About nutmeg

Ginger and Nutmeg is a Food and Travel blog for Active Foodies hooked on travelling. We love food, history and digging into cultural traditions. This is a blog with a bit of humour, informative travel information and some great recipes.

A Quick Escape to the South of France

Take a few minutes and dream of Provence with its Mediterranean coastline, enchanting villages, and delicious cuisine. What interests you most about the South of France? Are you looking for recommendations for specific cities, hidden gems, or tips on regional wines? Here are articles about city highlights, wine tasting in Bandol and Cassis, places to stay, and trip planning.

While February is not lavender season, you can dream about visiting in June on this tour. However, this month is excellent for visiting museums, art galleries, and historic cities like Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Avignon. If you go to Nîmes to see the Roman sites, try a Crocus de Nîmes, an inspired sandwich. On the French Riviera, it’s party time until March 3 with the 151st Nice Carnaval (“King of Pop Culture”) and 90th Fête du Citron (Olympic theme) in Menton.

With Love from Provence Mid-Winter Amour Recipes and More

If you are like Nutmeg, by this point in the winter, you are looking forward to warmer, longer days. February in Provence reveals early signs of spring’s arrival. Mimosas bloom along the coast, with towns along the 130 km “Route du Mimosa” hosting festivals, parades, concerts, and workshops celebrating the yellow flowers. Meanwhile, almond trees display their delicate white and pink blossoms in other parts of the region. Please watch for Virginie’s article on Provence’s Almond Trees, along with some tempting recipes.

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, Martine of Goût et Voyage has curated a delicious multi-course meal for a romantic evening à deux or a dinner party with good friends. If you like her menu, why not book a spot on her Taste of Provence gourmet and cultural tours in June?

While we don’t need a reason to drink rosé, Valentine’s Day is a good excuse. Wine guru Göran wrote an interesting article about the viability of the rosé business in Provence.

For gifts that won’t break the bank, here are some books about Provence that are (almost) as good as a trip to France.

Please keep reading here for more mid-winter amour from Provence.

Where to Stay in Provence Côte d’Azur in 2024

This newsletter is the 10th edition of the Where to Stay in Provence Côte d’Azur newsletter, and Perfectly Provence turns 10 this year. Please watch for special promotions throughout the next 12 months. Depending on where you live, you might already be tired of snow shovelling. One way to eliminate the winter blues is to book a holiday to the South of France, where the sun shines 300+ days yearly. Our travel partners are filling the final spots on their 2024 tours. Here are some of our curated collections for dreamy places to stay in Provence and the Côte d’Azur 

One challenge with visiting Provence is choosing from the incredible range of options. Sue Aran shares her thoughts on the best of the Camargue, from towns to wildlife. Art lovers should check out these 12 places for contemporary art. Author Keith Van Sickle is happy to answer questions about visiting St-Rémy-de-Provence in the Alpilles.

A Golden, Silver and Bronze Year in France

Perfectly Provence: Newsletter January 5, 2024

Happy New Year to all! 2024 is an Olympic year for France. While many events occur in and around Paris, there is plenty to get excited about in Provence. There will be sailing and football (soccer). However, before that all starts, the Olympic flame arrives in Marseille’s Vieux Port on Bélem, a beautiful three-masted ship from 1896. From there, the flame travels around the country after a few regional appearances. Here are the details.

January 6th is the Epiphany. So, in Provence, it’s time to enjoy Galette des Rois, a delicious puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) filled with frangipane and a fève, which can be a bean or a tiny ceramic figurine. Don’t break a touch on the fève. It could be your chance to rule the roost for the day. As with the rest of the holiday period in France, there is a ritual around eating this pastry.

Our 2024 winter menu is a culinary creation from Chef Burnell Shively. Start with some nibbles, then move on to swaddled oysters. Check it out below, and in case you missed it, here is her article on the ancient grains grown in the Var. 

January 21st is La Mess de Truffes in Richerenches, with an auction and gourmet meal to follow. Please look for Keith Van Sickles’ article on this event next week.

Depending on where you are in Provence, the weather in January is an assorted mix. In the countryside, you might wake up to heavy fog, crunchy grass, or even the odd dusting of fleeting snow. However, if it snows, it’s magical and fleeting. Watch the website for the article on winter travel essentials for visitors by French immersion teacher Virginie.

Thank you for reading this Perfectly Provence newsletter. We love to hear readers’ comments. If you like our content, please share it with a friend.

We hope to see you in Provence this year,

Shop! Our Provencal Marketplace Made in France

Shop our collection of handcrafted and limited-production French products. We feature beautiful items for home décor, accessories, beauty products, and gifts. These companies focus on traditional designs and promoting artisanal culture. In addition, our partners are environmentally conscious and work only with top-quality materials. If you are interested in collaborating, please contact us via our contact form.

Shop.

Our made-in-France collection showcases some of our favourite products for beauty care, home décor, gifts and more.

Artisans.

Our partners are creators and innovators who source top-quality materials and follow eco-friendly practices.

Quality.

Our products support a community of talented artisans, whether they are creating a new art form or reviving a traditional craft.

GPSmyCity Giveaway 1-year FREE Subscription!

GPSmyCity easy-to-use GPS-guided apps for your trips.

Why we Love GPSmyCity

GPSmyCity turns blog posts into a user-friendly map that gives easy-to-follow directions to each location. This app consolidates tips and suggestions about each not-to-miss destination on your travels. The app works on or offline, so you don’t have to pay for an expensive data roaming plan for the itinerary. The app is a guidebook in the palm of your hand. These GPSmyCity guides are available on a subscription basis on the App Store and Google Play.

Travel is Back!

According to Reuters, American travel demand to Europe is surging this year. So, we are joining the crowd and heading to Provence in southern France, where the food, wine, culture and scenery are hard to beat. So, are you going to travel summer or later this year? If so, take advantage of this GPSmyCity giveaway.

GPSmyCity Giveaway 1-year FREE Subscription!

GPSmyCity Giveaway

GPSmyCity turns Ginger and Nutmeg articles and guides into GPS-guided apps you can follow when visiting different destinations. GPSmyCity guides are available on a subscription basis on the App Store and Google Play.

There are guides and articles for hundreds of cities worldwide on GPSmyCity. You can read any of them for free directly on the app. Then, if you like and want to use it, you can upgrade to the GPS-guided version to guide you around the city. It’s the cheapest travel guide you’ll ever buy.

GPSmyCity Giveaway 1-year FREE Subscription!

Ginger and Nutmeg GPS guides:

Foodie Tour of Paris
Sarlat a Window on Medieval Dordogne
Key West Florida To-Do List
2-day Visit to Melbourne for Food Lovers
Destination New Orleans: 5 Things to Do During Your Visit
10 Reasons You Must Visit Sete
Brisbane City Break
Casanova and the Jardins D’albertas of Bouc-Bel-Air

Giveaway 1-Year Free

To celebrate the 2023 travel season, GPSmyCity offers our readers a free one-year premium subscription that will give you access to all GPSmyCity guides and articles. From May 12 to 19, you can claim your free subscription using the following code: 25900512

To claim this one-year premium membership, you must download the GPSmyCity app, proceed to the Account screen to register a GPSmyCity user account, and then go to More and Feedback to email them the above code.

Your premium membership will be activated, and you’ll get full access to all travel articles and walking tours for over 1,000 cities worldwide.

We wish you safe travel adventures!

Hiking Trails in the Estérels, French Riviera

Estérels French Riviera

Located in southeastern France, the Estérel coastal mountain range straddles both the Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments. Of volcanic origins, the massif is roughly 32,000 hectares of rugged terrain awaiting exploration. Mont Vinaigre is the highest peak at 618 metres. According to the Estérel Côte d’Azur tourism office, there are 72 trails for biking (road, gravel and mountain), hiking, and walking that crisscross the range, including many within the protected Forêt domaniale de l’Estérel. We highlight here a few of the popular trails. From the coastline Sentier du littoral (previously the customs footpath) to the forested hills of the Pay de Fayence there are many hikes in the Estérels for all ability levels.

French Riviera Hiking in the Estérels

Les Gorges du Blavet ©Estérel Côte d’Azur

French Riviera Hiking in the Estérels

Sentier du littoral ©Estérel Côte d’Azur

A Quick Visit to Constanta Romania

Romania was not at the top of Nutmeg’s bucket list, and neither was a 3-hour Ryanair flight from Marseille. The flight was a glimpse back to before Covid-19 days in its crowded boarding process and disorganized gate check. It was a mosh pit. Hopefully, no one lied on the pre-flight vaccine forms…
 
They arrived in Bucharest at midnight local time, so there was not much to see. The Hilton Airport Hotel could have been anywhere in the world and thankfully spotless. 
Constanta Romania History and Archaeology Museum
 
The next day G&N picked up a rental car + TomTom unit and headed to Constanta. Unfortunately, the TomTom died (no battery) about 30 minutes into what should have been a 2 1/2 hour drive but now looked like a 3-4 hour excursion due to traffic. The roads are slowly improving thanks to huge EU infrastructure funds (read debt). In the meantime, the truck and car snarls are significant. From Bucharest to Constanta, the scenery for over 200km is mostly farmland with slight variation. We passed enormous fields, ploughed at this time of the year. Romania is the 3rd largest agricultural producer in Europe and crops include wheat, corn, sunflowers, potatoes, and even a few grapes. 
Constanta Romania Port Tomis
 
Constanta in July and August is probably a scene that Nutmeg never wants to experience. The white sand beach stretches for 50km, lined by hotels, bars, restaurants etc. Yet, at this time of the year, it’s quiet, just a few walkers, dogs and swimmers in wet suits. Today the black sea was calm, but based on the infrastructure at the port, doubtful that is always the case.
 
The city itself is a bit of a contrast study with some beautiful old historical buildings, crumbling structures and partially constructed developments. Nutmeg had lunch on the water’s edge in Port Tomis, definitely a trendy area with lots of restaurants and good coffee. After lunch, she climbed the crumbling stairs covered in graffiti back to the hotel and called it a day.
 

24 hours in Bucharest, Romania

Travel to Romania

When the idea of travelling to Romania initially bubbled to the surface, G&N talked about a road trip. It seemed like a decent plan, given that their car had been almost idle since 2019. In addition, they could explore some new countries (Slovenia, Hungary) along the way. Also of interest was that the route would practically trace the Orient Express. We discovered this fact quite by hazard at the Recontres d’Arles Photography show in August. However, that was probably when they both realized just how far away Constanta was from Eygalières – 2,500+ km one way.24 hours in Bucharest Romania ParksBucharest Romania Carol I Statue

Pre-COVID and with a more extended stay in Europe, they would have gone ahead with Plan A. However, the reality of different COVID rules in each country and thousands of potential touchpoints became clear. So instead, they decided on Plan B and booked a Ryanair flight from MRS to OTP.

The flight from Marseille to Bucharest is only about 3 hours. But of course, you need to allow enough time for the airport scrum that comes along with discount flights, COVID paperwork and airport parking. Note to self: always book airport parking at MRS in advance to reduce the pre-flight stress level (a story for another time).

Bucharest Romania Parks

Tell Us About Romania

Here are a few fast facts on Romania. The name emerged from the significant Roman presence in Dacia (106-275 AD) when they exploited the region’s mineral deposits, including gold and silver. Romania has a long history of turmoil and domination under the Romans, Goths, Ottomans, Soviets and Nicolae Ceaușescu. In 1989, the country shed the shackles of communism and their terrible ruler and had the first free elections in 1990. However, it has been a long road for Romania to reach its current level of prosperity with an even longer journey ahead. Romania joined the EU in 2007 and is the fastest-growing economy. The country ranks third in European agricultural production. There is also a solid manufacturing base (cars, electronics), petroleum exports, alternative energy generation, and the fastest 4G network in Europe.

Bucharest Romania

Tourism in Romania was an essential economic driver before COVID-19 dealt a blow. Romania has three distinct geographic areas, roughly divided in thirds between mountains, forests, and rolling hills and plains.

Bucharest Romania Parks

24 hours in Romania’s Capital City

There is no question that the weather and a lovely hotel influence Nutmeg’s travel experiences. They arrived in Bucharest just after lunchtime on a sunny October afternoon. The drive was thankfully uneventful after the traffic jam that they had encountered two days before. The walking tour guide from Interesting Times Bureau, Bogdan, was far from surprised by G&N’s traffic story. Although it could be an urban myth, he said there are 100,000 parking spots in Bucharest and 1 million cars.

Bucharest Romania Dâmbovița River

It is quickly evident that during Bucharest history’s mega-money has been spent. EU funds for upgrades to roads, infrastructure and essential structures continues. However, it was King Carol I whose vision largely shaped today’s urban plan with wide boulevards, sizeable city parks, glorious fountains, and imposing public structures. A decisive French influence is evident in Belle Époque buildings, glass arcades and domes. Sprinkled between these beautiful structures are utilitarian apartment blocks, graffitied walls, stark reminders of unhappy times, and nondescript office buildings. A surprising number of churches and monasteries remain and are still active.

Bucharest Romania Church Cloisters

According to their guide, the most beautiful building in Bucharest is the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Român), a concert hall that first opened in 1888.

Romanian Athenaeum Bucharest

And, its ugly sister, only slightly smaller than the Pentagon, is nicknamed “The Monster.” The Palace of Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului). According to the Guinness World Records, the People’s House (Casa Poporului) is the heaviest building on the planet. At 240 meters long, 270 meters wide and 86 meters high, it is truly enormous.

Quick Visit to Bucharest Palace of Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului)

Would They Go Back?

#1 As a coffee lover, Nutmeg always gives star points for great coffee. As it turns out, Francesco Illy, the man who invented the espresso coffee machine, was born in Timișoara, Romania.

#1a Ginger likes the Romanian beer.

#2 Generally, the food was good, and so was the wine.

#3 There is plenty to see, and G&N barely scratched the surface.

So, in conclusion, G&N hope to return to Romania, spend longer in Bucharest, and visit the mountains and the Daube delta the next time. Besides, they did not see Dracula.

Discover the Alpilles Vineyards in Provence

AOP Les Baux de Provence

Launched in 1995, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) Les Baux de Provence was a bold step for a group of winemakers. They joined forces to carve out a unique identity in the ocean of, at that time, mediocre Provencal wine. Previously (since 1972) these wineries fell under the umbrella of the AOP Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. The les Baux vintners felt that their production was blurred in the vast volume produced by that large AOP. Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) Les Baux was re-established in 1995 reverting to the original appellation formed in 1956. Today ten vineyards are members of the AOP and follow the same guidelines for making wine.

Discovering vineyards of the Alpilles Provence

The Stunning Alpilles

The landscape of the Alpilles is not exactly the land of milk and honey. Rather this is a harsh alpine climate that supports the growth of grapes, almonds, herbs de Provence, and olives. Known as the Alpilles (small Alps), this 30km band of jagged limestone cliffs and scrub brush is a protected regional park infused with wild aromas of herbes de Provence. At its highest point, the ridgeline of the mountains is only 498m (1,634 ft). Yet the gnarled limestone fingers reaching towards Provence’s blue heavens are simply arresting. The Park and its unscathed terroir are why the vineyard owners felt that their wines would be better served under the AOP Les Baux de Provence banner. Continue reading here for information about these vineyards in the Alpilles.

Alpilles Vineyards in Provence