t has taken me over a week to write this post. Firstly because I’ve been nursing some holiday blues but secondly because I’ve been thrawling through my photos from the holiday to choose the best memories. Alas, this task painfully didn’t help the holidays blues… I’ve been reminiscing since. I’d also like to take this early opportunity to admit that many of these photos were taken by talented holiday date.
rovence. Where do I start. After what can only be described as the most perfect, special and stereotypical week in the South of France I was inspired to cook and create. France is so full and generous in its freshness, variety and produce. From wine to vegetables, cheese to meat. After staying in a self catering apartment among bee laden lavender bushes and luscious green climbing vines, I relished the chance to cook with these fantastic products every evening with a different local bottle of rose to sample – research. It’ll be a few more weeks before I welcome the tomato salad back into my weekly menu, after devouring one too many, but the variety and freshness really was stunning. That said, there is a recipe at the end of this post. I promise. But first a whistle stop tour through some highlights of the trip. My top foodie, wine and scenic experiences that I would highly recommend.
e visited so many markets with character and charm. We drifted through the cobbled streets of Provence, stopping for coffee and to people watch. Whilst we saw some magical towns, it was Aix that stole my heart for food and life…and Saint-Remy-de-Provence for style, design and utter class. The Saturday market in Aix made my eyes glow and my culinary pulse race like a kid in a candy store. We bought fresh beans – green, white and red, and a rainbow of tomatoes. Purple basil, giant lemon and handfuls of sun dried tomatoes. Olive bread, charcuterie, and sunflowers.
The saucisson was to die for…we made it through on samples alone.
Following the markets, the days were filled with exploring the region, tasting the local rose and dining on the greatest of lunches. One of the highlights of the trip was the beautiful Chateau La Coste where we did just that. Tasted the best wines on offer followed by a rustic feast on ‘The Terrace’. (There is a more formal dining area, but ‘The Terrace’ offered both charm and ease – Chateau La Coste)
As if we were in need of better nourishing, a special and romantic lunch at the foot of Mount Ventuox after a morning absorbing Sénanque Abbey and its lavender moat, we visited somewhere rather special that I could not ignore. Hotel Crillion le Brave. You’d certainly not be in short supply of decadent hotels in Provence but this was quite the experience. And just a lunch experience I might add. A night will set you back a months worth of rent so we settled for cold rosé, more tomato salads and a feast for two while we settled in and wrote our postcards.
If you’re wishing to visit, it is also interesting at the foot of Mount Ventoux. So if you’re committed to working off that lunch then you can always challenge yourself to a fearful cycle.
op experiences for a week in Provence:
- Chateau La Coste – lunch, art, wine tastings
- Aix-en-Provence – tour the town, visit the markets, people watch. Coffee in the garden of the gorgeous Hotel Pigonnet.
- Saint-Remy-de-Provence – stylist and beautiful town for great interior shops, design pieces and fabrics
- Senanque Abbey – stunning and magical. Go early – before 9am if possible as otherwise you’ll be swamped with coach tours
- Gordes – clifftop town with stunning views. Have a coffee overlooking it.
- Calais – a boat tour to the Calanques (I would do the 3/5 calanques trip. The 8 would be overkill). If its not too hot, hike to 1 & 2. (About 1-2 hours in total depending on fitness)
- Hotel Crillion le Brave – something special for me but if you’re keen to also explore it, its a great lunch spot.
- Lavender fields – I’d avoid any tours, just visit any fields you drive past
- Vineyards – stop in at as many as your can that you pass on the roadside. They all have something different to offer. They will all be welcome to host you!
- Hot air ballooning – we did this at 5am-9am for sunrise over the region. Stunning and special. Champagne and pastries on landing. *Note, wind can disrupt bookings during the summer so prepare to be flexible.
- La Bastide des Amandiers – we stayed in this lovely self catering apartment. I could not fault it. (No children allowed. There are 3 x apartments. One sleeps 4, the others sleep 2).
- Transport – you’ll need a car for any travel you’ll want to do and especially if you’re staying at Le Bastide des Amandiers.
- Marseille – we flew into Marseille airport and spent a night there before heading out to Provence. We spent 2 romantic evening in this jazz bar – La Caravelle – which is quite literally the hidden gem of the town, overlooking the harbour. They offer great cocktails and sharing meat, cheese and bread boards.
ow I promised you a recipe and here it is. A simple and rustic tomato salad with a lightly grilled tuna steak.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 2 tuna steaks
- 4-5 large heritage tomatoes. (Different colours if you can find them) – room temperature.
- 1 small red onion
- 1 large handful of green/purple basil
- 1 small cucumber
- 1/2 loaf stale baguete/bread
- Extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar
- 1 lemon
- Start by preparing the tomatoes (its important they are at room temperature). Cut them in various sizes. I like to slice some into chunks, some into slices and some finely. Place in a large serving bowl.
- Deseed the cucumber and chop as you wish and add to the bowl.
- Finely slice the onion into half moons and half again and add to the bowl.
- Roughly chop the basil and add this too with plenty of seasoning and the juice of 1/2 the lemon.
- Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar/glaze on serving.
- Cube the bread into croutons sized pieces and fry in hot oil in a frying pan with plenty of seasoning until golden. Drain and add to the tomato salad.
- To cook the tuna, heat a griddle, grill or non stick frying pan until hot. Season the steaks and cook for around 1 & 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side so just seared not he outside and pink in the middle.
Serve with a fine rose or a nice red. The red goes well with the beefy tomatoes and the tuna.