RSS Feed

Category Archives: travel eats

Paris in Montmartre ‘n More

The very end of our 9 week trip we spent 9 nights in a large apartment in Montmartre close to Sacre Coeur. Our 3 daughters and 2 son in laws joined us. This was the beginning of May 2018 and the weather was mostly sunny!

Across the street from where the composer Erik Satié once lived we had a large modern apartment of two levels located also across from the Museum of Montmartre. The photos above were our neighborhood!

The Montmartre Museum was once home to many artists including Renoir. It’s two buildings with courtyards and gardens combined together. As many homes in Paris, including our apartment rental, the outside is plain and basic but the interior is more elaborate and inviting

There are gardens to explore here too! This is a view of The Montmartre Vineyard from the museum gardens

La Maison Rose is a picturesque spot in Montmartre. It’s a historical cafe serving fresh foods

Arugula pesto and salad

Fresh ricotta and herbs

A dinner in Montmartre at Poulbot

As we explored other areas of Paris we made reservations for Apertifs at Le Mary Celeste! They featured exquisite cocktails and small plates of creative foods!

Here is Diana’s reservation time and name written on the top of our table! So cool! 18:45 is 6:45 pm

Ellsworth located on Rue Richelieu was a favorite for dinner. The ambiance was very simple. The food delicious, creative and plentiful!

Touring the Eiffel Tower was top on our list! We bought tickets several weeks ahead directly from their website. We had tickets to go to the top and separate tickets for lunch on the 2nd floor at 58 Tour Eiffel

First we had lunch

Then we returned to the ground level and found the lift to take us to the top!

This was our only rainy day but we persevered!

Another day we had booked in advance a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. The Intensive Macaroon Class! This was a 3 hour lesson where we learned to make the Italian and French style macaroons and several fillings. Thoroughly enjoyable!! I’ll definitely take another class next time! Highly recommended!!

We each came home with a box of macaroons!

Another memorable beautiful day we took a private tour of the Louvre, enjoyed the Tuileries and then an exquisite evening dinner cruise on the Seine!

The Louvre private tour we booked though Airbnb with Kate Chartier who is an art historian and a portrait painter. We met first at her apartment next to the Louvre. She gave us an overview of the art history and then took us to the most important pieces of art at the Louvre. We avoided the long lines and saw more than we would have on our own. It was great to all be together

After our amazing tour we enjoyed relaxing in the Tuileries, the gardens outside The Louvre

The dinner cruise boarding on the Seine was a short walk away. We booked Calife Seine Dinner Cruise a few weeks ahead. It was marvelous! The boat was small, the food amazing and the scenery was picture perfect! Paris glitters and shines at night!

We took a walking tour through Montmartre, a food walking tour booked through and we explored all over Paris on our own!

Merci! A cute beachy vibe shop

Roue de Paris the transportable Ferris wheel

Montmartre and Abbesses regions

We had a marvelous stay up on Montmartre! Great views of the city below

Our last evening together we had dinner near the Eiffel Tower at Les Grand Vernes

Look for my post on our day trip to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny soon!

Santiago de Compostela

We parked our car at the Marriott hotel we stayed and then returned it to the Renault dealer after leasing it for 7 weeks! We paid about $29 a day to rent this through the Renault Eurodrive program! Much cheaper than your usual car rental! The longer you lease it, the lower your daily rate.

Santiago de Compostela is a city built around the cathedral that houses St James crypt and his remains. This city is the most sacred in Spain and is a world UNESCO Heritage sight. This is the end point for the St James Walk or The Way. It is more popular among Europeans and Asians than Americans. Millions of people have walked across the various routes in Europe to arrive at this cathedral.

It’s a very friendly city where people from all over the world arrive and share their stories. Families with young children, college students, retired men and women all walk The Way. Some people pay to have their belongings carried and sleep in comfy hotels. Most rough it and stay in basic hostels for a few euros a night. Some people make the walk every year!

It’s a relaxed place with crowds of people who all have a story to share. The sound of music is heard throughout the day as it echos through the old town

We stayed at a Marriott several days and enjoyed the views and special attention!

Hotel Palacio del Carmen

Our hotel was a convent in past. This breakfast room was a chapel.

The sparkly clean cathedral from a side view

View from the cathedral to the main square

The cathedral has a large silver urn that contains incense. It is swung from the large ropes so it swings across the open space. Originally it was to cover the bad smell of the pilgrims!

This is a group of college students from Mexico. They formed a musical band and performed during and upon completing The Way

One day we stopped for lunch at the farmers market area called Abastos .

This small parade came by as it was Ascension Day celebrations. See my other post on this Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Pastries are a thing here too! Special breads with St James symbols

We learned of a special place for dinner one night. The storefront was basic but the food was outstanding! Casa Marcelo.

No reservations. Wait in line early to get in for a seating. The menu was all in Spanish but the waiters interviewed us to find out our likes. Tapas/ small plates

Dinner at the Marriott one night outdoors.

Santiago de Compostela was a gem! I recommend it as one of the best of Spain!

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Santiago de Compostela: Ascension Day Celebrations

Ascension Day in Spain is celebrated with feasts of food, folk dancing, music, parades and carnivals! This holiday celebrates the 40th day after Easter remembering Jesus’ bodily Ascension to Heaven. We were lucky to be in Santiago de Compostela to experience this because the Old Town is the most religious site in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Galicia is a region of Spain on the far western coast. Santiago de Compostela is the city built around the cathedral that holds the remains of St. James. Millions of people have walked the “Way of St James” through Europe to this cathedral!

The cathedral and main square

View of the carnival from the main square

Parades marched through the old town for several days

Huge crowds walked though town to the carnival

The celebrations began Thursday night with the carnival. Crowds of people enjoyed the colorful rides, games, cotton candy, octopus and pork ribs!

Cotton Candy was made everywhere!

Boiled octopus and grilled pork ribs were grilled on site and served with beer and wine!

As we waited in line to be seated in the massive tents, we watched the chefs in action!

Slabs of raw pork ribs were grilled over charcoal and seasoned only with salt. No pre boiling or marinating! Grilled sausages too!

Raw octopus were rinsed in tubs of cold water with a hose and then dropped in a vat of boiling water. They tested for doneness by pinching the octopus. They were then lifted out of the water and cut into bite size pieces with scissors

The line was too long for dinner so we returned for lunch Friday

Fresh churros were a big deal! They’re like a long donut with different flavors, toppings and fillings

Early Friday evening in the main square I watched a variety of well trained musicians and dancers perform. The crowds were not too large because the performers rotated through several locations in the old town.

The costumes were gorgeous!

This experience was a true highlight of all of our travels!


This rural region of Asturias Spain we visited is made up of tiny towns along the central northern coast. We stayed in Lanuna at a 2 bedroom 2 bath rental home attached to the owners smaller home. There were horses and a donkey on the property and pigs nearby. Here are some pics of our rental.

Notice the second story open deck area! These are all over this region and is called a hòrreo which was originally a raised grain storage shed. Today they are used as outdoor living space!

Cudillero was a fishing village nearby that is popular today with the tourists. It has the main square at the beach and the homes built up from there into the hills.

Notice the Pilgrims here. They are walking the El Camino trail of St James to Santiago de Compestelo, our next destination.

Much of the town was newer and well maintained. Spain provides funds for towns on the El Camino.

We had a typical local lunch on the square: Huge mussels in a light tomato broth as a first course. Bean soup with chorizo, blood sausage and fat pork for our second course. Very hearty and delicious!

We drove along the beautiful highways and viaducts to several magnificent coastal areas!

This last beach was close to our rental down a long narrow curvy road. There is a pension and restaurant called Miguel’s at the beach and a boardwalk. I’d love to stay there someday!

The next day we drove about an hour south to Salas, a town on the El Camino which again is the walk to Santiago de Compestelo. This town was very new looking, even more renovated than Cudillero. There was a pretty river running through.

Dave ordered the El Camino for lunch which is hearty! Many pilgrims come into town in the morning ready for breakfast! Also here is the Pilgrims Card which they get stamped or signed at each check in location so they can be certified at the final destination in Santiago de Compestelo. Albergue is the hostel pilgrims stay. The seashell is the symbol of the El Camino.

Here are more pics of the horreos, the raised grain storage buildings we found on our drives.

This day we drove towards Navia to Castro de Coñar, a Celtic settlement dating to 600 BC. There were over 80 dwellings here with the slate foundations in place. Imagine these buildings with wood walls and thatch roofs!

Then we went on to Luarca, known as the white city on the green coast. It has a pretty harbour and an upscale feel to it. It was lovely and prosperous

We stopped here for lunch at a lovely restaurant and ate on their covered patio. Blue cheese, ham crisps in liver mousse, pork ribs in chimichurra, fish in tortilla with spicy sauce and fish over potatoes in a spicy sauce. Mango sorbet for dessert.

The next morning we drove west along the northern coast of Spain towards our next destination, Santiago de Compestelo. We stopped at a seaside overlook called As Catebrais. The beach rock formations look like cathedrals when the tide is out. We were here around noon and the tide was still pretty high

We are thoroughly enjoying Spain and will spend a few days in Santiago de Compestelo before returning to Paris.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a vibrant historical city on the northern coast of Spain and very close to France. But why is it so different than France? I couldn’t begin to answer but believe me it is!

We stayed at our tiniest apartment yet but it was one of our favorites. We were at day 48 of our trip and a bit tired of driving to our destinations every day, so we parked the car and left it four days as we explored this city.

Our apartment was overlooking one of their beaches. The surfers beach! A surfing school had large groups of wet suit clad surfers there daily. It was early May but jacket weather. The simplicity of this apartment made it so easy. The only problem was the scaffolding around our windows. But we still appreciated our view and where we were

This visit was mostly about walking the streets of the old city, enjoying the views of the sea and of course the food which was amazing!

Here are some views of the Old City and the sea

Surfers walk barefoot through the streets to the beach

A protest march on the Spanish Labor Day May 1

San Telmo Museoa: A wonderful ethnographic museum

Historical head pieces

We strolled the old city for pintxos bars during the day. Pintxos are small plates of food. Each plate is inexpensive but they add up! Here is a typical street filled with bars

This traditional pouring of the new white wine is a sparkling treat!

The menus are posted outside and the variety is huge. Cold and hot pintxos, some on display for you to help yourself, others need to be ordered. Here are some bar and food scenes and also some bakery items!

And of course the farm market! Fresh produce and salted fish!

Our stay in San Sebastián was all pleasure. Early May was popular but not as crowded as the summer season. I would love to spend more time here!!


The Pyrenees is a range of mountains that borders Spain and France. There is an eastern, western and middle section. We visited the middle section on the French side.

We stayed at a spacious HomeAway apartment that has been a family rental since 1981. The owners spoke no English and never had Americans stay there. Friends of theirs were interpreters for us

Here is our rental. It was part of their home and barn complex. The original home dates to the 1600s. We were surrounded by gorgeous views!

Our first day we had beautiful clear weather and drove up into the mountains to see the scenery and snow.We found the Plateau de Beille. In the winter season it’s a cross country ski area which also offered snow shoeing, dog sledding and biathalon training. There were two types of snowmaking machines there and a luge tunnel.

We saw people hiking with special shoes and sometimes using walking poles. We were unprepared so we observed

At the base of the mountain we came across a small market in Cabannes. We bought some cheese and combs made of cattle horns. This market had food vendors too such as this man making garlic and olive paste sandwiches! That’s a lot of garlic!

We continued to explore the region in a loop pattern and found beautiful mountain lakes, waterfalls and rivers.

The ancient terraced orchards and endless stacks of wood were mesmerizing

We found a spot for lunch in Vicdessos. It was a very hot day in the sun so we went inside which was a rustic wood cabin style.

Our first course was local meats and bread and butter, served with tiny sour pickles/cornichons.

I ordered a whole brook trout with chopped endive salad. Dave had the breaded pork chops with fries

All the salads we’ve eaten in France have been dressed in a vinaigrette with Dijon mustard. It’s yellow. We found some prepared vinaigrette at the grocery store and it’s always the same yellow. I prefer my own to the store bought because homemade is a more true mustard flavor. The French don’t call their mustard Dijon style as we do. They call it mustard. And their vinaigrette always has this strong mustard in it!

Dave had a glass of wine. It was served hot with sugar on the side!

We found the village of Massat and made our way back home

Monday we drove to a larger town of Mirepoix because this was their market day. There were musicians playing unusual instruments and people making crafts. The market was held in the main square which is lined with half timbered buildings. The cathedral is nearby and the market trickled into its surrounding streets too.

Rolls of lace for the French windows. Some people make their own lace in their regional patterns

Birds for your farm life

We found Llobet, an old style French restaurant for lunch. It was decorated in orange walls and light green chairs. The walls were covered with hunting prints. One person handled the entire front end as host, waiter, and bus boy.

Dave ordered the 3 course menu of the day which started with onion tart and salad. The tart filling was very thin and tasty. He thought it tasted like the tart flambé from the Alsace region

Then he had cod type fish with creamed potatoes and creamed spinach

He then had a lemon tart, again a very thin filling

I ordered red fish with salad. Light and yummy. Mustard vinaigrette, very little, and the lettuce was in whole leaves.

We then drove to a big lake called Lac de Montbel. It was a dull overcast day and slightly rainy, so the lake was not too pretty today. We drove through the town of Montbel

Tuesday we started this sunny day at a cave, Le Mas-d’Azil. We first drove through the cave and after we parked walked in through the pedestrian walkway. We followed a French only tour, but learned from the English printed handouts. There were no etchings and drawings here. This cave was famous for the artistic tools and bones found there dating to 13,000-14,000 years ago.

We stopped in the town of the same name before the tour and had a coffee and bought some local pastries.

Pudding raisin cake

Blackberry cake

After the tour we had a picnic near the river out of the trunk of our car.

We drove on to St Lizier. Looked around the cathedral and cloisters. Tried to find a good spot to see views of the mountains. Found a shop open that sold local artists crafts such as herbal mixes, soaps, juices and leatherwork.

Back at home Dave grilled lamb chops.

Wednesday was another dreary day so we went to another cave. La Grotte de Niaux. It was a short ride from our place. We arrived at 10 and learned we could not have a tour till 1:30, but it would be in English. After talking with a few interesting American travelers we went to lunch in the town of Niaux

Dave ordered a tart made of a square of puff pastry topped with sautéed duck breast and mushrooms with cream served with a salad

He then had a beef stew with smashed potatoes formed in a timbale shape.

I had lentils cooked with smoked pork and sausage. The lentils and pork were flavorful and the sausage more plain

I ordered the pannecotta dessert which was the Italian style custard with a caramel topping

The tour of the cave was fantastic. There were only 7 of us. We were all warned again how far, slippery and uneven the trip to the cave drawings were. We all did great and I was the youngest! The walk was 1/2 mile to the cave drawings. They were mostly bison with a few ibex and horses. All in black charcoal. It’s a miracle that these have been preserved so long. Great tour guide and unforgettable experience being in and walking through this cave system

Thursday was our 42nd day of travel and our first time not taking a long excursion! We hung around the house and explored the little town of Saint-Paul-de-Jarrat where we were staying

We picked up some paella and bread at the tiny market in town and bought some local style bread and brioche at the bakery

The rural location of our rental was fun to explore on foot

Our last day we spent in the larger town of Foix. We explored the market and an elaborate castle and enjoyed the views from above

We had an elegant lunch at a restaurant called Phoebus

The waiter did not speak English so we didn’t know what we were going to be ordering for sure

My first course was a beef carpaccio with shaved cheese and radishes. Dave’s was a puff pastry filled with a rich cheese and served with a sauce

Our second courses were rabbit with ham over potatoes and the other was a white fish also served over potatoes with zucchini strips on top

It was a beautiful memorable lunch and we planned on no dinner. Our apartment owners asked us over that evening for a glass of wine with their English speaking friends

We soon learned a glass of wine turns into dinner!!!! Apertif dinatoire!

This multi course presentation of appetizers began with tiny bites of a variety of tasty foods

Second was crackers spread with foie gras pâté.

Next were little squares of their homemade boars meat! And also slices of boars meat sausage they made!

They presented duck breast and onion confit on crackers

Next was a variety of local cheeses and bread

Last was a local style apple crostade/pie which our host made. All of these foods were made by their hands!

I did not get pics of all the wines and liqueurs they served us but it included this champagne

We are forever grateful to our hosts in Saint-Paul-de-Jarrat and their friends. They gave us a wonderful stay in their beautifully cared for home which we found through HomeAway. Their beautiful rural setting was an easy drive to many interesting sights!

Traveling to the different regions of France we stopped in many rest areas on the highways. Their food service was consistent good quality. Minimal paper products used

Here we enjoy a prosciutto like sandwich on a poppyseed baguette and a Monte Cristo, classic French fast food!

We say good bye to our friends in Saint-Paul-de-Jarrat France as we move on to northern Spain….. San Sebastián!

Dordogne France

This region of France is not as well known to Americans as Loire or Normandy. I never heard of it until we began our research into France. Périgord is the ancient name of this region dating to the Gauls. In 1790 during the Revolution the name was changed to Dordogne after the river in this region.

Three years ago we spent 2 weeks in Provence and loved it so much we wanted to explore more of France. Dordogne and it’s dramatic fortresses and river valleys sounded beautiful!

France is full of color. Driving through Brittany, Normandy, Loire, Dordogne, we saw miles of these mustard fields used as a cover crop to keep unused farmland from deteriorating and blowing away. Its not the edible mustard.

This is a more mountainous and hilly region than Burgundy. There are not as many vineyards, the cattle are brown, not white, the farmland is sometimes terra-cotta and sometimes a more grey color. The green is not as intense. There are chateaus and fortresses here, more like rugged Game of Thrones style, not fancy Loire style.

This is the home of foie gras. There are goose farms everywhere. Foie gras, goose and duck are on every menu.

Walnut groves are along the roadsides in small groves, and walnuts are on every menu and sold at every market too! The pastry made with walnuts are like a pecan pie filling but in a firmer crust

Many towns are charming in France because of the Malraux Law. André Malraux was minister of culture in 1963 and decided important monuments and neighborhoods throughout France would be preserved. Today many of Dordogne old city centers are pedestrian friendly and attractive to tourists.

Our first full day was Sunday and we went to the market in St-Cyprienne, a small charming town bustling with shoppers and people relaxing in cafes. We bought some produce and enjoyed coffee and lunch in the cafes.

Isn’t this family adorable? Do they have enough baguettes?

For lunch I chose a hot goat cheese and walnut mix encrusted in puff pastry served over a salad. Dave had a thin crust pizza. Yum!

Monday we drove to Beynac-et-Cazenac. This is a dramatic medieval fortress which had stunning views over the Dordogne valley and river.

It’s medieval town is nestled at the base of this stunning fortress and leads down to the beautiful Dordogne River. Many people take boat rides, canoe or kayak along this river to view the chateaus and fortresses.

From here we took a short drive along the river to La-Roque-Gageac. This charming little town runs right along the river and backs up against a huge steep mountain. We enjoyed a picnic here and then explored up into the town built into the mountainside. There are ancient small structures hidden in the foliage .

A beautiful boat ride along the river to view these castles would be marvelous!

We bought a jar of cassoulet au confit de canard. Cassoulet is popular all over France and is a hearty soup made of beans, meats and vegetables. This style with the duck is particular to Dordogne.

Tuesday we visited our first cave. We ordered tickets online a few days ahead to Lascaux in Montignac. But first we stopped for the local pastry that looks like a cave. It’s a large filled meringue. Montignac is a pretty town worth exploring filled with shops and cafes

This very professional museum is a complete reproduction of the prehistoric caves of Lascaux. The original Lascaux is closed because the cave paintings have deteriorated because the carbon dioxide humans exhale as they breathe have caused a fungus to grow on the paintings which destroys them. We had a guided tour in English which was worth every penny. The only way you can see this museum is a guided tour.

The tour was 3 parts. The first part the tour guide walked you through the reproduced caves complete with Cro-Magnon cave etchings and drawings which date to 18,000-10,000 years ago. Next there was a section with specific parts of the caves reproduced with more info available. The third part of the tour was a video about either the art of the cave or how the cave art possibly developed.

Here are a few drawings and a cave like space.

This grandpa loves his Yorkies and his grand daughter. They enjoyed the museum together!

We had lunch outdoors at the Lascaux Cafe, and chose very typical Dordogne foods. I had the duck breast and duck gizzard and lettuce salad with marinated sliced onions. The dressing was a mustard vinaigrette and a very minimal amount. All the lettuce salads in France are fresh whole tender leaves. It’s not chopped or preserved in bags. You cut up your own lettuce salad on your plate.

Dave ordered duck confit, which is salted and fried duck that’s then preserved in duck fat, with French fries.

For dinner tonight we heated up cassoulet and also opened a can of foie gras. Entire means it’s all goose liver, not mixed with other ingredients

Wednesday we spent a wonderful sunny day in Sarlat-de-Caneda. Many tourists hit this town understandably. It is charming in many ways and has been meticulously preserved as it’s original medieval village. It has cobblestone streets and windy paths of half-timbered buildings full of cafes and shops. There are no fortresses or chateaus here, just easy charm.

We visited on market day and found a few treasures. One of them was a jar of pesto made from a garlic like onion plant called ail des ours. Another name for it is Ramsons and it’s a wild relative of chives.

Sitting at a cafe in the main square people watching was fun

We had a typical Dordogne meal for lunch

We both had a big piece of fresh foie gras on toast with goose fillettes which is like shredded lean and fatty duck and also had a duck gizzard salad.

For our second course Dave had coq au vin which is chicken cooked in a red wine sauce

I had roasted duck thigh and potatoes fried in duck fat which was decadent and delicious!

Dessert was walnut cake and a cream sauce

Yes all this for 13.80 Euros

Thursday we started with an authentic cave tour at Grotte de Rouffignac. This was a guided tour in French only, too bad, but on a cool train ride through the mile long tunnels. It was fun to be in the tunnels of the cave. It also was incredible to see the etchings and drawings made by Cro-Magnon man and to see the later made bear scratching on the walls of the caves and the bear hibernation nests they dug into the floor of the caves. Sorry but no pics were allowed

We then went on to a nearby town of St-Leon-sur-Vezere. This was a tiny town filled with artists and workshops. We bought a vegan lunch from a couple from Long Island and Austria, called Smoovie Grignothique. We ate our lunch along the Vézere River at a picnic table.

We then drove up into the hills to see the Buddhist camp which the Dali Llama blessed. It’s considered a holy place for many reasons. We met a Buddhist monk walking and then stopped for a gorgeous view over the Dordogne Valley. Cote du Jor

Friday we spent at Castlenaud, a stunning medieval town and fortress up on a mountain top. This castle was huge and has been there since 1214. It was added on to over hundreds of years and passed from Britain to France back and forth. The displays were museum quality. Much of the castle was destroyed during the Revolution, but it’s been rebuilt to be preserved as a museum.

We had lunch on the terrace just outside the castle. Dave had a steak with peppercorn sauce, creamed potatoes and lettuce salad.

He also enjoyed walnut cake with the cream sauce.

I had a salad with tender grilled duck breast and a huge piece of foie gras, which I gave to Dave! Foie gras is goose liver, and very tender and rich. Similar to butter or a rich cheese. A tiny taste is enough for me. It’s too powerful a flavor. I also don’t approve of the geese being force fed corn with funnels. This is done to make their livers grow large and fatty. The foie gras was usually served cold. It would be more tasty if it were seared on a grill

This last day in Dordogne we stopped at the lovely mountain town of Domme. Many tourists were there even in mid April. We met a British couple who were buying a home nearby. Property in France is much less expensive than in Britain. We heard one story where a British woman was interested in a property listed at 150,000 Euros. She told the owner she really wanted to buy it but only had 40,000 Euros. The owner said he’ll take it! Unbelievable!

Fantastic expansive views of the valley and the river! Cute shops and pleasant squares with cafes which connect to windy cobblestone roads leading to the views of the valley.

Dordogne was a fantastic experience and a place you should see!

Our HomeAway rental was rural and had expansive views of the valley. We were the only renters in this tiny rural area outside of the small village of Thenon in April

Loire Valley

Tavant is a tiny ancient town near Chinon in the Loire region of France. We spent a week at an 18th century ruin that was renovated 4 years ago. It was clean and charming and a convenient drive to all the major chateaus the Loire is famous for.

I’ve been told the French are very private people. This is one reason so many continue to live with large stone walls surrounding their properties. Here are some pics of our Homeaway rental with the high fences!

Our first morning we woke to a huge flea market! It’s held once a year and is called a broccante. It’s like a big neighborhood garage sale and a market. Though vendors came from all over France to sell things….. used clothing, old ceramics, knives, sewing machines…. anything they want to get rid of or resell

Dave loved the food! He enjoyed a grilled duck breast sandwich with lots of butter on a baguette

This flea market was on Easter Sunday and no symbols of Easter were seen!

This is a burned to blackness bread sold at the market!

Our first day of chateaus we visited two. Here is Villandry, a huge home surrounded by manicured gardens just beginning to bloom Since it was April there were no crowds and few flowers. This is a family owned and managed Chateau!

A short drive away was Azay-de-Rideau which looks like a fairytale castle and is surrounded by water…. a moat

The next day we drove to the city of Amboise. It was a lovely little town full of small gardens. The two castles were owned by a man who hosted Leonardo da Vinci his last several years of life

Royal Chateau d’ Amboise

Chapel where Leonardo Da Vince is buried

Clos Lucé is the other Chateau and has elaborate playground like gardens which both adults and children love. It’s next door to the Chateau and is where Leonardo lived and died

Another day we toured Ussé. This is known as Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The day turned rainy. We toured around ancient towns and stopped in Saumur for lunch and waited for the weather to clear

Lunch was a puff pastry filled with mushrooms and pork and served with a cream sauce of course! Dessert was a beautiful chocolate display

Flat bottomed boats of the Loire

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant that grows on branches of trees like these all over France

Chinon is a lovely city known for great restaurants. With the advice of a neighbor we chose l’Oceanic. The fortress is a ruin but historically interesting with great views!

Lunch at l’Oceanic for 18E each!

Hake with whole grain mustard sauce on top. Served with a smear of pumpkin, an asparagus spear and a crisp wafer of squid ink

Puréed mullet in a timbale shape and a bright green seafood tasting wafer on top. Bits of mushroom and edamame

A skewer of French bread!

Dessert is a snowball of sweetened egg white covered with toasted coconut. With a bit of mascarpone ice cream and fruit jam. Crumbles of meringue add a bit of crunch!

Phyllo wrapped tube of apple with raspberry sorbet

Chinon is also known for its markets

Coquille St Jacques in France are called scallops in the US!

Croque Monsieur are everywhere. A gourmet grilled cheese sandwich with white bechamel sauce. Buy them prepared and heated or take hem home to heat up!

Our last day in the Loire we drive 1 1/2 hours to see Chaumont and then Chenonceau

Chaumont is my favorite because it uses its interior space that is not renovated as modern art galleries

Chenonceau is very large beautiful and popular The interiors are magnificent and the floral arrangements inspiring

We ended our time in Tavant with a private tour of the impressive frescoes in St Nickolas Cathedral given by an art historian Most were in the crypt and couldn’t be photographed

Tavant is a lovely village near most of the chateaus. They stack their wood neatly and uniformly as all over France

Beautiful Burgundy

Our week in Burgundy was mesmerizing! The deep rich terra-cotta and green colors of the rolling hills were continual. The views never stopped. Every where we looked were colorful easy to enjoy pastoral scenes.

The temperatures continued to be cool enough to use the wood stove every day in the late afternoon through the evening. We enjoyed every minute of it!

Our first day was Sunday and we headed to the Market in Chalon. The darling town was busy and full of people shopping and relaxing outdoors at the cafes surrounding the square. The rotisserie chickens are popular as are the fresh produce, cheese, olives and fresh meats. These markets are like going to Meijers. The vendors often have trucks and displays outfitted for refrigerated meat and cheese, but fresh produce is the queen of the market or marché!

Our hosts invited us for an aperitif which turned out to be dinner. AperitifDinatoire!They are so kind and talented! We were treated to puff pastry filled with cheese, or olive or ham. Next they brought out tiny ramekins of escargot baked with a little garlic and parsley. Then we had prunes wrapped in prosciutto and baked. The last were pretty radishes peeled to a striped pattern!

Monday we drove to the next town which was Chapaize. There is a gorgeous little medieval church there where they have concerts through the year. There’s also a charming coffee shop, a high end used furniture boutique and a fantastic restaurant I’ll share with you later.

Next we explored Brancion which is a fortress, a medieval village and a church. Very picturesque.

We had quiche with watercress salad and an omelet for lunch at this cute cafe in Branson.

Next we drove through some vineyards of Saint-Gengoux and Macconaise where I would love to return someday.

For dinner we heated up our market rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes. I steamed the leeks I bought there too.

Tuesday we explored the medieval town of Cluny and its Abby. This town developed around the Abby of Cluny which began in 910 by 12 monks. It grew to become the ruling center of the international chain of monasteries in Europe and housed 10,000 monks. It’s a huge place but most of it was destroyed in the Revolution.

We found a great place for lunch called Hostelleria d’ l’Heloise. It’s a hotel and restaurant. As many restaurants and cafes they offer a lunch of the day. The price was 21 Euros. It was very formal but comfortable. They gave us little portions of extra courses beyond the 3 we expected.

First on a platter we received a skewer of smoked fresh salmon and a cheese cracker

2nd was a small glass of a foamed mix of tomato, cream and celery salt with olive oil.

3rd was a whitefish called faro, seared and served with 1 white asparagus and a timbale of eggplant. A remarkable sauce of white foam was the base of this dish! I watched the chef use an aerator to foam up a container of white sauce in the kitchen! Reminds me of a famous chef Fernando Adriá from Barcelona who made foaming food a phenomenon at his restaurant El Bulli.

4th was a perfectly round sphere of chocolate served on a bowl at the table. Hot chocolate sauce was poured over it which melted the ball and revealed vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries! Very unexpected!

Our formal lunch ended with some bites of handmade marshmallow, fruit gelatin and tiny Madeleine cakes. A true French dining experience in Cluny!

Wednesday we started the day at the goat farm nearby. The farm raises about 160 goats and sells products they make from the goats milk. It was fun to see the goats as they were all in the barn relaxing and eating hay or licking their salt blocks. They also had trays of white clay they eat for their digestion as desired. Branches of holly hung from the rafters of the barn to keep insects away.

We took a peek in the cheese making rooms

Cheese drying

Cheese aging

Goats milk yogurt

Thimble size pieces of goat cheese to snack on!

Next we visited Berzé le Chatel. There were a few children running around because it was spring break. They get 2 weeks off. There are families living in this fortress. They’re not living like royalty! It’s a ruin that’s patched into some living space.i

On to Berzé de Ville where the church had beautiful murals that have been cared for with money from large donations.

We drove through many vineyards.

Stopped for lunch in a tiny town called Davoye Le Milles. This was a surprise lunch. We expected pizza. The place was packed with men. They looked like workmen from the vineyards or construction plants nearby. After we were seated we learned that they were only serving the lunch of the day which was 3 courses for 13Euros

First was a tasty salad made of red and green Bibb lettuce, cubed ham, grated cheese and a dressing of olive oil, mustard, Aromé seasoning by Maggi. It has a lot of MSG in it!

Next we thought we were getting the chicken, but we were given smoked pork. Not so good

Then came the cheese course. Either a platter of cheeses or fromage blanc with cream. We took the fromage blanc. Yum. With a little sugar added

Then came dessert. Citron tart and apple tart.

After lunch we drove through the towns and vineyards of Vergisson, Pouilly, and Solutré

The day ended with a bit of wine tasting at a distributors center in Collongette. Nothing expensive. We bought a Bourgogne pinot and a gamay.

Thursday was spent in the larger city of Beaune. This is the wine capital of France and a very sophisticated little city. It was cold and rainy this morning but cleared up. We warmed up and enjoyed great internet at a cafe called Le Parisienne.

Our main touring was of Hotel Dieudes Hospices de Beaune. This was a medieval charity hospital built in 1443 by the chancellor of Burgundy. It’s funding continued through the years and it served as a hospital till 1971. Seeing the set ups of the beds and furnishings was interesting.

Visited the lovely cathedral

We wanted to find a nice place for lunch since Burgundy is the gourmet food capital of France. We chose a Rick Steves recommendation. La Table de Guigone, named for the wife of the man who built the Hospices de Beaune, Nickilas Rolin

Beef Bourgogne is the classic dish of this region, so that’s what we ordered. It’s a type of beef stew that’s marinated in red wine overnight and is cooked for a long time. The cattle breed of Burgundy is used which is called Charolais.

We ordered a glass of wine with lunch. The wine was a 1cr or premier cru. These red wines are rated in this order

Grand Cru

1cr/Premier Cru



Most wines of this are are the Bourgogne. The premier and grand cru are from selective sections of special qualified vineyards.

After Beaune we took the wine tour loop south and stopped in Pommard. We found another Rick Steves recommendation: Domaine Lejeune. A woman gave us the basic tour and wine tasting in the ancient facility. Bought a couple bottles of a Village wine.

Drove through Meursault which is a mini Beaune. Very sophisticated and well to do. Then on through Montrachet, Poligny, Chagny, Giurg, Buxy.

Stopped at the side of the road in Sercy where we found a pretty castle on a pond where the kids were fishing with their grandmother.

For dinner I steamed the vegetables from the market. Pumpkin, white asparagus and green beans. Also had some olives which are from Provence, but are sold at all the markets, nice cheese from the local goat farm and market.

Friday we drove to Cormatin which is just two towns over from the town we’re staying. It’s larger and has a Chateau which we toured. The tour guide was super, it it was all in French. He gave us a guide book to help interpret! The furnishings, tapestries and wood paneling were original to the Chateau!

The gardens were fantastic! A gazebo with a spiral staircase overlooking the property, topiaries, herb garden, kitchen garden and formal gardens.

For dinner we went to the next town over, Chapaize and enjoyed Cafe Saint Martin. Super service and food! This is a small village but a lot of arts going on. The cafe is across the street from the beautifully lit church

The chefs from Leon and made delicious food for us at their Cafe Le Saint Martin

A great bottle of 1cr wine from the area

My 1st was seared scallops over spinach and pomegranate seeds with vinaigrette

Dave’s was a phyllo triangle filled with beef tail and foie gras over salad

My main course was local veal with chanterelle mushroom sauce

Dave’s was the local charolais beef with pepper sauce

For dessert I had 4 layers of chocolate that looked like. Napoleon or mille-fleurs

Dave’s was a deconstructed lemon tart

This was a grand end to our stay in beautiful Burgundy!

Brittany Borders Normandy

We drove from the west coast of Brittany to the northeast where Brittany borders Normandy. This was a farm stay booked through Homeaway. Our lovely farm country home was once a shed and dated to the 18th century. It had 2 levels, modern conveniences and a wood burning stove! It was a lot of fun keeping the fire going. The French love their wood stoves and fires! There are immaculately stacked piles of wood all over the countryside of France!

Here is our farmhouse. It is part of a neighborhood of homes, some rented as vacation homes, others inhabited by long term residents. Their 10 sheep and 4 ducks were enchanting.

The owners lived next door in a loft style home built in a barn. In their spacious kitchen they taught us how to separate fresh milk from cream and how to make English style sausages! They also offered soap making classes which we didn’t have time for.

Here is the farm where we picked up the fresh cows milk

Our Homeaway owner Stuart carrying the fresh milk in plastic jugs

In Gabrielle and Stuart’s kitchen separating the cream from the milk.

Gabrielle makes ice cream out of most of the cream! We enjoyed lemon curd flavor!

Gabrielle and Stuart also taught us to make English style sausages. They’re made with pork shoulder that is ground once. Cooked rice and seasonings are added. The meat is carefully stuffed into the casings to a specific size. The sausages are twisted into links. The sausages are then refrigerated several hours to dry out. Then they are ready to grill or fry!

Ground pork and rice in a bowl

Stuffing the casings

Making the links by twisting the sausage at specific lengths

Voila! Sausages!

Our hosts were from Britain so we made British sausages with many seasonings. They said the French use only salt and pepper.

Mont St-Michel is the second most visited site in France next to the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful. This is Normandy, but close to the border of Brittany.

We had lunch at this Christian pilgrimage site over 1000 years old. Lamb is raised on the salty marshes that surround this island. So I ordered the salty lamb stew served with a light tender bean mixture and French fries!

Dave had mussels, a specialty of the sea!

St Malo is an ancient city with ramparts and medieval fortifications that date to the 1100s which is enchanting to walk around

We discovered the market and met a friendly woman selling cheese and farm butter! The salted butter was super salty!

She recommended this very creamy rich cheese that had to be spread on bread or fruit! Like butter!

St Malo had a delish pastry called Kouign Amann. It was strips of bread dough rolled in a spiral and brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Yummy right out of the oven!

The weather was cold and rainy again the next day, but we persevered and drove along the north coast of the English Channel west of St Malo. The views were magnificent at Cap Fréhel!

We continued driving and stopped for a quick lunch in St-Jacut-de-la-Mer. What we thought was a little bar was a fine dining restaurant. We stayed for a 2 course lunch

Raw sardines with capers and a marinade. Very beautiful but not my taste

Since I didn’t like this they gave me a substitute, raw oysters, a tiny improvement