I've just come back from 2 weeks in the south of France. It was a different holiday from most people's: we stayed in houses in unknown villages and we drove around at least 21 different tiny towns.
It's interesting to see how one feels connected to different people in different parts of the world.
During our holiday in France, I felt connected to the people there in the sense that I felt that they shared my idea of how I like to live, eat and interact.
I saw so much, did so much, and of course, ate so much...
The fruits in southern France at this time were just divine: I had the juiciest , sweetest peaches I had ever had and I couldn't keep my hands off them; the pears came in all shapes and colours- the one above was soft and oozing juice; the melons were as sweet as can be and the apples had a fizz in them.
The cherries from the Provencal market were beyond irresistible. They were big, plump and deep mahogany. I have never had such good cherries-- we finished the whole box in one car ride!
Our friends in St. Pantaléon have an apricot tree and after hearing about my dad's love for apricots they insisted that we pluck and take home a box of apricots.
The tree hasn't blossomed like this in their memory-- it was beautiful!
When you're on summer vacation, it's hard to resist the ice cream... especially if everywhere you turn you're surrounded by 'Glaciers' selling artisan ice cream. I only tried a fraction of the flavours available, but my favourites were the 'Yaourt aux fruits rouges' (yoghurt with red fruits), the Praline and the Nutella. I also tried White Chocolate and Speculaas, which were delicious too, but I wouldn't have guessed their flavors if I hadn't read the label.
We came across an ice cream place in Lyon called Glacier Mirabelle:
Mira + Belle + Glacier = Beautiful Mira & Ice Cream!
On the right is the Glacier Mont Ventoux in Bedouin- which is at the base of Mont Ventoux. My parents hated the coffee, their Wifi never worked and the Apricot ice cream was a little bitter, but the White Chocolate flavor was lovely and they had over 60 flavours of homemade ice cream.
Market days were by far some of the best parts of the trip. Each and every village, no matter how small, has its own markets at least twice a week. Plus, since it's summer there have been even more artisan and regional markets.
The Provencal market in Bedouin was my favorite: not too small, not to big and full of different stalls- fruits, vegetables, macaroons, candy, bread, cheese, spices, glass decor, clothes, coffee and local dishes...
My favourite part was all the people. Everyone smiled, greeted us, asked where we're from, how was our journey, and happily handed out samples.
An elderly couple selling macaroons and other treats was tickled pink by our sighs of contentment when we tasted the almond cookies. We ended up buying a bagful and a packet of pistachio biscotti.
The Carpentras market is well known and massive. It spans dozens of winding streets and alleys, among the ancient buildings, packed with infinite stalls and interspersed with cafés and restaurants.
It was certainly more vibrant than the Bedouin market and had a much larger selection, but it didn't have the same coziness. We inevitably ended up buying produce, treats and some handmade accessories to match!
Une Tarte Au Marron: a solide almondy cake with a thick layer of some smooth paste- also tasted a bit like almonds- and with a crust of chocolate... the bakery was a sinful trap...
After a long hike one day in Sorède, we went to one of the local cafés for crêpes. Everyone else ended up ordering something else, but I had been set on my nutella crêpe since we set off on our walk. It wasn't hot- is it supposed to be?- but it had a divine dollop of nutella in the middle and the last bite, (the centre, which still had a large amount of nutella on it) was heavenly.
The amount of baguettes one sees is insane...
At any given time of day- and I mean any time- there will be men, women, people of all ages walking around with 1, 2, 3, even 4 baguettes under their arm.
Bakeries make dozens of baguettes early in the morning, ready for the queue of people that will soon start to form for breakfast. Then, they bake another batch at some point in the day because the French come back for lunch.
You wonder why people would need to buy so many baguettes, but when you think about the diet of the locals, it's not hard to understand. Breakfast and lunch at home consist primarily of bread, and bread in France consists primarily of baguette. If you order a sandwich, forget about any sliced bread- it'll be a baguette, or on some occasions, there's the option of having a panini.
Twice when we ordered cheese sandwiches we were each presented with 3/4 of a baguette with huge hunks of emmenthal cheese inside. So if you consider a family of at least 4 people, add in the fact that there are probably men who eat a lot, plus the fact that baguette is often served twice a day, the concept of needing at least 3 baguettes per meal makes sense.
It's still amusing to see and I wish I had taken a photo... although I'm not sure how people would take to a stranger taking a photo of them carrying their groceries...
Brasseries are everywhere- essentially a bigger café with more to offer.
In Avignon we had lunch at a Greek place and I tried loads of things that I'd never had before, and like all Mediterranean food, I loved it. The Tabouleh, Haloumi and Dolma were fresh and light and I finally got to try Greek yoghurt! (you don't get it here...) It came in a clay bowl with a generous drizzle of honey, and I had devoured it before we remembered to take a photo.
We had a picnic! My dad and I were super tired after our bike ride and my mum and sister had prepared the picnic we had been planning for days. We sat out in one of Madame Raoult's fields and enjoyed a delicious lunch on a beautiful day.
I have wanted to try churros for a long time-- I never really knew what they were, I had just heard of them a lot. So on our last trip to the beach in Argelès we stopped at one of the stalls (they even sold them with chocolate or nutella) and got a packet.... of 12. My sister didn't like them and my mum isn't a huge sugar person, so after she had a couple, my dad and I were left to finish the rest! Luckily, we both have a sweet tooth and loved them, so devouring them wasn't a problem.
Madame Raoult gave us 2 baskets full of organic tomatoes from her garden and a jar of homemade apricot jam. It was the best apricot jam ever and we had it every single day.The tomatoes were fresher and sweeter than any others I've had before.
And what about cooking? Of course I cooked! While I couldn't cook something every day, I still kept up my new year's goal of cooking one thing a week.
My mum and I made mushroom, zucchini and olive baked pasta with chèvre toasts- I had a blast chopping the massive mushrooms from the market!
Dinner was so pretty... it looked like a photo out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook.
We had a long drive to Sorède and that night I was dying to get into the big kitchen and cook, so I made some pasta sauce. We had loads of tomatoes from Madame Raoult and a huge bunch of fresh rosemary. We had bought some interesting pasta- it's shaped like rice- at the Carpentras market and my dad made some croutons using some old baguette. It was simple dish yet full of different textures.
I guess that pretty much sums it up. There was so much more food, so much more to write about, but I stuck with just putting up whatever I had photos of, for fear of making this post even longer than it already is.
Every time I eat a peach I think of the ones I kept sinking my teeth into in France. Ever time I see a cherry I remember the bag that filled up with cherry pits within minutes. I remember the baguettes ruling the streets and the tarts crumbling in my mouth.
All I can say is that it was delicious... all of it. And definitely inspiring.
For now I'm on a butter and ice cream break (2 weeks of treats cannot be good for one's health...) but my memories of France are going to live on for a long time in my food.