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South of France in August


Busboy
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I PM'd a couple of the French regulars with my first query and got both some good input from John, Bleu and Peti' and a suggestion that it might be a worthy question for the board as a whole (and despite my searching I couldn't find the thread she suggested) and so, here goes.

First: We are flying into Nice the third week of July and, after a few days of Jersey-sur-la-Med will be heading up to Gard, to the town of Uzes. After a week there, we have some time to kill. My wife is concerned that trying to ad lib vacation plans in Southern France in August will result in us sleeping in the car. On the other hand, I hate the idea of not being able to make a few decisions on the fly, and would rather risk it. So, assuming we stay up in the hills and far from the coast, are we insane for trying to wing it during the fermeture annuelle? A related question: does Barcelona close up in August the way Paris does?

Budget and inclination suggest that in Nice we will be living on street food rather than haute cusine. Does anyone have any favorite sources of pizza, socca, pan bagnat and so on in any of the towns between, say, Cannes and the Italian border, but especially in Nice Old Town? Any information -- in English or French -- on "cusine nissard" would be appreciated, as well, as I will probably try to get a salable freelance piece out of the visit, and the ability to sound informed is important.

Suggestions regarding any non-Michelin restaurants ,cafes or dive bars of note (nothing against the Guide Rouge, but I'll have one and I trust eGers more, anyway) in Gard, especially Uzes and Nimes would be well appreciated. Also good sources of picnic items, including but not limited to bread, wine, cheese and cure meats would be great to have.

And, slightly OT, does anyone know where I can find a bullfighting schedule?

Merci.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I don't think Barcelona closes quite as tightly as , say Paris, but it is not the optimal time for a visit in that sense. Unfortunately, I can't help with the rest of your query.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks, John. I've been tracking the topics you linked in search of information and vicarious thrills. They have been great regarding more elegant didning spots, and I hope to have something to add to those threads when I return.

But I'm also hoping that someone will have the inside skinny on more determindly downscale places: the holes-in-the-wall that serve great, inexpensive local specialties meant to be washed back with the local pink wine, and which -- to the tourist -- are not easily distinguished from less desirable holes-in-the-wall.

BTW, for anyone else planning a vacation to Languedoc and hoping to cook or just picnic well, here is a list of the markets in that area.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'm not sure if you'll be hitting the area near Apt at all... not far from L'Isle Sur Sorgue. There are a few really good places - none overly elegant - that we enjoyed last September. It takes some driving to find them tucked away, but they are there. Up in Saignon where we stayed, L'Hotel du Presbytere was quite nice and my old favorite, L'Auberge de la Loube in Buoux is the best for a leisurely, Sunday lunch.

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For Uzes and Nimes I would recommend: -

Les Trois Salons - Swedish chef Petter Nillson cookes clean vibrant dishes in the modern French mold. Run by New Zealanders.

Haven't been to La Table l'Horloge in nearby Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie for 5 years so it may have evolved since then.

In Nimes the Vintage Cafe (central 7 Rue de Bernis) is a super bistro with great atmosphere and some delicious earthy dishes (e.g. faggots).

For a more Michelin experience try Alexandra at Garons (next to the Airport!). It was done up a couple of years ago (lost its fountain conservatory) and feels more formal.

You can find more comments and reviews here

Graham

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Haven't been to La Table l'Horloge in nearby Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie for 5 years so it may have evolved since then. Graham

FWIW, Graham, a couple of weeks ago I suggested l'Horloge to locals in Barjac, and they replied to a person, "Non, non, non! Catastoph'" They, too, had heard good things, and were very disappointed with their (evening) meals. They acknowledged that they had no experience with the mid-day service.

As an aside, we spent three nights in the new Garden Room at L'Auberge du Cedre, taking one a la carte and two pension meals. This is indeed a good address. We had them make reservations for us for Easter Saturday lunch at Auberge du Saurgres. Another keeper. In fact, I think we may spend a night or so at AdS when plans call for a hub in western Languedoc. Thanks for bringing these good places to our attention.

eGullet member #80.

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In Uzes, The Trois Salons and the Bistro du Grezac, I highly recommend. The Saturday market spills out on the streets surrounding the Place Des Herbs.

Stop in the shop La Maison de L'Uzage, the owner is very helpful.

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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  • 3 weeks later...
Does anyone have any favorite sources of pizza, socca, pan bagnat and so on in any of the towns between, say, Cannes and the Italian border, but especially in Nice Old Town? 

There's a terrific little pizzeria in Eze sur Mer right across from the train station. In Monaco, La Strega has great food & pizza (in La Condamine, near the Tulip Hotel) and Pizzeria Monegasque is always reliable - also in La Condamine.

yplady

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After a week there, we have some time to kill. My wife is concerned that trying to ad lib vacation plans in Southern France in August will result in us sleeping in the car. On the other hand, I hate the idea of not being able to make a few decisions on the fly, and would rather risk it. So, assuming we stay up in the hills and far from the coast, are we insane for trying to wing it during the fermeture annuelle?

Don't think you're crazy to try. After all most of the French don't stay in hotels during their vacations; they stay at family owned homes, campgrounds, gites & so forth. A good B&B guide would be a help & of course you'll have your Logis de France book.

As you head West from Uzes make sure you stay far enough North to take in the viaduct at Millau. It is truely impressive. Then keep heading West via Rodez (a very nice town) and (in this case DO reserve ahead) have lunch at Le Vieux Pont in Belcastel. They do have a star, but deserve more. The main menu is 47 Euros & is really a bargin; wines are fairly prices. Beats the heck out of Michael Bra's place near Laguiole in our experience.

Having splurged on Vieux Pont you can now save money by eating at the many Etapes where the local workmen & the truckers stop. The going rate for a 4 course lunch including wine is between 11 & 14 Euros. Just look for lots of large trucks & vans around or just after noon.

Emjoy

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After a week there, we have some time to kill. My wife is concerned that trying to ad lib vacation plans in Southern France in August will result in us sleeping in the car. On the other hand, I hate the idea of not being able to make a few decisions on the fly, and would rather risk it. So, assuming we stay up in the hills and far from the coast, are we insane for trying to wing it during the fermeture annuelle?

Don't think you're crazy to try. After all most of the French don't stay in hotels during their vacations; they stay at family owned homes, campgrounds, gites & so forth. A good B&B guide would be a help & of course you'll have your Logis de France book.

Sounds familiar, except chez nous my wife gets antsy about 3 PM and insists I start telephoning Gites/B&B's/posadas/agriturismo's/etc.

In decades we've never slept in the car, have rarely not found a great place and except for trips when she thinks we need a "base" from which to operate, don't get reservations ahead.

Now, we carry a library with us: in addition to food guides, the Michelin, Gites of France, Karen Brown, Logis de France, etc.

The problem is not one of reality but comfort level with uncertainty.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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  • 4 weeks later...
After a week there, we have some time to kill. My wife is concerned that trying to ad lib vacation plans in Southern France in August will result in us sleeping in the car. On the other hand, I hate the idea of not being able to make a few decisions on the fly, and would rather risk it. So, assuming we stay up in the hills and far from the coast, are we insane for trying to wing it during the fermeture annuelle?

Don't think you're crazy to try. After all most of the French don't stay in hotels during their vacations; they stay at family owned homes, campgrounds, gites & so forth. A good B&B guide would be a help & of course you'll have your Logis de France book.

Sounds familiar, except chez nous my wife gets antsy about 3 PM and insists I start telephoning Gites/B&B's/posadas/agriturismo's/etc.

In decades we've never slept in the car, have rarely not found a great place and except for trips when she thinks we need a "base" from which to operate, don't get reservations ahead.

Now, we carry a library with us: in addition to food guides, the Michelin, Gites of France, Karen Brown, Logis de France, etc.

The problem is not one of reality but comfort level with uncertainty.

It all depends on when in August you are planning on doing the drive down to Spain. Sunday is a great day for travelling as there are a lot less trucks on the road. If you are planning to following the suggestion of going to Millau and then down to Barcelona can I suggest you look at our place as a potential night stop?

(I hope this is okay for me to do as I am new to this forum, and don't know if I can mention our own establishment as a recommendation? I did not come to the forum to promote ourselves, but to actually discover hidden gems in the area we live.) We are in Pezenas which is 1.5 hours from the Millau bridge and then 3.5 hours to Barcelona. You can check us out on our web site. our place is called Hotel de Vigniamont. Another great guide book is Alistair Sawday Special Places to stay. There is a b&b guide and also a chateau/inns/special places. They have a web site with quite a lot of the properties listed.

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You can check us out on our web site. our place is called Hotel de Vigniamont.

Don't know the rules either.

Your hotel looks wonderful; good luck with it. Since we're not a million miles away you'll probably see us for a weekend later in the year when your weather's a bit nicer than ours. Montpillier being one of our favorite places we come your way a few times a year.

Where does one eat locally ? Best markets?

Got to lure we foodies with good grub spots.

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You can check us out on our web site. our place is called Hotel de Vigniamont.

Don't know the rules either.

Your hotel looks wonderful; good luck with it. Since we're not a million miles away you'll probably see us for a weekend later in the year when your weather's a bit nicer than ours. Montpillier being one of our favorite places we come your way a few times a year.

Where does one eat locally ? Best markets?

Got to lure we foodies with good grub spots.

Thanks for your kind words Dave!

Pezenas used to be a dessert for good restaurants, but actually in the last 12 months we have seen some newcomers who do not rely on boil in the bag 'sous-vide' catering packs of food.

In Pezenas itself there is Palmiers which is only open in summer months as it has no roof!

Pre St Jean needs an interiour design overhaul but the food is excellent.

Pannequet, run by a lovely Lyonniase couple, is a great bistro type place.

Slightly further afield we have good spots in Beziers, Agde and of course Montpellier.

Pezenas market is on a Saturday and has great cheeses and fruit and veg, there are coquillages stalls in town which are open every day except Monday where you can stand and eat oysters or have them shucked and take them away with you.

Cleremont L'Herault has a fantastic market on a Wednesday and on a Friday Agde has an organic market.

Oh and not forgetting the most amazing oysters can be sampled down at Bouzigues!

Hope that gets your gastric juices flowing!!

Edited by tracyinfrance (log)
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Hope that gets your gastric juices flowing!!

Linda had to drag me away from the car; I was on my way. It was the oysters that did it.

Instead we went to Limogne market & I came back & made gaspacho.

Life is hard.

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