Archive of ‘Travel’ category

Week at the French Seaside

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is known as one of the most luxurious beach resorts in the north of France. Wealthy Parisians have beautiful summer villas there, and the resort was a favorite among people such as Serge Gainsbourg, Marlène Dietrich and Winston Churchill. One of its most famous residents today may just well be French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron!
We fell in love with Le Touquet years ago during our first trip to the north of France, and since then, we alternate either early winter in Bourgogne or late spring in Le Touquet. Last week we had another wonderful holiday at this gorgeous coastal town. It was only five days, but it felt like so much more. We enjoyed wonderful (and not so wonderful!) French food, had the fortune of having fantastic weather (albeit a little on the chilly side), and enjoyed walks on the beach with our little digger Pastis (who gave me quite a scare when he got sand in his eyes!). Here are some snapshots of our week, for those who didn’t already see them on Instagram. PS: There are more there.
I am looking forward to going back already! Never visited? Have a look at this link:

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Our ‘welcome to France’ meal has always been steak-frites. And the best we’ve ever had is served at Brasserie de la Paix in Sainte Cecile. Everything is perfect here. The wine, the desserts, the ambience!

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Brasserie de la Paix, from the outside. The beach is two steps away.

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Some of the seaside houses of Le Touquet. The really fancy ones on their own private little hills are about a five-minute drive from the beach and city center.

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This could have been the best meal ever! We went for a drive and ended up in a coastal town called Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. There we stopped at Le Bistrot de St. Val where I started with six beautiful oysters before moving on to this sumptuous choucroute de la mer! Sauerkraut, various types of seafood and a delectable cream sauce to gloriously crown it all. The wine was gorgeous and the setting at their veranda just perfect.

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After lunch, we walked through the center of town, Beautiful little French village!

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Our next stop was Cayeux-sur-Mer.

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Majestic views around Camiers.

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On Wednesday, we visited Boulogne-sur-Mer and ate at the cozy restaurant La Pierre Chaud. Run by a friendly couple, eating at the restaurant feels like coming home after a long day at work. I started with a herring salad and my main was a traditional dish of northern France called ‘potjevleesch’, a terrine with various types of meats such as rabbit, pork, veal and chicken. I can’t even tell you how good it is — though it may not look that appetizing!

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After lunch, it was time to walk off some of the calories!

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Square at Boulogne-sur-Mer.

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On Thursday morning, hubby and I headed for the market in Le Touquet where we enjoyed coffee and croissants in the sun! Kirstie stayed at the hotel with Pastis as markets are not all that interesting to them.

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The covered part of the market is the best part! We got some bits and pieces for dinner that day, including a tasty piece of duck-pepper terrine from Prince Mulard!

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And no trip to the north of France would be complete without buying a chunk of the stinkiest and tastiest of cheeses — Maroilles! Look at this beautiful cheese stand!

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Our final lunch in France was at Á Table in Le Touquet’s Rue du Metz. Wonderfully cozy place. We started with this lovely goat’s cheese salad and our main was pork loin in mustard-lavender sauce! A flavor explosion! By the way, we had a pretty horrible experience at Le Matisse (where I got served the most vile Belgian endive salad) and at Au Marché (where Kirstie was served a bleeding burger and I ended up a bit sick; a shame as we loved this restaurant in the past). But we didn’t let those hiccups ruin our fun!

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Our final sunset at le Touquet. Can’t wait to be back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning from Duras

DurasI must start this post with honesty that may seem a little too sentimental, perhaps a little too much. I had a very hard time leaving Duras this year and had to choke back more tears than were good for me. I know that my family hated to leave just as much as I did, and the last thing I wanted to do was let them see how sad I was, so I composed myself and thought about that perfect Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
But as we drove away and the castle slowly disappeared in the distance, my heart broke. I wasn’t just leaving France, I was leaving my heart’s home. A place that has been endearing  to me since the first time I laid eyes on it. And after all these years, Duras still continues to be so good to us.
I sometimes jokingly say that I lived in Duras in a past life. No other place in the world feels so much like home, so who knows, there may be some truth to that. My husband and I have every intention of moving there permanently, but the time is not right just yet. Our biggest priority is having our daughter finish her education. Once that’s a fact, we’ll start the process that we’ve been planning and talking about for the last eight years.
In the meantime, we make the most of the time we spend in that beautiful little corner of the world. Starting the day with coffee at Régine’s café overlooking the castle, enjoying a glass of wine and a genuine smile at the local wine bar, having a simple lunch at brasserie L’EXpression after the Monday morning market, relishing in an expertly prepared dinner at La Terrasse (more about that fabulous restaurant to follow soon), walking through the village and seeing all those familiar faces, slowing down our pace and, in short, living life to the fullest. And no, it’s not a ‘holiday’ thing. As much as I love the rest of France, it doesn’t feel the same when I leave other places.
Duras is a good twelve hours away in distance right now, but it’s closer to my heart than ever.  If you want to read more about Duras, have a look here, here, here and here.

Wine discovery in the Côte Chalonnaise

Though I have been to the Côte Chalonnaise many times and have even written about the regional wines (the article was published by the Cave des Vignerons de Buxy after it appeared in Belgian magazine AWAY), there are still many treasures to be discovered in this rich wine producing region located between the Côte de Beaune to the north and the Mâconnais to the south. This became evident to me just a few months ago during our last trip to Buxy when we (unknowingly) rented the house of local vigneron, Laurent Cognard. An unexpected surprise which turned out to be one of the most delicious experiences — and perhaps the main highlight of our trip.
That first night when we met owner Perrine, she casually informed us there was a bottle of ‘her’ wine left in the fridge. With eyes wide and hardly able to contain my  delight, I smiled and said: “Oh, your own wine. Where are your vineyards?” It turns out that she and her husband, Mr. Cognard, are local winegrowers operating from Buxy. A chilled bottle of their 2013 Montagny 1e Cru waited for us in the fridge.
FullSizeRender (1)Tired after a ten-hour car trip from our hometown in the Netherlands, I decided it was best to leave that special gift for the following day. I wanted to taste it with all my senses, and at that moment, it would’ve been a total waste.
So the next evening we lit a fire, polished some glasses, popped the cork and took a sip of the beautifully aromatic and well-balanced Chardonnay. Minerally with a long, fresh and slightly saline finish. I suddenly envisioned drinking this with a plateau de fruits de mer — pure perfection!
Laurent Cognard’s first footsteps in the wine world were taken in 1997 when he purchased his first 0.68 hectares in Mercurey. At first, he had to have another job to support himself, but his hard work paid off because less than a decade later, in 2006, he was finally able to dedicate his life completely to winegrowing, following in his father’s footsteps. Today he owns approximately 10 hectares in Mercurey, Montagny-lès-Buxy and Bissey-sous-Cruchaud. No pesticides are used in the production of his wines and the harvest is completely manual. Quite an added bonus, in my opinion.
Besides his classic whites (some named after his children), he also offers a refreshingly clean Aligoté, an earthy Pinot Noir and a sparkling Crémant, to name a few. His vaulted cellars are found in the center of the village of Buxy, about a five-minute walk from where we stayed.
We couldn’t leave without purchasing a few bottles, of course.
FullSizeRender (2)If you’d like to ‘meet’ Mr. Cognard, before planning a visit to this wonderful region, have a look here:

 

 

Winter in France

gite en paradisSomewhere in the middle of January, I was looking through some cookbooks and recipe cards I had brought back from one of my trips through Bourgogne. Though we love France in the summer, a while ago we discovered there’s quite some magic to be found in French vineyards during winter. Driving past the bare vines and seeing all the hard work involved in the production of wine makes you appreciate the product even more. That’s why we love vacationing in Bourgogne around late February, especially in the Côte Chalonnaise, an area known for producing the ‘other’ Burgundy wines. Not as fancy as those in the Côte d’Or, but wonderful nonetheless. A few years ago I wrote an article about this wine region, and you can read it here. This is the region of Mercurey, Givry, Rully & Montagny. Names I’m sure will sound familiar to any wine lover.
While looking through some of the recipes cards (which I happened to get at the wine cave in Buxy), my daughter Kirstie caught glance of them and asked when we were going back. By Friday, I had booked the best house I could possiblly find in the village, and the countdown to the big day began!
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