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Escape to the French Riviera at "Le Lavandou"

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-03-06

For those residents who are looking for a friendly cafe to grab a bite to eat, look at some art, or maybe just have a cup of coffee, Karim Dousckri has created such place in southern Okinawa.

Dousckri was born and raised in the small town of Le Lavandou on the French Riviera. The relaxed atmosphere and blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea helped to bring 150,000 tourists to his sleepy town of only 5,000 residents every year. The picturesque backdrop of Le Lavandou provided the perfect place for Europeans to enjoy basking in the hot sun and cool water during the day, while dining on fresh seafood and strolling the quaint streets at night. Like any resort town, the locals went about their own business quietly, tending to farm fields and fishing the deep ocean.

Dousckri became accustomed to the slow pace of life in the country, where his family grew their own vegetables and raised farm animals. Upon finishing school however, he began seeing the rest of the world after landing a job with Air France. Dousckri, who loved the atmosphere of the many cafes and bakeries along the Riviera, also did some part-time work as a waiter and kitchen helper at some of the eateries near his home.

Okinawa was still a far away and unknown land at this time for Dousckri, but a stroke of fate put the island on his list of places to visit. While attending an English study course in England through Air France, Dousckri met his future Okinawan wife Noriko. The couple maintained a long distance relationship for a while, with Dousckri making his first visit to Okinawa in 1985. After marrying in 1989, the couple settled down in France. Four years later, Dousckri and his wife decided to move to Okinawa and open up a small restaurant.

"I was working for a big company for sixteen years, so I wanted to do something different," said Dousckri about how he felt after leaving France. With two small children to also think about, Dousckri thought a restaurant would also help his family to maintain their ties with his native country. "I wanted to do something with French culture for my kids," he explained. Together with his wife, Dousckri brought a small piece of Le Lavandou to Okinawa by designing a Mediterranean style cafe in Itoman city.

The restaurant, appropriately named "Le Lavandou", does not feature the "typical" French cuisine you might expect to find at a French restaurant. Dousckri describes his menu as "something that is more close to home style cooking." Featuring sandwiches, pastas, pizza, and salads, the dishes are simple but affordable. Expect to pay about 400 to 600 for a sandwich and about 900 for a pasta dish. If you would like to sample some good "French" food, you can call and reserve one of the set dinners, which costs between 3,000 and 5,000.

What Dousckri wants for his customers to really enjoy is the friendly atmosphere at his restaurant. The cafe is bright and has the charm of the Mediterranean. "I want people to come and have fun here. This is a place where you can relax and talk," he said.

"Le Lavandou" also showcases the work of many local artists at its small gallery. Dousckri has already hosted over 10 different exhibits, and he invites all artists or people who simply have a collection they would like to display to participate in upcoming exhibitions. The gallery has presented shows that range from paintings to pottery, to toy collections.

"Le Lavandou" is a little hard to find, but it is located near the NBC Bridal Center, across from Shizui Park in Nishizaki, Itoman. It is open from 11 am until 10 pm daily. For more detailed directions, reservations, or for information on "Le Lavandou's" art gallery, please call Karim at 994-7405.

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