THE INCREDIBLE FOOD AND WINE OF THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS JUNE

This June The Divine Destination Collection will be uncovering the 2,000 year-old legend of Mary Magdalene’s journey in the South of France – but an equally exciting part of the adventure will be exploring the world-renowned wine and cuisine of the region.

The food from the South of France is truly like no other thanks to a moderate climate of almost constant sunshine, hot, dry summers, and mild winters. As a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are available year-round, and the region’s close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea ensures there is always a bounty of amazing seafood to be had. (Click on the name of the various dishes for fabulous recipes to try)

While ratatouille, a hearty vegetable stew, is probably the region’s most famous dish, there are many other culinary treats awaiting you when visiting the South of France.

Cassoulet is a slow-cooked dish of duck, sausage, and beans, which takes time to prepare properly. It gets its name from the deep, round earthenware pot it is traditionally cooked in – called the cassole. It is especially popular in the town of Carcassonne, the first stop on The Divine Destination Collection trip.

Marseilles, another stop on the trip, is famous for bouillabaisse, a fish stew made from the amazing variety of fish that is caught locally, such as red rascasse, sea robin, and European conger. But what gives this dish its distinctive local flavour is the seasoning, a combination of Herbes de Provence, garlic, onions, and tomatoes.

WHAT EXACTLY IS HERBES DE PROVENCE?

This tasty bundle of herbs is used in many regional dishes. Although not always the same mixture, it is usually made up of basil, fennel, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme. You’ll be able to buy a bundle when we visit one of the local markets in Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, and Lourmarin, where a sprig of lavender is often included to add a touch of colour.

While visiting the markets you’ll also have the chance to pick up some navettes. These are boat-shaped cookies that commemorate Mary Magdalene’s voyage to France from the Holy Land. Traditionally orange-flavoured, some local bakeries also make the cookies in other flavours, such as chocolate and lavender.

DON’T FORGET THE WINE!

If you think rosés are often a bit too sweet, you’ll love the dry rosés of the region, and their beautiful pale, orangey-pink colour. The South of France is believed to be the largest producer of rosé wines in the world. The wines are made from a variety of local grapes, and are the perfect accompaniment to many regional dishes, especially bouillabaisse.

The South of France is also the home of Blanquette de Limoux, which historians believe is the world’s first sparkling wine. In fact, ancient records show that the Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire were making it in 1531, long before the first Champagne was produced.

OTHER GASTRONOMIC SURPRISES AWAIT YOU

In addition to sampling delicious specialties from the South of France – and lots of great wine – The Divine Destination Collection has many other one-of-a-kind gastronomic delights in store for you.

This includes stopping to feast on fresh Bouzigues oysters in Sète, a picturesque town on the Mediterranean coast. We’ll even visit an oyster farm to get a first-hand look at the unique technique for harvesting these delicious, slightly nutty-tasting shellfish.

Another highlight is a visit to one of the famous Châteaueuf du Pape vineyards for a wine tasting and light lunch. Located near the town of Avignon, the first Châteaueuf du Pape vineyards were actually planted by the popes who built a château there in the 14th century for their summer residence.

To contrast the splendor of the papal château, we’ll take a detour to a monastic retreat in Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume  for a traditional home-cooked meal, complete with wine made by the monks. Located near a naturally eroded grotto in Saint Baume where Mary Magdalene is said to have lived, it will provide a glimpse into the lives of the Dominican friars who continue to preserve this place of devotion.

MORE AMAZING DINING EXPERIENCES

A number of exclusive dining experiences, along with meals at award-winning restaurants, are also on the itinerary.

One surprising gourmet twist is the “Hint of Italy” dinner at La Bourdasso, a family-run Italian restaurant near Carcassonne, where they make their own buffalo mozzarella and grow the wheat for their delicious homemade pasta.

A few days later, in Aix-en-Provence, we’ll be treated to “Dinner with the Stars” – Michelin stars, that is – where we’ll get the chance to indulge in a gourmet extravaganza at some of the top-rated restaurants in the world.

While in Aix-en-Provence, we’ll be staying at Hôtel Le Pigonnet, an enchanting 18th century mansion, and a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The stay will be made even more special with an exclusive “La Vie En Rose” evening in the hotel’s beautiful garden. Delightful, regional specialties and local rosés will be served al fresco while the songs of Edith Piaf fill the air.  

We’ll bid au revoir to Provence with a final, incredible French feast in the chapel of Domaine de Saint Bacchi, a gorgeous private villa built on the grounds of a Roman temple dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine. The chapel dating back to the 9th century attracted pilgrims who believed the nearby water springs had miraculous healing powers.

IS YOUR MOUTH WATERING YET?

There are still a few spots left for the trip to Scared South of France, the Mystery of Mary Magdalene. Click here to learn more.

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