Hyères, Provence

Hyères, Provence (France)

I had no sooner returned from Sicily, then I unpacked my suitcase, re-packed my suitcase, and headed back out, to Provence. Even though I’d just returned from a ten-day trip, my other half was doing a project in the city I went along for the ride because, 1) Who wants to be sitting in a hot apartment, alone, in the summer, when you could be by the sea? And 2) The icy rosé of the south was calling. (And drinking alone raises other issues.) So I went.

Our hotel was very basic, but I loved the bathroom colors, holdovers from France in the 70s, or perhaps the 80s? Or someone was exceptionally good at recreating vintage French bathroom fixtures and colors. As I was happily lathering myself up after the humid train ride, I kept thinking that I’ve finally mastered the French curtainless hotel shower, and gotten it down.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Except when it was time to stop soaping up one side, and move to the other. And I realized that it’s that switch that I’ve yet to master; the moment when you need to swap the soap-holding hand with the hand holding the pommeau de douche (nozzle head), and a fountain-like spray of water breaks loose all over the bathroom. I’m not sure how one does it, especially when there is no holder for the shower nozzle. But I guess that’s why they load hotel rooms up with towels.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Another paradox was when we checked into the hotel, we were told the breakfast buffet featured “seasonal fruit.” When we asked what the seasonal fruit was, since it was July, we were hoping to hear that there would be peaches, nectarines, cherries, or apricots just picked from the trees of Provence. So we were a little chagrined when the desk clerk replied, “Apples.” And a glance at the bowl in the breakfast room, filled with perfectly calibrated green fruits from who-knows-where, confirmed that he wasn’t joking. (But lest you think the Provençaux don’t have a sense of humor, when we chuckled, he joked back that they also had compote available, or applesauce, too.) After we’d settled in our room, we went for a walk.

Hyères, Provence (France)

And – of course – just outside the hotel was a lovely tree in the yard next door, bursting with fresh oranges, ripe for the picking.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Fortunately there’s an outdoor market in Hyères, when the town streets spillover with vendors selling everything from baseball caps and bras, to olives and – yup – you got it, local, seasonal fruit.

Hyères, Provence (France)

The market takes place Saturday in the center of town, and the first thing we did was grab some tomatoes, from a local producer. You never realize how much you miss fresh fruits (Chilean apples, not withstanding) and vegetables, until you’re traveling.

Hyères, Provence (France)

(I actually have a secret technique for finding decent places to eat when traveling, and I’m asking a hotel desk clerk or local. One is that, if possible, ask someone who works in a fish market. They usually are pretty astute about freshness.

Hyères, Provence (France)

And another, is when someone asks what kind of food I want, I say “Fresh,” which often stumps them for a moment, but prevents people from guiding you toward the nearest Olive Garden or chain restaurant.)

Hyères, Provence (France)

Being not far from Corisca, there were sausage stands, and one woman selling excellent French cheeses, including an outstanding Beaufort and mold-covered, well-aged sheeps’ milk cheeses.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Few people in Provence, in the summer, probably want cheese, but we took a taste and if it wasn’t so hot, we might have taken a wedge back to our room, to stash away for breakfast.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Bakeries had nice bread, baked in generous, rustic loaves…

Hyères, Provence (France)

…and we had a French café express at an Italian caffè.

Hyères, Provence (France)

And while coffee seemed the preferred option at that time of the day, am not sure if it’s a local custom, but if you’ve gotten up early to sell your wares at the market — say, olives, or preserved garlic — you might merit a hefty goblet of beer, at 9:30am.

Hyères, Provence (France)

For those planning on doing some beach time, inexpensive, wildly colorful foutas from North African make terrific mats for resting on the sands of the Mediterranean.

Hyères, Provence (France)

(They were €10, or $13 – and yes, you can even find them at the markets in Paris. The Bastille market on Sunday often has them.)

Hyères, Provence (France)

If you want to dress, and accessorize, like a local, you can – in what a certain Frenchman (or more accurately, a certain Parisian I was traveling with) – called la mode dans le sud, and shop for accessories on the streets.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Romain picked up some jam to bring home, and I ended up buying a few nice pieces of pottery from Marseille in a small shop in town (Mediterraneo, 25, rue Massillon, tél: 04 94 35 60 79), which also carried a huge selection of mortiers.

Hyères, Provence (France)

But I don’t mean the selection was huge, but the mortars were géants.

Hyères, Provence (France)

The smaller ones were around €65. But I was more impressed by the one on the bottom, which was about the size of a Le Car, and probably just as heavy – although it’s made to last longer. (It was €500.) When I asked if they shipped, they just laughed. So in this case I’m sure the saying, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” is entirely applicable. (Or, “If you can’t lift it, you can’t buy it.”) And left with a manageable bag of cups, and a bowl.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Still, once ya got the pottery bug, it’s hard to keep it down. (Trust me.) And driving down around the coast in or near Giens, we stopped at a huge pottery yard, which was filled with packable, or, er, perhaps shippable, pieces.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Hyères, Provence (France)

There were lots of plates, bowls, pots, and urns, large and small.

Hyères, Provence (France)

I was coveting a colorful cake plate (€14, and not just because I wanted to take it home, and give it a good scrubbing), but since I’d stocked up on a few pieces in town, and some on my recent trip to Sicily, I decided to skip it.

Hyères, Provence (France)

I did love the glazing on these giant pots, but I definitely didn’t have room for one of them in my suitcase.

Hyères, Provence (France)

But I didn’t ask about shipping, either – for reasons of economy, and space Plus I’m sure if I put one of those outside of my apartment, it’d be gone in a Paris minute. (Next time I go, I want to stop here. And if you’re in Paris, La Tuile à Loup has a lot of Provencal pottery, too.)

Hyères, Provence (France)

Back in our room, we learned that the promised air-conditioning was just strong enough to take the edge off the intense heat that was pounding the façade of the building, and heating the interior to the boiling point. When I mentioned to them that the AC wasn’t working, and could we move to another room, pretty-please, the owner told us to think of it like air-conditioning in a car. (Huh?) Although being San Francisco, a naturally air-conditioned city, I’m out of the habit of using AC. And I’m also out of the habit of battling desk clerks, so we spent most of our time outside.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Aside from a selection of apples curated from around the world, dining choices in Hyères aren’t especially “gourmet.” Which is okay, since we weren’t looking for world-class, starred cuisine; just something good to eat. It can be a challenge to find a good restaurant in small towns and cities. (Although there’s no shortage of square plates.) And we had uneven memories of the last time we were here, dining at a restaurant by the port, where we’d ordered le grand aïoli, garlic mayonnaise served with a grand platter of vegetables, and salt cod, for dipping.

The waiter had started us off with a ramekin of olive puree made solely of canned olives, and explained to the tourists (ie: us), that that was what tapenade was. I felt kind of funny, but I had to let him know that it wasn’t tapenade – it was olive puree. (Olivade, to be more precise. I also didn’t explain that most dips are best when they’ve been seasoned, before serving.) The rest of the meal was awful and the saving grace was that we had stocked up on tartes tropéziennes from a local bakery (there’s a recipe in My Paris Kitchen, accompanied by a story that was wisely censored edited, so the book could maintain its PG-13 rating, based on my favorite tartes in the area), to take home on the plane with us. In spite of the creamy filling, the folks at airport security completely understood when I told them that it was imperative that we take our tartes on the plane with us. God love le sud de la France, even if some of the fashion choices are debatable.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Like the understanding security guards at the airport, on this trip, we were aided by someone in neighboring Toulon, who told us about L’Abri-Côtier (place Daviddi, tél: 04 94 66 42 58), a restaurant adjacent to the beach where the food was pas mal*.

When we got there, we were happy to find that the servers were anything but mals. In fact, they were friendly, and funny. And the food was good, too.

With the obligatory starter of ice-cold rosé, in the style of le sud, when I saw they had sweet potato fries, a rarity in France (where sweet potatoes are mostly consumed by African, and American, immigrants), I didn’t even launch a discussion over what to order with our drinks. I went for it.

L'Abri-Cotier

They were surprisingly crisp (yay!), and served with mayonnaise seasoned with smoked paprika. (Which I helped a bit with a few shakes from the bottle of Heinz habanero sauce.) Or neighbors were looking skeptically at our basket, and the guy wildly shaking hot sauce over it, so we told them to order some. But they didn’t believe us and stuck with something more familiar, ignoring the crazies eating those weird, orangey, creatures of the earth, at the next table. Tant pis for them.

I went with the main course of steak with goat cheese and pesto, which another local had told me beforehand that if I ate, I would not sleep for the one night. So we ended up sharing that, along with a lighter loup de mer, which guaranteed at least a half night of sleep per person.

Hyères, Provence (France)

Because it was summer, we headed to a nearby glacier for dessert, where they were happy to tell us that the chocolate ice cream was made with Valrhona chocolate. To be honest, I couldn’t taste Valrhona chocolate in the ice cream – and if I was truly honest, I’d say that I couldn’t taste any kind of chocolate in the ice cream at all. But it’s a rare summer pleasure to be sitting by the sea on a warm summer night, lapping up a cone of melting ice cream, which I can never do at home because I always have a freezerful of ice cream and I feel guilty going out for it.

Another restaurant we liked was Le Jardin (19, ave Joseph Clotis, tél: 04 94 35 24 12), with outdoor seating in the shade, located in the centre ville. The service was friendly as well (and funny at times, too), and the food was fine, which prompted us to eat there twice.

Hyères, Provence (France)

In addition to the omnipresent rosé, the best part were the Panisses, deep-fried fritters made of chickpea flour. The food wouldn’t earn Michelin stars – and I think there were square plates involved – but we enjoyed ourselves the two times we went.

Hyères, Provence (France)

My Lebanese mezze platter was not objectionable and Romain did the whole mixing and seasoning of the steak tartare, and was a happy Frenchman. (Which is a state that I am constantly striving to maintain.)

Hyères, Provence (France)

Coffee was topped off, or paired, I should say, with a big, green marshmallow, and a bright red one.

2 coffees, 2 marshmallows

We did have lunch at what is probably the best place in town, Chez Lulu (14, ave des Îles d’Or, tél: 04 94 00 32 61), an Italian restaurant with many menu items marked as “Slow food”, and some of the meats by Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini. Even though it’s a standard item on every. single. hip. Paris. café. menu, we went with the burrata salad with caponata and Sicilian tomatoes, which made me realize that caponata is something you probably shouldn’t order outside of Italy. And not all Sicilian tomatoes were created equal.

Our pastas were copious, and we were told the pâte de Pouilles was kind of like pesto, but I think pesto is usually a green paste loaded with fresh basil (or other herbs), whose fragrance wafts up when you lift the hot pasta with your fork, and drives you wild with excitement. And my pâte al sugo was pasta mixed with olive oil and bits of crumbled ground meat, and I was expecting the meat that’s been cooked forever, until it dissolves into practically nothing, then used to sauce pasta.

Hyères, Provence (France)

I think we did the best we could while we were there, though. Although next time, I wouldn’t mind renting an apartment with a seaside terrace, rifling through the market for tomatoes, basil, garlic, picking up some fresh pasta at one of the Italian épiceries in town, and loading up on the delicious Mara des bois strawberries. And being content to eat platters of tomatoes, pasta, and cheese, with good bread, local fruit, and a chilled bottle of rosé.

Hyères, Provence (France)b

(On a related note: I can’t imagine owning a restaurant, or being a cook, and not using the lovely products from the local producteurs. But I guess that’s why I don’t own a restaurant.)

Hyères, Provence (France)

Anyways. Because we were mostly there on business, we didn’t have much time to hit to beach. But the last day, we headed to Presqu’île de Giens, where the surf by the place where we splayed ourselves out, was definitely up.

Hyères, Provence (France)

The water was definitely perfect. I didn’t do my usual 20 minute reluctant cinema (or “performance,” as they say in French) of submerging myself in the water, centimeter-by-centimeter, each step frozen in semi-submergence, preparing myself so I could go – as slow as humanly possible – into the water.

Hyères, Provence (France)

In fact, we dove right in, bobbing in the glistening Mediterranean, while the sun dappled us from above.

Hyères, Provence (France)

After we dried off, we retreated to a nearby café.

Hyères, Provence (France)

There was, of course, more rosé. And a friend who lives in the region sipped pastis with us, before we packed up, and headed back home the following morning.

Hyères, Provence (France)


*In French, if something is bad, it’s pas terrible. Which translates literally to “not terrible,” which perhaps makes for a more gentle way of saying you don’t like something. (Although locals are not always terribly gentle when they don’t like something. So I’m not quite sure about that one.) If something is good, it’s pas mal, or, “not bad.” Which could be construed as a gentle way of not showing too much enthusiasm over something, which would be untoward. J’adore, or “I adore,” is usually only used by overly expressive Americans — like me.

76 comments

  • David,
    you need to sit down in the bath tub while showering. Problem solved ;-)

  • Thank you for this lovely post – it was a joy to read! I’m envious of that beautiful blue water… the olive puree not so much. :)

  • I loved this post, because there were a few things about small town French life I’m familiar with from Brittany, but it also screamed of my childhood Summers spent with my grandparents down South. Half way through reading this I actually got up to check out my mothers cupboards full of bright pottery we used to get at roadside places both in France, and over the boarder in Spain.

  • There are miles and miles of sprayed and well perfumed (by gasoline) Golden Delicious on the Route du Sud to the west of Hyeres – so probably local.

  • What is the veggie/fruit depicted in the 7th photo (kinda flat, and white)? A kind of melon or pumpkin?

  • I love that ice cream cart!

    I wonder how one of those would go over in Malibu?

    Hmm…

  • I love your posts. But I especially love your travel posts. I am interested in travelling to the south of France so this is great.

  • Oh, those photos. They almost make me dizzy.
    *****
    It’s been in the 90′s here this week. Startin’ to crave some chilled Rose.

  • Seeing the stamps on the eggs reminded me of the Martin Walker books featuring Bruno, Chief of Police and the war between the stall owners and the EU inspectors in a small Provence village. Check them out, there fun for foodies and mystery lovers!

    • Those stamps are great (for those that don’t know, the codes tell how the chickens were raised, from organic and free-range, to battery raised) so consumers know what they’re getting. I once saw an undercover tv show in France, and they went up to someone at an outdoor market that had a bunch of eggs in a straw-lined basket, and pointed out the stall owner that they were #3 eggs, battery-raised. The other shoppers were arguing with the journalist (hard to argue with an egg that’s stamped!) and the stall owner started throwing eggs at the journalist when they saw an undercover camera. I always check the eggs, no matter how they’re presented now : )

  • David, trap the pommeau de douche in the bottom of the bath with your foot while you transfer the soap

  • Great post and pictures. That garlic confit and olives look so fresh; I make my own confit and never buy jarred olives! I’m with you about restaurants…just say “fresh”.

  • Those strawberries look gorgeous. Love the travel posts.

  • I respect your efforts and your tolerance, but it’s sad, isn’t it; they can’t to cook anymore. And Hyères has the highest number of retirees in France. Maybe they don’t know how to eat anymore or, if they do, they wisely eat at home.

  • Next time try Chez Rè à la Moutonne for their beautiful pastries, vacherin, chocolates, and biscuits. :)

  • Okay David, with this entry, you hit my three weaknesses: beautiful produce, Provence and pottery…I have enjoyed immensely all your books and was sorry to have missed your one NYC appearance (it was sold out in a NY minute). I always look forward to reading your commentary on food, travel and life in France. My dad passed his love of Paris to me and my year in Paris for graduate school remains with me to this day. I wonder if you have seen two films out now : Chef (American) and Comme un Chef( French) and your thoughts on restaurant life depicted. For sure one had to eat after sitting through all those culinary ‘close ups’!!

  • love the posts, the photos and I am jonesing to hit that pottery place! wow.

  • This wonderful post reminded me that I recently made a tarte tropézienne from your new book to bring to dinner with friends. I had fallen in love with it during our last visit to Provence. We all loved it, including my husband, who is wishy-washy about dessert. The friends even reported it was great for breakfast the next morning, as I think you experienced as well.

  • What gorgeous colours in those photos from the market and outdoors in Provence. Looking forward to my next trip to France in August, Nantes to Marseille en vélo!

  • Great post :) How funny that you are somewhere so well-known for good food and fantastic produce and most of your dining experiences were just ok.

    I do the same cinema here in California where the ocean is so cold, I have only been in the water past my knees maybe 5 times in 8 years. Not to mention all the seaweed, ick.

    That is lovely that foutas are so cheap there! I think they just started catching on here and the ones I see are $50 or so.

  • This is such a fun post (and funny as hell). I still can’t forgive myself for not visiting a single market during my trips to France, and I’m especially resentful (to myself) when I see these gorgeous pictures. In my defense I was in my early 20s when I visited.

  • Lovely post Monsieur David – I feel like I’ve been on holiday – thank you!!

  • Love, love, love this article. I fondly remember picnics in Provence not long ago. Your descriptions bring back my memories of village life there. Thanks so much for your fun writing.

  • Oh this is one of your BEST blogs ever…I loved your photos and your comments….thanks for transporting me to another reality. My husband and I ate great sea urchins and other delicious there in Marseille. GREAT POST!

  • I love travelling with you David. Maybe someday I will actually make it to France.

  • Next time try Le Bistrot de Marius on place Massilon. Tres frenchy and very good. Love le Jardin, but had a rat peeking out of le jardin over my shoulder on the last visit. Just considered that kind of frenchy, too.

  • Merci, David! I love this post and how it transported me to Provence for a moment.
    Any suggestions for a good South of France rosé that I can chill for later?

  • ahhh yes – the shower dilemma – compounded by the marvelously deep but very narrow tubs which, once you are down in them, are a ridiculous challenge to get back up and out of!

  • Thanks for this! A few years ago I visited Collioure where we spent a day on the beach and dined at (what would be called in the US) a fish shack — they were very excited about the cocktail du jour which was huge, sweet, comprised mostly of Sprite (?) and topped with a skewer of massive green marshmallows. Vive le France!

  • What a great post, David. Reminds me how much I love and miss Provence. Especially those rose wines.

    Was the last photo at the bottom your hotel? Looks like a place I’d want to book.

  • Your future riposte to the desk clerk: “But monsieur, we don’t sleep in our car!”

  • Bonjour David,

    I’ve been following your site for a few years and this is my first time commenting. I love your site.

    I’m not sure about France, but in Quebec City, where I live, when we say something is “pas terrible” it means ‘it’s not good” or “gross” ;).

  • Hi David,
    Really enjoy your posts! I want to go to Marseille one day to visit the following pottery. Perhaps you have heard of it? http://www.faiencerie-figueres.com .
    Their trompe l’oeil fruits and veggies certainly look good enough to eat (even out of season!).

  • From reading other comments it seems we’ve all had a similar reaction to this post….nous l’aimons! Waves of memories come over me seeing pictures of the markets and that beautiful water of the Mediterranean. Just what is it? I’ve been thinking and what I’ve come up with is that the experience of a country such as France or Italy is like concentrate….it’s rich, thick, and condensed into small cobblestone streets, making for intimate contact with smells, sights and sounds that leave a profound impressions both good or bad. We Americans are so used to our privacy and big personal spaces….big streets, big cars, big egos, big houses, big restaurants. In a way we are insulated from some of the most glorious side-street encounters because of it. I haven’t been abroad since 2006 but posts such as this make me feel it all over again. Merci beaucoup!!

  • Kudos for showing me something I’ve never seen coupled with a cup of coffee: a fat marshmallow — tinted at that.

  • Cassis outside Marseille is not fashionable like Hyères. It is unlike the usual French Riviera spots as a very French family resort with local simple good food, fine food market, hotels you keep returning to, tiny fjordlike coves for swimming in a crystal clear calm Mediterranean plus Europe´s largest underwater natural reserve nearby. A mere 3 hours by TGV train from Paris to Marseille, from Marseille the local bus to Cassis centre.
    So easy, so simple so undiscovered.

  • Delightful post, as always.

    Here in Marin County, CA our restaurants have succumbed to the Non-Gluten Police, so one must now wend one’s way carefully through the menu to be certain the thing called ‘pasta’ is actually made from wheat rather than ground corn or rice or barley or something else even more peculiar.

    We Americans give ourselves over to the craziest food fads. I’ve read that the U.S. “non-gluten” industry is now valued at $6 billion and growing. (Have you read “Grain Brain”? It’s a best seller on the NYTimes list.)

  • Laughed the entire way through this. J’adore!

  • The supermarkets around Saint-Aignan and Blois always have sweet potatoes in the produce department. French people must be buying, cooking, and eating them.

    ‘Terrible’ in French doesn’t mean ‘bad’. It means ‘amazing’ or ‘extraordinary’. So ‘pas terrible’ means ‘not that good’.

  • Merci, David, for this little afternoon visit to Provence. For us armchair travelers, you and National Geographic are the best.

  • The idea is you cover yourself with water, turn the shower off and put it down, then soap yourself all over, then pick the shower up again and rinse the soap off.

  • Due to moving and other boring stuff, I’ve not had my Provence fix yet this year, so nice to do a bit of vicarious tourism. I love all your travel reports but nothing get me itching like southern France.
    The apples likely come from the area east of Cavillion. Although more famous for the eponymous melon, most of the French “Goldens” are grown round here.
    If you journey a little further east, just shy of Apt, the cherries turn the trees bright red. Unfortunately they will all be picked now so the spectacle is over. You can however gatecrash the Salle de Degustation at Apt Union who make a big percentage of the glace and crystallised fruit in France. The cherries steeped in alcohol are divine. I don’t just freeload, I do actually buy stuff too. I get supplies in for my english xmas cakes and puddings and also my version of nougat ice cream. Now that idea is in my head, I will have to make some for the weekend.
    The area also produces lots of great red wines, which is just as well as I just don’t get rose, which I guess leaves all the more for you.
    Cote de Luberon is the local AC, and lots of vineyards who will welcome you and let you try to your hearts’ content. Unlike in some wine growing areas.

  • Terrific post. One quibble though: my six-year old, native French-speaker, says “j’adore” all the time. Maybe a girlie thing, or Belgian? L

  • Thanks for explaining pas terrible. I am adding it to my college french repertoire i, always smile at pas mal– god forbid you should go overboard with enthusiasm.
    BTW David, do you know where in the U.S. to buy the rose essence used at Laduree for desserts?

  • Hi David! Long time fan of this blog, your books, and you. I was wondering if you could help me out with a sud de la France memory. Years ago when I lived in Aix, there was a bakery near Parc Jourdan that sold these coconut pastries. They were dense coconut cake-like balls the size of a baseball. Have you ever seen anything like this, and if so, do you recall the name of the pastry? Or do you have a recipe?! :)

    Loved this post so much. Brought back some great “souvenirs” for me.

  • Hi David, I have been enjoy reading your blog! I have learned many things: countries, cultures, arts, shopping…and of course about FOODS. Your pictures always deliver me all the beauty. Thank you, Merci and Arigatou !! PS: I found your HEART in San Francisco! Come back soon:)

  • Returned from Paris a few weeks ago where we ate at as many cafes on your blog as possible all terrific ! checked out several of your suggestions for cookware also all exactly as you describe in your blog ! Thank you for your accurate due diligence and entertaining literary style , I am an enthusiastic fan and longtime (35 yrs ) resident of San Francisco , raised in Malibu / Pacific Palisades CA , so am of the opinion the ice cream cart would make quite a splash at the Bel Air Bay Club !

  • David, I am just readying myself for a 6 week trip to the family compound in Ste Maxime. Your post reminds me of all I have to look forward to — surf & sunshine, rose & stinky cheese, crusty bread & grilled prawns, petal cone ice cream & fruits & veges picked from our own garden. I can feel all cares washing away even before I pack! Plus I am going (for the 1st time) at the end of August & entire month of September — I am ecstatic at the prospect of renewing relationships with the local vendors & avoiding many tourists (though I am one myself). You are indeed lucky to live in such a beautiful country. I am glad you are able to enjoy getting out of Paris & touring a various regions!

  • David: I usually read your posts with great joy and interest. But how dare you go to Provence, probably my favorite place in the world. My late partner and I rented a house up in the Haute Provence for may years and I have pictures of the markets decorating my kitchen. But when you showed that picture of the fraise du bois, I decided that I actually hate you. A lot! :)

  • I am envious too…..oooh the beauty and abundance!

  • Thank-you… that’s all (she says smiling all the way through the post).

  • Thank you for this beautiful summer post… great photos, insights, humor !

  • Fabulous post. The only thing wrong was that I wasn’t there. But it gives me courage for the journey. Thanks.

  • Oh, that pic of the maras takes me back 20 years when I was bicycling in Provence and came across a market with a long line. Always worth getting into any long line at a produce market in France, non? Turned out the wait was for mara des bois strawberries. I then spent the next few years in the US trying to obtain just one plant so I could grow my own. Made my daughter go to a nursery in Canada one time to see if she could score a couple of mara plants for me. Finally a US nursery started selling this wonderful hybrid and I now have 100+ mara des bois plants producing prodigiously as I write this. Wish we could get all the rest of the good European fruit and veggie hybrids.

  • David, you OWE us all a picture of your pottery (and glass) collection! Get it all out there on the floor in the kitchen and take a snap of it for us!

  • David—Always a joy–Share your posts with the whole world—They’re
    always well written and interesting—How do I access any of your travels
    at Christmas with pictures and recipes—Are there any—

  • I had one of the best meals of my life in Hyères at La Grange, a restaurant near the train station.

  • Times are changing. I bought a marble motor and pestle in Nice a few years back, It was old and slightly cracked but there was no way I could take it on a flight., it was a weapon. I love the motor and pestle, and it was worth the hassle and they eventually let me carry it on board. A few years back I tried to take a lovely volcanic rock Mojacate from Baja to Vancouver. Well it was difficult getting it onto carry on as it was considered to be a weapon.
    After many hours of discussion I carried the mojacate onto the plane.
    The restrictions for carry on are really confining and for us who like to bring home special treats it is an eternal headache.

  • Yikes! Such a long post and so many comments!
    That rose is exactly the color of the one I drank tonight… and the ice cubes juxtaposed only made me want to head to the kitchen to pour another sip…
    OK, now I’ll go read the rest of the post :-)

  • Re: the pattypan squash – they caught my eye as well. When we let ours go way too long in the garden, that’s what they look like. I call them flying saucers, at that point…

  • You reminded me: when a New Englander says, “not bad,” it means the same as when a Californian says, “fabulous!”
    Thanks for a lovely post.

  • When I was staying in Germany I asked my German host how to cope with the curtain- less bathtub. She said, “when the water sprays all over the bathroom, you clean it up.”

  • The “pas mal”/”pas terrible” discussion brings up the shades of meaning in British English use of “quite”. So “quite good” = so so, alright. “Quite marvellous” or “quite splendid” = fabulous, couldn’t be bettered. He looked quite ridiculous = he looked a complete idiot. That is, if “quite” modifies a superlative (like “excellent”, “superb”, “dreadful”) it exaggerates it, but if it modifies a non-superlative (good, reasonable, pleasant), it diminishes it.

    That, I think you have to be born into!

    Finding good restaurants is harder everywhere these days. It used to be that one had “happy accidents”, but they’re now in the class of miracles, I think. Now I eat at home, or by recommendation from a trusted source.

  • Boy that was a marathon posting, read like a chapter in a travel diary or something.

  • You made me feel like I was with you. Lovely… I would love the lavender/green stripe fouta, for after our swim in the sea. C’est chouette!

  • Stunning photographs, and why is it European food always looks better than food anywhere else? :)

    I miss the pottery of Europe as well. Here in Asia it’s a lot more difficult to find handmade pottery although, of course, if we do it’s a fraction of the cost of a piece in France, Spain or Italy :)

  • Yay! I went to Marseille last year and it taught me that panisses are the king of drunk food — the best thing when you realize you’ve been drinking successive glasses of rosé when you should have been putting some food in your stomach. Clearly someone needs to implement a late-night panisses cart in the Village in NYC…

  • In the bathroom: how about lathering up first with the soap then rinse? I know it sounds odd. For me too it’s odd in America that the damn shower head is attached to the wall high above and you can’t properly rinse at all….

  • Your post brought back great memories of a visit to Toulon and daytripping on Hyeres. Great meals in Toulon, and lovely beaches and umbrella pines on Hyeres. Thanks.

  • Wonderful post – we just came back from 3 weeks in St Cyr Sur Mer, between Toulon and Cassis, and this brought back wonderful memories.
    We were also somewhat taken aback by the “mode” on sale in the markets in St Cyr, and Aix. I think a lot of French chic stops at the Peripherique. My Muscovite wife greatly enjoyed feeling overdressed, as she doesn’t normally feel like that in Moscow.
    I’m also glad that you agree that good restaurants are hard to find in these tourist areas.

  • Oh, and I shall be buying your book for the Tropezienne recipe – just discovered them on this trip!

  • Strange while I was cooking dinner and making Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers I started reading this. I think I will try this after finding my basan in the freezer. Nice relaxing beach. I so miss Ventura now.

  • Great post. Excellent photos

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