Tuesday, September 21

Final Thoughts on La Castellane

Shortly after I met Kathryn Ireland, she said to me in her wonderful British accent, “Darling! You must come to La Castellane! It’s heaven!” She did not need to convince me, the one who suffers wanderlust, to make the visit. Who in their right mind passes up the opportunity to visit heaven on earth? Little did I know that the trip would be so entrancing.

La Castellane has long been available to friends and family, but most recently Kathryn partnered with fellow Francophile Nikki Maxwell, Proprietor of Picnics in Provence. As the name suggests, Provence has been the main focus of Nikki's exclusive guided tours and gastronomic explorations. That was until she met Kathryn and traveled to the Tarn et Garonne region of France.

Convinced that Kathryn’s lovingly restored home was the perfect backdrop for an eight-day getaway, an itinerary was planned. Why limit picnics to only one beautiful region of the country?

Thanks to Nikki's passion and enthusiasm, every day we were offered a unique chance to explore the countryside. No two days were the same. Picnics, yes. Pampering, absolutely. Each morning I awoke to the sounds of crowing roosters (no alarm clock), streams of sunlight, a glorious breakfast and friendly faces. And at the end of the day my bed was turned down with little gifts.

True to Nikki's motto "Unspoilt France off the Beaten Track", staying at Kathryn’s and traveling with Nikki provided a rare opportunity to relax, recharge and drink lots of local wine. Thank you Kathryn and Nikki. It was a wonderful week.

If you wish to experience heaven for yourself, circle these dates:
11th to 18th May
7th to 14th June
17th to 24th June
20th to 27th July
1st to 8th September

A lake side picnic at the home of chef Daniel de la Falaise was just one highlight of the trip. Sitting by the lake I felt as if I were a million miles from nowhere.

Happy chef. Happy guest. The seafood extravaganza was one of my favorite meals. Pure pleasure.

Working lunch

Sadly, I don't think they were sold as pets.

The most beautiful onions ever. I love the shades of purple.

Best not to worry about a low carb diet.

A few of these made their way back to the house. We roasted them whole.

Fruit was literally falling from the trees. So simple and so pretty.

Robert and Bernard Plageoles are perhaps the most renowned producers in Gaillac. The family is committed to using Gaillac's obscure varietals and producing high quality organic wines.

Not only is Gaillac an historic wine region, it is regarded as one of the oldest wine producing areas in France.

Darwin the vineyard dog. He followed us everywhere. We were told that he loves to lick wine from the taps. Sounds like a good life.

A snapshot of daily life

Beautiful flowers at market

A happy and eager little dog.

Who doesn't love an outdoor bed in warm weather?

I adore the way Kathryn's pillows just pop.

Lunch at Le Clos Sainte Cécile in Albi.

The poire William made by Laurent Cazottes is quite extraordinary in its taste and purity. One of the best in France.

Beautiful blues and greens of Kathryn's home.

Nothing beats an afternoon swim and a good book.

Another glorious day comes to an end. I will be counting the days until I return.


Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...


Your photos are spectacular and I feel almost as if I was there with you. You have certainly mastered the art of mixing work with pleasure! Thank you for adding a bit of Provence to my day. xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...


Your photos are spectacular and I feel almost as if I was there with you. You have certainly mastered the art of mixing work with pleasure! Thank you for adding a bit of Provence to my day. xx

ALL THE BEST said...

Thank you Lisa! I did have to duck out of a few things to work...but how can you complain while sitting in France. You should make the trip. It is amazing!

Unknown said...


How spectacular this experience was and I enjoyed your tweets reflecting this trip as well. Now seeing the photos for this post full fills the mental pictures I had as your trip began.

I have relatives in Spain, Portugal, and Holland so I have a visions of a trip to Europe including France as well.

Thanks for taking time to comment on my blogpost.


elissa @ faucethead said...

that's the best working lunch i have ever seen! hope it tasted as good as it looks!

ps. we're having a giveaway. i'd love for you to stop by: http://www.faucethead.com/blog/?p=1208

quintessence said...

So beautiful, so relaxing, so delicious! What a fabulous trip - thank you for my vicarious vacation!

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

Your photos are so beautiful! You did such a great job
showing us what a magical place and experience this must have been.
A mini vacation for me.

designchic said...

What a fabulous trip - it looked so relaxing and fun from all of your wonderful pictures...wanting to pack my bags!

Anne said...

Oh my! Where to start. Everything looks amazing. I am drooling over the seafood extravaganza. And OMG I would be happy too; he is the most gorgeous chef ever. Thanks for the mini escape.

ALL THE BEST said...

Ideezine *when* you make your trip to France you must contact Nikki. It is a magical place.

Elissa is was THE BEST working lunch ever. Sitting outside all alone, except for the noisy donkeys (which was atmospheric), was heaven. Needless to say I had to stay focused in order to work -- the pool was calling my name.

ALL THE BEST said...

Quintessence, mydesignchic and Empress of The Eye, thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad the photos provided a mini retreat. Wish you could have been there in person. Sending magical thoughts your way! xo

Anne, it was my idea of BLISS!!! Here's the great thing about Daniel, he is a beautiful person...inside and out.

KC said...

I would be happy too.

pve design said...

I think we have so many things right in America, and so many things wrong. The French really know how to live to eat or eat to live.
I made the soup....divine!

ALL THE BEST said...

Patricia I agree. No one country has it just 'right' but I do love the French way of life. So glad you liked the soup. I will be in NYC next month at the D&D. Would love to see you.

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Positively Provence Perfect.... There are so few people I'd want to change jobs - but your job dear Ronda, tops the list! I still can't believe you know my decor idol! Should you ever want to change lives for a few weeks, I'm so game!! You take the best adventures.

ALL THE BEST said...

Toma...I would come and live in your fab Berlin apartment any day. You would love Kathryn. She is sooo much fun. And you would have been in heaven in the kitchen. You should come next May.

ALL THE BEST said...

FYI - Kathryn's home is in the South Western region of France and overlooks the Tescou Valley, and on clear days, Spain and the Pyrenees.

Nikki also does Provence tours as well.

Alex said...

The reason that I like your blog is that you are always positive and quick with a kind word, as in the case with Daniel.

No doubt he is eye candy, but you make a point of giving credit for being a beautiful person. Bravo.

Nikki Maxwell's Picnics in Provence said...

I couldn't agree more Alex.

Nikki Maxwell
Picnics in Provence.

ALL THE BEST said...

A sincere thank you Alex and Nikki. Life is too short not see the best in people.

splendid Market said...

How Splendid! I've just come across your blog. Viewing your photos and reading your comments brings on a great feeling of calm! Need to dig around and read more -- what have I been missing?

I hope you have a chance to visit Splendid Market -- foods, flowers, travel..

honeybeeandme said...

hope you where able to bring your family???? what a lovely vacation for a family and friends.....
how far is the plane ride to France from your home???
I love vacations where one can just be casual in dress and manners...


Carrie Waller Watercolors said...

Absolutely fabulous!!! Looks like Heaven on Earth!

ALL THE BEST said...

Thanks Splendid Market...I will take a look at your website.

honeybeeandme it's about 2 1/2 hours. That has been the best thing about living in the part of the world, everything is pretty accessible. We've had some amazing family holidays.

Jamie said...

More photos of the chef, please!

red ticking said...

i think i just died and went to heaven... xx

Karena said...

Ronda, a dream come true, the images really say it all!!

I put this on m wish list immediately!

I have a Giveaway by the French Basketeer that I think you will love!

Art by Karena

Kelly said...

Sigh! I love it all.

Katie said...

You adore the pillows, and they are great, but I adore Monsieur de la Falaise.

ALL THE BEST said...

All the blog love...I am going to suggest to Daniel that he start his own blog.

Thatchers' Fine Timeless Fabric said...

Bonjour Ronda! That's it! I am emailing Nikki and booking my spot for next year! You had me with the first picture of house with the blue shutters and gravel patio! Not to mention putting the chickens to bed! Everyone needs a little taking care of. It truly sounds like Nikki did just that!
xo, Becky

Nikki Maxwell's Picnics in Provence said...

The deal is Becky, you come on a "Picnics" trip and is has to be very special - part of that is that we try to pamper you to within an inch of your life....!

Picnics in Provence.

Francine Gardner said...

It felt so wonderful travelling with you through my little part of france. As a teenager I could not wait to get out as it was so "backwards and dull"...being raised on a farm and a vineyard...where is the excitement ? so i left home very young to go to London and then Boston. Reading about your experiences in the tarn et Garonne made me realize how wise Voltaire was. Indeed, as Candide, when i return to my french home, I feel at peace and understand and feel the intrinsic beauty of the farmland land and its people. Thank you for these amazing photos. Francine

ALL THE BEST said...

I am so happy that you enjoyed the photos. Such a pretty part of the world. I think with age (and sometimes distance) comes appreciation and wisdom. xo

Kelly Green said...

What a heavenly time you must have had! Thank you for the wonderful pictures! Bon nuit! KG

ALL THE BEST said...

Karena is will have a look...thanks!

Kelly Green is was wonderful!!!

Kevin said...

Does Daniel have a restaurant? If so can you share the name?

ALL THE BEST said...

Hi Kevin,
While he trained at Harry’s Bar in London (and later he launched George Club), he now works as a private chef. However, he does have some exciting projects in the works.

Natalie Wakalopulos said...

I felt like I was right there with you. Thank you so much for taking me along..
- Natalie

Unknown said...

I wish I had been there with you all as well. But am busy shooting Million Dollar Decorator for Bravo! Finishing my book Summers In France and Helping Louis one of my sons apply for college.

Love to know that you all had a great time without me.

love Kathryn x

congrats Rhonda on Being The Best