Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lolligaggin' In Provence Part Deux - Lazy Days In A Vineyard

Ne rien faire du tout

Doing absolutely nothing. It is pretty much a lost art in the new millennium. Back Door Travel Guru Rick Steves admonishes all travelers to insert "down days" into any travel itinerary. In this age of travel at the speed of sound, we are accustomed to doing things fast. And that tends to spill over into traveling as well. We have all subjected ourselves to seeing far too much in far too little time. If you have kids and have been to Disney, you know of what I speak. This Blog is dedicated to the proposition that half the fun of travel is getting there (Delta being the default exception of course) and when you do get there - just relax! You may be a Nomad, but dropping anchor and staying awhile is an absolute requirement to absorb the people, culture and eccentricities of any place worth visiting. Setting aside a day or two just to rest and relax with no side trips, no museums and no attractions will ensure that you  maintain your equilibrium and truly enjoy the reasons you suffered through that nine hour flight from Atlanta to Paris in the first place.Today's post is about just such a place and will prove that Mr. Steves is absolutely spot on with his down day rule.

Bienvenue - Take Your Shoes Off & Set A Spell

After three days of serious sight seeing in Paris, a day of travel on high speed rail, more walking and rubbernecking in Avignon and a good bit of road travel in Provence, we pulled through the gate at the immaculately groomed La Bastide de Marie, an 18th century farmhouse converted into a destination boutique property with a seamless, eclectic design of old stone walls, tile roofs and  interiors that would be at home in any century. The "bastide" goes to great lengths to provide what I would term unpretentious elegance. And the best part. This lovingly restored eighteenth century mansion functions as the epicenter of sixty plus acres of the Le Domaine de Marie Vineyard. If you were to assemble a portfolio of images touting the essence of the country life in rural France, you would start at this place that was made for good friends, good food and great memories. And the architecture is five star. From the ancient stone house with exquisitely detailed interior spaces and other structures, to the beds that would satisfy the most demanding Nomad in need of rest, this place should be on every Nomad's List of Places To Sleep Before You Die!

As we pulled into the parking area, we were met by a friendly Frenchman, who sounded exactly like Maurice Chevalier in Gigi. I could hear "Thank Heavens for Little Girls" as he dispatched various staff to transfer our luggage to our one of a kind room in this very large, magnificently appointed place. As he leisurely walked us around the estate showing us the Living Room, the Bar Area, The Restaurant, The Patio and The Vineyard, the only thing missing was the boater hat. As we looked out over the vineyard, the essence of this unique place, just outside Menerbes, began to sink in.  I mean, if you are going to have a "down day" and do absolutely nothing,  it might as well be in a world class boutique farm house/hotel, in the middle of Provence, in the middle of a vineyard, with a concierge that reminds you of the classic Maurice Chevalier, right? After settling into our room, we strolled leisurely around the exquisitely landscaped grounds to take in the vibe and completely succumb to this unique environment and all of its essence as a place of reflection and rest. Little did we know that the art of doing nothing, at least at La Bastide de Marie, involves doing at least one thing with reckless abandon . Eating!

Did Julia Child Sleep Here Or What?

When it comes to food, it is an incontrovertible fact  that the French are masters of the culinary arts. They invented the crepe and perfected the omelet. And they are known the world over for the finest wines ever to cross a palette. Eating French food really only requires two sentiments. One - Embrace a diversity of flavors and combinations of  ingredients unparalleled in the world of epicurean delights and Two - Don't even think about dieting on French Food! You must rid yourself of all trepidation and simply give in to the joy of French Cooking. We had already enjoyed many fine meals of all kinds in Paris and Avignon, including some late afternoon wine, bread and cheese we had found in a small market near our hotel. But nothing had prepared us for the culinary delights of a multi-course meal at The Restaurant, housed in a glass enclosed solarium or, if you prefer, a shaded terrace under cover of ancient shade trees. Most people think of French Food as somewhat complicated and fussy. Not so at La Bastide de Marie. As they say on their web site:

 "The chef works closely with nature, using seasonal produce. Freshness is his watchword as he sets out each day to gather treasures from the local markets, where the displays of regional producers inspire his dish of the day. Simple recipes and imaginative combinations give his menus their light, scented and melodious accents, full of the Provence we love to breathe in and savour. As proof, for dinner you can appreciate our Chef's very best specialities: smoky chilled tomato soup with olive tartare, Provençal-style "caillettes" (a kind of meatball) with herbs from the garden, creamy risotto with Vaucluse mushrooms and truffles, crème brulée flavoured with lavender grown on the estate, and profiteroles with lime tree blossom and lemon frosted with juniper and thyme...nature is entirely a matter of taste!"

And every word rings true with every bite of food from each course and each companion wine. After a meal at this simple house in a vineyard, you will never look at food quite the same again. Spending time at this place of unpretentious elegance, allowed us to take  Rick Steves' admonishment to heart and do absolutely nothing for two full days. Unless you count reading a book while drinking a local red with a little cheese, and watching the chef and his old hound cut flowers at ends of vineyard rows in preparation for the next exercise in culinary magic. As Intrepid Nomads, we knew we needed to move on to the next leg of our trip. We said our goodbyes to the lovely people who ran this unique place with feelings of thankfulness and regret that we were leaving an experience of what great travel can and should be, without a single tourist attraction in site. Magnifique!!

Video Artist of The WeekDave Brubeck - In my humble opinion, the greatest jazz pianist of all time. Take Five alone, a tune written and performed in 5/4 time is still considered to be one of the most groundbreaking compositions of all of time. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Brubeck and his Trio in 1969 and in 2007 at the age of 95. Mesmerizing! A true jazz genius.

Nomad Quote of The Week - “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. ” - Julia Child

Vous voyez en provence,



  1. Thanks for the comment. I checked out your blog - Very nice and great pix. I have added you to my blogroll