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Apr 8, 2014 08:53 PM

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, 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 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. 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 ) , 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 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...