The day started cold (10 degrees C) and gloomy as we headed off for the short drive to the dialysis clinic in Salon de Provence. David dropped me off and headed back to the mas and a bit of shopping – jambon and a baguette, plus a pain au chocolat for me for tomorrow’s breakfast.
With two holidays before the weekend, most folks are taking Friday off, too, and heading off on vacation. The roads are crowded, and the stores jammed with folks stocking up. As much as we love France, the store and restaurant hours, and stream of holidays, makes getting things done a logistical nightmare. Monday most shops are closed, and many restaurants as well. In Eygalieres, many shops and all the restaurants are closed on Wednesday. Saturday many shops are only open briefly in the afternoon – or morning. Sunday… I’m sure you get the drift.
David called our friends Christine and Philippe Theme in Les Baux to arrange getting together. They have closed Riboto de Taven, the charming inn and restaurant that we have stayed at many times, and are now converting the property into rentals – chambre d’hotes and an apartment. After crowds of traffic in Orgon (the village next to Eygalieres) and Salon (where the clinic is located), he arrived a bit late, and we headed off to the village of Maussane for lunch before heading just a km or two further to Les Baux and our friends.
Salon was jammed with traffic, and Mouries, another small village en route, was as well. We stopped briefly at the Moulin St. Michel to pick up some of their excellent olive oil for our friend Bill Calderwood, but they were closed for lunch, and would be closed the next two days for the holidays….
We pulled into the charming village of Maussane, always a delight. As we drove by the intersection at the entrance to the village, a woman at the stop sign was rear-ended by a guy in a mini-van. As her car did not explode, he apparently thought all was okay, so started to pull around her to go on, waving as he did so. She leapt from her car and started gesturing for him to stop. We did not see what transpired next, but can imagine…she probably called the police who were off for lunch hour, and then would be off the next two days for the holiday.
We pulled into the center of Maussane and David dropped me off so I could get a table at La Place, one of the nice cafés that serves lunch and dinner in the square next to the church. The weather had warmed considerably (now 22 degrees C) and the sun was out. The Plane trees had loosed all their leaves here, shading the square and providing a constant background murmur as the breeze wafted through. A gorgeous day.
I got a table at La Place while David looked for a parking spot. There is limited parking behind the church, and it is almost always full, so he headed off in search of a spot elsewhere, then joined me. Two kirs found their way to our table while we perused the menu. La Place is owned and run by Oustau de Baumaniere, a two-star Michelin restaurant just up the road. The food is wonderful, and the lunch menu appealing. I started with the assiette de quatre entrées, small samplings of all of the starters on the menu: a chilled melon gaspacho, veal tonnata, salmon tartare, and a caprese tart. David went with just the melon gaspacho. Tiny mini-greens of fresh basil topped several of the dishes, adding a wonderfully minty flavor. For the plats (main courses), I went with a risotto with pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and guinea fowl. David had filet de lieu (which is Pollack, a cod-like fish). Both were wonderful and went perfectly with the bottle of Mas St. Berthe rosé David ordered. We finished with café noir, and then headed up the road to Les Baux.
Philippe and Christine were in the garden as we pulled up. We exchanged greetings while Fred, their wonderful dog, welcomed us back and tried to get David to play ball with him, as he always does. We caught up on all that was happening, and the status of their conversion from inn to rental rooms and an apartment. The lobby and restaurant at the mas have been transformed into a living room and dining room. We strolled up to the troglodyte cave-rooms that are being converted to an apartment, and, as would be expected, the design and execution are top-notch. One room has been converted to a bedroom suite, and the other to a sitting area, dining room, kitchen, and utility room with clothes washer and dryer. With access to the pool on the property, this will be a wonderful spot for spending a lazy week in Provence.
The former guest rooms in the mas are now chambre d’hotes – self catering guest rooms. They have no cooking or laundry facilities, but are comfortable and beautifully appointed. All in all, the property will be a terrific option when visiting the area.
We were departing for Eygalieres, after making plans to get together the next week, when Christine’s brother, Jean-Pierre, arrived. He is an immensely talented chef, and is trying to chart a new path after the closing of Riboto. A new restaurant in Fontevielle looked to be in the works, but the village would not give approval for the addition of a veranda, so that is out for the moment. a stint at a one-star Michelin restaurant in the Loumarin was just too long a drive each day, so JP is looking for other options. With his talent, it is just a matter of time before things work out.
We breezed over the Alpilles and into St. Remy until we hit incredible traffic in town. Finally we got through and made tracks for the Intermarché to pick up a few items for a Waldorf salad that I’ll be making , plus some tuna, and – of course – David’s emergency supplies of jambon and cheese, in case we’re stuck in the mas for a couple of weeks. We decided to get our baguettes in Eygalieres, a good excuse for going to the Café le Centre for a carafe of wine. We arrived just minutes after the boulangerie closed, but the sign in the window said they would re-open again sometime in 2015, after the holidays…
Oh well, we grabbed a table and sat with Patrick chatting about local stuff. Chrystelle, the waitress, welcomed us back to Eygalieres and bought us a “welcome home” glass of wine.
Lots of laughs, as always, then it was back to the mas for a light snack before turning in. A delightful day.