Tag Archives: Provence

A Tourtour de Force

There are so many reasons I love summer, not least of which is the yearly voyage to Tourtour. A small but vibrant medeival town, it is perfectly preserved and always seems unchanged. Although I’d find out it can still surprise me sometimes.

A day in Provence doesn’t really start until you’ve had breakfast. It’s not a fussy meal. It’s simple.

Breakfast in France

Croissants do not exist to me outside of France. But once I’m here, they become my daily vice.

I find they’re best served outdoors, on the terrace overlooking the jardin.

Breakfast in France Jardin

After breakfast, I bound down the steps to the pool where I can conk out on a warm sunlounger.

Tourtour Pool

Poolside essentials

That is, provided I don’t have any interruptions…

Poolside terror

Poolside Walk Chess

After a few hours wilting in the sun, punctuated with occasional dips in the water and games by the pool, I get restless and insist upon a walk up to the village.

J’adore the quaint simplicity of this picture-perfect hilltop town. The appeal to tourists can’t be helped, but Tourtour somehow maintains its whimsical authenticity.

Tourtour walk window

Tourtour walk

Tourtour town

Tourtour town walking

Tourtour town fountain

Tourtour stoop

Tourtour Eddie

We freshen up before heading down the windy road to Aups, where we have a courtyard table booked for dinner.

It was a steal of a meal – summer vegetable carpaccio, BBQ prawns with rice, and dessert – for 19,50€.

Dinner

Dinner Salad

Dinner Gambas

When we returned to Tourtour after dinner, we were shocked to encounter a “Soiree Mousse” (yes, that’s a raving frothy foam party) going full swing in the town square. The dance area was crammed with sudsy revellers, the DJ spinning throbbing Euro techno music while lasers grazed over the crowd, and scanitly-clad dancers jutted and swerved onstage.

Foam Party

Foam Dancer

Huge soap cannons blasted everyone with a spray of foam.

It was too bizarrely tempting not to jump in and join the fun!

Foam Spray

Foam Hands

Foam Soaked

Foam Throw

What a weird but cheerful bash!

I now love this place even more.

Tourtour: Le Village dans le Ciel

It was too overcast for the pool today so we walked up into the village. Tourtour is known as “the village in the sky” because of its stunning views from the top. We meandered through the streets climbing our way up to the the square.

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Mayor's Office, Town Hall

Mayor’s Office, Town Hall

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We passed by the Moulin a Huile, where the villagers bring their olives to be weighed and pressed into olive oil.  Tourtour has a cooperative system where the oil is distributed on a pro-rata basis depending on how many kilos of olives each villager contributes.

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Making olive oil is a two-step process of grinding and pressing. First, the olives are placed under the stones and squashed to make a paste. The olive miller then collects the paste and puts it into jute baskets.

For the pressing, two piles of about 20 jute baskets are placed, one on top of the other, under the press. The first pressing is “cold,” then the baskets are soaked in hot water before the second pressing.

Olive Press

Olive Press

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Olive oil features a lot in Provençal cooking, including many of the restaurants and cafés in the leafy town square. Tourtour also boasts a few galleries and boutiques.

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I wanted to take this dapper furball home but he was 320 euros!

I wanted to take this dapper little furball home but he was 320 euros!

Instead, I splurged on this little black number (to wear to the beach this week) from the prêt à porter boutique, Florence.

Bikini

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We stopped at a café by the fountain to revive ourselves with a cold citron pressé – freshly squeezed lemon juice, which you can water down a little bit, add a teensy pinch of sugar to sweeten it up, stir and enjoy!

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This handsome pup kept cool as a cucumber under our café table and begged me to throw him his slobbery pinecone – which he kept retrieving and laying at my sandals again and again. I think I finally wore him out!

Our final ascent was up to the village chapel perched on the hilltop where we could look down on the gorgeous Var landscape below.

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church

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Good thing the way home is all downhill!

Château de Berne Wine Tasting

Temperatures in Provence have been sweltering this summer, and a day at a private estate sampling the region’s famed rosé sounded like just the ticket.

You can find Château de Berne down a long shady lane amongst 1,500 acres of olive trees and vineyards in the heart of the Var region. The winery produces a full range of award-winning wines, but is particularly known for its rosé.

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Chateau de Berne

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I had a quick tour of the grounds. The rose bushes at the end of the vineyards indicated that the vines were in good nick. The grapes were plump and waxy. And the tractor was running just fine.

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And now into the winery to sample the harvest!

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Tastings and shop

Tastings and shop

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The cellars

The cellars

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Grande Cuvée Rosé 2011

Grande Cuvée Rosé 2011

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My favorite - Cuvée Sauvage (Rosé) Brut

My favorite – Cuvée Sauvage (Rosé) Brut

We followed our wine tasting with a light lunch at Le Bistrot.

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Tapas

Tapas

Lemon meringue tart

Lemon meringue tart

And a final romp around the beautifully landscaped grounds!

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The rosé and heat had me feeling flushed. As we were leaving I accidentally walked into an electric fence and got zapped! I was literally shocked by what a great time I had at Chateau le Berne. Santé!

Lunch in Cotignac

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Today we had lunch in the belle ville Cotingac. Built into the cliffs, Cotingac is a sleepy little Provençal village. We dined at Chez Loli on the terrace along the serene tree-lined town center. Their motto, emblazoned on the menu, is “We make people happy.” I love that simplicity – much like the classic pared-down regional cuisine typical in the south of France.

Contingac

Cotignac

Continac St

Chez Loli

Chez Loli

Chez Loli

Rose

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Rose shrimps, tomatoes, mesclun salad, peas, salmon tartare, celery remoulade

Rose shrimps, tomatoes, mesclun salad, peas, salmon tartare, celery remoulade

Clam Linguine

Clam Linguine

Dining is so elegant and relaxed here. I am eating less (you don’t have as much appetite in the heat) but the simplicity of the dishes and the quality of the ingredients is top-notch. I am discovering lots of inspiration for recipes I can cook back at home! Now if only I could get this view out of my kitchen window…
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Aix Marks the Spot

Summering in the south of France is one of the highlights of my year. It isn’t long after New Year’s Day I begin fantasizing about my escape from dreary England – lounging poolside, propped up on a chaise under the canopy of a parasol, its canvas tips flapping in the Provençal breeze. I am finally here! After a few days though, I was keen for a day trip. So we rented a little Fiat with no air-conditioning, cranked down all the windows, and sputtered into nearby Aix-En-Provence.

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Cezanne4

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Aix is well-known for its fountains, scattered around the old town; it’s also home to modern painter Paul Cézanne. It was a foregone conclusion that my first stop would be his studio. Atelier Cézanne is nestled amongst the trees on Lauves hill overlooking Mount Sainte-Victoire, where Cézanne practiced from 1902 – 1906. The upstairs room is still cluttered with furniture, ceramics and other items which long ago posed for his still life masterpieces.

Cézanne's Studio

Cézanne’s Studio

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atelier-interieur

The image above is a poor quality stock photo from the museum website. It was an immense disappointment to find that the Aix Tourist Office forbids photography inside the studio – such a shame for me, but also for researchers and art enthusiasts – especially after the United States was so generous to raise the funds to buy the property in 1954 and donate it to the University of Aix-Marseille. I was told that permission to take photos can be requested in advance by e-mailing the Adjoint of the Office de Tourism (Michel Fraisset: info@atelier-cezanne.com)

Back in town we settled in for lunch on the terrace of Les Deux Garçons, a lively brasserie on the humming Cours Mirabeau. The food was basic and the service was terribly French (slow) – but which could almost be forgiven as standards have understandably slipped a bit since opening day in 1792!

Aix

3Garcons

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Gaspacho with watermelon and smoked lard

Gaspacho with watermelon and smoked lard

Roasted salmon with lemon butter

Roasted salmon with lemon butter

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Gelato

After polishing off my gelato and larking around the shops for a bit, we toured the Cloisters of Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, and spied the Burning Bush Triptych by Nicolas Froment.

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Cloister

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Burning Bush Triptych, Nicolas Froment

Burning Bush Triptych, Nicolas Froment

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Dinner was at Le Formal – inside the former wine cellars of Henry IV. The chef there is obsessed with truffles; they were in nearly every dish of our seven-course “Emotions” tasting menu. Maybe the emotions were about how much he loves cooking with truffles.

LeFormal

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Oeuf de poule fermier cuit à 64º, sur une fine tartlestte d'asperges et truffle, jus iodé

Oeuf de poule fermier cuit à 64º, sur une fine tartlestte d’asperges et truffle, jus iodé

Pan Pagnat | de thon en sashimi et truffle (tuber brumale), tartine artichaut, camus, ratte de Noirmoutier, crème de choux fleur aux noisettes torréfiées

Pan Bagnat | de thon en sashimi et truffle (tuber brumale), tartine artichaut camus, ratte de Noirmoutier, crème de choux fleur aux noisettes torréfiées

Noix de coquille Saint Jacque "al dente" et foie gras de canard poêlé, Bruschetta à la truffle, jus de pur Arabica à l'eucalyptus

Noix de coquille Saint Jacque “al dente” et foie gras de canard poêlé, Bruschetta à la truffle, jus de pur Arabica à l’eucalyptus

La petite pêche inattendue "retour du petit bateau" | sauce façon hollandaise à l'orange, poêlé d'épinard aux agrumes et amandes grillées, jus de pistache de Sicile

La petite pêche inattendue “retour du petit bateau” | sauce façon hollandaise à l’orange, poêlé d’épinard aux agrumes et amandes grillées, jus de pistache de Sicile

Gâteau de brie de Meaux à la truffle, "affiné par M.Mons"

Gâteau de brie de Meaux à la truffle, “affiné par M.Mons”

Le fruit, éveil de l'enfance...

Le fruit, éveil de l’enfance…

Comme une mille et une feuilles | Panna-cotta, poire en tatin épicé, jus de calvados, crème caramel au beurre salé

Comme une mille et une feuilles | Panna-cotta, poire en tatin épicé, jus de calvados, crème caramel au beurre salé

Dans un baba d'ici à l'armagnac et griottes, shampooing d'orange sanguine, jus de maltaise

Dans un baba d’ici à l’armagnac et griottes, shampooing d’orange sanguine, jus de maltaise

A throughly indulgent supper in a modest historical setting – made for an effortless end to a lovely day in Aix.