Greetings from a chilly south of France. Luckily, after a series of nasty storms, a touch of sun is forecast for this week… but until then, it’s been another weekend full of movies & hot soups. And as the saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone – these cold, winter days in Provence make the coming of spring all the more glorious.
So as I sit here with a warm cup of tea and my new favorite banana bread, I thought it would be a nice time to share with you a great place to visit when these sunny southern skies return – St. Remy de Provence.We had an extended weekend in St. Remy a few months ago over the All Saints’ Day holiday. And I wish I could say that it was jam-packed with sightseeing & museum-crawling, but instead we did many of the same things we do best on vacation… eat a lot, drink a bit less, and spend our days strolling the village streets.
Therefore it was with a handful of guidebooks and a scribbled list of possible restaurants that we made the drive from Toulon on a cloudy Saturday morning. The first thing that struck me about St. Remy was actually the drive into town. Towering trees line the main road (alongside cozy B&Bs, elegant vineyards, and imposing estates) and give you the sense that indeed something majestic is approaching.
And what really is the difference between St. Remy and other Provençal towns? All of the standard southern attractions are there – a quaint town square with a bubbling fountain, twisty village-streets with glamorous boutiques & art galleries, and of course the ever-present outdoor market.
But just when you thought you’d seen it all, the thing that really stands out about St. Remy is that it’s undeniably chic. Chic in an understated, some-of-our-cafes-just-might-have-fur-lined-chairs-but-that’s-all-normal kinda way, but it’s definitely a place to see and be seen. And judging from the number of Italian & British tourists we bumped into (in November, mind you) the word on this Provençal gem is certainly out.
Besides wandering the streets and doing a lot of lèche-vitrine (literally “licking the windows”, or window-shopping) the highlight of our stay was actually where we stayed. If you’re looking for the quintesstial Provençal “country house” experience, look no further than Le Mas de Lou Figaloun. Nicolas and I both agreed it’s the nicest place we’ve ever stayed in France.
Apart for the grounds around the “mas” (farmhouse) which included a stream running just behind us, the interior is simply gorgeous… filled with antiques and decorated with impeccable taste. And our breakfast in the morning (included in the price) was like something out of my dreams – heaps of fresh crossaints, pain au chocolats, fruit, and yogurt – not to mention the 3 homemade jams and cafe au laits for days.
The only drawback of our stay was that we both found our hosts not particularly friendly. But since we were so taken with the surroundings, and the layout naturally allows you to “cocoon” in your sumptuous room, we weren’t all that bothered. Let’s just say that if beauty and calm are top on your agenda, look no further than a long weekend in St. Rémy.
Where we ate:
Crêperie La Celtie
29 Rue du 8 Mai 194513210 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
A visit to chocolatier Joël Durand (one of the “top 10” chocolatiers in France).
The Wednesday market (although we weren’t there during that time, I’ve heard it’s fantastic).
A side trip to Les Baux de Provence, one of the most picturesque villages of the south.