Special Desserts to Eat at Christmas in Provence

Provence is world renowned for its superb food, the location of this French region is ideal for producing some of the best raw ingredients in the whole of France. Provence is also widely known for its traditional rustic cuisine and that is one of its best attributes. However, Provence can also produce some stunning dishes, especially desserts. And at Christmas the bar is really raised high and here are some of the seasonal specialties that this wonderful region produces.

Pain d’Epices

Pain d’Epices
Pain d’Epices

This is a French classic and not just made in Provence but is one of the thirteen traditional desserts that usually are served on Christmas Eve. Strictly not a dessert, pain d’epicesis rather a bread and normally sold in loaves. Sometimes bakers make giant slabs of this traditional seasonal bread and cut squares off to their customers. What typifies this bread from any other is the additional liberal amounts of honey, which makes the bread not just sweet but succulent.

Calissons d’Aix

If you eat any candy in Provence around Christmas time, it has to be the marvelous Calisson. This treat made from ground almonds is packed with a fruit paste and the whole thing is covered in a delicate layer of royal icing. Similar to other marzipan sweets that are popular during the festive season, the flavors remind you of Christmas and the pleasure of giving and receiving presents.

Pate de Coing

Pate de Coing
Pate de Coing

Pate de Coingis basically a delicious paste made from quince. Quince is a famous fruit to eat at Christmas and is a sort of mix between apples and pears. There are several variations of this festive treat, some are set like a jelly whilst others are formed into squares and sprinkled with caster sugar. Pate de Coing is the perfect accompaniment to eat with dried fruits as it brings a tangy moisture to the often overly sweet candied fruits.

Fougasse a l’Huile

Sometimes known as pompe a l’huile this flat cake normally is the final dessert that is served on Christmas Eve. Fourgasse a l’huile is primarily made from olive oil, orange flower water, lemon and orange zest. The olive oil keeps the cake moist and traditionally the cake is torn by hand, actually it is bad form to actually cut it. The traditional accompaniment to this rich Christmas cake is a type of mulled wine, which the cake is first dipped into then gobbled up as fast as possible.

Beggar Desserts

In Provence at Christmas every table will offer beggar desserts, which are simply nuts and dried fruits. The unusual name comes from the four orders of religious friars, namely Augustians, Carmelites, Franciscans, and Dominicans. And each order is represented by either a type of nut or dried fruit. In order they are hazelnuts, almonds, dried figs, and raisins. Why these foods represent these particular orders is quite a mystery but that is the fun of it all. All-in-all eating desserts in Provence at Christmas is quite a wonderful thing, and especially when you know the history behind it all.  

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Castles in Provence You Can Stay

Staying in a castle may be on your bucket list of things to do, and if you want to pursue your dream fairytale then why not look at the magnificent castles in Provence. Many of the fine historic buildings have now opened their doors to weekend travelers, or even those who wish to live the life of a nobleman for a bit longer. It is an opportunity to go back in time, and revel in the medieval architecture, antique furniture, and colossal stone stairways that typify grand and opulent old buildings such as these. Provence has its fair share of chateaus or castles that will make your stay in this beautiful part of France even more memorable.

Chateau des Alpilles

Chateau des Alpilles is actually a five-star hotel situated in Saint-Remy. Located in the heart of a spectacular park, this 19th Century establishment has been welcoming prestigious guests for centuries, including the likes of Lamartine and Chateaubriand. It boasts a swimming pool together with sauna, two tennis courts, a fitness room and a highly respected restaurant for which the diners come from far and wide.  

Chateau de Mazan

Chateau de Mazan
Chateau de Mazan

The location of this four-star hotel could not be more inviting, as it is situated at the foot of the grand Mont Ventoux. Mazan is a charming small village and only a brief walk away through the elegant gardens of the chateau. Perhaps the former owner of Chateau de Mazan may strike you with a little fear, as it was none other than the Marquis de Sade. But thankfully none of his legacy has survived, and this thirty-room luxury castle is a great place for a celebratory weekend of pampering and gourmet food.

Chateau de la Barben

Chateau de la Barben
Chateau de la Barben

From the outside this chateau is certainly impressive with its towers and ramparts glistening in the sun. This chateau was built in the 11th Century as a medieval fortress and is one of the oldest chateaus in the Provence region. The architectural features are simply stunning with the battlements domineering the structure, there are also watchtowers and evidence of the old drawbridge still remaining. Chateau de la Barben even has its own chapel, and a stairway to grace any Hollywood period film. You cannot get any more authentic than this exquisite castle should you want to impress somebody rather special.

Chateau des Barrenques

As they say from the sublime to the ridiculous, and Chateau des Barrenques could not be any different from Chateau de la Barben if you purposely went out to try and find an opposite. This 15th Century chateau oozes charm and renaissance quality. The chateau stands in its own six hectares of manicured lawns and gardens and you can imagine the gentile guests of yesteryear taking a promenade around the grounds, enjoying walking along the small river and viewing the old mill before afternoon tea. These great buildings offer so much more to the traveler than just another big city hotel, they offer architecture to drool over, and service that is simply unsurpassed.   

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A Whistle Stop Guide to Provence

Provence is a delightful area to visit, it has absolutely everything to offer from rugged coastlines, mountain peaks, verdant green valleys and of course the magnificent Cote d’Azur. Sitting snugly in the south east corner of France, Provence has been the inspiration for films, books, and the attraction for many culinary documentaries featuring some of the world’s greatest chefs. Roaming around this romantic landscape there are plenty of chic hilltop villages where you can stop at a pavement cafe and spend some quality time watching the world go by.

The French Riviera

The French Riviera
The French Riviera

The French Riviera is commonly known as the Cote d’Azur and has been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years. Not only are there fantastic beaches but the area is steeped in history and full of culture. Make sure you visit Nice and its Old Town that is reminiscent of an old Italian town. If you go down to the Promenade des Anglais you will find a four-mile promenade that the great and good like to amble along when the sun goes down.

Nice is flanked by two more famous cousins that are a little more auspicious, namely Cannes and Monaco, which of course hosts the famous Grand Prix. You can even hire a scooter and drive around the exact same route as the famous racing drivers of the past and experience for yourself what it is like to be a F1 driver. If you want to get away from the city then there are oodles of choices offshore such as the Aegean Turkey or the Greek Islands.

Historical Provence

Historical Provence
Historical Provence

Perhaps the beach is not your thing, well don’t despair as Provence is full of historical and cultural quaint villages and towns. Avignon blends religious history with medieval architecture, situated in a natural bend on the river Rhone it is surrounded by protective mountains. To the east are the Alpine foothills and further north is the daunting Mount Ventoux at two thousand meters. It was Pope Clement V who changed the power base of the Roman Catholic Church by moving the seat of power to Avignon. Consequently, `the building of Avignon are outstanding full of religious history and traditions. The Gothic Palais de Papes is now the main draw in Avignon and not surprisingly so.

Eating in Provence

Provence is famous all over the world as one of the best gastronomical destinations in the whole of the world. Many famous celebrity chefs have written books about the cuisine of Provence and celebrated the diverse wealth of produce that is available in this food basket of the south of France. The cuisine is a mix of hearty peasant dishes together with strong Italian influences. The local stars are nuts and fruits, together with locally grown vegetables such as broad beans, asparagus, artichokes and peppers. If you have never been to this part of France then you have to sample the regional delicacy Bouillabaisse, this traditional fish soup is simply sublime and once eaten you could never eat another version of fish soup.

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Things to Eat and Drink in Provence

Provence is famed in France for its cuisine and for a nation that loves its food this is quite an accolade. Provence is perfectly situated to benefit from an abundance of fantastic ingredients and the cooks in the region love to specialize in seasonal foods that have the freshest of ingredients. The Provence region is diverse and the food reflects this, from hearty stews to delicate seafood dishes and glorious pastries. Here are some of the must-try dishes you must enjoy when visiting Provence.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is the king of all fish soups, and it is a signature dish of the port of Marseille. No two bouillabaisses are ever the same, and every chef puts his own spin on this unique and colorful dish. The local people of Marseille expect the way their bouillabaisse is served to match the incredibly intense flavors emanating from this broth. The ingredients vary from place to place but an authentic bouillabaisse should contain no less than four different kinds of fish. The actual broth is at the center of this dish and is the most important part. Crushed fish heads and other assorted discarded parts are simmered with a rockfish stock, onions, tomatoes, heaps of garlic, liberal amounts of saffron and garnished with a rouille. Bouillabaisse should be of vibrant orange color almost the same as cooked lobster shells, and normally it is served with crusty bread to mop up all the wonderful juices.

Pastis

No drink represents the Provence region more than Pastis, once again hailing from Marseille this aniseed liqueur is now famed all over the word. It was developed in 1932 by Paul Ricard and the amber colored liquid mysteriously turns to an opaque white when water is added. Locals will drink Pastis at any time of the day, but it is particularly popular as an aperitif or to sip chatting over a game of chess.

Daube

The next dish might come as a surprise to many gastronomes as its roots are firmly based on peasant food. Daube was a poor man’s dish as it is basically a stew made from off-cuts of beef. The southern cooks learned that slowly braising the tough meat in a robust red wine broke down the sinews and made the meat delicate and unctuous. After the meat has been slowly cooking for an hour or so over a gentle heat, then vegetables, garlic and herbs are added to add flavor and to thicken up the broth. Quite often Daube is served with gnocchi or simple polenta.  

Ratatouille

Our final dish of Provence is more of an accompaniment than a dish to be eaten by itself, but it is an integral part of the cuisine of this part of France. Ratatouille represents the colors of Provence as well as the flavors, it is basically a vegetarian casserole and although the ingredients do vary, most traditional recipes include aubergines, courgettes, onions, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes and fresh herbs. It can be served on its own but really comes to the fore as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish.

Ratatouille

These are just some of the delightful dishes and drinks that come from Provence, and visiting the area you will also find many local recipes that are simply delicious.

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Avignon Festival

The Festival d’Avignon is an annual festival of arts. It is held every summer in France in the city called Avignon and its stunning old castle by the name of Palais des Papes (which is the main stage), as well as other locations all around the city.  Jean Vilar founded this festival at around 1947.

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Sites to Visit in Vaucluse – Part 2

The second part of our article to discover all the great things to do and see in Vaucluse visits some hidden gems as well as the most recognized historical sites and great museums. The wonderful countryside and surrounding areas of Vaucluse have so much to offer to both tourists and local citizens.

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Sites to Visit in Vaucluse – Part 1

Vaucluse is a region in France that many tourists flock to because of the variety of attractions that are there. The old town of Avignon is one of the most famous towns of Vaucluse which sort of defines the history of the region. And the dominant Mont Ventoux looks down upon the rest of the beautiful countryside that Vaucluse is famous for. In this article we look at some of the best things to do and see in this most magical place.

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The Cuisine of the Vaucluse – Part 2

In part one of the cuisine of the Vaucluse we discovered that there were three world famous dishes that came out of Provence, namely: bouillabaisse, salade Nicoise and ratatouille. In this blog we look at the ingredients that make up these dishes and how they are prepared in a typical Provencal way. We start with the king of all fish stews bouillabaisse.

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The Wine of the Vaucluse – Part 2

The second part of our blog to discover the wines of the Vaucluse delves deeper into the individual wines themselves. We have already learned about the different levels of Rhone wines and now it is time to highlight some of the best types of wine that the region produces.

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