June 30, 2007

Exploring Provence

Free days between groups are frequently spent exploring new places. In June, we took advantage of one of these days to head up into lavender country. The lavender was just beginning to open, the poppies were finishing their season and the backroads were calling us.....the route touristique was not yet busy and one could enjoy the scenery without the hassle of traffic. This route through the gorge du Nesque is very popular with cyclists.....they definitely outnumbered cars and once at the top we see that the village is indeed full of bicycles. Hadn't been here in 7 years but nothing has changed....a favorite nougatier is still here....the artisanal butcher shop hasn't changed....there are just more cyclists.....the Gorge du Nesque is beautiful but doesn't quite match the Verdon on the other side. From here, our loop takes us to a small village above Apt where we visit a local lavender grower who produces his own lavender oil......we stock up....quarts of lavender oil....did I say 100 kilos of blossoms to produce a liter....WOW...we just bought 4 liters....

Paris Surprise

Headed to Paris the beginning of June for a friend's birthday party. Of course, days were taken up with sightseeing and visiting places I hadn't been to in years....and walking miles and miles. BUT all this walking paid off.

Xavier took the less traveled route from the Arc de Triomphe and we ended up on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore in front of the Elysee Palace...the home of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He must have known we were there because the gates opened, the car pulled into the street, stopped and out jumps Sarkozy! He greeted the 10-15 of us who were lucky enough to just be passing by. Very exciting....and I can say that he has a great smile and lots of charisma. Check out the photo

From there, we landed at a restaurant that I can highly recommend. Alain Senderens closed Lucas Carton and reopened as Senderens...a more low key casual restaurant than his starred Lucas Carton. There are actually 2 entities here....the restaurant Senderens and the upstairs bar. ...Le Passage.....named this since access is through the alley (Passage de la Madeleine) to the side of the restaurant. Get buzzed in, proceed upstairs and enjoy the small plates that they offer. I loved the Pastilla de Pigeon, Vinaigrette Epicée et Mesclun...it was perfect with the crisp white wine that was chosen