“We had been here often before as tourists, desperate for our annual ration of two or three weeks of true heat and sharp light. Always when we left, with peeling noses and regret, we promised ourselves that one day we would live here. We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers, looked with an addict’s longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window.” ~ Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence
This is a party to have in late summer, when the ground is warm and the air is cool. The theme is "Sunny Provence," since Provence has some of the best cycling scenery...fields of lavender, poppies, sunflowers, olive groves. Southern France cuisine is especially amenable to late summer produce. I would like to have this dinner party some time around Labor Day.
My parents belonged to a cycling club called the "Tour de Buvette." A Sunday morning ride with the people they drink with at their wine bar. I met them at the end of summer in the cool morning air, and was soon impressed by their endurance. As the ride went on, we passed fields of wildflowers, the morning dew made way for summer sun, you could smell the warm earth and feel the first cool breezes of autumn. The only non-cyclist followed behind in his convertible, operating the flop wagon for those who were still recovering from the night before. As the cicadas began whirring, we eventually finished the ride and gathered at the café-bar, our bikes smugly, yet casually, leaned against the railing. Eventually, we went home to clean up , and then made our way over to our host's house for a delicious farmer's market feast. Fresh food tastes especially good after a long bike ride. Hard times have since befallen many of the group, one was betrayed by his business partner & lost millions, another lost his job as CEO of a large company, another ended up needing a liver transplant. But I still remember them all fondly, and the way they were back then.
Ambiance & Decor
A house in Provence. A French vegetable/herb/flower garden. Flowers from the garden or farmer's market - Sunflowers and lavender and?
French Jazz** Putumayo Vintage France Putumayo Jazz, Women of Jazz*, Jazz Around the World*
Melody Gardot* - Careless Love Princesses Nubiennes - Les Nubiennes*
Other types of singers songwriters - I Heard it on NPR Singers & Songwriters** Natalie Merchant** - love and kindness, these are the days
Any good dinner music...Pottery Barn Dinner at 8, Dinner at 8 Second Course, Dinner at 8 Trilogy; Pottery Barn Supper Club, Pottery Barn - RSVP, Jazz Moods: Dinner By Candlelight, An Evening With Lena Horne: Live At The Supper Club, Pottery Barn Supper Club, In the Cool of the Evening - Dinner Companion Series (Williams-Sonoma), Willimas Sonoma Dinner is served
Farmers market feast al fresco. Provencal cuisine uses many late-summer ingredients and because they are known for their farmers markets and simple harvest feasts. Visit farmer's markets & farm stands for fresh ingredients, or with ingredients picked from your own potager - French kitchen garden. Have a slow food meal.
What to eat: Olive Oil Several large studies suggest that the monounsaturated fat in olive oil is good for the heart. Olive oil lowers bad cholesterol levels and increases the good levels. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants - it's probably one of the key protective aspects of the so-called Mediterranean diet. Watch out for the calories - a little goes a long way. A tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories, which is the same as a large slice of bread and butter.
Herbes de Provence: You can buy a mix or grow them fresh. Herbes de Provence are: rosemary, lavender, thyme, marjoram, chives and savory
Provençal Late Summer Harvest Feast Bread (pain de campagne) & olive oil for dipping, Presidente butter and fresh local honey Ratatouille, roasted with olive oil and herbes de Provence Grilled merguez sausage Provence white bean salad (gigande white beans) Rice Pilaf Watermelon Rustic Summer Fruit Tart (Blackberry?) with Artisan or Hand-cranked Vanilla Gelato Iced herbal tea Harney and Sons Yellow and Blue Tea,20 Tea Shachets 0.9oz, can sweeten with local honey Pernod and Water, Pastis? Local Microbrew Beer (or Root Beer)
Breakfast - Cafe au Lait Bread with nutella garden veggie omelet cantaloupe
Snack Cannabis Zucchini Cheddar Bread Pack plenty of water & Emergen-C packets
Post-ride at the wine bar Veggies with aioli European cheeses & seasonal fruit plate Crostini Calamari rings? Chilled crisp white wine,like pinot gris Bicicletta cocktail would refresh perfectly after a hard day's ride
Ride: Apollo 13BX - Good for fitness, outdoors, working, thinking
Apollo 13BX is a West Coast strain that brings together some cannabis from the outer stratosphere. The mother is an Apollo 13 F1, and the father is a strain called Vortex, a cross between Space Queen and Apollo 13X. Apollo 13BX is the type of strain that earns marijuana nicknames like “the fruit”. When cured, these light green buds have a heavy dank smell of overripe fruit, a mixture of rich sultry mangoes and acidic lemons and an underlying pepper tickle that comes through in the aftertaste. This is a motivational strain. With just a few hits, many people are inspired to get stuff done, whether writing, cleaning, working in the yard, taking photos, or getting out on a hike in the great outdoors. It is an up, happy, yet purposeful high that invigorates as well as a cup of good coffee. You will feel euphoric and energetic all day long. When used in baked goods, it offers effective pain relief without inducing a nap. This is a great strain for a morning adventure.
Meet early the next morning for a bike ride - cycle through the countryside in late summer.
Gather post-ride at a cafe or cafe-bar
Post-Ride Celebration Dinner Bike tune-ups Have different old-fashioned and unique bicycles for your guests to try out Get tips from a cycling expert Play Petanque Tour of the French vegetable garden Plan the next ride
Party Favors: Bunches of flowers? like lavender & sunflowers, can wrap in newsprint Fresh vegetables in paper sacks Kisses - two or three on each cheek
SPA: Hotel Jardins Secrets?
Lavender Hammam steam & shower Lavender massage Lavender Scrub Lavender paraffin hands Lavender Manicure and Pedicure Blue & Yellow tea Lavender gift to take home - like Pre de Provence lavender soap
**Rosemary-Mint** Rosemary-Mint Hammam steam & shower Rosemary-Mint massage Rosemary-Mint Scrub Mint Medley tea Rosemary-Mint gift to take home - like Pre De Provence Rosemary Mint Gardener Soap
Rosemary-mint soap bar from provence
Journey to Provence Package
Access to the relaxation area, including hot tub Indoor swimming pool Steam rooms Saunas Herbal tisane bar
Mediterranean Spa Lunch
DIY HAMAM BAR To invite a sense of play take us up on a serving from the Hamam Experience Bar. A selection of unique holistic baths to aid...
For One: Begin in the Hamam for some warmup time. Then receive a 60-minute Standard Massage followed by a complete lathering with a Turkish Hamam Rub and Scrub.
For Two: Begin in the Hamam for some warm-up time. Then receive a 60 min. Standard Couples Massage followed by a complete lathering with a Turkish Hamam Rub & Scrub.
Soul Temple A definitive bathhouse experience. Find refuge in steam, heat, scent and touch with this restorative four-step hamam ritual. Melt as your therapist washes down your every curve in the Scrub Room with a purifying mint salt wash and lemon-coffee-blossom-olive stone scrub. Then completely relax during a 60-minute cardamom amber oil massage. Afterwards, back in the Hamam, you’ll detoxify with a clay polish, and then finish in a luscious neroli cypress bath soak.
MOROCCAN OIL HAIR TREATMENT Warm Oil Infusion Scalp Massage; Promote healthy hair with these nourishing ingredients. This treatment should be used prior to shampooing and is best left in for three hours or longer.
BODY BUFFED Unveil glowing skin head to toe with a lavish scrub in the Hamam. A luscious soothing and smoothing scrub massaging away dull and dry skin, performed on the marble stone, heavenly melting your muscles, body glowing and leaving you radiant inside out.
Provence Spa Package Based on the Mediterranean Hammam Ritual
As evenings cool and the signs of autumn begin to usher in, scents of the season fill the air. In preparation for colder months, we retreat into a ritual of heat and pure scent for an intense therapeutic transformation based on the practices of the traditional hammam bathhouse.
Hammam means "spreader of warmth." In an atmosphere of half light, quiescence and devotion, is a sensual ritual of heat, steam, detoxification and relaxation. Tracing its roots back to the ancient Roman thermae – the body treatment traditions of the hammam can still be experienced throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Here are two hammam rituals inspired by the countryside of Provence - Lavender for her and Rosemary-Mint for him. A couple's hammam is available.
1. Hydrotherapy. First we treat the skin to a a private steam bath. The hammam experience begins with the bather entering the hot room and warming the skin on a heated marble stone, where you feel the radiant heat, breathe in the steam, and inhale the (lavender or rosemary-mint) aromatherapy.
2. Clean. A therapist then enters the steam room, and you’ll be lathered up with a (lavender or rosemary-mint) body wash.
3. Exfoliate. Next, a vigorous body scrub with a homemade (lavender or rosemary-mint)-scented olive oil & salt scrub. Your therapist then pours several basins of hot water poured over the head and body.
4. A Body Wrap. Then, re-hydrate the skin with melted (olive) body butter, infused with the scent of (lavender or rosemary-mint) and wrap to sweat it all out. During the body wrap, you get a scalp massage with warm olive oil. When the body wrap is removed, you also get your hair shampooed with (lavender or rosemary-mint) shampoo.
Then, enjoy a full-body massage with warmed olive oil. At the very end, steam towels are used to remove any excess oil. Emerge from this warm aromatic experience with a renewed sense of calm and well-being.
Linger in your cozy Turkish cotton spa wrap and bathrobe, to enjoy a cup of (Yellow & Blue or Mint Medley) tea.
Inspiration Destination: Aix en Provence, France - farmers markets such as Le Grand Marche, sidewalk cafes to drink pastis and watch men playing pétanque , nature hikes and bike rides among the fields of lavender, sunflowers, poppies. Isle sur la Sorgue is also a great place to shop at open air markets.
If you drive slowly through the village of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on a weekday afternoon, things are so quiet you may hear the Provençal version of the proverbial pin drop: the cork popping off a wine bottle in one of the town's drowsy bistros. Come on a weekend, though, and you'll find parking so tight you may have to leave your own rental car on a country road and hike back into town.
Overview Weekends are when the town's market and antique shops are open (in addition to the artisanal shops, also open on weekdays, that sell regional fabrics, ceramics, and foods, as well as chunky blocks of purple soap that distill the perfume of area lavender fields). And L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue isn't alone. Just about every village in Provence boasts its own workshops and boutiques dedicated to the local specialty, so a leisurely four-day drive through southern France offers the ultimate souvenir crawl. You can stop and start anywhere along the route. While you'll be taking in all the classic craft towns, don't call the circuit a shopping trip. You'll also be sampling a quintessential slice of Provence, as the two-lane rural back roads wind past olive groves, cherry orchards, vineyards, and the stony medieval hilltop towns. Even better, you'll be discovering one of the epicenters of authentic European artistry, and you'll be supporting an exuberant cultural legacy that still defines Provence.
Begin in Avignon Start the Provençal version of a grand tour in Avignon. If you grab the two-and-a-half hour TGV express train from Paris's Gare de Lyon station, you'll be in Provence by noon. Once there, rent a car. In town, order the prix fixe lunch (if you're lucky it will include the signature terrine of duck foie gras) on the terrace of the venerable Christian Etienne restaurant and then walk next door to the Popes' Palace where the Roman popes temporarily decamped in the 14th century. The Palace, stripped down to its austere bones during the French Revolution, is now a maze of elegantly unadorned chapels and banqueting halls. But it breaks loose with a very earthy surprise in the basement, where you'll find something you don't usually expect from a religious landmark: a wine cellar and sommelier. "Every spring all the best wine producers of the surrounding Côtes du Rhônes villages send us samples from their vineyards, " says sommelier Eric Sigmann, "and a panel of 30 experts chooses the best wines of the year. This year 350 samples were sent into us and we selected 63 of the most amazing wines to sell, at the producers' own prices."
Les Délices du Luberon That kind of purist regard for Provençal artisanship is visible a few blocks away at Les Délices du Luberon along one of Avignon's crammed shopping streets, where jars of regional olives, olive oil, and tapenades include manager Magali Caire's favorite "tapenade noire a la Provencal" (a blend of black olives, anchovies, and garlic that pretty much squeezes the essence of the local table into one small jar).
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue From Avignon head 16 miles southeast on the N7 to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for another lesson in regional taste but come the day before the hectic Sunday market. Saturday is when Michel Biehn opens the doors of his Virginia creeper-covered townhouse cum shop, La Maison Biehn, and lets you unfurl the region's best-edited collection of brightly colored Provençal textiles. "They're hand-blocked printed cotton called ‘les Indiennes' because they came from India through the port of Marseille, as early as the 16th century," says Biehn, the kind of passionate collector who has written books on the subject. "Suddenly even poor fishwives could dress in colors that used to be reserved for royalty. What a joy." Biehn stocks antique wedding quilts printed with garlands of flowers in the trademark Provençal colors—the purple of lavender, yellow of sunflowers, and gray-green of olive leaves—that made the area a muse for artists like Van Gogh, Matisse, and Cezanne. If the 18th-century originals are too pricey (and a good quality Venetian yellow quilt can easily run 2,000 euros) Biehn also continues the tradition by commissioning newly printed les Indiennes fabrics, pillows, shirts, and boutis—a quilted, three layer bedspread—splashed with the red poppies and yellow hibiscus that bloom near his window.
Roussillon Continue heading east another 18 miles to the hill town of Roussillon, a rose-colored beauty spot framed by red-ocher cliffs. Then prepare for the most dramatic drive, a 65-mile version of a carnival ride that leads you along narrow, corkscrew mountain roads, past the valleys and bluffs of the Alpes de Haute-Provence region, until you reach Moustiers-Ste-Marie. The village perches so precariously on its cliffside that it looks ready to tumble and splinter, though that's fitting; in a town known for its fragile craft—the vividly colored, glazed ceramic called faïence—everything seems breakable. How did the effete art form, a court-favorite at 18th-century Versailles, become synonymous with a rustic mountain village? "We had to work harder to produce the shiniest glaze because Moustiers was so small and remote," says Isabelle Bondil, who sells faithful faïence reproductions, thrown by her brother Philippe in his village workshop, at her family-owned Bondil a Moustiers shop. There are the traditional flowers, birds, and mythological scenes, painted on plates, vases, and urns, along with the Oriental figures favored by Marie Antoinette.
Moustiers More contemporary, candy-colored faïence plates also land on the terrace tables of La Bastide de Moustiers (www.bastide-moustiers.com), a gourmet inn opened by global top chef Alain Ducasse. The rustic getaway settles on its own perch just below Moustiers and shows off another regional craft: the updated Provençal cuisine that chef Wilfrid Hocquet produces, working with the tomatoes—actually 42 varieties of them—that grow in the Bastide's own garden, along with the ripe local larder of eggplants, lamb, berries, goat cheeses, and seafood (if roasted langoustines pop up on the menu, order them).
La Bastide de Moustiers The Bastide itself, a stone country house framed by olive groves, guarantees a hushed night's sleep before you head back west, 22 miles south of Avignon, to Les Baux-de-Provence. Just outside Les Baux you will pass the Moulin Castelas olive grove, where you can pick up tins of the silky Castelas olive oil before you reach the town parking lot.
Les Baux-de-Provence Another vertical village, Les Baux-de-Provence, climbs up to the ville morte (the dead town), a former village from whose spectral fortress ruins the medieval lords of Baux once dominated more than 80 Provençal towns and cultivated a chivalric society famous for its troubadours and courtly etiquette. But not everything is embalmed here. Just below the ville morte is the newer (by Provencal standards) but still medieval, and fully alive, Les Baux, where you can fortify yourself with a lunch in the garden courtyard of Café des Baux. Don't stop there though, before your 22-mile drive back north to Avignon. The best Les Baux landmark may be the Santons D'Arts where the Peyron-Campagna family, including mother Jacqueline and son Fabrice, produce another local specialty. Santons, the terra-cotta, hand-painted miniature figurines that depict regional society, are made everywhere in Provence, and the studio's highlight is its clay women — a whole matriarchy of fishwives and dairy maids that will look oddly familiar after your long drive. That's because the cheese-makers, lavender vendors, and spinners echo the world of artisans you've just visited, as well as something more. They are also Jacqueline and Fabrice's unwitting self-portrait, the mirror of devoted craftspeople determined to keep passing on their own singular gift.
Spring, summer, and fall are all delightful times to visit Provence.