My husband John and I were lucky enough to be invited by our friends Keith and Jon Meacham to come stay with them in their rented house in Provence, in the charming town of Goult. Jon won the Pulitzer for his last book, a brilliant biography of Andrew Jackson called American Lion (available at Books & Books), and now he is tackling Jefferson. Keith wisely decided that the whole family (including my beautiful Goddaughter Mary) should see some of Jefferson’s favorite stomping grounds first hand. The vine-covered house was totally beautiful with gorgeous views of the vineyards below, but on our second day we were lured away by the promise of a lovely lunch at L’Ousteau de Baumaniere, set in the rocks and ruins of Les Baux (pictured above, top row, top row, second from left). I had read about the justifiably famed hotel on my favorite travel website, Mr & Mrs Smith, and it did not disappoint. My first course was the salad pictured above that included almost of the goodies in the hotel’s extensive garden. The sweetbreads that followed were excellent, but almost overshadowed by the tiniest and freshest haricots verts– again, from the garden– that I have ever tasted. The obscenely rich local butter they were tossed in didn’t hurt either!
We spent another day browsing the many antiques stores found in L’isle Sur La Sorgue. My friend Michael Carbine, a designer with a great antiques store in New Orleans called MAC Maison, recommended a restaurant called Le Jardin du Quai, and it did not disappoint. We sat in the sun-dappled garden and munched happily on the plat du jour: salmon carpaccio with avocado tartare; a Supreme Vollaille with artichokes and red peppers; and the most amazing tartelette citron that I have ever put in my mouth. The tart shell was smeared with a layer of lemon curd that was topped with deep red grapefruit sections, raspberries, and candied lemon peel, and topped again with homemade lemon ice cream. Sublime. The adorable chef is pictured above with the restaurant’s well-chosen wine list (featuring lots of roses from the region) and an amuse bouche of tomato ice with cucumbers and goat’s cheese.
On our last night at the Meacham manse, Keith and I cooked dinner– a leg of lamb with roasted carrots and potatoes from one of my favorite and most oft-used cookbooks, Patricia Wells At Home in Provence. Pictured above (top row, far right), it is available at Heirloom Books and was also conveniently included in the collection in the house’s kitchen. We bought our lamb from the local butcher in Goult, and the vegetables came from the market in nearby Rousillion, along with a basket full of delicious local cheeses.
My reading material on our trip included my good friend Gully Wells’s brand new book The House in France (pictured above, bottom row, far left). Gully is the features editor at Conde Nast Traveler and one of the first people I met in New York after I went to work at Vogue in the late 1980s. Her book is as delightful as she is and uses her mother’s house in the South of France as the centerpiece of her witty and completely mesmerizing tale (I drove John crazy by keeping the light on well into the wee hours of two mornings so that I could finish.) Set in London and New York as well as Provence, the book is a memoir of her mother and stepfather– Dee Wells, the rebellious American journalist, and A.J. (Freddie) Ayer, the celebrated Oxford philosopher– along with lots of other thoroughly entertaining characters from their glamorous world. Available at Books & Books, The House in France is a must-read for the summer wherever you happen to be vacationing.
After leaving the Meachams, we headed north to the tiny town of Oucheaux in Vaucluse, where we checked into the stunning Chateau de Massillan. Another Mr & Mrs Smith hotel, it was reviewed on the site by none other than the noted British hat designer Philip Treacy and I couldn’t resist. Treacy did not exaggerate. The hotel, owned and decorated by designer Brigit Israel, is perfection. A mini-lavender field in front welcomes you to this gorgeous Chateau (bottom row, second from left) that was once the hunting ground of Diane de Poitier, Henry II’s beautiful and high-spirited mistress, Once inside, a series of beautifully decorated public rooms are perfect for lounging. There are velvet-covered chaises, sofas, and banquettes, a buffet covered in bottles (drinks are served by the charming young staff) and tables piled high with every coffee table book you’ve ever wanted to read. We lounged by the lovely pool (pictured above, borrom row, far right) and ate dinner both nights in courtyard with a gurgling fountain at its center. The food was extraordinary: scallops with a tomato tart, foie gras with figs, an amazing lamb cooked sous vide. We drank the chateau’s wine, had local cheeses for dessert, and retired to our incredibly chic bedroom (see above, bottom row, third from left). The bath featured an antique footed tub and cushy terry and linen bathrobes from yet another Taigan store, the fabulous 100% Capri. On the morning of our departure, we had cafe au lait, warm croissants, and eggs scrambled with a barrage of fresh herbs from the Chateau’s garden.Ã‚ We also vowed it would not be our last visit, and we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the fabulous Meachams for getting us across the pond.