December 11, 2017

Clos de Montmartre a Vineyard in Paris

Clos de Montmartre a Vineyard in Paris

Nutmeg had read about a small vineyard in Paris, located in the shadows of the Sacré-Coeur spires. The last time either Ginger or Nutmeg had been to Montmartre was in the 1980s. After a crazy taxi ride complete with construction bottlenecks, pre-Christmas traffic, impossibly narrow streets and hills only fit for funiculars they arrived in the middle of a mob scene. A clear Saturday afternoon right before sunset, it was immediately obvious why there had been a 30-year gap since their last visit. (more…)

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October 2, 2017

Learn about Casanova and the Jardins d’Albertas of Bouc-Bel-Air in Provence

Learn about Casanova and the Jardins d’Albertas of Bouc-Bel-Air in Provence

Whether fiction or not, Nutmeg thinks it is appropriate that Casanova the infamous Venetian writer, gambler and reputed womanizer is weaved into the history of les Jardins d’Albertas. This garden, owned by the Albertas family, is located just a few minutes outside of Aix-en-Provence in the town of Bouc-Bel-Air, where the ancient village was built on a bouc (small hill). The roots of the Albertas family stretch from Alba, Italy to Aix-en-Provence, where their influence on the Provençal city is notable. Henri and his son Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, both held the high-ranking title of Président de la Cour des Comptes (Court of Auditors). One of the most recognizable and photogenic squares in Aix is Place d’Albertas.  This sunny plaza carved out of the narrow winding streets of the old town resembles a small Italian piazza. Henri felt that the exterior of his home and his “view” were not distinguished enough. He commissioned a local architect to renew the façade of his house and establish a vision for the future square. The work done in 1745 included the demolition of buildings across from his house in order to create the plaza. The fountain was only installed in 1912. It was Henri’s father Marc Antoine, who through marriage had acquired a plot of land outside of Aix-en-Provence in 1673, now known as the Jardins d’Albertas. The land had previously been envisioned as a garden although it was Jean-Baptiste who developed plans for the classical Franco-Italian garden. The drawings from 1751 include a chateau that was never built. Jean-Baptiste was assassinated in 1790, on the eve of the French Revolution, and never witnessed his vision completed. The garden was neglected for many years; it was not until 1949 that Jean d’Albertas began restoration work. Towering plane trees provide a leafy parasol for the driveway and garden’s entrance. Visual dimension is created within the rectangular plot by multiple terraces. Symmetrical water basins and statues form a highly appealing result. It is almost surreal on a blistering Provencal day to believe that there are natural spring sources feeding the water features. In reality, it is clever engineering creating the supply of water to decorative ponds and fountains, as well as liquid nutrition for the plants. The official entry to the Jardins d’Albertas is through an imposing metal gate, which is adorned with the Albertas’ family crest. On the right, just after the gateway is la salle de fraicheur designed as an imitation grotto. You need to allow your eyes adjust to the dim light and let shoddy first impressions go, the spider webs certainly do not help. Spend a few moments and you begin to recognize remnants of seashells that would have at one time decorated the entire ceiling. Empty alcoves remain, begging their statues of the seven planets to return. The Grand Canal is a large rectangular basin establishing the horizontal width of the garden. A statue of Neptune contemplates his fluid mirror, which reflects his botanical surroundings. This pond with its concrete border physically defines the boundary of the garden and symbolically represents a private river. A grass lawn leads to the next water feature, le Bassin des 17 jets, or so it was named on the 1751 plans. Here, eight tritons blow water jets from their horns, and the back wall of this fountain creates the physical edge of the first level. The fountain appears to be almost announcing the heavyweight of testosterone emotion just behind it. Four male statues stand ready for military action at the edge of this second level. Hercules, David, Mars and the gladiator Borghèse are a powerful stone representation of mythical heroes.   It is only in the final section where the garden has a slight feminine touch with two sphinx statuettes bearing the Albertas’ family crest.   The garden is easily covered in an hour although you may want to linger in some of the shady sections and contemplate what it may have looked like had the original vision been achieved. The unfinished garden might be a little like the Casanova love story. The famous man is said to have stayed in Bouc-Bel-Air in 1769, but did not realize that Marie-Anne d’Albertas was his previous lover. They never met again. Download and Travel with us This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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September 4, 2017

Retail Nightmares Big-Box Shopping in France

Retail Nightmares Big-Box Shopping in France

Nutmeg is here to tell you that Big-Box shopping is the same nightmare in France, as it is in Palm Springs, Chicago, Airdrie and Scarborough. Big-box retail (think Target and Walmart) has evolved as a cost effective development strategy, under the guise of offering consumer convenience.  Without boring you all with the details, this concept works well for the landlord and tenant as no party is too “invested” in the location.  The big-box retail model has evolved from “destination” single stores, into power-centres where the customer can spend an entire day cruising hundreds of outlet stores.  (more…)

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August 21, 2017

Canistrelli Recipe Sweet Corsican Cookies to have with Coffee

Canistrelli Recipe Sweet Corsican Cookies to have with Coffee

It is highly probable, that Nutmeg’s nutritionist friends will not consider this practice remarkably healthy. So only do so sparingly, or when they are not watching. There is something decadent, childish and delightful about eating cookies with your morning coffee. Ginger and Nutmeg have discovered along their travel routes to Italy and Corsica that this “sweet” tradition is decidedly a part of the routine in some areas. (more…)

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April 3, 2017

Isle sur la Sorgue a touch of Venice in Provence

Isle sur la Sorgue a touch of Venice in Provence

Most people (read tourists) go to l’Isle sur la Sorgue for one of two reasons: The Sunday market – one of the largest in the region The 300+ antique stores and dealers Very few would go because they were expecting Venice in Provence. (more…)

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February 20, 2017

Dipping A Toe in France’s Ardeche

Dipping A Toe in France’s Ardeche

This post will most likely make Nutmeg’s Corsican friends angry. Why bother with the hassle of an overnight ferry, crowded beaches and small twisty roads? If you want to feel like you, have experienced a bit of Corsica without leaving the French mainland, plan a trip to the Ardèche region. The similarities between, the beautiful island of Corsica and the Ardèche are significant, see below:   Corsica Ardeche Surface Area 8,680 sq km 5,550 sq km Widest Point 82 km 75 km Highest Peak 2,706 metres Mont Cinto 1,754 metres Mont Mézenc Population 302,000 309,000 Annual Visitors Roughly 2 million Roughly 3 million Agriculture Chestnuts Chestnuts Olives Olives Grapes Grapes Goats, Sheep Goat, Sheep, Cows Figs Figs Beaches 1000 km of coastline Countless River banks Geographic Formation Volcanic Volcanic   (more…)

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January 9, 2017

Sunday Lunch in France

Sunday Lunch in France

Nutmeg is writing this post on a rainy Sunday afternoon while Ginger is napping off the effects of a long Sunday lunch. It is a long tradition in France that stores are closed Sunday afternoon, allowing everyone the opportunity to have a leisurely lunch en famille. (more…)

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September 12, 2016

The Fortress of Aigues Mortes in Provence

The Fortress of Aigues Mortes in Provence

800km from its glacial source in Valais, Switzerland the Rhône River gasps as it reaches the Mediterranean Sea. Like a wide yawn the Rhône’s two branches; the Grande Rhône and the Petit Rhône empty their cargo at the mouth of the river. This area of Provence known as the Camargue, part of the Bouches du Rhône (mouths of the Rhône) is Europe’s largest river delta (930 sq km) and a wetland of significant size. (more…)

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May 30, 2016

Squeaky Clean Savon de Marseille

Squeaky Clean Savon de Marseille

A mixture of seawater, alkaline solution and fat Documented use as far back as 2800 BC in Ancient Babylon A carved “recipe” found on a stone slab from 2200 BC The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used it Cooked for 8 days in a cauldron, dried for 2 days in a mould Latin word Sapo (more…)

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May 23, 2016

Sarlat a Window on Medieval Dordogne

Sarlat a Window on Medieval Dordogne

Boutiques filled with shiny objects, and a congested ring road of honking diesel trucks and cars. These are the modern-day realities in a large Dordogne town of 9,300 residents. The town bustles with over 1.5 million visitors a year yet the ancient core of historical Sarlat provides some instant reprieve, begging you to step back in time. (more…)

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