Scanning the horizon as though still awaiting enemy attack, the citadels and fortresses of Haute-Provence testify to a turbulent past. Millions of years and history are studied and preserved at the Haute-Provence Geological Reserve and at Quinson’s Museum of Prehistory with the Baume-Bonne grotto nearby. In the Gorges du verdon, that I have visited on occasion you can swim in crystal-clear lakes or tunnel your way through the rocks, armed with a torch. The plateau de Valensole is one of Provence‘s great lavender growing centers, while to the east, after Castellane, where the Alpes -Maritimes begin, you will notice that palm trees start to appear.
Cheerful little town scattered either side of a waterfall and surmounted by a 12th-century Lombard-style bell tower. The great star donated by Baron Blacas in gratitude for his safe return from the crusades, hangs on a chain suspended between two mountains. Moustiers has been associated with pottery since 1676, when the Clerissy brothers opened their faience factory. Delicate, glazed earthenware, handpainted with grotesques ( comical fantasy figures) , has since achieved worldwide success. Visit the faience museum, it reveals a few trade secrets.
One of Alain Ducasse, 12-room Relais & Chateaux, a very haute-rustic hotel. Ducasse says that he wants to cook” just like my neighbor”, Ducasse is never here. The kitchen is on the first floor and open to guests, just as it would be in a residence. The cuisine is regional, cuisine du marche, and it is excellent, with vegetables and spit-roasted meats taking pride of place on the menu.The wine list is a very big surprise – very good wines for very reasonable prices- and the dining patio is gorgeous. It overlooks a small valley and is shaded by large white umbrellas and pollarded elm trees.There is a prefix menu!. If you want to eat at La Bastide de Moustiers, take the route Napoleon from Draguignan and then the D952 through the Gorges du Verdon. It is not the fastest route but the views are spectacular – especially the stretch through the Gorges. Chemin de Quinson ( on the D952 going toward Riez) ; 4-92-70-47-47. http://www.bastide-moustiers.com
Chateau Arnoux-St -Auban
The food is excellent and I am still wondering why this Relais & Chateaux only rates one Michelin star. La Bonne Etape whose receptionist is also the telephone operator- and incidentally the Chatelaine. Madame Gleize always appeared with perfect timing throughout the evening. The chef, son Gany comes into the bar with some workmen from whom hes is indistinguishable, and apologizes for his appearance by saying that he was fixing something in the restaurant. Some restaurants get by on fame and money some get by on dedication and that’s what La Bonne Etape is all about. The place is off the beaten track in the northwestern frontier of Provence, I will insist on you spending the night, you won’t regret it. Oh and there is a heated pool in the garden. The owner told me that many guests fly from Cannes and Monte-Carlo for lunch. Give it a try, this is a great place with great food and great service. Chemin du Lac;