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How to Take Your Family on a Gastronomic Adventure in the South of France, According to a Mom Who Owns a Restaurant There

2023-06-26  Maliyah Mah

The mother of three Marissa Hermes discusses the trip that served as the impetus for the creation of her next Provencal restaurant, Lalou, which will be located in Los Angeles.

South of France

We travelled all the way here for the cheese courses, the rocky shores of the Côte d'Azur, and the Belle Époque beach clubs. I've never thought of moderation in eating as a virtue, so we came here to gorge ourselves. Those of you who are cursed with great taste will find that spending a week in the South of France with family and friends is very sought after.  Happiness, according to the teachings of the Dalai Lama, is a condition of mind. The fact that it is also a journey to Provence to make Proustian memories at poolside lavender fields in the Provencal sunshine, revel in flanerie in mediaeval fortress towns, and luxuriate in the gastronomical arias of a French summer cuisine is something that he fails to convey.

Without trying to overstate the situation, I can say that the sad reality that we have no plans to go to Provence is absolutely devastating. The only silver lining is that my husband, who is also a restaurateur, and I are currently in the pre-opening stages of a restaurant that is inspired by Saint Paul de Vence. Our goal is to bring the atmosphere of Provence to Los Angeles, where we make our home. Visit us at Lalou, where we've brought a little bit of Mougins to Melrose Avenue, and if you ever get the chance to travel to Provence, these are the sights, smells, and experiences that you won't want to miss.


There are a few beach clubs dotted along the coastline of Juan-le-Pins, but if you are a traditionalist, Belle Rives is the place to go. The author of "Tender Is the Night," F. Scott Fitzgerald, stayed there with his wife Zelda while writing the novel: "It's one of those strange, precious, and all too transitory moments when everything in one's life seems to be going well." Make a reservation for your beach chair for the morning, either on the sand if your young children wish to play in the cove or possibly on the deck if it is time for the adults to swim. At Belle Rives Ski Nautique Club, you'll need to make a reservation in advance to get your children started on water skis. There are also innovative paddle boats that have a curved slide for increased propulsion when launching into the Mediterranean. If you make a reservation for lunch as well, George, the general manager, will give your children bread so that they can feed it to the fish off the pier while you sip an Aperol spritzer.

For an all-day hangout at the beach, L'Ecrin delivers its signature nautical prep aesthetic. Because there is more available sandy land for beach chairs at L'Ecrin (in comparison to Belle Rives), this location is recommended for the construction of sandcastles. After you have finished your leisurely lunch on the shaded terrace (there is cleverly placed sand adjacent to the terrace in case your children want to swim while you linger), roll over to the crisp navy daybeds for an afternoon lounge before you perch with your spritz on the sunset pontoon, and then meander back to the restaurant for a little while and a dance near the bar.

At Plage Keller, a family-run restaurant and beach club, you are received as though you were being welcomed into a family; the service is attentive and delightful. Plage Keller is worth a visit for the bouillabaisse, dover sole, and sea salt crusted sea bass. But more than anything else, you are welcomed as though you were being welcomed into a family.


Combining Strolling with Weaving

It will be very hot in Provence during the summer months, but the Côte d'Azur shoreline walk is beautiful, so use that as motivation to get some exercise. Start at the town of Menton, start playing music on Spotify, and make sure you bring some water with you because there aren't many places to get away from the heat and shade.

During my early morning stroll through Valbonne, I came across Live Breathe Pilates, a quaint pilates studio in the old town. It is operated by Melanie, a native of the United Kingdom who, to no one's surprise, fell in love with Provence and moved here. Your body will thank you for scheduling a session with her, and because she is a local who lives like a tourist, she is aware of everything there is to do, see, and experience in the area; thus, you should go visit her earlier in your vacation and take notes while you are stretching with her. In addition to that, she teaches kids' yoga and kids' pilates.

People in the area have a saying that when it rains, it's "basket weaving weather." Because of this, on a day when it was absolutely pouring rain, we came to the conclusion that we might as well try to live like the natives and went to Atelier les Brins Dansent to learn how to weave baskets. The local basket weaver Pierre instructed us on how to bend and weave, and as it turned out, the weather was ideal for basket weaving.


Saint Paul De Vance

Saint Paul

The fact that time in Provence is such a malleable commodity may be demonstrated by simply spending one day in Saint Paul de Vence. Step into a painting by John Singer Sargent and while away the morning at Café de la Place with the freshest orange juice and the most delicious croissants while watching the locals and your children compete in fierce games of pétanque under the towering plane trees that have been around for a century. Simply put, the scene is very captivating. Pass through the strong mediaeval walls to access the old town, then make your way up along the winding walkways while exploring the local art galleries and artisan shops. Visit Cafe Timothe for an iced matcha and then cool off in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, which features rainbow mosaic and stained glass on its pastel walls. Every stone stairway, window box, and entryway seems like it was plucked straight from a post card.

The first autonomous art foundation in France, Fondation Maeght, may be found high on a hillside about fifteen minutes' walk away from the historic district. Sculpture is the primary focus of this location, which features both an impressive outdoor sculpture garden and an inside collection that is housed in a building designed by José Luis Sert.

You will spend the rest of your life wishing you were back in the restaurant garden at Columbe d'Or from the moment you go past the stone wall facade of the establishment and into the garden proper. You will desire for the flawlessly presented prosciutto with melon, as well as the charcuterie, which comes with a vegetable basket loaded with celery, radishes, and an aioli that you will want to bathe in. You will miss the huge, technicolour watercolour menus. You will be able to hear the low buzz of calm discussion and the banter of family members, and you will badly miss the dance of the servers as they manoeuvre the too-tight tables. Diners at Columbe d'Or could notice a few similarities between the table they are seated at and a still life painted by Cézanne. Warmhearted hospitality evokes the feeling of being welcomed into a family, where meals are shared and no one bats an eye when a few errant breadcrumbs fall to the floor. My favourite part of the museum is the outdoor garden, but I also like to peek inside to see Matisse's Portrait of a Woman and sneak my way through to the pool area, where a sculpture by Alexander Calder is reflected in the water. If you miss out on a table because you didn't make reservations a month in advance, try showing up early in the morning before service begins and asking if there have been any last-minute cancellations.

Your day should end with a visit to the location that Marc Chagall called his final destination. Chagall was buried in the town cemetery after spending approximately 20 years of his life in the community, during which time he painted sceneries depicting lovers, flowers, animals, and musicians that were surreal and mystical in nature. These paintings were undoubtedly inspired by the enchantment of the village.



At Eden Roc, the playground of the young and beautiful, you can still feel the opulence and immorality that characterised the Roaring '20s.  We decided against partaking in the obligatory noon buffet at the Michelin-starred restaurant LouRoc and instead went to the casually stylish Grille for a traditional lunch consisting of club sandwiches and cheeseburgers, which was more suitable for our family. Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald will be aware that Hotel du Cap was the inspiration for Gausse's Hôtel des Étrangers. Therefore, walk the sun-kissed grounds to get a sense of the history of glitterati, and then stop by for one more sundowner while listening to this album and eavesdropping on sunlight romances.




One of our go-to restaurants in London is Petite Maison, and its sibling establishment in Cannes hits all the right notes with its tomato-on-the-vine table design and meals that feature prawns, tomato and tuna. This menu, which is always extremely fresh and is always constant, is what motivated us to open our restaurant, which is called Lalou.

Since Tiktok sent us to Bobo Bistro, it was only natural that a large number of influencers would be there for an early dinner in order to capture photographs of the mismatched tables and rainbow-colored colour scheme. I'm often wary of a new establishment that has a lot of buzz about it, so I was pleasantly surprised by the inviting ambiance and the attentive care to our young family, who at this point were exhausted from a long day. I'm always suspicious of a new establishment that has a lot of hype surrounding it. The mouthwatering menu featured exquisite pizzas cooked in wood-burning ovens and highlighted fresh, local products.

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My itinerary for the South of France has recently been updated to include Mougins Da Laura, but I want to keep it on the list. Simply breathtaking, the Mougins locale of the original Cannes film was shot there. (Don't bring the children with you.) When you approach the historic village of Mougins, it's like stepping back in time to the days when Picasso and Man Ray were in the area, and it's like entering a symphony of colours and patterns. Request a table on the terrace if you want to enjoy the mesmerising scenery while sipping an aperitif while listening to the musicians who play for customers each evening.

For dinner, we ended up at Le Bistro de Mougins. We hadn't done any research on where to go, and we didn't have a reservation, but we strolled into the restaurant anyhow, and the light from the setting sun was striking the available outdoor tables perfectly, and that was that. Rich material for dinner conversation was provided by the food, which was characterised by its lightness, delicacy, and Provençal-ness. Additionally, we had a front-row seat in the town square, from where we could observe all of the people passing through the square.



The tenacity of old European communities such as Valbonne provides a certain degree of solace. Le petit déjeuner service at Cafe des Arcades begins at seven in the morning, and I always looked forward to going there first thing in the day so that I could see the rest of the village come to life around me. Due to the fact that I was up so early in the morning and that I made it a point to soak up every last ounce of the Provencal light, our daytimes were packed to the point that the idea of having an evening to rest and recuperate at home seemed like a pipe dream. I felt like I was channelling Belle from the beginning of Beauty and the Beast when I made a mad dash through the store to put together a feast for our family.

On Fridays, the local farmers' market is open, and the aromas and sights of the various stalls will make it difficult to maintain any self-discipline you may have had regarding your spending habits. The Mille Feuille at Patisserie Fricaud is unparalleled in this city. You will be able to follow your nose to 365 Fromages, where you may load up on cheese before tasting the wines at La Gourmandine, and you should do so since you will need cheese to prepare your palate for those wines. If there is a bakery on the other side of the veil, it will look much like La Mouginoise des Pains. If the Gault & Millau trophy hanging on the door isn't enough to satisfy your desire for reassurance, then you should order a croissant with the "real butter" rather than the "supermarket butter." You'll need to convey this information using your very best French. I have no idea how to do this because I do not understand French (I know, I know), but you will remember this helpful hint when you are ordering, and after your first mouthful, you will be floating. Thank you very much.

You may now go home to unpack the goods from your loot, listen to this, and enjoy the peaceful marvel of sitting around a table at home with your family because your car is now filled. The disorder that existed in the universe has been rectified.

2023-06-26  Maliyah Mah