The 42-Euro Omelette at la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon!

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At the top of the dreamy village of Ménerbes within a 17th-century mansion is la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin de Luberon. Year after year upon visiting this village, we would peer curiously through the iron gate of la Maison de la Truffe into the most beautiful, intimate garden on the side of a cliff and would wonder what it would be like to dine there. Yet, we always walked away feeling intimidated by its elegance.

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This time we did it! And to our surprise, the restaurant, which is called la Cantine des Gourmets, even has a plate of the day at lunchtime that comes with dessert and a glass of wine for just 20-25 euros! The day we visited, it was cochon du Ventoux, which was excellent. My curiosity though was fixed on the 42-euro omelette. Why was it so pricey? The black truffle of Provence, which is also called the Périgord truffle and nicknamed the black diamond.

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The omelette was indeed delicious, and we would definitely return for the truffle-inspired dishes and the elegant setting at la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin de Luberon. There is also a cave for tasting the local wines of the Luberon along with a beautiful gift shop with books on Provence, truffles, and all kinds of regional products.

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But don’t forget that for just five euros you can get just as delicious of an omelette or a quiche just a one-minute walk down the hill to Chez Auzet.

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À bientôt!

Crestet—On the Route de Charm

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Crestet can be described as what I like to call Burgunesque, a word I made up for places that remind me of the rural charm of Burgundy that I first fell in love with. This village is not in Burgundy but in the gorgeous Provençal countryside with a view of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail.

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Winding streets, vaulted passageways, cobblestone steps, flower boxes, and stone archways lure you in to have a wander.

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After an ordeal getting to Provence, with a ten-hour delay in Munich that caused us to arrive at our rental in the mountains at 2:00 a.m., I was coming down with a cold on the day we visited Crestet. My husband, however, persisted on having me climb these narrow, steep steps, which I couldn’t resist myself.

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If visiting the nearby most-stunning village of Brantes, be sure to stop off at Crestet as it really deserves to be on the Route de Charm. In fact, there’s a collection of small villages in this area of the Vaucluse that have that specific charm factor: Aurel, Brantes, Monieux, Séguret  and, of course, many more to be “discovered.”

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À bientôt!

Chez Auzet at the Top of Ménerbes

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Hungry during the afternoon when restaurants and grocery stores are closed in Provence? Then head up to the top of Ménerbes for the most delicious quiche for just five euros! If you want to splurge, you can spend seven euros and get salad with your quiche.

There are two choices—either quiche Lorraine or quiche Provençal—along with a selection of croissants, pain au chocolat, and biscuits to choose from.

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After two weeks of frequenting Chez Auzet, I guess we were accepted as locals. Each day, we saw the owner cooking omelettes and other delicious looking dishes for his family. So on our last day there, my husband decides to ask if he can have an omelette even though it is not on the menu. A young cook of the family who was cooking that day says, “OK.” My husband asks for champignons, but the cook says, “No champignons.” He comes back in a few minutes and says, “We have onions.” So for just five euros, we receive an award-winning onion omelette from a kitchen that looks like it is right out of a cooking school.

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Little did I know till now, the owner, Gerard Auzet, has been a famous baker for quite some time. He had a bakery in Cavaillon with a cult following for years, which was written about by Peter Mayle in his first book. Because the bread was that good, Mayle and Auzet joined together in publishing a book all about breadmaking called Confessions of a French Baker

The village of Ménerbes, where Chez Auzet is now located, is a village of dreams. Here is some of what you will see as you make your way up the hill to this salon de thé.

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I know I write a lot about omelettes. But the French omelettes are just that good! So soon I’ll have to tell you about the 42-euro omelette. Yikes!

À bientôt!

Brantes—This Is the Village to Beat!

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Suspended across from the mighty Mont Ventoux is a village that can only be described as jaw-droppingly stunning, as it is surrounded with breathtaking Alpine scenery and filled with rustic charm.

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Brantes has been on my list for years to visit, as it was described as a place of total peace and serenity and a home to artists and craftsmen. And I have to say, it is the most stunning of them all. So much so that we went back a second time.

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This quiet village has two wonderful casual places to eat. On our first visit, we ate at la Poterne, which has a stunning view of the village and Mont Ventoux. The omelettes were delicious, the kind of French omelettes we crave when we are back in the States. What a deal to have a delicious omelette, a grain and carrot salad, and local beer and wine—all with a view to die for—for under 15 euros! I’ll take it over any Michelin-starred restaurant any day. Again, it doesn’t cost a fortune to eat really good in France with the focus on fresh and local ingredients.

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As we meandered the streets, we stumbled upon a local artisanal beer brewery—la Géante de Provence la bière du Ventoux—owned by a couple from London who craved the slow-paced life of rural France and left behind the hustle and bustle of the city to start a business of their own and raise their daughter in a remote village with a school of just 11 students. Both restaurants in the village serve this local beer, or you can taste and buy some from the brewery.

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As we continued to wander the cobblestone passageways, we saw an interesting stone bridge off in the distance to go investigate. We found ourselves at les Gorges du Toulourenc and enjoyed cooling off with a wade in the river before heading back to the Luberon.

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If you are looking for a remote place with breathtaking views and the rustic and charming character of rural France, this is the place. This village and the surrounding villages, especially Aurel and Crestet, are remote and peaceful and of course just filled with charm.

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La Ferme aux Lavandes in Sault

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It’s lavender season in Provence! And what better way to enjoy it than to incorporate a visit to a lavender farm in the stunning fields around Sault, the capital of lavender.

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For quite some time, I have been enjoying the beautiful posts of charming villages, lavender, and adorable rabbits and cats from la Ferme aux Lavandes. So last week on our way to explore the villages around Mont Ventoux, we decided to make a stop at the lavender farm, the source of inspiration for so many of our travels in the area.

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Upon arriving we were greeted by the lovely owner Catherine, who apologized over and over that she couldn’t show us around since a bus of 45 people were about to arrive for a tour. We reassured her that we came not expecting anything but a look in the boutique and a chance to meet her to tell her how much we enjoy her beautiful posts of the region. Kindly, she invited us to sit down and have some tea and cookies and to make ourselves at home as we wandered around freely while she attended to the bus tour. Upon leaving, I tried to pay for our tea and cookies, but the gracious Catherine said, “No, you are my guests,” and she even gave us a gift of soaps, asking us to come back so that she could spend more time with us.

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For those who love lavender, a stop at the farm to learn about the different types of lavender, especially the fine lavender around Sault, would be quite interesting and educational.

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After buying some lavender and Herbes de Provence to relish back home long after we are far far away from such a dreamy place, we got a peak at the rabbits.

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Now we are ready to move on to see the charming villages of Aurel and Brantes, thanks to la Ferme aux Lavandes posts. (Also see http://www.la-ferme-aux-lavandes.com/.) Be sure to make a reservation if wanting a tour.

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Where to Eat in Gordes

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Gordes—a stunning village indeed. Yet, there never seemed to be a memorable place to eat in the village—until now. Perched on a cliff, across from the village, lies a small boutique hotel called le Mas des Romarins.

We just happened to discover it and its beautiful view of Gordes one day. So we decided to reserve a table for lunch at l’Esprit des Romarins. We were not disappointed.

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Though we usually prefer something more rustic and casual, we certainly didn’t mind the royal treatment. At least it felt like that to us as several people attended to us throughout our meal. Delicious food!

And dessert was a work of art.

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Though somehow our lack of French language skill caused us unknowingly to agree to a 16-euro cheese course at the end of our meal. C’est la vie!

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Peaceful, stunning, and delicious food at le Mas des Romarins. I can only imagine how magnificent it would be at night to sit outside on the terrace and watch the sunset over Gordes.

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À bientôt!

An Enchanting Evening at Hôtel Crillon le Brave

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Tucked away in a small hilltop village overlooking a landscape of vineyards and olive groves, lying in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, and practically bordering the villages of the Côtes du Rhône appellation is an intimate gem of a resort intertwined in the streets of the village. Hôtel Crillon le Brave consists of just 36 rooms tucked away in 8 old village houses connected by secret alleyways and hidden courtyards, along with two beautiful restaurants, terrace lounges, and a small yet gorgeous spa.

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While not staying there ourselves, we sure don’t mind stopping in for a glass of wine, a cup of tea, a massage, or a special meal under the Provençal sky. Bistrot 40K hit the spot! Our evening unfolded as with an artist’s stroke the color of the sky changed moment by moment over the valley.

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Bistrot 40K and its gourmet neighbor, Restaurant Jérôme Blanchet, are passionate about using local, seasonal produce. From the fresh baked bread to the tapenade to the amuse-bouche to an amazing bottle of local Ventoux wine, we were off to a good start.

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From there, we enjoyed appetizers and a delicious le côte de cochon du Ventoux rôtie along with gratin d’aubergine and a cherry tart for dessert.

For an enchanting evening under an intoxicating Provençal sky, we recommend a meal at Crillon le Brave. Other options for extreme ambience are la Bergerie in Maubec and le Petit Café  in Oppède-le-Vieux.

À bientôt!

Les Bories & Spa Hidden in Gordes

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Secluded in a 20-acre aromatic park of olive and cypress trees, lavender, rosemary, and thyme is a hidden little retreat called les Bories, which is located on a quiet road across from Gordes. Les Bories is a five-star luxury hotel with a beautiful spa that offers extensive treatments.

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So in keeping with my tradition of getting a massage while my husband is biking away in a cyclist’s paradise, I just can’t get enough of les Bories! Being able to wander around Gordes afterward is a plus.

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Funny story though. My first time to les Bories, I felt a little out of place since I wasn’t use to luxury resorts and had never even had a massage before. In fact, in our early travels, we use to travel on $30 a day for two people. Now on $30 a day, you can still eat like a king in France—the outdoor markets, the bread, the cheese, the everything!

So I am dropped off at les Bories, planning to meet up with my husband later in Gordes. My plan was to walk the hotel’s gentle fitness trail that takes you from the resort right into the village. Graciously, the five-star resort offered to drive me to the village after the treatment, but I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone since I already felt out of place. So I said: “That’s okay. I can just walk the trail down. No problem.”

Problem! With my inherent lack of sense of direction, somehow I got off the short trail and was completely lost. Perhaps it had to do with my not understanding French signs. So after just enjoying the most relaxing massage of a lifetime, I am now wandering around in the intense heat of Provence completely lost in the garrigue on a very secluded dirt road. On top of that, bees are swarming me as I am covered in honey and other concoctions from my massage. I walked and walked in the blazing sun, occasionally passing gated mansions and thinking that sooner or later I would have to ring someone’s intercom for help. Somehow I kept going. After quite some time, I made it out onto a main road. At this point I sensed I was well above the village and started to make my way down the road, relieved that at least I had made it to a main road. Long behold, a happy biker goes whipping by with delight. Yes, my husband is having a grand old time while I am now a disheveled mess of sweat and dehydration and terror!

Yet, none of that has stopped me from returning to les Bories—a beautiful, secluded retreat with treatments such as the Egyptian Beauty Therapy, the Greco-Roman Therapy, and the Coeur de Provence Therapy that will keep you coming back again and again.

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Monieux: A Hidden Gem Near the Gorges de la Nesque

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One day while driving through the Gorges de la Nesque, we “needed” a place to stop to have an apéritif before heading to Venasque for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, les Remparts. My husband suggested Monieux, since he had passed through the village on his bike in the past. I, on the other hand, was hesitant, thinking that perhaps Sault would be a better choice. I had never heard of Monieux. Well, as it turns out, Monieux was a dream! Charm for days! The type of village that tops my list.

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After venturing around the village, with its Bourgogne-like charms, we relaxed by a beautiful fountain for apéritifs at a place called les Lavandes. The inside restaurant looks quite beautiful and no doubt would be worth a return for dinner.

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After discovering Monieux, I wonder how many more “hidden” villages are waiting to be discovered in this area of Provence. I definitely have Brantes and Crestet on my radar as villages having charm for days.

À bientôt!

Le Petit Café Takes the Cake

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There’s no doubt that the food in Provence is amazing. So each year, we like to award a restaurant for the best food of the trip. We have our favorites—Le Fournil in Bonnieux, les Remparts in Venasque, and la Bergerie in Maubec. But this year, le Petit Café wins for most delicious meal of the trip!

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This restaurant has been one of our favorites for some time. For one thing, it is located in the enchanting village of Oppède-le-Vieux, where the evening ambience is captivating to say the least. Yet, the food is downright delicious! Here’s a sample of the menu, which changes weekly.

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We had the tagliatelle with artichokes, tomatoes, ham, and pesto, as well as the beef with tomato, arugula, and Parmesan, accompanied with potatoes.

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The biscuits with chocolat, caramel ice cream, and sea salt were a hit. And the tiramisu was perhaps the best ever!

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We were really looking forward to seeing our majestic canine friend sitting on his spool. But apparently, he was confined to his room, as we caught sight of him from his window above.

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Le Petit Café is a characterful little find that won’t disappoint, especially at night. Reservations recommended, as it books up fast.

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À bientôt!