Best Breaks For The Bon Vivant
If you love good food and wine then you’ll love a holiday in Provence.
The rhythm of life in Provence is slow, relaxed and nonchalant with the warm, Mediterranean climate and dazzling sunlight having drawn visitors here for centuries. The summer is often crowded and can be stiflingly hot, but come in spring or autumn and the place feels like a little piece of heaven on earth.
If you enjoy long lunchtimes and fresh produce then this is the place for you. With a varied landscape that stretches from the mountains to the sea, Provence is home to olive groves, vineyards, truffles and fresh seafood – all of which can be found in local markets and on restaurant menus throughout the region.
All About Olives
Olives are a big part of Provençal cuisine – from olive oil to tapenade to the olives themselves. You will find high quality olive oil in many small village mills owned cooperatively where olives are brought by locals to be pressed at the municipal mill, but the oil is often only available to purchase during the oil production season and many olive growers in these village mills take back their oil once it is pressed. Larger mills tend to produce oil to be bottled and sold and can be found direct from the mills, or in local shops and markets.
A Day Without Wine Is Like A Day Without Sunshine
Although its wines aren’t regarded quite as highly as those of Bordeaux and Beaujolais, Provence is home to several AOCs (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée) and also produces a large volume of easy drinking rose. The largest appellation, producing some 75% of the total wine in the region, is the Cotes de Provence and over half of the wine made is the aforementioned rose. Also of note and rarely finding their way out of France are the white wines of Cassis and the spicy reds of Bandol. Other regions worth seeking out include the Luberon, Coteaux Varois, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Bellet appellations.
Whet Your Appetite With An Apéritif
The other notable tipple you are almost certain to encounter on your travels is the apéritif Pastis. An aniseed flavoured liqueur made from star anise, fennel seeds, liquorice and Provençal herbs, the drink is usually mixed with iced water which turns it cloudy. The most famous brand, known throughout the world is Pastis Ricard, which originated in Marseille.
On The Hunt For Truffles
Hidden beneath the earth of Provence and surrounded by an air of secretive mystery, truffles are a local delicacy known to many as “black gold”. At Les Pastras, you can discover the delights of this gourmet ingredient on a truffle tour on a genuine Provençal plantation, learn how they are cultivated and join the trained truffle hounds on a hunt to uncover the pungent tuber, all followed by a tasting session washed down with champagne.
Provençal cooking is distinctive from that of the rest of France, owing much to the Mediterranean climate and local ingredients. Be sure to try some of the region’s most famous dishes such as Bouillabaisse, the fish stew originating from Marseille, and ratatouille, the stewed vegetable dish originating from Nice. There are many other traditional dishes worth seeking out and plenty of contemporary interpretations of classic Provençal cuisine which can be found in many of the region’s Michelin starred restaurants.
A Recipe For Success
One thing is for certain: you certainly won’t go hungry in this gastronomic paradise. Don’t forget to pack a travel guide and remember that in France lunchtime is an institution with restaurants opening their doors from around 11:30. If you arrive much later than 1pm you may find that you will be turned away! Also, be sure to arrange your holiday insurance before you travel so that you know that you are covered.