by Luke Barr from his book Provence 1970
“Cooking and eating in a foreign country may be the surest, truest way to its soul”
by Luke Barr from his book Provence 1970
Julia and Paul Child built their Provence home on the Beck and Fischbaker estate called Le Mas Veiux outside the little town of Plascassier, a half hour drive from Cannes. The five acre property has an eighteenth century farmhouse called Bramafan that Simon Beck and her husband remodeled and lived in. Simone Beck was Julia’s close friend (they called each other sisters) and co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In 1965 the Child's leased the land and built their modest house in an old potato batch of the estate. They called it La Pitchoune, the little thing. The deal between the Becks and the Childs was made with a handshake, a house built on friendship. La Pitchoune would revert back to the estate once Julia and Paul Child were done with it and that is exactly what happened. The house was returned to the estate in 1992 and later sold. La Pitchoune is now available for rent to the public by the new owner.
The Child's spent many happy years (three decades) at La Peetch, as they nicknamed La Pitchoune. They entertained legends like James Beard and M.F.K. Fischer. Julia Child and Simone Beck worked on the second volume of the Art of French Cooking.
After arriving at La Pichoune I met our group of 9 women, three of them professional cooks. Our tour guide Barbie Aknin and her friend Deb greeted us with hors d’oeuvres and a glass of rosé, the first of many to come.
We took a tour of La Pitchoune and the adjacent house Mas Bramafam. The current owner has turned it into a modern house with a large kitchen and dining area. Both houses were to be our home for the next week.
Before we go on let me tell you a little bit about our tour guide Barbie Aknin owner of Community Cuisine. She was the best tour guide I have ever had. When we arrived there was a folder on our bed with all the information we needed, including recipes. Barbie has the perfect personality for a tour guide. She is calm, organized, and nonjudgemental and a talented cook. I felt well taken care of the entire time I was with her. I hope that in the future I can take another trip with her. Another very important person on this trip was our driver Fouad. He took special care of me because of my ankle . Whenever I needed a hand he was there without asking, a true gentleman with a kind soul. His knowledge of the area is vast . He and Barbie made the perfect team. Like I said before, my goal is to go back and have him as a tour guide. As you know my blog is for my personal enjoyment and I don’t monetize it. All opinions are my own.
Barbie had prepared Daube de Boeuf with polenta for our first dinner served with vegetables and a salad.
Under the guidance of Barbie, we prepared a delicious picnic called Pan Bagnet for our Sunday lunch. For the rest of the week we were encouraged to help and ask questions or just sit by the fire and have a glass of wine. She hired a young woman to help with the dishes. Throughout the week Barbie invited us to participate in formal cooking lessons. I learned a great deal and hope to post some of her wonderful recipes.
The following day, Sunday, we went to the Cannes farmer’s market which was amazing. Julia and her friends had come here often. I bought a jar of truffles and Barbie bought produce for the week. All the vendors were very friendly and we got to taste everything.
After the market we took a boat to the island of Saint-Honorat, a mile off shore from Cannnes. Since the fifth century the island has been home to a community of monks. The 21 monks still living there are cultivating eight hectares of grapes from which they make wine. It was a day filled with beautiful things to explore, good food, and making new friends.
Monday was spent sightseeing and shopping in Nice. Barbie wanted us to explore the Cours Saleya, a market in the old town of Nice. It is a beautiful flower and fruit market from Tuesday to Sunday and an antique/flea market on Monday. We were free to choose to do whatever we wanted to do.
Three of us went with Fouad, who gave us a fascinating tour of the old narrow cobblestone streets. The four of us had a wonderful lunch and afterwards admired the antiques at the market before we went home for another delightful dinner with our group.
On Tuesday we visited Grasse to tour the Fragonard Perfumery . We had a nice tour of the facility learning how perfume was made now and in the past. People that mix the perfumes have a job which is called the nose. What a job! Perfume is made by extracting substances from plants . There are different methods of extractions.
After the visit to Grasse we visited Frederik and Isabelle. Frederik raises heritage pigs in a wild nature setting. It was a wonderful visit for a farm girl like me. Frederik and Isabellle treated us to a lunch in their home.
There are so many beautiful villages in Provence to visit. We saw several of them during our week's stay. On Wednesday we went to Saint-Paul de Vence, a walled medieval scenic town set on top of a hill with magnificent views and hilly cobblestone streets. Marc Chagall has his final resting place here. From St-Paul de Vence Fouad drove us to Touretttes-sur-Loup, a hilltop medieval authentic village with spectacular views.
We had a tour of the Confiseries Florian in Touretttes-sur-Loup. They manufacture some fantastic candied fruit, crystallized flowers, and different sorts of candy. It's wonderful to watch them produce these delicacies. I wonder, did Julia and Paul ever come in to buy some of their goodies.
To all my foodie friends, how many times have you dreamed of helping a famous chef prepare a meal in his kitchen. My dream finely materialized when our group prepared lunch with Chef Alain Llorca at his Michelin starred restaurant. This beautiful restaurant and hotel sit on a mountain overlooking Saint-Paul de Vence. We had a fabulous lunch on their terrace. Alain and his wife Virginia and brother Jean-Micheal created an establishment that offers the best of the region. In the morning we watched and helped Alain cook a mediterranean fish terrine that was served later for lunch. I was in culinary heaven and couldn't have been happier even though I received a troubling text telling me that my flights home had been canceled. .
On Friday, we visited the farmer’s market at Valbonne. That night we had our last dinner at Julia’s house, what a treat, what a beautiful vacation.
We all said “good bye” on Saturday and Faoud picked four of us up to give us his special tour, called “The best of the French Riviera Tour “. What a great last day. I can highly recommend this tour for anybody visiting the area. I just hope that I can come back one of these days. Two days later everything was shut down because of the Corona virus.
I made it home, even though my flights were changed three times, one of them on Sunday morning, two hours before I was supposed to leave. I caught one the last flights to Frankfurt and then on to San Fransisco. After getting home I quarantined myself for two weeks. There are so many more memories and photos I would like to share about this wonderful trip but I need to publish this post. I will post more photos on Instagram. I hope you are all safe and healthy coping and getting used to our new way of life. Virtual hugs to all of you.
This will be a two part post about my trip to France. Part one will be about my stay in Nice and part two about staying at La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s vacation home in Provence.
I signed up for this cooking class sometime in January dealing with the aftermath of my broken ankle. By then I knew I could do it. It was the perfect motivation to push myself with exercise and physical therapy. On March 3rd my husband dropped me off at the San Francisco airport and I was on my way. Flying comes naturally to me, I have done it so many times in the past. I changed planes in Frankfurt and landed in Nice as the sun was setting over the Alps. I fell in love with the city and area before I even landed. I was picked up by the most wonderful driver and tour guide ever. I hope to come back to this beautiful area and Fouad from France Azur Excursion will be my guide.
I spent two days by myself in Nice . There are times when I like solo traveling . This was one of them. As a woman of a certain age I was treated kindly by the staff in my hotel, the Le Meridian. There was a cook in the morning that made a perfect omelet, the receptionist recommended some great restaurants and her sense of humor was delightful. The server in the rooftop restaurant entertained me since I was the only customer.
Nice is the capital of the Côte d’Azur and is located on the French Rivera with a seaside promenade called the Promenade des Anglais. This promenade stretches for miles and defines the city. My hotel was on the promenade and near the old town with its open air markets, tiny boutiques, and incredible restaurants . I loved exploring this part of the city and had an opportunity to do it again a week later with my group.
My first day was a rainy day and I decided to go the Matisse Museum. The Matisse museum documents the various stages of the artist’s development. I especially enjoyed the sculptures. Unfortunately, I couldn’t explore the surrounding gardens and the park. I took the bus back to Nice and had lunch at Armand Crespo’s latest restaurant called Peixes. This restaurant specializes in fresh local fish turned into mouth-watering ceviches, tartare and Japanese-style takakis. It has a no nonsense young vibe, my kind of place. I had the fish of the day with coconut foam , tom yum, and vegetable spaghetti. It was divine.
The second day I bought a ticket for the ‘hop on hop off’ bus. This is a great way to see any city. After touring the city I visited the Chagall Museum. Many artists including Chagall were enchanted by Nice’s beauty and lived there for years. In the Chagall Museum you will find the largest public collection of his work. This museum was designed with the the cooperation of the artist himself. The museum’s core is a series of large paintings illustrating the first two chapters of the bible. I very much enjoyed looking at these colorful paintings.
On my walk home I had made reservation at La Meranda , a tiny small restaurant that serves only 20 people is run by Dominique Le Stanc, formerly the chef at Negresso, a two-star Michelin restaurant. This unusual restaurant doesn’t have a phone. You have to drop in to make reservations and sit close together on small uncomfortable stools. The menu is on the blackboard and reflects local rustic dishes. I had a delicious salad and the daube of beef was very good. Don’t expect elegance or a charming restaurant but the food is outstanding and the price its right. A real experience, it reminded me of of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen on a bench being served a tasty soup that filled my tummy and soul.
When I returned to Nice the following week with my group Foud took some of us on a walk through the tiny cobblestone streets where I hadn’t been before. He also took us to a restaurant where I had the most delicious duck confit ( that and onion soup is a must when I am in France.)
I enjoyed exploring Nice and hope that one day I can return and explore more of this gorgeous town on the Mediterranean .
Stay tuned for part two where I had the best week ever at Julia Child’s summer house La Pitchoune.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson
Paris is all about walking and finding new treasures. There is so much to see and learn. I enjoyed reading The Most Beautiful Walk in The World by John Baxter, an Australian who used to give historic walking tours. It is a wonderful book, even if you don’t go to Paris.
But my trip was almost over before it had begun. We had taken a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The taxi happened to be a mini-van, and as I got out, I twisted one foot on the cobblestone. As I was falling down, the taxi driver scooped me up like a bird and saved me from injury. I’m glad I had given him a good tip. From then on, I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart, but the kindness of strangers can make it easier.
On my last night in Paris, I was strolling through the small streets of Saint Germaine back to my hotel and I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. People were sitting outside enjoying the warm summer night, and the store windows were full of beautiful tasteful displays. I didn’t want this to be my last night in Paris. I wanted to stay just a little bit longer listening to the saxophone player, keeping this feeling of serene beauty and ambience of the City of Lights.
It had been hot the four days we were in Paris, but not as hot as in previous visits. And our hotel had air conditioning, which made all the difference in the world. Our hotel was in the middle of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. This Bohemian part of Paris used to be home to many artists and intellectuals. It is so easy to get off the beaten track and end up in hidden lanes admiring 17th-century architecture. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you end up in a charming secret passage and don’t want to leave, or continue to the Latin Quarter or Notre Dame. There is always something that makes me feel like I belong there.
Our hotel was right around the corner from the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is being restored at this time. There are many famous cafés within walking distance, so you can pretend to be Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir sipping a pastîs, an anise-flavored drink which is also one of my favorites.
Our four days went by so fast. On a hot Saturday morning, we decided to visit the Musée Jaquemart-André. This hidden gem of a museum is a treasure, located on the boulevard Haussmann. It is home to a huge collection of art, furnishings and sculptures collected by banking heir, Edouard André, and his artist wife, Nélie Jaquemart. During their lifetime, they transformed this beautiful mansion into a museum housing their extensive art collection. We enjoyed the visit very much as we didn’t have to fight the enormous crowds at the D’Orsay or the Louvre. But I regret not having tea at the café.
We also signed up for the Opéra Garnier tour, which was over-crowded and too hot. But nevertheless, I got to set foot into this beautiful building. Maybe one day, I will get to see a performance. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and I recommend the tour.
Do to the heat, we preferred our restaurants to have outdoor seating, since most places don’t have air conditioning.
Years ago, we ate with a young friend at Le Procope, a legendary restaurant in the 6th arrondissement open since 1686. We decided to revisit this restaurant and had a delightful lunch. But it was hot and had no air conditioning— but neither did Thomas Jefferson when he ate here over 200 years ago.
We also had another delightful lunch with friends from the States at Le Grand Colbert, which everybody loved for the fantastic food — and air conditioning. The architecture and design of this place is as great as the food and ambiance. Click here to read more about the Grand Colbert on a previous post.
We left on a Sunday morning on a train to Zürich and and returned to Paris the following week to catch our flight back to San Francisco the next day. When we arrived at the train station from Zürich, we had our last meal at the LeTrain Bleu, an iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. The restaurant is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style. The food is excellent and the surroundings are spectacular—and authentically French. If you go, have the Rum Baba for dessert.
I hope I get another opportunity to visit Paris again, and enjoy it as much as I did this time. Click on the buttons below and read about my other trips to Paris.
I will always love Paris even though every time I return it seems to get a little bit noisier with more tourists. But that is just the way it is. So, it is important to stay away from the masses by finding passages or side streets that are less traveled.
We walk and walk and walk , in-between we take a break on a bench or in a cafe , resting and watching the people.
It was still August when we arrived and many of our favorite restaurants were closed but we discovered some new places and had some wonderful meals. We had our first dinner at
Le Grand Colbert where the oysters were great. It was a pleasant evening with a satisfying meal. We slept well on our first night. This is the place were the the mesmerizing birthday cake scene in “Something Gotta Give” was filmed
The next day we had dinner at the old Brasserie Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse. This is a fish restaurant and I understand their Sole Meunier is outstanding but we shared a plate of fruits of the ocean ( plateau fruits de mer) with a nice bottle of muscatel. .
Near Le Halles is E. Dehillerin, my favorite kitchen store, a heaven for foodies. You want a mandolin specifically for slicing truffles, they have it. Whenever I am in Paris I have to go to this iconic store where Julia Child bought her copper pots. They have everything and more and they will ship. I still use my crepe pan I bought twenty years ago.
Another night we ate at La Fontane De Mars which is a retro style bistro with an old fashion ambiance. The cuisine is traditionally bistro style food . The menu is vast with daily menus on the blackboard. I especially enjoyed my Floating Island Dessert ( Ile Flottante) . President Obama and his wife dined here.
On a hot Sunday we took the RER to Versailles and enjoyed the beautiful gardens. Here we had a nice lunch just outside the garden
After returning from Burgundy we spent the last day of our trip in Paris . Dropping our rental car off at the airport was not an easy task but we managed. We took the RER into Paris and did some shopping at Lafayette, they have a wonderful food section. I bought some herbs and tea for my friends at home and some food to take back to our hotel at the airport to have a picnic in our room while we were getting ready for an early departure. While downtown Paris we ate lunch at an outside cafe and did some more shopping at Ladurée, an upscale bakery specializing in macarons which my girlfriend in Santa Cruz had requested.
The Burgundy is region of France world-renowned for its outstanding wine and food. It is the end of the rainbow for people who appreciate food and wine. This works out splendidly for my husband and me, as he loves great wine and I love great food. For many years, when I would visit my parents and family in Germany, my father would give us his car and we did a week or two exploring Europe. On an early trip, we stumbled upon the Château Bellecroix and stayed in their smallest room in the turret, lugging our suitcases up the stairs and smuggling in wine bought in a store. Living in a real chateau is such a great experience. It was fun and still is today, although now we prefer the ground floor. From this quiet and tranquil place, we visited all the great wineries and fantastic restaurants. By the way, this place is for sale.
My husband loves Chassagne Montrachet, where he shows me the Grand Cru vineyards . As good as the wines are, they have equally good restaurants. While my husband drooled over the wine, I asked the sales girl for recommendations of some good places to eat. She pointed out a cute little outdoor restaurant called La Cabone, which is run by the same woman who also owns a new restaurant called Ed.Em. I didn't eat in either one and wish I had, because we went on to visit Beaune and had a very bad meal. After being disappointed, I ended up in a nice patisserie with a great piece of a hazelnut chocolate dessert and an espresso. .
For the next two days, we relaxed at the Bellecroix and decided to have dinner on Friday night and a Sunday lunch at two totally different restaurants. In early years, the Bellecroix offered a great dinner. My husband proclaims they had the best foie gras, which the cook made himself. Unfortunately, the Bellecroix had closed its restaurant in January and the owner recommended a place in Rully, a nearby village. This place offers French country cooking at its best. My husband and I both loved our meal. Don’t expect anything fancy (because it isn’t), but boy is it good. I had snail raviolis served in a creamy cheese sauce. Both of our main courses were delicious with a great sauce and I had a delicious crème brûlée .
If you want a three-star spectacular and very expensive experience, make a reservation at the Maison Lameloise in Chagny. It will cost you a sack of gold, but you will experience French food and culture at its best. I can only describe it as a sensual sensation with flavors exploding in your mouth, an art form unto itself. It's not so much about the meat or the fish, but what it comes with it—the work and creativity that the chef puts into every single little detail. It is a culinary experience one never forgets in the hallowed temple of French cuisine.
The Sunday market in Chagny is large and a lot of fun. It sells live feathered animals of all sizes.
On this trip, we visited Dijon for the first time. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and right away mustard pops into our minds. But Dijon is about so much more than just mustard. This quaint town in the northeast of France has a rich cultural heritage, with beautiful vineyards surrounding it—one of four official French cities of gastronomy. We stayed in a cute modern hotel called Vertigo. The staff was super helpful and friendly and the rooms were high-tech. We stayed for two days and never got into the car.
The first night we ate at the restaurant, bistro DZ’envies, a trendy restaurant with a canteen feel where chef, David Zuddas, will satisfy your culinary desires. And you don't need to dress up. We sat outside next to the Les Halles of Dijon’s market and enjoyed a remarkable meal.
The second night we ate at L’Oiseau Des Ducs, a restaurant with a Michelin star. This is part of the Bernard L’Oiseau chain and lives up to its reputation. Here we had the menu dégustion. When you order this menu, you get to sample small portions of the chef’s signature dishes. The food was wonderful with subtle flavors.
I hope I have the chance to visit this beautiful region of France again.
The wedding and party was such a wonderful experience. I will post about it later when I get better photos. During that time, my husband and I and the groom’s parents and their relatives stayed in a family-owned hotel in a nearby little town called Hardegsen. Neither the New York Times traveling section nor Rick Steeves have been there.
After the wedding, my husband and I drove south to a town on the Rhine river called Breisach. Breisach is in the upper Black Forest across from Alsace Lorraine. It was just right to overnight there and continue to Grindelwald the following day. Breisach is a small historical town, perfect for any history buff.
The way to Grindelwald is beautiful, but driving through Basel with a car is always a challenge, with too many tunnels and always some construction going on. We were happy when we reached Grindelwald, our destination. Our little apartment at the Kirchbühl was waiting for us and Frau Brawand, the owner, gave us a warm welcome. We settled in for our six days in Switzerland.
The first day, we took the cable car to First, a mountain top with gorgeous views and a popular hiking area to a lake called Bachalpsee. There is also a thrilling cliff walk that is spectacular. Leave it to the clever Swiss to build something like this.
Another day we took the cable car to the Pfingstegg, a 10-minute cable ride up the Wetterhorn with great hikes offering unique views of Grindelwald and the glacier. There is a playground for children and a summer toboggan run. Grindelwald is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Everybody will forget about their devices and games when they are in the high alpine country. The Swiss introduce their children to hiking in the high country at an early age, just like the French teach their children to enjoy good food.
We also took our favorite cable ride from Grund to the Männlichen. Sitting in the gondola, you feel like flying above the tree tops and cow pastures with gorgeous views around you. This is something that will take your breath away. Once you reach Männlichen, you have a great place to eat and drink and a fun playground for young children. My man and I had tea and waited for the clouds to disappear before we began our walk to the Kleine Scheidegg, my favorite hike in the Swiss alps. The wildflowers had started to bloom and I was in heaven. As we got to the end of the walk, the Eigner north wall popped up between the clouds, while in the valley below was Grindelwald.
Once we reached the Kleine Scheidegg, there is a train junction for the Jungfraujoch. We took the train back to Grindelwald, although there is a spectacular hike around the Eigner, but we were too pooped. But before we took the train back, I had a piece of delicious apricot tart at the old Hotel Bellevue.
My husband, bless his heart, ran the Jungfrau marathon twice in past years, which starts in Interlaken and ends at the Kleine Scheidegg. My husband and I both had some sort of stomach virus. Thank God it was only for a couple of days. So we had very little to eat during that time. We left Grindelwald and drove to Riquewihr in Alsace Lorraine in France. This is a very touristy but cute little town. I did a little shopping by buying some linen that was spun nearby. This time, we had a great meal at a Grape D’Or . The food was great but the poor waitresses had far too many tables to serve. It was impossible to take care of that many people. I know, because I was a waitress when I was a student.
From Riquewihr, we dropped our car off in Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, we enjoyed a river cruise on the Main River. I also bought tea and some German spices. When in Frankfurt, I always go to the Freßgass (little street to “gorge”). This street is commonly regarded as Frankfurt’s culinary main street. I always buy something at Ebert Feinkost, a butcher shop that has great take-out food that you can eat outside on benches. The Grüne sauce is fantastic.
Paris in Summer
We'll always have Paris
Traveling is adventure—it is exciting and puts you in a different frame of mind. It is exhilarating, and at times scary, and you hope everything will work out well in the end.
I remember the moment I fell in love with Paris. It was decades ago. I was a young woman, barely 21, when I went to Paris on a four-day weekend. I was living in Germany at the time. The two women I was with disappeared and I didn't see them until it was time to return home. I remember wandering the streets by myself and sitting in a sidewalk cafe. I don't remember where exactly, but I do remember the feeling of falling in love with the people, the charm and the ambiance of this beautiful city. To this day, my love affair with Paris continues even when a heat wave hits the city in summer—and with more and more tourists.
Paris is a city for walkers and that's what we do when we visit Paris. For years we have copied walks from a book called Walking Paris. The author takes you from place to place showing you everything you wanted to know about Paris: the oldest tree, a beautiful door, gypsy legends, medieval history, Hugo Victor’s house—you name it. These walks expose the soul of this charming city.
One day during our visit, we walked all the way from Bon Marché to our apartment, passing through the Latin Quarter's crooked cobblestone streets and the boulevards of Saint-Germain-des-Prés with all the outside cafes, the most interesting little stores you have ever come upon, churches, small museums and lots of tourists.
The Cafe Les Deux Magots in St.-Germaine-des Prés has the a drink called anis , a cousin of the pastis without the alcohol that comes with a huge bucket of ice. A dream when the temperature hits 100 degrees. This cafe is on a square that has the oldest church in Paris. I always love to return to St. Germaine and visit old places and find new ones. This is a great place to get lost.
During the last two visits, we rented a lovely apartment with a view of Notre Dame. Even though we could see the hustle and bustle of that area, we felt separated from it. Our apartment was in the 5th arrondissement, bordering on the 6th. The river Seine was within spitting distance, as we could see Notre Dame from our living room window. There was a great bakery around the corner where I got croissants, a baguette and something sweet for my sweetie every morning. They also had fresh-pressed orange juice, and one day I bought a tomato zucchini tart for dinner that I hope to make soon. We could stroll by the river or go to Île St.- Louis to have an ice cream at Berthillon or a drink in one of the cafés. I love that location because I'm within walking distance of all of my favorite places.
My absolute favorite book store in Paris is Shakespeare and Company. It is around the corner from Notre Dame next to a tiny park with the oldest tree.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in French culture is with food. I always try to find new places. Because of the heat wave, we were not able to walk for miles, so we often took the metro. We planned something for the morning and then had a leisurely lunch that lasted a couple of hours. We preferred outside cafes. I found a couple of new places. My favorite one was restaurant “Josehine Chez Dumonet”. This was also a favorite of Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine, hence the name. I had read that they had the best Beef Bourguignon and it was the best I ever tasted, even on a hot day. My sweetie had an outstanding piece of duck paté and my duck confit was superb. This was a memorable lunch, enjoying perfect french cuisine at an outside table watching life unfold.
Another superb lunch was at Bon Marché, a wonderful large department store that had the best air conditioning on the day it was 104 degrees. The lunch in the food section (not in the restaurant) was fantastic. I had raviolis in a cream sauce with shaved truffles. I loved the entire food section of that store and was in no rush to return to the steaming heat outside. When we finally got the courage to go out, I found a great ice cream store, La Maison Du Chocolat.
Another day, we took a walk to explore an unknown passage. The passage was OK but we stumbled on a nice place to eat lunch. It was called Willi's Wine Bar and since my Willie loves wine, we had to go inside and talk to the proprietor, a nice English fellow with some great posters and a very good lunch menu. I had a half of a Cornish hen with nicely braised vegetables and Willie had to do another duck paté tasting with the appropriate wine, of course.
So you see, even when there is a heat wave in one of your favorite city, you can still have a good time.
The Louvre had a special exhibit I was interested in, so I went early one morning and it was good. I enjoyed the art, except I was disappointed with the Mona Lisa, because you can barely see it—and the crowds are unbearable. I went to a couple of tiny museums and decided to go to my other favorite ones another time, so I can enjoy them. If you only have one time in Paris, don’t miss the D’Orsay and don’t worry about anything but the stunning art that this place offers.
I have a folder titled Paris and I have some wonderful books. My favorite is Walks in Paris by Giles Desmons. Like I said, this is one to take along on my favorite walks. My girlfriend gave me Paris, An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart by Janelle McCulloch. This is a beautiful book to read before you go, so copy the pages of the things you want to see. I have the Food Lover’s Guide to Paris by Patricia Wells. These days, I use different websites like David Lebovitz's site. I have more books, but I would like to find some new ones from my blog buddies. So please let me know if you have some.
Even though I don't have small children, it would be fun to experience Paris from different children's books with Paris at the core. I'm thinking of Ludwig Bemelmann's 12 Little Girls in Two Straight Lines and Madeline. To introduce kids to Picasso and other artists, there is Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan Yolleck and Marjorie Priceman. When I was still teaching I had a whole series of books introducing painters and composers to the children. Maybe I will have to borrow one of my nephew's children to go to Paris.
A great way to see Paris, if you don't want to tackle the metro, is the double-decker L'Open Tour buses, which offer hop-on/hop-off service. I did this when my niece was 14 and I think she enjoyed it.
With that, my dear blogger friends, forgive my photographs and I will blog about my second week in France soon. Please let me know what is your favorite place in Paris if you have on.
I took another trip to Germany to see my mom, but before I went to my village, my husband and I had some fun. We have our favorite places and went to some of them on this trip.
Our flight was exciting because Neil Young and his entourage were on the plane. Once we landed in Frankfurt and rented a car, we were on our way south to our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We gave ourself a couple a days to get there, so we had no reservation the first night. But we had some addresses for our navigation system. Usually, there are too many variables for the first day (the plane is delayed, we are too tired to drive, traffic jams on the Autobahn.) But this time we were lucky, with no delays and my man was willing to do the driving. We ended up in a Best Western hotel disguised as a health spa in the middle of the Black Forest. We enjoyed a nice dinner on the terrace with a nice quiet room. After a good breakfast the next morning, we were on the road again. We had made reservation in an Austrian hotel with an amazing spa and view, where we had stayed before. There is a fantastic heated indoor swimming pool with jets to massage your jet-lagged body. It also has a great sauna and steam room.
The following day we reached our destination in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We love this place in the Bernese Alps with a spectacular mountain range that makes it one of the most impressive alpine landscapes in Europe. The Jungfrau and the Eiger north wall are the most well-known mountains.
We have stayed at the Kirchbühl apartments several times. The Kirchbühl is a family run hotel with apartments and houses to rent. I love this place. The location is great, above the village away from all the hassle and noise. The hotel has two restaurants that are quite good and offer a wonderful breakfast with chewy whole wheat bread, great croissants and the best Bicher Müsli. We always make sure that breakfast is included in the price of the apartment. A dinner option is available that you can choose on a daily basis. They also surprise you with free afternoon tea or happy hour another day in their cozy hotel lobby. Frau Brawand, the owner, and the rest of the staff will make sure that you are well taken care of. In good Swiss style, the washer/dryer and wifi work great. And let's not forget the stunning views! Friends in the States thought I showed them a painting on Skype.
You come to Grindelwald to hike . My favorite hike is from Kleine Männlichen to the Kleine Scheidegg. This hike is easy with children. The views are stunning and will take your breath away. Take the tram to the Kleine Männlichen , an experience by itself and then hike to the Kleine Scheidegg , where you can take the train down to Grindelwald or hike part of the way . The train has several stops. Many tourists take the Jungfrau-Bahn to the top of the Jungfrau. I have done it twice and it is beautiful and expensive. Don't go up unless it is a clear day.
Originally, we had planed to do some additional hiking in the Val de Herens, but there was nothing but rain in the forecast, so hiking was out. Instead, we decided to head for France, to the Burgundy to be precise. Here we are visiting some old haunts and doing some serious eating. Our five-hour drive took us through some scary mountain passes and our navigation system (we call her Missy) rerouted us over some very narrow roads because of the Tour de France. Mind you, it was drizzling rain and foggy part of the way. We made it and my sweetheart is taking a well-deserved nap before dinner. Foie gras.....here we come.
The first night we stayed near Chagny at the Hostellerie du Chateau de Bellecroix, a place where the 15th century knights of Malta rested on the way to the Crusades. This old chateau has rooms in different buildings and beautiful grounds. We’ve stayed here before and I have to say it hasn't changed much. We had a circular tower room on the third floor of the main building. The room was small but fun for one night. The surroundings are stunning—an old-fashioned French hotel in the countryside. Our dinner was excellent, the foie gras was served with some fig jam and toast. The smoked salmon broiled on top of rich scalloped leek potatoes was also good. The creme brûlée made an excellent desert. We enjoyed our meal and and evening stroll around the castle. Nearby, in Chagny, is the Lamiloise, a three-star Michelin restaurant.
For me, Burgundy is the mecca of fantastic food where you want to eat everything. I love coming here and trying out new restaurants, charcuteries and patisseries. But oh my poor stomach and body tells me that enough is enough! This is a marathon of eating (the secret is in pacing yourself.) In other words, don't overdo it the first night. I did and now I'm paying the price, Alka Seltzer and peppermint tea to the rescue.
The second day, we continued our trip through Burgundy via Puligny Montrachet, a small village with Chardonnay grapes. We had some good wine, but the food was mediocre. But we visited Beaune for a couple hours. This is a medieval town I fell in love with many moons ago.
It is very touristy but charming town. We toured the hopitâl de Beaune, an old hospital for the poor from the 14th century. It is very interesting and worthy of a visit. As I was looking for a cappuccino and something sweet, I ran into a great patîsserie called Tavenet on 14 Place Carnot. My man loved tarte aux noix et caramel (caramel walnut tart), while I enjoyed a piece of apricot tart and took with me some macaroons and a gougere, a cheesy puff pastry served with wine tasting. It was superb.
Two Great days in Alsace Lorraine
The drive from the Burgundy to Alsace Lorraine was easy on a quiet Sunday morning. We arrived in Riquewihr at our the Hotel le Schoenenbourg , a Best Western with air conditioning, a definite plus after last night’s hot room in a charming hotel with a small room above the kitchen where the mosquitos kept us awake. We had made the reservation a couple of days ago and this hotel still had some availability. It was the Bastille Day weekend and most hotels in the region were sold out.
I liked our new hotel because it is within walking distance of one of the quaint medieval villages filled with Hänsel and Gretel houses, cellars bursting with wines of the regions, with festivals beautiful to look at and photograph. Riquewihr is a fairy tale setting. All three villages have some nice stores with pottery, sweets and embroidered fabric. It's a little kitschy, but cute. I have brought back some nice things over the years.
For sweets, I like their pistachio-filled candy. We were able to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day from our hotel and before that, we watched the World Cup soccer final (where Germany won) and before that had a fabulous dinner sitting in a courtyard at Restaurant Winstub Au Tire-Bouchon. My husband had the pork knuckle with sauerkraut and potatoes, with regional mustard. It was the best pork knuckle I ever had, soft and tender. The sauerkraut was great too, with nothing added and perfect with the pork. I ordered the duck breast and I got a huge one (the biggest I have ever seen) cooked medium rare with all the fat rendered from the skin. The sauce had pieces of orange in it and was served in a small glass. The dish came with a beet mash and a large serving of cheesy scalloped potatoes—very different from the ones I had a couple of days ago at the Bellocroix. This was a perfect meal in a perfect setting , especially when the French accordion player serenaded us with some familiar songs and we started to sing along. It started to rain just as we finished dinner, so we went back to our hotel to watch the final soccer match and fireworks for Bastille Day from our window. Life is good.
The last day in Alsace we had lunch at the L'Auberge DE I'LL in Illhausen. I decided to post this culinary highlight of our trip in a separate post. From Riquewihr, we drove to Assmanshausen, a village located on the Rhine River, an idyllic location lined with castles—remote and comfortable with outstanding wine and food. Assmanshausen is 10 km north of Rüdesheim. Instead of the tourist frenzy of Rüdesheim, enjoy the contemplative serenity of the northward flowing Rhine. From here, you can take river cruises, vineyard walks, funicular rides above the hills. You can combine the three of them, see Bingen, go by the Lorelei and visit Rüdesheim. At night, you come back to the peaceful setting of the river and surrender yourself to the good wine and good food and watch the tourist boats (river cruises) go by.
We always stay at the Hotel Schön and take a room with a balcony on the river, sip a glass of Riesling and enjoy the setting. The hotel has a wisteria-covered veranda where you can enjoy a drink, a coffee or dinner and watch the sun set behind the hills. We enjoyed our delicious dinner on the patio and celebrated our last day before my husband went home and I continued my journey to visit my mom.