Monday, April 27, 2015

Sault The Lavender Capital

Sault is known in the region as one of the best place for Lavender.
It is indeed our Lavender Meccah!
The other famous Lavender land is Le plateau de Valensone where you can see plenty of lavender fields but "less action" to my taste.

There are several route options from St Remy to Sault but expect to do a lot of driving on narrow roads.
I suggest :
The scenic way in the morning :
Take the D99 to Cavaillon then follow the sign to Gordes, then Lioux and Sault. Driving time about 2 hours.
On your way back, take the road to Carpentras D 942 then D1.
From Carpentras, follow Avignon. Enter the Highway in "Avignon Nord" direction Marseille. Exit at Avignon Sud.
Follow the sign to Noves centre. St Remy will be signposted from there. Driving time about 1h30

When arriving in Sault, make sure you stop en route for the panorama:

Arriving in Sault from Gordes in April prior the lavender season :

Our first stop was for Arôma Plantes.
Located on the route du Mont Ventoux (and clearly sign posted), this lavender farm is organic since 1978. We were warmly welcomed by Valerie in the shop and Manon showed us around the property.
The farm is operating all year round and only distilling local vegetals. Since we were off season we were overwhelmed by the smell of Pinewood essential oil (as you will see in the pictures)
Manon who speaks english will tell you all about essential oil and you are most likely to see the full process.
Lavender essential oil will start beeing done on July 9th, this year, until late August. You can join a workshop on Tuesday.
Soap making workshops are also organised on Monday (not sure if in English but will tell you after I attend my workshop). Check the site for full details.
The shop is exquisite and offer products and soaps you barely see anywhere else, even on the markets. I got some for me and love them!!!
You can try out some fruit juices flavored with floral water (or Hydrolat, i.e. the water from the distilation).
Wodden picnic tables are for to use if you come with your picnic.
And course you may wander through a path going along the property fields.

Lavender mad people may want to spend the full day around...

More info on Aroma Plantes web site

Fresh herbs path

Pine wood essential oil extracted on April 11th

Final result : Essential oil on the top, hydrolat (floral water) underneath

Our friendly hosts Valérie and Manon

One of the picnic table

Smaller but as nice is Vallon des Lavandes located nearby.
Run by a family, you may pop in and be shown round the property by the friendly owners.
You'll be welcomed by the chicken wandering in the field in front of the farm.
No web site.

Once in Sault dont miss the most famous shop of André Boyer Nougat.

Fun little shop in the village, mostly about Lavender of course... But also a famous butcher where you can buy all sort of Saucissons.

For Lunch we decided to go the Cafe Promenade where you have a great view from the terrasse (see picture). Very friendly service, reasonnable price, but dont expect fine gourmet food. Perfect for a salad or the plat du jour at 12 €.

We were also recommended Restaurant Le Provençal in the village (menu as from 17.50€) but prefered the view...

Sault offers of course much more to do.
We visited another soap and beauty product artisan which I will talk about in another post.

The tourist Office offers a brochure about route de la lavande with all places to visit in the region.

The big Lavender festival takes place mid August.
A smaller Lavender festival is to take place on Sunday July 5th 2015 in nearby village of Ferrassieres.

 Dont leave Sault too late as the return route might prove tiring.....

Enjoy Lavender fairy...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Gorges du Verdon

The Gorges du verdon and The Lac Sainte Croix are certainly gems in Provence.

A bit far away from St Remy expect 5 to 6 hours driving time back and forth plus the time you'll spend on the narrow bendy roads along the gorges. So I recommend staying overnight in Moustiers Ste Marie, Castellane or another village.
Especially if you want to enjoy the Verdon itself, rafting, canoing or only "pedalo on the lake". For nature lover it is eyes candy all the way trhough.

From Moustiers Sainte Marie, take the D952 towards Castellane. If you want to have the most drastic view, I recommend taking the "route des crêtes" but have to warn you that the road is small and bendy...

Otherwise, as we did you may drive to Castellane and enjoy the scenery or turn en route onto the D955 towards Trigance, then D90 and D71 taking you back towards Moustiers on the other bank.
Expect a 4/5 hours round trip.
Here are some pictures of that  route as we did it on April 10th.

Gorges du Verdon, Moustiers Sainte Marie and Ducasse...

Last week end we were lucky enough that some friends, who had booked for the special 20th Anniversary Week end at Bastide de Moustiers, were sick.
It is sad (they are feeling better now) but the good news is that we took their place....

Off we drove gently to Moustiers Sainte Marie from Saint Remy.
Expect 3 hours (not incl lunch stop) journey time when taking the nice road (St Remy to Cavaillon, Apt, Manosque, Valensone and Riez).
Or 2hrs 15mn if you take the motorway from Cavaillon to Aix and Manosque (less scenic of course).

We were blessed with the weather and I was constantly stopping to take pictures (Cherry trees in blossom are just amazing this time of year.

Cherry trees in blossom April 10th 2015 on D943 from Gordes to Sault

Since we had some fact checks to do in Sault (will do a separate post), we took the road to Sault.

Chateau Javon,  Private Property not open for visit

A Pigeon home

We arrived in Moustiers Saint Marie by 6pm and went straight to the hotel....

Arriving in Moustiers Sainte Marie

The Bastide de Moustiers is the best hotel in Moustiers. Located at the foot of the village, it's a peace haven.
- 5 hectares of land with Horses and poney, a vegetable and herbs garden for the kitchen, a Petanque fields, "Hamac" for a little nap, a gorgeous shop, an helicopter landing space and much more
- Room are located in the 17th Century bastide or in one of the little "Mazet" on the property

Staff couldnt be more friendly. Since the hotel only 13 rooms, all guests are known by their name and there is always someone arround to help you out and check your stay is going well...

The hotel Boutique

The Boulodrome.... (dont forget the Pastis to go with it..)
The fresh salad we had for dinner

Relaxation time..
We stayed in the Lavender room. Mid range type, price from 265 € to 320 €.
I found the room charming, maybe a bit cluttered to my taste with Lavender, books, glassware.
The bathroom was giving direct onto the room but that was fun.
The bed was out of this world. I wondered in the morning if I wouldnt steal the pillows but prevented myself.
Extremelly quite.
Highly recommended.

Bastide de Moustiers link

Then it was time for serious business....
Aperitif with the friendly GM of the hotel Jeremy who told us everything we had to know about the property.

And off to meet the chef and check the spotless kitchen for the anniversary dinner.

Since we couldnt make it for the Friday special dinner, in the Presence of Mr Ducasse himself (who we were told was so sad to miss us) the chef served us the very same dinner.
We enjoyed a degustation menu with 2 starters (fresh salad with wild aspargus then spealt wheat and artichokes), 2 main courses (cod and lamb), the goat cheese board, a Strawberry salad and soup and a chocolate mousse.
Each served of course with a glass of different wine.

Restaurant is opened to non resident.
Week day Lunch 2 courses formula at 38€ , 3 courses 48€
Dinner and Week end lunch menu at 80€

In the morning we partake the perfect breakfast in the garden

And in the late afternoon after our Lac Sainte Croix and Gorge du verdon day trip, we stopped by in the quaint village of Moustiers, Capital of the Faïence.

My recommendation would be to stay over night in Moustiers or nearby rather than organise the day as a day trip from and back to St Remy as driving can wears you out.....