After having organised so many trips and itineraries for friends and acquaintances, the real humans behind Our French Impressions, Patricia and Jean-Marie, have finally done what so many have urge to do - organise a trip to Provence - here it is!
Jean-Marie's family on his mother side have deep roots in Provence having been one of the prominent landowners in the region up until the mid last century producing everything from lavender to rice, olive oil to soap. To this day, the family remains deeply attached to their origins and know "their" Provence intimately. Jean-Marie is also the nominated family cook, whose travails are well documented on this blog and beyond and who learned his trade watching his grandmother and mother cook for decades.
The Auld Alliance was consecrated when Patricia, of Scottish descent, met and married Jean-Marie - after a hair-raising international courtship - some 30 years ago. Her natural curiosity and experience in tourism saw then visit every nook and cranny of the region, discovering the best "tables", sourcing sumptuous wines and uncovering some of the most sought after artisans in the country. Patricia's expertise will ensure the smooth running of the tour, providing the "gear" to put the show on the road.
If you have been searching for the perfect place to stay in France during the European Summer, you may want to explore "Coin Secret", a French website here people rent their own properties.
We stayed in one of them in Maussane in July 2009 and you may have read about it here on our "Travel"page, where you will find our own account and photos of the great time we had there. Up until recently, it was a bit convoluted to recommend the place, but now it is easy, just a few clicks away.
Obviously, this site is also full of other great places around France and even some in Italy.
The site is in French, English, Dutch and German, so, no excuses...
We were visiting L'Ousteau de Beaumaniere in Les Baux-de-Provence and apart from the very famous restaurants and gardens, there is also a lovely shop that sells homewares, food, wine and jewellery.
One collection of silver bracelets, hearings and other adnorments caught our eyes and the lovely lady in the shop mentioned that the artist was actually local and lived and worked down the road (route d'Arles), and was practically open for business 24/7.
So we took our time and visited the other restaurant at La Cabre d'Or and their gardens and finally ended up chez Jacques Moniquet.
This is the most amazing place...small shop and a few showcases full of the most amazing silver jewellery I have ever seen. In order to understand where I am coming from, one of my old time friends used to work for the best Paris houses, and also I have been exposed to the traditional silver craft in Tasco, Mexico, going back centuries.
So I am familiar with the ancient traditions as well as the most modern pieces.
And here I was, incapable of uttering a single word, just looking and absorbing what was on offer...
Jacques saw my bewilderment and started slowly to tell us about his wonderful craft:
First of all, there are no two pieces the same (and there are a couple of hundreds on display) and then his techique is quite unique as he is forging the metal into these Noebius inspired designs by hammering the metal into his elaborate creations.
The metal then acquires different properties, including a natural spring effect.
Next step, we were in his workshop, where he is showing us how he does it, starting by plying copper rods into his will, then when satisfied with the shape, repeating the process on the much more expensive silver.
After quite a while, we went back to the showroom, and by then, it was clear he had us hooked, and ready to try some of his collection on ourselves.
Jacques also noticed I was wearing a wedding ring by Frank Gehry and a very unusual silver bracelet, which shape went around the wrist bone very confortably( bought on the Grand Place in Brussels 20 years ago, and in dire need of an upgrade...). So here we are trying bracelets, and after molto discussions and trials, we settled on a very smart piece for an undisclosed amount of euros, but certainly worthwhile, specially as a belated birthday present...
And since we visited, Jacques has put together a website...http://www.moniquet.com
A brief post on Maussane on the other side of Provence near the Alpilles mountain, better know for Les Baux
So far, we have talked about the eastern side of Provence around the Luberon, and we will continue to update you on that region over time.
But today, due to a special request from a post on the forum at www.tripadvisor.com, I just posted a new feature on Maussane and the house we rented last July in our "Travel" section.
If you are interested in renting it, contact us via our "Contact Us" form
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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