South of France: Because I Cannes

We bid au revoir to our French Riviera retreat, and drove the scenic, winding road towards Le Pont-du-Loup. South of France South of France Tucked into the mountainside on the bank of Le Loup river is the Confiserie Florian, France’s answer to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. At the original Confiserie Florian in the Nice Old Town, traditional candies have been cooked down and created since 1974, following the purchase of the former Florian chocolate factory. South of FranceTo this day, traditional practices are followed, specialising in candied fruit and crystallised flowers. But, this isn’t all that’s cooking in this sweet shop.
South of France South of FranceThey’re well known for their jasmine jam, and I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the smell coming from the hot, floral liquid was.  South of France South of France Trays of crystallised candies sat drying until ready to be packaged. Here they make use of flowers and herbs already being used in the profitable perfume industry in a more edible sense. South of France Fruit sweets and jellies surround the workers in bucket loads, ready to be put in their pretty packages and sold across the world. I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to control myself should I work behind the glass. In fact, I think I would go full blown Augustus Gloop on my first day. South of France South of France South of France The sweet shop above the factory is bursting with any sweet tooth’s every desire, including floral jams, chocolate candies, toffees, sweets, crystallised flowers and their famous candied fruit.

Positively buzzing and seriously sugar high on samples, we left for Cannes, the resort town synonymous with the flashing lights and glamour of its world-famous film festival. South of France Infinitely more calm than red carpet season, we wandered the picturesque little port town, soaking up the sunshine and salt air. I’ll let you explore the streets with us, but you have to imagine a buzzy atmosphere of lounging locals, meandering tourists and warm sun on your skin. South of France South of France South of France South of France South of FranceSouth of France South of FranceSouth of France South of France

If you know me at all, you’ll know all three reasons I took this shot ^ 
South of France South of France South of France We eventually reached the port for some sea-shopping of enviable variety. South of France South of France South of FranceSouth of France South of France South of France South of France Each as beautiful as the last, we gave up admiring the port-candy for some edible entertainment: fromage.
South of France South of FranceCheese shops in France are nothing short of heavenly, filled with angelic assortments of aromatic offerings. South of FranceSouth of FranceHardly able to contain our hunger much longer, we sank our toes in the sand at Plage Goeland, a beachside restaurant, for some lunch.
South of France South of France To start, an avocado and prawn salad. South of France Followed by a rib steak served with pepper sauce and a mountain of frites. South of France And a sweet finish of panna cotta topped with strawberry sauce. The view, surrounding scenery and sound effects were far better than the food itself, but we happily wiggled our toes in the sand and absorbed every last drop of Vitamin D before leaving for London.South of FranceA sensational trip of sensory indulgence. Mille fois merci, France, for another fabulous escape. Á la prochaine!

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South of France: A Taste of Mougins

We woke up early and headed for Cannes. Rid your mind of a glamorous day of seaside shopping and designer fare – that’s for tomorrow. Today was an adventure of epicurean delight, starting in the Forville Provencal Food Market. South of FranceAccompanied by Head Chef David Chauvac, we searched through tables of bountiful produce, all seasonal and sourced pretty close to home. South of France We watched merchants and locals interact like old friends, swapping stories, explaining recipes and bargaining for better prices. South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France I then fell completely and utterly, head over heels in love. No, not with more cheese – with this guy. South of France Just look at his little ears! He was curled up under a table of fish, waiting patiently for someone to play with. It took a lot of self control to not scoop him up and take him home with me. South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France Having snagged the best produce, freshest fish, and other incredible ingredients, we headed back for the kitchen of Le Mas Candille to get cooking. South of France South of France South of France South of France South of FranceHere, Chef David began by dipping courgette flowers in a light batter and frying them, before sprinkling with sea salt and chilli. South of France South of FranceHe began to cook down artichoke with onion, thyme and citrus, filling the entire kitchen with its aroma.
South of FranceA meaty beef tomato was paired with a langoustine and topped with basil oil.South of France The artichoke and onion was then ready to be plated, the delicate flavour of citrus pairing beautifully with the tender vegetables. South of France South of France Beetroot and monkfish were cooked together, giving it a pink presentation and deliciously sweet flavour. South of France Seared tuna with broccoli and a teriyaki glaze hinted at Chef Chauvac’s love for Japanese culture. South of France Followed by a Japanese stir-fry with massive, perfectly cooked scallops. South of France Having spent the afternoon grazing on Chef Chauvac’s creations, showcasing his talent for inventing dishes on the spot from whatever local produce looked best, we were thoroughly impressed and incredibly full. But, when in France, temptation is always around the corner, or rather, on your plate.South of France Just look how perfectly soft and slightly melty this goats cheese is!South of France

Chef relieved us from our sous chef duties, and we sat on the terrace, spreading cheese on bites of grilled baguette. I even cheekily asked for more of the fig compote from last night – one of my favourite snacks in the world. 
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A surprise soon emerged from the kitchen – a pear and chocolate tart topped with a white chocolate disk for a satisfying crunch.
South of France I leaned back on my chair, replete with French fare, ready for a chat-nap. Instead, I snuck off to the Shiseido Spa for a unique Qi treatment, a massage that incorporates tsubo point stimulation, leaving the body and mind with a sense of well-being. Feeling completely revived, we took a walk to the hilltop town of Mougins. South of FranceFor the culturally inclined, this is a true haven. In modern times, Mougins has been frequented and inhabited by many artists and celebrities, including Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arman, Yves Klein, César Baldaccini, Paul Éluard, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Catherine Deneuve, Édith Piaf and Jacques Brel, to name a few.
South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France South of France As if the streets themselves weren’t stunning enough, the view of the Côte d’Azur between rooftops was simply breathtaking. I can see why so many have fallen for the allure of Mougins.South of France South of France South of France South of France I can’t recommend a trip to the Mougins Museum of Classical Art enough. A British businessman became enamoured by Greek armoury. His collection eventually grew to hold ancient Greek and Roman art and armoury, and had expanded so much, that he decided to put all his pieces in a museum, and open it to the public. It’s unlike anything you’d expect, and the way that the collected pieces are juxtaposed with modern art makes the perspective truly remarkable. South of FranceWe watched as the sky put on another show, filling with vibrant, pink lines, highlighting clouds in yellow. This was the sun signalling it was time for yet another feast. South of FranceWe stayed in Mougins for dinner at a little local restaurant. To start, I had creamy slices of foie gras, paired with winter berry purée and brioche.
South of France My main was… interesting, to say the least. Apple tarte tatin topped with beef and seared foie gras – not something I’ll be ordering again in future.
South of FranceDessert of moelleux au chocolat was a sweet saviour, ensuring I never end a night in France feeling less than satiated.

If you can believe it, tomorrow is even sweeter! I can’t wait to take you to France’s own Willy Wonka-esque chocolate factory – only it’s Florian’s, and very French and much more refined.

À bientôt!

South of France: Making Scents of It All

We descend from the clouds, gliding over mountains, vineyards and vibrant shades of neatly fenced acres of property.
South of France South of FranceThe stretch of land leads to the ocean, impossibly blue with small fortunes of super yachts rocking in the harbour. South of France South of FranceGreeted by a warm rush of sunshine and salty air, we made our way across winding countryside to the enchanted village of Mougins. Nestled on a hilltop, this cultural town has played host to a collection of artists, designers and celebrities, including Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Winston Churchill.

Just below the hilltop haven is Le Mas Candille. Once through the iron gates, follow the trail of Cyprus trees leading to the stunning 5 star hotel, tucked into the mountainside. The expansive property is guarded by a main 18th century converted farmhouse, with 19 traditional Provençal styled bedrooms. With guestrooms and suites set in neighbouring houses, the Relais & Châteaux hotel has classically styled rooms with luxurious interiors.

A tree shaded path leads away from the main house of Le Mas to La Bastide, where my room was located. With homely, but chic interior design, the room was fitted with modern amenities and a stunning white marble bathroom. But, I had more pressing desires than interior design.

Desires easily fulfilled when in France – I was starving, and couldn’t have been more delighted to settle down in the sunshine for lunch on the terrace of Le Candille Restaurant. South of France We started with delightfully autumnal-coloured welcome snacks: A sphere of pumpkin, a savoury macaron of carrot & cumin, and a delicate roe-topped smoked slamon sandwich.South of FranceSouth of FranceThis was followed by a starter of langoustine with artichoke puree and lemon foam.
South of FranceAnd a main of perfectly cooked scallops in a coconut and lemongrass foam.
South of FranceWhen in France, any chance to showcase sweet or pastry skills is appreciated – especially by my sweet tooth.
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A decadent chocolate torte filled with cream and orange was a delightful ending to a less than light lunch. 
South of France Feeling close to the point of bursting, the hospitality continued with tea, coffee and a tower of treats: homemade wine gums, lemon macarons and delicate walnut cakes. Although I could barely breathe, who can deny the art of patisserie?! It would be rude not to just taste, wouldn’t it? I indulged.

Satisfyingly filled to the brim, we left our new home on the Côte d’Azur to visit the neighbouring town of Grasse, known as the world’s capital of perfume.

Before exploring the museum, we wandered the slightly scented streets.
South of France South of France We ambled through 17th and 18th century buildings, up and down ancient steps, and through towering arches, which opened onto squares or stunning views. South of FranceSouth of FranceSouth of FrancePeaking out behind the tower is 11th century Notre Dame du Puy cathedral, which was rebuilt in the 17th century. This houses three paintings by Rubens, which you’ll have to visit for yourself, should you be a fan. 
South of France As one would expect in a quaint hillside town such as Grasse, there were plenty of stray cats meandering through open legs near market stalls, hoping for an offering of fish. This one retired his efforts and found a comfortable perch to carry out his chat-napSouth of FranceWe returned to the Musée du Parfum for a tour of this town’s most influential export.  South of FranceAnd amongst beautiful collections of bottles, old machinery and historical processes, were shown the herb garden that inspires the perfumes. South of FranceThe indoor herb garden has a rainforest like climate to house tropical plants and herbs, where the outdoor enjoys a normal climate. The smell of jasmine perfumed the air, as well as citronella and lavender. South of FranceWe then visited Parfumerie Fragonard, where we saw the modern day production of Fragonard Parfum.
South of France South of FranceAnd were then invited into the perfume lab to create our very own scent with one of the experts.
South of FranceThis was a bit like revisiting my chemistry class, having to measure and distribute different quantities of base, middle and top notes into my beaker – creating such a lovely reminder to leave with.
South of France We made it back to Le Mas Candille in time to watch a brilliant display of colour from the setting sun over the hotel’s grounds. South of France South of FranceIsn’t the infinity pool stunning? Especially with the towering Marion Burkle statue adding an alluring element to the view. South of FranceSouth of France South of FranceWith the sun sinking beneath the horizon, it was time to entertain our palates with yet another gastronomic feast. Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Candille, headed by Chef David Chauvac, has a classically designed dining room, with views of the French Riviera countryside. We were the first to try the newly-created autumnal menu, and despite some minor teething issues, enjoyed an incredible dining experience.
South of FranceWe began with an amuse bouche of truffle and mushroom mousse, topped with bacon.
South of France Pan-fried ceps on toast with a Vitelotte potato foam covering more ceps underneath. South of France

And to finish, monkfish stuffed with black garlic, steamed fennel, rockfish jus and olive oil. 
South of FranceAfter finishing our feast, with wine, bubbles and conversation flowing, my French fantasy came true. I considered requesting the cart, s’il vous plaît. Instead, I modestly sampled 6 different French cheeses, with the most beautiful fig compote, all smothered on freshly baked baguette.South of FranceDessert, (yes dessert! have you learned nothing?), was a grapefruit, citrus and orange surprise, topped with a meringue sphere and tangy citrus sorbet. This had a pretty presentation and was certainly palate cleansing.

Tomorrow, we get a behind the scenes look of a different sense.