Bonjour encore!

It’s the 11th (I think) – Sunday, Mother’s Day in the States.  I may be a tad off on the date but like most things in France a close estimate usually suffices.  I have a small lull between guests and I have slept and managed not to have wine for around 32 hours.  It’s a beautiful Spring day and I am sitting at Les Varieties having my favorite lunch – Salade du Chevre Chaud and a pinchot du rose.  Dan and Susan arrive in about two hours.

When last I left you, Trish and I were leaving for the famous Isle sur la Sorgue

Isle sur la Sorgue

Isle sur la Sorgue

market.  Trish is hard core man!  The market was slightly less than heaving so we wound through the market pretty quickly but found ourselves bogged down with heavy dinner items.  We decided to have a quick lunch by one of the many canals that run throughout the village and gorged on pommes frites to push away petites headaches from the night before.  We hit Gordes for a Cappuccino on the terrace of Hotel de la Bastide, one of my favorite hotels – it has the most AMAZING views and we even

Gordes

Gordes

fit in a quick tour of Rousillion – a three village day.  That’s American style.  Willy and Cornelius were supposed to join us for dinner but after such a crazy day we were not upset that they canceled.

Monday we were supposed to have Xavier, Nicola and Sebastian over.  As I mentioned, we were not quite clear if they were expecting dinner, aperitifs or whether they were serious about even coming.  So many things remain a mystery to me!!!  As it turns out, since I was not selling any of my wine, Xavier was not interested in my other “wares”, Sebastian had taken the family to the beach and was running very late but Nicola came for an hour with his adorable  5 year old son Elliot.  When I last met Elliott he was in a stroller and drooling.  Now he was drinking Cola and chatting away with us.  Nicola adores his son – there were small interruptions as Elliot hid in my garden and Nicola was called to find him.  Hide and seek is not the only universal moment we had.

While Nicola and I walked about the house to see if he wanted to buy anything, Trish was with Elliot.  She had a lesson in universal language.  Elliot was playing in the garden and then ran into the house jumping up and down holding the front of his pants.
“Peepee?”, asked Trish
“Oui”, said Elliot
If only all international conversations could be this clear!

After Nicola left, Trish and I settled into a simple meal at home.  The day had been hot

A Provencal Meal

A Provencal Meal

and humid.  Like the Mid-West, you can feel the heaviness in the air and the smell of rain to come.  It did not disappoint.  The lightning, thunder and torrential rain began.  We loved it.  Until the entire house started to leak.  Once again – a sign was being sent.  Time to let go of the house!!!  img_1528

My bedroom was flooding.  Trish’s bed was getting soaked so we had to quickly rearrange things, the second upstairs bedroom had a small flood invading the carpet through the side windows and my room took over 19 pots, pans, glasses, measuring cups and almost every beach towel in the house.  After a mad dash to save what we could we decided it was a losing battle.  Trish moved over to the other bed in her room and I moved to the upstairs bedroom where only the carpet seemed to be in danger.  We were well into some of my fabulous red left in the cellar so we went with the only option we could:  sleep and hope that in the morning it was not so bad.

When we awoke, the rain had lessened a few notches but the leaks were still coming fast and furious.  As I went to check on my bedroom I stepped on the stone floor of the sunroom and quickly slipped and slided.  More towels, more cups and bowls and a few prayers were all I had left.  The sun did fight its way through by the end of the day and things quickly dried.  I am praying we will have no more rain.

The next couple of days were spent visiting villages, shopping, eating, napping.  Vive la France!

The one thing I REALLY wanted to do, was check out this new restaurant.  Les Chassagnette.

Last April, when I left Provence, Tracey and I met Michelle in Paris.  As always, it was about the food.  A friend from Paris highly recommended the new restaurant Chatueabriand.  They served three choices, no reservations, a tiny room with 10 tables.  Our favorite.  The waiters were known to be hot and struggling actors.  They seemed to be both.  Erwin was tres charmnant and the three of us quickly drank too much wine and became boisterous (shocking, I know).  That led to a conversation with the woman sitting next to me.  As always, between her terrible English and my terrible French we had a lovely conversation.  Oh, the wonders of wine!!!!

She told me that her son had the BEST restaurant outside of ArlesLa Chassagnette – une etoile!  A Michellin Star restaurant in the ‘hood?  I must try it.  She gave me her business card and her sons name and number.  I filed it away but made sure to bring it with me on this trip.

To my surprise, I began to hear about this restaurant from other foodies throughout the year.  Friends who traveled to the area raved, the locals raved, the papers raved.  I made a reservation and convinced Trish it would be a good adventure.  Yes, it was about an hour away, but you can’t trust the French on time so it couldn’t be that bad.  If I had only known how bad Michelle (the maitre’d) was with directions!  Time takes on a whole new meaning when the directions are “mixte”.

We went to the city of Arles for a few hours as it was part way to the restaurant.

The Coliseum

The Coliseum

While shopping in a small boutique we chatted with Caroline the proprietor (flawless English) and she raved about the place.  Truly it had to be checked out.  For directions, Michelle told me to leave Arles and travel to Saint Marie de Mer.  No problem.  I had been there.  Michelle and I chatted about how lovely the place is.  Saint Marie is about 45 kilometers from Arles but once we arrived in the village the restaurant was only 2 kilometers down the road.   There is no distance too far to drive for good food.  When I spoke to Michelle I told him I thought the restaurant was close to Arles and not so far.  He said no, it is near the sea.  OK. Saint Marie is on the sea so it made sense.

After a fab couple of hours walking around the streets of Arles (shopping), visiting the Colesium and Forum ruins, and having a drink in the Cafe Van Gogh aka Café des Nuits (a famous Van Gogh painting).  We were very excited about heading to La Chassagnette for our reservation.  We were told to come early and enjoy an apertif in the garden.  Sounded lovely!

We set out on our drive through the stunning Camargue region.  The Camargue is a national park/reserve that runs along the Mediterranean Sea.  There are marshes with flamingos, pastures with wild white Camarguesian horses, long white sandy beaches with nude sun bathing, the most beautiful Big Sky lit by the Provencal light.  We loved it.  Until we arrived 30 minutes later in Saint Marie and could not find the restaurant.

I called.  Armand (the chef) answered.  No.  We went too far.  How far?  “Come back to Arles”, he said.  What?!!!  Trish was already patient enough with me for driving through the ends of the earth for a restaurant.  We were both hungry but I was hell bent to check this out.

“You are not far”, said Armand.
Well, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it’s that the French with distance, time and measurements have a different view than me!
As I began to understand the directions from Armand he kept referring to the village Salon de Girraeu.  Huh?  There was no mention of that village.

We turned around to try this again and the first sign we came upon said Salon de Girraeu – 48 kilometers! I thought Trish was going to faint.  I was desperate to make this right so I assured here it was not necessarily all the way to the village but possibly en route to the village.  Or so I quietly prayed.

The beautiful scenery was forgotten, the leisurely drive abandoned.  It is a remote area and that’s a good thing as I was driving like a possessed foodie/hostess.  We hit the end of the route with a reassuring sign that said Salon de Girraeu 32 kilometers.  Ugh!!!  We will never get there.  I was so thankful the restaurant turned out to be only 2 more kilometers and not all the way to Salon de Girraeu.  We were nowhere near Saint Marie.

We pulled up to the most beautiful property.  A garden filled with wild flowers, roses climbing walls and trellis of blooming flowers.  A stone patio with large tables for parties of friends and family.  A boozy summer lunch by the beach was easy to picture.

Needless to say, the entire staff at this point was aware of our arrival.  Calling on our Yoga breathing we walked through the door and Armand was standing there to greet us.  A tall man who looks to be in his 20’s (but with his resume must be mid-30’s) with a round boyish face and wild brown curls as a halo.  After a warm hello, his first instruction was to get us champagne.  That’s never a bad start.  We discussed my meeting with his mother and I showed him the card.  He smiled.  Knowing the chef’s mother is never a bad entrée into anything!!!!

The place was beautiful with a more modern twist.  Incredibly long tables divided by tall flowers for groups of 4, 6 or 2.  An easy vibe but an understanding that Les Chassagnette was serious about their food and the garden that provided much of it.

We wandered the garden with our champagne but settled inside on one of the big yellow sofas that were part of the trendy styled lounge.  Warm hot somosas and a carmalized tomato appetizer was served while we perused the menu.  We had a lot of questions and Armand came over to discuss the menu with us.  After a few minutes he suggested that he cook  for us.  It was an unusual day. They had caught a 4 pound lobster and it was not on the menu but he would like to offer it to us.

Trish almost jumped out of her seat.  The long, agonizing drive had disappeared.  We loved the idea of being in his hands and trying what he served.

A cold soup of wild herbs (from the garden) poured over thin slices of radishes and goat cheese
Baby calamari with saffron and fresh frisee
Roasted Lobster on a bed of fresh peas, mint, asparagus and turnips
I can’t even remember dessert!!!!!  I must have been in a food coma.

I plan to send a thank you to Armand’s mother.  She must be proud.

In the end it was an adventure worth pursuing.  We laughed and told Michelle that I would write him proper directions  for those who are locally challenged.  We assured Armand he had not seen the last of me and my friends.

Trish left Saturday but not without one last boozy lunch on Friday in the village where a third Patricia joined us.  The trois Patricia’s and Ed managed trois bottles of rose.  Trish laughed and said, “Oh my God, this is so relaxing.”  Maybe I should have started her with this routine.  (Note to self).

Dan and Susan arrived a couple of hours ago and we are already through one bottle of rose.  Off to dinner in the village…

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