"Some spots are the cradle of genius, Provence is one." --Lawrence Durrell. Locals have always known it. Provence's magic, like a magnet, draws many types of people to its charming countryside and ensuing lifestyle. There amongst the markets, cobblestone roads, bistros, shops, and restaurants, look closely and be observant. You might see your favorite author, fashion czar, cookbook writer, painter, actor, director, Michelin-star chef, celebrity, winemaker, photographer, and the list goes on.
"A Royal Encounter" When we visited Provence our first year we had tried to eat at Le Bistro du Paradou, a wonderful country bistro full of Provencal charm, however, we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Mireille and Jean-Louis Pons' country bistro is one of famed restaurant critic and cookbook writer, Patricia Wells' favorites in Provence. Well, it was worth a second try on our second trip, and we were successful in experiencing an incredible lunch. Everyone shares the same house table menu, choice of house wines, and gracious service.
After lunch, I pulled Jean-Louis Pons aside, and asked him a few questions, and thanked him for such a lovely lunch. He proceeded to tell me, "That it is afternoons like this, when Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband come, I am especially pleased. She comes every spring, and is sitting there now at the table under the window." Can a jaw drop to your knees? Mine did. She was facing me across the room, surrounded by an entourage of people at her table who had floated into the bistro unnoticed. I looked at her for a long time, so I might forever keep her vision that day in my memory.
Wait, there is more. Once out in the parking lot, we notice our rental car entirely blocked. My husband asks me to go back to the bistro and find out whose car it is. Fate beckons us, and it is none other than Princess Caroline's pristine 1959 Deux Cheveux. Mon Dieu! First comes the waiter to help move the car, second comes someone from her table, and third comes Princess Caroline herself, speaking in perfect English, and apologizing profusely.
As we slowly left Le Bistro du Paradou moving on with our afternoon, I thought to myself, "Wow, this magic of Provence is intoxicating!" Le Bistro du Paradou, 57 avenue de la Vallee-des-Baux. Le Pradou. (tel) and (fax) (0)4-90-54-32-70. Closed Sunday. I recommend calling for hours, menu of the day, and reservations.
"Meeting My Heroine" After playing bumper cars with Princess Caroline of Monaco, we didn't think our visit in Provence could get any better. Little did we know that there was much more excitement to come. I first saw her book in the travel section of a bookstore about three or four years ago. Her book is, Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France. I was not familiar with Kristin Espinasse before or her writing, but immediately enjoyed her wonderful and endearing stories, woven with humor about her husband, children, cultures, and antics of Provencal every day life, and not so every day life.
Kristin's book actually morphed from her popular "thrice-weekly" blog, www.french-word-a-day.typepad.com/ . Kristin's blog is wildly amusing, and a fun way to stay in touch with your "inner French language", and Provencal fix. Kristin is my heroine, because she lives and breathes the authentic Provencal life every day, and gladly shares it with all of us through her wonderful words and stories.
Kristin is an American, and as she pens it, "a former desert rat from Arizona", who meets her husband to be in Provence during a foreign language exchange program. She falls in love with this handsome Frenchman Jean-Marc, marries, and has two adorable children. They live in Provence, and have followed one more of their dreams, owning a farm house, vineyards, and making award-winning wines in the Lower Rhone Valley.
Once again by incredible luck and unusual circumstances, my husband and I are enjoying a private tour of some of the local wine producers in the lower Rhone Valley, by one of the leading wine consultants in the area. Half way up the long gravel driveway of Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse, I realize we are visiting Domaine Rouge-Bleu, their winery and vineyard. I'm pinching myself thinking I can't take any more of these surprises. A quick introduction and visit with Jean-Marc and Kristin, a quick tour of their winery, a taste of their wine, results in a lifetime of memories.
Kristin is just as warm and friendly in person, as she is in her writing. She encouraged me to start a blog. I am so grateful and thankful for her kindness. Sometimes you meet people along the journey of life that touch your lives in so many ways, and they might not ever know. Thank you Jean-Marc and Kristin for touching our lives. We hope our paths will cross once again.