“On Saturday morning, I like to get up slowly at nine and make a cup of green tea, then walk with my 12-year-old son Nathan to our local bakery, Maison Nivon, to buy pogne, a delicious brioche flavoured with orange blossom, for breakfast at home.
Later, my husband David, Nathan and I drive from Valence, where we live close to Maison Pic – the hotel and restaurant that has been at the heart of my family for generations – to the village of Saou. In the spring, I make a picnic of asparagus, mayonnaise and caillette – a local pork pâté – with bread, followed by îles flottantes from our pâtisserie, and we walk in the lavender fields with views of the mountains.
Alternatively, we’ll go for a beer in the garden at Markus Bière, which has lovely roses, wildflowers and an elderflower tree, then stroll to L’Auberge de l’Estang for a casual lunch. They make a local speciality for children – very small pieces of ravioli stuffed with cheese and herbs, served on a wooden tray – which we’ll order for Nathan, but we’ll pick at it too: it’s a taste of childhood. David and I will have beef marinated with lots of herbs, salt and olive oil, cooked slowly for a long time with potatoes and no other vegetables – very French – and Rhône Valley red wine.
After lunch, we might walk to La Forêt des Chapeaux, where the owner makes beautiful hats; the shop, where I recently bought a cap in my favourite red, is always packed. From Saou, we’ll drive to the Valrhona factory to visit Cité du Chocolat, which is like Willy Wonka’s operation. You can see how the chocolate is made, but it’s also a museum. My son loves it, of course.
I also like to stop by to see my friend Christine Vernay, the daughter of the late Georges Vernay, who was the best-known winemaker in the Rhône Valley. She is one of a growing number of women making wine in the area. We’ll probably taste some of her Viognier. Christine’s wines are precise and delicate, but strong; a woman’s palate is very different from a man’s.
In the evening, we’ll go to Maison Gambert, a beautiful restaurant in Tain‑l’Hermitage whose chef, Mathieu Chartron, worked for Guy Savoy for years. I recently enjoyed his marinated scallop, cauliflower salad, lemon caviar and quail with hazelnut and sage. Back at home, if it’s warm enough, David and I sit in the garden and talk till midnight.
On Sunday morning, we’ll drive half an hour to Cliousclat, a small and picturesque stone village known for its pottery. We enjoy seeing the artists at work, then have lunch at a hotel called La Treille Muscate, which has a small restaurant with only 20 tables. I’ll have a glass of local sparkling wine, which is very light and dry, and we’ll see what’s good on the menu – I had delicious pigeon there last time – and follow the sommelier’s lead on wine.
Or we might visit Grignan, another lovely village with a magnificent château, high on the hill, where the Marquise de Sévigné lived in the 17th century. Her letters are considered to be of huge cultural and social importance and have inspired an annual summer festival, where actors read letters of note to an audience.
For lunch, we go to Le Clair de la Plume, a charming Michelin-starred restaurant. I love their “undergrowth” dish of trumpet mushrooms fried with grapes, served with hazelnut ravioli and lardo di Colonnata.
Back at home, I’ll spend time with Nathan planting seeds in the garden, where we’ve been growing tomatoes. We’ll have friends over in the evening and make something easy like truffle ham pizza. I read in bed and drift off at midnight so I can get up at 6.45am for a run, which sets me up for the week ahead.”