Olive tree pruning and Apéro

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

On March 3, 2018 from 9 am-12 pm Château Virant will be hosting a free demonstration on how to prune olive trees by trimming decaying wood and offshoots to ensure the best harvest the following season.

The demonstration will be followed by a wine tasting offered by this award winning vineyard. The domaine is located on the terroir of Aix-en-Provence and is part of that appelation/protected location. In addition to the three dominant grape varieties grown at the domaine (Syrah, Grenache and Ugni Blanc), Château Virant produces olive oil from Aglandau, Salonenque and Picholine varieties that thrive on the clay-limestone slopes that surround the estate.

Château Virant olive oil gained in reputation and holds to this day the best track record of awards in the French olive oil sector. 

If you you are interested in olive oil tasting you can sign up for a tasting seminar at any time. Christine Cheylan, the owner, who is a former President of the North American international contest “The Olive d’Or” (the Golden Olive), will host a tasting for olive oil aficionados.

Sheep crossing

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

    This Monday May 16, 2006 at 11 am over 4000 sheep will be herded through the town of St. Rémy de Provence and taken to higher ground to graze during the summer months. This seasonal move of livestock, up to the slopes in spring and down to the valley in the fall, is known as the transhumance, from the Latin trans (over) and humus (ground).

    St. Rémy is one of towns of Provence that keeps this tradition alive and it is well worth attending - for the photo opportunity alone. The villages of Eguilles and Vinon-sur-Verdon will host a transhumance later in May.  






Chagall in Les Baux

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do


     From March 4, 2016 to January 8, 2017 the Carrières de Lumières, a former stone quarry in Les Baux de Provence, will host a new multi-media show titled: Chagall, Midsummer Nights' Dream.  This immensely popular venue, located very close to St. Remy de Provence, hosted over 513 000 visitors during a previous exhibition. 

   Set inside 5000 square metres of a cool abandoned quarry – these light shows meet music shows prepared by Culturespace, long time managers of cultural venues like the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Nice,  are unexpectedly magical. Read more here: Chagall







Eco-friendly tours of Arles

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

     There are over 100 historical monuments in Arles built successively during the Roman era, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Arles is also home to the most impressive museum of antiquity in France www.arles-antique.cg13.fr.  It is without a doubt a city that must be visited during any trip to Provence to view the immensely rich and diverse architecture that has been exquisitely preserved. 

     And if you don’t have time to walk everywhere try an eco-friendly approach with Taco & Co. They offers a selection of 1 hour tours for 45€ for 2 – 3 people in their vélo-taco or taxi bikes.  Choose from the Roman Tour, the UNESCO Heritage Tour, the Van Gogh Tour or their own Taco & Co Tour that will take you along the quays of the Rhone.  www.tacoandco.fr


Gift Giving Season Part 2

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do


Top 3 Provence Gift ideas for him:

Classic Motorcycle Tour of Provence.  Great selection of one day or several day tours (Luberon hills/coast to Cassis/ Gorges du Verdon/ Camargue wetlands) on your choice of bike from Norton, Enfield or Triumph (to list but a few classics).  Guided tours including motorcycle start at 180 euros. www.classicbikeprovence.com

Hot Air Ballon Tour of Provence.  Discover the treasures of the Luberon mountains. Leaving from the village of Roussillon the balloon will fly over the ocre cliffs, the villages of Gordes, Bonnieux and Lacoste. 230 euros www.bapteme-montgolfiere.com

Truffles.  Staight from the truffle orchard in les Alpes de Hautes Provence. Vacuum packed and shipped by courier anywhere in the world. www.truffe-noire.fr

Open House at Domaine de Rayol

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

To celebrate the changing of the seasons the Domaine de Rayol, which is classified as a “Remarkable Garden” by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, will have free admission on December 5-6th. Guided tours will be available between 10:30 am until 2:30 pm on both days.  Le Café des Jardiners opens daily at 12:15 for lunch overlooking the Mediterranean. 

The Domaine - located in Rayol Canadel sur Mer (Var) near Bormes-les-Mimosas – is a truly stunning garden with views of the pristine coastline of the Var region. The garden features varieties from all over the Mediterranean basin as well as regions that have similar climates. You’ll see plants and flowers from the Canary Islands, California, Australia, South Africa and Chile that thrive in this location.  

Domaine de Rayol
Avenue des Belges
83820 Rayol sur Mer
Tel : 04 98 04 44 00, www.domainedurayol.org


Provence Cooking Classes Part 1

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

Provence not only offers exceptional cuisine but many of those chefs are so passionate about the local produce they work with that they offer cooking classes. I tried and tasted my way through many classes and here is a selection of some of my favorites:

La Petite Maison de Cucuron. 

Michelin star chef Eric Sapet offers a journey into Provencal cooking with each of his classes. Eric personally selects each product he works and he has found  the best local purveyors. There is a good chance that one of them will drop in to make a delivery while you are there and you’ll find out more about how the produce is grown and harvested.  Local purveyors will explain the patience and perseverance needed to produce the best of the best. 

Eric lets everyone take part so it isn’t just a cooking demonstration. He is jovial and generous. He will join you for the meal you and your class mates have just prepared either on the terrace shaded by ancient plane trees that overlooks the basin in the heart of the town square or inside the wood paneled dining room with terracotta tile flooring and authentic Provençal furniture during  the fall and winter months. Classes are available on Saturday mornings only.  As have probably already guessed, the classes offered are in keeping with the seasons. So this fall expect to see mushrooms, game and root vegetables. 

Eric started his career at La Tour d’Argent in Paris before returning south to Les Herbes Blanches and then the Moulin de Lourmarin. In 2007 he purchased La Petite Maison where he was awarded a Michelin star two years later. 



Le Miramar - Bouillabaisse

If you want to find out what is behind Marseille’s signature dish this is your chance to do so hands on. Michelin star chef Christian Buffa hosts a Bouillabaisse – derived from the words bouillir to boil and baisser to reduce – on the 3rd Thursday of every month.  Originally, fisherman prepared the meal for themselves using their unsold fish. Today it is one of the delicacies of the region.

The class begins with a walk-through of the daily fish market to familiarize yourselves with local species used in the making of Bouillabaisse including the tiny rock fish that are cooked whole for the broth. You will chop, peel, stir and sift along with your group of 5 to 8 participants before sitting down to the meal.



Chestnuts galore

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

The Var is one of the leading producers of sweet chestnuts in France as is Corsica and the Ardêche. Historically not all regions had access to wheat so chestnuts were ground into flour and served as one of the only sources of carbohydrates. There are innumerable recipes using chestnuts and chestnut flour. And there are also chestnut based beers like La Marrouge from the Var, Pietra from Corsica and Bourganel from the Ardeche. Vendors selling individual portions of roasted chestnuts can be seen in many Provencal towns during the fall and winter months.

The bucolic village of Collobrières nestled in the forest of the Maures mountains has been hosting La Fête de la Châtaigne for 33 years.  It is such a popular event that it runs for the the last 3 Sundays of October. Known for not only its chestnuts but the harvest of cork from the cork oak trees, the windy mountainous ascent to the village is one of the most beautiful drives in all of France. 

Foraging in Provence

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

The recent rains have provided the perfect conditions needed for mushrooms to grow. You can play it safe and buy them on any market stall or you can take to the woods with other foragers.

The good news is you can have your harvest inspected by local pharmacist who has been trained in mycology (the study of fungi) who will let you know what you can eat and what you MUST not eat.

Or why not hire a guide at  www.provenceoutdoors.com who will provide you with knives and baskets and tell you all about the 10 local varieties you can find in the Luberon hills.

Squash Festivals of Provence

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

The villages of Rians, Lauris and Rognes all honour the pumpkin and other squash in the autumn. Festivities kick off in Rians on October 10-11th. Several varieties can be purchased in wedges by the kilo to make sweet and creamy soups and gratins at home. There are colourful and oddly shaped ones for sale as fall decorations.

Pumpkin carving contest, best tasting soup contest and most oddly shaped contest await. Great family outing and photo op. If you miss the event this weekend you can go to Rognes on November 8, 2015.

Cutters and Schooners in St. Tropez

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

On Saturday September 26th the 17th edition of Les Voiles de Saint Tropez kicks off with a selection of the finest traditional and modern yachts in the world. Over 300 sailboats will gather in this exceptional setting to race in the same zone for a week. Among the best known skippers and racers that will be competing in Saint Tropez are Marc Pajot, Bruno Peyron, and Marie Tabarly. This is an opportunity to witness the traditional yachts that are majestical “works of art” as well as new generation boats using cutting edge technology. www.lesvoilesdesaint-tropez.fr


European Heritage Days

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Tours & things to do

Over 17000 monuments in France will be open to the public in the 32nd edition of European Heritage Day know in French as Les Journées du Patrimoine on Sept 19-20th.  Museums and churches will provide guided tours (in French) but private estates, remarkable gardens and private chateaux will also open exceptionally on these two days - for a small fee.

The complete programme is available on the Ministry of Culture and Culture website HERE. There are 6 pdf files for each of the 6 departments of the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur (PACA) region (Alpes de Hautes Provence, Alpes Maritimes, Bouches du Rhone, Hautes Alpes, Var, Vaucluse) that you can download to select your destinations ahead of time.

My top 2 recommendations are for garden lovers:

Bastide de Romegas – located just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Bouches du Rhone) is set in a pine forest with beautiful bassins and fountains all framed by boxwood and roses. Lovely wells and a tiny chapel are also on the pristine grounds. Bastide de Romegas, 3992 Chemin St. Donnat, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, Open 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm, 4 euros per person.

Domaine de Rayol – located in Rayol Canadel sur Mer (Var) – is a stunning garden overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The garden features varieties from all over the Mediterraen bassin as well as regions that have similar climates. You’ll see plants and flowers from the Canary Islands, California, Australia, South Africa and Chile that thrive in this location.  Domaine de Rayol, Avenue des Belges, 83820 Rayol sur Mer, Tel : 04 98 04 44 00, www.domainedurayol.org 1 euro per person.