A Provençal EscapeWednesday,
18 July 2007
Vias – Le Paradou –
I got up early enough to seal the entire courtyard with linseed oil – one tile at a time – with a 2 inch paintbrush. Anne goes out the door then I paint myself out the door so that while we’re gone to Provence it will dry without anyone stepping on it.
An hour later we decide to pull in to the Nimes airport to see if they have a car with air conditioning they will trade for the one we have without. A half-hour later we’re driving out with a brand new Ford Fusion with 3 kilometers on it and air conditioning. This little side trip made us a half hour late for our reservation at Le Bistro du Paradou, my absolute favorite restaurant in the world – we called and they assured us that our table would be waiting. At 12:30 PM we find a few people sitting at tables under the plane trees out front but since we’re already a half hour late, we go right in to our regular marble topped bistro table and find we’re the first ones there. Nobody actually comes in until 12:45, so I guess we’ve learned that next time we’ll sit out front like everyone else, and wait until the proper time, then come in so we won’t feel out of place. These tiny cultural clues are easy to miss and easy to forget but when we find ourselves all alone; it’s usually because we’ve missed one and we’re just doing what comes naturally for a person steeped in American culture.
Today they’re serving provençal grilled aubergine (eggplant) with a dollop of rich tomato conserve, then rabbit with rosemary and fresh pasta with tomatoes and garlic. The cheese plate is next with about ten choices (we especially liked the Saint Marcellin), then dessert, then coffee. The price has gone up to 42 euros but by 1:15 every table is taken and I don’t see anybody complaining. There are no extras for cover charge or water or wine so our bill is as simple as the rest of the experience: 84 euros. Sure that’s a lot for two lunches but we’ve been coming here for nine years now and we just love it; besides this is another of Anne’s birthday presents to me so what do I care what it costs, right?
We seem to be one of the few guests today who are not being treated by chef Jean Louis as long time buddies or relatives – he comes in from the kitchen to sit at tables of friends several times during our lunch.
In the late evening we drove a short distance to Saint Remy to walk around a bit. We’ve been there frequently when the weekly market was in full swing and now it feels like an entirely different town. Whole squares with wall to wall booths and tarps are now adorned only with the beautiful doors, clock towers, and carved facades that are so difficult to appreciate during the chaos of the market.
Then what a pleasure to return to the lovely bastide and our cool room for the night.