Figanières (Var) Provence
TheTravelzine.com - October 2006
Cooking in Provence
The third week in October, two companions from the United States, and I, from Jerusalem, traveled to southern France for a three day cooking school at a charming French farmhouse. The weather was divine and of course, the autumn French countryside was beautiful. Please review the website. It is as good as any travel article from a newspaper or magazine: http://www.provencebedandbreakfast.com/
We were picked up at the Marseilles airport by our host, Michael Altman, and for three days we toured the region with him in his van, boarded at his inn, and had cooking demonstration / class in the evening. At the end of our visit, he drove us to Aix-en Provence, where we continued our journey on our own..
We had a wonderful time, ate fabulous lunches in the country, as part of the initial fee, and had delicious dinners in the evening with additional guests that were boarding on their own at the farmhouse. We attended the local Sunday market, visited a cheese factory and saw all the animals, toured a Provincal winery, and also learned everything one needs to know at an olive oil factory.
The three days flew by. I would definitely recommend this lovely vacation either as a three day cooking school or a place to board for touring. My room was an apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. The room was very simple, no televison or telephone but hurrah- there was wireless internet from the main house so I had my radio and newspapers that I could read online.
Bettina, visiting in New York
San Francisco Chronical - December 2001
B and B and gourmet meals in Provence
We spent the month of September in France, staying at the wonderful Mas de L'Hermitage near Figanieres, Provence. The property, which offers two chambres d'hotes (bed and breakfasts) and five gites (self-catering apartments), borders a vineyard, in the quiet countryside a half-hour from St. Tropez and the Mediterranean Sea.
Michael Altman, who is British, owns the property with his French wife, Laurence. He is a professional chef and offers a four-course dinner, based on what is fresh in the market that day, for about 160 francs () on some nights. We had two of his dinners during our stay and shared a table with eight other travelers from Britain and New Zealand.
The price of accommodations varies by season and type of room. The average chambres d'hotes price throughout the year is 400 francs (); gites average 3,200 francs (0) a week.
Times - 27 May 2000
A British favourite is catching on in France,
reports Gareth Huw Davies
It seems such a British form of accommodation, yet here it is taking hold where you might least expect it to, in France.
As in Britain, B and Bs are cheaper than many hotels, with a friendly, more personal service few hoteliers can match. They break free of the rigid seven-day booking restraints of the gîte or villa; you can stay for a single night, or as many as you like.
B and B France, started by John Ette, former marketing director of the British Tourist Authority in France, is one of the most successful B and B organisations in the country. There are more than 600 independent properties in the company's handbook Selected Bed and Breakfast in France 2000, from Calais to the Camargue, and more are being added this year.
However, it isn't remotely like staying in a Scarborough guesthouse. Except in one respect. You can, if you like, choose from a wide selection of ex-patriate British landladies - and landlords.
I decided to construct my own mould-breaking short-stay holiday. I took a low-cost Tuesday afternoon flight to Nice and, an hour's drive from the airport, found Briton Michael Altman and his French wife Laurence in their converted farmhouse at Figanieres with glorious views into Provence, 15 miles from the resort of St-Raphaël.
Michael, who worked as a chef and restaurant manager in London for 25 years, and Laurence, an antiques dealer, moved here with their children, Thomas and Lucy, in September 1997, to renovate a dilapidated farm. It was the 35th place they had inspected.
They decorated the rooms in Provençal style using local materials. "Lots of light and the vivid colours the impressionist painters used," said Michael, "especially blues and oranges." The property has a heated pool and 15 acres of land - "but wander where you like. Nobody puts up fences in Provence."
French B and B comes with very tempting culinary options. At Figanieres, breakfast is a big feature - included in the price of £32 for two people per night. Forget the British landlady's fry-up. Michael is down to the local boulangerie at the crack of dawn for fresh bread, which he serves with home-made jams from their own fruit trees.
Michael will prepare an evening meal (as will most hosts), given a day's notice - "so I can get to the local market and buy the fresh ingredients and all the wonderful local herbs. I cover the Mediterranean region, as far as Italy, Spain or even North Africa." Three or four courses, with local cheeses, Côte de Provence wine grown from grapes guests can see from the window, and coffee, costs £12 per head.
Mr and Mrs Altman adhere rigidly to the table d'hôte principle. "It's almost a legal obligation with this type of accommodation in France to sit down with the guests at the family table. It's a great way for us to find out things to pass on to guests. We tell them what is going on in the region - music, festivals and so on."
Figanieres is typical of B and Bs in the area.
French B and BS
Getting there: Gareth Huw Davies travelled with the French Tourist Office (0906-824 4123, premium rate). EasyJet (0870-600 0000) offers flights to Nice from £90.
Reading: Selected Bed and Breakfast in France 2000 (Thomas Cook, £11.99) is available in bookshops, direct from B and B France (01491 410806) or from The Times Bookshop (0870 60-8080) at £9.99 including p and p. There are at least six other guides to chambres d'hôtes and B and Bs in the bookshops, including Alastair Sawday's French Bed and Breakfast (ASP, £13.95), £11.95 from The Times.
Pays de Provence, May/June 2000. Renaud Bertoli, Photographer Jose Nicolas
In the heart of 3 hectares of beautiful countryside with pines, olives trees and orchards, this 19th century house has been restored by Laurence Altman, a former antique dealer and decorated in ochre from Luberon with Provencal-style antique furniture and original reclaimed fittings, with local stone floors in the bathrooms (calades). All these features make for a warm Provencal home. Three charming B and B rooms with independent entrances all have their own outside terraces and further converted buildings on the property have been furnished with complete kitchen facilities for longer stays.
A haven of coolness in the Provence heat, this calm oasis which is only half an hour from St Maxime,is in the center of an untouched natural landscape which has a fabulous charm.
Guide du Routard, 2000/20001, Cote d'Azur
In the middle of olive trees and orchards, le Mas, with a warm atmosphere where we meet around the table d'hôte with Michael and Laurence - Michael cooks in the local style with fresh ingredients while Laurence entertains.
Daily Mail, Travel Mail Saturday August 21, 1999 Gaby Hinslif
We found St. Tropez best as a day trip, so we headed north up a forest road, heavy with the scent of pine to the village of Figanieres and the retreat of Mas L'Hermitage. (Run by an English Couple, this chambre d'hôte lies among apricot orchards, we ate the freshly picked fruits for breakfast, under the tree they came from.)
The French countryside is liberally dotted with such elegant chambres d'hôte, or B and B's, expect to pay between 180ff and 350ff for a room for 2 per night.
The Figanieres area is convenient for one of Provence's most breathtaking sites, the Verdon gorge, a canyon whose sheer cliffs plummet down to a jade-green river...
Daily Mail, Travel Mail, August 16, 1998 Gareth Huw-Davies
'The British Landladies who put Le B and B in France'
Thirty miles west along the coast, at Figanieres, Michael Altman and his French wife Laurence are well into their first year running a B and B (350 Francs for two per night). Michael worked as a chef in London for 25 years, most recently in the Hard Rock Café. 'I was fed up with working 4pm to 3am and never seeing the children. Now I'm in heaven,' he said.
They bought a run-down property 15 miles inland from the coast resort of St. Raphael, with glorious views of hilly Provence. Last September they moved down with their two children, Thomas and Lucy. They have just finished fighting French bureaucracy and redecorating the rooms in the warm, local pink and lemon plaster.
Michael offers his skill for an evening meal - three courses, including wine and coffee - for £10 - 15.
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