Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Plan B I Want to Copy

We found this shop, Mam Jeanne, in Biarritz, and absolutely love it. It's owned by a former journalist who decided to get out of that world, and wanted to open his own store/restaurant. Every day he is open for lunch and dinner--a prix fixe. It's tiny, and filled with so many things you want to take home...and the most delicious home cooked meals. If you find yourself in that area, you have to stop in.

Antigua Roundup!

Last winter we went to Antigua...stayed at three properties over a week...and wrote and photographed a story for Conde Nast Traveler.  It was heaven, and I thought I should share some of our finds here.
First stop was Hermitage Bay. The fruit plate you see above comes mostly from their organic garden. One of the most exciting things there is how amazing the food is--it's such an emphasis for them--the kitchen doesn't plan the dinner menu until the afternoon, after they've had a chance to meet with the local farmers and fishermen and see what is fresh that day.

The accommodations at Hermitage Bay are all bungalows. (It isn't a property that is going to work for most families--they actually don't take kids under 12 I think--so consider this a place to come as a couple, unless you have older children. There are better places in Antigua to bring the family...more on that below.) It's an all-inclusive--but don't take that to mean that you get a bad buffet and some undrinkable wine. It's some of the best food I've ever had, and they poured rose champagne (I'm not exaggerating--it wasn't prosecco or cava!) endlessly.

Above, the entrance into the "lobby". 

Besides using local ingredients whenever possible, Hermitage Bay also cooks up Antiguan food--such a treat. We went home with a delicious goat curry recipe. Our other favorite things there were the spa--they have a really interesting color therapy treatment, and the management. It may sound like a strange thing to focus on, but the woman who is the GM is super progressive in her thinking, and she puts so much energy into making her staff happy...knowing that a happy staff makes a happy guest.

Next stop: Curtain Bluff, and that above is the lovely view we had from our room. I had heard about the property from several people, all of whom go back every single year, the same exact week, and meet up with their friends there. It's that kind of place...people who love tradition and an old school vibe will love it. Every Wednesday night there is a cocktail party at the owner's residence, where you meet all the other guests, and the owner, and they celebrate Curtain Bluff anniversaries that night. As in, "so and so is here for their 30th year in a row" kind of anniversary. The night we were there, a man got up to receive his anniversary present, and he said he'd tried so many fancy resorts in the Caribbean, many of them that had elements that may have been stronger individually than what you find at Curtain Bluff...but what Curtain Bluff is to him as a whole is the best place in the world.

It's an all-inclusive, which is such a nice thing for families--you know exactly what you're going to be spending once you book it. The only things that fall outside of that are extras like tennis lessons (they have amazing courts and instructors), massages, etc. 

One of the best restaurants in the Caribbean is Catherine's Cafe (above and below). It's French-owned, and it's a destination for many people who are sailing their way around the islands. You can eat really well there, and it's on a beach, so while you wait (which you will--service is slow), your kids can play in the sand, or jump in.

Above is the very well curated gift shop at Catherine's. 

We didn't eat here on this trip, but my husband has been, and says it's fantastic. It's in the English Harbour area.

The Dockyard Museum in English Harbour is fantastic, and a great option if you happen to get a rainy day.

English Harbour might be the most interesting day trip to take--there are lots of amazing boats to look at, the museum, restaurants...and you can always watch the taxi drivers playing a very animated mancala game.

The road between English Harbour and Curtain Bluff.

Last stop was Carlisle Bay, which I've written about here five years ago (I can't believe I've been doing this for over five years now!) It is definitely a place that is great for families, but I have to say it has been taken over a bit by the "yummy mummy" crowd. That could very well have been just the week I was there, or the people I ran into, but I did meet some other families who felt the same way. It's lovely, the rooms are fantastic, the food is really nice (three restaurants to choose from), also great tennis--it is just a different vibe than it used to be. If you want me to elaborate further, send me an email on and I can explain.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Renting a House in the Dordogne

Last summer we rented a house in the tiny town of Urval in a sleepy part of the Dordogne. (I say sleepy because there are plenty of villages in the summertime that get super overcrowded...and this area doesn't see this impact.) The house is called Le Pressoir--it's a four bedroom home that is a part of a large estate called Chateau de la Bourlie.

We were seven in total--four adults and 3 kids--and the house felt huge. So much outdoor space to run around...and no cars close by to worry about. If you wanted to rent with even more friends, there is another house that could fit another family at least, that is right next to the pool. Besides the setting being beautiful, one of the things we appreciated the most was the lovely decor of the house. Cyril, the owner, has impeccable taste, and his idea was to keep the house exactly how he would want to live in it--not to Ikea it out for fear that renters would break his own personal stuff. It just makes it so much nicer.

Cyril invited us to a welcome drink with his family and friends on our first's about a 10 minute walk to the Chateau de la Bourlie (which you can rent out as well--it is most often rented for weddings though, because it's huge, with a price to match.)

(Above is the new artist loft space that Cyril recently started's fantastic, and has twin beds that can be set up in the living space area, on the other side of the wall behind the bed.)

 Above and below, around the tiny town of Urval...a 10 minute walk from Le Pressoir. It has an amazing bistro called Bistrot Urval, that we ate at whenever we didn't feel like cooking dinner...super homespun, inexpensive, and delicious. We thought they made the most delicious cassoulet we ever tasted.

The Chateau de Commarque, not to be confused with the Chateau de la Bourlie that is owned by the Commarque family. Same family, different castle. This is an amazing site to bring the family to--whereas most fantastic historical sites were overwhelmed with tourists--think 1 hour plus lines to get into prehistoric caves--this was actually not crowded.

There are fantastic markets everyday--we based our days around heading out to the market after a lazy breakfast, picking up food for dinner... having lunch in town...Lucy Williams, the English house manager for the Chateau, has amazing recommendations, and is a mom, so she knows how to direct a family...

(Possibly the prettiest cheese platter I've ever seen...)