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Footloose in Provence & Paris

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
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By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2005
Thirteen days in Provence and four days in Paris, including some wonderful food and wine, a day in Nice, and an unexpected encounter with "Good Year" - September 10-27, 2005

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Introduction and Planning

In May 2004 my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I spent two weeks in Tuscany, see the Tuscan Rambles trip report. Like most other travelers we plan to return to Italy, hopefully more than once. However, for our next vacation we decided to explore the south of France in a similar manner (i.e. locate in one place, preferably in a rural area, have a rental car, plan day trips to explore the countryside & experience the Provençal culture as much as possible). Early on my BW decided that she wanted to include Paris in our vacation plans. I had been to Paris twice previously, but not since the early 1970's. We decided to go in September; July and August were out because of the likely very hot weather & almost certain crowds wherever we went.

We had never been to Provence, had no real concept of the size of the area except from maps and had no idea where to stay. From my reading I concluded that the best location for exploring the western & very popular area of Provence was in the Luberon, somewhere in the axis of Avignon, Arles and Aix. I made several inquiries, mostly from sites linked to Slow Travel. There were many possibilities, but eventually we decided on Mas de Briançonceu - see photo, a very rural gîte a few minutes from Mènerbes, the Luberon village made famous by Peter Mayle. While there were no reviews for this particular gîte, there were several positive features including price, location, description and friendly correspondence.

We booked our flight with a newer Canadian airline, ZOOM, which has only been offering flights to England and Paris since early 2004. Because of the price structure, ZOOM flights fill up quickly. We had to adjust our travel plans to accomodate an available return flight from Paris. We booked the gîte for two weeks, intending to leave a day early in order to allow for four nights in Paris. We booked our flights (including an Air France connection to Marseille), our Europcar car rental (which turned out to be a Toyota Corolla), and our Paris accomodations (Relais de Paris Republique) using a travel agent we had worked with previously. We booked the gîte ourselves, which involved an exchange of emails and receiving & returning a contract in the mail. By the end of February 2005, all our air and land arrangements were booked.

Over the next several months I did a lot of reading, monitored the Slow Travel site and eventually initiated a couple of threads, both of which provided much useful information. About a week before we left, I made dinner reservations at five restaurants - three in Provence and two in Paris. I made one reservation by email and four by phone. I planned my phone calls around 6:00pm local time. I figured there would be staff in the restaurant, but it would not be open yet for the evening meal. I also got to practice my dormant and limited French-speaking skills. I actually wrote out a script before I made the phone calls. All went well.


Mas Brianconçeu
September 9-10 : Toronto to Mènerbes via Paris and Marseille

Our uneventful (whew!) ZOOM flight from Toronto to Paris CDG Terminal 3 arrived at 6:55am. We took the shuttle bus over to Terminal 2D to catch our Air France flight to Marseille. Fortunately, we had plenty of time to make the connection, since the transfer took a while. We landed at Marseille at 2:00pm, but didn't get away from the airport until almost 3:30pm, mainly because of a lineup at the Europcar counter.

Before leaving home, I had printed directions on how to get from the airport terminal to Avignon (in the direction of where we were going). The directions were very helpful - kept us from possibly (probably?) making some miscues. Following the directions, we managed to get to the A7, the main toll highway in our part of Provence. We proceded west toward Avignon and exited at Cavaillon. In Cavaillon we stopped at the Auchan supermarket and bought some basic food and household supplies. From there we followed the very good directions provided by our hosts.

We arrived at Mas de Briançonceu about 5:30pm. We were met by Josiane Deflaux walking down the terraced hillside with a bunch of freshly cut grapes which she presented to us and invited us to help ourselves whenever we wanted more. She also gave us a jar of her confiture (apricot jam), and there was a bottle of their own Domaine de Cancelades rosé wine waiting in the apartment.

Our apartment occupied one end of a large farmhouse. It included our own porch, well equipped kitchen, very adequate bathroom, large living and dining area, and a bedroom with a double bed. In addition there was a loft area with one double and two more single beds. The apartment also included both a dishwasher and a washing machine. One side of our apartment looked out on the Montagne du Luberon and we had a good view of Mènerbes, just off to the right.

At 8:00pm, we drove the short distance down our hill and up the hill into Mènerbes, where we had our first meal in Provence, at Restaurant Clementine. The food and wine were OK, but we were not tempted to return. In fact we spent very little time in Mènerbes during our stay in Provence. It is a very small village, with nothing very special to recommend it as far as we could determine, aside from the Peter Mayle connection. From our perspective the most attractive feature of the village is its location. It is close to many more appealing villages and roughly equidistant from several large centres in Provence.


The signpost to our gite
Sunday Sept. 11 : Coustellet, L'Isle Sur La Sorgue & Lourmarin; fresh figs

Just in front of our porch is a very old fig tree, apparently quite common in Provence. The freshly-picked fruit was a new and tasty experience for me.

Yesterday's travel took its toll. Both normally early risers, we slept in past the alarm and didn't wake up until after 9:00am. Following a late breakfast, we set off for the nearby farmers' market at Coustellet. Coustellet is one of the "other" markets mentioned in Dixon Long's excellent Markets of Provence, but it was recommended by Josiane. Our first purchase was a straw bag, common throughout the Luberon for carrying market purchases. We also bought a baguette, some eggs and vegetables before heading over to the well-known Sunday market in picturesque L'Isle Sur La Sorgue. There we purchased a ferme poulet, a variety of cheeses, fruit, more vegetables and some sausages - see photo.

In mid-afternoon we drove over winding roads and the D100 to the beautiful hilltop town of Bonnieux and then on to another lovely village - Lourmarin. Unexpectedly, there was an Antique Fair in Lourmarin this weekend. We spent some time looking over the goods for sale. My BW has been looking for a coffee table for a long time. She found one in Lourmarin. I took a picture to remind me of what to look for back in Canada. After touring the fair we paused for deux cafés outside a small restaurant beside a very small square, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the warm sunny day before heading back to our apartment.

This evening we prepared a market dinner - fresh bread, an omelette with red peppers, onions and tomatoes, the roasted chicken, cheese and a dessert of melons de Provençe, peaches and freshly-picked grapes. Our wine was a 2004 Marselan from Domaine des Concelades. Delicious.


Sausages in I'Isle Sur La Sorgue
Monday Sept. 12 : Cadenet, Val Joanis, Ansouis; La Vallee

Following breakfast we set off for the weekly Monday market in Cadenet. Our only purchase was fromage du chèvre, but we enjoyed the market experience again for the second day. Most stores in most towns in the Luberon are closed on Monday. One place that was open to visitors was Chateau Val Joanis, a few kilometres west of Pertuis. Before sampling the wines, we toured the impressive garden area behind the cave. The garden is composed of three terraces. The first terrace is mainly a vegetable garden with many varieties of tomatoes as well as many leaf and root vegetables. The second terrace is planted with roses, interspersed with yews. The third, planted in a freer style, with ornamental trees.

Our tasting consisted of three red and three white wines - we passed on the rosé wines. The personable young woman - see photo - who guided us throught the tastings was very knowlegable and spoke at least three languages. We purchased four bottles - two of the red Reserve Les Griottes 2001, the chateau's best known wine and two bottles of Les Agasses 2004, a white wine in its first year of production. Since it is made from grapes not normally grown in the Luberon, Les Agasses can only be classified as a modest vin de pays, but it was the best of the three whites we sampled.

From Chateau Val Joanis we drove to the picture-perfect hilltop town of Ansouis, familiar to those who have read The Magic of Provence by Yvone Lenard. We joined a tour of the chateau with a guide and a small group of seven others, only two of whom spoke French. The most interesting feature of the chateau is not the portraits on the walls or the armaments on display or the history of the building, but the fact that, unlike many other chateaux in the area, this one is still a residence. Two families totalling nine people, including the present Duke, call it home. In a tour of a still-used kitchen dating back to about 1600 a small passageway leads into a room with a microwave, toaster and all the rest of the "mod cons". Also, at one point we spotted a young man making a dash across a room we had just vacated and heading up the stairs to the family quarters. Apparently, according to Lenard's book, in previous years the cash-strapped Duke used to conduct some of the tours himself.

There were two restrictions on our tour - no photographs and no dogs. The first was understandable. Would you want somebody taking snapshots of your dining room, kitchen or spare bedrooms? The second prohibition was a relief. Dogs are everywhere in Provence and many of them are huge. My BW says that in her next life, she would like to return as a dog living in the south of France. It sure looks like a nice life.

From Ansouis we drove over to the nearby town of Cucuron. Like most other places, Cucuron was pretty quiet on a Monday afternoon. The only signs of actitivity were at the co-op where boxes of grapes were being delivered and on the street outside the elementary school when the young children were dismissed for the day.

From Cucuron we returned to Cadenet, crossed over the Durance River and made our way to St. Remy, much of the way under a canopy of the plane trees common in Provence. In St. Remy we sat outside at a brasserie writing postcards until it neared time for our dinner at La Vallée in Mausanne-Les-Alpilles. The restaurant is quite small and relatively new. Our meal was very good and we would recommend a visit to the restaurant.

Home by 10:30pm. We made a lot out of a day when most of the Luberon was on holiday.


Chateau Val Joanis
Tuesday Sept. 13 : Aix-en-Provence; a small world story

Bob and Sue Winn have self-published Provence Byways ; Guidebook to the Luberon Region of Provence, a very useful 96-page spiral bound book. We followed Bob & Sue's directions and approached Aix-en-Provence along back roads and came upon the multi-story Parking Pasteur, a short walk from the historical centre of the city. We visited Aix twice. Both times the sign near the parking garage was flashing "COMPLET" (FULL). We soon discovered not to get discouraged, but get in line anyway. As cars exit you can get a ticket and proceed into the garage, even though the sign keeps flashing "COMPLET".

Aix is a lively, vibrant city, no doubt some of its energy emanating from the large student population. We easily entered the older part of the city, took a brief look inside the cathedral and continued on into the fruit, vegetable, flower, meat and fish markets set up over several squares on this Tuesday morning. We wandered over to the Place Verdun where there was another part of the market underway. At the bottom of Place Verdun we entered a small passageway and soon came out onto the stunningly beautiful Cours Mirabeau, a wonderful sight on a warm sunny day. The south side of the street is an almost unbroken line of restaurants - see photo - for over half its length. The north side is a more sober succession of banks and other business offices, except on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings when the whole length is turned over to a market for clothing, linens and other dry goods. At one end of the street is an impressive fountain with other smaller fountains along the centre spine of the street. The whole length of Cours Mirabeau is shaded by a beautiful canopy of plane trees.

We walked along the Cours Mirabeau for a while, thoroughly enjoying the experience. We decided to stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants. We were seated at the same time as another couple at the next table. As often happens in such circumstances, one of us began by asking where we were from. It turned out that all four of us were Canadians living in Ontario. The lady at the next table looked at us and said, "You're Doug and you're Liz". She was a former high school classmate of mine. We haven't seen each other since 1965. The experience certainly added an extra element to the normal lunch-time conversation.

In the late afternoon we made our way back from Aix and prepared another dinner from our market purchases. My BW adapted one of Ruthanne Long's recipes from Markets of Provence. Dessert included cheeses from the Cadenet market, a fresh melon from Aix, and just-picked grapes from the terraced hills a few steps from our porch.


Cours Mirabeau restaurant, Aix-en-Provençe
Wednesday Sept. 14 : Warmth & Sun on the Cote d'Azur

One of our sons has a friend who is taking two weeks of her holidays to improve her French in Nice in the Côte d'Azur, over two hours from where we are staying in the Luberon. Before we left Canada we offered to meet her for lunch and she accepted.

We headed out shortly after 8:00am, got on the A7 toll road at Cavaillon and drove into another world - a land of palm trees, acquarmarine water, stony beaches and topless sunbathers. After a couple of hours on the A7, then A8, pausing only to pay the tolls (35€20 for the day), we turned off the main highway on the outskirts of Nice and made our way down to the highway running along the beautiful Baie des Anges of the Mediterranean. I managed to find a place to park on the Rue de France right next to the Promenade des Anglais. We had a short time to explore the beach area and the promenade. We were both very impressed by the natural and man-made beauty of the setting.

We had plenty of time for the easy twenty minute walk to meet our friend at the Gare Centre Ville after her classes were done for the day. The three of us had an enjoyable lunch at Restaurant Le Milo's on rue Massena. My BW & I spent the rest of the afternoon with our own personal tour guide through the Vieille Ville, including the Cours Saleya market area. The price was pretty good - only one crème glacée - see photo. We climbed up to the top of the Château and enjoyed spectacular views of the seafront, the city and the sheltered harbour on the other side.

In the late afternoon we left our friend at one end of the Baie des Anges and had a 30-minute walk along the beautiful Promenade des Anglais back to our car. As we were walking along the promenade, my BW announced that she would like to live in Nice for at least part of the year. I quite reasonably inquired if she thought it would be her second or third husband who would be able to afford it.

Back home by early evening after a very enjoyable day.


My BW & a family friend
Thursday Sept. 17 : Lacoste, Gordes, Saint-Paul-de-Mauole; Le Bistrot du Paradou

Today we intended to make quick visits to two nearby villages before heading farther afield - but we never made it over to Arles, our intended destination. A short drive from our gîte is the hilltop village of Lacoste, home to the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade. The well-known designer Pierre Cardin has invested heavily in the community and his artistic and financial interest is evident wherever you go. I'm not sure if he owns the whole town, but I wouldn't be surprised. The village is quite small and very quiet when we were there, but the castle ruins are dramatic and appealing to explore.

We were unprepared for the natural beauty and economic activity of Gordes - see photo. Almost deserted at the end of WWII, tourism has brought about the revivial of the town with a dramatic natural setting. We spent several hours in Gordes, including a relaxing lunch at a creperie on a side street.

We didn't have time to include Arles in our itinerary, so we headed over to St. Remy in the late afternoon and visited the hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mauole, where Vincent Van Gogh resided from May 1889 to May 1890. It was a period of intense artistic activity for the painter. Many of his works are of the area around the hospital. He even produced a now-famous painting of his room in the hospital. My BW & I were in his room in the hospital and later in our holiday saw the painting in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris - an enriching experience for both of us.

In the early evening we continued over to Mausanne-les-Alpilles for dinner at the well-known tourist restaurant Le Bistrot du Paradou. Our dinner lasted almost three hours. The food was OK but more interesting was the friendly atmosphere in the restaurant and a fortuitous encounter with the owners of Le Paradou restaurant in New York. They were at the next table. At some point in the evening we started talking to each other and continued for the rest of the dinner - nice people.


Friday Sept. 16 : Avignon to Le Mas Tourteron; rooster crows at 5:00 am

We came equipped with an alarm clock, but most mornings we didn't need it. The local rooster makes his presence known, beginning around 5:00am each day.

Our apartment was only about a 30-minute drive from Avignon. As we approached the city my BW, consulting our small scale city map, directed me around the outside walls of the of the medieval city to a parking area near the famous bridge familiarly known as the Pont d'Avignon, but more accurately called the Pont Saint Bénezet. We managed to find an empty space and set off to explore the city. We did many of the typical activities - toured the impressive Palais des Papes complete with audioguides, walked (not danced) on the famous bridge, window shopped along the Rue de la Republique, and had a modest lunch with a predominately university student crowd in the Place de L'Horloge. In mid-afternoon my BW sought out an internet site to keep in touch with our family, while I took care of some personal business at La Poste. The Post Office system in France is a service-oriented enterprise, which came as a very pleasant surprise to those of us accustomed to the service (chuckle) at Canada Post.

Later, we easily exited Avignon and returned to our gîte for a couple of hours. At 7:30pm we drove the short distance by back roads over to Le Mas Tourteron in Les Imberts, just outside Gordes. Le Mas Tourteron is une cuisinière in the home of chef Elisabeth Bourgeois and her husband, Philippe. "Like the great chefs she works with her own vegetables, including several varieties of tomatoes, zucchini flowers, fresh herbs....Tucked away in the foothills of the Vaucluse, this restored country farm deploys a seductive serenity."

The setting, presentation and quality of the meal were all memorable. On our way out of the restaurant at the end of the evening, I asked one of the staff if I could have one of the single-page menus. Not only was I welcome to take one, but would I like the chef to sign it? So off we went into the kitchen. My BW was impressed by the spotless surroundings, while I was concerned with taking the photo on this page of Elisabeth signing my menu.


Elisabeth Bourgeois
Saturday, Sept. 17 : Market day in Apt; the mistral moves in

When we awoke there was a different feeling in the air. It was definitely cooler, windier and cloudier than for the past week. Later in the day, we learned that this was the beginning of the mistral.

Off to nearby Apt for the large weekly marché - the favourite one of my BW. We had about a 10-minute walk from our car to the market, where we filled our shopping basket with vegetables, cheeses, bread and pastries, plus some scented soaps and foie gras to take back home. We paused for deux cafés outside a brasserie just behind the stand of a busy cheese seller. We were impressed watching the friendly, busy and purposeful economic exchanges. While enjoying our coffee I phoned Kevin Widrow, a fellow Slow Traveler, who lives nearby, just outside St. Saturnin d'Apt. Kevin graciously invited us for a visit to his Chambres d'Hôtes, Le Mas Perréal, despite a concurrent family event. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Kevin and his family. The completely renovated Mas Perréal appears to be an ideal B&B from which to explore the Luberon region of Provence.

Following Kevin's suggestion we drove into St. Saturnin, walked to the top of the ruins of the chateau and were rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. We left St. Saturnin and drove over to Roussillon, the village setting for Lawrence Wylie's 1950's classic Village in the Vaucluse, "a loving portrait of rural Provence and its inhabitants." The economic history of Roussillon was dominated until recently by the quarrying of ocher. We followed a footpath and joined many others in walking though the old quarry depressions - see photo. It seemed to be the practice to cover exposed skin & even a lot of the clothing with the red or yellow ochre - a local custom we tried to avoid.

Over to Gordes for a quick stop at the boucherie to get some meat, then another one at the Domaine de la Citadelle near our gîte for a bottle of wine, then home for dinner.


Ochre quarries at Roussillon
Sunday Sept. 18 : Mont Ventoux, Vaison-La-Romaine; Perdreau hunting

As we were finishing our breakfast we heard a number of shotgun blasts coming from the vineyards beside our apartment. It was Cyril, Deflaux fils - see photo - out with a friend firing away at the small birds, called perdreau, among the rows of grape vines.

We intended to re-visit the market at L'Isle Sur la Sorgue only briefly to buy some supplies for a couple of meals and to check out some jewelry, but it was almost noon when we headed north to Mont Ventoux, site of the end of many stages of the Tour de France. We approached the mountain from the east. As we drove up into the clouds, the temperature dropped precipitously and it began to rain. At the top conditions were so bad we couldn't see anything. We were very impressed by the number of bikers we passed on the way up and the number of hikers we encountered along the way and at the peak. There are several hiking trails and parking areas at various places up the mountain for the hikers, but I am pretty sure the bikers started at the bottom & made it all the way to the top & back down again over the treacherous, rain-slicked roadway.

We descended on the western side and drove into the beautiful town of Vaison-La-Romaine. The two main points of interest in the town are the extensive Roman ruins and a well-preserved medieval village, topped by a not-so-well-preserved medieval chateau. We explored both the Roman remains and the medieval village, even making our way up the slippery slopes to the chateau. We stopped in the town for a drink, before driving home in a steady rainfall. The temperature had dropped from 18C in the early morning to 12C by late afternoon.

My BW has now decided that she would like to divide her time in the south of France between Nice and a small house in Vaison-La-Romaine.


Perdreau hunting
Monday Sept. 19 : Orange, Côtes du Rhône, Pont du Gard

After breakfast we drove along the N100 past Avignon and made our way over to the ancient city of Orange with two of the most impressive Roman remains in Europe. Our first stop was at the Arc de Triomphe, a majestic three-arched monument covered in carvings depicting the defeat of the Gauls, dating from about 20BC. The arch is a "must-see" for anyone such as myself who has read and enjoyed Ina Caro's book, The Road from the Past: Traveling through History. From the arch we drove to the centre of the city and a short walk to the very impressive Théâtre Antique (Roman Theatre), which still provides the setting for concerts and plays today.

For lunch we drove to the nearby village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, passing several vineyards along the way. We were now in the territory of Côtes du Rhône wines, with a daunting number of vineyards from which to choose. Following the advice of a British couple we met at lunch, we left the area around Chateauneuf-du-Pape and visited three vineyards - one each in Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueyras and Gigondas.

In the late afternoon we drove over to the pretty town of Uzès, stopping for an hour or so at the magnificent and inspiring Pont du Gard - see photo, a short distance from Remoulins. There wasn't much activity in Uzès on a late Monday afternoon, but I wanted to see the town for personal reasons.

We arrived back at Mas Briançonceu after 8:00pm and prepared a late dinner.


Pont du Gard
Tuesday Sept. 20 : Aix; sun & warmth return to Provence

We enjoyed our first visit to Aix a week ago, so we decided on a return visit. We arrived mid-morning when the markets were very busy with locals and tourists alike. It was just a perfect September day - sunny and warm with a gentle, fresh, post-mistral breeze. After a short time we split up - my BW visiting some of the stores, while I sat at a table at the famous Café Les Deux Garçons on Cours Mirabeau, ordered a coffee and started writing the first draft of my Trip Report. It was a wonderful way to write a TR - highly recommend it to everyone! For lunch, my BW joined me at the restaurant. We moved to another table where we thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely meal, complete with a 50cl bottle of wine. Another memorable experience!

In the afternoon, I visited two bookstores - the English language Paradox bookstore in La Place des Quatre Dauphins just off Cours Mirabeau and the French-language Librarie de Provence at 31 Cours Mirabeau. At the latter I purchased a recent French translation of wonderful account of an 1884 trip from Florence to Rome by two young Americans traveling by tricycle.

My BW & I met later in the afternoon and wandered along the busy streets of this most pleasant Provençal community. We had also intended to visit the atelier of Paul Cezanne, located a short uphill walk from our parking garage, but we lingered too long in the older part of the city. It was closing just as we arrived. It gives us another reason to visit Aix sometime in the future.


Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provençe
Wednesday Sept. 21 : Les Baux & Arles; L'Amuse Bouche

After breakfast we drove through Cavaillon, crossed the Durance River and headed toward and through St. Remy on our way to the stunning medieval town and stronghold of Les Baux. We were almost blown away by the stark beauty of the village and by the strong winds that added a realistic element when trying to imagine life on top of the escarpment centuries earlier in periods of religious and political conflict. I was somewhat aware of how Ancient Rome had impacted modern Provence. I was unprepared for the influence of wars of religion in places like Orange and Les Baux. Les Baux is an unforgettbale experience. I highly recommend a visit to all who travel in this region.

In late morning we drove over to Arles, where we easily found parking inside the city walls next to the Rhone River. Even though it was market day, we found Arles to be very quiet, in marked contrast to Aix and Avignon. We visited the impressive Roman Arena and the Cathedral of St. Trophime, but weren't inspired to visit any of the other religious or ancient sites found in the city. Arles was the setting of many of Van Gogh's works, but there is almost no trace of his presence to be found today.

We had a very good lunch at Le16 on rue du Dr. Fanton just off the Place du Forum. We left Arles in mid-afternoon, stopped a short distance from the city and toured the large and impressive Saint-Maur monastery.

We had a couple of hours to relax at our apartment before driving over to St. Saturnin d'Apt for an memorable dining experience at L'Amuse Bouche (25 av. Jean Geoffrey, 84490 St. Saturnin d'Apt; tel. 04 90 71 18 61), a recently-opened (May 2005) restaurant. We had made reservations a few days earlier on the recommendation of Kevin Widrow - a very good suggestion since the restaurant is quite small, with a total of 16 seats. The staff consists of the husband and wife team of chef Jerôme and Marie-Ange, both quite young and very friendly.

There is no menu at L'Amuse Bouche, only the promise of eight small dishes - three starters, then one from the sea, one from the land, a cheese dish and two desserts. Jerôme is a perfectionist - everything was wonderful. The evening we dined at the restaurant one of our dining companions was one of the "grand chefs" of France, whose restaurant has earned a coveted second Michelin star. I discovered who he was at the end of the evening, but I had certainly noticed him earlier because of his enthusiam for the food and some very positive comments he had directed to the two of us seated at the next table.

We both highly recommend L'Amuse Bouche for an unforgetable and moderately-price dining experience. That's Jerôme on the right in the photo, with his biggest fan on the left.


My BW & Jerome of L'Amuse Bouche
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Thursday Sept. 22 : Apt to Bonnieux, Le Fournil ; Good Year movie set

For our last full day in Provence we decided to stay close to our base and get ready for Paris. In mid-morning we drove over to Apt and to get some fromage chèvre at Picardon et Pelardon as suggested by Kevin Widrow in a reply to my query on Slow Travel. After making our purchases we relaxed over a couple of cafés au lait before splitting up to buy some supplies for our first and last lunch at our gîte.

We made our way from Apt to Bonnieux - see photo, pausing at three chateaux, again on the recommendation of Kevin. Our first stop, Chateau de Mille, required a minimum purchase of six bottles of wine - not possible for us. At the beautiful Chateau d'Isolette next door, the cave was closed, but the aroma of newly-harvested grapes filled the air. The final chateau on our list was just before Bonnieux. As we turned off the road towards Chateau La Canorgue, we were stopped by a security person who told us we could continue, but to drive very slowly. We had stumbled upon the movie set of a new Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe movie, apparently to be called "Good Year". (I assume it is a two-word title and has something to do with wine - or else it's a single word title about a tire company). There was no actual filming taking place when we were there but we saw the small temporary village of support vehicles necessary for making a big-budget movie.

The wine was the best we sampled in Provence. We intend to open a bottle of Chateau La Canorgue 2001 after watching the movie when it is released - unless the movie isn't worthy of the wine.

We drove into Bonnieux and made dinner reservations at Le Fournil a highly-recommended restaurant carved into the rock at the foot of the ramparts and facing an attractive square. We then headed back to our apartment where we enjoyed a long and delightful lunch on our porch, basking in a perfect Provençal September afternoon.

Our evening meal at Le Fournil was excellent. While we can recommend this restaurant, the total experience for us was overshadowed by both Le Mas Tourteron and L'Amuse Bouche.


Sept. 23 - Sept 27 : Four days in Paris; my Lavender Hill Mob souvenir

On Friday we smoothly transferred from Provence to Paris via Air France. Our base in Paris was the Relais de Paris Republique at 38 rue Magenta in the Marais district. It has 65 recently renovated rooms and an elevator that goes to the 6th floor. Our room was on the 7th. The breakfast buffet was very good; the staff friendly and helpful. The hotel is very close to one Metro station (Jacques Bonsergent) and only a short walk to the busy Place de la Republique.

During our four days and nights in Paris we did many of the usual tourist activites. We took the elevator up the Eiffel Tower, climbed the steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe - see photo, walked down the Champs Elysées, toured the State Apartments, Hall of Mirrors and gardens at Versailles, strolled through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg and Place des Vosges on a Sunday afternoon, shopped on Boulevard St-Germain and visited several museums including the very popular Musée d'Orsay and the venerable Louvre. We also enjoyed our visits to the smaller Rodin and Picasso museums, both of which exceeded our expectations. The Picasso Museum is a small gem. We had a great time. We would recommend all these activites to anyone planning a visit to Paris - but of course you could have a great time and have a very different itinerary. Paris is a beautiful city.

We went to a different restaurant each evening. One was an outlet of a pizza chain. We should have known better. We had reservations our first two evenings. On Friday we had an enjoyable experience at Chez Nénesse, a popular neighbourhood bistro that combines very good cooking with reasonable prices and a friendly atmospherere. On Saturday evening we had reservations at Chez Janou, another small restaurant on a side street in the Marais district. The Provençal-style food was good and familiar, but the atmosphere was very different from Chez Nénesse. Chez Janou was noisy and crowded, predominately with tourists. Our waiter appeared very disinterested in what he was doing. If you go to Chez Janou, you may have a very different experience, but you won't be running into us anytime soon.

On our final evening in Paris, we sought out a recommended moderately-priced restaurant at 1 Boulevard St-Germain. We discovered that it was no longer in business. Its successor was not an appealing prospect. We looked at a few nearby options and decided on a pleasant-looking Italian restaurant, Trattoria Roma (44 Bld. St-Germain). Our meal was excellent! Each of our salad and pasta selections were obviously freshly and carefully prepared. We had a brief conversation with the pizza cook. He said that his pizzas and calzones are very good. I believe him. We would not hesitate to return to Trattoria Roma if we are ever in the area again.

We ended each evening with un café or une bière at a different restaurant or brasserie around the Place de la Republique before returning to our hotel - a very enjoyable experience.

On the 27th, we took a shuttle bus from our hotel to CDG3 at 5:30am. Our flight back to Canada was scheduled for 8:30am, but the plane was an hour late departing. Aside from that, the trip home was not memorable - just the way we like it.

The Lavender Hill Mob is one of my all-time favourite movies. If you have seen the movie you will have no difficulty knowing the one Paris souvenir I had to buy. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, there is a visual clue on this page.


Eiffel Tower
Summary, Recommendations and Print Resources


This is how I remember our 17-day vacation in Provence and Paris in September 2005 as I was writing the Trip Report. While some of the details will fade over time, I am sure we will never forget :
  • the friendliness and good nature of la famille Deflaux;
  • the view from our window of the Montagne du Luberon - see photo;
  • the taste of freshly-picked grapes still warm from the sun;
  • our dining experiences at Le Mas Tourteron and L'Amuse Bouche;
  • lunch at Café Les Deux Garçons in Aix;
  • shopping in the markets of Provence;
  • walking along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice;
  • Les Baux, Pont du Gard, Mont Ventoux;
  • the Cours Mirabeau in Aix;
  • the mistral;
  • the ocher quarries in Roussillon;
  • Paris in September.
If and when you go to Provence and Paris, you will make your own memories which I hope will be as enjoyable as ours.

  • Make reservations at restaurants. Many are small and/or popular. We saw people being turned away both in Provence and Paris.
  • When driving to a larger centre in Provence such as Aix, Avignon or Arles, get a city map before you go. It makes life much less stressful.
  • Check on closing times or days when planning activites.
  • For Paris we had both the Paris Visite (public transportation) and Museum cards - would highly recommend both. We purchased them through our travel agent before we left home.
  • The Louvre is closed on Tuesday; parts of the museum are closed on Monday; Sunday is very busy. Plan your visit accordingly.
  • If using a Paypal card to withdraw money, keep your funds in your primary account, ie. $US. I transferred most of my money into Euros before I left home, then discovered I could only withdraw funds that were in my primary account. I had to get access to the internet & transfer funds back.
Print Resources

We relied heavily on the first five resources listed below.
  • Markets of Provence : A Culinary Tour of Southern France, Text by Dixon Long, Recipes by Ruthanne Long. Collins, 1996.
  • Provence Byways : Guidebook to the Luberon Region of Provence by Bob and Sue Winn. www.provencebyways.com. Includes daytrips with road maps, restaurant and wine guide, maps of Aix and Arles
  • Provence and the Côte d'Azur by Andrew Sanger. Thomas Cook, 2003.
  • Provence Insight Fleximap, 2003. Includes city maps of Aix, Avignon and Arles
  • Paris, AAA Spiral Guide. 2005
  • The Magic of Provence : Treasures of Southern France by Yvone Lenard. Elysian Editions, 2000. Centred on Ansouis (not identified), but also strays farther afield.
  • Village in the Vaucluse (2nd edition) by Lawrence Wylie. Harvard, 1972. Classic study of post-war life in a small French village - Roussillon, although not identified.
  • The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France by Irene Caro. Harcourt, 2001. Only partially set in Provence, the first sentence is, "I had originally come to Orange by accident."
  • Cafe Les Deux Garcons
  • Chateau La Canorgue
  • Chateau Val Joanis
  • Chez Janou
  • Chez Nenesse
  • La Vallee
  • Le Bistrot du Paradou
  • Le Fournil
  • Le Mas Perreal
  • Le Mas Tourteron
  • Mas de Brianconceu
  • Relais de Paris Republique
  • Restaurant Clementine

Montagne du Luberon
Tuesday Sept. 13 : Aix-en-Provence; a small world story
We wandered over to the Place Verdun where there was another part of the market underway. At the bottom of Place Verdun we entered a small passageway and soon came out onto the stunningly beautiful Cours Mirabeau, a wonderful sight on a warm sunny day.

I had read that the Prêcheurs-Madeleine-Verdun squares in Aix were being completely renovated and pedestrianised, and that the markets had been displaced. I emailed the Tourism Office to inquire about market locations for 2019 and was told that the markets were moved and would be clustered near to the Rotonde until probably the end of the summer this year. You went to the Place Verdun market, so that one is open again. Did you notice if the markets at Place Richelme and Place Prêcheurs have moved back to their original locations?
I had read that the Prêcheurs-Madeleine-Verdun squares in Aix were being completely renovated and pedestrianised, and that the markets had been displaced. I emailed the Tourism Office to inquire about market locations for 2019 and was told that the markets were moved and would be clustered near to the Rotonde until probably the end of the summer this year. You went to the Place Verdun market, so that one is open again. Did you notice if the markets at Place Richelme and Place Prêcheurs have moved back to their original locations?

Elizabeth, My account is from several years ago. Doug

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