Saturday, May 14, 2011 – Grans and Beyond

Today I decided it might be nice to do some advance work exploring the village of Grans near Salon de Provence for Diane Salerno, who will be going there for a wedding in July.

Grans is about 10 minutes south of Salon de Provence, and roughly an hour from the TGV train station in Avignon. It is probably a two-hour drive from the airport at Nice, and less than an hour from Marseille.

We wound through the countryside on pretty tree-lined roads that were tinier than most, supposedly two lane, but just. Entering the village and going through the center, always the hub of activities in small French towns, we saw a long tree-shaded terrace jammed with tables and people enjoying their Saturday with friends. The narrow nature of the center, plus the trees and buildings, shaded the entire area, which will be a plus in July when it can be hot here.

The rest of the village was typical – narrow streets, a few shops. The outskirts were peppered with large, nice-looking homes. One of them probably is where the wedding, or reception, will take place.

All-in-all, a pretty place that we’re sure Diane will enjoy when she comes.

Leaving Grans, we headed west towards Maussane, with plans to go to Chateau d’Estoublon for lunch. Camilla gave a few instructions to get us out of Grans, then we recognized the countryside and gave her a rest while we headed to our destination.

We were tempted to stop and eat in Maussane in the town square or one of the restaurants, but passed as we wanted to eat at the tree-shaded Bistrot Mogador at Estoublon. We had eaten there on a previous trip, and enjoyed it very much, so wanted to try it again. We arrived to find only one table occupied, and were seated under an umbrella, as the skies were intermittently threatening. We ordered two kirs and some tapenades with fresh vegetables, then I headed into the tasting room and indoor seating area to snoop around. The interior was beautifully set up and decorated, with a lot of attention to detail. A nice place to hold a party. This might be a good spot for Diane and friends to come to in July for a nice meal in a wonderful setting, about a 40 minute drive through very pretty country.

The tapenades were excellent, especially one made from green olives and anchovies – I’m going to try to make something like it when we get home. We were given a small bowl of vegetables to go with the tapenades – carrots, leeks, celery, and radishes. The kirs were good, if a bit heavy on the cassis. I ordered the carpaccio of beef to start, then pan seared scallops. David started with a goat cheese salad, then risotto with spanish ham. Everything was terrific, confirming our prior experience. A light rose from Estoublon was refreshing and perfect with the meal. The service was friendly, and I was gratified that I was able to share a few words with the waiter that he understood. Making progress.

Leaving Estoublon, we wound back to Eygalieres and parked on the main (only) street to wait for the stores to re-open. We had a half pichet of white local wine, and people watched until the bakery and butcher opened. David grabbed a baguette and some pain au chocolat at the bakery and then headed to the butcher to get his jambon a l’os – which I fear he has become addicted to. When he returned, I told him that a passerby had apparently eaten the pain au chocolat while I was not looking… He offered to get another, but I declined.

Then it was home to the mas. We turned on the TV and, lo and behold, found two movies that were actually good: She wore a yellow ribbon, a John Wayne classic; and Zulu Dawn, the story of a British army group fighting the Zulus, with Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, and John Mills. Then, after a light snack, it was time to turn in.

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