I love discovering. It is the reason I left home, the endless joy I found in New York, then again, why I left it to discover something new in France. When I woke up at Le Mas de Peint I had no idea where to set out for lunch that day. By chance, a French friend messaged me and said, “go to La Chassagnette, you will not regret it.” Without a reservation, which is a big no-no in Provence, I showed up at noon and was pleasantly surprised to discover the most incredible secret garden dining in the Camargue.
I literally knew nothing about the space, almost missing the humble sign for the turn off on the road. However, once I walked over the little wooden creek bridge into the world of La Chassagnette I knew this was something special. The host invited me to discover their garden, baskets of herbs, fruits, vegetables, aromatics, roses, and some flowers I had never seen before set in an endless view of farm land. All grown by organic standards, he informed me most of what I would be eating for lunch came from right here, what was picked this morning. A chef who lets the taste of nature be the star.
The setting was beautiful, just as beautiful as the edible art pieces that arrived on our plate. A reinterpretation of natural beauty. There was much to discover, flavors I have never tasted, flowers I had never before eaten.
I love this quote from their website about Armand Arnal the restaurant’s chef, “La Chassagnette seems to him an oasis which is self-sufficient and for which there is no concept to develop, except that of respecting its authenticity. ” Sounds like heaven, right?
Tip- try the sparkling sake!
There is more to the South of France than vineyards and lavender fields, I have come to find out. Recently I experienced an entirely new landscape of the Camargue region which is a flat wetland between the Mediterranean and the Rhône river, not unlike the Everglades in Florida. It’s a totally different landscape known for it’s flamingos, rice fields, salts, bulls and most famously, white horses. This led me to doorstep of Le Mas de Peint, a family run hotel in a 17th-century farmhouse renovated into 13 guest rooms decorated in Provençal style in the heart of the Camargue.
It honestly does not get more authentic than this. Durning our first night there over dinner of a seasonal Provençal cuisine set in the old kitchen, this French cowboy comes up to our table to introduce himself. His name is Frederic Bon, the son of born cattleman Jacques Bon, who has taken over the expansive property he was born and raised on which includes managing rice fields and ranching. He is proud and humble, as I find people who work so closely with nature to be. After a long discussion over the history of the family and farmhouse we arranged for a morning ride to see his bulls herds he raises, the famous white horses and peaceful rice fields. Horseback riding is one of my favorite ways to explore a country’s terroir as I discovered in Argentina and Patagonia.
Practical information- The hotel only has 13 rooms so it’s important to plan your visit. You can arrange excursions such as horse back riding or a 4 wheel drive tour. The property has a large pool, wifi, and an amazing restaurant with a menu that changes daily based on what is in season and from the garden. The most important thing to remember is bug spray though!