How Not to Go Hungry in France

IMG_3406Hungry in France? Wait a minute! Isn’t France all about the food? Isn’t it known for its boulangeries, pâtisseries, cheese, bread, croissants, steak frites, Michelin-star dining? Don’t people go to France for the food? Yes, yes, and yes. There is wonderful food everywhere, as long as you play by the rules.

On one of our first trips to Paris, we woke up late in the morning on account of jet lag and the time difference. We went down to the hotel breakfast room and asked if we could get croissants or breakfast. The distinguished Madame attending the desk replied, “No! Now is not the time for eating. Now is the time for shopping!” Well, OK then. If we must. Shopping it is!

Another evening we found ourselves staring in the window of a restaurant at 5:00 p.m. wondering why it was not open. A kind tourist explained to us that restaurants do not open until 7:00-7:30 p.m. Starvation it is!

On further trips, it didn’t take us long to discover that if we didn’t establish a spot in time for lunch, we were probably going to go hungry. One time we were bicycling our way to a recommended bistrot for lunch only to get lost and not make it before 1:30 to be served. Disappointed and hungry, we decided to cycle to an épicerie (small grocery store) to get some nuts or something to hold us over until 7:30 p.m. only to find that it was closed from the hours of 2:00-4:00. No food now whatsoever, only alcohol or espresso. You can get that any time of the day at cafés. Thank goodness!

IMG_1059Now if you are hoping to eat at a restaurant for dinner and you don’t have a reservation, you better just pray you can get a seat and that there is no sign that says “complet” when you arrive or that the restaurant is not closed that particular day. Otherwise, you will truly understand the meaning of why French women don’t get fat. You can’t get any food!

All kidding aside, we finally have learned to play by the rules and things have run pretty smoothly in recent years. There still is the occasional arriving at a restaurant in the evening to find it is closed and rushing like crazy to the next village hoping that something will be open. By the way, we did make it back to the above mentioned bistrot that we got lost trying to find on bicycle that day, and it was great! We asked the owner what day of the week he was closed because we wanted to return. He responded, “I am always here. I’m never closed.” We went back another day with anticipation, and naturally he was closed.

Thus, some people have asked me, “Why do you keep going back? Why don’t you go somewhere else where you can eat whenever you want and there aren’t so many rules? Well, maybe they haven’t experienced the je ne sais quoi factor of France that makes one want to return, need to return, be willing to forgo food at times just for the extreme joy of being in such a delightful place.

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À bientôt!

Venasque—A Village With a View

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Overlooking the towering Mont Ventoux is the sleepy plus beau village of Venasque with its fountains, charming walkways, artisan shops, ancient ruins and ramparts, cherry orchards, and stunning views of the Vaucluse as well as of the Giant itself.

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We return to this character-filled village every time not only for the atmosphere but mostly for the food. By fluke, we discovered an amazing restaurant with the most outstanding food and a view to die for that keeps us returning time and again. This is our favorite restaurant of the region thus far. Others are discovering it too, but hopefully not too many. But, I’ll share it with you!

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Les Remparts is a hotel restaurant with an outstanding panorama from its terrace. I can’t even begin to write about the food without gnawing hunger pangs striking. So I’ll just show you.

Absolute favorites are the tomato pie, tomato and pesto tiramisu, and vegetable crumble with mozzarella and pine nuts. Throw in a good Ventoux wine, and you have perfection! Everything here is delicious.

And here is your view.

Before dinner make sure to take a stroll around the ramparts to the ancient towers for gorgeous views of the valley.

À bientôt!

Discovering Brancion

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My Bourgogne consists mostly of the charming wine-making villages surrounding the town of Beaune along with Flavigny-sur-Ozerain to the north. But one day we decide to venture a little farther south to see what the village of Brancion (now called Martailly-lès-Brancion) is like.

As we make our way through the rural countryside, it’s a Burgundian feast for the eyes. The winding roads have us enveloped in hills dotted with vineyards, colorful tractors, bales of hay, and the lovely Charolais cattle grazing. The fairy tale just continues as we stumble upon this private château on our way to Brancion.

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Upon arriving at Brancion, we park our car outside the village, as it is a traffic-free zone, and enter by the impressive medieval château. Looking down on the village, it is as though it has been frozen in time.

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What we find is complete solitude as we have this “undiscovered” medieval village all to ourselves on a quiet, sunny October day. The red and golden colors of fall combined with the warmth of the sun are just delightful as we sit and enjoy a glass of wine in an auberge (a family-run inn or restaurant) that we have all to ourselves.

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I still go back and forth tortured between my love for Burgundy and my love for Provence. One minute it is Provence, but then these Burgundian charms just pull me back in. The tug of war continues.

À bientôt!