to do their thing. This is apparently amazing to see, from what we hear if not for watching an incredible amount of flamingos in one place at the same time, but also for a peeping tom chance to become a voyeur to witness their sexual activities en masse. Another great opportunity is to watch the pink flamingos take off in flight, all together. This happens at sunset. So, ultimately, the very best time to see the flamingos in the Camargue is in January or February when the sun sets. You can easily spend a few hours at the Parc Ornithologigue beforehand. Just make sure to time it right.
The non-breeding flamingos hang out in the Camargue a good part of the year so you will be sure to see some during most of the year, but their numbers will vary depending on what time of year you visit. Go during sun set!
A Last IMPORTANT NOTE: The Camargue is also home to some seriously vicious mosquitos. They are gargantuan and relentlessly evil. So please be prepared to use repellent. Lots of it. Everywhere. Even if you are wearing thick clothing, they will bite you through jeans. If you happen to forget yours, you can ask the people at the entrance for repellent. They will kindly let you use theirs for free.
Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau
13460 Saintes Maries de la Mer
Tél : 04 90 97 82 62
Admission: 7 €, 4 € (10 year-olds and under)
Open all year. Hours: Vary so please contact them for hours.
Our MOF Discovery partners in crime, Chloé and Jacques, told us about an MOF Chef named Serge Chenet who just opened a restaurant near their bed and breakfast in Saint Laurent des arbres. We all, of course, HAD to go check it out and have dinner there. On s’est régalé. Absolutely no complaints here. It was divine, and we highly recommend it, not only for the most scrumptious dishes ever but also for discrete service, and very reasonable prices.
Les mises en bouches / starters
Brochette de boudin noir , sorbet de hareng sur canapé / blood sausage skewered wontons, herring sorbet with caviar on toast (there was a teeny triangle of lemon on top)
Soupe d’artichauds , parmesan agé et coriandre / artichoke soup with aged parmesan and fresh cilantro
Entrées / Appetizers
Duo de foie gras : poêlé à l’hypocras et sa figue rôtie , farcie à la figue / Foie Gras Duo: Seared slice of foie gras cooked in a mulled honey wine with a roasted fig, non-seared foie gras stuffed with fig
Duo de lapereau : Médaillons de Lapereau , feuilleté de lapereau / Leveret Duo: Medallions of Leveret (some people call these bunnies), puff pastry with leveret
Course principale / Main Course
Lieu jaune accompagné de purée de chou fleur sur un lit de mousse de cresson / Pollack with a puree of cauliflower in a bed of watercress mousse Read more of this article »
The dish, Moules Frites (mussels and fries), is practically an institution in France, which should be reason enough to sample some while you’re here, best eaten near the sea of course. These are from a brasserie called Le Belvedere in the southern seaside town, Saintes-Maries de la Mer, which is considered the capital of the Camargue.
We had a nice view of the beach and sea, sitting outside in the warmth of the provencale sun, munching on our moules and perfectly fried fries. (The restaurant had friendly service and reasonable prices, too.) What a great way to forget about the global financial deterioration spreading quickly around world…
21 Avenue de la plage
13460 Saintes-Maries de la mer France
Tèl : 04.90.97.92.87
We haven’t been too thrilled about the chilly weather that has descended upon us in Burgundy so we decided to head south to our favorite bed and breakfast home away from home in Provence, Apres la sieste in Saint Laurent des arbres, not far from Avignon. This is the fourth time this year we’ve been back. They can’t get rid of us!
It’s beautiful and warm, just what we needed. The olives are ripening.
Chill time in the warmth.
I saw this creepy praying mantis! Probably recently ate its mate and is now getting ready to lay eggs. I’ve never seen a real one before but it totally reminded me of Zorak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
Après La Sieste
2 suites, 3 rooms; breakfast included
Contact: Jacques et Chloé (English and French spoken)
Website: Après La Sieste
(Visit their site for more room photos, details and rates)
Telephone : 04 66 50 33 94
Mobile Phone: 06 61 84 58 40
Tired of the constant criticism aimed at the wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, specifically that the wines were “crap,” an independent vintner responded with a revolutionary and rebellious idea and created, “Le vin de merde” (Shit wine). The wine label will be hard to miss if you ever see it on a shelf because there’s a big fat fly on it as if it were sitting on a pile of poo. Brilliant and funny publicity stunt. The wine, however, is supposedly not crappy at all. Would make a fun dinner party gift.
“Paris Mushrooms, it’s when they’re in your mouth that they’re the happiest.”
Aside from this ad promoting Champignons de Paris (button mushrooms) in France being very, very cute, I’m wondering why the mushroom industry (if there’s a mushroom industry) needs to advertise in the first place. Is there an overproduction of mushrooms? I rarely see ads for other veggies like cucumbers or celery or artichokes or for any veggies, ever; really, this is strange to me. Is there a silent mushroom consumption grève (strike) or something? … So much so that mushroom farmers need a push from ads?
Just a couple of weeks ago, our neighbors asked us if we had any extra mushrooms they could borrow because they couldn’t find any anywhere near our neighborhood. My sweetie, being even more of a conspiracy theorist than I am (yea, I know! unbelievable but true!), suggested that the radioactive leaks lately have been compromising the mushrooms, which perhaps were then removed from the market. Apparently, mushrooms excessively absorb radiation, which is an enormous help to people around…unless they eat those mushrooms…
Two nights ago on the evening news Francoise Laborde lightly mentioned that there was yet ANOTHER uranium leak at the Tricastin nuclear power plant near Avignon. This makes a reported 3 radioactive leaks in the last couple of months, and 2 leaks at the same plant. Only partially paying attention, I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. Me, “Wait. WHAT??!” But the subject was over in literally 20 seconds. No elaboration of any kind. This seemed like substantial news but it was slipped hidden in between back to school news and international news (video archive Edition du Mercredi 6 Août 2008).
Me: That nuclear power plant in Tricastin is 30 years old or so, and it’s encountering more and more problems.
Me: Is this an accident waiting to happen, here? I mean, it’s literally falling apart at the seams.
Me: Should we get the hell outta Dodge?
Me: Should we leave France? I don’t want to be here when that things blows. You know, a French Chernobyl.
Him: Don’t worry about it. It probably has already blown.
Me: Um. Great. No wonder I’ve been feeling so crappy lately.
“….events this month show that life as a nuclear-powered nation is far from la vie en rose. In mid July, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced a leak from a cracked pipe at a nuclear fuel plant in the southeastern Drôme region. It said the leak was small and had not contaminated groundwater. Such was not the case, however, on July 7, when about 75 kilograms (165 pounds) of untreated liquid uranium were spilled at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the Vaucluse, north of Avignon. As the French began to repair to the countryside for their storied six-week summer vacations, those in this corner of Provence were being told not to drink the water—or swim or fish in it. One swimmer at a local lake told the Guardian that people had been ordered out of the water “as if there had been sharks in it.”
The incident was given a low rating in terms of risk, but the French nuclear watchdog group CRIIRAD (Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity) reported that the amount of radioactivity released into the environment was 100 times higher than the site’s limit for an entire year. The Tricastin facility was temporarily shut down, the water ban remains in effect, and the French government has begun testing the water around all 59 of its nuclear plants.
Such dramatic events were bound to make headlines, and even had some media predicting a chill in France’s long love affair with l’énergie nucléaire, which it embraced during the energy crisis of the 1970s and never let go of. But in fact, the idea of France as a model of safe, affordable nuclear energy is largely a myth, and the current situation hardly an aberration. Incidences of radioactive contamination are common in France, which has had no more success than any other country in solving the intractable problem of radioactive waste. At the Tricastin site, for example, about 770 tons of nuclear waste have been buried for the past 30 years, and four smaller incidents took place in 2007 alone, according to CRIIRAD.
Nuclear contamination even threatens the twin sacraments of French life, wine and cheese. In May 2006, Greenpeace reported that low-level radioactive waste from a nuclear dumpsite had been found in the groundwater near the Champagne vineyards of eastern France. A report released earlier the same month on contamination from an older nuclear waste facility in La Hague, Normandy showed radioactivity more than seven times the European safety limit in local underground aquifers, which are used by farmers for their dairy cattle in a region renowned for its Brie and Camembert.
…Several studies have found elevated levels of childhood leukemia around the Normandy site.
…President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has made it clear that he wants France to become an ever-bigger exporter of both nuclear-generated electricity and nuclear technology… In a speech given just days before the Provence nuclear spill, Sarkozy said: “More than ever, nuclear is an industry for the future and an indispensable energy source….We can be electricity exporters when we have neither oil nor gas. This is an historic chance for development.”
The head of French Greenpeace’s nuclear campaign recently accused Sarkozy of behaving “like a traveling salesman for Areva.”
A so-called NEW uranium leak near Avignon was reported just a week ago, and now there’s yet another nuclear power plant that is leaking. This time it’s at a plant that is actually not very far from the other leaking plant – in Romans-sur-Isere, both managed by the unscrupulous, Areva. The suits are saying AS USUAL, that this leak is not dangerous to humans and can not harm the environment. I’d like to ask, will they drink the water?
Does this remind anyone of various past events assessed by other evil corporations? Remember how the tobacco industry said that there is absolutely no link between smoking and cancer? I saw the excellent French documentary (Tabac, le grand conspiration) on the tobacco industry just the other night on TV showing old cigarette commercials: “Cigarettes are good for you!” “Cigarettes make you feel better!” “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.” “Cigarettes have absolutely no effect on your health!” Please. How could companies get away with this type of criminal activity? How can they continue to do so even today? Easily.
Also remember, they claimed that ASBESTOS was perfectly SAFE! Tell that to all the millions of people who died from asbesto poisoning or mesothelioma, who are now dying of cancer from it.
There aren’t just two power plants in France that are leaking, and those aren’t new leaks. (France 2 interview with Roland Desbordes explains) Additionally, there are a lot more leaking hazardous materials into the environment and drinking water, and have been doing so for a while now.
With the nuclear power plant companies claiming that “all is well and there’s no need to be concerned about the uranium that has leaked into the environment. This is a MINOR event and humans are totally safe from this! There’s no impact!” – and on the other side with scientists declaring that these leaks are hazardous and certainly NOT safe for humans and the environment. Who would YOU believe?
My point: If you’re traveling in these areas or anything near a nuclear power plant, simply be aware of the risks. Check the CRIIRAD site, which is the Independent Commission For Radioactivity Research and Information. (In French)
“Tests show that uranium levels are diminishing but have not vanished from rivers in southern France after a leak from a nuclear site, regional authorities said Wednesday.
Anti-nuclear groups, meanwhile, questioned the handling of the incident at the Tricastin nuclear site near Avignon, noting inconsistent official statements about when it occurred and about how much unenriched uranium was leaked.
France’s nuclear safety agency said liquid containing traces of unenriched uranium leaked from a factory at the site, and that uranium concentrations in the Gaffiere river were initially about 1,000 times the normal levels. The agency said the uranium is only slightly radioactive although toxic.
Initially the agency said the accident occurred Tuesday morning, but later said it occurred Monday night. On Wednesday, Tricastin authorities revised downward the amount of liquid that leaked.
Authorities in the Vaucluse region maintained a ban Wednesday on the consumption of well water in three nearby towns and the watering of crops from the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. Swimming, water sports and fishing also remain banned.
A series of tests Tuesday showed that “uranium levels (in surface water) remained well above normal but strongly diminished through dilution throughout the day,” the regional administration said in a statement. The tests found no uranium in groundwater.
Tricastin authorities changed the amount that had leaked from 7,900 gallons (30,000 liters) to 4,760 gallons (18,000 liters), according to another statement from the Vaucluse regional administration. It said the liquid contained 493 pounds (224 kilograms) of natural unenriched uranium, instead of 794 pounds (360 kilograms) announced earlier.
The factory handles materials and liquids contaminated by uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants. The liquid spilled from a reservoir that overflowed during the washing of a tank.
The Commission for Independent Radioactivity Research and Information said the leak led to the release of radioactive material 100 times that which the site is allowed to release in a year. Greenpeace said the leaked waste was more than 130 times the permitted level.”
“COLLOBRIÈRES, France: Christine Amrane says it is mostly about profit, not just protest and nostalgia. This isolated village has decided to accept the French franc in everyday commerce, along with the euro, and the colorful old bills adorned with French heroes and writers have got people thinking.
Not too radically, of course. Collobrières, after all, is deep in Provence, a picturesque little place of 1,600 people, with a perfect, tiled village square, commanded by city hall and a café with a table of old men playing cards and drinking pastis, all shaded by huge plane trees from the hot southern sun.
“We lost something with the franc,” said Amrane, the mayor since 2001. “We lost an identity. We moved very quickly into Europe, maybe too quickly.”
Along with mostly visa-free travel, the introduction of the euro in 2002 was heralded as a great step in the building of a united Europe. But printed with images of imaginary bridges and buildings, and with no portraits of anyone, living or dead, euro bills are as faceless as the Eurocrats who run the institutions of the new Europe.
While Europeans value the ease of travel that the euro has encouraged, they also think that the new currency created inflation by allowing merchants to round up costs. And of course the European Central Bank means that countries can no longer adjust their interest rates and exchange rates to suit their particular economic circumstances.
Nathalie Lepeltier, a 39-year-old baker who launched the idea of accepting the old franc, says that “the euro has made life more expensive – prices are much higher.” Whether the euro is at fault or not, people certainly believe that it is.
“People have lost the concept of the value of money with the euro, because of the euro,” Lepeltier said. People remember the price in francs, and they’re shocked now when they use francs at how much more everything costs.”
Amrane’s husband retired and started getting his pension in 2001, before the euro. “He was paid in francs and now in euros, and it’s not at all the same,” she said. “There’s a general malaise.”
The autumn chestnut festival is on the minds of the people here more than political protest. Paris is 860 kilometers, or 535 miles, away, and Brussels even farther.
But the European Union is a source of confusion and annoyance, both abstract and distant. The French were not allowed to vote in a referendum on the complicated Lisbon Treaty to reorganize the workings of the enlarged union of 27 nations. France, like most countries, thought it safer to ratify the treaty in Parliament, where the government holds a majority.
But the Irish voted, and voted no. And there’s a lot of sympathy for them here.
France is thought to be the beating heart of the European vision, but the last time the French voted on an earlier version of Lisbon, in 2005, they voted no – and polls say they would reject it in its current form….
After getting a taste of a couple of French MOFs’ (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) awarding winning desserts and meals (Le Daniel and Paul Bocuse), we’ve since been on a mission to seek out and try out more and more (and more!) of them. Perhaps I’ll be shopping for new clothes here soon.
Les 5 Sens (The 5 Senses), a 2-year old modern and reasonably priced gastronomic restaurant in Avignon, is owned by Chef Thierry Baucher, an MOF. We were in the neighborhood last week, so we headed out with Jacques, Chloe and Noa (from Apres la sieste), in search of a yummy meal. Yes. We found what we were looking for and more. The meal was positively and incredibly memorable.
Chef Thierry Baucher working in the kitchen
Note: You will notice that I forgot BOTH my cameras (I know. I’m a fired blogger!) so some of the photos were taken with the phone camera in very low light, and many of them just didn’t come out. I had to shrink the remaining of them. (The top photo is a scan from their business card.)
We sat outside in the courtyard on a beautiful, warm evening. The night kicked off literally with a bang starting with the amuse bouche, traditionally served before the first course. A small glass filled with a mixture of cucumber and tiny pieces of raw salmon.
Suddenly, my sweetie let out a little scream. Then Jacques blurts a little “woah!” Next, Chloe and I followed. The chef had sprinkled Pop Rocks (candy) into the amuse bouche. Pop Rocks, remember those fizzy exploding candy things?! (also known as Action Candy, and in France it was called, “Frizzy Pazzy”) A memorable amuse bouche (with mouths snapping, crackling and popping) if ever I knew one.
Everything that followed was excellent, so much so that everyone was fully concentrated on their meal for a while, oohing and ahhing in between.
Each dish and the dessert was truly unique and absolutely wonderful, and there were always unexpected twists in dishes. There’s not much to say, really, except that you must try Les 5 Sens if you’re ever in Avignon.
I had to sample the cheeses by Josiane Deal, another MOF! They were superb, and the sorbet made with roquette, lime and mint, perfectly accompanied the cheeses, as well as being really refreshing and singularly different.
So the chef heard that the blogger from Why Travel to France was eating in the courtyard, so he came out to chat with us. Kidding. I’m not sure why he came out to talk with us, but it was very sweet of him, anyway. Give that man a raise!
A clean kitchen is a must.
Another last note: The bathroom has black toilet paper, which my sweetie thought was blog worthy. I agree.
Les 5 Sens
Place Plaisance (the restaurant is not visible from the street so you must enter the courtyard)
18, Rue Joseph Vernet
84000 Avignon, France
+33 (0) 4 90 85 26 51 (reservations recommended)
Hours: 11:30am to 2:30pm and 7:30pm to 11pm
Closed Sunday and Monday except in July
While strolling through the largest garden of more varieties of bamboo than you ever knew existed (about 40), you would imagine that you’ve found yourself in a far eastern land, a place surrounded by exotic flowers and plants (impossible to pronounce), hearing only the waft of a gentle breeze combing through the long stalks in a bamboo forest.
The zen-like ambiance of this unexpected garden has actually placed you in the Mediterranean climate of the south of France, not far from the town of Alès and two kilometers (just over one mile) north of Anduze. There are 34 hectares devoted to the cultivation of bamboo and other exotic plants from the Asia.
We’ve been wanting to see La Bambouseraie for long time now, so while we were south we decided to take a drive (about an hour) from our temporary home base in Saint Laurent des Arbres.
To satisfy the thirsty bamboo, more than five kilometers (3 miles) of irrigation canals are discretely blended into the landscape. With the sunny climate, ideal soil and a dependable supply of water, the bamboo can grow more than a meter (3 feet) a day.
La Bambouseraie de Prafrance was founded in 1855, and is the very first giant bamboo forest in Europe. Eugène Mazel, a native of the Cévennes who made his fortune by importing spices, began his bamboo collection while traveling through the French colonies of the Far East. After purchasing the domaine of Prafrance from its owner, Anne de Galière, he began to build his dream bamboo garden on the property. It now features water gardens, sequoia trees from California, traditional projects (Japanese garden, Laotian village), a garden labyrinth, a greenhouse and a nursery.
Oh! and some dwarf Vietnamese pigs. They look pretty humungous to me, though.
The Japanese Zen garden is relatively new to the park (2001) designed very true to Japanese style. The sculpting of the landscape took inspiration from the year it was founded, which was the Year of the Dragon. The Japanese garden’s form is dependent on the body of water it surrounds, so you’ll see the water wind through the garden like a dragon, both existing in harmony with each other. Note that “dragon” is an anagram of Gardon, the nearest river…