Behind the Scenes in Provence

Provence Confidential has been blogging about restaurant launches, cooking classes, food festivals, Provençal wines and spirits as well as tradition and folklore since 2008.

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Olive tree pruning and Apéro

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.

Guide to 800 restaurants

The 25th edition of the reference guide to gourmet addresses in Provence -Cote d'Azur was official released last week in Bonnieux.. Provençal chefs present at the launch include Jean-André Charial, Guillaume Sourrieu, Eric Sapet, Xavier Burelle and Jean-Jacques Prévôt who greeted guests with some examples of their culinary delights.

For the past 25 years The Gantié Guide has featured the best restaurants in the south of France. The guide not only includes gastronomic restaurants but bistrots, brasseries, auberges and even gourmet shops and charming local hotels.

Author Jacques Gantié and his entourage of writers, including fellow Canadian Ester Laushway,  take on the task of eating their way through the Bouches du Rhone, the Vaucluse, the Alpes Maritimes, the Var, the Alpes de Haute Provence, Monaco as well as the Italian regions of Liguria and Piedmont to update the guide annually.. Restaurants are rated between 1 and 4 olive branches- the symbol of Mediterranean culture.

You can find the guide in English in bookstores or online at

Sheep crossing

    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.  






Julia's kitchen

    Set among olive trees, La Pitchoune, the house built by Julia Child in Provence is now owned by another francophile with culinary aspirations. Recently listed on Airbnb for those who are looking to rent a holiday home - the owner also plans on launching a cooking school.

     Vogue, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveler and the New York Times  have all written about Julia's modest home in Provence where culinary traditions will prevail. If you want to try mastering the art of French cooking have a look


Chagall in Les Baux


     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







Les Oursinades

  Carry-le-Rouet, the small port city just west of Marseille along the Côte Bleue, will host the Sea Urchin Festival - Les Oursinades - this Sunday, as it has every year since the beginning of the 1960s. The festival has been so successful that it has been extended to the first 3 Sundays of February giving more and more people the opportunity to attend. 

     In addition to spiky sea urchins, oursins in French, platters of other shellfish are also available. People are encouraged to buy a platter, some white wine of-course, and settle at one of the long picnic tables set up along the port for a convivial lunch.  

   The orange flesh of the urchin is most often eaten raw but it can also be added to an omelet. Sea urchins are high in calcium as well as vitamin A and D. They taste a bit sweet and salty all at once. You can count on some of the biggest fans to eat several dozens. Legend has it that in 1952 the fisherman offered the Mayor of Carry-le-Rouet his weight in sea urchins. 

Fontenille - art, wine, cuisine & boutique hotel

     After a 14 month 10 million euro refurbishment project the Domaine de Fontenille, owned by French fashion exec Frédéric Biousse and Parisian gallerist Guillaume Foucher is now home to:

  • an organic vineyard producing award winning wine
  • an art centre with 3-4 temporary exhibits
  • 1 exquisite restaurant and a bistrot run by a Michelin star chef 
  • a boutique hotel with 17 rooms and suites


  Set on the edge of the Luberon in Lauris just a 1/2 hr from Aix-en-Provence,  the 18thC bastide has a contemporary décor that plays homage to Provençal tradition. The landscaped grounds are bordered by majestic ancient plane trees - a variety of sycamore and tall cypress trees. The setting is spectacular even on the dreariest drizzling day in February.


Chef Jérôme Faure, who obtained a Michelin star at the age of 30 and retained it for 8 years left the Vercors region to run both onsite restaurants - Le Champ des Lunes and La Cuisine d'Amélie (more of a bistrot really). His cuisine pays tribute to the seasons by working with in-season produce sourced locally. Purveyors in Tour d’Aigues provide the goat cheese, in Curcuron the olive oil and organic honey, in Puy Ste. Réparade the eggs and saffron. The portions of his authenitic and creative cuisine are generous. Jérôme said he missed the Michelin cut-off date by 3 weeks this year but you can count on him getting a star at Le Champ des Lunes in 2017. 


Black Diamond Month

  February is black diamond month at Le Marmiton cooking school at La Mirande -Avignon's exquisite boutique hotel overlooking the Pope's Palace.  Chefs Bruno d'Angelis, Séverine Sagnet and Julien Allano will teach you how to prepare truffles with other local in-season produce. Select from one of the four courses offered and learn how to prepare John Dory confit in olive oil with salsify and truffless, Slivers of scallops with truffles, olive oil and lemon or Chicken from Bresse stuffed with truffles and poached with stewed winter vegetables.  





Marseille Gastronomy

 Chef Lionel Levy of Alcyone pays tribute to both Marseille and the Mediterranean basin with his modern and creative cuisine. Last weekend Lebanese chef Maroun Chedid, awarded Best Chef of 2013 by the Toques Blanches du Monde, joined Levy and his brigade to design a menu where oriental spices met local Provençal produce. This was an exceptional culinary experience with impeccable service. Be on the look-out for more guest chefs in 2016.

 Alcyone is located in the recently refurbished hospital that is now known as Intercontinental Hotel Dieu. The original foundation was built above the Vieux Port in the 12th C and the hospital was fully operational until November 2006. The city of Marseille then leased the property to Intercontinental who converted the heritage site into a 179 room/15 suite hotel featuring 2 restaurants including Alcyone with Lionel Levy at the helm.

 Levy perfected his culinary skills while working with Eric Fréchon and Alain Ducasse before settling in Marseille 13 years ago. In 2005 he was awarded a Michelin star at his restaurant Une Table au Sud which is now run by Ludovic Turac, one of the youngest chef to obtain a Michelin Star.


Eco-friendly tours of Arles

     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  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.


Gift Giving Season Part 2


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.

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

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