Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Guillaume moved to Paris to study architecture, then started working as a graphic designer and quit attending university, but he promised himself he would carry out at least one architectural project in his life. Maison Collongue is the fulfilment of this promise. A pastel-coloured main door opens on a courtyard where white, pale grey, grass green and the natural grace of anything French rule. Guillaume does not stand on ceremony and takes you to the living room, where a réunion de famille has just started. We walk past a night blue armchair, a series of Damien Hirst works, and a cement and steel kitchen…
Keep driving on the main road until you find the small sign “U Ruspu” indicating an off road in the middle of a wild wood. A small sky blue house, bed sheets in the wind on the washing line and bushes of pale and well kept antique roses. You are chez Jean-Claude Girard, as they would say in Paris. He’s a lovely man how was lucky enough (he repeats the word lucky twice) to escape the chaotic French capital because of love problems only to end up in this secluded place in the south of Corsica. La Plage de Cupabia is magical and only a short trip away. That same sky blue colour of the house continues in the kitchen. The air smells at pain d’epices, left to cool down for tomorrow’s breakfast when it will taste even more delicious. There’s a basket with citrons and homemade jams on the shelf over the fireplace. Monsieur Girard will always join us at the table and speak slowly. He says that this island is not measured in distances, in the time that it takes to go from one place to another. This island, just like life, cannot be lived in a rush. This small Maison d’hotes is suspended in the short space of time that it takes to fall in love with such a gentle and quiet place.
The Beef Lodge could be the bistro one cannot miss in Milan, a contemporary steak house with shiny brick-red tiles in the in-sight kitchen, a perfect cut of tenderloin of bœuf de Simmental, and the creamiest pot of mashed potatoes ever. Outside, the swimming pool looks like the most seraphic and desirable corner of a Provençal villa – a wall of green cypresses, hydrangeas, deckchairs and towels the colour of soft lavender, the elegant pool and the sky-blue water. Inside, the tartan padded walls, the deer antlers, the hunt relics and the burgundy leathers – wild and sophisticated at the same time – echo sports and hobbies stories that belong to other men and other times. However, you are in Haute-Savoie, in Megève’s town centre, where celebrities sleep and, above all, where Les Fermes de Marie and its Alpage are.
The last floor of a contemporary museum, overlooking the quais and the vieux port, in a new Marseille that resembles a Paris of the future, touched by the Mediterranean Sea: this is the inspirational setting for a remarkable kitchen and restaurant. Le Môle brings all the Mediterranean countries to a table that is simple but elegant: a cutting board with pain paillasse, a white linen cloth and a knife with steel blade. La Cuisine’s antipasti and dessert buffet is a display of small wonders so elegantly arranged that you wouldn’t want to touch it. Fresh pan-fried octopus, cold Lebanese quinoa taboulé with mint and parsley, vine leaves filled with rice and lamb à l’Arménienne, Provençal meringue and lemon cream, and a typically French tarte au chocolat. They call it “restauration casual”…
Set in the Haut Var, this majestic building could be the perfect setting for the tale of the Creation: a quintessentially French Eva wakes up in chambre Rita, the walls covered in floral tapestries, and lies in bed looking out of the window at the big cherry tree in the wind. It was the last home of the expressionist painter Bernars Buffet who found inspiration in the warm ochre colour of the façade. One of his wife’s romances was entitled: “Le rêve sera plus long que la nuit”. For us, the dream never ended; instead it went on at breakfast, in the living rooms decorated in warm delicate shades, in the Provencal garden and in the elegant swimming pool guarded by two imposing marble lions…
Val d'Arly Mont Blanc, France
We would take you all here to celebrate. It is a ferme d’alpage facing Mont Blanc that can be reached by car, by helicopter or on foot. When you enter it, you have to become smaller, like Alice in Wonderland, and discover its two small brown rooms that smell like wood and are decorated with real alpine souvenirs. The long tables, as well as the tables for two, are divinely laid and waiting for embers to be hot and for all guests to be sat. The terrace is open in summer for lunch. The barbecue is lit every day. In Flumet, in the beautiful Val d’Arly, in the heart of the Alps.
Marie-Pierre and Michel love the same films that we love, they like going to the Bastia Film Festival, host dinners in their family home and cook authentic French recipes for their guests, and sometimes try new ones. They love the sound of Italian and we love the sensuality of French. After the first smiles, we start talking about our languages to everyone’s delight. It’s the first sign that we will have a good time together. We’re in Conchiglio, a village that has been wrongly omitted from many maps…
We are in the Haut Marais, it’s breakfast time and we walk along a narrow street toward one of our favourite cafés (Café Pinson). We get to a corner shop with a turquoise façade; stop at the smell, fresh and aromatic, of what seems rice with oriental herbs (lemongrass, jasmine, perhaps sesame). We have a look through the window and discover people carefully preparing delicious Parisian bento. No matter where the day will take us, we will come back here for lunch later today and then again and again…
A few blocks away from the Louvre the inebriating smell of Asian food reaches you and takes you to the little Parisian Tokyo on Rue Saint-Anne. Many of these restaurants offer quick and tasty meals. Stop at 2, Rue Villedo if you are looking for the perfect spot for a relaxed lunch with someone special. The room is long and narrow, the antique clock hanging on the wall, the wood panels and the mirrors remind of an elegant restaurant carriage on a train from the start of the century. Try the delicate salmon onigiri: black seaweed, white rice and pink fish presented with all the elegance and attention to details that are so typical of Japanese culture. Or order a hot pot of traditional Japanese spaghetti stretched by hand. This is the temple of udon. Yet, every single dish is a delight, including the peach sorbet.
For us, breakfast is a daily ritual. Whether you have it in the comfort of your home or choose to go out, this is a meal that deserves to be enjoyed. For a special breakfast, head to Café Pinson and order homemade pistachio madeleine, accompanied by a fruit smoothie or a tall glass of almond milk. This is the temple of detox: super food (kale, spirulin, sprouts), raw food (raw cacao), organic food and homemade food. The decor is the same that you would find in a contemporary bar in Copenhagen with wifi, comfortable sofas and trendy music. Sit back and relax.
We love Saint-Tropez for all that made it famous and that is timeless: the “tarte tropézienne”, a brioche sprinkled with sugar and with a rich cream filling, leather sandals from the ‘20s and the first BB’s bikinis. The Hôtel Ermitage features vintage fabrics and reminds of a golden era. Elegant, ingenious, unpretentious, exclusive and modern, it’s comprised of 27 rooms, all different and individually designed by artists and designers. It includes a multi awarded restaurant and a pétanque (bocce) court.
We thought Amour was a registered trademark owned by the city of Paris. Instead, a hotel got to buy it. You can relax in the back garden, enjoying a cup of tea and losing track of time. The waitresses are Cupido’s messengers as they arrange salted butter in tiny porcelain’s portions. Ruby-red tones are everywhere without ever being excessive. The bar and restaurant are open to external customers and get crowded after sunset and at the weekends. With 20 eccentric rooms, Hotel Amour is located just south of Pigalle, in the 9th arrondissement.
That’s the nickname they gave him a few years ago in Jamie Oliver’s kitchen. Greg Marchand is a young brilliant and talented chef. Having cooked in kitchens all around the world, he has now open a mini bistrot on a side street in the 2nd arrondissement where he expresses his culinary identity, half French, half international, just like him.
Le Crotoy, France
In the North, people always complain about the weather. This is probably the reason why getting to Le Crotoy, on the North-East coast of France, under a beautiful blue sky seemed like a miracle to us. Le Crotoy is not a particularly beautiful or suggestive place; it’s just a nice village with a small harbour and a loud fish market, like many in this area. Its mark of distinction is Les Tourelles…
We were not looking for Gerberoy when we discovered it. Rouen was waiting for us for a concert, so we spent the day wandering. The village is a tribute to our idea of wonder (“Meraviglia”). It’s tiny, which makes it easy to visit it. Mid-blue gates, brick walls, red-purple trellis, roofs that seem come out of a fairy-tale…