My trip started out with my first night in Nice, on the southeastern coast of France. As you may know, you can be pretty tired when you arrive, if you've had a long voyage to get to your destination ! I arrived at my cute boutique hotel called Villa Rivoli, and very quickly took a very welcome afternoon nap !! Afterwards I noticed a flyer on the wall that described restaurants that were recommended by the hotel. One of the restaurants was right on the beach, and an easy stroll from the hotel. Bingo, that sounded exactly what I needed to refresh my weary body and mind ! I walked down the Promenade des Anglais, arrived at Ruhl Plage Restaurant and a sweet, smiling young lady seated me at a table right on the edge of the beach with its aqua blue water! Wow, I couldn't have gotten any closer if I had tried ! I ordered lemony, buttery Sole Meuniere, wonderful garlic green beans, a fresh garden salad, and a glass of Provencal rose wine. Children were playing in the chalky blue waves, even at 9:00 ! What a Heavenly meal and view !
My next destination took me to a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Laurent des Abres, and area outside of Avignon. It was called Domaine du Moulin. It looked like a small castle with a long body of water that went under the house and extended into the large back yard. There also was a lovely pool and a pool house that had drinks in a refrigerator guests could buy. I spent my first day laying on a chaise under a fig tree, looking out at the pool because I had a cold and still needed the rest. The weather was very warm and humid and the cicadas were chirping like they were playing maracas, the sound lasting until sundown !
I stayed in the Juliette Room, which was upstairs, overlooking the long body of water. The room had belonged to the owners' daughter, with antique furniture and a beautiful 1920's double pink marble sink in the bathroom. Two terrycloth robes were provided.
I peeked into Antoinette's kitchen and it was so lovely that I asked her if I could take some photos. There was a gorgeous white and shiney brass La Cornue stove that I wish I could have taken home with me ! Hand-painted tiles that Antoinette purchased in Portugal were on two walls, and there was a long 15th century table that servants most likely ate and worked on.
There was also a guest kitchen on the first level of the chateau next to some of the other guest rooms that were furnished for families. We could prepare meals there as long as we cleaned up afterwards ! I met a man from Germany as he was doing his dishes and I was heating up my chicken noodle soup. We had a very nice and friendly conversation. I spent 3 nights there and then I was off to the Luberon area to stay out in the countryside, outside the little town of Oppede.
The Luberon area of Provence is one of my favorite places in the world, a land of sunflowers, lavender, cherries, Cavaillon melons, vineyards, red-tiled farm houses, and sunshine. I was looking through the web-site called Theluberon.com where they have so many beautiful places to rent. Alas, I found a beautiful country property called Le Moulin, that had a 400 year old former windmill on it ! The owners had converted it into a darling two story abode, with calm, tasteful, understated white and gray decor ! The first floor had a light-filled small living room and a petite kitchen. I was so surprised to see the biggest double-decker wicker and metal Lazy Susan that I had ever seen in my life ! You could turn it and it held pots, pans, pretty blue and white dishes, and silverware.
Climbing the winding staircase, holding the rope attached to the wall, led me to the bedroom and the bathroom. I really liked the white plaster walls, the white bedspread on the bed, and the two windows on either sides on the bedroom that could be opened for the breezes to pass through. As I looked out the windows to see the green grass, rocks, and Oak trees, I could see how very thick the walls were...maybe about 18 inches thick ! Even though the walls were thick, I used a fan for cooling because Provence is hot and humid in the summer !
When I arrived on the property, after having driven through the beautiful countryside, Vita the proprietress came out to greet me. She said that since I had arrived early, my room wasn't ready, so she led me along a lavender lined path to the pool. It was so lovely, with a vine covered pergola, views of vineyards and the countryside, lots of plants, stone steps, and a stone clothing changing hut with a red tile roof. It felt soooo good to glide through that cool water on that hot day !
One of the most enjoyable things that I did in the area was to take a cooking class with a French chef named Jean-Marc Villard, in his home in the little town of Maubec, about 20-30 minutes from where I was staying. Jean-Marc did the teaching and his sweet wife Alice booked the classes and also ate lunch with us outside in their lovely garden ! We first visited a local farmer's co-op first to buy food for our cooking. All of the products came from local farmers such as vegetables, fruit, honey, lavender products, soaps, cheeses, and assorted flowers.
Their kitchen had a large prep table where I and a family of 4 from Brooklyn gathered around to work. Our first little aperitif was mild little green Padron peppers that were roasted, and yummy ! Each of the 4 courses were accompanied by delicious French wines ! Our next course was a savory shortbread cracker with roasted bell peppers, cucumber slices, and zucchini ribbons on top. A baby greens salad tossed in olive oil surrounded the shortbread with a Johnny-jump-up flower on top.
The third course was tornados of beef topped with a red wine reduction sauce, nestled over slowly cooked onion confit, with a potato nest on top, and some baby greens for color. The coup-de-gras for dessert was pistachio cakes with tiny fresh berries, raspberry sauce, and yogurt sorbet ! This class was one of the highlights of my trip... I was walking on clouds afterwards and I can't thank you Jean-Marc and Alice enough !!!