Last year my mother moved to the South of France. In a mad mid-life revelation she shipped off the dog, opened her Melbourne house to an artist-in-residence, and settled in a provincial town named Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Saint Remy is seeped in history; a home to creatives, Monaco royals and untiring agriculturalists. Its landscape and architecture have remained untouched for centuries and its locally cultivated food (cheese, truffles and foie gras) is at the heart of French cuisine.
Now I knew that my mother missed me terribly, so like the dutiful daughter that I am, I packed my bags twice that first year, visiting in the height of Summer and the midst of Winter – the things we do for family! Dear reader, if you are ever travelling through the South of France (or in the thick of your own life transition) be sure to visit Saint Remy and its surrounds. Below are some hints and suggestions to aid your journey through this restorative countryside. Part 1 of this article looks at where to stay and where to eat.
Where to Stay
Château de Roussan: A 17th century château that is surrounded by 6 hectares of garden. The hotel is embellished with baroque masonry and is ideal for those seeking solitude or a little romance.
Mas De L’Amarine: This is possibly the funkiest and most amusing boutique hotel I’ve visited. The converted private residence was once the home of an avant-garde artist, whose mosaic-tile work coats the floor of the hotel parlour.
Hotel de Tourrel: Perfect for those wanting to be in the centre of the action. This conveniently located hotel is aggressively stylish and even has it’s own wine bar that specialises in rare and vintage drops.
Where to Eat
La Pintade Chaponnee: For something a little different, pack a bottle of rose’, some gourmet takeaway treats from La Pintade Chaponnee and enjoy a picnic in an olive grove. Just be wary of la couleuvre (the adders).
Le Bistro du Paradou: Saint Remy has over 80 restaurants, they range from the Michelin Star to the bad Indian that you’d rather not remember. But if you’re seeking traditional provincial fare, it doesn’t get any better than Bistro Paradou. The bistro is a 20-minute drive from Saint Remy and focuses all its culinary attention on perfecting a plat du jour, forgoing a traditional al a carte menu. The meal is crowned with a serve-yourself smorgasbord basket loaded with fromage.
Mas De L’Amarines’ Restauarant: Like the hotel, the food is imaginative, contemporary and exquisitely executed. We enjoyed Christmas lunch here and the truffle soup was the highlight.
Farmers’ Market: Every Wednesday morning the town is buzzing with local providores showcasing their goods. Take a stroll, take your time, and be sure to sample everything.