Cheers! The other evening I was invited to partake in the opening of Provence Prestige here in Arles and so yes, a tiny kir was in order. After all, these Provençal know how to do Christmas shopping right. No Black Fridays here! Ah, but that doesn't mean there aren't crowds. Over 30,000 visited last year during five days and peak periods can be shoulder to shoulder. Why the fuss? There are 150 booths to discover, all selling the very best of "Made In Provence." Perfect for Christmas gifties!
So what can we...dénicher? What little treasures can be dug up?
Perhaps some santons to create your very uniquely french Nativity scene? Characters of all sorts are represented--I had my eye on the chef!
The Indiennes de Nimes booth is filled with all that is needed for a luxurious weekend in the Camargue--custom boots, leather satchels and cashmere scarves. Perfect for a ride or hunt through the marshes.
Libellule, a shop in Saint-Remy, had a gorgeous stand filled with so much coziness for the home. Who wouldn't want to snuggle up in a soft baby alpaca blanket? Brun de Vian-Tiran has been manufacturing such luxury items in Provence since 1808. There are even soft and stylish throws for the puppers! Ben just might be finding one under the tree...
Although the packaging left much to be desired, I was impressed by the quality as well as the concept behind the products presented by Senteurs du Sud. The company only uses organic products that are bought directly from the source and under ethical conditions. Their Scent of the Month collection includes a wide range for the home and body, with a different perfume to reflect the very distinct months here in Provence. Colline, or hill, for the month of May, would be the olfactory suggestion of my previous post! Their eau de toilettes are based on natural essences, something increasingly rare in our synthetic society. I am also looking forward to trying out their line of Argan oil products--especially for my crispy winterized hair.
Yes, all of this is nice enough but then there is the...Food Hall. Whoohoo! My friend Claire stacked up on madeleines for the holidays, some stuffed with chestnuts others with figs. Foolishly, I resisted and missed out on a future Proustian moment, to be sure.
We also were crazily charmed by every single item at Rue Traversette. We very well might have tasted each of their modern vintage spreads--chestnut and clementine was my favorite! Baby carrots preserved in cinnamon vinegar with honey? Yes, that too. It may sound funky but it is all made with a simplicity that just plain works.
But the choices were endless--raviolis from Royan, anchovies from Marseille. As Remi had driven six hours to go to a photo shoot and back, I brought him home a bottle of wine, andouillettes from the Luberon and a sun-dried tomato mozzarella spread. Needless to say, he smiled.
Claire and I were among the last to leave. With more time on my hands, I would have asked the price of the charming fruits confits in the shapes of tiny croissants and pain au chocolat. Ah, maybe next year!
If this is indeed the beginning of the Christmas season, then I must say it is off to a fine start...
For those of you in the region, Provence Prestige runs through Monday evening and the tarif is 6€ per person.