I’m thrilled to post an interview today with Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris and Picnic in Provence. Today she shares with us her inspiration for moving to the south of France, a few “top tips” for visiting the region, and more about her artisan ice cream company, Scaramouche. Many thanks to Elizabeth for this delightful window into her life in France!
1. Where did you get the inspiration to move to the south of France?
We came to Provence by happy accident, following in the footsteps of the famous French poet and WWII Resistance leader René Char. We first came to the village of Cereste on holiday in 2009. We had the good fortune to meet people in the village who knew Char (the daughter of his wartime love), and we ended up buying their family home, where Char had buried one his most famous manuscripts during the war. You can see the full story of how we found the house here.
2. What is different about your life now as compared to when you lived in Paris?
Village life has been a wonderful discovery for me. I think it’s the neighborliness that has impressed me the most. The first day we moved in, I went upstairs with a box of books and when I came down, there was a basket of vegetables from our neighbor Jeannot’s gaden sitting on the stoop. Over time these small encounters build into genuine intimacy and warmth.
3. Do you have an anecdote / story you can share that provides a window into Provençal culture?
On the theme of neighbors – when we first arrived in Provence to live (in the middle of July) we couldn’t figure out why everyone was talking about ordering their firewood for the winter when it was 100 degrees in the shade! Well, turns out that if you order your wood in July it has time to dry out. When we finally caught up and ordered our wood – in November – it was green and wet and smoked like a lounge singer! When they deliver so late in the year they don’t stack the wood for you. So the company came and dumped 10 cubic meters of logs in front of our house, blocking the whole street. It would have taken us till sunset to get it into the cellar by ourselves, but all our neighbors came out to help, and we had it done in two hours. They whole thing was such a newbie error – we deserved a wedgie.
5. What is one piece of advice you’d give to travelers visiting the south of France?
Try to plan your days within the rhythm of Provençal life. Restaurants only serve between about 12-2:30pm and 7-10:30pm. Shops are often closed between 12:30 -4pm. I always recommend friends get up and do their sightseeing (or visit the outdoor food markets) early, when the sun is not too blazing. Eat around noon and have a relaxing siesta till about 4pm, then wander around and find an ice cream shop or a lovely café for an evening apéro. I often find people get confused and frustrated when they don’t adapt to the local timing, or expect things to be open at all hours of the day and night.
6. From all of the ice cream flavors you’ve experimented with, have you come across your favorite?
I love the Lavender Honey & Thyme ice cream. I also have a personal attachment to the Strawberries & Cream. Turns out there are cultural differences, even in ice cream. When we were coming up with the flavors for the opening of Scaramouche, we had an argument about the strawberry. The French like strawberry sorbet – hot pink, non dairy, pure fruit. I wanted the kind of strawberry ice cream I grew up with – rich and creamy, pale pink, with big chunks of ruby red strawberry. So we came to with a diplomatic solution – so essential in intercultural marriage – we made both! You can follow our evolving list of seasonal flavors on the Scaramouche Facebook Page.
And where can we buy it!?
You can buy our 500ml tubs at our shop in Cereste, Le Bris de Glace in Bonnieux (they also serve our ice cream on a lovely shaded terrace) and Naturellement Paysan in Coustellet, as well as the outlets below. The list of cafés and restaurants that serve our ice cream is always being updated on the Scaramouche website.