45 minutes from Avignon is a small town called Seguret. Between Seguret and Mont Ventoux lies Mourchon. (You can find their wine all over the US, and I recommend it! Especially the rosé…!) Once a year, they have a picnic for their fans. My host father, Raynald, is a contractor, and he built the house and the production facility there. We drove up, got the picnic out of the car, walked around a corner, and entered heaven.
One weekend, I took off to Lyon to meet my brilliant friend Lochin, who was sadly suffering from food poisoning :/. Nevertheless, we managed to have fun traipsing around Lyon, a city that took me by storm. I was “ravie” (ravished) and plan to return in a couple weeks with Parker to continue exploring.
My host mother Hélène prepares the most wonderful, simple dinners. Too hot to turn on the stove? A big Salade Niçoise appears. Need a bit of protein? Let’s have Oeufs en Cocotte, or simply put out slices of ham with the lovely heirloom tomato salad. All that’s left in the house is pasta and a single, lonesome tomato? Add a bunch of herbs, an unholy amount of garlic, and a generous glop of olive oil and you’ve got a “pistou” for your noodles.
Almost every dinner, there’s a tomato-heavy salad and fruit for dessert (side note: they salt and pepper their cantaloupe, and it’s great). They don’t drink every night, and when they do, they pour small amounts of rosé over ice cubes. They don’t snack between meals.
So, my take-home of all this is twofold. On the level of practices, I’m eager to make the weekly farmer’s market near me a part of my routine so I can replicate the beautiful salads and dessert fruits that I’ve become used to.
The second bit is more of an observation. Here are five things that are always in Hélène’s pantry that are rarely in mine (a peek in my pantry reveals a million kinds of beans, chipotles in adobo, and canned-tomato variations… I guess it’s obvious how much we make chili-ish meals!)
– Canned green beans
– Canned, high-quality tuna (and its cousin, tinned sardines)
– Chives, which she keeps chopped up in the freezer and adds to EVERYTHING – when’s the last time I used a chive?!
– Eggs (OK, I have those too, but I don’t use them as wisely)
– A selection of cheeses and fruits for dessert purposes (funny, both of these might be a snack in the US)
– “L’eau qui pique” – Sparkling water
The highlight (yes, the highlight … probably) of my time in Avignon was a visit I made to the Archives Départementales. I was super fortunate because my host mother has a friend who works there. She was incredibly generous and gave us a guided tour one afternoon. We went into the grand old stacks, inside what used to be an ecclesiastical and later papal chapel. We also went up the tower of the papal palace where they keep 11 levels (!!) of archives. She told us the story of how the Archives came to be housed in a part of the building, while the other part is where public visits are held. It’s bizarre, because I had already done a guided tour of the Palais and hadn’t even really noticed that we didn’t visit half of the building. I guess tours are kind of like that – it’s hard to keep your bearings. Or is it just me?
A couple quick snapshots from our first group excursion. We took four short trips from Avignon with the program. On the first, we canoed down the Rhone in the mistral (no small feat!) and passed under the Pont du Gard. That afternoon, we stopped in Uzès, a charming little town where we had too little time. There were many medieval structures for me to enjoy; here are a few glimpses…
I have spent the last five weeks in Avignon, living with a lovely host family intra muros. Here are some photos from my stay, if you’d like to see…
Rue Joseph Vernet