Monday, December 19, 2011

Countdown to Christmas in Provence

The festive season is in full swing here in Provence - this weekend we have been celebrating so much that I almost feel I should skip the real holidays and go on a New Year's diet straight away. It all started Friday with a trip to Avignon - not to see the rather lacklustre Christmas Market but the huge Crèche (nativity scene) at the Hôtel de Ville (Lord Mayor's house). More than 600 santons (the traditional Provençal nativity figurines) are set into a valley depicting life in Provence as it used to be. (If you click on the photos to enlarge them you can see all the pretty details).

The big Crèche at the Lord Mayors house in Avignon

The on we went to the Palais du Roure just around the corner, where this delightful lady (below) was guarding another, much smaller but also very pretty crèche and explaining the "Treize desserts de Noël" and why the frist week of December we seed lentils or wheat to have the green sprouts on the table in time for Christmas (this is supposed to guarantee money all year round).

Night fell and on we went to the Hotel La Mirande just below the Pope's Palace to the grand opening of the hotel's Christmas market.

For me the main attraction there was this monsieur, the "Roi des Pois Chiches" (King of the Chickpeas), who, gifted with a fabulous personality and an unparalled gift of the gab sold chickpeas, chickpea flour and pots of poichichade, a delicious chickpea dip.

In the beautiful old kitchen of La Mirande I was more than delighted to meet Nathalie, whose blog Avignon in Photos I have been following for quite a while and who I admire for her creativity, her unique eye and sense of style. Can't wait to see this still life in her blog!

Cooking demonstration in the kitchen of La Mirande

After slaving in my kitchen all day long (more on that later) Saturday night found us at the
Cave la Vigneronne in the beautiful village of Villedieu where the new wines of 2011 where presented in the cellar of the Cave.  
Delighted with their find - guests at La Vigneronne

When in France you eat when you drink. On the menu: Oysters from Bretagne and walnuts and cheeses from Provence


For dessert: fruit tarts

and cream filled choux 

We all left rather happy - thank you Alain for driving us!

Sunday we had our official Christmas picture taken and made our friends take a more or rather less orderly queue towards the kitchen stove where a big pot of Goulash was simmering.

I always serve this Ghoulash at what we call our "Countdown to Christmas" - a happy and informal get together of friends around the Christmas tree with Ghoulash, a cheese board, some desserts and lots of red wine.... 
Desserts this year: Mince pies made by my friend Nadira, also known as Queen of Confitures

Pecan Tart and

Tiramisu made by moi  
Dancing around the Christmas tree!

Cuisine de Provence wishes you all very
 Happy Holidays
and a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful
NEW YEAR 2012!


  1. It looks you have been having a good time. We truly enjoyed seeing the Crèche and all of the santons at the Hotel de Ville in Avignon last year. Thanks for the memories.

    I love the picture of you and Robert; very festive.

    Happy holidays and bonne annee to the two of you.


  2. Thank you Michel (also for the link you posted). Very happy holidays to you and Shirley and all the family. Hope to see you again in 2012!

  3. Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing them. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year.

  4. What wonderful photos. I know that any European knows how to celebrate the holidays well!! Love your official Christmas photo. Quite a good-looking Santa you have there. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. Susan and Dale

  5. Thank you Marco Pasha and Susan. All the very best and very happy holidays to you as well!

  6. A very festive post and it was so nice of Santa to let you have your photo taken with him.

    A very Merry Christmas to you both.


  7. Barbara what a wonderful post! Now that I've met you I can see that this post is a perfect reflection of your personality : an open sense of curiosity, a great writing style, a warm and friendly personality and a real talent for bringing people together - not to mention your great accomplishments as a chef. Your dear husband is a lucky man and I think he knows it. I was delighted to meet you both and hope to get to know you better in 2012.

    Sorry I've had so much work I haven't even had time to download my own photos on my computer!

  8. Steve: welcome to Cuisine de Provence and a very Merry Christmas to you, too!

  9. Nathalie: Thank you so much for your kind words and yes, let us get together again in 2012! Happy holidays to you and all your family!

  10. Hi Barbara! So this is what you do for Christmas! It looks great fun and I wish we could have been there too dancing round the Christmas tree! I loved the picture of you and dear Robert ....

  11. It all sounds so much fun. Our only Christmas market close by got washed away in the storm! I love all the photos and the one of the two of you is excellent. Nice to see you both. Have a great Christmas. Diane

  12. Barbara, I throughly enjoyed this post. I love the Provencal Christmas. Look forward to our trip there this summer. Merry Christmas.

  13. these are such cute pictures!
    cheers from the French Alps!

    Ballad of Seasons

  14. Looks like a great day :) Wishing you a Happy New Year! XOL

  15. Oh to be in Provence for the holidays. How wonderful.

    Joyeux Noel, bonne année et bonne santé.

  16. What a great day and so many wonderful things to eat! How I wish I was there! Happy New Year to you!