We went on vacation to France. For my birthday. It was fabulous.
We flew the overnight flight into Paris, promptly headed to the Hertz counter after retrieving our luggage, and piled into out little Nissan hatchback to head southeast towards Lyon. After several hours of E driving, and me enjoying the scenery and nodding off, we me made our first stop in Beaune in hopes of finding lunch. We parked in the center, made our way through one of the cathedrals then onto a cafe for our first meal. Croque monsieurs and salade paysanne. Ah, the beginning of many meals to come.
Thankfully Lyon was not much more than an hour's drive as our eyes were heavy from travel. Our hotel was planted between the Saone and the Rhone, neatly tucked away from some of the more heavily trafficked streets. The next day we explored Lyon by foot, moving through the cobblestone streets and up the hills, finding panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. I had the most delicious chausson aux pommes, which may have been one of the best things I ate throughout our trip. The pastry was delicate yet buttery and wrapped snuggly around tender apples that tasted of cinnamon and sugar. For dinner that night we searched out Ouest Express which is the fast food dinning concept from Paul Bocuse. The quiche menu du jour was a savory vegetable tart with a salade verte and a tarte aux fraises for dessert. I know that I need not begin to compare this to fast food here in the states.
On our second morning in Lyon, we told the GPS to navigate us towards Tours and spent the day driving through the the Massif Central into the Loire Valley, where we spent the next couple days touring the many chateaux, driving through the countryside an meanadering the streets in search of markets and restaurants.
We stopped at Mont St. Michel and should have known not to have gotten out of the car when we saw the number of tour buses lined along the edge of the parking lot. We did brave the crowds to walk around since we had gone out of our way to stop, but it was short lived and much better from afar.
Normandy was a beautiful area and seeing the D-Day beaches made me realize the magnitude of what was accomplished there. E has read extensively about World War II and his grandfather fought for our country in that war. While we went from beach to beach he narrated the task of each unit and the obstacles that they ran into during the attack.
The next morning while he slept in, I walked down the narrow streets of Bayeux, reading the plaques of the different sites within the city, learning about its history and observing the locals in their daily routines.
We made it into Paris late Friday afternoon and dropped everything off at the hotel. We then tried to return the rental car for the next 30 minutes. I could see the Hertz return center clearly marked on the map, however in the real streets of the 4th arronidissment, the signage didn't exactly stand out.
Our first full meal in Paris was at a traditional bistrot Parisienne, Benoit. I follwed the amuse bouche of gougere with a dish of escargots, which were coated with garlic oil and fresh herbs. E skipped the first course saving room for his generously cut filet de boeuf which came with a macaroni gratin. The sole was served with spinach in a surprisingly light cream sauce.
Rose Bakery was our first stop on Saturday morning. Actually, it was the first place I wanted to go when we arrived on Friday, however by the time we figured out where to return the car, the bakery was closed and I had to wait another day. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea has been a source of many simple baked goods and savory salads so I was thrilled to be able to taste the authentic versions in person. I enjoyed a maple scone and fresh fruit salad while E munched on a tomato and bacon quiche and a berry crumble. I love how simply they display the food. I wish I lived nearby as I'd like to eat there every day.
It was my good fortune that David Lebovitz was doing a book signing while we were there. It would have helped had I known what a bouquiniste was since we walked around for almost 45 minutes looking for the place he was holding the signing. After meeting David and scoring another of his books, this time a signed copy, we headed to Gerard Mulot for a snack and to oogle the pastries in the display cases.
After a walk through the Hotel des Invalides, we stopped in the park for a little rest.
On my birthday we walked over to the Champs Elysees, had brunch and were typical tourists heading to the Arc de Triomphe and eventually over to the Tour Eiffel.
We did make it to Laduree for macarons to bring home as gifts, but not to Pierre Herme.
The hot chocolate at Angelina certainly lived up to its reputation. I ordered the small and I still could not finish the sweet and velvety treat, even after adding a generous spoonful of whipped cream to each sip. I savored the brioche a tete with butter and jam while E had the eggs benedict with a lucious hollandaise.
While we were waiting to be seated we were wondering what the pastries below were. I guess we weren't "in the know" since almost every person in the dining room was feasting on one of these treats. These Mont Blancs are meringue, covered with whipped cream and chesnut puree piped atop.
Ah, vacation. Its nice to be home, but then you have to go back to work. I much prefer waking up without and alarm, enjoying long rides through the countryside, and eating rich pastry for breakfast each day. I can't wait to head back to Paris, but I know there are many other places we'll probably visit before we return. So for now, we've got memories, and of course many ideas for recipes to try!