First Time in Provence - nr. St. Remy de Provence/Avignon
We have rented a villa for a week in April in Maillane, near St. Remy de Provence and Avignon. We will be five, two couples plus my mom. Any ideas for "no-star" dining in this area or maybe splurges that we could do for lunch? Budget is a consideration. Maybe topping out at about 50 Euros per person?
We'll be coming from Paris so will probably have had our fill of steak frites/tartare/pate, etc. Perhaps something uniquely Provencal?
Also, any thoughts on farmer's markets (probably an American term) in this area will be much appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
OMG! That is my very favorite part of Provence! I have so many suggestions for you, and no time to write them all down now. If you click on my name here, it will take you to where you can access my web site. My email is on the contact page. I'll be glad to tell you about all the great places to eat and get olive oil and wine, etc. that I know about in the area.
I have dear friends who have a B&B is St. Remy de Provence, so I've gotten to know the area pretty well. Lots of yummy "holes in the wall!"
Maillane has a small market on Thursdays, and one very good restaurant (or at least it was a couple of years back), RESTAURANT L'OUSTALET MAIANEN.
For a larger market, there's a very good one at St. Remy every Wednesday, but my favorite market in all of France is the Arles market, which takes place every Saturday morning. Not to be missed, particularly for its Provencal specialties, and it's really not too far away. Besides, Arles is a wonderful city where you can easily spend all day roaming its Roman ruins, churches (the cloister at St. Trophime is splendid!) and museums. In fact, Saturday in Arles is usually one of my focal points for a trip to southern France. (And, I've always been able to find parking just outside the wall!)
And, you probably already know this, but one of the top artisanal chocolatiers resides in St. Remy, Joel Durand:
The St.-Rémy market is very good and loaded with local specialties. Have not been to the one at Arles, but should be pretty good as well. Biggest problem for both is trying to find parking. You have to ge there early or you will park far away and have to walk back. The displays of olives and various dried sausages will amaze you and you must sample them. The main part of St.-Rémy market is just behind the Church in front of the town hall, but there is a big parking lot opposite the church which on Wednesdays is full of booths with things for sale ( more dry goods than food). A nice place for lunch near the church is La Gousse d'Ail.
The St. Remy market is good, but you won't want to miss the Sunday market at Isle Sur La Sorgue. They have lots of food, but also antiques and brocantes. It's fun to buy food at the market and make a picnic at the Fontaine de la Vaucluse, where Petrarch wooed Laura!
I'm a big fan of the Saturday market in Avignon. It's just outside the Port Magnanen gates. (The whole city is still walled) and has lots of interesting things to buy as well as interesting people to watch.
I went to Isle Sur La Sorgue for the Sunday market 3 times this past year, during different months of the year when we were in the area to spend time at our home in Sablet. For antique lovers, it is something not to be missed. However, if you are not into antiques, there are others which I think are better; Vaison la Romaine on Tuesdays for starters. My biggest complaint about the Isle Sur La Sorgue market is parking; it is absolutely a nightmare.
Toss all of the Peter Mayle stereotypes out the window and enjoy at least one meal at Le Bistrot du Paradou, south of les Baux on rte D17. For some 20+ years, Jean-Louis and Mireille Pons, he FOH and she at the stove, have provided classic limited choice meals that change throughout the week. For years we have enjoyed wonderful lamb on Easter Monday. Last visit, the tab was 49€ per person for a starter (often a savory tart or foie gras), main (Bresse chicken, local lamb, grand aioli), cheese plateau that is left at your table for what seems ages, a choice of desserts plus 750ml wine for two. Jean-Louis knows 90% of the diners and pretends to recognize you. It is a sweet lunch. We've never been at dinner, but I would guess that it would provide the quintessential Provençal evening.
Le Relais de Costebelle about 10 min away in Graveson, is a lovely dining experience. Not overly sophisticated, but a charming old building with a few rooms to stay in and a very beautiful dining room. Menu is Provencal, and it won't bust your budget.