Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Sunday in Bandol, a Picturesque Village Along the Sea

I have wanted to visit Bandol, a picturesque seaside village in Provence since the first time I read about Domaine Tempier, the famous Bandol winery owned by the Peyraud family, in books authored by Richard Olney, Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch.

For those who don't know, Alice Waters is executive chef, author of cookbooks, and the proprietor of Chez Panisse, a gastronomic temple in Berkeley California for more than 40 year and arguably the most famous restaurant in the United States; she is a long time friend of the Peyraud family.

She was introduced to the Peyraud family by Richard Olney, a neighbor and friend of the Peyrauds. Richard Olney wrote many wonderful cookbooks including "Simple French Food", "Provence, the Beautiful Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Provence" and "Lulu's Provençal Table: The Exuberant Food and Wine from Domaine Tempier Vineyard" to name a few.

Wines from Bandol including those of Domaine Tempier and Domaine de Terrebrune have been on the wine list at Bistro Des Copains, the French country bistro I co-own with friend Cluney in Occidental, California. We get these wines from wine importer Kermit Lynch who makes his home in Bandol half the year. In the category of small world, Kermit used to rent a house just a few steps from ours in Sablet when he first started going to the South of France to search for wines.

We have left Sablet with intentions to go visit Bandol several times but never quite made it all the way there. You see, the road to Bandol takes you close to Cassis, our favorite seaside village, and we always succumb to the charm of the pretty village and lure of the wines that come from the hills above and take the road down to Cassis rather than continuing on to Bandol.

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I decided I was going to finally visit Bandol. Bandol is about two hours from Sablet and 30 minutes down the road beyond Cassis. Recalling how difficult it is to find parking in Cassis almost anytime of the year, I figured I had better get to Bandol early. I arrived about 10 in the morning and to my surprise found parking easily near the center of town near the harbor.

It was a sunny warm day and there were lots of people enjoying the sand at "Plage Centrale," the central beach.

There was a small market set up along the Quai Charles de Gaulle. The regular market takes place on Tuesdays.


Fruits of all varieties.

Beautifully displayed vegetables.

A pretty pavilion near the beach.

There are a wide variety of bars, restaurants and shops along the Quai Charles de Gaulle.

Apartments and shops along the Quai Charles de Gaulle which runs parallel to the port.

The flowers are in full bloom. Bandol has been designated as a Village Fleuris - a village known for their plants and flowers.

I also discovered that Bandol was hosting the 1er Festival de Musique Mécanique that weekend and there were quite a few street organs throughout the center of town.

A fancy street organ.

More modern street organs music is from perforated cardboard book music. The title of the music is written on the side of books.

A more traditional street organ with the organ grinder and his lady singing. Unfortunately neither she or any of the other singers I heard that morning could sing on key. It was horrible.

A particularly animated group of performers with the street grinder "playing" his street organ.

More street grinders with their street organs. I didn't see any live monkeys in Bandol.

A large street organ.

Another large street organ.

Along with the street organs, their was a small stage and seating set up on Place de l'Eglise with promises of a variety of wonderful performances.

A young dancer performing.

A comedy group.

I liked this man sitting on his balcony near Place de l'Eglise writing away and totally ignoring everything going on below.

A narrow street with pretty houses that runs parallel to the Quai Charles de Gaulle.

A pretty house.

A carousel near the port.

As I wandered around Bandol I kept checking out menus around the center of town. I decided on Le Clocher which was on a side street at the foot of the church bell tower with seating on a terrace in front of the restaurant.

For my starter, I chose Pissaladière de mon enfance, roquette paysanne - caramelized onion pizza from my childhood with country arugula. The dough was not really a pizza dough but rather puff pastry. The owner, the chef's wife, stopped by to ask me if I liked it. I told her it was delicious which it was. She smiled and whispered "c'est la recette de ma grand mère" - it's my grandmother's recipe.

For my main course, I chose Lotte rôtie, riz noir, vénéré comme un risotto, sauce au vin rouge - roast monkfish with black rice cooked like risotto with a red wine sauce. The black rice came from the Camargue which was new to me. Really tasty.

And for dessert, I chose the Palette de glaces, a plate of house made ice creams including coconut, mango, and strawberry.

To accompany lunch, I had a glass, maybe two, of rosé wine from Domaine Bunan. This was a really tasty, refreshing blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Ugni Blanc. After lunch, I chatted with the owner's wife about the restaurant. Le Clocher is owned by Chef Philippe and Florence Kopecky and they have been in business 14 years. They also own the restaurant next door.

She said Philippe wanted me to come back to the kitchen. He and an assistant work out of a tiny space. He told me his dream would be to move to San Francisco and open a restaurant there. He doesn't think he can get the papers they need to do that so they were thinking of moving to Paris so they could be in a larger town now that their children were older.

Afterwards, I headed off to try and find the wineries that she suggested I visit including Domaine Bunan. I found it and several others but they didn't open until 16 00 heure (4:00 PM) on Sundays and I didn't want to wait around that long. So we will have to return to Bandol and devote the day to tasting wine.

I definitely recommend Le Clocher to you if you happen to be in Bandol and looking for a good place to eat.

Le Clocher
1 rue Paroisse
83150 Bandol
Tel: 04 94 32 47 65


  1. Thanks for sharing the photos of this beautiful place. What luck to find the Festival de Musique Mécanique was on the weekend you were there. Also strange, 5 minutes ago I said to Nigel I must make Pissaladière, now I am wondering do I use pizza dough or puff pastry! Have a great weekend. Diane

  2. Wonderful tour of Bandol, merci Michel. What a lively, colorful seaside town! I could almost feel the summer heat by looking at your pictures. A bientot, Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. I am looking forward to my upcoming trip to Provence and have been avidly following your blog. Imagine my happiness to find the Pissaladière featured -- It was good to confirm the accuracy of my Food Network sources!
    Someday I'd like to rent your house...

  4. Love your photos, Michel and I adore Bandol, such a pretty little town.

  5. OMG now I’m hungry! The pictures and visite guidée are great!

  6. This is not how I pictured Bandol at all! And I'm about to sound like an idiot but I hadn't realized it was on the sea. It's so pretty I'll have to plan a stop on one of our Toulon trips :)

  7. Diane - We were shocked to see the festival taking place too and I don't think that many people knew it was going on since Bandol was not very crowded.

    Veronique - Happy you enjoy the pictures and tour of Bandol. It was a fun day.

    Jennie - Thanks for checking in on my blog and for leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much. I hope you have a great time in Provence.

    Barbara - Thanks. Next time will be devoted to tasting the wines produced around Bandol.

    Labergerebasque - Thanks for the sweet feedback.

    Sara - Bandol is definitely worth a visit if you are headed to Toulon. I had heard about Bandol wines for a long time before I realized it was a seaside village. So I guess I was an idiot too.

  8. Don't touch the fruit? That's rather anti-French. They love touching them and figuring out which is the ripest.
    Looks like a fun place. I love all the street organs with the stuffed monkeys.

  9. Lovely post Michel, I love Bandol and appreciate learning more about the history of Domaine Tempier. We just had lunch last weekend at Domaine Terrebrune, the wines are excellent.

  10. Megan - Bandol is definitely worth a road trip and I will return again, especially to do some wine tasting in the surrounding wineries.

    Tuula - I was really sorry I didn't get to do some wine tasting especially at Domaine Bunan. I love the rose I had at lunch at Le Clocher and I saw the winery just got a great write up in wine spectator. So I will be back.