mardi 27 août 2013

Escape to Provence

I have been very fortunate to have met the charming Catherine through the Homelink home exchange network. She has kindly accommodated me for 4 weeks both in Vaucluse, Provence as well as Paris when my original travel plans for France fell through. Usually I would stay with my very good Parisian friend, VV, but unfortunately she was away. 

Catherine has a beautiful, ivy-cladded house with mauve shutters, situated only 3km from the ultra-friendly provençal village of Sarrians. My first comment on seeing La Sarriane, her picturesque home, was how it reminded me of Monet's house at Giverny. She confirmed that she had this in mind when she started her 10 year renovation project of the house that she bought 17 years ago. The house fulfilled a long-held desire to live in Vaucluse. She now spends her summers at La Sarriane and winter in her Paris apartment. La Sarriane is surrounded by vineyards that come right up to the edge of the property and has its own olive trees. Mont Ventoux and Les Dentelles are visible from the garden and are easily accessed.   
La Sarriane

The kitchen
Imagine my delight when I found myself in the dream country kitchen, tastefully decorated in blue and yellow, with copper cooking utensils hung on the walls. This is kitchen for a serious cook which has the benefit of an arrière cuisine (butler's kitchen). The 12 seater table was specially commissioned and had to be assembled in the kitchen due to its enormous size. What would be a country kitchen without a fireplace and a double oven with 5 burners stove top? I can appreciate these things even if I NEVER cook! This may change however. I have now attended 2 cooking classses with Catherine and I can now see that it is possible to easily cook delicious dishes that are not only suitable for everyday meals but also for special dinners with guests. My reportoire now includes: gelée de tomates au caviar d'aubergine, tarte tatin de tomates, filet de rouget et basilic and tiramisu de pêches. I have learnt the importance of removing the centre of the garlic before using it, as well as why you never cut the same piece of a herb a second time. I am sure that my cooking knowledge will continue to expand as tomorrow I travel to stay with VV in Paris. In addition to offering cooking classes, Catherine writes recipe books. She is also about to start a regular spot on radio where she will talk about food in Provence and will record a segment for French television.
My bedroom

La Sarriane has 8 bedrooms, which includes one with 4 beds for children, which makes it ideal for welcoming not only couples, but also families, in the bed and breakfast business she operates. Catherine offers table d'hôte so guests can enjoy first-hand her cooking expertise. On fine summer days, dinner is eaten under the cedar trees or next to the swimming pool to the song of the cicadas. Difficult to imagine a more idyllic setting.

Kicking back next to the pool

La Sarriane - surrounded by vines
Each day I would tear myself away from La Sarriane and head off in Catherine's convertible to discover the wineries, towns and villages of the area: Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Séguret, Venasque, Châteauneuf du Pape, Les Baux de Provence, Saint Rémy de Provence, Gordes, Vaison-la-Romaine, Fontaine de Vaucluse, L'Ilse sur la Sorgue, Orange and Avignon. Ideally, I should have blogged about this daily, but to be honest, I have been too busy discovering, eating and drinking.

The great news is that if you would like to make this lifestyle yours, Catherine has put her labour of love on the market for sale as she prepares for the next part of her life with lots of travel. I am so tempted!!!

Cooking with Catherine

Chambre d'hôte

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