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Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

I dont know much about Provence...first time. I need some lunch and dinner advice. I like tasting menus...and the higher end food, if they have pairings with it too, that would be better!

Sunday arriving 12:30 noon at Avignon TGV (from Paris). renting car, then drive straight to L'Isle sur la Sorgue . (maybe arrive around 2pm?
I heard there is Sunday market here...so, might just get something easy for lunch. But need something good for dinner if anything is open on Sunday.

Monday - Thinking of doing some winerie tours and tastings. Any advice on CdP? and other locations for this? Any tasting lunches we can drive to easily? Tours? basically, its open to where ever is good.
we can even go to avignon if this is where all the good places are...

Tuesday- Avignon (pope's palace)
Dinner- Christian Etienne

Wed -aix-en-provence (not sure what to do here...any advice?)
Lunch - l'Epicurien???
Dinner -?

Thurs- Nimes or Arles

Friday- Avignon Lunch (head back to Paris at 2pm)


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  1. You should first realize that, after getting your car and finding your way to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (& parking, which can be a challenge), the market may very well be wrapping up...at least the food vendors. That's not to say you shouldn't give it a try, since the town is lovely. There will be plenty of small restaurants and cafés - hopefully a few that do not stop serving at 2pm. Do you plan to go check in to your hotel (Avignon?) afterwards, but before dinner? If so, would you be willing to leave town for dinner? For MON you should do a search on CH since there are several recommendations to be found. TUE I would recommend having an oyster lunch at the oyster vendor located in les Halles/Avignon (located near the corner restrooms). Maybe stop in there early and ask the oyster monger to reserve you a table, if you plan to do the Palais des Papes in the morning. For WED, are you planning on spending the day/evening in Aix and then returning to Avignon? Would you be willing to have dinner somewhere between Aix & 'home'? You really should not miss visiting a bit of the Luberon villages - maybe have dinner in Bonnieux or Lourmarin? You might like dinner at the Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux - it would fit your description of "higher end tasting menus". So would l'Atelier Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles for THU.

    8 Replies
    1. re: boredough

      Further to my above post, I just remembered that the Bastide de Capelongue is usually (but not always - depends on season) closed on WED, so if you would like to go there you could swap your WED & THU plans. (Rabanel is closed MON/TUE so that would work too. But it would mean 2 big dinners in a row, which might be too much to take.) For lunch in Aix, you could do something light, such as the Fromagerie du Passage (in the Passage Agard off the Cours Mirabeau). Also Aix has a big market on THU, as opposed to WED.

      1. re: boredough

        my hotel is in L'isle SLS. La Maison Sur La Sorgue...they have parking. Yeah, i didnt realize the market close that early. Yes..im willing to drive for good food....hopefully not to far obviously...
        i'll research whats in the Luberon villages....anything special? I'll check Bastide de Capelongue and l'atelier Jean luc Rabenel

        1. re: erickp

          "i'll research whats in the Luberon villages....anything special?"

          Not far from you, Maison Gouin in Coustellet is a one-stop butcher and deli. Great place to pick up picnic goodies.

          1. re: Parigi

            luberon villages = wow.... i need more days.....:( omg... i need to come back for sure.

            1. re: Parigi

              just an update on Maison Gouin in Coustellet: Mme Gouin sold the traiteur/restaurant 2-3 years ago. Her shoe concession is now gone. (Women's shoes used to be sold in the back of the shop.) The new owner bought the name; the current chef is the former sous-chef from the old days. The other Maison Gouin in Cavaillon was also sold and is now a restaurant (without the Gouin name).

            2. re: erickp

              Oh - I thought since you were planning lunch in Avignon your last day, that you were staying there. If your train is at 2pm, you really won't have time for a nice lunch beforehand. The TGV station is outside of the walled city, and with getting out of the center & turning in your car, lunch there would not work. I thought maybe you could manage at l'Oustalet Maïanen in Maillane (an easier/more direct ride to the TGV) but you still would have to rush the meal, and, to be honest, I have never asked a Provençal restaurant to "watch the clock" so I have no idea if that's even a possibility. Maybe you should take up Parigi's suggestion and go to Maison Gouin in Coustellet - pick up lunch to have on the ride back to Paris. As for SUN night, you could dine at le Jardin du Quai in Isle/Sorgue, or l'Auberge des Carrières in les Taillades.

              1. re: boredough

                Indeed, the last day's timing sucks re lunch.
                I would go in the morning to one of the fabulous food stores - charcuteries (cold cuts deli), boulangeries (bakeries) and fromageries (cheese stores) in Avignon, get patés and foie gras, or a roast chicken with roast potatoes, fresh bread and cheeses and a good bottle, then spread out a late picnic lunch on the train.

                1. re: Parigi

                  that sounds like a fantastic idea! Just bring food on the train!

          2. When you arrive, it is too late to go to the Isle sur la Sorgue. All markets are a morning thing. They start closing at 12:30. Most stalls are closed by 1pm.
            Between Arles and Nimes, go to Arles.
            Since you don't know what to do in Aix, why not switch dates? Go to Arles Wednesday morning and visit its market which is just as overwhelming as the Isle one, but less touristy. The Arles market has a lot of truly good food, and starred chefs wandering. Isle is mainly for its overwhelm and photogenic factors.
            Arles has many food options, from starred temples like Rabanel, to a good traiteur like Maison Génin, where you can get great picnic food for a picnic if the weather is good.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Parigi

              I haven't had a great meal in Provence in years. The last one was six or seven years ago at Loubet's place (Bastide de Capelongue), but when I went back a year ago, it was depressing. Loubet seemed burned out and the meal was lackluster. People make a big deal over Provencal cuisine, but it seems to me to be more of a domestic one. That you had to go from Vienne to Mougins to visit a three-star restaurants late 20th-century says something except for L'Oustau de Baumaniere which might still be the best of the lot. That's just a hunch as I haven't been there since Thuillier died and the tremendous cave got depleted.

              1. re: Robert Brown

                We have all had 3-star dining experience. It is not the ultimate. If you only stick with the 3 stars, you are obviously not really into food.

                1. re: Robert Brown

                  We spend 5+ months/year in Provence & have had many "great meals". In fact one of them was in August 2012 at the Bastide de Capelongue, where we celebrated our anniversary. Nothing was lackluster. There are several CH threads describing wonderful meals in Provence (such as http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9218... ) , which I mention here in hopes that the OP not be discouraged by your findings. That is not to say they are not valid for you, as we all have different tastes & experiences.

                2. re: Parigi

                  thank you Parigi...another great advice.

                3. Parigi, you missed the point. The fact that there was only one three-star at the time is indicative of the nature of Provencal cuisine. It just was never great restaurant territory unlike Burgundy and Rhone-Alps. Read my reply on what is likely the head-thread at this moment.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Brown

                    does burgundy have a 3 star michelin? i will be there too, and all i can find is 1 star. (not that i follow the stars religiously....but im still gathering data and this is where i start)

                    here are the places i found...

                    Auberge du cheval Noir
                    Le Jardin Des Remparts
                    Le Clos du Cedre
                    Le Benaton
                    Christophe Queant-Chateau de Pommard
                    Hostellerie de Levernois
                    Le Charlemagne

                    Les Gourmand, Deux Pieces de Cuisine
                    Relais de Saulx
                    La Ciboulette
                    Ma Cuisine
                    Le Gourmandin

                    1. re: erickp

                      "does burgundy have a 3 star michelin?"
                      Several, like Relais Loiseau and Lameloise. As I have already said about half a dozen times on this board, dining in those two places did not leave me a memorable experience the way the no-star ferme-auberge de la Ruchotte did. Stars schmars.

                    2. re: Robert Brown

                      I have a point similar to Parigi's. Provençale cuisine like all regional cooking has roots and history. When a cuisine becomes so rarified and elevated as happens in 3-star restaurants, there is a disconnect between roots and purpose. Like Parigi, I would rather eat in a ferme-auberge where the cooking represents honesty and "terroir" than at a 3-star.

                      French restaurants in general do have a soul and a joy that are rarely reproduced in plutocratic temples of gastronomy. One is almost always a spectator or sightseer at starry restaurants and not a participant in French lifestyle/ culture.

                      BTW, the best bouillabaisse I've ever had was from a food stall at the weekly market at some small village near Bandol. Lovingly prepared by the stallholder's family and served, as intended, as a humble fisherman's stew.

                    3. Let's see now. The Department of the Yonne is the most northern part of Burgundy. There in Joigny you have the three-star Cote St. Jacques. It's touch and go for Vonnas. It straddles the border between Burgundy and Le Lyonnais. I think, however, that Georges Blanc is considered to be a Burgundian restaurant.

                      Anyway, I think I mentioned the latter part of the 20th century in Burgundy and the Rhone Alps. Let's hear it for Alain Chapel, Paul Bocuse, Les Freres Troisgros (close enough to Lyon), L'Esperance, Loiseau, Restaurant de la Pyramide, Auberge du Pere Bise. What's there now? Regardless, I don't pay attention to Michelin. What are the credentials of their inspectors?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Robert Brown

                        Bresse is a culturally hybrid region resting on three feet: one in Burgundy to the North (Bresse bourguignonne around Louhans), one leaning towards the Alpine regions to the East (Bugey) and the third foot pointing towards Lyonnais (Dombes). Foodwise, Vonnas and Georges Blanc, as part of the third subdivision, are closer to the Lyon culture with their Bresse chickens, abundant cream sauces, saucisson cuit and frog's legs.

                      2. So, after reading all this....and i know there was a lot of recommendations for places but almost all of them are sort of outside these towns i listed.....are there any recommendations IN these towns? or are all the good stuff really outside them. I'm interested in regional food for lunch like ferme-auberge de la Ruchotte or a 3 course for lunch....but would like to do something more epic for dinner.

                        Tuesday- Avignon (pope's palace)
                        Dinner- Christian Etienne

                        Thurs- Arles

                        Thurs -aix-en-provence
                        Lunch -
                        Dinner -

                        Friday- Avignon buy lunch to bring to train (head back to Paris at 2pm)

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: erickp

                          Rabanel is an obvious option in Arles, right in the town centre. Only one lunch visit, a few years ago, but indeed an epic tasting menu, with many beautiful and beautifully-handled veggies.

                          Agree with the stars-schmars sentiment but would expect that this resto does indeed have some stars, given the ambition of the cuisine and service.

                          1. re: shakti2

                            oh yeah....i actually do have that on my list. So, that would be great for dinner...what about for lunch? anything smaller and simplier in Arles?

                            anything else for the other towns?

                            1. re: erickp

                              L'Autruche on rue Dulau in Arles, le Millefeuille on rue Rifle-Rafle in Aix, both bistro format at lunch, but with a nice degree of polish.

                              1. re: shakti2

                                cool! i sent email for a reservation!

                            2. re: shakti2

                              I am also a fan of Rabanel. When I said Stars Schmars, I meant it is pointless to follow the Michelin stars as a standard. It does not mean that the star is a kiss of death. The restaurants that consistently turn out excellent food, some don't have stars, some actually do. Not their fault. :)
                              I also second trvlcrzy's choice Cilantro in Arles.
                              Arles a town I much prefer, for the beauty, history, architecture, the Provençal feel, the food, especially the food, compared to its neighbor Avignon.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                I can totally repeat Parigi's sentiments about Arles. And too bad the OP won't be there on market days. The Saturday one is sensational.

                                My own little suggestion for lunch in Arles is Le Gaboulet on the rue du Docteur-Fanton near the Thermes de Constantin. Sweet sweet sweet.

                                But if dinner at Rabanel, maybe something VERY light for lunch. Haven't tried it but friends love it, L'Ouvre-Boîte on the rue du Cloître for tapas/ small plates/ snacks.

                                1. re: Parnassien

                                  ”too bad the OP won't be there on market days. The Saturday one is sensational.“
                                  And very often one can see Rabanel wandering there.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Arles is good! Ive sent reservation request for it. Just waiting now to Rabenel. what do you think of my lunch option? too heavy? i can order light...

                                    so far here it is..

                                    Monday-Avignon area/CNP wine tasting

                                    Lunch- whatever chateau we are in...doesnt matter
                                    Dinner-L'Oustau de Baumanière

                                    Tues-Avignon-pope palace
                                    Lunch-?? something light in avignon (need rec)
                                    Dinner- Christian Etienne

                                    Wed- Arles
                                    Lunch- L'Autruche (?)
                                    Dinner- L'Atelier Jeanluc Rabanel

                                    Thurs - Aix-en Provence
                                    lunch- Le Millefeuille
                                    Dinner - ?? can be light...my wife might still be in a food coma at this point.

                                    Friday - maison gouin coustellet (pack for the train)

                                    1. re: erickp

                                      You WILL need something light for lunch between l'Oustau and Christian Etienne! In the center of Old Town are a number of stands where you might choose a Pain Bagnat (traditional Provencal sandwich -- very delicious) and eat at one of the picnic tables in the Place de l'Horloge.

                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        thanks...Rabanel replied and accepted.

                                        All is set! thanks again for the help! its gonna be epic!

                                      2. re: erickp

                                        Looks good.
                                        One major meal plus one picknicky meal is the ideal formula.
                                        A good backup is a ferme-auberge, especially the one at Barbegall outside Arles. Reserve or die. The farm-to-table ferme-auberges that serve only ingredients from their farm or neighboring farms are mobbed by the locals, who who a good thing of good value.

                                        1. re: Parigi

                                          yeah, i was looking at that place too....but their reservation system is a bit odd....or maybe i just dont understand it. I'll check it out again. I wanted to just pick something that is in the town already so i dont have to get in the car and drive out and then come back.

                                  2. re: Parigi

                                    Looks to me that Cilantro is "permanently closed" per an Internet link...

                              2. If your goal is first cultural, you are right to go to these three towns. They are all special. But if gastronomy is by far your priority, get off in Lyon and stay there for three days. Meet up with petitpois.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Brown

                                  Thanks Robert....but ive already booked the trains....and i have to stay in this area. It just worked out that way.... now, i just gotta fill in the schedule. :)

                                  1. re: Robert Brown

                                    Thanks but Ptipois is a Parisian. She doesn't mind eating in Lyon sometimes, though.

                                  2. Just based on our experience:
                                    Avignon- Le Fourchette (traditional Provencal bistro)
                                    Arles- Le Cilantro (very close to center/coloseum. had my best sous vide salmon ever)
                                    Aix- just snacked there and loaded on thick hot chocolate and callisons)

                                    1. I am sorry. I mixed you up with Lucy V.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Just for the record, I wrote last summer to Rabenal and asked if it was possible to have any dishes in full portion and if there was an a la carte menu. I got a negative answer to both with no offer to try to accommodate me. I then asked if they cooked any dishes sous-vide, at which point someone named Muriel, with whom I had been communicating, threw up her hands by telling me to do so with the maitre d'hotel. Soon thereafter, Rabanel appeared on Les Escapades de Petitrenaud shaking a whole fish in a pan to the accompaniment and rhythm of some of that tortured gypsy music.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. check out Hostellerie Berard. Wonderful food and wine cellar. http://hotel-berard.com/

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: UPDoc

                                            My husband and I will be in Provence in June, so I'm closely following all the Provence threads. I cannot find a website for Le Gaboulet. Is it open for lunch & dinner? And how to make reservations besides calling?

                                            A question in general…how far in advance to make reservations? I'm having difficulty figuring out our itinerary in part because we don't mind just getting lost & hopefully discovering something wonderful! There's always a chance with that option.

                                            I'll be adding some specific questions about restaurants soon and hope you will help me. I love reading the France chow, it's so entertaining the way all of you "play" with each other. The overlords on most of the US boards won't allow.

                                            1. re: topeater

                                              It is Le Galoubet. See: http://wp.me/phxFt-3v
                                              (A Galoubet is a one-handed three-hole Provençale flute; one slings a drum strap over a shoulder and plays the drum with the other hand.)

                                              1. re: topeater

                                                Where in Provence? We're there (staying in Vaison-la-Romaine, but we get around) 5/24-6/14 & are reading this board in preparation as well.

                                                By the way, how was Ft. Greene, Bklyn? The folks who answered your questions (Daniel, etc) are friends of ours, as is the owner of Bufalina on your home turf. Feel free to drop us a note (e-mail address on my CH "home page").

                                                1. re: Steve R

                                                  Hi Steve,
                                                  We are also going to be in Vaison 5/17-6/7-- love it there, our third trip (we're cyclists). What are your favorites in the area-- maybe within a 45 minute drive (I've been known to wander in circles from Isle Sur le Sorgue after a long dinner, unable to remember the turn off the D road...)?

                                                  1. re: cassiday

                                                    Hey, you know more than we do…. it'll be our first time in the south of France. We usually travel around Northern Italy, so we're looking forward to something new here. Do you have good dinner recommendations in the area (or lunch for that matter)? We have a list of things we want to explore (getting around by car but probably doing a lot of walking, since we're leaving the tennis stuff at home) but are pretty much waiting on the food ideas until we arrive, talk to our "landlords" (we're renting an apartment) and get the feel of the area.

                                                    1. re: Steve R

                                                      Are you ever lucky to have a place to keep food around. Your first excursion should be to Carpentras to stop by Jouvet, a terrific pastry and chocolate shop and Vigier, a cheese store. Think about Mondragon and La Beaugraviere for tradition and a sensational wine cellar.

                                                      1. re: Robert Brown

                                                        Thanks for the recommendations… we'll definitely follow up. The 2 bedroom apt with full kitchen and terraces that we've rented basically (according to the owners) opens onto the Tuesday market and we'll be joined there by another CH/MF member for a week of the stay. Hopefully, I won't gain 20 lbs. Any other recommendations, please post them or e-mail or pm me on one of those other food boards. You know how to find me. And thanks.

                                                        1. re: Steve R

                                                          There are a number of interesting places in the area, including a "gold medal" cheese shop in town (I think it's called Lou Canesteou, but don't quote me), Peyerol chocolate (and a one-man chocolate shop on the road to Crestet-- he has some great stuff there), a cute cafe on the square that makes better Italian gelato than the other two ice cream shops in town, two good butchers (you'll have to see which one you like, they are definitely different), in addition to the Tuesday market offerings. There is a Michelin 1 star in Isle Sur l'Sorgue-- reserve for Sunday lunch on the terasse, and to to the market in the morning. The antique stuff is open until about 4, so you can walk around and sober up after lunch. We find this sometimes works better than dinner/drive. Good resources to look at other restos are Patricia Wells' blogs, the Provence Post blog, Our House in Sablet blog (we stayed in Sablet once, didn't love it, going back to Vaison, but he has a California restaurant and takes good food pictures, I've been happy at all the little places he recommends). We had a great meal at Le Grand Pre in Roaix, which has a Michelin star this year, but I saw something that said it's closed... don't know, guess we'll find out! Can send more later if you're interested. I'm sure you will LOVE the area. Many good tasting rooms-- check out the one in Gigondas, which is right by a very good restaurant, L'Oustalet...

                                                          1. re: cassiday

                                                            Thanks. Just the type of assist I'm looking for. And, if you're in the neighborhood, cycle by.

                                                            1. re: cassiday

                                                              Just to update- the Lou Canesteou cheese shop is 4 blocks from our apartment and we've been eating a lot of excellent cheese because of it. I think Le Grand Pre might well be closed but both Le Brin d'Olivier & Bistro du'O are right here & are excellent choices as well. The V-la-R market is great & we've also hit Avignon's indoor market & Carpentras' Friday market. I've exchanged e-mails with the guy who does the "Our House in Sablet" blog and Have also found that Seguret is beautiful. Again, if you're here, drop me an e-mail & maybe we can get a drink & compare notes in the town square. We're here for another couple of weeks.

                                                              1. re: Steve R

                                                                Another update. Although Le Grand Prė is indeed closed for good, the owner has bought what is now Le Bateleur in Vaison-la-Romaine. This is the last week for the current ownership of Le Bateleur (where we ate tonite...it was excellent) & they will consolidate into Le Mesclun in Seguret, their other place (where we ate lunch last week...it was also excellent).

                                                                1. re: Steve R

                                                                  For some reason my computer went "dark" and I didn't see these posts until today, after arriving to the States yesterday. Sounds like you have discovered much of what is in the area-- we also had nice (not totally fabulous, but very good) meals while cycling in Buis les Barronies (la Fourchette, under the porticos), the "other" place in Entrechoux, Ancienne Poste (again, not "the best"-- but lovely people, setting, good food for lunch...typical dishes for the area). Had dinner at a Michelin 2* at our "rest stop" in the Loire on the way to Paris which was amazing (well, two dinners, but the second we wanted "simple", and the chef was happy to oblige], and appreciated the very wide range of eating possibilities in France, from cheese and bread to works of art. Hope the remainder of your trip is splendid-- we have rented "our" same place for next May as well!

                                              2. Just to throw out an old chestnut, but has anyone thought of La Beaugraviere in Mondragon? It's traditional cooking well-executed, but if you are a wine lover, the cave there is amazing for Rhone Valley bottles. It's best known as a Rhone Valley truffle restaurant best enjoyed from November-March, but it's worth considering. It's also about a 20-minute drive from Chateau de Rochgaude, a former Relais & Chateaux place, but still very comfortable and picturesque. It's big, nicely-situated and rather historic.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Robert Brown

                                                  The Beaugraviere is an absolutely wonderful place, open lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, lunch only on Sunday, Given the great Rhone wine list I like to overindulge, then walk in the village or else visit the Chateau in Mornas. Or you can get one of the inexpensive rooms over the restaurant.

                                                  There is no fancy decor here but friendly, great service; tree shaded terrace for nice weather.


                                                  Menus at about 32 and 52 euros, plus some (frozen) truffles available year round.

                                                2. Take the "s" off "experiences". As for Loubet (Bastide de Capelongue), I have been following him for more than 10 years, mostly in his place in Lourmarin before he moved his main operation to Bonnieux. I always ate well there, and even agreed to go from my house in Nice with another couple who were our house guests (and big fans of Loubet as well) a year ago. We all agreed that the meal we had was sub-par. We chatted with Loubet in the kitchen before dinner, and we also all felt he seemed deflated, if not burned out. My friends like tasting menus, so my wife and I went along with that since we otherwise like to lose ourselves in what we hope are the best single dishes of a restaurant. So of the many dishes we had, I remember none of them except for his "signature" lamb chops cooked with wild thyme which suffered in a tasting menu portion. (If anyone goes, my suggestion is to have this dish a la carte. It really is a classic of its kind.)

                                                  He and his mother have really poured a lot of money in the place even if the construction is on the flimsy side, and I suspect that he is lamenting the lack so far of the final piece of the puzzle--a third Guide Michelin star. The establishment may well be the most souped-up one in Provence. I'm not saying not to go especially if you're looking for a splurge. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and there is a certain level of comfort and service. I'm just reporting back, that's all.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Robert Brown

                                                    Thanks robert...very good info. Do you have a photo blog on all these places you've been? Do these places allow photos at all? i know in the US, they dont allow FLASH photography but no flash is fine.

                                                    thanks everyone.

                                                  2. Thanks, Eric. I don't have a photo blog as I don't have the patience or the expertise. However, I take a lot of photos at the table with a Blackberry or Samsung. So far no one has told me to stop. Sometimes the flash goes off, but with no repercussions. Recently I saw an article somewhere(NY Times?) that some restaurants are taking exception, which is hypocritical since a lot of fancy restaurants are prettifying their offerings and making relevant recipes so as to look appealing on their websites.

                                                    Good travels and great dining!!!!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Robert Brown

                                                      ah ok....cool...well....im gonna share with all of you my photoblog if you guys care.
                                                      just as a special thanks to all who contributed to this forum...i get amazing advice here and want to give back.
                                                      i'll post pics of all these amazing places when i complete my trip to france as well.



                                                    2. Great!! Let us know when you get back.

                                                      1. The direction this thread has taken perfectly exemplifies my mantra of understanding one's dining goals and divining those of one's advisors.

                                                        If the Camargue is included in our search area, as Arles seems to be, one can't find more passion for sublime product and kitchen soul than at tiny, intimate and ultimately simple La Teline in Villaneuve, a half hour out of Arles.

                                                        1. Now that you have your trip planned, I'd like to suggest some alternatives. Having spent 6 weeks in Provence, I found it utterly charming. But the charm was not experienced in the towns you are visiting. The Pope's Palace in Avignon is lovely, but I did not care for the town.

                                                          I LOVED the Luberon. There are so many small towns with fabulous markets. If I went to Aix (which I love and think it's a mini Paris), I would Loumeron (sp?). Then visit Bonnieux, and St Remy on the way back to your hotel.

                                                          If you are open to spending some time in the Luberon, I am sure you can lots of suggestions on this site.

                                                          My 2 favorite meals were Le Bistrot du Paradou just south of St Remy and A Goat Farm that serves Sunday lunch, and it is abut a 1/2 east of Bonnieux.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: VinoEd

                                                            yes...i google street the places i want to go, Avignon doesnt seem that fascinating to me compared to the other small towns im seeing from other people's albums and blogs. I will readjust to visit Luberon., bonnieux and St Remy.

                                                            can you give me some idea how much time to spend in each area? i only have limited time...so i kind of need help approximating the route and how long to allot.


                                                            1. re: erickp

                                                              Unless I've misunderstood, you've already bought your train tickets and only have 4.5 days in Provence, so there isn't much room for flexibility. Would you consider skipping Aix entirely? You could spend that day visiting a few Luberon villages, and end it with dinner at le Castelas. "St Rémy" - or the Bistrot du Paradou in le Paradou - would be tough to fit in with the dinners you've already planned.

                                                              1. re: boredough

                                                                the only tickets i bought was from beaune to Avignon and Back....i have a rental car the entire time i am in provence starting from Sunday and i leave on Friday.
                                                                So, yes i can skip AIX entirely.
                                                                Sunday - im checking in L'isle sur la Sorgue (this will be my base)
                                                                Monday - Wine tour at Chateaunuf du pape. dinner at L'oustau de Baumaniere 8pm
                                                                Tues- maybe avignon pope's palace. Dinner at Christian Etienne. 7:30pm
                                                                Wed- Arles? - dinner at Jeanluc Rabanel 8pm
                                                                Thurs- Luberon Villages? (no dinner plans yet.)
                                                                Fri- leaving at 2pm. Myabe go to Maison Gouin to get food.

                                                                So, any suggestions/advice/comment on my itinerary....pls see if my route is not efficient or am i not alloting enough time...or if there are villages/restaurants you guys recommend. Since i only have a day for luberon villages...what locations should i prioritize?

                                                                1. re: erickp

                                                                  My favorite villages are Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Gordes, Saignon, & Roussillon (some CHers feel this one is too touristy, but I love the ochre rocks and a few of the galleries). I had already suggested (see first post above) that you have dinner at the Bastide de Capelongue, which brought on a separate discussion about its merits. In view of the reservations you already have, I think it would be too much of a good thing anyway. Maybe start off early in Gordes (10am?), have a light lunch in one of the cafés in Roussillon, head down to Lourmarin via Bonnieux (Bonnieux is great to look at from afar, but doesn't have much in the village besides a few good restaurants IMO). In Lourmarin relax & have a drink in one of the cafés in the square (such as Café Gaby) until you're ready to go to le Castelas in Sivèrgues. (You should aim for 7:30pm.) If by some miracle you still have time on your hands, you could stop in Saignon before you hit Sivèrgues. I wouldn't suggest as much as this were you not to be limited to one day....but it would be a shame to miss these highlights of the Luberon.

                                                                  1. re: boredough

                                                                    " Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Gordes, Saignon, & Roussillon"
                                                                    My fave villages are Bonniueux, Saignon, Goult, Venasque, St Saturnin les Apt. Sorriest, Gordes and Roussillon are too touristy for me, more Disneyland than a real village. Inside, the shops are nearly all the same, yet lacking in the kind of businesses that sustain a real village and not a stop for tourists.
                                                                    Gordes is a nice background for a photo right outside town. Once in town, the sameness of all the shops hypnotizes me.
                                                                    Lourmarin is too much like Paris St Germain, the Paris neighborhood, not the soccer team. :) I love Paris. But when I go on holiday, I don't want to see the same.

                                                                    Goult, Bonnieux and little Saignon have good restaurant options.

                                                                    Maison Gouin in Coustellet is an excellent one-stop place for a good takeout for all your picnics, or for dining in when you don't feel like cooking.

                                                                    1. re: boredough

                                                                      cool! let me google those places and plot out the itinerary again. What do you think of the time i will spend in Arles or Avignon or even Chateanuf du pape? will those all be full days? can i combine Arles and Avignon together to have more days in Luberon? CDP might be a full day since its visiting vineries and drinking.... but will Arles and Avignon with their main sites, be a full day each?

                                                                      1. re: erickp

                                                                        Do I understand you have only 5 days ?
                                                                        You can't visit them all. In fact you can't visit most.
                                                                        2 days Arles - 3 days Luberon.

                                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                                          2 days in Arles? yeah, i only have 5 days...Sunday to Friday.

                                                            2. Do you remember the name of the goat farm

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Robert Brown

                                                                "name of the goat farm"

                                                                Sounds like Le Castelas in Sivergues.

                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                  I forgot to mention that anyone thinking about dining at Tetou should know that there is a two-bouilliabaisse minimum; so if you are dining as a couple, you have a big problem. Oddly enough, a table for three works out the best. I no longer go, but if I had to, I might be happy there if I could have a table by the window and look at the sea.

                                                                2. re: Robert Brown

                                                                  With reference to VinoEd's comment on the goat farm, le Castelas serves lunch and dinner every day, but the delicious roast pig only at Sunday lunch (as well as every dinner). At least this was their formula in the past. We hope to be back there in early June & will see how/if things have changed. Be sure to call ahead to make sure they're not having a private function that day/evening.

                                                                  1. re: boredough

                                                                    Ptipois and I had a lovely lunch at Le Castelas as of last September.
                                                                    Indeed the whole roast pig was served at dinners only plus Sunday lunch.

                                                                3. Some great advice on the Luberon. I agree Roussion is touristy,but the ochre stone is pretty amazing. As you have a dinner set up for Arles and Avignon, you can visit both those towns in the afternoon before your dinner.I disagree that Loumarin is like Paris, it's has more shops than the other towns, and my wife loved shopping there...it also has several decent places to eat or grab a snack.

                                                                  You can good outdoor markets in the luberon, and it will tell you which days and in what towns. I would this as a guide, because I think it is fun to see one of the markets.

                                                                  Another unique town, that I would not make a special trip to but would certainly visit if close, would be Oppede le Vieux (not Oppede which is boring). This is a tiny town with hardly any people, but it very historic with all these old structures that are only half standing. Ridley Scott the Director lives here...but no you will not see his home.

                                                                  Saigon is pretty and interesting, but I am guessing it is too far out of the way.

                                                                  Lacoste is right next to Bonnieux, very small and really easy to visit.

                                                                  1. Oh, one last thing. There is a site slowtrav.com that has lots of info on Provence

                                                                    One of the posters, Kevin W is an American that lives there. He is an outstanding resource. Actually I believe he runs a B&B with his wife, but his opinions will never even discuss his B&B

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: VinoEd

                                                                      I have visited Kevin Widrow's b&b in St Saturnin les Apt. It is a dream, and he is a dream host. I absolutely go by his restaurant recommendations.
                                                                      As for Saignon being too far, (from where?), it is 17.2 km east of Bonnieux.
                                                                      If one is based in Avignon, the drive to Saignon and the drive to Bonnieux (same direction) is a difference of 10.1 minutes, according to Google Map.
                                                                      There must be a strict, make-or-break mysterious cutoff point somewhere near Buoux. Why ? Are there wolves ?

                                                                    2. Are you back from your trip yet? I will be in Provence in a couple of weeks and was wondering about your experience?

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: topeater

                                                                        Got back yesterday. We had a great time-- more lunch out than dinner since we were cycling, and at night home with our non-cycling friends. I think this blog covers the highlights. We also have had really great lunches on Sundays in Isle Sur le Sorgue-- I think getting there in the earlier morning for the market and having reserved lunch is wonderful, followed by poking around the antique shops to work off the wine before driving. There is a very nice Michelin called L'Vivier, and we also like driving up to Fountaine de Vaucluse and lunching at Phillip, on the river, at the end of all the tourist shops. We were very happy buying and cooking from the markets, had a well-equipped kitchen so I could thinly slice pounds of navets for special spring salads and the like without hassle. What is your itinerary and general idea about your visit?

                                                                      2. We just got back last saturday and the trip was a blast! Really enjoyed it and i have to thank everyone in this thread who patiently and generously contributed and helped me decide where to go. You guys rock.
                                                                        The only downside of the trip is Lufthansa lost our luggages on our way back and its been day 4 now and we are still waiting.

                                                                        Anyways...i posted the pictures of the restaurants i ate at in france in my album. Feel free to check it out... i haven't written any captions since all the copies of the menu are in my luggages and some were in french. I'll get to it eventually...but a picture will paint a thousand words.


                                                                        and if you're curious, i also posted my london pics as well.


                                                                        Enjoy and thank u to everyone.

                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                        1. re: erickp

                                                                          Erick, Thanks for sharing your photos. I wish it were humanly possible to capture taste with a camera, appetizing as they may be. I'm wondering which restaurants you liked and which you didn't (as much). Generally, there looks to be structural similarity to these dishes, so did you ever get bored or wish you could have a whole something (fish, fowl,etc.) or more skin and bones? Did any of the restaurants offer a robust a la carte selection?

                                                                          1. re: Robert Brown

                                                                            Yes...i got a bit tired of all the tasting menu. since everyone sourced locally and whats in season...everyone was serving the same ingredients with some variation here and there....but i tried to go highend and mid range...and left the low end or classic end to lunch. But what ended up happening was...the highend turned out super over priced for what you got....and the mid range turned out trying to be highend but were clumsy with the flavors/service and were hit and miss....and the lowend, since it was during lunch and i didnt want it to interfere with our touring schedule ended up very random, and ultimately crappy choices. Only a few places during lunch ended up really good when we went to specialty shops and when i sort of planned it based on the location we were gonna be in. But sometimes plans change and it was raining in some days which threw everything out the window.
                                                                            But im still glad i did it this way because i felt that some of these restaurants, ive been really curious to try and now i know.
                                                                            Guy Savoy was probably our best meal in Paris...but was really expensive and i felt overpriced. It was impressive though.
                                                                            Jules Verne, despite it being toursity and overpriced...we really enjoyed it as well...considering all factors. It was a meal i will not regret going to.
                                                                            Ze Gallerie was a bit disappointing..maybe coz' i am so use to asian fusion in LA and i travel asia extensively...the flavors were too common to my taste.
                                                                            Chez L'ami Jean was a disappointment...some dishes were great, but the portions were too large, and didnt pace well the entire meal...service was random and hectic...but i guess that's the atmosphere they like. The waiter dripped sauce on my wife's iphone ...not drops..but covered almost half of the iphone and hand and didn't even apologized...just tried to ignore it happened. They deliver dishes without explaining what it is....and we begin eating it...10mins later learning it needed a soup base and they brought it in but we already ate half of the dish. The sides were also random and felt like they just put whatever was being cooked at the moment. Anyways....didnt enjoy it there.
                                                                            FOGON was great....i love spanish dishes...Paella negra could have been more flavorful...but it was fine.
                                                                            Saturne was ok as well....nothing really stood out to be memorable. I feel we have a ton of these kinds of restauants in LA that also do it much better quality and with more variety of ingredients.
                                                                            SOLA- was ok...but in go to japan a lot, and LA has a lot of japanese fusion....it didnt really bring anything new. The Foie was amazing though. Beef was generally disappointingly tough...in japan and LA we are use to Wagyu..and non of our dinners had anything of that quality. overall, i would repeat SOLA but its nothing to write home about.
                                                                            The places we enjoyed the most were outside Paris...like in Provence, burgundy, St Malo and Blois. The price was reasonable and the food was amazing.

                                                                            Retrospect, i should have planned more classic restaurants that served french classics....but the schedule was really tight as it is. So, it is what it is.

                                                                            1. re: erickp

                                                                              Took a quick look at your pictures, and recognized the frog's legs from l'Orangerie in Blois. I loved that dish, and the fois there! We stayed 3 nights at Domaine de Haute Loire, which has a 2 star Michelin restaurant, and they sent us there our first night. We ate at the domaine the second night, with the tasting menu, which was lovely. We asked for a recommendation for a third night for something simple, and, as it was Monday, many places were closed. The concierge said chef is always happy to make something simple off menus, and we had a fabulous fish, a composed salad for me, some cheese, and a shared dessert, all served beautifully and with the same grace and charm as our multi course blow out. Perhaps because we were staying there, or perhaps because that's the kind of class a 2* exudes, but it was a great way to cap 6 weeks in France. I agree that restaurants outside of Paris are often better, and certainly less expensive than those in Paris (which we didn't even visit this trip-- but I already have tickets for next April-June). A by the way-- I think it was Robert that recommended Flaveur in Nice, and thanks for that. What a delicious and beautiful meal, and wonderful service. I sent them a thank you, and they were effusive in their response. Again-- so typical in our experience of most of France...

                                                                              1. re: cassiday

                                                                                yes..L'Orangerie was SOLID. we were so surprised at how good the food was...esp after several disappointing Paris experience. I am sure there are better places in paris and it was probably my luck that i chose these restaurants. We only have limited time so it was just unfortunate the slice we chose was this.

                                                                                1. re: erickp

                                                                                  Erick you lucky lad getting to go to Japan so often. I started going again, and I have to think that it's the most engaging country for gastronomes.

                                                                                  I'm afraid that France is like a setting sun in this regard. I think that between its terrible economy and the bars the government trows p to entrepreneurs that it's getting increasingly difficult to eat well. Having just spent 10 days on the Lake of Annecy, I am confident in saying that the dining situation in Annecy is no better than in most cities in the USA. Nonetheless, the Haut-Savoie is worth a detour for a couple of places; i.e. Flocons de Sel and L'Auberge du Pere Bise, the latter at which you can grab a few of the classic post-WWII dishes from Fernand Point and Margurite Bise.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Brown

                                                                                    Robert, I am so glad to hear that Auberge du Pere Bise is still good. We stayed overnight & ate there in 1988 -- just a lovely memory -- but have not been able to get back since. For some reason I was under the impression that it was a shadow of its former self.

                                                                                    1. re: Robert Brown

                                                                                      Hi Robert, I too and am happy to hear your report on Flacons de Sel and L'Auberge du Pere Bise -- we plan to be at both places in a few months, and will report back as well. Are there any dishes that you particularly recommend? -- Jake

                                                                                      1. re: Jake Dear

                                                                                        Dear Jake and Masha

                                                                                        I didn't return to Flocons de Sel this year, but I will see if I can retrieve my notes about any dishes that are still offered. One that should be is the smoked "fera", a fish from Lac Leman. We liked it a lot.

                                                                                        Pere Bise I'm up-to-date on. We stick to the historic dishes of the Auberge. One requires four people, the chicken Souvarov which apparently is a glorified chicken pot pie, that has to be ordered in advance. A second is a blanquette of lobster which I haven't had. However, there remains the gratin of crayfish tails, a dish invented by Fernand Point that is very delicious, and the Bresse chicken with tarragon sauce for two. It is a whole chicken that comes in a copper serving dish and served in two services; one with rice and the other with vegetables. Also there is soufflé "Marguerite" (Bise) that I enjoyed. It comes with violet bonbons of Toulouse inside. You can also order the house pastries that includes Point's Gateau Marjolaine. However, we weren't blown away by the several cakes, etc. that you choose from. I would stick with one of the soufflés. I eat this way because Sophie Bise is not a really good chef, but she is great at recreating her father's and grandmother's dishes.

                                                                                        If you stay overnight at Flocon you'll be able to have one of the great breakfasts of the world. It's extremely generous and varied. Also a server will go in the dining room and bring you any cheeses you want from the cheese cart. I'm particularly fond of the Persille de Tignes, a sharp, crumbly cheese, and my favorite blue cheese, Bleu de Termignon. I hope they will be available when you are there. But otherwise the Haute-Savoie is blessed with so many great cheeses--my favorite cheese region in the world.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Brown

                                                                                          Salut Robert, thanks for this, and any other notes you may have re "Flocons" (yikes, I just noticed that I mistyped the first time) de Sel, where we will indeed stay two nights -- for a special anniversary. Yes, we love Haute-Savoie cheeses. But big breakfasts like that (I can imagine from a few others) are usually just too much for us. We deal with that by ordering one in the room and splitting it. -- Jake

                                                                                          1. re: Jake Dear

                                                                                            Jake, if you send me your email address, I will send you my Flocons report that I wrote to my foodie pals.

                                                                                2. re: erickp

                                                                                  Great update. You were proverbially all over the map (of France). :)
                                                                                  The update of Fogon is especially welcome. I have always loved the restaurant but have not gone in the last couple of years. Your review makes me want to go back soon.
                                                                                  Milles mercis.

                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                    Fogon was great. i wish they had more tapas on the menu...i think tapas are a great way to show the creativity of the chef. I really like sardines and how good spanish sardines are, and the sandwich hit the spot. They had a thinly sliced buttered bread that was toasted and sandwiching sardines. so good. The chili that was stuffed with mussels were also great. I really enjoyed these creations more than the main paella dish which i have to admit, ive had better. Especially the sliced meat tray....it was good, but ive had better...and in a place like this...i really expect them to serve better.

                                                                                    1. re: erickp

                                                                                      I remember the signature rice dish there not being the paella but the arroz negro, which was my invariable order. Very buttery, very rich, very black, very good. Also makes the tongue turn black.

                                                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                                                        you mean arroz negra? that's the squid ink rice...right? that's what we had.

                                                                                  2. re: erickp

                                                                                    Nice balanced write up and lots of comments that coincide with my experience. Savoy is very good, but I agree very expensive. I tend to swallow hard and forget about the bill as quickly as possible but I still try to have one "big" meal in France when I visit as this style of dining is done so well in France. That said it's not bad value compared to Tokyo....!

                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                      Yes...Savoy was great and a highlight. But for the price they charged...i would expect a much better interior decor and more space....i felt the rooms were very crammed and didn't feel elegant at all. The bread cart, cheese cart and dessert cart were also not impressive. but the dishes from start to finish i felt was top notch and creative/interesting. I just wish he served wagyu.
                                                                                      I really enjoyed Japan though...the Kaiseki dinners i had there were amazing...but yes...i try not to eat in highend western celebrity chef owned places when i go to Japan or Asia, as i learned the hard way how severely overprice they are.

                                                                                      1. re: erickp

                                                                                        Just a note to point out for others following in your footsteps that Guy Savoy is moving to the very grand and refurbished La Monnaie (the old mint) in the 6th. Unfortunately, it's been a move repeatedly postponed because of rehab delays at La Monnaie. Latest rumour says Sep or Oct... but who knows ?

                                                                                        And yes, Guy Savoy is not exactly a spectacular room... but it does have some of the most fun yet cossetting waiters at this level of dining ... and this, for me, makes up for a lot of the other deficiencies.

                                                                                        1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                          Yes! the service was top notch at Guy Savoy...probably the best i had in Paris. The Som was a great guy too and paired my meal very well.