LA FERME SAINT SIMEON – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 1

It’s here in Honfleur, a romantic Normandy harbour, that the Impressionist painters met in the 19th century. Attracted by the light and a stunning view over the Seine estuary and the Channel, they chose to take up residency at “Mère Toutain’s” inn. This home, with timbered walls and thatched roofs, offered cheap lodging and a tasty cuisine to travellers. The mistress of the house, Mère Toutain, was to give the inn its renown. Very rapidly she was to welcome, charm and inspire artists of the such of Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Charles Baudelaire. Today, passed down from family to family, this inn is the Ferme Saint-Siméon, a 5-star Relais & Châteaux. The panorama is sumptuous, and the light indefinable. As we checked in, we were welcomed in an oak walls and traditional tomettes floor decorated lobby to sip a delicious apple grog twisted with a minted infusion and indulge in the unique Normandy apple pie.  The atmosphere was luxurious yet homely, enticing me to linger and daydream. After a jump in the spa, we opted for the gastronomic restaurant in front of a warm fireplace, where we savoured the heritage with views over the Pigeonnier and the celebrated Normandy bridge, the longest in Europe, connecting the region of Calvados with the Seine one. The room, under the roof, was a timeless bubble where I could fully restore, in an harmonious blend of modern equipment and historical touches.

For those of you who know me by now, you are also aware of the fact that I basically worship breakfast time.

In a region that doesn’t particularly cultivate rice, It was such a surprise for me to find the rice-based teurgoule, a region culinary specialty. The reason is to be found in the naval transportation of goods from the rest of Europe to this Normandy port. The sailors would have their wives prepare this nourishing dish in traditional terracotta pots, which can be kept at room temperature for days, for them to face the hard days at sea.

la ferme st simeon-photo-christophe bielsa-facade nuit-03 bd

And I’m proud to be sharing this exclusive recipe dating 1860 with you today.


  • 1 lt. whole milk
  • 80 gr. caster sugar
  • 5 gr. cinnamon powder
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 80 gr. Carnaroli or Vialone Italian Rice

Preheat the oven at 140°. Cut the vanilla pod in the middle with a sharpened knife, and get the dusty seeds with its tip. Bring the milk to a boil with the sugar, the cinnamon, the vanilla seeds and the salt.

Distribute the rice in two terracotta pots and equally pour the boiling milk in.  Put in the oven at 140° for roughly 2 hours. Verify the cooking process with the help of a knife. The tergoule needs to be firm, just like a crème caramel.

With love and seagulls,


At home in the Amalfi Coast - part 4

Ingredients of the dish: a movie director, the dolce vita, an opulent villa on the reef of the Amalfi coast. Stir well and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Mare 1

Franco Zeffirelli, whose sumptuous directorial aesthetic matches his sense of personal extravagance and transgression, is an icon in Positano. From the early ‘70s until 2007, the acclaimed theatre and movie director would invite the most sought after Hollywood stars, artists, ballet dancers and musicians in his former house now turned into a very exclusive home away from home, Villa Tre Ville.

Maestro Zeffirelli 3

When entering the VTV one can unquestionably leave all daily life pressures aside. There are many steps and, as through a catharsis, by going down each one of them, I had the clear sensation of getting nearer and nearer to a state of complete relaxation and escape from the world. Life on the Amalfi Coast is one of simple luxurious pleasures: waking up in a very large and most comfortable bed, breakfast on a sun-kissed balcony, unhurried dips in the sea (accessible from a private entrance). Villa Tre Ville has taken a leaf out of its book of Italian dolce far niente, with all the al fresco lounges, courteously mixed cocktails and Amalfi coast food delicatessen you’ll ever need. A 5 minutes drive away, the attractive village of Positano, where eccentric villas and lively shops propose loads of local allure. Villa Tre Ville’s prescription for tired feet and weary souls is smoothly effective: kick off those sandals, get your linen outfits rolling , and let those views work their soothing magic.

Loung bar Terrace

Rule n.1: no rules apply - there’s no check-in nor check-out time, no fixed time for breakfast, as if guests of a very accommodating, generously indulgent host. The receptionist obliges with a speedy check-in, saving the showing-around and form-filling formalities for later. Luggage dumped, just grab what you need most: your swimming kit, no shoes involved. Run down to the pool. Surrounded by a beautifully manicured, luscious horizon, this infinity beauty may not be Olympian in size, but it is ideal for a leisurely swim and a cool-down.

Club Lounge 1The 12 suites, all overlooking one of the most picturesque glimpses of the Positano bay, are called after the famous guests that occupied them over the years: Bernstein, Nijinsky, Massine, Callas. The tribute to la Divina, known for her impressive vocal range, is to be found in the titles given to the Deluxe Superior La Turandot, La Norma, L’Aida and La Carmen, other than in the opulent junior suite La Tosca. Zeffirelli Miramare

The key word is secluded luxury, and a Martini of course. Before you know it, it's time for an aperitivo – beach attire is fine during the day, but you want to smarten up for evenings in this fashionable home. You can help yourself and your significant other with a drink in the opulent salon stunningly decorated with immaculate white ceramic from nearby Vietri sul Mare, before savouring the sun setting over Positano.

Lounge B10After a peek in the restaurant, a homey affair with an open kitchen resplendent in white and blue tiles, I sat outside at a table that let us watch evening descend on this slow-paced corner of the Amalfi Coast. (Top tip: in nice weather, ask for the table nearest the water’s edge.) An Italian delightful man, Ferdinando, the hotel director, fine in his beige linen suit, proposed the house ravioli. This ricotta cheese filled recommendation sounded (and proved to be) too delicious to skip.

Terrazza Ristorante 5

There was a buzz of international chatter, but the tables were sufficiently spread out to not have to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. The terraced restaurants is not open to the public, just like a very stylish summer holiday home would be. Choosing from a menu of light starters, simple seasonal pasta dishes and grilled meat and fish (with the occasional addition of lemon zest & leaves) wasn’t easy – all the dishes I spotted coming out looked mouthwatering. A crunchy calamari on vegetable tartare and mint leaves picked in the garden was too good to be true, and the delizia al limone was fresh and creamy.

photo 2 Accompanied by a pale, local white wine, our dinner was well seasoned, nicely balanced and perfectly sized in portion.  Frankly, the idea of a hotel being desperately romantic generally makes me cringe. But this place hands out romance with hip Italian fashionable ease. And not a tacky violin player in sight. After a moonlit stroll alongside the coast as a digestivo, I hit #foodhappiness and thanked my ever Italian serendipity.