Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sablet 1900 - Provence Village Festival

As you know, we own a house in Sablet, in the Vaucluse region of Provence France. We think Provence is a magical place, especially our region. Throughout the year, there are various festivals around the region, lots of them during the height of the tourist season in June, July and August.

Last weekend was the 27th annual Journée du Livre (book festival) in Sablet which is the biggest festival of the year in Sablet. So I was super surprised to read on my friend Barbara's blog Cuisine de Provence that there was a "Sablet 1900" village festival in Sablet this weekend.

We did not go to Sablet this summer for lots of good reasons, including a month-long visit from Mathilde, the niece of Bruno and Sylvie who own Cafe des Sports in Sablet, and the arrival of a precious new granddaughter Jilian Kensie a week ago. If we were there, we would have shared pictures of the Sablet 1900 festival with you. Instead, I am sharing Barbara's post on my blog.

Before I do that, I should tell you that if you live in the Vaucluse or are visiting the area and you want to increase your repertoire of Provence dishes or you want to learn how to cook Provence dishes to impress your friends back home, you should take a class from Barbara. You can find all of the information on her website.

We almost missed it - there were no flyers distributed and no posters advertised this lovely Provençal village fête "Sablet 1900" this morning in our neighboring village of Sablet. And although it is the height of the tourist season in Provence we heard no Dutch, no English, no German - it seems the Sabletains (as the inhabitants of Sablet are called) wanted to keep this true village fête for themselves.

A magnificent Gallic Rooster

 Très chic - very elegant ladies

 L'accordéoniste - accordion player

 This is how coffee was cooked in 1900

 Monsieur le Curé - the Village Priest

 Le Berger - The Shepherd

 Traditional Provençal Dance

Le Facteur - the Postman

You can see why we love Sablet. The Sabletains love to have a good time and put on great festivals. Thank you so much Barbara for taking the pictures. Have a great week. A bientot.

A delicious lunch at Sous Les Micocouliers in Eygalières

By the time we finished strolling around the market and walking up and down the small streets and through the pretty squares scattered about the historic part of Saint-Remy-de-Provence as I told you here, it was time to get on the road for lunch. Thankfully, lunch was going to be close by.

Eygalières is a small village located a few miles southeast of Saint-Remy-de-Provence about 1 hour south of Sablet. The village is in the heart of the Alpilles, an extension of the larger Luberon mountain range surrounded by olive groves, green valleys with grazing sheep and vineyards dotted here and there by restored residences.

As you get close, you can see Eygalières perched on a hill with an ancient castle tower at the highest point. As you approach, you can see the small houses which make up the village. I had been to Eygalières before and walked the streets ducking in and out of shops and up to the castle ruins to see the view from the top of the hill.


Sous Les Micocouliers restaurant is in a restored house built in the 17th century with a large fenced courtyard for dining when the weather is nice, just a few steps from the center of the village. The restaurant gets its name from the majestic Micocoulier trees that adorn the courtyard.

The restaurant is owned by the chef Pierre-Louis Poize and his wife. His interest in cooking began at L'Auberge du Mas de Nierne, where his mother and grandmother ran the kitchen. From there, he apprenticed with Alain Assaud, Joël Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, and Alain Senderens, all renown names in the French restaurant world.

Wife Shirley and Kari in Front of Sous Les Micocouliers

Although the sun was shining, the Mistral was blowing and it was cool so we chose to sit in the dining room. After considering the various menu options, we all chose the three-course Menu Matisse for 31 Euros. You can see the dishes we selected off of the menu in the pictures which follow.

Amuse bouche of sardines and crackers

Starter of pumpkin puree, mesclun salad greens, puff pastry with gratinéed Swiss chard, foie gras with fig marmalade and rolled smoked salmon with avocado cream

Kari contemplates the coming lunch

Pan roasted venison over braised leeks and roasted potatoes and cippolini onions

Macaroni topped with braised leeks and cheese, butternut squash puree, and cauliflower flan

Dessert of fruit salad, chocolate and roasted apple

Orange, vanilla and caramel ice creams with fruit

Palette of desserts including brownie, almond, sable and nut cake

The food was excellent, every bit as good as it looks in these pictures. We had eaten at Sous Les Micocouliers Restaurant a couple years back because Michelin Guide had named it a Bib Gourmand every year going back to 2008 as a place where you can eat well for a good price.

But the current edition of the Michelin Guide had excluded it from its list of Bib Gourmand restaurants so I was a little worried as we walked in, wondering what might have changed. But no worries! The food was as good or better and the prices were still very reasonable. Don't hesitate to go as long as chef Poize is in the kitchen. You will be glad you did.

Sous Les Micocouliers
Traverse Montfort
13810 Eygalières
Tel: 04 90 95 94 53

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Market Day in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The best things about blogs are meeting wonderful people you would never meet otherwise, in person or by email. I have heard from readers who have told me they planned their entire trips to Provence from my blog and from others saying the pictures reminded them of places they visited in the past.

Most recently, I heard from cousin Mauricette who told me my last post reminded her of summer vacations in Le Beaucet. She said that I included a picture of their vacation house, completely by accident, and the picture of the fountain brought back memories of fetching water for the household.

As I've told you, we don't spend a lot of time in Sablet. Being there for only a few weeks, we like to explore different locales, some of which I discover on other blogs. If we are going to a town or village, we try to go on market day as that is the best day, in our opinion, to visit towns and villages in Provence.

On our list of places to visit this trip, were Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Les-Beaux-de-Provence. Since Wednesday is market day in Saint-Remy, that was the day we decided to go. We would spend the morning in Saint-Remy, enjoy a leisurely lunch, bien sur, then afterwards go to nearby Les-Beaux-de-Provence.

Saint-Remy-de-Provence is set 13 miles due south of Avignon and 17 miles north-east of Arles in the Alpilles, craggy limestone hills carpeted with vineyards, orchards, market gardens and olive groves. The area is quite different from the countryside around Sablet.

It was founded by Celts in around 6 BC, became Greek two centuries later, then fell to the Romans who constructed a large city, Glanum. Saint-Rémy (the name came from a bishop said to have performed a miracle there) continued to flourish in the Middle Ages, when the walls and ramparts were built.

The most obvious remains of the 14th-century walls are the old portes (gates), still in use today as entry ways into the center of old Saint-Rémy. The old center is circled by a ring-road of boulevards, small enough that you can walk around the circumference in 20-30 minutes.


As I said it was Wednesday and market day in Saint-Remy. The stalls spill from the Rue de la République just on the edge of Saint Rémy down into the winding alleys and shady squares of the old town. They offer traditional and more unusual crafts as well as clothes, shoes and a huge range of fresh local produce, fish, meat, cheese and flowers.



Brightly Colored Market Baskets

Different Colors and Flavors of Vinegar

That Wednesday was also the start of Carnaval in Saint-Remy with the parade of Marmitons through the market.

Parade des Marmitons

Parade des Marmitons

Parade des Marmitons

Bell Tower of the Town Hall

Dried Fruits, Nuts and Fresh Garlic

Olives of Every Variety

French Flag Blowing in Front of Town Hall

Gothic Bell Tower of Collégiale Saint-Martin

Faded Blue Shutters in Saint-Rémy

Renoncules (top) and Primaveres (bottom) For Sale at Market

The beauty of the countryside and the quality of light has inspired artists, writers and painters. Without a doubt, the most famous was Vincent Van Gogh. After cutting off his ear, the artist voluntarily committed himself for treatment at Saint Paul de Mausole, a beautiful 11th century monastery converted into a psychiatric clinic, just outside Saint-Remy.

Shop Selling Local Specialties of Saint-Rémy

He arrived from Arles on May 8, 1889 and remained there just over a year until May 16, 1890. During this time, he completed over 150 drawings and 143 paintings of his surroundings over all four seasons of the year. They include some of his best known works such as Irises, Wheat Field with Cypresses, The Siesta and The Starry Night.

Saint-Remy Statue

Michael de Nostredame, or Nostradamus, was born in Saint-Rémy in 1503 in a house, tucked away down a narrow side-street. There is a plaque, but with its bricked up windows and modest façade, it's not terribly impressive. A more fitting tribute to the scholar and astrologer is the pretty fountain seen below topped by his bust on Saint-Rémy's main street, Rue Carnot.

Nostradamus Fountain

Shop Selling Souvenirs

Window Mural in Saint-Rémy

Located in the historic center of Saint-Remy at Place Favier, the Alpilles Museum is housed in the Hotel Mistral de Mondragon, a former Renaissance mansion. It has been listed as a Historical Monument since 1862, the building is built around a beautiful courtyard. Created in 1919 by Peter Brown, the museum was completely renovated between 2002 and early 2005.

Alpilles Museum

Near the Alpilles Museum at the back of Place Favier, an antiques dealer has installed her shop. She has set up mannequins in front of her store and dressed them in traditional Provencal costumes. Her shop is framed by old houses and a tower.

Antiques Dealer at Place Favier

In the 15th century, Agnès Hugolen de Fos, a daughter of Saint-Rémy nobility, married a member of the renown Provencal family de Sade, and built a house on this site, which was substantially restored after 1945. The Hôtel de Sade belongs to the French Monuments Nationaux authority.

Hôtel de Sade

Saint-Remy Arched Gate

The Collégiale Saint-Martin, pictured below, is a Catholic Church built on the site of a medieval church which collapsed in 1818 and was reconstructed three years later. The style is mostly neo-classical, though it's topped, by a Gothic bell tower. Its pride and joy is an organ which was restored in 1983 by Pascal Quoirin and is pressed into service each year for the Festival Organa, a series of free Saturday evening concerts by some of the finest organists in the world.

Collégiale Saint-Martin

Saint-Remy Street

Memorial to the Children of Saint-Remy who died in War for France 

Looking Down the Street to the Bell Tower of the Town Hall

Step into Huile du Monde and La Maison de la Truffe seen below where you can sample the best olive oil and vinegar in the area and see a good display of truffles.

Arched Entry Gate to Huile du Monde - La Maison de la Truffe

The Saint-Paul gate seen below is the entrance from the south into Saint-Rémy, onto Rue de la Commune leading to the main square called Place Pelissier where the town hall is located.

Saint-Paul gate into old Saint-Rémy

Saint-Remy Fountain

The city of Glanum built by the Romans a little south of Saint-Rémy is on the road, which today links Saint-Rémy and Les Baux de Provence. Having been covered for centuries by alluvial mud which slid down the hill, Glanum is uncommonly well-preserved and is one of the most important ancient sites in Provence.

Excavation work on Glanum only began in 1921 (so van Gogh would not have known of it) and it is believed that much more remains to be discovered.

The mausoleum seen below dates from 30-20 BCE. Particularly well preserved, it is famous for its unusual structure, unique in Roman architecture: from a rectangular pedestal with four magnificently carved faces rises a triumphal arch, on top of which stands a small round temple housing the effigies of two members of the Gallo-Roman family of the Julii, to whom this monument is dedicated.

The Antiques of Glanum Mausoleum

The Triumphal Arch seen below dates from about 20 CE, it has lost the pediment which once crowned the arch. It is decorated with beautiful reliefs illustrating Caesar’s conquest of the Gauls, with fruit and foliage, symbolising plenty, carved under the arch.

The Antiques of Glanum Arch

The market in Saint-Rémy runs on Wednesdays from around 7am to 1pm. Be sure to arrive very early or be prepared to park well away from the center of town. After we finished our stroll through the market and walked up and down the warren of streets and squares, we headed to lunch. I will tell you about a great place to have lunch nearby in my next post.

Have a great week. Chat soon.