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Trip Report-Provence/Paris plus learning experiences!

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Mar 27th, 2004, 06:55 AM
  #1
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Trip Report-Provence/Paris plus learning experiences!

Thank you to everyone on Fodors for help and information. We didn't get to half the places we wanted to so unfortunately we will have to go back-the sooner the better!
We flew on Air France out of Boston. I had booked in November on line. At that time I booked our seats. Well, they changed the plane and they also said that my husband's seat wasn't confirmed for the trip out but was for the trip back. Learning experience 1-double check the flight periodically. I had checked to make sure the flight still existed but not in depth as I should have.
We took the TGV to Avignon from CDG without any problems. Learning experience 2-there is a board which shows where each car will stop. You need to be where the car marked on your ticket will stop to make an easy transfer onto the train.
Of course we got lost getting to our hotel in St Remy de Provence. Learning experience 3-the map you schlepped from home does no good in your bags.
We stayed for one week at the Mas de Carassin. It is a gorgeous place a ten minute walk into St Remy. We booked it online and we very happy with our choice. We had a ground floor suite with its own little patio tuck into the hedges. It had a small sitting room and bedroom, the bathroom had a WC, tiled stall shower with an amazing showerhead and hand held, and a Jacuzzi tub. Pierre and Michel who run the place were very nice and of course fluent in English.There is a pool but it wasn't ready for use since they had just open after vacation the day we arrived. It also wasn't pool weather. The grounds were beautiful and we had a view of the hills beyond Glanum. Breakfast, which was included in the price, was served in the dining room since the weather wasn't quite warm enough in the morning for the patio. It was a nice spread too with cereal, yogurt, various breads, croissant, coffee, chocolate, cheese and fruit. Pierre serves a set menu dinner in their dining room several times a week. We ate there twice. The first night we ate there Pierre let me help him in the kitchen. My idea of a wonderful vacation and my family is waiting for me to reproduce Pierre's recipes at home.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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To make this a little shorter I will only list the places we went and ate. I will be happy to expand on any details.
Meals in Provence- in addition to the two dinners at the Mas
La Serre-dinner-St Remy
Mas de Cure Bourse-lunch -Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
La Siesta-lunch-Saintes Maries del Mer in Camague-nothing special but good food
Le Grande Cafe-lunch- Avignon
Christian Etienne-dinner-Avignon
Clos de la Violette-dinner-Aix en Provence
Le Verger de Pape- lunch- Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Le Jardin de Frederic-dinner- St Remy

Places we visited (which weren't as many as we had planned)-
market on Sunday at Isle-de-la-Sorgue
Fountain de Vacluse
Gordes
Camargue, Aigue-Morte
Avignon- Palais de Pape, Pont d'Avignon, Cathedral and the garden above it
Aix-Got royally lost in Aix to the point of divorce. Learning Experience 4-don't go into a city without a complete street map even if someone has given you directions-Atelier de Paul Cezanne-worth the trek up the hill
Chateauneuf-du-Pape- Chateau Beaucastel-great visit with wine tasting
market in St Remy
Le Baux de Provence
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:20 AM
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Sounded wonderful! And I was so happy to hear about Mas de Carassin - we just booked the EXACT same room the other day for our trip in May - so it was great to hear about it in detail!

So you would recommend eating there for dinner one night then? I saw the other places you ate, what did you think of Le Jardin de Frederic? That was on my list as well...

Thanks!
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:22 AM
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Just a couple of notes on Provence-
eat as much tapenade as you can!
the olive oil is amazing
ditto the olives
The Mas carried the wines of the Chateau Romanin which are organic and biodynamic which we discovered means they follow the natural calendar-moon, sun etc. The wines were great especially the rose. We visited the winery and bought a half case to bring back. The cave is amazing-built into the limestone hill on one side and a vaulted ceiling and pillars like a church on the other side. They are building a conference center on the hill above the caves so if your employer is looking for a place for an off site meeting here you go!
The sommelier at Christian Etienne is an American expatriot. He was very knowledgeable and helpful. He gives tours of the wineries of the region. Here is my plug to Kerry McAuliffe ([email protected]). He also recommended two places to get olive oil and we got to one- Castelas on the road to Les Baux. A litre tin sits on my kitchen counter.
Learning Experience 5- if you see something you like in the market buy it! I sort of thought that the vendors made the rounds through the various markets. Maybe they do but I didn't make it to the markets they were at.
Learning Experience 6- make sure you have small bills and change for the markets. It will make everyone life easier if you aren't trying to pay for a 3 Euro items with those crisp 50 Euro bills from the ATM. (Why do they give you such big bills?)
I wanted to bring home some tapenade and pistou but didn't pick it up in the market because we thought we would get to another market. Pierre recommended we go to the Intermarche (Provencal Super Stop & Shop) to pick some up. I had a great time and only wish I didn't have 3 hungry people with me so I could have explored it more fully.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:22 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and taking the time to list your restaurant choices as well. I also appreciated the TVG/card number advice, I probably would not have noticed this. Did you have a car or were you able to do what you wanted to with public transportation?
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:30 AM
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Sorry - forgot to ask, how far in advance did you book the Mas de Carassin?
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:30 AM
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Cindy-you will be so happy with the Mas de Carassin. If you want to send me your email address I can send you some pictures. I can understand if you want to be surprised though. I would recommend one dinner at the Mas. I hear another guest say it was the best meal they had their entire trip. It was lovely and very relaxing. The Jardin de Frederic was wonderful. The only minor problem was that they had a big party in the upper dining room so we were in the cave. Food was wonderful though.
Margie-we rented a car so we went where we wanted when we wanted. If you do rent ask for a diesel since diesel fuel is cheaper and the fuel consumption is better. Just plan on where you are going in advance to avoid those little 'you didn't say we needed THAT road' kind of spats.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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Margie-we booked the end of January for the 13th of March. We were traveling off season so it wasn't a problem. Pierre said they are getting more Americans and at different times than they had before. There was a mix of Americans, French and English guest.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 07:49 AM
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After a week of great weather (low 70s and sunny as opposed to 6 inches of snow at home) we packed up and went to Paris. Learning Experience 6-make sure that the train goes from the station where you arranged to return your car. We thought we had booked the train into and out of the TGV station outside of Avignon but our return was from the Gare Centre. Not a major problem but not as convenient. Pierre called and made sure there was no problem with the rental company. Pas de probleme!
We packed a lunch for the train and watched the countryside pass by. I wish we hadn't packed the maps so we could try and figure out what all those interesting looking places were for future visits.
We booked a deluxe Tuilleries room at the Hotel Brighton. It was the first time we stayed in the 1eme, prior visits we stayed in the 6eme. The room was nice with a view of the Tour Eiffel. It was convenient to the Louvre which was a major item on our itinerary this trip. All in all though we prefer the 6eme and will stay there the next time. We looked at the hotel we tried to get a room in for this trip and decided that we would try for that next time.
Places we ate for dinner-
L'Ardoise- rue Mont-Tabor 1eme, fabulous 30 Euro formulae, small place, open on Sunday
Fish - rue de Seine, 6eme, for those nights that you can't face another rich meal, more of a provencal menu, great wines by the glass, also open on Sunday
Willi's Wine Bar- rue de Petit Champs, 1eme, very good, great and unusual wines, learning experience for my husband who has been a sommelier at various restaurants
Taillevent-grand and glorious, our last night in Paris splurge, expensive but hey we were heading back to work!
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Mar 27th, 2004, 08:11 AM
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Places we like in Paris-
We made a pilgrimage to Helene Darroze to get my husband some Armagnac. Her family is a major producer and they have bottles from many years. After much deliberation Tomas decided on a box of three half bottles from assorted years. I am sure a trip back there will be in order next time we are in Paris.
The marche Biologique on the Boulevard Raspail is where we go every Sunday morning we are in Paris. In addition to getting fruit, cheese and breads we have to have a pancake from the first vendor on the right. He has a griddle set up and makes the most amazing grated potato, onion and cheese pancakes. We get one to split coming into the market and then one to split as we leave. MMMMMM!!!!
We have been lucky that the times we have been in Paris the Bon Marche is open on Sunday so after we leave the market we go to le Grand Epicerie. They have amazing counters with everything you can imagine-salads, smoked meats, fruits, vegetables, jams etc. Can you tell we travel on our stomachs?
Everytime we go to Paris I go to G Detou and pick up some Cocoa Barry chocolate pistoles for baking and candy making. This is a restaurant supply store. In addition to the chocolate, they have an amazing variety of dried mushrooms for great prices. Very close by there is Dehillerin which has the equipment necessary for the stuff you bought at G Detou. Just don't do what we did which was to leave the package from Dehillerin sealed up in our carry on luggage. We forgot we had bought kebab skewers which the airport security people weren't happy with. Luckily we had enough time to back track and check the carryon bag rather than lose the skewers.
We always take a picnic to the airport and included with it is some goodies from Gerard Mulot (rue de Seine, 6eme). The patisserie is unfortunately closed on Wednesday the day we were flying out so we had to go on Tuesday. They were very disapproving of keeping our petit four collection overnight but acknowledged that it would be much better than anything the airline provided. I also picked up some chocolates for my co workers who have decided that I should return immediately to get more of the chocolate covered alcoholic cherries for them. The raspberries prepared that way were amazing too.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 09:10 AM
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Dear Cape Cod..I too just returned from Provence and Paris..I am glad that you had as much fun as we did...I was at a cooking school though did a lot of short trips (we had 6-7 hrs free)..I think from my discussions with our instructor that the 60-77 degree weather cant be counted on in March (or April) and that we must alert others that we did "luck out"...I did also experience one of those dreary damp days on the first day of the trip. I also found that the distances we were able to travel in a specific time period were less that one imagined looking at the map..many of the roads were narrow with absolutely no shoulder..the beautiful but im sure at times deadly plane tree lined roads into St. Remy are an example..I had a med. sized European car which was necessary as we were 4 but otherwise I would have rather had a car which was even 3-4 inches narrower.
I certainly was amazed and delighted with the tgv from paris-Avignon..convenient, reasonable and certainly beat what would have been mindless point to point driving.
...I too cant wait to go back..I very much enjoyed reading your report.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 11:15 AM
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Thanks AGM, you made wonderful choices for dining and it brought back memories.
We also had a problem with AF changing our plane and time and with a stop in NY. Before it was always direct from Boston but since they hooked up with Delta, I hear more problems.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Hi!

I am interested in the Mas de Carassin. Please tell me how to contact them and if there is a web-site. I really enjoyed your report. We may change our accomodations if we can get in touch and they have a vacancy. Also, how much did you spend per night? Thanks!
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Mar 27th, 2004, 12:10 PM
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Hi AGM,

Thanks for sharing a lovely trip.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 12:49 PM
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What ira said.

Yum!
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Mar 27th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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Travelbunny, can you tell a little more about your cooking school experience? We have gone to cooking school in Italy and had a wonderful time. We have been thinking of France for our next adventure. Thanks
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Mar 27th, 2004, 01:02 PM
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I contacted Mas de Carassins using the avignon et provence(www.) website. It is one of the properties listed under three star hotels. Good luck.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 01:20 PM
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..dear "jan"...the cooking school was more than great. It is located in St. Panteleon which is very close to Gordes. Sylvie runs the school from her home, Les Megolithes...It is very informal...how can I describe it except it is like cooking in the kitchen with a friend of the family..more a bed and breakfast than a didactic experience..You have breakfast then are free until 3:30-4 ish..so lots of day trips and even a hike to Gordes..her attitude toward cooking is even more important than the recipes...also she has lived in Provence all her life so she also teaches by example something about the local culture..I was with 3 other women(my old college roomates) and we are the only guests....she never has more than 7 and usually 2-6 guests...great local wines from her cellar at 4 euros a bottle and fresh rosemary,thyme, bay leaves from the garden..If you are interested in a unique and very informal experience, I think this is the place! You can see the blurb on teacherstravel web site (www.teacherstravel.com)...any more questions just ask!! I am bubbling over with enthusiasm.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 01:43 PM
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When do the cooking lessons take place? I see that you were free from after breakfast until around 3:30.
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Mar 27th, 2004, 01:53 PM
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Dear Underhill..the lessons are really informal. You basically prepare the evening meal..3 courses..so you are cooking from 4-7ish....helping with prep work, watching technique, ect along with a bottle of wine..The 4 of us helped prepare all of the dishes (not like other courses I have taken where we might each prepare 1 dish start to finish or each prepare puff pastry and then critique)...It is not a pure demonstration experience either.
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