Thursday, June 30, 2011 was knocking!!

It was a plan, early on.  My obsession for door knockers had to be last time!  We were in the perfect location...Provence.  It was Sunday, the largest antique day in the village of I'lsle sur la Sorgue.  But, it was raining.  Fear not...nothing will stop us.

We left early that morning, because as any of you know who have ever been to any kind of a market in a French town, parking is minimal.  You really have to plan ahead.

We were early enough to peruse the setting up of the individual tents and tables.  Early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee sitting near the church as the fruit, bread and cheese vendors were setting up.  That gave us time to decide which loaf of bread we wanted for the day.  Actually, we chose a loaf with Kalamata olives this day.

"Heurtoir" is what I was looking forward.  I had learned the French word and had a photo of what I wanted.  It saved time because I had a lot of looking to do.

Let me just say, that I was lucky enough to find 3 of them; I already have one at home.  They need a little loving care, but I am looking forward to finding them a new home.  As to how to display them, that is still a work in progress, but I am getting closer.  Thank you Trout, for letting me fulfill a crazy desire to obsess these old hands.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A perfect meal in Bonnieux

We drove to Bonnieux, which is an absolutely lovely little town.  It has a 12th century church and cemetery at its summit.  It was lunchtime, and even though I could share views from this village with you, I really want to share what we found was one of the best meals we have had in France.

We were very excited to see this outstanding menu at a small restaurant in Bonnieux named "L'Arome."  Our lunch started out with an amuse bouche, or a tickle to the mouth.  A verrine (sometimes referred to as 'luxury in a glass') of basil pesto topped with whipped ricotta.

Though I chose the outstanding eggplant compote topped with goat cheese, The Trout picked the real winner.  He had a tomato aspic, (remember those?), tomato and herb sorbet, cucumber verrine and tomato salsa.  I cannot wait to get back to Florida in the fall and experiment with the tomato sorbet.  It was so wonderful, cooling and delicious, that I will be working on this to perfect it.

For our main coarse, we both selected roasted duck breast in black cherry sauce with purple mashed potatoes and one lonely but delicious baby carrot.

As usual in France, dessert was outstanding.  We had the Creme Brulee Nougat with a honey mousse that we drank with a straw.  I know, you can only imagine!!

A glass of red wine for each of us, and we both declared this meal was at the top of our "Fabulous Meal" list.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Delightful Cassis by the Sea

One small town I fell in love with is Cassis, on the sea.  The sea has been a favorite place of mine since I saw it for the first time when I was 18.  The Mediterranean is exceptional.  Who would imagine that such a massive body of water would be so clear and clean looking.

The dockside is lined with delicious seafood restaurants.  Many are quite pricey, but if you dare to wander down a back street, many wonderful restaurants exist there also and they seem to be frequented more by the locals instead of the tourists.

The magnificence of Cassis is the calanques, long, narrow inlets eroded from the limestone cliffs of the Gardiole.  You can walk along the top of the cliffs, several hours round trip, or take the boats, as we did.  It was a beautiful tour along the cliffs.  The day was perfect...actually, probably the most perfect day we had all trip.  Not saying the weather was bad, but some days could have been better.

The Massif des Calanques
"The Massif des Calanques stretches in a mostly continuous line from east to west. It is the result of erosion due to several factors: the sea, the heat and perhaps most of all, the winds. The sea played an important role when, several million of years ago, the massif formed by sedimentation at a time when the area was completely submerged. Then, as the sea withdrew, it left behind very hard and 
View from the Massif des Calanques, France
 View from the Massif des Calanques (Click photo to enlarge)
very white limestone. Indeed, the water level was about 400 feet lower only 10,000 years ago. As it went back up again, little by little, it ended up forming small islands and creating little inlets some of which are eroded very deeply into the rock. These are the beautiful "calanques" that we see today. While the near absence of tides in the Mediterranean limited the importance of marine erosion, the heat on the other hand has always played an important part. Just imagine a massif heated by the sun's rays 320 days per year, a place where between the months of June and August the sun shines more than 15 hours a day. It is easy to see how the relief of the hottest and driest region of France evolved from the combined effects of the sun and the wind that blows quite strongly at times."

Because of all the limestone cliffs in the area, there are not many vineyards.  However, the wine produced in the Cassis area is highly priced.  The light, fruity white wines go beautifully with the seafood and bouillabaisse.

Just by chance, we came upon one of those off the street restaurants for lunch.  "Restaurant Le Bonaparte" was a lucky find.  Above, I had mussels in wine sauce and The Trout had a salad with bacon.

The special of the day was scallops, sole and red fish in olive oil.  Outstanding!!  Along with this was ratatouille and roasted potatoes.  We also each had a glass of Cassis white wine, which we enjoyed.

Of course...dessert.  Strawberry cake with pudding and whipped cream.  Oh, yes!!  After dinner, the owner treated me to a glass of cassis liqueur and The Trout had a drink of cognac.  It happened to be mother's day in France, so as we left, I was presented with a red rose.

We went back a few days later for the bouillabaisse.  It was made the traditional way for this area.  We enjoyed it, but it was not the best we had ever had.  They brought out the fish to show us how they had been marinated overnight in saffron.  We then had a bowl of the broth with potatoes as the fish was cooked in the remaining broth in the kitchen.  It was not a pretty dish, but it was fulfilling.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We Love the Wine!

One of the major reasons I wanted to return to Provence was for the delightful wines found throughout the region.  I have become especially fond of the reds of BANDOL,  a small AOC region of 3,200 acres.  This wine is 80% comprised of the Mourvedre grape and blended with varying amounts of Grenanche and Cinsault to produce a dark and soft wine with undertones of spice, vanilla and blackberry.  This is a pretty rough wine while young but after 10+ years of aging, it is great addition to that special steak dinner.

There are plenty of other fine wine producing areas that produce outstanding Cotes du Rhone  reds such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Carianne etc..  Their wines are usually blends of Grenache, Syrah, and other varietals that produce a soft, fruity wine meant to be drunk fairly young.  Look also for the whites of Cassis, a special wine for the great seafood dinners and the sweet dessert wines of Beaumes-de-Venice.

The most famous wine of the region has to be the strong, aged reds of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Up to 13 different grape varietals can be used to produce a deep red, full bodied wine.   I like these wines but they are a bit "vegetal" tasting to me so I prefer the better Cotes de Rhones.

I think the most consumed wine of the region is the lovely Rose' meant to be drunk young and well chilled with the great salads and breads easily found for an afternoon repast.  The same red varietals are used to make rose' of varying hues and dryness.

So fellow wine drinkers, lift your glasses high to salute the good life found in Provence!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The best olive oil..for us

During the planning of our trip, The Trout searched about where to buy the "best" olive oil in France.  It was in the area we were going to, so it was put on our travel destination list.

The name of the village is Maussane.  The olive oil maker is Jean Marie Cornille.  The tasting room was very pretty.  The variety of different oils were awaiting us as we entered.  A young woman, a member of the family, spoke perfect English and invited us to taste.

We tried 3 different oils and tasted them with a small plastic spoon.  Much like wine, you let the oil slowly be pulled into your mouth, hold it and then swallow.  It is surprising how they can taste differently.  We chose one we liked a lot.  It was only a small bottle of black olive oil and we paid 10 Euro.

This was excellent for our salads while we rented the small apartment in Provence.  The Trout makes our vinaigrette and with using a fork, he gently whipped the oil with a small amount of Dijon and some lemon juice.  It almost turned to mayonnaise in seconds.  It was so very good.

Of course, the lettuce we found in the markets was soft and tender.  Yes, we enjoyed!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Roman architecture in Glanum

Outside of the town of St. Remy are the ruins of Glanum and the remarkable Roman ruins known as les Antiques.  Beside the road you see this well-preserved mausoleum and arch.  It is estimated that they were erected around AD30.

On the opposite side of the road is the true entrance.  Excavations have taken place since 1921, and many different layers of habitation have been recovered.  

I have a real love of walking through these ruins.  It is like my imagination gets carried away and I wish I could have been there at the time all this land was inhabited.

Several times I ran my fingers along the edges of this carved stone.  I can only imagine....

And who might have sat here?  I am so glad we found this area.  Enjoy the pictures.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seeing France, Our Way - Avignon

This week, I almost succeeded in filling my second travel journal since we retired 12 years ago.  Let's just say, I have never been one to keep a diary for more than a month.  I know many that do this faithfully.  But, I knew that as I grew older and traveled more, all my experiences would blend into one big trip and many details would be lost...I love details.  I started keeping a travel journey in 1999, of each day we are in Europe.  Laughingly, I ALWAYS write about what we eat along the way.  We love Europe for the food, the wine, the people and the history that is so very old.   So, if you care to, you may follow along on one more trip over the big pond.  Europe..the place that my heart always yearns for.

With one checked bag, one carry on, a backpack and my large purse, The Trout and I flew to Paris on May 25.  We caught the TGV (bullet train) to Avignon where we spent two nights in a studio apartment.  Surprisingly, that night we slept 12 hours straight.  Woke very refreshed and ready to start our trip.

The Palais des Papes, where the papal court moved in 1309.  After the return to Rome, the papal property remained for the next 300 years as the summer home for the popes.

The last remaining arches of Avignon's famous bridge, The Chapelle St.-Nicholas.  It is part Romanesque, part-Gothic.

The side of the Palace of the Popes

I found this small street amazing.  Just look how man built housing out of the rock and left the rough, untouched rock as a foundation.  This is a walking street that is photographed many, many times a day.
The next day we went to several museums seeing art from the 13 through 20th centuries.
For dinner that evening at "Brigadeer at the Theatre" The Trout had Durade a la creme a'Amade.  This plate is a work of art, and it tasted wonderful.

I enjoyed Saute de Volaille Chilindron, a curried chicken.  Notice the balsamic vinegar that kissed the plate.  We noticed that a lot this trip.  A nice added touch.  Of course, this was very old and heavy balsamic.

On the second day, we went to the train station to pick up our rental car.  With our trusty GPS that we brought from home, we plugged in "Sylvie" and were off on our driving adventure.  To rent a GPS in France costs about $20 a day.  This is the second year we brought our's from home.  It has European maps which work wonderful.  Sometimes we did not trust Sylvie, but she always got us there.  Road signs can not always be trusted.  You have to know the map of the country well.  As always, I am the designated navigator.  In otherwords, I would not drive in Europe for anything!!  If you want to drive to a town 20 miles away, you need to know the location of the largest town in that direction, perhaps 200 miles away.  You do get used to it.  

So, I have started you on our journey.  The views get better...the food becomes exceptional...and we do have fun.  Bientot!

Almost forgot...I wanted to add a little French fashion to the end of the posting.  The Trout could hardly turn these down as we walked by the store window.