It’s the third and final post in my mini series on my favorite "souvenirs" of France thus far (the word for "memories" in French)! If you missed the other installations, here are links to part one and part two.
The one with the cliffs: Étretat
When Michael and I were looking for a new area to explore in Normandy besides the D-Day beaches, an interesting attraction popped up in my research. There was a stretch of coast compared to England’s white cliffs called la Côte d'Albâtre (the Alabaster Coast). The town of Étretat once inspired Monet (as well as some of his fellow contemporaries), and that was all my impressionist-loving self needed to hear. I was set on a little excursion.
Perhaps the part of Étretat that made it particularly memorable was the unexpectedness of it all. England’s white cliffs of Dover seem to get all the love, while I had never heard of this coastline until doing some research online. I mean, just look at this gorgeous stretch of coastline in France! How is this not talked about more? And I have to add, after recently paying a visit to the cliffs of Dover, I actually prefer the scenery of France’s white cliffs! Even when the weather took a turn for rain, there was a crêperie to find refuge and good food which made for a perfect ending to an afternoon.
The one with the French disco: Beaune
One of the downsides to living abroad is missing milestones of loved ones back home. When my sister-in-law came to visit us shortly after celebrating a milestone birthday in the US, I looked forward to having the opportunity to celebrate the occasion well.
We started our festivities at a cute wine bar in Beaune, and then continued the celebration at a restaurant housed (appropriately) in a wine cellar. After a delicious dinner ranging from Dawn stepping out of her comfort zone to try escargot (a fail) to some hearty beef bourgogne (a success), we were sufficiently full. Though that is certainly not how the night ended!
Spotting a big party in the seemingly otherwise sleepy town of Beaune, we immediately detoured in. It was a French discotheque, full of locals of all ages drinking and dancing. And we were sold. I’ll never forget our last glasses of wine for the night, followed by Dawn dancing with the cutest French grandpa.
The one with the new wine: Provence
“Oh, don’t waste that on me, give it to my wife. I don’t drink wine - I drink Coke.”
“You don’t drink wine??!” [Insert very confused look here.] “Then you can’t be my friend!”
I realize at this point that I might as well rename this series to “my favorite vineyard tours in France,” but the truth is, these have been some of the most memorable experiences from my travels! There’s something special about connecting to French families who take such time and care to produce wine. The finished product, while important to French culture for sure, is just the end of the process. It’s an industry all about the terroir, the physical French soil and its elements, that create the subtleties in the taste of wine. The people and the earth - what better way to experience France than that?
Anyway, this was the start of a private visit to a family-owned vineyard in Provence with my in-laws. After the proprietor forgave Dad for not enjoying his country’s beverage of choice, he continued giving us a tour of the property. We happened to be there just after the grapes were harvested, so we got to poke around the vats full of fermenting grapes and taste the first sips of the very new wine.
The one with the food: Lyon
I know I’ve been heavy on the wine and champagne excursions, but not as much on the food memories. So here comes Lyon.
The foodie in me has a theory that everyone has food atmosphere love language. Some people gravitate towards fancy tasting menus at top restaurants. Others are all about food trucks. There are people who will always pick a home-cooked meal for their special birthday dinner over going out to eat.
For me, I love simple places that serve traditional food. A place that feels like a grandmother is lovingly serving up a home cooked meal in a casual, relaxed setting. This is precisely why I fell in love with Lyon’s bouchons.
The concept of a bouchon is something distinctly Lyonnais, but to describe it as best I can, it’s similar to a French bistrot. They offer regional specialities, carafes of wine, lots of character, and all of this at affordable prices. My favorite was doing Sunday lunch at Le Café Des Fédérations. Michael and I were treated to a variety of dishes to share as starters, and then selected a main course and dessert. The food, the atmosphere, and the company made this a stand-out meal in France among the many meals we’ve enjoyed during our three years exploring the country.
The best part of reflecting on these top 10 memories of France is that there are many more about to be created! In case you are new here, Michael and I are traveling around France for the month of May on a little "farewell tour" as we prepare to move back to the US. So the question is this - what ideas do you have for a good hashtag for our Tour de France?