Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another day out from Aix en Provence.... a la plage!

Cassis is a small fishing port just over 30mins drive from Aix.  Motorway almost all the way, which means one gets there quicker.

It does not have the same glamour and large yachts as St. Tropez. However it is probably more like what that port was like prior to Brigitte Bardot!
It is a great place to go to for the day or as an overnight short trip.We found a great place to stay there,
Chez Nino with windows overlooking the port. We had the 2 windows at the top of the red part, which one enters from a small cobbled street behind!

It has a fantastic Michelin rated restaurant!  Great food, good choice of local Cassis wines and views!  We can definitely recommend the Domaine du Paternel wines which we discovered there!
Ask for a table at the window (outdoors in summer months)!!
The rooms are simple but comfortable.

And the night-time view from our room was superb!!

The following morning's drive up the Cap Canaille was also a drive to be remembered.....

But was better experienced before lunch which we had at the Michelin starred Villa Madie.

  This is to be recommended for its fantastic food and also its location and views.

It has 2 restaurants.... the very expensive one and the (slightly!) less formal part with a great lunchtime menu at a very reasonable price! We have eaten at both and can definitely recommend both, although the expensive part is very expensive!! But worth it as one gets to sit outside and admire the view/ambience.

And no visit to Cassis would be complete without visiting the Calanques.

The Calanque de Sormiou has an interesting restaurant Le Lunch at water's edge

 but one definitely needs to recover from the drive down if going by road! Not advised to stop as one might not have the courage to continue!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Day out from Aix en Provence( with an Irish influence!!)

We were amazed to find that the Chateau La Coste in La Puy St Reparade, about 15 to 20 mins north west of Aix had been bought some years ago by an Irish man and was now open to the public since May/June 2011 and is a very Hip place to go in the area!

Its an amazing find!  He wanted to have a special place where Art and Architecture could come together and so invited many of the best names in the WORLD to come there, explore the beauty of the landscape, choose a spot and come up with a creation!

Now it means that one can go for a 1 hour to 2 hour hike(depends on how many stops you make to take photos/admire the view etc!!)

 and view art/sculptures by well known names!

It is owned by Patrick(Paddy) McKillen, friend of Bono, part owner of The Clarence, Dublin and Claridges, London and he bought it, apparently, because his sister lives in Aix!!
There are plans to build a 28 room hotel.... but that is in the future! Now it has the hike, the cafe overlooking water and the possibility of hearing a concert in Frank Gehry's music pavillion.

As the place only opened to the public this past summer they have only as yet had one concert. However they do plan on having others in the future.......U2 perhaps!??!! Definitely worth keeping an eye on!

And the lunch there was great! Food and location!

Its beginning to be written about.  The New York Times had an article about it in September.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Irish Presidential election week!

We decided to go over to Dublin for a few days and were very happy with our choice of hotel, the Fitzwilliam. It had the advantage of being on St.Stephen's Green, so there was a beautiful park just across the street. And it is at the top of Grafton Street with its great department store Brown Thomas
(think Harrods  in Dublin!) and the trendy boutiques, cafes and restaurants in the Powerscourt Center.

The lobby of the hotel with its fire was a great place to meet with people....

 there is a great reading nook to enjoy the newspapers...

 and we enjoyed the quirky photos in the rooms!

 The Citron restaurant within the hotel was fantastic, and the staff were very patient with young children at the table!! And as it was raining so much we were very thankful to be able to stay indoors for the evening!
In fact we can thoroughly recommend the hotel in terms of location, comfort of rooms, extremely helpful staff and the food!
We also tried 2 new restaurants.... there seems to have been a chef swap which has taken place!
Conrad Gallagher is now installed at the Art Deco SLH La Stampa hotel...........and one of its prior chefs  has moved into the premises Conrad occupied  on Aungier Street and opened his own restaurant!
We tried both! The Whitefriar definitely wins in terms of ambience! The Dining Room/Tasting Room at La Stampa was a tad formal and subdued!  But we were there for the pre-theatre priced dinner... so a little on the early side!  But as we had flown in from France we were operating as though it was one hour later!!  But we definitely preferred the food at the Whitefriar Grill!

Weather was, as it often is in Ireland, well, RAINING!!
But everyone was out shopping anyhow. This is one of the few places we have found in Europe with all shops open on Sundays!  They have embraced the American 24/7... almost!!
The following day had more rain in one day than it usually has in one month!!

And after 21 years of having a female President at the helm the Irish have finally got a male one!