Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26, 2017. Avignon, Bandol, and more

Mondays tend to be quiet days in Provence, or France, for that matter. Most stores and businesses are closed. Nonetheless, both we, and Anne and Jay decided it was a good day to sightsee and visit places we wanted to go.

For us, it was a trip to Bandol, on the coast, about 90 minutes away. Bandol is a bustling port, with a small casino, lots of shopping, and a host of places to eat. We hopped in our trusty A4, made out way to the A7 Autoroute, and headed south. All went well until just after Aix-en-Provence, when David – despite several admonitions to ‘stay right and get on the route 52 exit’ – got himself boxed in and couldn’t make the exit. As is not uncommon on the major routes, the next exit was fairly distant, about 30 kilometers, so we had to cruise to it for 15-20 minutes, or so, then get back on the Autoroute heading west to get back to our exit.

Pretty soon we were at the exit for Cassis, then on to St. Cyr sur Mer, where Marc Refabert’s family has a house on the water. We cruised along the coast and then headed into Bandol proper. Parking was tight, but we found an open spot along the harbor, and David demonstrated his newly revived parallel parking skills. The harbor in Bandol is filled with boats of all sizes and descriptions – sailboats, fishing boats, and tiny dinghies. The waterfront is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. A great place for just sitting and relaxing with wine or moules, or gelato.

We were hungry after our harrowing trip, so popped into Nautic bar for a glass of wine and a light snack. David recognized the spot as a place where we had come some years back with a traveling companion who had offended the server by ordering bouillabaisse with a plate of frites, ‘you do not eat frites with bouillabaisse,’ she was told. We got a laugh out of the memory and enjoyed glasses of Bandol rosé before moving on to an adjacent restaurant so I could have pizza and David steak tartare. The day was balmy and warm, the views of the harbor, idyllic, and the food passable.

At about 4 pm, we headed back to the voiture and drove along the waterfront, past modern high-rise apartments, shops, and the small casino on the water at the east end of the beach. Then, it was back to route 52 for the trek home, hoping that David was more careful about exits and routes. We got home in a little more than an hour, and stopped at the boulangerie at the Orgon round about for a couple of fresh baguettes to go with the cheeses in the fridge. Anne and Jay arrived just a bit after our return, with stories of their day in Avignon. They had a great time sightseeing, and grabbed a meal at one of the many so-so bistros in the main square.

We had decided to make dinner at home, so Jay and I got started. David had bought a Bresse chicken at the butcher in town. Bresse is the best chicken in France, and one of only a couple that has its own AOC, a designation that specifies the breed, where and how it is raised ,etc. I put it in a roasting pan, stuffed it with fresh thyme from our garden, lemons, onions, and shallots. We added potatoes, lardon (bacon chunks,) shallots, marvelous red onions, and  herbs to the pan, doused everything with local olive oil, and put it in the oven for an hour. I put a quick salad together with local greens, avocado, fresh tomato, and David’s homemade croutons which he makes from day-old baguettes and olive oil.

We gathered around the kitchen table and broke out a warm, fresh baguette, plus a hunk of Chez Emily’s wonderful Brie with truffles. It is a wonderful, creamy cheese, with black truffles laced throughout, and quickly vanished. David broke out a hunk of two-year old Comté which was equally good. We couldn’t resist adding a third cheese to the mix, a Papillion black label Roquefort, one of the best bleus you can have. We opened a bottle of Valdition rosé and enjoyed our time waiting for the chicken to be done.

When the aroma signaled that the chicken was done, Jay did the carving honors and we loaded up our plates. The chicken was wonderful, rich and flavorful, moist and tender. Another bottle of rosé was opened and disappeared, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal. It is so simple to have a good Provencal meal, as the ingredients are simple and always good.

Then, it was time to turn in, as I have dialysis in the morning, and we are going to Mas du Capoun in Molleges for lunch.

David dropped me off the next morning in Salon at the clinic, and made a quick stop at the boulangerie for some pastries – sacristain, beignets, croissant, and – of course – a fresh baguette. At about 1130 he returned to Salon to pick me up and he headed back to Molleges and Mas du Capoun.

Anne and Jay were already seated, having gotten the obligatory three-kiss greeting from Michelle. We joined them, ordered kirs, and perused the menu, which is always wonderful, and – at 19 Euros – always a bargain. Jay started with ris de veau (sweetbreads), Anne the pate, and David the farm egg, then it was on to the main courses. Anne and David both had tuna with milk-fed pork, which sounds like a strange combination, but is incredible. Jay and I had lotte (monkfish) with squid (which was unbelievably tender) We matched the meal with a bottle of Terres Blanches rosé and dug in. As usual, everything was wonderful, including the conversation with Michelle about her son, who is now going to college in Miami. She and her husband will be coming to the U.S. shortly to visit him, and we made plans to get together with them while they are there. We hope to see them.

After a couple of long nights, we opted to grab a short nap before figuring out what to do for dinner. Jay suggested we go to the new pizzeria in town, Prosecco. We entered into a tiny dining room, stuffed with tables with red check table cloths, and sat down next to the wood burning stove. After major meals for several days, it was great just to get a couple of pizzas and relax. The waitress was delightful, and the pizzas excellent. Jay ordered a bottle of Bandol rosé, and Anne had a Coke to settle her stomach. We spent the evening laughing and talking  about how soft drinks used to contain cocaine and heroin…the good old days.

Then, it was back to the Mas to turn in. Tomorrow Anne and Jay will be going to Aigues Mortes in the Camargue, so want to get an early start.

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