The gardens of the abbaye d’Autrey

Outside Marsal

Cet endroit est tout simplement incroyable !” (This is just an incredible spot!) I tell my brother Benoit as we put our picnic basket on the black iron table near the pond.

We are standing next to a pond with willow trees, colorful wild flowers, apple and quetsches trees, raspberries and summer vegetables, and many other plants of which I don’t know the name–but I know my brother does–all looking healthy and gorgeous. There are cute chairs, benches and tables in different corners of the garden. Lots of comfortable and cozy spots for us to rest and take the time to breathe.

The gardens of the abbaye d’Autrey are enchanting.

And maybe I should start with the beginning, and tell you how we happened to picnic in such a magical place.

Picnicking in the gardens of the abbaye d’Autrey

My brother is a fantastic gardener. An amazingly skilled one. At the back of his house, he and his wife keep a large garden with more than four hundreds plants I think, and trees, that he looks after the way a caring mother looks after her young children. He is excellent at it and it shows. Everything looks beautiful. Behind the outside kitchen and covered open patio, they even have a Swedish-in style pool and a little further, a narrow stream where frogs like to gather runs through the garden and divides the space into a few adorable sections.

His garden is a real haven of peace that I always feel lucky to enjoy when we visit my home village in France.

One day after we arrive at my parents’ house, we are enjoying a tasty dinner of black rice cooked like a risotto with roasted vegetables when my brother says: “On pourrait aller pique-niquer dans les jardins de l’abbaye d’Autrey, non ?” (Shall we picnic in the gardens of the abbeye d’Autrey?)

Où ça ?” (Where is that?) I ask, intrigued. I’ve never heard of the name before.

Dans les Vosges. A une heure de route,” (In the Vosges area, one hour drive away)” he adds.

Je préparerai le pique-nique,” (I’ll make the picnic) Geneviève goes on after him.


I cannot refrain from showing how much I love their idea. I know it will be delicious and lovely all the way. Because Benoit constantly surprises me about how much he knows about gardens. Because Geneviève’s food is of the kind I could eat every day, without ever tiring of it.

The Abbey of Autrey with its magnificent gardens are located in a small village in the valley of Mortagne in the Vosges department, at only forty-six miles outside of the city of Nancy.

Founded in 1149 by Étienne de Bar, the Bishop of Metz, at the return of the second crusade, the Abbey of Autrey is sold during the French Revolution. It becomes a seminary in 1856.

Taken up by the State in 1905 to be transformed into a hospice, and then a hospital during the first world war in 1914, it becomes a seminar again from 1931 to 1975. In 1911, the church is also classified as a historical monument.

In 1982, the Catholic community of the Beatitudes answers the call of Saint-Dié Bishop and comes to occupy the premises. Today the Abbey remains the only one of the kind in the area where a community of monks reside and devote their time to prayers and meditation. They also maintain the gorgeous park and gardens surrounding the church.

The park covers four hectares of beautiful land with a botanical garden that offers over 3,500 species. I don’t remember the last time when I feel such enchantment from taking a walk through a garden. Every plant looks like it belongs there. That it’s been planted in the best spot possible. And that it receives the best care possible.

Everything breathes calm and serenity.

When we arrive shortly after 11 AM, we are the first ones, and I am also thankful for that. Apart from a friendly nun, a young couple, and the nurseryman, we see no one else.

I am delighted to see my brother so excited.

He walks from one plant to another, from hydrangeas, old roses and rhododendrons looking more beautiful the ones than the others. He tells us the Latin name of everything he recognizes. His face expresses a look of innocence when he walks by a plant he doesn’t know, the way a child expresses curiosity when discovering something new. It’s really sweet to watch how his passion shows. Knowing him so well, I know that the first thing he will do once home is to search for the names of the plants he doesn’t know.

Everyone of us finds a piece of their favorite things to do. You have to go if you happen to travel nearby.

Lulu, in particular, enjoys the open green space. The cutest playground with greens and farm animals she’s seen.

When we walk by raspberries and blackcurrant bushes, she helps us to sneak a few in our mouths. She runs from one corner of the garden to another. Then sits with us under the apple tree. She squeals with delight when she catches sight of the cute chicken and donkeys we discover along the way. She enjoys looking at her reflection in the pond and climbing on rocks and small wooden fences.

Geneviève has packed a beautiful picnic for us. She’s baked my chocolate cake and a savory dried tomato cake. She’s prepared a quinoa salad with shrimp, tomatoes, zucchini and herbs from her garden. With it, we eat delicious ham and blueberries and yogurt. We drink Mariage frères green tea.

And we eat a loaf of buckwheat and nut bread.

Comment tu l’as fait?” (How did you make it?) I ask her right after I eat the first bite. It’s so good that I want to swallow it quickly to help myself to more.

Oh tu sais, je n’ai pas trop mesuré,” (You know, I didn’t really measure anything) she answers.

She never does.

“Dis-moi juste approximativement,” (tell me approximately) I go on. We love to share recipes.

Sarrasin, oeufs et noix.” (Buckwheat, eggs, nuts)

My face lights with a thank you smile.

I, too, know exactly what I am going to do when I return.

Bake bread.

I particularly love to slice the bread finely. I like it toasted or not. Eaten at breakfast, with slices of sheep milk cheese. Or spread with soft goat cheese or sun-dried tomato tapenade, served to accompany a drink before lunch or dinner.

Delicious all the way, no matter how you decide to accommodate it.

Pecan, almond and buckwheat bread

Pecan, almond and buckwheat bread

Using a 9 by 4 inch oval mold

You need:

  • 1 cup (100 g) pecans
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare your mold (mine is a silicone mold so no need to butter it).
  • Using your food processor, grind the pecans finely.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, pecan meal and almond meal. Add the salt, sugar and baking powder.
  • Beat in the eggs.
  • Transfer the batter to the mold and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and unmold. Slice and eat toasted, or not, with the topping of your choice: cheese, butter, jam, tapenade. Options are endless.
Le coin français
Pain au sarrasin, pécanes et amandes

Pour un moule ovale de 23 cm sur 10 cm

Ingrédients :

  • 100 g de pécanes
  • 40 g de farine de sarrasin
  • 50 g de poudre d’amandes
  • Pincée de sel de mer
  • 1/2 càs de poudre à lever
  • 1 càs de sucre roux
  • 3 gros oeufs

Etapes :

  • Préchauffez le four à 180 C et préparez votre moule (le mien est en silicone, donc inutile de le graisser.
  • Réduisez les pécanes en poudre fine dans votre robot.
  • Dans une jatte, mélangez la farine de sarrasin avec les poudres de pécanes et d’amandes. Ajoutez le sel, le sucre et la poudre à lever.
  • Ajoutez les oeufs et mélangez bien.
  • Versez la pâte dans le moule et cuisez pendant environ 25 à 30 minutes. Laissez refroidir pendant 5 minutes avant de démouler. Servez en tranches fines, grillées ou non, avec la garniture de votre choix : fromages, beurre, confiture. Les options sont nombreuses.


  1. What a beautiful post and beautiful pictures! I hope you are going to photography your brother’s garden, too!!!! 😉
    It would be wonderful if he had a blog about gardening as inspiring as yours is about food 😉

  2. c’est cette simplicité qui reste délicieuse qui me manque tant!
    merci pour cette jolie promenade

  3. I faudra que je demande à mes parents si ils connaissent (certainement, mais je n’ai pas le souvenir d’y être jamais allée).
    Ce pain à l’air délicieux! A faire avec des noix, parce que les pècanes à Rome…

  4. Que tout cela est beau… Tes photos donnent davantage envie de visiter cette abbaye que le site qui lui est consacré ! Et ce pain au sarrasin semble tout bonnement divin. Avec toute la farine de blé noir qu’il y a par chez moi, je me dois de l’essayer 😉

  5. It’s all so beautiful! The bread looks delicious- I love the idea of pecans, almond meal and buckwheat. Seems nice for autumn.

  6. Welcome Back Bea! And have a great time in the Pacific Northwest. Can’t wait to see what you capture over there!

  7. bea these are beautiful photographs of such lovely grounds. i love your relationship with your brother and both Benoit and genevieve sound like beautiful company. lulu is growing, how rich she makes your life and no doubt mirrors her mother. bea as always you make me want to visit this new place.

  8. Hi Béa!

    I was so looking forward to reading your new post about your holiday and to immersing in the beauty of your photos. Absolutely amazing! 🙂

  9. After a long day, I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed taking a journey to your home and those lovely gardens. I even had a wonderful cup of coffee next to me to sip on while savoring your photos. Beautiful!!

  10. I feel that I am very similar to your brother when I am around plants. I immediately catalog all that I know and get very excited about those that I don’t. Upon returning home, I do my best to find the unknowns in wildflower guides or the perennial sections of garden store websites.

    I tried an amazing iced tea at the Mariage Frères in the Marais on a hot August day in…. 2003? It was the best possible thing that could have happened to me at that moment, just as these abbey grounds appear to have worked their wonders on you and your family – – right place at the right time.

  11. I enjoyed every single image. Oh how lucky Lulu is to grow up and spend some time in such healthy and natural environment.
    The recipe sounds amazing, Béa, I will surely make it soon and let you know how I and my family liked it. I am sure it’s very good, though :))

  12. Welcome back Bea. I missed your lovely stories, photos and recipes while you were with your family in France. I will be baking the buckwheat bread tomorrow…wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Seems like you had a wonderful time. The time for picnics seems to be gone now – such a shame. I’ll definitely give this gluten-free bread a whisk in the next couple of days. And besides: I’ve been making your chocolate cake already two times now and I have to admit that I’m seriously addicted to it…

  14. Tres Tres belle! I love reading your blog posts, seeing your gorgeous photos and even getting a French lesson in at the same time.

    How I dream of moving to France and living in a little place like this. My heart is deeply rooted in French yearnings. At least I can live vicariously through your blog. 🙂

    What an enchanting place.

  15. Cette vieille Lorraine de Verdun transplantee dans l’Illinois depuis pas mal d’annees apprecie beaucoup votre blog. J’aime lire les recettes et voir les photos. J’ai l’impression que vous etes native de ma region. je n’avais pas vu de questsches et de poirier en espalier depuis tres longtemps. Merci !

  16. Les lieux chargés d’histoire ne peuvent que nous charmer.
    Il se dégage en effet une grande sérénité de ces jardins.
    Et ce pain au sarrasin et noix me plaît beaucoup…

  17. Tout est si beau et si simple. J’aime beaucoup cette parenthèse enchantée.

  18. Dear Bea,

    I have been following your blog now for two or three years, and it never fails to make me feel inspired. I’ve used your recipes on many occasions, and have been waiting with eager anticipation for your cookbook to come out. Imagine my delight this morning, when I found an email from Amazon advertising up-and-coming new French cookbooks. Yours was there! With a delightful cover that looks exactly like what I’ve come to think of as La Tartine style, and an availability date of February, the book is utterly enticing. I read every page available for preview, and will be purchasing as soon as the book is ready. Thank you for sharing your life and your kitchen with us! It is truly inspiring. 🙂

  19. You are and always will be, one of my favorite photographers. Your work is unique and endlessly inspiring. Thank you for sharing it Bea!

  20. What a dreamy place! We were in France, Laignes to be extact part of the summer before we visited our family in Italy. I love the French Countryside. So charming and relaxed.

  21. oh ce post m’a fait du bien. Ca m’a fait voyager. Et me rendre compte que j’ai loupé les quetshes cette année… snif’

    superbes photos , merci 🙂

  22. Ces jardins ont l’air merveilleux et ton pain me plaît beaucoup quand j’aurais réapprovisionné mes placards j’essaierai.

  23. Such a beautiful post! I have been missing your posts since you have been away and was so pleased to see this new one!
    I made this bread last nite- saving it for breakfast this morning. It is very delicious and surprising light- I thought with the buckwheat it would be very dense but it was not! It’s really great toasted. I could eat the whole loaf 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  24. La photo de Marsal, pas de souci, je connais….Ce n’est pas loin de la maison..Mais l’ abbaye d’Autrey est une découverte. A faire l’an prochain ..
    As tu visité aussi les jardins de Callunes dans les Vosges ???

  25. Such a stunning journey & this bread sounds like it is filled with high energy ingredients. Just the way I love all my food. Need to try buckwheat flour….will add to the shopping list 🙂

  26. I’m so glad you enjoyed your holiday. The scenery looks splendid and the bread looks quite tasty too.

  27. This whole France vacation is making me drool! I am going to try this bread recipe at home! Looks very rustic and delicious!

  28. What a beautiful place ! Heaven is supposed to be more beautiful than earth,but this place seems like a picture of it.Your photographs are gorgeous,and the pictures of your food make me ravinously hungry ! I can’t wait to see your cookbook ! Thank you for inspiring me ! God bless you and your family !

  29. Pingback: Fava Bean and Pea Tartines and a New Cookbook | La Tartine Gourmande

  30. Dear Bea,

    I tried your recipe, but it didn’t work. I can’t imagine getting from our recipe to the load in the pictures, and I am not a novice. Is it possible some ingredients are missing? Or in the wrong amounts?

  31. Sorry to hear. What didn’t work? What happened exactly? It’s really a no fail recipe for me every time I make it so I am wondering what happened.

  32. I just made this and it came out delicious!! I did not have the right size pan so the pieces are pretty small, but they are still great. I am so happy — thank you!

  33. Bea, would you please share the source for the 9 x 4 inch mold that you used? Merci!

  34. Hey bea, trying to eliminate sugar from my diet for a few weeks. What purpose does the sugar serve in this recipe and can i leave it out/substitute?

  35. Hi Pessy, you can certainly leave it out. It is rounded the taste of buckwheat I find. But it is not necessary. Good luck with it!

  36. Everyones begging for the recipe. I am so late to the party but i just finally got ur cookbook. Excoted to try this woth ur addition of buttermilk..