June 3, 2016: Our day began with breakfast overlooking the lovely gardens at La Auberge du Cassagne. Then was off to Avignon (very close) for the day.
However, the highlight of the day was a cooking lesson at the cooking school (Le Marmiton) in the hotel La Mirande, right behind the Pope’s Palace. Our instructor was Chef Séverine Sagnet, and she was a real pistol! After greeting us in the hotel lobby with café and lovely madeleines, we set off for the food halls of Avignon, where we were charged with buying the ingredients for our epic meal.
Our first stop was at the butcher’s stall to buy our duck breasts. This guy was a total riot! He sang the Marseillaise while tossing chicken feathers into the air, and made his meat products “talk” Poultry and small game such as rabbits are sold in France with their heads still attached, so it was funny in a macabre sort of way. Séverine sent us off to select the rest of the ingredients for our meal, showing us how to pick only the best items. I then snuck off because I had a mission at the spice seller’s stall. Some of you and my spice cabinet should be very happy!
Finally, we returned to the hotel to begin our cooking lesson. Although the kitchen in the cooking school is fairly large, since there were so many of us, and we were preparing so many dishes for our meal, they split the group in half, and sent half of us off to the wine cellar to do a wine tasting while the other half started cooking. I was in the group who started with the wine tasting, while Jim had to start cooking. The wine cellar was AMAZING!
Then we traded places. Immediately, I saw that the kind funny person who had led us through the market was gone, and her evil twin had taken over as chef. As Séverine tried to teach us to cook the 8 or so dishes on the menu, we did not live up to her exacting standards entirely, and the kitchen began to sound like an episode of “Chopped” on TV. One person on the tour committed to total faux pas of trying to clean the rim of a soup bowl readied for delivery to the table with a crust of bread, and Séverine just moaned, “Oh my God”! Luckily, the rest of the meal was then ready to serve and eat and we were able all sit down and enjoy the incredible meal paired with some really good wines from the hotel’s wine cellar. I thought it was one of the best meals we had the whole trip, and we received the recipes from Séverine to prepare at home.
After lunch, the rest of the tour group had an appointment to go tour the Popes’ Palace, but as Jim and I had done that, we opted to stroll down the main avenue in Avignon and enjoy the afternoon. After our gargantuan lunch, we had a light dinner on the balcony in our room, and watched some fireworks going off over Avignon. We can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of this amazing tour!