Saturday, January 30, 2010

Villedieu and Maison Bleue

One day, shortly after we bought our house, I was sitting on the terrace at Café des Sports in Sablet, chatting with Roslyn, known to the locals as "Rose", the wonderful English lady from whom we bought our house, and some of her vintner friends.

It was warm, the sky overhead was brillant blue as can only be found in Provence. Everyone was enjoying Pastis 51; apparently this is the house pastis at Café des Sports. Pastis seems to be the national drink of Provence; the flavor is predominantly anise.

For those who don't know, the French dilute the pastis liquor with 5 parts water and ice cubes. The drink turns from yellowish to cloudy when water is added which I think is part of the attraction. I should mention that pastis is a beverage I only drink in Provence. It just seems to taste better on a sunny terrace in Provence.

Anyway, I am digressing. Our conversation turned to why we had chosen to buy in Sablet and after explaining the reasons; close to airports and TGV, location close to family, its pretty, its a living village, meaning shops are open year around, everyone quickly affirmed the wisdom of our decision.

Someone, I can't recall who, mentioned that the only other village in the area they would have considered was Villedieu. They also mentioned that Villedieu had a very pretty square and a very good restaurant which serves pizza.

By now you have probably figured out that I love pretty villages and I love good food. So naturally I had to go and visit and check it out for myself. Villedieu is located about 12 kms northwest of Sablet in the direction you would take if you were driving to Nyons.

Villedieu is a small village (population 518) set on a hill surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and pine trees, overlooking the Aygues River, close to the Drôme Provençale.

Villedieu is a medieval village that was once a commandery of the Knights of Templar, where they had a chateau with one tower. Founded during a time when there were frequent invasions, you can see picturesque reminders of the village defense as you stroll around the village.

When you drive into Villedieu, you will arrive in the village square, called Place de la Liberation, where you will find the mairie, several cafes and the aforementioned pizza restaurant called Maison Bleue. Our friends Bruce and Christine live in Villedieu. There is not much else in Villedieu.

Unfortunately when I arrived in Villedieu that first afternoon, the square was almost deserted and Maison Bleue was closed for "congés annuels", annual vacation. I found out that Maison Bleue is generally closed from the around the 1st of November to the 1st of April.

Maison Bleue is owned by a wonderful chef named Daniel. From a small kitchen equipped with a large pizza oven, he turns out a variety of salads, large enough to share, and pizzas with a variety of toppings on dough that is perfectly blistered by the pizza oven. He also offers pastas and other specials.

We have eaten a number of meals at Maison Bleue since my first visit to Villedieu; we've sat in the small dining room and out under the tree covered terrace in front of the restaurant. I strongly recommend that you make reservations since Daniel only does one seating and the terrace fills up very quickly.

The terrace, actually Place de la Liberation, is shared by three different restaurants. Surrounding the village fountain, the seating for each restaurant is defined by the color of the chairs.

Sitting in the crowded square on a spring, summer or early fall evening, it is hard to decide what is better; the food at Maison Bleue or the magical experience of sitting under the trees and enjoying the evening with friends and family, probably a combination of both.

Maison Bleue is a good choice for any meal but a really good place to go with family and friends with young children. Daughter, Stephanie Augsburger Pasamonte in the dining room at Maison Bleue.

The menu and atmosphere is very good for little ones. Grandson Dylan Pasamonte in the dining room at Maison Bleue.

I recommend getting to Villedieu early enough so you can stroll around the village.

At the north end of the village, you will find the village cemetary. From there you can get a very nice view of Mount Ventoux rising up in the distance.

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