Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – reflections on France

After a day to settle in at home, we looked back at our trip. There was a lot to enjoy.

Paris is gorgeous this time of year, but we didn’t see much of it. David scheduled us to and from Provence as quickly as practical thinking that it would be best with my dialysis schedule, so we had little time there. Unfortunately, we learned that the drain of getting to France by air, then to Avignon by train, then to Eygalieres by car in just two days was pretty hefty, and left me worn out for several days after arrival. The next time we will make our way to Eygalieres more slowly with time to rest in between legs. This will also give more time to enjoy Paris. Live and learn.

We settled into life in Provence pretty quickly, not really missing newspapers or TV. We did watch some old series and movies on Sky TV, but mostly found other things to do. Shopping for meals is different from home. Stores are open from 7 am until noon, then 3 until 7 pm, and the produce is fresh, so we shopped each day for what we would need for that evening and the next breakfast.

The local food is terrific, light and delectable, with the focus on fresh vegetables and seafood. Dishes are cooked with olive oil, not butter, so are lighter. Portions are modest by U.S. standards, which is good – you don’t leave each meal feeling stuffed. The best meals were at Riboto de Taven, Cafe Fleur in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Hotel de Bastide in Gordes, Mas du Capoun in Molleges, Chateau d’Estoublon in Fontevielle, and Bistro Decouverte in St. Remy. There were many others that were also very good – Aubergine and la Petite Table in Eygalieres, Xa and Bistro de Marie in St. Remy. In Paris, Dominique Bouchet remains a treasure, with a wonderful menu and great service at reasonable prices. Food we will miss will be David’s beloved Jambon a l’os, my pain au chocolat and allumettes, Sanguinella blood orange juice, the local olive oils, and the incredible produce that looks good, and tastes better.

The wines of Eygalieres and surrounding villages, both red and white, are a terrific value. Most sell for 16 Euros or less at retail, and around 30 on wine lists. They are well-balanced and enjoyable. We especially liked Domaine Valdition, from vineyards just a few kilometers down the road, Vallongues, on the slopes of the Alpilles, And Terres Blanches. Chateauneuf du Pape is a bit more expensive, but not much. We got terrific whites (hard to find in the States) for about 18 Euros, and reds for 25.

Our trusty Renault Laguna did well by us. David said it got 43 miles per gallon over the entire 2,400 kilometers we drove it. It was fun to drive, with a six-speed stick and great handling. Hats off to our GPS, “Camilla” who got us most places without a hitch. David’s first reaction on driving his E55 again at home was that he was driving a tank.

Our trip was made special by the people we now know and are friends with in France. The crew at Lavoisier whom we have known for over a decade; Christine and Philippe Theme, who never fail to impress you with their warmth and grace; Jean-Pierre Novi, whose food and quiet wit are always a delight; Guy Knox, the property manager at the mas who tends to whatever need might arise; Patrick Charbonneaux, the groundskeeper at the mas who shares the building with guests; Dr. Baudeau at the American Hospital of Paris; the ebullient Marc and Catherine Refabert, and many more we are getting to know better. To all of them, our thanks for making our stay so special.

Au revoir, et a bientot.

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