The Provençal sun started filtering through our shutters and enticing us in to a pre breakfast dip in the Hostellerie Berard Hotel and Spa swimming pool at around half past six!
After a refreshing swim we headed for the village bakery to pick up a croissant or similar and boy oh boy were we in for a real treat. When it comes to French Boulangerie the phrase that pays is Pain Cuit Au Feu De Bois , which in English money means bread baked in a wood fired oven. Everything they bake here benefits from this method of cooking. The baguette are crusty on the outside but have a light and doughy centre, the brioche crisply golden on the outside and again soft and doughy in the middle. On our first visit we opted for the brioche buns studded with rich dark chocolate chips and a pain au raisin with a lemon creme patisiere filling. We retuned later that day after the lunchtime baking session to pick up a fresh baguette and a fougasse au olive for our picnic.
This in itself is a good enough reason to visit/stay in this village! However, the Vieux Four Boulangerie is just one of many great food discoveries that we made on our first full day in the village which would build into a symphony like crescendo with an amazingly Provençal picnic with all the wonderful ingredients we picked up in the course of the day.
Thursday is market day in the village and in keeping with Provençal tradition the market is a highlight in the weekly Cadieran calendar. Vendors of local foodstuffs, vie for custom with hawkers of other local products like handicrafts, fabrics and beauty products made from the abundance of local herbs and plants. We picked up a selection of local radishes and mis shaped heritage tomatoes but without the UK rip off prices!
We then set off in search of La Basitide Blanch the fabulous white wine we had the night before. After finding the address on the internet we programmed the Sat Nav and headed about 2.5 miles out of the villege to the Domaine. Top tip: it’s always worth ringing ahead to see if they are open and always avoid visiting between 12:30 and 3pm.
We arrived at about 12pm when lunch was just being set up for the family and team at the Domaine! However we were greeted warmly by Neli who took into the cellars for a tasting. We tasted 3 wines from their 2014 range.
Bastide Blanche Rose, my least favourite and too dry for my liking.
Bastide Blanche White, flavours of pears, quince and apple initially with good minerality balanced with acidity in this fat rich wine; delicious!
Bastide Blanche Red. Blackcurrants and jammy fruit in this young Mourvèdre heavy red.
After thanking Neli for the degustion and purchasing several bottle of the white and one of the red we had some time on on our hands before returning back La Cadiere for our next discovery so we headed down to the nearby beach at St. Cyr sur Mer. With an abundance of cheap parking we found a spot on the crowded beach (there’s a huge campsite nearby, so not one to go to unless for a quick swim) donned our swim wear and sought respite from the scorching 30C mid day sun.
Cooled and refreshed we made our way up into the hills to find the Goats Cheese Farm
As we ran out of tarmac and the car started to bounce around on the dirt track I had the feeling that we had got lost and were never going to find this place! Then we spotted another of these signs and we follow the track down a dead end to were there was a couple of old cars , a tractor , 2 barking dogs and a few buildings.
The dogs had alerted Roger and Christine Magnaldi the farmers to our arrival. They spoke no English so this was a real test of my French! They have a herd of over a 100 goats and gave us a tour of the farm and showed us around their mini production facility. Their main products are the chèvre frais , a mild light and creamy goats cheese either plain or with assorted peppercorns. One of the secrets to these cheeses is that the goats graze on the wild herbs growing in abundance around the farm like wild fennel and this contributes to the flavour of the cheese.
After purchasing one of each of the cheeses and the much stronger aged and very dry cheese we headed back to the deli in La Cadiere D’Azur to get out last few ingredients for the picnic.
Our next stop was La Piment Vert, the deli. Run by Anna who sells a whole array of tasty terrines we opted for the Corsican Pate and the Pate de Maison.
Having built up quite a thirst we asked Anna if she could recommend a good local beer! She told us that a small micro brewery selling craft beers had just started in the village and that they were proving to be really popular. We didn’t have time to visit the brewery but here’s a picture of their tasty Biere Blonde
With our food hunt over we returned to our hotel for our second refreshing swim of the day. Then with the Bastide Blanche cooling in the hotels mini bar in our room, we set up our picnic table on the viewpoint overlooking the perched village of le Beauset.
Serenaded by an orchestra of chicadas interspersed with the mellow sound of the clarinet from a nearby house we sat down to our picnic as the blazing sun set on one amazing provencale day.
As we dined we felt like we were the envy of the village as couples and their families strolled by and greeted us with a Bon Appetit ou Bonsoiree!