La Provence

Provence is more than a simple destination, it's a whole way of life!

Publié le 15 May 2017 Mis à jour le 7 April 2018

It's no coincidence if the South has inspired so many artists, writers and poets... it is the epitome of a peaceful, chill and stress-free lifestyle. Even Aznavour concurred: "It seems to me that misery would be easier to handle in the sunshine". And it's true! We may not be the richest people in the world, but we're definitely the happiest!

And then there's lunch. Provencal food really is a joy: the perfumes, the generous dishes handed down through the generations, sauces that simmer away gently, the scent of summer, sunshine and the sea. It's just fantastic!

One of our favourites is a delicious beef stew (daube), a family dish that you take time to savour. And it's almost as much fun making it as it is serving it! In fact, if you fancy trying it out, here's the recipe (even if everyone has their own 'best recipe' of course…):

  • 1 kg stewing beef
  • 3 carrots
  • smoked streaky bacon
  • thyme bay leaf, parsley, juniper berries, 4 cloves
  • 5 onions
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • red wine vinegar (half a glass)
  • orange zest
  • 1 ½ litres red wine (no point using your finest vintage right?)

To make the marinade: take 3 chopped onions, the herbs, 2 garlic cloves, the chopped carrots and diced meat (nice and fatty). Add the vinegar, cover with red wine and chill in the fridge for a day (or all night, even better).
To cook: take a large iron pot, add the streaky bacon, a dash of olive oil, the 2 remaining chopped onions, the orange zest (not too much eh?), then bring geeeently to the boil. Take the meat (drain first) and brown it in the pot. Add the remaining garlic and everything in the marinade (use a skimmer). Cook up well, then add the marinade 'juice' and BOOM! Leave to cook for 3 hours (you can leave it for longer if you want but, er hum, everyone might be feeling peckish by now). Serve with pasta or potatoes and Enjoy!

Provence is all about pretty little villages too – perfect for a Sunday stroll -, olive groves (yes, we love our olives), vineyards where you can sample a nice glass of rosé, lavender fields that remind you of those little sachets your grandmothers used to put in her cupboards, the sea, the gulls (they eat pigeons by the way…) and, naturellement, pastis!

There are loads of great places to discover:

  • Aix-en-Provence with its pretty paved streets. Just down the road is Château La Coste – a 495-acre vineyard and magnificent hub of art and wine. What could be better?!

  • Camargue, with its wide-open spaces, pink flamingos, and free-roaming horses and bulls.

  • A walk on Sainte Victoire mountain in the footsteps of Cézanne, where you can see the landscapes he painted.

  • The 'Calanques' fjords, to gaze in awe, revel in the turquoise waters, climb, walk, bathe and picnic, with all the family or even on your own.

  • Les Baux-de-Provence, a little medieval village set amid almond orchards and olive groves, crowned with a ruined 11th-century castle, maze of little lanes and breathtaking views over the Alpilles. Don't miss a stop-off in Mouriés, Eygalières and Maussane-les-Alpilles too.

  • Arles, with its beautiful old paved streets and Roman remains, now UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  • Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat, with its botanical garden – a genuine voyage to exotic climes!

  • The 'Route des Crêtes' mountain pass road between Cassis and La Ciotat via Cape Canaille (its 394-metre cliffs are the highest in France!). The views are simply breathtaking and the descent at sunset is awe-inspiring!

Provence is all of that and more: happiness, rays of sunshine, good humour and making the most of life... It's fabulous – and we love it ! Anaïs et Pedro

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