Winter Festivals in Provence

in What To Do In Provence

Is there anything better than sitting around the fireplace with family and friends on a brisk, winter’s evening? Yes, yes there is —sitting around the fireplace at a luxury vacation villa in Provence. Consider visiting Provence in the off season. The weather may be a bit crisp, but it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy winter festivals and celebrations in a region so full of tradition and culture. Whether you opt to rent a villa in the Luberon or the Alpilles, in Gordes or St Rémy, you’ll be near fun festivities and never too far from local specialty vin chaud, or hot mulled wine. From mid-October through all of November, villages throughout Provence host the Festival des Soupes, when locals prepare delicious soups from traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation. During the event, the soups are evaluated by a jury and then visitors are invited to taste. Truffle fans...

Goat Cheese Nirvana

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Goat Cheese Nirvana I am a bona fide goat cheese lover. If you’re not, I implore you to sample some real, honest to goodness, French goat cheese and just try to resist it’s magical spell. French goat cheese, or chèvre, comes in a variety of shapes and styles, diverse flavor profiles and textures. Often named after their region of origin, French goat cheeses range from tangy to mild, creamy to firm, slightly tart to somewhat sweet, grassy or with a hint of walnut, plain or enhanced. The beauty of goat cheese is that it can stand on its own or heighten a dish. Try some. Try a lot. And soon you’ll be a goat cheese lover too! The Seemingly Endless Varieties… There are three main types of goat cheese: fresh, soft-ripened and aged. Fresh goat cheese is soft, spreadable, rindless, white and often molded into a log. Feta and Le Cornilly are two examples. Soft-ripened goat cheese has either a...

An Ideal Day in the Luberon

in What To Do In Provence

An Ideal Day in the Luberon France In May of 2014 I was fortunate enough to stay at Le Mas de Gancel outside the small town of Vernègues in the South of France. While staying at this lovely villa, I was able to explore villages in the Luberon and the Alpilles, as well as spend some time in Aix-En-Provence. To say I enjoyed my time in Provence would be an understatement — I loved it. Every village felt like a profound discovery, and while I’m reluctant to play favorites, I’ve put together my recommendation for what I think makes a fantastic day in the Luberon.   My ideal day in the Luberon starts in Rousillon, cited as one of the most beautiful villages in France. I love the way the morning sun hits the magnificent ochre cliffs; the yellows, reds and pinks of the ochre against the blue sky, contrasting with the vibrant green foliage — it’s simply captivating. Explore the ochre...

The Beautiful Flowers Of Provence

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Lavender, the iconic flower of Provence, is the image everyone conjures when dreaming of the south of France, though magnificent flowers bloom throughout the year. Whenever you choose to visit Provence, you’ll find a rainbow of colorful flowers to enjoy, from the brilliant yellow mimosas of winter, to the red poppies bursting in spring, through the famed lavender fields of summer — every new season brings with it a vibrant, multicolored landscape. Flowers are easily found almost any time of year. Wildflowers and wild herbs flourish year round in the Alpilles and Luberon regions of Provence, bringing various hues and tones to the hillsides. Daily markets feature cultivated flowers, making it possible to enjoy fabulous bouquets at your villa rental. Many villa gardens gorgeously spotlight regional flora. Winter comes alive with yellow mimosas and purple irises. Don’t miss the beauty of...

Two Great Restaurants In Aix-en-Provence

in What To Do In Provence

Aix-en-Provence is often called a mini-Paris, as it’s very walkable with excellent shopping and an abundance of restaurants. Known for the fountains throughout the city and the Plane trees that line the every popular Cours Mirabeau, Aix is an easy city to negotiate on foot, but a map certainly doesn’t hurt. There are markets from Monday through Saturday, the biggest on Saturday. If you’re looking for a little change of scene food-wise, Aix has plenty of options and far more variety than in the smaller villages of Provence. Being close in proximity to the port of Marseille, you’ll find lots of seafood and several menus with North African and Spanish influences. There is no doubt in working up an appetite strolling though Old Town and browsing the eclectic shops along Rue Paul-Bert. Here’s a bit about two very lovely restaurants in Old Town:       Le Zinc...

Coq Au Vin Recipe

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Coq Au Vin Recipe   Coq au vin, or chicken in wine, is a lovely, comforting dish for fall. Once the initial prep work is completed, this dish is mostly hands off, left to gently simmer on the stove top. As with most braises and stews, this recipe is a guideline, easily adapted to your own taste. There are as many versions of coq au vin as there are people who’ve made it — follow the basic method and trust your instincts. Each ingredient is meant to increase the depth of flavor, so adjust the ingredients to your own palate. I’m not a fan of pearl onions, for instance, so I used a combination of leeks, shallots and onions. Feel free to use the more traditional pearl onion in your dish if that is your preference. Be mindful to use a wine that you would want to drink from a glass — it will be the underlying flavor of the dish.I like Côtes du Rhone or Pinot Noir. This is a great dish...

Highlights of Luberon

in Villa Rentals Provence

Highlights of the Luberon France   Exploring the hilltop villages of the Luberon mountain region is a must for travelers to the South of France. Much of the Luberon is a national park and the quaint, beautiful villages that occupy the area are extraordinarily picturesque, with sweeping, panoramic views of inland Provence. From various points and under the right conditions, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Mont Ventoux, Avignon and the edge of the French Alps. Originally built on mountain tops for protection, the villages are located near each other, making a day of visiting several towns and stunning sites doable without spending too much time in the car.   To get a real sense of the terroir, consider cycling or hiking through the Luberon, winding past vineyards, orchards, gardens and seasonal flowers in bloom. There’s an established network of walking and hiking...

Panisse Recipe – A Delicious Provencal Snack

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Panisse Recipe – A Delicious Provencal Snack   Panisse, or chick pea fries, are great for snacking or as a side dish alongside meat or seafood.   Crisp on the outside, creamy and fluffy on the inside, Panisse can be served plain, with just salt and pepper, or with condiments for dipping, such as aioli. Easily modified to your palate, panisse also tastes great with additional seasonings like herbs (rosemary pairs wonderfully), garlic, cumin or lemon zest. The panisse mixture can be prepared ahead, cut into almost any shape, then fried just before serving. This recipe can also be scaled up or down.  Time: 45 minutes active, plus resting time Ingredients: 2 Cups Water 2 Teaspoons Olive Oil (*optional, but I think it lends a creaminess) 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt 2 Cups and 2 Tablespoons Chickpea Flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill) Oil, for frying (I like olive oil, but a neutral oil...

Eygalières Village: A Hidden Gem

in Villa Rentals Provence, What To Do In Provence

Eygalières is a small village on a hill in the Alpilles, not far from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. There’s a quiet charm to this special village, though it’s often overlooked for the more well-known

10 Great Things To Do With Fresh Figs

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I’m a bit of a fig purist. A fresh fig, just off the tree, still warm from the sun, is my idea of heaven. These are hard to come by, though, and the truth is I like figs in any form: as jam, in a tart, dried, broiled, even as ice cream.