Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Gorges du Verdon

The Gorges du verdon and The Lac Sainte Croix are certainly gems in Provence.

A bit far away from St Remy expect 5 to 6 hours driving time back and forth plus the time you'll spend on the narrow bendy roads along the gorges. So I recommend staying overnight in Moustiers Ste Marie, Castellane or another village.
Especially if you want to enjoy the Verdon itself, rafting, canoing or only "pedalo on the lake". For nature lover it is eyes candy all the way trhough.

From Moustiers Sainte Marie, take the D952 towards Castellane. If you want to have the most drastic view, I recommend taking the "route des crêtes" but have to warn you that the road is small and bendy...

Otherwise, as we did you may drive to Castellane and enjoy the scenery or turn en route onto the D955 towards Trigance, then D90 and D71 taking you back towards Moustiers on the other bank.
Expect a 4/5 hours round trip.
Here are some pictures of that  route as we did it on April 10th.

Gorges du Verdon, Moustiers Sainte Marie and Ducasse...

Last week end we were lucky enough that some friends, who had booked for the special 20th Anniversary Week end at Bastide de Moustiers, were sick.
It is sad (they are feeling better now) but the good news is that we took their place....

Off we drove gently to Moustiers Sainte Marie from Saint Remy.
Expect 3 hours (not incl lunch stop) journey time when taking the nice road (St Remy to Cavaillon, Apt, Manosque, Valensone and Riez).
Or 2hrs 15mn if you take the motorway from Cavaillon to Aix and Manosque (less scenic of course).

We were blessed with the weather and I was constantly stopping to take pictures (Cherry trees in blossom are just amazing this time of year.

Cherry trees in blossom April 10th 2015 on D943 from Gordes to Sault

Since we had some fact checks to do in Sault (will do a separate post), we took the road to Sault.

Chateau Javon,  Private Property not open for visit

A Pigeon home

We arrived in Moustiers Saint Marie by 6pm and went straight to the hotel....

Arriving in Moustiers Sainte Marie

The Bastide de Moustiers is the best hotel in Moustiers. Located at the foot of the village, it's a peace haven.
- 5 hectares of land with Horses and poney, a vegetable and herbs garden for the kitchen, a Petanque fields, "Hamac" for a little nap, a gorgeous shop, an helicopter landing space and much more
- Room are located in the 17th Century bastide or in one of the little "Mazet" on the property

Staff couldnt be more friendly. Since the hotel only 13 rooms, all guests are known by their name and there is always someone arround to help you out and check your stay is going well...

The hotel Boutique

The Boulodrome.... (dont forget the Pastis to go with it..)
The fresh salad we had for dinner

Relaxation time..
We stayed in the Lavender room. Mid range type, price from 265 € to 320 €.
I found the room charming, maybe a bit cluttered to my taste with Lavender, books, glassware.
The bathroom was giving direct onto the room but that was fun.
The bed was out of this world. I wondered in the morning if I wouldnt steal the pillows but prevented myself.
Extremelly quite.
Highly recommended.

Bastide de Moustiers link

Then it was time for serious business....
Aperitif with the friendly GM of the hotel Jeremy who told us everything we had to know about the property.

And off to meet the chef and check the spotless kitchen for the anniversary dinner.

Since we couldnt make it for the Friday special dinner, in the Presence of Mr Ducasse himself (who we were told was so sad to miss us) the chef served us the very same dinner.
We enjoyed a degustation menu with 2 starters (fresh salad with wild aspargus then spealt wheat and artichokes), 2 main courses (cod and lamb), the goat cheese board, a Strawberry salad and soup and a chocolate mousse.
Each served of course with a glass of different wine.

Restaurant is opened to non resident.
Week day Lunch 2 courses formula at 38€ , 3 courses 48€
Dinner and Week end lunch menu at 80€

In the morning we partake the perfect breakfast in the garden

And in the late afternoon after our Lac Sainte Croix and Gorge du verdon day trip, we stopped by in the quaint village of Moustiers, Capital of the Faïence.

My recommendation would be to stay over night in Moustiers or nearby rather than organise the day as a day trip from and back to St Remy as driving can wears you out.....

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lavender in Provence : A Distellery worth visiting near Apt/Roussillon

Located about 10mn drive from Apt, on a very scenic road (bendy as I like them), the distillerie des Agnels is a family operated essential oil extraction farm.
When I arrived yesterday I was greeted by Ginger (she's the 5th generation in the Agnels family and the 6th generation is on its way...).
The place was full of the Lemon from Menton which they were processing.
The building looks industrial form the inside but you'll be greeted by either Ginger or her boyfrienc Jonathan as it is a family business.
In the shop you can see a glassware alambic which will show you the process of extraction better than in most other distellery. On a table, you will see and smell Pure Lavender and Lavandin and be able to make the difference in the futur.
If you take the ful 6€ visit, you will also see a 15mn movie (French with english subtitles) and visit the downstair where you will see a big alambic in action....
And if you come between June 20th and August 20th you can also join Grand Pa Raymond Agnel (83) who will take you in his field, talk about Lavender and show you how to harvest it (all that in French of course....)
The Distellery is open 7/7 in the season and most of the week in the low season.

Hameau Les Agnels
Route de Buoux
84400 APT
Tel  : +33 (0)4 90 04 77 00