Getting your French Fix On

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Jan de Luz linens and home store, photo via SFGate.com

Jan de Luz linens and home store

It’s been 5 long months since I’ve set foot in France. Sailing and other adventures have kept me home in the states. So, like many of you, I’m getting that Francophile itch and somehow it has to be scratched.

One of Jan's stone French fountains

One of Jan’s stone French fountains

So with that, yesterday while on a trip to California, I found two likely balms. I stopped in at Jan de Luz a lovely French home store that I’d been to a few years back in Carmel. This time I spied his outpost in Carmel Valley just 15 minutes away and had to stop, spurred on by the promise of local olive oil. While there I ran into an older gentleman in jeans with a grey ponytail who said hello. I thought perhaps he was delivering something to the store as he was quite dusty in his work clothes. I asked him if he knew where I could purchase some of the olive oil and then we got to talking.

Jan himself

Jan himself

I mentioned that we had a house near Bordeaux and he asked where, Flaujagues, I responded, our tiny village which no one in France knows when he cried “but of course, Flaujages, I know it well!”. When he entered the main office I realized I was talking to Jan himself. He pulled up google maps of the area and told me that although born in the Basque region, he actually grew up in our neighboring town of Castilion-la-Bataille, the market town just seven kilometers down the road. “I bet that in the 100 miles that surround us I’m the only one you could run into that knows Flaujagues!” he said. I had to agree.

Jan de Luz antiques, photo via slowtrav.com

Jan de Luz antiques, photo via slowtrav.com

Jan has three full time people in France who search the city and countryside for his style of French antiques which are typically big, mostly lighter wood, 17-19th century and expensive.

Jan de Luz, French sourced fireplace

Jan de Luz, French sourced fireplace

He also has a lot of the huge French train clocks, which everyone loves and piles of antique garden items, gigantic pots and stone fountains plus a beautiful selection of chandeliers.

Gorgeous olive oils, California grown but with a French touch

Gorgeous olive oils, California grown but with a French touch

Everything is sky high expensive and in impeccable condition but you’ll need a big space to fill in order to purchase any of his imports. What I think they sell the most of are the linens, done in the Basque tradition and the smaller home and gift items as well as their own olive oil. On a previous trip I’d picked up some linens so this time I just bought one of his bottles of olive oil for a friend which of course was bottled in the most beautiful way and grown and crushed just a few miles down the road from where I stood.

Chateau Julien in the Carmel Valley

Chateau Julien in the Carmel Valley

While in this gorgeous part of the world, you can continue to get your French fix on by wine tasting your way through the Carmel Valley, no appointments needed. Bernardus, Parsonage, Chateau Julien (the most French looking of them all) and Heller, the first one in the valley and organic are all good tasting spots to stop, sip and savor.

Incredible and authentic French pastry selection at Lafayette bakery

Incredible and authentic French pastry selection at Lafayette bakery

After my enjoyable conversation with Jan the next day I went to a yoga class, something you might guess California has piles of. After a lovely yoga flow to start my morning I spied a French café across the way by the name of Lafayette opened by one Jean-Bernard Vial from the Loire and Pascal Merle from Lyon both serious pastry chefs.

Bread at Lafayette bakery

Bread at Lafayette bakery

With bread baking on view as you walk in and the smells that only baking croissants can create, I was immediately transfixed and ravenous at the same time.

I tried their quiche Lorraine, a mini salami baguette for later and a tiny chocolate tart with a raspberry. The quiche was every bit as good as anything I find in Paris as was the mini-baguette sandwich. Literally a tiny version of a baguette, this is something that the Parisians should try, its the perfect amount for a small lunch and because of its small size, nearly guilt free. How lovely it was to hear French being spoken all throughout the sweet smelling café, I grabbed a table outside and proclaimed this area to be one of the most delightful and Francophile-filled in the states.

Get your French fix on:

Jan de Luz
Lafayette Bakery

Wineries:

Chateau Julien
Bernardus
Parsonage
Heller

Other Carmel area French dining hot-spots

La Bicyclette Restaurant & Café

L’Escargot
Andre’s Bouchee
L’Auberge Carmel (Superb French dining and lodging from1929, a relais and chateaux property)

 

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