Frenching

October 21, 2009

I realized (actually someone reminded me) that I never did a proper post on Provence. So if you’re thinking about going, keep this post in mind!

The view from our window at Le Pigonnet

The view from our window at Le Pigonnet

We stayed at Le Pigonnet in Aix en Provence, which I’d recommend. The place itself was beautiful, like you were staying in someone’s chateau, with incredible gardens. (Cezanne used to go there to paint.) And I liked Aix a lot — it had a hipper, more laid back vibe than say, Paris, and it was only about a 40 minute drive from the Marseilles airport. We rented a car (Hertz) which made it easy to do day trips just about every day, and everything was no more than an hour from Aix, making it very manageable. The cities were a little more hectic to navigate, but the highways and country roads were easy to figure out, and the tourist offices in every city were incredibly helpful in terms of directing us to the best places to park, as well as the sites to see. They’re very generous with free maps.

And the food! We went to so many great restaurants. Some standouts were:

El Jardin Basilique in Gordes, a lovely spot in back of a souvenir shop. Definitely eat in the garden, and order something with the fresh basil the chef grows herself.

Numero 75 in Avignon, a huge garden outside of the home which was formerly owned by the heir to the Pernod fortune. The menu changes daily and there aren’t many choices but it is all amazing, so you really can’t go wrong.

L’Amphitryon in Aix, featuring nouveau cuisine that really makes a statement. The ingredients were so fresh and the tastes so varied that it was a true experience in three courses.

Chez Fon Fon in Marseilles, the birthplace of bouillabaisse, with a view of the boats and the fisherman who probably caught your meal. The family owners are very friendly, and the bathrooms are incredibly clean!

Our table at Maison Bru - note the perfume-like olive oil bottle

Our table at Maison Bru - note the perfume-like olive oil bottle

And finally, the granddaddy of them all (with the price tag to match) Maison Bru outside of Eygalieres, an eight course extravaganza (and this was lunch) that was the best meal I have ever had. And that’s saying something! There were several standout courses, one being the chef’s take on a tuna club: mini toast points, seared ahi tuna, slices of foie gras and a dollop of green apple sorbet on top, all with some sort of delectable reduction. Amazing! We should have taken a picture of the cheese cart. Save up your euros and make it a reality.

The sights are something, too. The walled town of Avignon, the beauty of St. Remy de Provence (complete with the mental hospital where Van Gogh was sentenced), the history of Gordes, the legacy of artists like Vaserely and Picasso in Aix,  the beaches and boats in Cassis and the Roman ruins in Arles all add to the ambiance that is Provence.

As for fashion, all the gals are carrying totes from Vanessa Bruno — think LL Bean but in better colors with sequins where the colored stripes are on the Bean ones. I have one from several years ago that I got at Barneys and used to use as a diaper bag sometimes. I’ll have to break it out again. I was tempted to get the kids striped French sailor shirts — very Jean Paul Gaultier! — but I resisted the urge. I did get Bensimon sneakers for Ken, Addison and myself. Why is no one selling their wares here? The clothes are fab, and the bags and colored canvas shoes would be all the rage if you could get them. I was also all over Savon de Marseilles and its Lavender and Incense line — I schlepped back huge containers of the hand soap and lotion. And I must say when I have worn the scent I’ve gotten beaucoup des compliments. And of course we brought back Kindereggs for the kids. They’re little law suits waiting to happen with all of the small pieces, but the prizes in the middle are amazing — puts Cracker Jacks to shame.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rose wine — perfect for an al fresco meal, and all the better because it’s made right there in the Cotes de Rhone.

I highly recommend the trip — it’s the kind of place where you’re always busy yet tremendously relaxed. It’s a great way to reconnect with the art, beauty and taste in your life. What’s bad about that?!

Household Needs

I was looking for a certain stainless steel cleaner the other day and while I couldn’t find it anywhere else, Gracious Home had it. I find it a much more pleasant shopping experience than Bed, Bath and Beyond. The prices might be higher but the selection is better quality and they carry things no one else has — including BB&B. I also picked us up a new shower curtain, which I liked not only for the design but because it was eco-friendly — none of those deadly plastic fumes when you open the package. They used to only be on the Upper East Side, but they’ve recently opened a downtown location at 26th Street and 6th Avenue.

Etc.

I’m really into the baseball playoffs this year — I guess  because both my teams are still in it. A friend of mine went to the Yankees game in California yesterday, and he said the stadium is so disorganized that he arrived in his car at the gates of the stadium at 12:15pm, but he didn’t make it to his seat til 2:15, 45 minutes after the game started. Let’s see what happens tonight — right now they’re up 4 – 1.

I’ve been working late a lot and I have a meeting tomorrow night — I am missing my kids!


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