Tuesday, 1 December 2009

La Pause Gourmande

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you'd notice that every weekend, my family visits different villages in Provence, looking through food markets, flea markets, artist and artisan fairs, or to just walk and enjoy the sun.

Last weekend we decided to continue exploring the Alpes de Haute-Provence area, which we visited a few weeks back. Suddenly, Michel remembered that his cousin lives there, in a town called Montagnac. When he called, his cousin invited us to dinner, and to stay in their home because they 'had a big house.'

When we arrived, the family welcomed us at a bar. I had to breastfeed Giuliano in a noisy room with people taking photos. It was very unpleasant. It all went downhill from there.

By midnight I was exhausted and we altogether went to the cousin's house. We were asked to sleep on the living room couch, which converts to a bed. It was cramped ... so cramped that I didn't sleep in case I crushed Giuliano to death. We didn't have our own toilet and shower ... the whole family shared a common one. By morning, I was deeply upset. I convinced Michel to leave early.

In the car, I began freaking out due to a ruined weekend + no sleep. I started yelling, "You better fix this." I started bawling. Michel just drove, hoping against hope to find a decent hotel where we could sleep in privacy and still enjoy the region. We stopped at a town called Moustiers, and Michel convinced me to have coffee first. The lonesome café was depressing. We were in the middle of nowhere. I sulked while Michel desperately asked the locals for hotel recommendations in the region. One of them mentioned that just around the corner was the house of Alain Ducasse.

My antennae perked up. I switched from miserable to all-ears excited. Michel knew then that he somewhat saved the weekend. I quickly and overeagerly asked for directions. We found La Bastide De Moustiers, the weekend home of Alain Ducasse, which he bought 15 years ago. It was formerly owned by a master potter. There are 12 well-appointed bedrooms in antique Provençal style, and an excellent restaurant, swimming pool, massage service, garden. There was a bedroom free. I was ecstatic. We ate our hearts out.

Staying true to the spirit of the property, the interior designer is also from the town of Moustier. The bastide was fully restored to its original state using local materials; including the fabric and soft furnishings by a local seamstress; the antiques were sourced by a local dealer. There's a large garden where all vegetables in the menu are cultivated. The ceramics and pottery used for the dining service and for décor are also by local potters and sculptors.

The television is cleverly disguised in this gilt mirror, which really is a mirror when the TV is turned off.

I loved our stay. The service was excellent. They even offered us a chemise de nuit each, designed and made in Paris, for our sleepwear. There were small touches of thoughtfulness, like a nid d'ange bébé for Giuliano's bed which is a snuggle sack in soft velours. On our bedside table, they placed a forecast of tomorrow's weather, and the name of the village scheduled for an open market. For dinner Sunday night, my family was alone in the bastide, but all tables were fully set-up anyway, as if they had a full house, with lit candles and formal table settings. I have to return with the rest of my family. They'd love it here.


grace said...

hi there,

just wanted to say your blog brings back fond memories of my year-long stay in aix as a student. i wish i discovered your blog earlier and perhaps even met up with you while i was there. i am back home in manila now, arrived just a month ago, and as much as i love home, i do miss the south of france so much. i'll definitely be checking your blog often!


Lavender Honey said...

Hi Grace,

Yes we could have easily met up here and explored a new place together! I moved to Provence in September 2008. I still have many interesting towns in southern France ... on my list to visit ... like Saint Paul de Vence, Grasse and Antibes.

Will actually be in Manila from December 22 to March 10 ... for family time, weddings, and a general escape from the French winter.