Spoiler alert: reading any further will reveal that this book is about walking and eating in Provence!
Â Â Â Â Walking and Eating in Provence, a MOON Guide by James Lasdun & Pia Davis, is a delightfully written and comprehensive guide to exactly what every sane person needs to know: where to stay and what to eat while walking through the most gorgeous countryside of Provence, France.
Â Â Â Â Â Â In a statement of purpose from the 32 page introduction:
Â“Any walk you take in this landscape is going to be a departure from the usual tourist routine -- the scripted, often harried trajectory from museum to museum, church to church, restaurant to restaurant. A large part of our original inspiration for this series was to find a more natural way to experience the cultural and gastronomic pleasures of these places. ThereÂ’s something deeply satisfying about arriving on foot at a town or village, having spent a day or even just a few hours traversing spectacular countryside. You get a firsthand, bodily sense of the pace and rhythms of the lives that brought them into existence. And at the most basic level, you work up the kind of appetite that actually enables you to appreciate the great food and wine that await you at your destination.Â”
In the remaining 270 pages the authors proceed to deliver Â“in spadesÂ” on that lofty promise.
Â Â Â Walking and Eating in Provence is a knowledgeable and factual guide to the region by detail-oriented experts in their field. The authors write practically about the actual routes, with each turn and significant site noted. Small deviations from the path are encouraged when noteworthy and dismissed when not, with careful descriptions of what to expect along the way to keep you from getting lost. But make no mistake, this is not a dry, stuffy read. It is obvious that James Lasdun and Pia Davis love, and love to share, their off-the-beaten-track treks in the valleys and mountains of Provence.
Â Â Â They write sensually about the food and wine found along the routes:
Of the Â“quintessentially Provencal specialtyÂ” aioli, at La Bergerie, Â“the garlicky, velvety mayonnaise is accompanied by steamed vegetables, tiny but intensely flavorful clams, meaty cockles, marinated baby octopus, and the freshest piece of fishÂ”.
Of the wine at La Fontaine, Â“An excellent dry Cotes de Provence rose -- a Chateau Rasque 2005 -- from the small but choice wine list . . . (was) worth every cent.Â”
Of the Â“memorably delicious without being the least bit stuffyÂ” food at Le Bistrot de Lavande, Â“A spectacular brandade de morue formed the centerpiece of a generous selection of appetizers that showed off the local seasonal produce very handsomelyÂ”.
Â Â Â They write lyrically about the architectural and natural world youÂ’ll traverse:
Of the Luberon Mountains, Â“the whimsical old drystone shepherdÂ’s shelters known as borie, the picturesque villages made famous by Peter Mayle, (author: A Year in Provence) the mountain landscape aromatic with the classic garrigue of wild rosemary, thyme, and juniper.Â”
Of the Ampus Ring Walk, Â“a farm track leads you past the Romanesque chapel of Notre Dame de Speluque. Begun in 1090, this austerely exquisite building (is) half hidden in its thicket of white lilacs.Â”
Of the Mons Ring Walk, Â“you pass through an extraordinary stone passageway, the Roche Taille, hewn straight through a house-size boulder lying in the aqueductÂ’s path.Â”
Â Â Â Finally, James Lasdun and Pia Davis write authoritatively about everything you need to know to thoroughly enjoy your time in Provence. Each chapter contains sections on the overall region, with highlights, wine notes, bus schedules, and a logistical overview. Then each walk in that region has the length in hours, historical significance, food, map numbers, tourist information with phone numbers and web sites, restaurants, accommodations, transportation, and explicit step-by-step walking instructions with a map or two showing each turn. The whole is combined with advice on what to pack and when to go. Everything is here to make your experience walking and eating in Provence enjoyable and worry-free.
In case you canÂ’t tell, I love this book!
Â Â Â The authors may be familiar to you for their previous book, Â“Walking and Eating in Tuscany and UmbriaÂ”, which did for central Italy what they are now doing for Southeastern France, namely defining the best lodging and food on the most picturesque paths. I can see this developing into a series with a long list of titles, but given the years between these two volumes (10) I can only hope they live long enough. The level of detail and research necessary to produce such an excellent guide as this takes time. So, let us wish them long lives while we enjoy the fruits of their prodigious labors.Â
Walking and Eating in Provence
By James Lasdun & Pia Davis - 32 carefully selected walks, from half-day strolls and multi-day itineraries to ring walks - from the incomparable vineyards of Gigondas to unspoiled medieval villages, you will experience the natural wonders and taste the authentic flavors of Provence.
ISBN 978-1-59880-063-0 $18.95
Official French Government Tourist Office www.franceguide.com
Air France www.airfrance.com
Cover Design: Stefano Boni / Avalon Travel
Cover photo credit: Owen Franken / DRR.net
Authors' photo credit: (c) Violet Lasdun
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