Archive of ‘Travel’ category

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, Part II

When I signed off my post yesterday, I quickly swiped on some lipstick, fluffed my hair and off we went for dinner. To be very honest, I did not have much of an appetite. In fact, when we got to the restaurant, I was debating whether to order a mineral water instead of wine. Luckily, I came back to my senses, ordered us a carafe of white and proceeded to go for the three course menu (fish terrine, moules frites and Îles flottantes). Hubby had a charcuterie plate, followed by steak with pepper cream sauce and cheese for dessert. Kirstie had mussels, and half of my dessert. We dined at Le Coq Hardi. Cozy place with great service and lovely food.
Le Coq Hardi Le Touquet-Paris-PlageAfter a good night’s sleep, I woke up and made some filter coffee, which was disgusting. Down the drain it went as hubby rescued us by hooking up the Nespresso. I made fried eggs, toasted baguette and prayed that the weather would shape up in time for our market trip. It didn’t. It was gray, cold and wet. The market was the opposite, however.
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage MarketLe Touquet-Paris-Plage’s market is delightful, colorful and smells of the ocean. Good thing that the best part of the market (the food) was covered. I only bought a piece of Maroilles, the regional stink cheese. I’m only here for three days, so I choose to let the restaurants feed me. But who can resist a cheese that is so powerful, it almost walks out of the fridge on its own.
We made a reservation for lunch and drove to our nearest supermarket where I stocked up on the bare necessities.
wine shoppingNote: only the wine is mine.
After a walk on the beach (with no rain!), we headed to À Table. Very nice place again, and the food! My seafood salad was so, so good. I think it had at least five hundred shrimp, as well as mussels, raw herring and samphire. It was washed down with one liter of wine (not kidding, not sorry). I was actually planning on being good and first ordered half a carafe. Then hubby ordered more, telling me to sit back, relax and enjoy. Which I did.
seafood saladThe café gourmand was also lovely. Especially the apple-cinnamon smoothie!
dessertWe enjoyed our lunch so much, that we were one of the last to leave.
IMG_4246Before going back to the apartment (to nap), we went for a walk at the beach and made a round through the city where I picked up a huge tray of strawberries, a bottle of bubbles and some bread for our Easter brunch tomorrow.
IMG_4222That’s my 15-year-old, sporting her new (and way too expensive) red lipstick.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageAs you see, no more rain to speak of.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageIt’s been a lovely day so far, despite the messy seaside hairstyles we’re all sporting. When I sign off, I’ll be slapping on some lipstick again and going out for dinner. Hard life. But probably not as hard as that of the gentleman standing in front of the Easter bunny in the photo below. I don’t know what was going on there, but it didn’t look pretty. Just another day in France. See you tomorrow! PS: Read my first post here.
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

Easter Weekend in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

For the last few years, we’ve been spending Easter weekend in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, a luxury beachside resort in the north of France. It’s just a little under five hours away from us, and it’s an absolute joy to hop in the car in the morning and be here just in time for lunch. Here’s an impression of how our day has been so far! I hope to post updates during the next three days, so stay tuned!
We started our day at 6AM, but were out the door around 8AM. Luckily, it was a smooth drive. Last year it took us twelve hours to get here. Thank goodness there was no traffic!
One of the things I always look forward to when we go to France is that first cup of coffee at a gas station (in Belgium). With a chocolatine or a croissant. Don’t judge.

on the way to France

No idea why it’s so appealing. Maybe because I know that it’s just the beginning. The beginning of days that feel like months. Hey, we know how to make the most of our time!
After our stop, it was just a few more hours before we arrived in France. Before getting to our house, we took a turn and went to look for a restaurant for lunch. We ended up in Plage Sainte-Cécile, a quiet beachside town with a few interesting looking restaurants. Brasserie La Paix was our choice. Our very, very good choice.
wine in France steak-fritesI ordered us a carafe of red wine and our standard ‘bienvenue en France’ meal. I’m not a fancy girl. I have simple tastes. Thank you, La Paix, it was perfect. Everything I was dreaming about for the last month.
With full tummies and glowing with the happiness of simple wine (me), we went for a walk at the beach. It was drizzling and gray, but who cares! We’re in France! Even Pastis agreed. Although he was probably not looking forward to three days of sitting under restaurant tables.
IMG_4116 A short while later we arrived at our charming little apartment in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the center. We are staying at Les Confidences. Very nice landlady and very comfortable little place.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageWe unpacked, fed the pooch and went for another walk… and another drink, or two.
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage ILe Touquet-Paris-PlageCold and rainy, but we were sitting under heating lamps, and again, IN FRANCE!
After some people-watching and philosphizing, we crossed the street to the bakery and bought a Tarte Tropézienne (shared by Kirstie and I) and a croissant for hubs. Oh and a baguette for breakfast tomorrow. I like my baguette slightly stale. But damn, that tarte! Worth every glorious calorie!
IMG_4146Which perhaps I made up for by taking another walk through town — a foodie paradise alright! Loads of seafood and specialty shops.
fruit market in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage jams preserves produce in France oysters Our day hasn’t ended yet. There’s still dinner coming up, right after I finish this post. Where? I’ll tell you tomorrow. We’ll also be visiting the market, which will be taking place right around the corner from us. It’s supposed to be quite something.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageSo, that was most of our first day! Yes, I am already floating and soaring with pleasure… See you tomorrow!

Getting to Know the Côte Chalonnaise (Diary Entry)

Whenever I go to France, I always keep a diary of the things we do and the places we see. I even like to stick in things like receipts from places we ate at or purchases we made (usually wine and food!). Here’s an entry from one late February/early March, years ago. It was our first time in the Côte Chalonnaise, a place we would later visit again and again.

Sunday: Today started off quite gray with ice and thick mist. It was unbearably cold in the house, so one of the first things Hans did was throw on his thick, red sweater and go out to collect some wood to light a big fire in the kitchen.
Côte ChalonnaiseIn the meantime, I scrambled eggs, fried sweet slices of bacon and made a large pot of French press coffee. To me, a morning like this is a beautiful ideal. Like a dream almost. I feel thrown back one hundred years. I know that in a past life, I was a French country girl, and the feeling I get at a moment like this just proves that to me.
Beautiful FranceBeautiful FranceWe first went to the market in Chalon-sur-Saône. It’s winter, but the market was still bountiful with an explosion of color, artisanal products and beautiful food presentations! There was pink garlic, freshly-slaughtered, fat chickens, cheeses and even an oyster stand.
Côte ChalonnaiseOystersIt was rather busy for a Sunday, and many shops were open. I took notice of a beautiful butcher’s shop where tongue and pigs’ feet were on display by the front door. Repulsive to some, but I am a strong believer in ‘head to tail’. If you eat meat, you eat everything.
After the market, we drove back to Buxy for lunch, only to discover that the restaurants didn’t serve any lunch on Sunday. The only one that did was the local bar, Bar Le Bacchus. It looked pretty closed, and I wasn’t really sure a meal there (if they were open) was a fabulous idea.
BuxyBut we decided to try it out, and luckily, it was exactly what we were looking for. We had a steakfrites, a bottle of the local Givry wine, and for dessert the best îles flottantes ever. Not bad for a local bar run by one guy, and we think, his wife. She wasn’t there when we came in, but magically appeared just minutes after we made our order, tied on an apron and went right into the kitchen. She did a pretty decent job with the steak (saignant, or bloody, just the way I like it), but went a little overboard with the frites. They were nice and hot though. Complaining was not an option. Devouring on the other hand…
Steak-fritesBuxy Bar BacchusAfter lunch we headed to Beaune where an antique fair was being held in the covered market known as ‘Les Halles’, directly in front of Les Hospices de Beaune, the 15th century almshouse founded by Nicolas Rolin. There was lots of fur, stoneware, silver, copper, and vintage Parisian clothing. We treated ourselves to a set of silver dessert spoons for just twenty-five euros.
(NOTE, NOT PART OF DIARY: I came home after that trip and polished the spoons. I hate to admit I haven’t even used them once. Shame on me.)
Monday: The day started off cloudy again, but pretty soon the sun came out and it suddenly went from winter to spring. We drove around the local vineyards, and after a coffee break, we visited the wine cave at Buxy, a great place to buy local wines at reasonable prices (lower than supermarkets).

Côte ChalonnaiseCave de BuxyWe were told that wine tastings were offered on Saturdays. There are folders next to all of the wines (in French and with recipes), and you can take your time and box up your own bottles. There is also a small selection of regional products. Besides a few boxes of Mercurey, Givry, Montagny and Rully, I bought some grape seed oil. A liter bottle for just a little under five euros.

Cave de Buxy The house where we are staying, by the way, is an old wheat mill called Moulin de la Canne. We are staying at L’etable, a very cozy, recently renovated part of the mill. It is decorated in typical French country style, which means lots of copper and stoneware. We are the only guests in this secluded paradise called Cersot.
Cersot CersotWe are very close to the Montagny vineyards which produce delicious Chardonnays. It is winter but I can imagine how wonderful it will be here in the summer. There is a small river flowing by the front door, a tall chestnut tree and a view of the Burgundian hills.

(NOTE, NOT PART OF DIARY: It is wonderful in the summer! We went back a few monthhs later and here’s what it looked like.)
Cersot Cersot CersotYesterday, Tuesday, we decided to have dinner at Chez Jules in Chalon-sur-Saône. We were the first to arrive, but soon, the place quickly filled up. There were two sides to the restaurant, and we were seated by the window. The decor was modern with a touch of country. Lots of red with peonies on the curtains and stoneware chickens as decoration. The tables were very nicely set with good glasses and linen napkins, but the music could have been a little friendlier on the ears. Who wants to listen to dance music at a restaurant! The waiters were two very gracious (and very young) boys. One of them said he could speak English if needed, but of course, we only spoke French.
The food at Chez Jules was delightful. Our amuse bouche was a crostini topped with a garlicky fish and vegetable salad. We had a Kir as an apéritif, and with our dinner I ordered us a Givry Premier Cru. The wine was light and fruity and paired just fine with my dinner, even though it was fish. I had the trout with a chive beurre blanc sauce and a potato quenelle. Hans had the boeuf bourguigon with potatoes and garlic croutons. I almost forgot to mention that we both had oeufs en meurette as a starter. This classic Burgundian dish consists of a poached egg with wine sauce served on toast. The wine sauce was amazing and the crouton very garlicky! Sadly though, my egg was overcooked. For dessert I had the tarte tatin which was served with a warm caramel sauce, and Hans had a millefeuille of pears and chocolate which looked rather tempting.
(NOTE, NOT PART OF DIARY: I searched, but could not find any photos of our dinner at Chez Jules. Sorry! Another thing: I think I need oeufs en meurette for dinner tonight.)
Yesterday, Wednesday, we woke up to a clear, icy day. Côte ChalonnaiseOur plan was to visit Autun. We first headed to the market, but when we arrived, we weren’t surprised to see that only a few vendors had showed up. I guess they decided to stay indoors by their fires, nice and warm. Funny that there were still tables outdoors though.
As we walked through the city, we came across that place where we took a picture of Kirstie eating an apricot some years ago. And we also saw the same dried fruit stand that we once captured on a photo with wasps swarming all over the place. The market may have been small, but being there brought back a lot of fond memories.
Buxy(NOTE, NOT PART OF DIARY: Here is a picture of our very first visit to Autun and its market.)
AutunWe had lunch at brasserie, Le Commerce. I started with a cocotte of snails in a garlicky cream sauce. They were so good! The sauce was thick and velvety and coated the back of the spoon, yet it was not heavy at all. I mopped it up with thick chunks of bread. For my main course, I chose one of my favorites, the blanquette de veau a la sauce ancienne. The meat was so tender and the cream sauce light and lovely. It was such a treat to eat it with forkfuls of fluffy rice. Unfortunately, dessert was not an option. We were much too full!
blanquette de veauBy the way, they also do an excellent steak-frites.
steak-fritesCappuccino, is another story. This pretty much applies to a large part of France though…
French cappuccinoThursday: So, today is our second to last day. Our biggest plans include a walk through the market in Buxy, coffee at the Bar du Raisin and later this evening, dinner at Restaurant Girardot in Buxy. I expect to have a hard time saying goodbye to France tomorrow.
BuxyBuxy Côte Chalonnaise

And as expected… I sure did. Unpacking my wines at home made me feel slightly better though.

 

Dijon and its Mustard

dijon mustard

Mention ‘Dijon’ and some people will immediately think of mustard. Dijon is not only the capital of Burgundy, but it is also the world’s mustard capital.
The history of Dijon mustard begins in the culinary wonderland of Burgundy, France – a region known primarily for its exquisite wines. The Romans were the first to introduce mustard seeds to this fertile region and by the Middle Ages, abundant mustard plants covered the area’s hills right along with the lush grapevines.
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