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Cannes, city of lights! April 30 2018, 0 Comments

 

Cannes Film Festival

The Festival of Cannes is the world's largest event of the 7th Art ! Everybody knows the Cannes film festival, taking place in May during 7 days. This is the most famous festival throughout the world. Tabloids, social medias and TV spots are dedicated to it that week. With abundance of A-list attendees, the world’s biggest stars will be there in Cannes. 

We all have memories of our favourite actress (or actor) showing up her best picture profile on the red carpet. This moment is an unique occasion for Haute Couture fashion house to show their beautiful creation to the world. This tradition lasts now for more than 70 years.  

The 1st annual Cannes Film Festival was held in 1946. At that time 21 countries participated to the Festival of Cannes which took place at the former Casino. It was mare with projection issues such as a Hitchcock movie shown in reverse or the The Three Musketeers movies projected upside down. It was a  challenging beginning, but the Festival gained a solid and worldwide reputation over the last 70 years. The Cannes Festival was called until 2002 the International Film Festival. 

 

So much could be written about the Cannes Festival!

The Cannes Festival is today the most followed cultural event in the world; only surpassed by the World Football Cup and the Olympic Games. It is the occasion for tabloids to spot numerous Stars and make bankable headlines.  

Discover Cannes all year

The To Do things in the city of Cannes during the festival are totally different to any another period of the year. Calisson by Gilles will make some suggestions. 

What to do in Cannes all year? There are some nice places to visit in Cannes. Whether you want seaside, tiny streets, you will get the spot you are looking for. Cannes is an amazing city with hundreds of things to do, from nightclubbing to authentic architecture or gastronomy.

Obviously, a walk in La Croisette is the first thing you will think, and we advise it. It’s the most famous walk in town. Some parts are crowded, while others are quiet and relaxing. We suggest to stroll the whole length of La Croisette. Take your time, feel the French atmosphere. Have a coffee break, chill and take your time. Sunrises and sunsets are memorable moments. 

 

A perfect day in Cannes

Wake up early to enjoy the atmosphere of a sea town the whole morning long. Stop at a Café and enjoy your breakfast before heading to the main market called Marché Forville. There you will be able to taste a lot of delicious and local treats. Steer yourself to the Old Port (harbor) where fishermen are bringing the catch of the night. Fresh fishes will be sold in all restaurants of the city. Do not forget to bring your sunglasses! 

In the afternoon, you can book a ferry trip to visit the Islands of Lérins. There are 4 islands but the main one is Saint Honorat Island where there is an old abbey. Monks have taken vows of silence however they are still producing wine! 

Have a walk around the coast and enjoy a full panorama of Cannes before going back.  

In the evening, if you want to feel the chicness of the city, book a table at the restaurant of Hotel Martinez on La Croisette and let yourself be inspired until the end of night. 

 

What to do in Cannes during its Festival? 

Calisson by Gilles gives you some tips to enjoy Cannes under the spotlights of its festival as numerous movies stars and show business representatives are here. 

The In-places not to miss: 

Le Gotha

The Gotha Club is a must-see nightclub which enjoys a privileged seafront location in the heart of the Palm Beach Casino of Cannes. Every night during the festival, more than 3000 people are partying and famous international DJs set the dance floor on fire. 

Club Coste

Located at the rooftop of the Marriott Hotel, the Club Coste is a trendy place for sharing a drink after movies projections. A-list and VIP people can usually be encountered there. That’s the reason why the Club Coste requests invitation cards during exclusive evenings to avoid overcrowding and thus keep a refined atmosphere. 

La Villa Schweppes

Each year in May, the Schweppes Villa takes place in a different location. It can be anywhere, previous editions showed the short-lived club installed on a private beach  or on a boat. This year, the Villa Schweppes will settle on a wonderful villa in the hills of Cannes and The Club K will hold a musical line-up with in-vogue artists of the French Riviera. 

Le restaurant Tetou

Hollywood famous movie stars have a fondness for this restaurant, located farther at the Golf of Juan Les Pins. Away from the excitement of the Croisette Boulevard in Cannes, you will be able to taste a succulent Bouillabaisse (see our previous article of May 2017 if you are looking for more on this traditional meal of Provence).

Nikki Beach

The worldwide Nikki Beach brand is found in all the famous and hype places throughout the world. In Cannes the club is installed on the beach of the Carlton Hotel (where many VIPs are staying during the festival).

 

 Jazz Festival in Antibes / Juan-les-Pins

Jazz and French Riviera have a love affair lasting for more than 70 years. At the end of the World War II, famous American such as Ray Charles, Sidney Bechet or Miles Davis performed in Juan Les Pins and help the French people discover a new kind of music, totally different from what they were used to, and they fell in love with it !

Juan les Pins is a seaport town located between Antibes and Cannes. 

 

You can always feel a jazzy atmosphere there. In fact , the first Jazz Festivals were not in the U.S.A. but it is indeed here on the French Riviera that they were born! 

The cornerstone of this tradition can be attributed to the famous Sidney Bechet. In the early 50’s Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet came in Paris to play and had another concert in Juan les Pins. Sidney Bechett fell in love with the French Riviera. We can consider him to be the man who introduced the passion of Jazz to the Riviera and the French people. 

His legacy is real and continues to this day. 

How to fully enjoy a jazz festival? With a Calisson by Gilles during the concert. The sweetness of the Calisson married with the softness of the song. A pure delight!

The Jazz Festival of Juan Les Pins was officially established in 1960 and has hosted prestigious guests, such as Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong and many more… Since then all great jazz artists come to the French Riviera and Juan Les Pins during summer times. Summer here is a subtle mix of sunshine, dolce vita and music. 

The Jazz Festival of Juan Les Pins is the most famous but there are many Jazz Festivals on the French Riviera. For instance the Jazz Festival of Nice, few kilometers away from Juan Les Pins, is also a main event each summer. The latter provides wonderful entertainment for locals and tourists and the line-up includes big names such as the talented Herbie Hancock. 

If you are spending a holiday on the French Riviera with family and friends, Calisson by Gilles will strongly advises you to discover the Jazz Festivals of Nice. Because of its size, you will likely find entertainment suitable for everybody. Hotels and restaurants are numerous and relatively cheaper in Nice. 

However, if you are seeking a romantic moment with your beloved, the Jazz Festival of Juan Les Pins is definitely the one you should attend. For a night stay, Calisson by Gilles would suggest you book at Hotel Juana, wonderful frame reminding the Juan Les Pins of the 30’s and there is a ball all Thursday night ! 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume April 06 2018, 0 Comments

 

This month Calisson by Gilles takes you for an historic and stunning journey. We are going to talk about the charming village of Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume and its surrondings. The city of Saint Maximin is located in the Var department about 60 miles east of Marseille. The economy of the city is growing as more and more startups, young entrepreneurs settle down there. By the way, the city has kept his agricultural tradition and this latter is always part of the economy. 

The Sainte Baume forest is one of the two sacred forests of France. (The other one is in Brittany). 

 

Saint Maximin has a strong Christian heritage. After the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene is said to have travelled to Saintes Maries de la Mer (see our October 2017 blog). She left her travelling companions in a village, that will be called Saint Maximin later, and withdrew to a cave in a mountain called the “Massif de la Sainte Baume” where she later died.

In the 13th century her tomb was discovered and a basilica with a covent were built on the site. The town of Saint Maximin has become an important pilgrimage destination. 

 

Today, Saint Maximin is a dynamic city. Downtown has a lot of stores where you can find almost everything: food, clothing, technology etc.. 

Place Malherbe is the perfect spot to take a break at the numerous cafés or restaurants and for sure feel and taste the Provence with our sweet delicacies, Calisson By Gilles. Wherever you are, it will bring you a taste of Provence. 

The oldest neighborhood of Saint Maximin is its medieval Jewish quarter. Its oldest houses are 800 years old ! In the 14th century many Jews settled here and built arcades overhanging the street. The demolition of these structures was ordered throughout Provence but King Robert save those from Saint Maximin and now these houses are unique in Provence. 

 

The main monument of the town of Saint Maximin is the Sainte Marie Madeleine Basilica which is the biggest gothic edifice of Provence. The crypt is fourteen hundreds years old and you will be able to visit the sarcophagus of Sainte Marie. 

Next to the Basilica is the Royal convent which construction started at the same time but finally ended almost 200 years later, in the 15th century. The Royal convent is today a luxury hotel. Its masterpiece is its sumptuous vaulted gothic ceiling. In contrast, the resort which was used in the 17th century to welcome the wealthy pilgrims has now become the Town Hall. The common saying “rien ne se perd, tout se transforme” (nothing is lost everything is transformed) is true in Saint Maximin ! 

 

What to do 

Whatever your religious orientation, you can do the pilgrimage to the Massif de la Sainte Baume to visit the cave of Marie Madeleine. As we said at the beginning, the Sainte Baume was a sacred mountain for the inhabitants of Marseille since the Christian era.
Many hiking trails are available. The landscapes are stunning, cliffs are vertiginous. The vegetation is very green and dense compared to the flora you usually find in south of France. The paths and indications are very easy to read, and it will be very pleasant to choose and follow a track. Calisson by Gilles suggest a track up to the chapel of Saint Pilon, 994 meters high (3250 feet). The view is magnificent ; you can see the Saint Victoire mountain to the North, the Aurelien mountain to the East and the city of Marseille to the south. Wonderful and memorable. Definitely worth it. 

 

Col de l’Espigoulier

For cyclist, bikers or car driver enthusiasts, the “col de l’Espigoulier” is a succession of winding turns located at the West of the Sainte Baume mountain. The climb starts from Cuge les Pins and ends at Plan d’Aups, 20 kilometers (15 miles) later and 700 meters higher (2100 feet). The road is historic, often taken by the runners of the Tour de France and home of numerous motor races. The view is stunning, the frame is unique but you have to be very cautious ; the road  is surrounded by cliffs and a fatal accident can occur on any portion of it. 

Whatever you are cyclist, biker or car driver enthusiast, you will find an official race for you. They take place throughout the year and will enable you to live your passion on this mythic road. The races generally take place on weekends. 

Motorized hillclimbing races are organized twice a year. The road is one way only and the downhill is closed. For non participants it is an occasion to have a stroll at the departure line to see beautiful sports and race cars. It is also an opportunity to have a view on handmade crafted prototypes and meet passionate mechanics ! 

 

The Source of Huveaune

The source of Huveaune is the place where the Huveaune river takes its source. Wonderful ! It is a protected natural site with petrified bowls and turquoise water. Important notice: the site is very sensible and fragile and authorities are patrolling to ensure tourists don’t deteriorate this unique natural landscape. The bowls are dry between May and October.

The Huveaune river takes its source in the cave of Castelette at Nans les Pins, 590 meters (1500 feet) high at the North side of the Sainte Baume. 

You will discover a sumptuous pattern of colors that can turn pale inhabitants of lagoons throughout the world. Hues go from green emerald to a luscious turquoise further in the river. Bows filled of water are terraced. Water riche with limestone and bacteria speed up a chemical reaction that has led to these natural creation. Amazing !

How to get there 

The village of Nans les Pins is located between Auriol and Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume. Cross the village driving towards Plan d’Aups and park your car at the parking located next to the riding school. The path to be followed is GR9. There is the Chemin de Rois (path of Kings) signal spotting the beginning of the trail. Follow the path of Kings and at the first crossroads continue your way to GR9. The path crosses a wide clearing within the forest. Now you will have to walk on downhill through the valley of la Castellette. Follow the Huveaune River at the bottom of the valley. The climb up of the valley will lead you to its wonderful source of Huveaune. 

 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Hit the slopes in the South of France this winter! March 02 2018, 0 Comments

Do not hesitate anymore and let’s have a winter escape in the French Alps this winter ! Home to numerous ski resorts, from the tiniest one to world-renowned, France is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders. Provence inhabitants and French enjoys their ski holidays as much as their long summer vacations. Consider a French escape for your next ski outing by visiting some resorts in the South of France or staying in a vacation rental in the French Alps.

Calisson by Gilles will take you to the snow this month. 

 

The French Alps, a World of discovery

The French Alps are famous for their ski resorts and stunning scenery. They are split into many different areas offering a multitude of activities. The French Alps

 also offers some spectacular lakes. Mont Blanc is the highest point of France at 4,807 meters (15,771 feet), the third most visited natural site in the world and the most famous area for Alpine hiking in Europe. 

What is also great about the French Alps is that it is so well connected. The international airport from Marseille Provence is at only 2 hours driving distance from the first ski resorts. Trains and buses serve as well the many ski stations in the Alps. 

The French Alps in winter is certainly one of the places to be. The pure and clear air of the mountains, glorious scenery, snow, winter sun and activities. What more could you want? You can even get a sweet and cool tan! Apart from skiing, there are plenty of other activities to keep single or families occupied, whether you are a winter sports enthusiast or a non-skier. 

 

For most, the main purpose is obviously to ski or snowboard during their winter holiday but not only. 

Many luxury residences have their own spa and all conveniences dedicated to relaxation. You will always spend a comfortable moment.

 

 

 

Winter sport

Ski Areas in Southern Alps

The winter sports resorts of Provence offer many conveniences and a lot of advantages. For instance, a privilege for those who come in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, or Hautes Alpes is to combine sun, deep blue sky and snow.

The Provence’s skiing area represents more than 720 kilometers (447 miles) of runs for all levels.    With altitudes of over 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet), there is a wide variety of sites and landscapes. 

Furthermore the region of Alpes in Provence does not have any major industries, so there are no large cities. You will discover a multitude of picturesque and charming little villages where you will be able to enjoy a memorable stay.

 

Ski Resorts

Calisson by Gilles has selected for you four ski resorts of Provence.

 

Pra-loup - La Foux d’Allos

One of the French Alps' well-kept secrets’ resort and is relatively unknown to foreign skiers. The ski area of Pra-Loup and La Foux d'Allos form the “Espace Lumière” ski area, totaling approximately 180km of runs for all levels. One of the biggest resorts in the southern Alps, where locals enjoys spending their holidays. 

From beginner to admanced, there are runs for all levels. Snowboarders and freestyle skiers are well looked-after with a terrain park and several natural half-pipes.

Pra-Loup resort has everything you need for a successful ski holiday, a wide range of accomodations, numerous restaurants, clubs and bars, family entertainment such as ice skating and a cinema and everyday necessities such as mini markets and bakery.

Pra Loup's slopes are divided into two levels: the lower part, "La Molanes" (at 1,500m), offers excellent slopes for family skiing, while the upper part (at 1,600m) is more appropriate for experienced skiers and those looking for a challenge. Wide sloping runs are what distinguishes Pra-Loup.

In short:

  • Family skiing resorts
  • Freestyle parks
  • Wide sloping possibilities for experienced skiers

 

Vars

 At 1,850 meters altitude in the heart of the Hautes Alpes, the Vars ski resort has become one of the most desirable resorts in the Southern Alps. The resort is right on the edge of some of the biggest mountain chains in the French Alps and is nestled at the heart of wonderful forests of larches. The surrounding mountains (Massif des Ecrins, the Queyras and Ubaye) are stunning and the ski runs reach more than 3,000 meters. 

Spreading along the “Route des Grandes Alpes”, Vars has successfully combined authenticity and charm of a traditional mountain village with the comfort and accommodation of a large winter sports resort.

 

Serre Chevalier

Located near Briançon in the Southern Alps and near the Parc National des Ecrins and the Italian border, Serre-Chevalier is one of the largest resorts in France, if not Europe.  There is a large area for skiing and snowboarding but they also offer many other activities. Schedule your visit during one of their many events in order to witness some world-class skiing, or car race on snow contests.

You can stay right on the Serre Chevalier ski resort. The rustic cabins provide a warm and relaxing retreat after a long day of hitting the slopes.  The well-equipped kitchen and bath offer everything one could want.  Enjoy your morning coffee or some late night hot chocolate with our sweet Calisson by Gilles delicacy from Provence ; coupled with some spectacular views of the Alps under snow.

 

The Mont Ventoux Skiing resort

Located in the department of Vaucluse, 200 kilometers away from Alpine Mountains, the Mont Ventoux is an alternative for Provence inhabitants who want to ski. The size of the resort is obviously smaller than Alpine ones but Mont Ventoux ski resort offers to skiers an impressive 500 meters (1641 feet) of vertical descent. Mont Ventoux has 17 runs and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of cross country ski trails.

 

 

Cross-Country Skiing

Winter sports activities include skiing, cross-country skiing, off-piste skiing, snowboarding, off-piste snowboarding, snow-shoeing, husky walking, snow blading, glacier walking, ice diving, ice skating, ice biking and many others ! 

If you are looking for a beautiful cross country ski trail, Calisson by Gilles advises you to go to Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye. It offers a captivating panorama of the La Blanche mountain.  

La-Colle-Saint-Michel offers vast trails in a very Nordic atmosphere.

The best way to explore is definitely on ski. However,  if your finances allows it, you can try a sled dog ride. You will be totally in love of these beautiful huskys that will pull you through the snow-covered valleys.

For bikers who love mechanics, you can rent snowmobiles with a lot of horsepower that will take you to the top of the mountains.

Generally the trips with snowmobile are groups rides with a professional driver that will monitor and prevent risks of accidents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Winter in Provence February 03 2018, 0 Comments

Provence in winter is very different from the tourist clichés of lavender fields and rosé wine. So let explore this less known side of Provence with Calissons by Gilles.

 

English people are known to spend their winter in Provence. Winter tourism in Provence began at the end of the 18th century. Wealthy English, notables and aristocrats experimented the “mild winter” of Provence. We must admit it was mostly to the French Riviera, “la Côte d’Azur” where the weather is warmer. 

 

The climate is more extreme in Western Provence than on the Riviera. It's hotter in summer and colder in winter. The fierce and cold wind from the north, the Mistral, roars down the Rhône Valley towards the coast. The Mistral can reach 60 mph and last for days (usually 3 or 6). Inhabitants will tell you, Mistral is powerful and cold, but the reward is a bright blue sky and shiny sunshine. Only in Provence! 

 

When the wind is down, daytime winter temperatures in Marseille can reach 12°C (53°F). For sure it will be cold for a swim but it is pleasant enough to lunch outdoors in a sunny and sheltered spot. 

 

In Southern Provence snow is very rare, but it is very likely in the southern Alps and Luberon region. The village of Gordes under snow is totally wonderful and the views are stunning.

Keep in mind that, in winter, weather can change suddenly. The further east you go, the less severe is the Mistral. La Ciotat, near Marseille, enjoy a delicious and warm microclimate all year. Generally the villages and cities along the coast from La Ciotat to Monaco are very pleasant all  year. 

 

The Festivals

Provence's winter festivals celebrate seasonal products, wine, and gastronomy.

One exception: Avignon has one of the largest equestrian shows in Europe, Cheval Passion is a must for horse lovers. It takes place in mid-January.

If you're looking for a romantic and unusual destination for Valentine's Day, try Roquemaure. On that day the whole town dresses up in 19th century costumes to celebrate true love with a procession, a banquet and dancing. 

 

Don't come to Provence in search of Mardi Gras carnivals. Except for the famous one in Nice, most towns in Provence prefer to wait for the warmer weather.

In the Var, (Eastern Provence) the mimosa trail, a route mapped out by the Var Tourism Office, takes you along the coast where, from January to March, these spectacular bright yellow trees are blooming. One of the towns on this route, Mandelieu-La Napoule, has a famous mimosa festival in mid-February. 

The hill-top village of Tourrettes sur Loup has a violet flower festival also in mid-February, and the village of Menton will charm you with its lemon festival.

Wine festivals in Provence are held from  September to December. The seaside village of Bandol holds the last major wine festival of the year, the Fête du Millésime, on the first weekend of December. Expect plenty of wine tastings and street  entertainment!

  

The Winter Sports

The Provence and especially the Departments of Hautes Alpes and Alpes de Hautes Provence enjoy a wide range of winter sports resorts. The Mountain area is called Les Alpes du Sud.

They offer all types of winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ski bike etc… Some also have cultural activities.

Calissons by Gilles will bring you there next month. 

 

 

Calissons by Gilles tip: The Winter Sales

Good to know: Dates of sales in France are strictly regulated by the French government. They take place twice a year and les soldes d’hiver (winter sales) start the second Wednesday in January and last for exactly six weeks. For some years now, Marseille has widely developed its shopping districts around the city.

One of the biggest commercial and shopping area of Europe is located 5 km to the north of Marseille. The area is called Plan de Campagne. You will find absolutely everything there, from clothes to houses ! Hotels and entertainments are readily available. 

On weekend Calissons by Gilles advise you to go there before 10:00am and leave before 3:00pm to avoid the huge traffic jams which totally paralyze the area, and even more on sales periods. Plan de Campagne’s famous bouchons!

 

The sights and attractions

Usually Provençal villages close down between November and Easter. It will be harder to find a restaurant or place to stay. However many places remain very active at this period of the year. It is also the time to discover a more peaceful Provence. For instance, visiting Les Baux de Provence in summer can be very exhausting given that this is one of the most visited village in summer. 

The Medieval Castel remains open throughout the year and has a very busy cultural program. The village of Lourmarin is one of the “In” place to be, with plenty of bars and restaurants operating in the low season. 

The best open air attraction according to Calissons by Gilles is definitely a visit of the Calanques  from La Ciotat (see our November 2016 article’s). No worries about parking!

You can also take a tour of the Camargue. It's a good time for bird-watching. The famous pink flamingos will still be there - and their plumage is at its most vibrant in winter.

 

Gastronomy

Provence's usual street markets will continue through the winter with seasonal produce. But the gastronomic star is undoubtedly the black truffle. If you are looking for more information on the black truffle, have a look to our November’s article dealing especially with the black diamond. 

Also happening around this time of year is the olive harvest usually coupled with olive oil festivals and fairs. There you will taste a wide variety of olive oil with a wide range of flavors: acid, salty, fruity. 

The vocabulary which characterize an olive oil is extremely furnished ; we can compare this to oenology for wine !

The Provence cooking in winter is both healthy and heavy and will keep you warm inside.

You can taste a Daube which is a beef stew, with onions, olives, carrots in a red wine sauce. 

Do you like sweets? You will be in heaven in Provence : you can try the “pompes à l’huile” (olive oil brioche) slightly perfumed with orange blossom; the “Navettes” of Marseille (biscuits made in Marseille); the brioche des Rois with its jewel colors; dark chocolate and the famous Calissons. 

 

With Calissons by Gilles the rest of the world can experience a piece of Provence. Do not hesitate anymore and taste one! 

 

 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


The markets of Provence  January 05 2018, 0 Comments

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


The Chestnuts: December 07 2017, 0 Comments

Another reason to discover Provence in the cold season.

November is ending and days are shorter and shorter, Mistral blows colder and colder. The boats have left Saint-Tropez, and many hotels and restaurants are closing up for the winter. The millions of grapes have been harvested and the major part of tourism activity has closed for the winter. Provence has quit its first appeal and could seem austere at first sight. Nevertheless, since our previous article about the truffles, you now are aware that every month of the year is unique in Provence and that we always find something interesting to do ! After the truffle hunting let’s go for a chestnut escape ! 

 

The name ‘chestnut’ is derived from an earlier English term ‘chesten nut’, which descends from the Old French word ‘Chastain’. French calls this dry fruit either ‘Châtaigne’ for people living in  the South of France or ‘Marrons’ (Brown) if living in the North. 

 

The chestnut festival:

The department of Var in Provence, stretching from La Ciotat to Saint Tropez is known for its chestnuts. 

The beautiful village of Collobrières hold a festival dedicated to chestnuts which has gained international renowned and attracts thousands of people each year ! 

You can taste and buy chestnuts in almost every store. From traditional sweet chestnuts to those which are lightly roasted over a flame. You can either taste chestnut cakes or pies especially cooked for this festival !

 

Don’t be afraid, other delicious delicacies of the region can be tasted and bought at the festival. For sure, Calisson is part of it ! 

 

Calissons by Gilles Tips: If you want to spend a week-end and fully enjoy the chestnut Festival in Collobrières, Calissons by Gilles advises you to book a room at the Hôtel des Maures, a 3 stars hotel located  in the old town by the river. The hotel has all amenities and is very affordable. Make sure to pack a box of Calissons by Gilles for a pure moment of delight !

 

Chestnut picking

From October to December, the lights and colors are a mix of red,  brown and gold. The landscape is like a postcard. Take a jacket, a pair of gloves, a hat and get lost in the forest. Let’s go for chestnut hunting ! You will be impressed how easy and fast it is to fill a basket of this sweet dry fruits! In my family, growing up, we always had a contest for who will collect the most. I won many times!

Chestnuts, like almonds keep very well, they will last for weeks before consuming. That is why people from Provence always have some available within their home during winter.

 

Health Benefits

 Chestnuts have a lot of health benefits! 

Chestnuts may seem like an average, everyday nut, but they have a number of important health benefits including their ability to prevent diabetes, protect cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. Chestnuts also increase cognition and prevent chronic illnesses. 

 

How to prepare chestnuts?

Roasted chestnuts recipe

Fresh chestnuts must always be cooked before use and are never eaten raw.

The simplest way is to roast them on an open fire. Make a small incision in the skin or the chestnut will explode during the roasting process. When chestnuts are crackling in the fire, they are ready!

 Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the thin skin. Peel the nuts while they are hot as it's almost impossible to peel a cold chestnut. Be careful not to burn your fingers! 

Chestnuts in savory dishes:

In savory dishes, chestnuts incarnate the rustic and traditional cooking style of old. You can use them in soups, like chestnut & cauliflower soup.                                                                             As a vegetable, chestnuts are a very welcomed side to a roast dinner and game dishes. They are great as stuffing for your turkey. A traditional and succulent stuffing recipe could include chestnut, bacon & cranberry. Chestnuts can also be cooked with meat to give an authentic and traditional taste. You can find many recipes online.   

The famous Chestnut cream recipe, authentic since 1885 

The chestnut cream from Ardèche is an authentic recipe originally created by Clément Fauger in 1885. The recipe is still unique a century later and only uses natural ingredients. 

You can find tubes and cans of sweet chestnut in almost every supermarkets or epicerie of Provence. Marry the “Crème de Marrons” with Vanilla ice cream or pear sorbet; a classic combos in France. Once you try the Crème de Marrons, you will be a fan for life ! 

Another wonderful chestnut product is the candied chestnut commonly called “Marrons Glacés”. 

 

Chestnuts can be use as an alternative to flour in desserts as they can be blended into a fine crumb. 

 

 

Chocolate and chestnuts are a stunning combination ! 

We are in December, Christmas is approaching rapidly. Many French family will celebrate Christmas with “ la Bûche de Noël aux marrons”, (Yule Log). A chocolate log filled with a chestnut mousse and Marrons Glacés. It maybe the right opportunity for your to dare and prepare a “Bûche de Noël au marrons” for your Christmas dinner. 

So much can be done with chestnuts!

But do not forget, beyond this abundance and all the other delicacies at Christmas time, to get our traditional French confections of Calissons by Gilles, an amazing treat for all ages in all season. 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


The Truffle  November 02 2017, 0 Comments

The Provencal name for the truffle is "rabasse". A more popular synonyms is "black diamond". 

The truffle is a type of subterranean mushroom, growing around the roots of plants, mainly oak trees and sometimes lavender or thyme. A typical truffle farm (“truffière”) today is a plantation of oak trees, either hidden in the wilderness or well fenced and guarded during the winter. Average sized truffles generally weight between 30 and 60 grams.

The Midi - Southern France - has the sweet limestone soils and dry hot weather that truffles need to grow. In 1900 truffles were used by most people, and on many occasions. Nowadays, they are a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, or used on special occasions.

The price of black truffle varies between 500 to 1000 € per kg (545 $ per lbs) ! The most expensive white truffle of Alba is sold between 5000 to 7000 euros per kilogram (3800 $ per lbs)!

The truffle is a fungus that grows underground. It forms in Spring between April and June.

The ideal climate for truffles is:

Winter with nights at -5°(23°F), and days between 1O° (50°F) and 14°C (57°F)

Spring with alternating periods of damp and heat.

Hot and dry Summer interrupted by thunderstorms, especially between August 1 and 15.

An Autumn which is not too wet.

 

Where can Truffles be found ?

 Truffles are found mainly in Provence (Southeast France) but you can also find truffles in Perigord (Southwest France) and Burgundy (Bourgogne). The southeast of France (in the regions Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur and the department of the Gard) produce 70% of French truffles. In a normal year about 50 tonnes of black truffles are obtained.  

The most popular market towns in Provence for truffles are Apt, Aups, Carpentras, Richerence and Valréas.

 

When can you find Truffles ?

Truffles are harvested in winter, beginning in November and continuing until the following March. You can find the days for the main truffle markets on internet. You could try to find them in the forest yourself but be careful and cautious about the place you are looking at. You may encounter an angry owner! 

Contrary to popular legend, truffles can be cultivated. As early as 1808, there were successful attempts to cultivate them, known in French as “trufficulture”  

People had long observed that truffles were growing among the roots of certain trees, oak trees in particular, and scientific research has established that truffles live in symbiosis with the host tree.

In 1808, Mr Joseph Talon, from Apt in southern France, had the idea of sowing acorns collected at the foot of oak trees known to host truffles in their root system. The experiment was successful. Years later, truffles were found in the soil around the oak trees grown from those acorns.

In 1847, Auguste Rousseau from Carpentras (Vaucluse) planted 7 hectares (17 acres) of oak trees again from acorns found on the soil around truffle-producing oak trees, and he subsequently obtained large harvests of truffles. He received a prize at the 1855 World Fair in Paris.

In the 20th century, with the growing industrialisation of France and the subsequent rural exodus, many of these truffle fields (“truffières”) returned to the wilderness. The two WW Wars caused serious damages, both in truffle areas and human victims who were harvesting truffle fields.

 

Growing Truffles

It takes about 40 years for a wild oak tree to mature before truffles can be harvested. However you can obtain specially treated young trees that will  mature in about 10 years. In the larger truffle markets you'll find professional truffle-tree vendors that can provide you with the young trees and will give you good advises to grow truffles. 

 

Truffle Finders

The best truffle finder is the pig, with an extremely sensitive nose for truffles and very keen on them (like us!)

The pigs are trained, so they at least give the human a better chance to retrieve the truffle before they eat them. The pig has another advantage in that, once its truffle-sniffing days are over, it can be served in a cassoulet dish, probably without truffles!

For many years now dogs have been trained to sniff out the truffles. A good truffle dog is
worth his or her weight in black diamonds. Some truffles dogs have an exchange rate in some areas of Provence and are “rented” to find truffles (generally for 3-4 hours). An easy way for the owner to earn income! 

 

 

A very old technique to find truffles is also, to follow the flies ! (“à la mouche”). Looks for an insect, a big fly  with long green wings. That insect lays its eggs in the truffle ! Take a stick and move the ground under oak trees. If some big flies take off from the area, you may be above a truffle. Get down and sniff for the scent of truffle! 

 

Calisson by Gilles tips: 

Calisson by Gilles gives you a secret from Provençal hunters who are used to hunt with their dogs and look for  truffles at the same time. Their also train their dogs to find truffles in the forest. How ? 

After the birth of the puppies, Provençal hunters scrub truffles on the nipples of the mother when she feeds her pups. Hence the puppies will remember it during their whole life. In their brain the scent of truffle is associated with feeding time. They will naturally track truffles through the forest.

 

Fake Truffles

Chinese truffle has the look of the truffle but not the taste. It doesn't have the same scent but if you place some Chinese fungus with real French truffles, the Chinese fungus will absorb enough of the smell to fool most truffle’ amateurs.

 

Cooking Truffles

The truffle is called "diamond of the kitchen”. Truffle has a very strong flavor, and is used in paper-thin slices in a variety of recipes. The truffle is easy to cook with, but you must know how to make it shine in a dish. 

A fresh truffle is not cooked the same way a preserved one is. The fresh truffle is a living mushroom, which gives off its perfume for several days. The preserved one is a dead mushroom, which will keep its perfume for about 1h30 after being taken out of its container. The best way to use them is with eggs, cream, butter or a béchamel sauce. 

All preparations necessitate a minimum time of contact between the truffle and other ingredients. Most common dishes are a Truffle omelette or scrambled eggs, various recipes of truffle salads, cooked with shrimps or various soup recipes. All very tasty!

 

Glossary of Truffle French vocabulary

rabasse - Provençal for truffle

rabassier - Provençal for the truffle hunter

trufficulteur - professional truffle grower

truffière - truffle plantation

le brûlé - the "burnt" area beneath an oak where truffles grow

cave - the hole where the truffle grows

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


La Camarge, the wild Wild West of Provence October 01 2017, 0 Comments

 

Wild, Romantic, Mysterious, the Camargue is the Wild West of Provence. With its black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos, the Camargue is unique. 

The area is huge and is a complex lacework of back roads, lakes, canals, and sandspits. This month Calisson by Gilles takes you to the Wild West of Provence. Fasten your seatbelt and let’s go for a road trip. 

 

The Camargue is a favorite destination for RV’s and campers, which can be seen almost everywhere. Driving conditions are easy: the roads are straight, wide and in good shape. The landscape is flat and visibility endless, you won't get many difficulty driving.

Biking is also a good option if you do not mind fighting the wind which sweeps the area 300 days a year ! The wind is called Mistral and is very strong and cold. What's the good point about it ? No pollution and a clear and deep blue sky that you will see only in Provence.

If you plan a run with a motorbike or a quad be sure to get your tank filled of petrol before riding this area; no gas stations ! Nature, wilderness are the key words here. By the way, at this time where technology is everywhere do not expect signal on your cellphone. 

The Camargue survival kit should include sunblock, a hat, mosquito repellent, binoculars and walking shoes. Once you get these, you ready to go. 

 

The two towns ​​you should visit : 

Saintes Maries de la Mer

Saintes Maries de la Mer was a fishing village, built on an island in the heart of the Camargue, where the Rhône joins the Mediterranean sea. The city enjoys a wonderful location, on the sea and in the Camargue, and the atmosphere is always festive.

You can visit Saintes Maries de la Mer all year round. Summer has the warmest weather, the crowds, the activities and the music events. Off-season has the feeling of the sea, with long empty beaches, the cry of the seabirds, and relaxing solitude. The gathering of the Gypsies in May is an exciting and famous period.

Shopping, Dining:

The center of Saintes Maries de la Mer has some nice squares and several long streets reserved for pedestrians, and many, many shops, cafés and terrace restaurants. It can get very crowded in the Summer. 

We suggest climbing to the top of the fortified church. The climb to the top is already an adventure, with 53 narrow steps but the amazing 360 degree view across town, country and seaside is really worth it.

If you are coming to the Saintes Marie de la Mer and want a memorable trip, come May 24th. You will see and experience thousands of men on white stallions, wearing black hats and carrying lances, providing a guard of honor for a statuette wrapped in gold cloth; Musicians playing flamenco guitar and squeeze with Eastern Europe melodies out of accordions; the crowd heading towards the sea. 

The small seaside town of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer hosts the Gitan (Gypsy) Pilgrimage. The legend of Saint Sara accompanying Saint Marie-Jacobé and Saint Marie-Salomé when they arrived here from Palestine dates back to the 16th century. The pilgrimage is a unique opportunity for all Gypsies across Europe to come together and affirm their faith, their culture and have fun. 

 

 

Aigues Mortes :

Aigues-Mortes is a walled Medieval town sitting at the marshes of the Camargue, and is considered as a model of a 13th century military architecture. Let’s jump in Middle-Ages time ! The town looks today pretty much like it did centuries ago. It is surrounded by a wall with four corner towers and a dozen of fortified doors.

 Parking: There are parking lots all along the wall at the north side of the town. Park your car, get a ticket and pay at a kiosk before leaving; simple and efficient. The only vehicles allowed inside the walls are those of the residents with appropriate access. You won’t be polluted by cars when walking within Aigues Mortes. 

Inside the defensive ramparts, the town is tight with linear streets. Many streets of Aigues-Mortes have shops of all kinds. Many of them are made up for tourists, nevertheless you will be able to book a room in a Medieval hotel or have a meal within the numerous restaurants. A very charming city which deserves to be visited.

The city was built by St Louis, king of France, as a starting point for the crusades to free 

Jerusalem.

Do not miss the visit of the tower of  Constance. The defensive tower became the prison of many protestants. The most famous is Marie Durant who spent 38 years in the tower. She was an inspiration to many protestants.  You can still see carved on the stone the word “Resist” that is attributed to her.

 

Wildlife – Nature:

The Carmargue is extremely exotic, with tall marsh grasses where pink flamingos, black bulls and white horses roam freely. 

Our advice is to go for a Horseback tour. There are many locations offering guided tours of the Camargue on the white Camargue horses. The tours leave frequently and are flexible to the flow of tourist. You won’t even have to book before going and can go directly to the ranches to book for it. 

Another interesting activity we would suggest is to visit the bird nature reserve (Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Grau), located 4 km north of Saintes Maries de la Mer. There are great numbers of resident and migratory birds and wildlife. Flamingos are there by thousands in early Spring, and many hundreds the rest of the year. You will see storks, herons and water birds.

 

An invisible border divide Provence between the Italian-influenced area to the east of the Rhône and the Spanish-accented region to the west. Cross the river into the Camargue and you will notice it instantly. A strong Spanish flavor dominates the food, the music, the traditional costumes, the language and, especially, the culture of bull games.

The proud emblem of the Camargue is the black bull. The history of this region has been built around the black bull. The Camargue bull (or
"biou" in local) is smaller than his Spanish cousin. He is light, fast, fierce and intelligent, all qualities which make him ideal for bullfighting.Traditional corridas where the bull is killed at the end, are widely held in Provence. The most important fights are held in the ancient Roman arenas of Arles and Nîmes, but most towns have their own modern bull ring. Bullfighting is illegal in France except in those regions where it is a long-established local tradition.  In 2016 bullfighting gained the status of the nation's official cultural heritage. 

There is also a bull game called "course Camarguaise”; at the game, players called “raseteurs” encourage a bull to chase them around an arena. The object is to detach a trophy (usually a ribbon or rosette) from the head of the animal. 

Camargue bulls are raised for fighting. But animals not selected for the bull games will end up on a plate. Camargue bull meat must come from non-fighting animals only. You can buy it at local butchers in the form of steaks, burgers or saucissons secs (a salami-style sausage where the bull meat is likely to be mixed with pork).

Best of all is “gardiane de taureau”, a rich, slow-cooked bull stew, ideally served with Camargue rice and Costières de Nîmes wine. Most restaurants in the region serve it.

 

 

The Camargue is an adventure. Imagine yourself at the end of the day driving back from Camargue, your head filled with pictures and memories that will last a life time. Just stop and park your car for a last time, enjoy the beautiful sunset over the sea and taste a Calisson by Gilles “en famille” ! 

  

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


by Gilles
23416 Caminito Valle Laguna Hills Orange County, CA 92653 United States 800-334-2081 gilles@bygilles.com
by Gilles
23416 Caminito Valle Laguna Hills Orange County, CA 92653 United States
800-334-2081 gilles@bygilles.com