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Come savor the sun-splashed splendors of Provence. Bernard Jarrier and Carole Peck would love to welcome you to their renovated, historic home in the village of Montfrin, France where they will personally guide you on an unforgettable culinary adventure. You will be among an intimate, select group of travelers who will experience the culinary, cultural and natural delights of this extraordinary region in the south of France, Provence.
Imagine waking one morning to the mingled aromas of fresh croissants, French-pressed coffee, apricots, cherries, sun-ripened melons, sunflowers, garlic, and the savory scent of cypress leaves. There is the rhythm of cicadas outside the window and the soft voices of farmers bringing fruits and vegetables to the marketplace. Looking out the window you see a 12th century stone church, red-tiled roofs, and a village that appears to be from the middle ages. This is the Prieur Notre Dame, a restored house dating back to the 1100s, situated in the village of Montfrin, and the location of renowned American chef Carole Pecks Provence culinary tour.
This will be your luxury accommodation combining the rich history of Provence with contemporary comforts. Guests relax at the Prieur Notre Dame with its unique architecture, which includes a stone portal entry, a library with an immense fireplace, a stone wine cave fully stocked with wines from the region, and roomy sitting and dining rooms where art is an ever-present feature.
In addition, there is a terraced inner courtyard with a rectangular plunge pool, under lit with submerged lights, all enclosed with ancient mortised walls. The entire house is imbued with a contemporary design and superior modern conveniences, a welcome haven after a day of touring the countryside or nearby towns, and a sanctuary where one can sip local wine, read, or contemplate life while time stands still.
Here's a taste of your Proven al tour, but remember, no two tours are the same! Carole and Bernard are constantly seeking out fresh discoveries and experiences to unfold to new and returning guests. Specific events are planned to fit the season and availability, and the particular interests of their tour guests. Carole offers this sample itinerary as a taste of what to expect on your next Provence culinary tour.
Bernard or Carole will greet you upon their arrival in Avignon or Nimes. They drive you to your tour accommodations at the Prieur Notre Dame, their Montfrin retreat, a village home painstakingly restored to its 12th and 14th century origins with sophisticated comforts and modern design. When everybody is settled in, they begin with cocktails and a convivial dinner in the true Proven al manner.
Each day of your tour begins with an informal breakfast for all of you. Today, you drive to Avignon for a cooking class at the famous La Mirande cooking school taught by a master chef. Following lunch at La Mirande, you spend the afternoon in Avignon at the Palais du Pape and other historic sites, with time for some shopping in the city. You'll return home for a little R&R, then on to the charming village of Uz for a captivating dinner and an evening stroll.
You are off to Nimes for a sightseeing tour of the Roman ruins and arena in this historic city. You will visit Les Halles market to view the rich bounty of foods and purchase your evening dinner. After lunch in Nimes, return via the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct to the Prieur, for an informal evening cooking class conducted by Carole and a local Proven al cook. All the members of the group join in creating dinner from the purchases at the Nimes march while sampling some of Bernard's local wine choices.
After your petit dejeuner, you head off this morning to Les Baux, the spectacular plateau and historic village which can't be missed. Then, you will have a light lunch at a bistro in St. Remy de Provence. This could be a great shopping day. You head home for a break before you drive to the Camargue on the Mediterranean coast to view the landscape of this nature preserve, the natural habitat of the famous white horses, black bulls, pink flamingoes and other wildlife of Camargue. Then on to the celebrated country restaurant Chez Bob for a fun dinner.
Depart for Chez Serge in the town of Carpentras. There, you enjoy visiting wineries offering private tastings with Serge featuring Chateauneuf du Pape and other varietal wines of the region. You will have a leisurely lunch at Chez Serge, with a return to Montfrin to enjoy the pool and prepare for an evening drive to Gordes, for dinner at the innovative Le Mas des Herbes Blanches.
This morning you visit Arles, the old ville of Van Gogh's paintings, and stroll through the city's bustling farmers' market. You will lunch in Arles, and then visit the Museum of Roman Antiquities. Back to the Prieur for a snooze; then it's time for cocktails, and you cap off the week with your last supper together. They're always a blast!
The pampered guest is further educated by trips to local markets in Montfrin, in the Cours Jean-Jaurs, where market day is Tuesday, and in Nmes, where the number of venders is astounding and varied: at least ten cheese purveyors with goat, Camembert, Brie, Cantal, Bleu de Bresse, and Roquefort cheeses, six fish mongers with all manner of Mediterranean fishes and shellfish, ten produce stands, as well as purveyors who have found their own niche - one selling terrines and hams, another fowl and rabbit, one who specializes only in potatoes and onions, and one in local olive oils.
Bernard also takes guests 5 miles upstream to perhaps the most astounding site in the region Pont du Gard, a 2000 year-old Roman bridge, which served as an aqueduct for nearly 500 years, funneling freshwater 31 miles from the Springs of Fontaine dEure in Uzs to the bathhouses and public waterworks of Nmes. Further, he adds those factual tidbits of history that enrich the travelers understanding; for example, that Serge de Nimes, the fabric known as denim, originated in Nmes over seven centuries ago.
Depending on the moods and whims of guests, the couple will also take side trips to St. Rmy, the 1503 birthplace of soothsayer, Nostradamus, and the 1889 sojourn of painter Vincent Van Gogh, who spent a year at the St. Paul-de-Mausole Hospital. And there is Arles, with its Roman amphitheater, the Muse Rattu and the Muse de Arles et de la Provence.
This retreat will take place in Montfrin village, France. Originally a Roman encampment, Montfrin sits along the banks of the Gardon river in the south of France, roughly equidistant between the cities of Avignon and Nmes.
Carole explains how she uses only whats in season. I cook according to season. Apricots, apples, olives, potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, pears. Montfrin is still very much a rural farming community. All ingredients are locally produced: jams and butter, yogurt and gourds, cheeses and bottled fruit juices. Within walking distance there is a boulangeries (patisseries) with bread, brioche, and croissants, whose fresh-baked scents permeate the narrow streets.
Dinners, lunches, and cooking classes are all prepared around the cycle of the seasons, and usually include an array of dishes, such as escargot with tomato sauce - a regional variation of the traditional Escargots la Bourguignonne with its parsley and garlic butter - Camargue taureau (stewed bull meat with olives and anchovies), aioli (stuffed squid), and pissaladire (stewed eels), accompanied by southern Rhne wines, such as Chteauneuf-du-Pape, and Midi wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
Vineyards abound in this part of Provence, with grapes such as Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvdre benefitting from the sunny limestone ridges and plateaus. During the market tour, you will buy food items which are typically used in Caroles cooking classes at the Prieur Notre Dame, where a state-of-the-art kitchen welcomes experienced and aspiring gourmands alike.
Gardon River - a popular swimming hole for locals during the hot summer months.
Walk up to the 17th century Chteau built around the remnants of a Roman tower where there are views of the distant Rhne River
The nearest airports to the location are Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) and Nice Cte d'Azur international airport (NCE).
"It was truly a unique and wonderful experience. Having had the opportunity to see their fabulous home in Montfrin as it was, at that time, still undergoing extensive renovation, we are anxious to do the tour again, if only for the opportunity to stay there."
Saveur France website, edited
"I dont know of a more unique and exciting tour than the one that Carole Peck and Bernard Jarrier have been offering in Provence. What a thoughtful and meaningful trip they plan! Ive learned a great deal from them since they are both quite knowledgeable about the region its history, its food and its culture. Clearly, the tour is a value! It should be a first for everyone. I look forward to my third return this year!"
Saveur France website, edited
"The Provence tour of Carole and Bernard is an original combination of cuisine and culture both classy and comfortable, like the Good News Cafe itself. Fascinating experiences range from everyday shopping and food preparation at their home in a tiny provincial town, to a master class in the finest hotel kitchen in Avignon.There is a similar range in wine tastings, from a small family-run organic grower to a prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyard. Visits to great dining spots discovered by Bernard in beautiful towns from the mountains to the Mediterranean coast, along with terrific conversation and laughs, are a daily highlight. The best tour for the epi-curious!"
Saveur France website, edited