Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday Morning market in Saint Remy de Provence

I read, yesterday, a post on a blog about the St Remy market. The article started with mention of the Tarascon market on Tuesday and then about the market in St Remy.... with a real bad review.
Basically saying that local were loathing our market and it was a rip off....

So as I did my market yesterday, like us local DO !!! I decided to take picture in order to show you that even in February, when hardly any tourists are around, the market is still busy.
Most of the stalls are there, even the brocante one.

my shopping basket :
1 kg of Coeur de boeuf tomatoes, 2kg of fresh carotts (with the green), 4 leeks, 4 lemons, 1 kg of fresh green peas, 1 celery, 1 bette, onions, 1 red pepper, 6 bananas
a dozen of fresh eggs (from the runing chicken and not the "battery one")
2 veal scallop, 2 chop of lamb, 2 sausage for my soup
The all lot for 35€

Saint remy market on February 27th, 2013

Below a picture taken from room 33 at hotel Gounod

Cooking Classes.....

We're not going the start the debate about whether the French Cuisine is the Best but however it is true that we have a few traditions in France.
Since a cooking class is an experience a lot of people want to indulge in, I've contacted my people to see who was and who could organise something fun at a reasonnable price.

My Friend Anne Marie organises cooking classes in her farmhouse B&B. The farm also hosts animals and there is a terrific rose garden (850 rose trees...). Wander through the fruits & veg garden, pick your produce with Anne Marie and then off to the kitchen... Where you'll be cooking a traditional meal (not a fancy one star michelin guide menu you wont be able to reproduce in your own kitchen). Take back your recipe home and invite your friend to a Provencal meal to share your experience.
110 € per person for 2 people, less for more thann 2 pax
All morning activity

For a sweet experience (in all senses)

Share the experience of a "sweet delicatessen" professional
Spend a couple of hours with Aurélien in his tiny winy lab (profesional kitchen in French).
Aurélien cooks old recipes' biscuits digged from old books. The Désiré (with vanilla), for example, was created by a Patissier in the early XXth century. He used to call most of his biscuits by the name of the lady he was "cruising" at that very time. Other biscuits workshops could be the cocoa and almonds or the Fleur anglaise.
A nougat cooking class can also be arranged. Nougat is one of the most traditional sweet (with almonds) in Provence.
A 2 hours class (where you'll get to bring your own production back home) :
50€ per person
Min 2 persons max 3 persons (the lab is soooo small...)
Beware that Aurélien doesnt speak much english and you might need to be escorted...

Aurélien in his kichen

A traditional Patissier "Labo" or "Lab"

Yummy biscuits digged from History

 Our traditional Nougat

A cooking class with Mr Patisserie Goldfinger....

Olivier is probably one of our best patissier around. Hence the reason why I call him Goldfinger. 
He worked in Boulangerie Patisserie and restaurants in his former life and created his own business last year only. His lab is spotless and brand new.
2 hours classes can be arranged for 
- traditional patisserie such as mille feuille, éclair au chocolat... You name it, he'll show you...
- macarons...... (no need for comment)
- Croissant, pain au chocolat or our local Sacristain (sexton) puff pastry and almonds

Workshop can be arranged in the afternoon between 1pm and 6pm
50€ per person for a 2 hours workshop
Min 2persons, max 6 persons
There again, very little english on olivier's side....

Olivier and his macarons...

For info and booking contact me

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A walk in Saint Remy de Provence during slow season

I love the quiet streets and I love being able to take my time and lift up my eyes to see the hidden beauties of Saint Remy.
Funny enough, as I was taking the picture of the commemorating sculpture of compose Charles Gounod (more to come about him), an accointance stopped by me and said "funny enough I knew about this but never saw it". He's been living in St Remy for just 30 yrs if not more...

So here are just a few pics of why I love living in St Remy de Provence (amongst many other things)....

Some Virgin Marie of Saint Remy de Provence
A tradition in Provence to thank our lord

Charles Gounod was here.....
in 1863

"snapshots" of Quiet Saint Remy de Provence

Saint Remy de Provence : the old Village revamping....

The beauty works of St Remy are taking place now and should be over in April but it is amazing to see the many building sites in the village....
Part 2 of the street renovation is on, quite a few shops are having a lifting, several restaurants are changing owners and one of the them is totally changing the decor and last but not least, the Musee Estrine is doubling in size and works are huge!

Saint Remy de Provence is making itself beautiful and revamped for you... And I love it !!!

The streets of St Remy last week (well some of them..)

Nostradamus went to a plastic sugery doctor...
The fountain in June 2012

 And in February 2013

Talking about Nostradamus, a Tag I love 
in the old Saint Remy centre

The Musee Estrine 
A modern art gallery in an outstanding 17th Century Mansion
 with permanent and season's exhibitions
plus a space dedicated to Van Gogh's life
re-opening in November 2013 only... 
(well you would have guessed by the pics taken on Feb 22nd, 2013...)

bellow : 2012 renovation works before and after

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Live like a Local and rent a flat in Saint Remy old village centre

When staying in St Remy, the choice is vast when it comes to choosing your accomodation. St Remy offers a wide range of accomodation, many B&B, 18 hotels, campsites, gites (self catering) or just renting a flat or a house. And then comes a dilemna : be sure of where and what you rent......

My friend Mireille, born in St Remy, owns a cute house tucked in the very centre in one our tiny street. Since she lives on her own now she's retired, she converted part of her house into a sweet 60m² (about 600 sq ft) appartment for 2/3 people.
The flat, located on the 2nd level, offers a vast living/dining room/kitchen with all amenities (incl dish washer), a mezanine with a single bed and a separate bedroom with shower room.

As you can see from my pictures (taken on Feb 25th), Mireille decorated her flat with a certain style, adding nice antique furniture that she didnt get from a garage sell (as some other do....). The flat comes with A/C (much needed in summer and even in spring). Rates go from 330 € in low season to 450€ high season which I feel like a good value for money (add a 40€ for departure cleaning).

Pass the door way and you are in 10 seconds from the rue Carnot (one of the cutest and shopping street in St Remy). In the morning, bakeries are just a minute away (and you can change from one day to another). On Wednesday, get your basket and shop in the market. On other days, just go to the Spar supermarket like we local do...

The only downside, of course, is that you don't have a terrace or a garden (hence the reason why I moved from the centre of St Remy...) but the roof top view from the flat is a marvel (to my taste).

You'll get to meet Mireille, one of the local figure who knows everybody in St Remy (she was an architect and still works a bit for fun).

For info and availibility click here

 The main room with its mezanine 
and the view on the village roofs' top

The bedroom

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Roman ruins in Provence around Saint Remy de Provence

The Roman in Provence for old stones’ addicts.

Provence is of course the region in France where you’ll find most interesting roman ruins since it was invaded before the rest of France.

The Region, known as “la Narbonnaise” seemed extremely important to the romans (I believe they considered it as one of their supermarket provider). And loads of former soldiers were given a plot of land in the region when they retired.

The beauty of the ruins is that they are multiple and you get a different feeling in all the places you’ll visit. 

The following is of course not exhaustive, will concentrate on the region around St Remy/Avignon. And the comments are my own. I am passionate about history but always prefer to present history as something fun and lively, so this is history seen by me and not a teacher.

Arles should be your starting point.

The museum of Arles Antique is a brand modern museum which will offer you the most precise idea of Roman life. It is built on the ruins of the old circus (horse race arena).
Scale models will show you how the city of Arles looked like at different periods and you will get to see how the monuments really were. The rest of the visit will show you daily life items found while researching (cookery, jewel and beauty product, etc) as well as the lead pipe used as water pipes, floor “mosaïque” and you’ll end up the visit in a graveyard with plenty of luxury coffins used by the rich and famous to depict their life. I fell that the museum is kids’ friendly as well. Allow at least an hour. I could stay for a day myself….

Off to Arles centre (about 10/15mn walk)
When César and Pompée where having their political fights, Arles took side for César while Marseille took side for César. So, when César won….. Arles got the biggest part of the cake and became an extremely important city.
The beauty of Arles, compared to Avignon for example, is that the city was not entirely destroyed after the Barbarians’ invasion and most of the major monuments were kept. The arena for example was turned into a village with houses built inside. It was only in the mid 19th century that the arena got back to its former glory. (In Avignon, all the stone were used to build the Palaces of the Cardinal).
In Arles, you have to see the Arena, the Theatre, The spa house (well a third of it), the forum entrance. All buildings are located in the very centre. The graveyard (Les Alyscamps) is located a short walk away.
Allow 2/3hrs to visit the centre (not considering shopping time or discovery of history from other period which is galore)…. Well please have a look at the Reattu Museum, former Prieuré of the Ordre de Malte built in the late XVth century.

Glanum in Saint Remy de Provence (25km about 20mn drive from Avignon)
When the allamans invaded ad destroyed Glanum its inhabitants decided to rebuilt the village of St Remy further down in the Valley. Lucky us !
Excavating works of Glanum, when re-discovered, started in 1921. The road which was passing right on the site was diverted and you can now enjoy a proper idea of “what how a roman city looked like”. You may need to use your imagination since most of the stone were taken away and reused to build the new village, but you’ll get a clear idea of the dimension, the settings and the layout of a city.
Some ruins from the Greek’s glory time can also be seen.
You visit will lead you inside the forum, the spa house, the market square and a couple of Private house (amongst other place). And you can finish in a roman restaurant “La Taberna Romana” (owner currently changing) where you can taste some roman dishes (or just look at the menu to see what was eaten in those time).
Allow 1h30 for the visit. Don’t forget a bottle of water and a cap. On sunny and warm day, avoid afternoon.

Vaison la Romaine (75km North of St Remy, about 1h10 mn drive)
The answer reveals itself in the name. Probably one the jewel of roman ruins….
If you are lucky enough to come in July, book yourself a seat in the antique theatre while the Danse festival is on! Other shows are happening all year round and that is an experience. Don’t forget to bring a jumper (it might get chilly when wind starts blowing) and a cushion to seat on (no comment but stones are hard!).
The two roman sites give you a chance to wander through the villa side of the city. Grand Mansion….. Visit a kichen, a dining room, a marbled floor private office, get to a shopping street (where one of the house was believed to be an “easy ladies” house…..), my favorite being the latrine of a private house. Those toilets could admit 5 people at a time and was also opening onto the street since the latrines were also considered as at chatting place….. well well!

Pont Du Gard (about 45mn drive from St Remy)
The JEWEL of roman’s wonder. Not much to say but plenty to see…. The museum is also worth a visit as depicting in a friendly way daily life in roman time. The Aqueduc is just a part of the 50km long water-canal, bringing water from Uzes to nimes. This is the second most visited site in France (outside of Paris) after the Mont Saint Michel. So you won’t be on your own….
Entrance to site is free but Car Park fees are of 18€. The site is open all year round with Fireworks in June and music festival in Summer time.

Other sites
Orange and its monumental Theatre still in use (Classical Musique festival in July Les Choregies d’Orange as well as all type of concert in summer time)
Pont Saint Julien in the Luberon, nr Bonnieux & Menerbes (one of the only roman bridge still standing)
The Roman garden  in Caumont sur Durance near avignon
Cavaillon and its arch.
Further away
Nimes another jewel, competing with Arles….

And when visiting with a local, you’ll get to see probably some hidden site… (In St Remy some spot of the Aqueduc bringing the water to Arles, the remain of the Via Domitia a former roman roads)….

 The "Walking Map" of the Antique Arles Museum

The Arena Sept 2012 evening...

Works around the arena February 23rd 2013

Musee Reattu, river side view

 The roman site of Glanum. "Old stones...."

 The entrance to Glanum, l'Arc de Triomphe (April 2012)