Christmas traditions in Provence

Rich in traditions, Christmas is a very important celebration in Provence in which the celebrations begin as early as November.

The period of the Advent is very important, mainly due to its fairs dedicated to “Santons”, who allow us to discover the artisans and to grow our “crèche” year after year. It takes place in houses in the beginning of December. These small painted terracotta characters are created by locals which come from Aubagne, Saint- Maximin, Barjol or even Marseille. Actually, many times have crèche festivals been organized by Mr. Paul Ricard on the Ile de Bendor, in the Vincent Scotto theatre.

The 24th of December, the Christmas table is set. It is traditionally made up of 3 white tablecloths and lit by 3 chandeliers and garnished with the wheat of Saint Barbara. There is an extra set of utensils for regardless the number of people sitting at this table to symbolize the poor’s seat. A small portion of the food is also put apart for him.

The day before Christmas starts with the “cacho-fio”. The youngest and the oldest must choose a bûche (which stands for wooden log in French) from a fruit tree and walk three times around the table.  The “papé” then puts the bûche in the chimney and blesses it with hot wine while speaking in Provencal.

The night is then split into 2 parts. First is the big supper which is served before the midnight mass. It is made up of 7 small dishes, which are essentially composed of vegetables, sometimes fish but never meat (Examples: spinach, garlic soup, anchovy purées…). After that, everyone leaves the table to attend the midnight mass, and in some towns, it is still possible to see a pastoral (theatrical nativity representation). It is only after the mass that the famous 13 desserts show up on the table. It is composed of 4 mendiants (each representing a different religious order); quince jelly, beignets, apples, pears, mandarin oranges, chocolates as well as the renowned Pompe a huile (galette made with fruited olive oil)… Depending on the regions and families, the selection of deserts may be different, but there is always 13 desserts because this number symbolizes the Messiah surrounded by his twelve apostles.

Les Îles Paul Ricard wish you happy holidays!


Paul Ricard International Symposium of peint

Send your application for the 9th International Symposium of paint on Bendor Island!

This year be a part of the 5 painters who will be selected for 6 days of painting in residence on Bendor Island, from july 9 to july 14 2018.

To apply, the application file (to download below) has to be sent by postal mail with all required documents to:

SOCIETE PAUL RICARD – International Symposium of paint
To Christine ANCEL
Ile de Bendor
83150 Bandol


Closing date for sending application forms: June 6th 2018.
The results of the deliberations of the Selection Committee will be sent to the candidates on June 11th 2018.

For general information, please send an email to Christine ANCEL: cancel@paul-ricard.com
For technical information, please send an email to Robert MAESTRE: robmaestre@yahoo.fr

The history of the island of Les Embiez

Embiez Ancien

The name “Embiez” comes from the Latin word “ambo” which means both. This is explained by the archipelago of the two islands: Ile des Embiez and île de la Tour Fondue. The name changed spelling numerous times as time passed: Embers, Ambias, Embiers, Ambies, Ambiers, and finally Embiez.

The oldest ruins found on the island which are proof of human presence date back to the 5th century BC, probably left by fishermen of navigators. It is true that the Iles des Embiez has been the refuge of sea lovers and professionals. It also withstood pirate invasions.

Starting from 1068, monks from the Saint Victor Abbey started to exploit the salt marshes on the island, which then ran from the Coucousa tip to the Tour Fondue tip. At the time, salt was an expensive and precious delicacy, primordial to conserve food. It even had the nickname of “white gold”. To collect to salt, they built low walls made out of dry stone and crystallization pans in shallow waters. This was also when the apartments “Les Douanes” were built and named in remembrance of this part of the island’s history (today they have been renovated in 8 premium accommodations of the Hôtel Hélios.) The salt was then taxed by the state, the “gabelle” and it was in these apartments that in was collected, by the “gabelous”.

Les Salins

Following that, the island was acquired by the LOMBARD family in 1520, a local from Six Fours. Bathélémy LOMBARD took over the busyness of the salt marshes and received the request from Henry 4th that his domain be transformed as an « arrière-fief »: his family was able thanks to this occasion, obtain the title of “Saint Cécile”. This is where the name of the chapel which is on the island nowadays comes from. The LOMBARD family was also the one who planted all the grapevines between 1580-1600. They then began the construction of a castle in 1602, which is today private property of the RICARD family.

Chateau Embiez

After that, in 1862 began the construction of the Saint Pierre fort. A plaque is still there to this day, at the entrance, which commemorates the date on which the construction ended: in 1867. The Fort nowadays is home to the aquarium and museum of the Institut Oeanographique Paul Ricard (founded by Paul Ricard in 1966 but named so in 1991).

Fort Saint Pierre

After multiple successions, the island was bought back by Michel SABRAN (famous Provencal family) in 1720. During the French Revolution, in 1789, the island is declared as “national property”.

The beginning of the 19th century was a darker era for the island, due to being used for sodium sulfate production (also known as sulfate of soda). Sea salt was decomposed with sulfuric acid to produce sodium sulfate, but this procedure caused hydrochloric acid waste which needed to be meticulously cleared because of their toxicity. The Sodium sulfate was then processed with coal and chalk in order to obtain precious sodium carbonate (used to produce soap in Marseille).

Unfortunately, after changing ownership three years later, hydrochloric acid clearage wasn’t executed correctly anymore and damaged the surrounding vegetation and health of the people close by. The sodium sulfate production factory was therefore shut down in June 1847.

The island eventually changed ownership many times, each exploiting the three and a half hectares of salt marshes up until it couldn’t compete anymore against other marshes such as the ones in Aigues-Mortes or in Salin-de-Giraud. As the maintenance and management of this small area became less and less profitable, the salt production on the Ile des Embiez ended in 1938.

Illustration Embiez

From that point on, the Ile des Embiez became a haven for diving enthusiasts such as Frédéric Dumas, Phillipe Tailliez and Jacques-Yves Cousteau (“Les 3 Mousquemer”). Together, they created the first French underwater movie in 1942 on Les Embiez “Par Dix-huit mètres de fond”.


When Paul Ricard buys Les Embiez in 1958, he is confident about finding what nature has best to offer in order to dream and escape from your everyday life. The only things remaining on this island are an abandoned fort and a tower in ruins, on top of which many generations of lookouts have watched out for pirates… His only wish it to preserve this natural paradise and to transform it into a destination for all who wish “to unwind and to find themselves, far from crowds and pollution of the mainland.”* Onwards from the 60s, Paul Ricard, as a visionary, already perceives the “leisure civilization” as something obvious. He wants to turn the island into “a high ranked international touristic area, an ideal stay to lay back and for vacation, with everything necessary to be happy: silence, relaxation, absence of car traffic, the joys of the sea, strolls on bike or by foot (…)”*.  His intentions are clear: “We will convert this island in order to fulfill the happiness of Mankind. We will build on it with art and love, we will plant on it trees, grow flowers, erect statues…”*.

In 1960, Paul Ricard begins the construction of the harbour of Les Embiez, literally enclaved in the north of the island (where the salt marshes used to be), in order for it to be able to shelter boats regardless of the meteorological conditions. It was opened in 1963 and expanded to the east in the 70s (between the pine forest of Le Canoubié and the Pétanque grounds). Accessible by all weather conditions, it now has 750 rings and up to 150 places are available for stopovers.

The vineyards: exploited since 1922, they produced a renowned wine among locals which was carried in barrels to the shore. They were then abandoned during World War 2 and then restored in 1947, and now by the employees of Les Embiez. Nowadays, Les Embiez has almost 11 hectares spread across 29 parcels and produces 3 colors of wine:  red wine, white wine, and rosé as I.G.P. Var and rosé as A.O.P. Côte de Provence as well. It is the only domain of Six-Fours-Les-Plages, and the whole process is realized on the island from start to finish.

The wine is on sale all year round in the harbour master’s office of Les Embiez’s harbour and at the island’s cellar every weekend on high season, as well as every day (except for Thursdays) in July/August.


Still, to this day, the Ile des Embiez is as Paul Ricard wanted it to be, and wears the brand of a man who fought for the well-being of mankind, preserve the sea and protect nature since the 60s.

*Pulled from the book “La passion de créer” written by Monsieur Paul Ricard

Portrait of Christophe Pacheco, executive Chef, “Meilleur ouvrier de France”

Image: Vanessa Cardoso – Site source : http://www.24heures.ch/

Christophe PACHECO arrived on Les Iles Paul Ricard in beginning 2015 to breathe new life the Iles Paul Ricard kitchens.

He discovered cooking at the age of 15 and was taught by the most renowned chefs. For him, cooking is a vocation, which he loves to pass on to the generations to come. He is a noble-hearted man who loves to satisfy fine gourmets. Christophe began to learn at the Jamin restaurant (ranked three stars in the famous Michelin guide), in Paris along Joël Robuchon. He then moved on to the Prince de Galles on George V Avenue. Eventually, he continued his career in La Closerie des Lilas and finally joined Guy Krenzer’s team, “Meilleur ouvrier de France” in catering.  He then decided to go on his own and opened his restaurant “Aux Armes de France” in Corbeil-Essonne (91), where he quickly obtained his fist Michelin star. (2004)

In 2007, he became in charge the events and restoration part of the Deauville resort in the Lucien Barrière Group. This is where he had the chance to meet Frédéric VINCENT, president of the SAHB (Societé d’aménagement et Hôtelière de Bendor) since September 2014.

In 2011, he decided to become the head of the gastronomic restaurant “Le Cinq”, of the Hotel and Spa “Au Coeur du Village”*****, in La Clusaz.

Then in September 2012, he became head of the kitchens of the gastronomic restaurant at a culinary school “Le Berceau des Sens” as well becoming responsible for education in practical arts of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. A school with worldwide fame in which he taught future hotel and restaurant managers.

With a burning passion, Christophe PACHECO is a competitor at heart who likes to fully embrace his passions, he combines precision with authenticity, “quality, pleasure, emotion, sensibility and elegance” are the words that define him. Thanks to his values and precision, he was prizewinner of the national cooking and patisserie contest in 2000 and awarded the title of “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in gastronomic cooking in 2011.

The domain of Les Embiez

Being the only winery of Six-Fours-Les-Plages, the domain of Les Embiez is composed of about 29 parcels spread across 10 hectares.
The first grape vines were planted between 1580 and 1600 by the LOMBARD family, then owners of the island*. In 1922, they produced a renowned wine among locals which was carried in barrels to the shore. They were then abandoned during World War 2 and then restored in 1947. Paul Ricard acquired the Ile des Embiez in 1958 and decided to continue and improve the wine production of the domain.

Today, the domain of Les Embiez is maintained and run entirely by Société Paul Ricard employees, and produces around 30 000 bottles on average each year out of which:
– The red wine and rosé
– The rosé and white wine as A.O.P. Côte de Provence.

Many formats are available for different needs and budgets: standard bottle (75 Cl), Magnum (1.5 l) and the rosé as Jeroboam (3 l). Rosé is available in the form of a bag in box of 3 liters as well for any aperitif, barbecue, meal on a terrace, on the deck of a boat or picnics at the beach.

Our wines are on sale all year long at the Harbourmaster’s office of the Saint Pierre harbor of Les Embiez, and on high season in our wine cellar and bar. Wine dégustation can be organized all year round on demand for groups.

Our wine is also available a la carte in the islands’ restaurants of course, but also in many shops, cellar masters and restaurants of Six-Fours, Bandol, Sanary-sur-Mer, Toulon, Marseille, Arles and up to Lyon, in which many establishments give us the honor of having our production on their wine menus.

More information and reservations:
Daniel Tarpi: +33 (0)6 09 11 69 55

*For more information, please read our article on The History of the Island of Les Embiez

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