Provence is known for its culinary culture; farm-fresh produce, excellent vineyards, fabulous markets, and world-class dining.
Whether your passion is sampling exquisite local cheeses at the fromagerie or treating yourself to a five-course meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, you (and your tummy!) will find something to love in Provence.
1. Take a walking tour of Aix-en-Provence on market day.
Market day is a custom dating back hundreds of years—and the markets in Aix are some of the finest. Visit local farmers selling fresh berries, tomatoes, and asparagus picked the same day…sample amazing goat cheeses, lavender honey, and crusty French breads and pastries…meet with proprietors of the oldest food shops and learn the secrets of eating and entertaining in Provence.
End your tour at a coffee roastery for un café or a noisette served with a splash of milk.
2. Treat yourself to the “Promenade sur Mer” at Christophe Bacquie in the Hotel du Castellet, a Michelin-starred restaurant.
There’s no shortage of Michelin-starred establishments in Provence, but the elegant Christophe Bacquie excels with its fabulous seafood-focused menus of six, seven, or even eight courses—including the heavenly desserts. Take a look at the video above to see what’s on offer (and perhaps brush up on your French!)
The restaurant has fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding villages and mountains with the glimmering Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
3. Tour the Chateauneuf du Pape, one of the finest wine regions in the world.
The ancient Romans first planted grapes in the Southern Rhône Valley and you’ll get your fill of picturesque Roman ruins as you tour this premier winemaking region. Only 15 varieties are allowed in this appellation and all harvesting must be done by hand in Chateauneuf du Pape.
Upwards of 95% of the wines are reds, known for their drinkability—they are delicious young, although they hit their sweet spot around eight years of age. These are lush wines with heady characteristics of cherry, black pepper, and spice.
4. Try a cookery class with Michelin-starred Chef Réné Bérard.
When you take a Provençal cookery class at the Hostellerie Bérard, you’ll discover the secrets of the region’s unique gastronomie, including a trip to the market where you’ll learn to shop for the freshest ingredients, under the expert tutelage of Chef Réné Bérard (in the video above his son is creating a masterpiece in the kitchen of the Hostellerie).
You’ll even visit an olive oil mill and get an introduction to wine tasting in France—something every visitor to Provence should experience.
5. Have a romantic lunch for two on the terrace at Roche Belle in La Ciotat.
Roche Belle is one of the hidden gems of Provence, an intimate restaurant with lovely shaded terraces ideal for a cozy lunch.
The restaurant features classic French and Mediterranean cuisine and an extensive wine list showcasing the finest regional wines. Its secluded location is just the spot to rekindle a little romance or celebrate a special day.
6. Go truffle hunting at Les Pastras.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at one of Provence’s most closely guarded secrets—the truffle plantation. Meet the well-trained truffle-sniffing dogs and join the professional hunters in search of the elusive “black diamonds.”
After your truffle hunt, sample some truffle-drenched hors d’oeuvres and taste the organic olive and truffle oils. You’ll even get tips for cleaning, storing, and cooking with truffles.
If you visit in January, don’t miss the annual “Journée de la Truffe Noire d’Aups,” the truffle festival in Aups. You can meet the region’s best truffle dog and see one of the last remaining truffle pigs—and enjoy all the truffle-infused products your palate can handle.
7. Tour the olive groves and enjoy an olive oil tasting at Vieux Moulin a Huile du Partegal.
Olive oil is a serious and complex business in Provence and you’ll learn to distinguish the different flavours, aromas, and smells of the region’s oils through blind tasting. You’ll see first-hand how olive oil is produced and discover the history of the craft throughout the ages.
The guided tours are only available from April through September, so time your visit accordingly so you don’t miss this unique experience.
8. Indulge yourself with artisanal ice cream at Scaramouche.
Although this artisanal ice cream shop was only opened in 2013, Scaramouche has become a popular fixture with both the locals and visitors to Provence.
You’ll find much more than traditional flavours of vanilla and chocolate—try romarin, huile d’olive et pignons, a subtle rosemary and olive oil concoction with crunchy pine nuts, caramel au beurre sale, a best-selling salted butter caramel blend, or geranium et brisures de pistache, an Iranian recipe of geranium flowers and crispy pistachio.
9. Dine on fresh shrimp, oysters, and squid on the beach at Le Grand Large a Cassis.
Provence is famous for its seafood and there’s no better place to enjoy a plateau de fruits de mer than on the endless sandy beach of Le Grand Large in Cassis.
The sparkling sea makes a striking setting for an afternoon repast of fresh seafood accompanied by a chilled bottle of refreshing Provençal rosé wine.
10. Taste the magnificent coffee at Cafes au Bresil, France’s #1 coffee roaster.
Yves Aubert-Moulin married into the coffee business after falling in love with the daughter of the owner of Cafes au Bresil, but despite his late start, he’s risen spectacularly in the world of French café. In a competition among some 600 of the finest coffee roasters in France, Aubert-Moulin was named the country’s best coffee roaster by the French Coffee Committee.
You can enjoy the results of his exquisite craft at the Cafes au Bresil in Avignon—perhaps after a morning spent browsing the wares in Les Halles market.
11. Visit the saffron fields and the safraniere (saffron boutique) at L’Aube Safran.
Saffron is an indispensable part of Provençal cuisine—and its cultivation is a consuming, intensive labor of love. Harvesting is done entirely by hand from flowers that reach a mere 15 cm above the ground. It takes some 250,000 flowers to produce a kilo of saffron, which is why it commands a price of up to €30 a gram.
You can wander the saffron fields, witness the cultivation process and explore the pots, tubes, and vials of the precious spice at L’Aube Safran, a charming yet low-key B&B in the Vaucluse.
12. Do a grape stomp at the Harvest Festival and enjoy a buffet of cheese, charcuterie, wine and olive oil.
Grape stomps a la “I Love Lucy” are one of the most popular experiences in the southern Luberon. All through the month of September, guests clamber into large barrels and stop grapes to their hearts’ content, regaled by the locals with harvest stories and lore.
You’ll learn all about local grape varietals and viticulture in Provence—and end your labors with a sumptuous feast of cheeses, cured meats, organic olive and truffle oils, and delicious red wine. It’s the epitome of traditional Provençal culture.
13. See how artisanal chocolate is made at the Puyricard Chocolate Factory.
Chocolate and the South of France are a traditional couple—and Puyricard in Aix is one of the finest artisanal chocolatiers in Provence.
Tour the Puyricard factory and learn how raw chocolate is selected, the process that creates the perfectly molded chocolate candies, and even how each piece is hand-decorated for peerless presentation. Be sure to try the palette d’or, a best-selling gold-leafed confection.
14. Try authentic bouillabaisse Provence-style with a glass of local rosé.
Provençal bouillabaisse is a party on a plate—the perfect way to mark a special occasion or simply turn an everyday family meal together into a celebration.
Visit the fishmonger at your local market for the freshest fish (rascasse is traditional in Provence) and a few tomatoes, leeks, potatoes, fennel, garlic, and of course saffron and try your hand at this amazing dish.
Don’t forget a bottle of rosé, the traditional accompaniment for this iconic dish.
15. Visit the Food Truck Festival and sample the edibles from gourmet food trucks from all over the world.
Each year, the Chateau de Berne winery hosts an annual street food event welcoming gourmet food trucks from around the world—Japan, Mexico, Belgium, Africa, and Vietnam to name a few. Of course, your favorite French foods will also be represented in abundance and there is live music and delicious regional wines to round out your day.
Yes, even the street food festivals are superior in Provence!
16. Take a French pastry class at l’Atelier Cuisine de Mathilde.
Is there anything more heavenly than buttery French pastries and decadent desserts? Learn to make them from scratch at home at L’Atelier Cuisine de Mathilde in the historic quarter of Aix-en-Provence.
Creme brulees, madeleines, shortbreads, even delectable seasonal fruit tarts—you’ll master them all in a private pastry class with two or three friends.
Is your mouth watering yet?
The food culture in Provence is unlike any other in the world. Let’s plan your Provence holiday today so you can experience the wonder of Provence gastronomie and wine for yourself?
We are excited that today is when the results of the judging for the 2016 Best Holiday Home in Europe Awards will be announced. Mas des Avelines is a finalist in the Best Family Friendly Holiday Home category.
Our luxury house is located in sunny Provence surrounded by vineyards. We have so many fun things for children to do at the property including our heated saltwater swimming pool, beach volleyball / badminton court, table tennis table, boules court and a kid’s area including a jungle gym and trampoline.
Here at Mas des Avelines we are opening as a Bed and Breakfast for the winter months – we are even going to keep the heated saltwater swimming pool open for our guests.
If you fancy joining us in Provence for a relaxing few days this is the perfect opportunity. We are only 15 minutes from the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet where you can join in the Dix Mille Tours, Reebok Spartan Race, Finale GT Tour and Racetrack Days. The house is situated in the middle of the AOC Bandol vineyards and is just five minutes from Le Castellet and La Cadière-d’Azur. Our B&B is even close to the sea with St Cyr Sur Mer and Bandol both being a short drive away.
For the last two weeks it has been a busy time down here at the vineyards with bouncing tractors full of luscious loads of grapes. Beware on those narrow Provençal roads at harvest time. All fears, after a hot summer with little rain, have been quelled and the harvest has been good.
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