france recap #2: Provence, pt. 1

A few years ago, my book club read A Year in Provence. The book was good, but more than anything it made me want to give up everything and move to Provence where I could experience things like wacky neighbors, language barriers, and truffle-seeking pigs. With stuff like that going on, who wouldn't want to move to Provence?

On Day 4 of our trip, we picked up our rental car in Nice and headed to Arles (pronounced "Arghghhhh" for those non-French speakers out there. I realized that the French usually only pronounce about 40% of the letters in their words. This one was impossible for us to say and be understood by anyone French.), a sweet and teeny Provencial town on the Rhone River.

Here's our car. Fun and cute, huh? Using this car, and seeing all of the tiny cars throughout the country made me think Americans have a big-car problem. My Honda feels HUGE now!


Our hotel, the lovely Hotel du Musee, was just a block from the bank of the Rhone River. This town was so full of pretty, I went a little overboard taking photos. I loved the pink-lined lanterns all over town.





Um, giggle. I know, I'm a child. But, nord pinus?!? Awesome! (fyi: according to my desktop translator, it means north pinus. Perfect.)



We had crazy-fantastic meals in Arles, and the best pain au chocolate of the trip. This might have been my second-favorite town for food. Our first night, we found this great wine bistro, Chez Ariane. It was soo very good and was well-decorated and super homey.



I want to paint this photo. I love how it turned out.



Our first dinner in Arles. That cheese was amazing. That wine was amazing. That salad was amazing, and I don't even LIKE hard-boiled egg or beets. Dining Perfection.



Arles at night. Spooky, huh?



Our hotel had this adorable courtyard where we had our coffee in the mornings. If you looked up the French word for "adorable" (which coincidentally, I think is adorable), a photo of this courtyard would be there.



More pretty.



Van Gogh also spent time in Arles. We spent one day doing a walking tour of some of his more famous paintings. They have these easels set up all over so you can see the painting with what inspired it.



And they have an old Colliseum.


Our second night in Arles, we went to a restaurant right down the street from Chez Ariane, Le 16. Wow! It was so good, we went back there for a second meal!



They had these clams. It's hard to describe how small they were -- each one was about the size of one of those pink pencil erasers. You know the ones you put on your pencil when you've already used up the one it came with? These. They were tiny, but incredible! They were cooked with a butter garlic sauce that made me speechless. That's a sign of good food; there's not much in this world that leaves me speechless!


Then we had this dish: a roasted duck breast with gratin potatoes. OMG. I didn't know what to do with myself after the first bite, it was that good. This definitely ranks in my top 3 best meals while in France. And I ate a LOT of meals while in France.



And the potatoes. They weren't regular gratin potatoes, not like I'm used to here in the States. I think they
were cooked more with cream (maybe sour cream?) than cheese. They tasted like heaven. They were rich, but light. And almost melted in your mouth.

So, um, I have more to tell you about Provence, but after writing about all this food, I think I need to go eat! But, needless to say, if you are heading to Provence, I would highly suggest a visit to Arles.

More recaps are coming though! Yay!