France tagged posts

Alain Ducasse’s classic Provencale Inn: La Bastide de Moustiers

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The terrace of La Bastide de Moustiers

It is a tradition in Provence that landlords who plant three cypress trees near the entrance to their properties welcome visitors for a drink, a meal and a bed.  French chef Alain Ducasse has a small army of these pencil-thin emblems of Provence lining the driveway to La Bastide de Moustiers.  They are a fitting symbol for this classic Provencale Inn which is a labor of love by the founder of a multi-starred restaurant empire spanning three continents.

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Photo Friday: Three-Michelin-star Michel Bras’ famous flower and vegetable dish

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The three-Michelin-starred Michel Bras restaurant in the small village of Laguoile in the heart of Central France is renowned for its contemporary interpretation of the Gargouillou, the traditional Aubrac dish of ham, potatoes and vegetables.

I photographed this dish recently during a revelatory meal there.

“We have a very simple principle of respecting raw materials and following the seasons,” said Sebastien Bras, son of the founder Michel Bras, who recently retired. “We particularly rely on vegetables and plants using all sorts of flowers, herbs and seeds in our creations.”

The restaurant sources more than 230 cultivated vegetables, herbs and flowers in addition to foraging for hundreds more…wild thyme, fennel and flowers with names like queen of the fields, melilot and liveche… in the hills and valleys around Aubrac.

“Our technique is always used to accentuate the taste of the raw material, never the reverse,” Sebastian explained...

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Eric Frechon’s Three-Michelin-starred Epicure Restaurant in Paris

In the heart of the fashion district of Faubourg Saint Honore across from the official residence of the President of the French Republic, the five-star Palace Hotel Bristol exudes the very essence of French elegance. This family-owned hotel may be grand but it is not stuffy. Two beautiful Burmese cats, Fa-Raon and Kleopatre, are the official welcoming committee and always enjoy a gentle stroke wherever you may find them.

We walk through the spacious flower-filled lobby to be welcomed warmly at Eric Frechon’s three-Michelin-star Epicure Restaurant. It is named for Epicurus, the Greek philosopher who believed that pleasure without excess is the surest path to happiness and wisdom.

The light and airy dining room opens out through French doors to Le Bristol’s fragrant courtyard garden with its towering magnolia trees. Floor-length floral curtains and bowls of fresh flowers bring the garden inside as do the crystal butterflies that are found on each table...

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Barging on France’s Canal du Midi

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I confess I’ve always had a fantasy about canal barging in France…gliding slowly alongside sunflowers and vines, biking to local bakeries, lunching at canal-side cafés, and snoozing away balmy afternoons. No more rushing about not appreciating France’s bucolic riches: our family of five travel a mere 157 kilometres in seven days along the Canal du Midi.

The boat

We start our journey at the Le Boat Company’s port in Castelnaudary, near Toulouse, where a staffer gives us a 15-minute boat handling class. “Yep, we understand how to go forward, reverse and sideways; sure, we’ll remember how to swivel and jiggle the toilet pump for the requisite flushing into the canal…nope we won’t be swimming there;  yes, we see how to fill the water tank and hook up for power. Mais, bien sur, we’ll stick to the speed limit. What is it again…eight kilometers an hour?”

After a full inspection of the 11.5-meter Tango barge boat, we are mightily impressed with its design...

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Photo Friday: Hiking the Pyrenees’ Green Hills

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I took this picture of my husband when our family embarked on a three-day walk in the Pyrenees in early summer, not far from the town of St Jean Pied de Port. It is the last stop in France on the pilgrimage route over the Pyrenees to St James grave in St. Jacques de Compostela. This is one of Europe’s most well-known and also very crowded walks but there are equally spectacular trails, such as this one above the Valley of the Nive, that are completely deserted.

The Pyrenees form the border between France and Spain. At lower elevations there are dozens of moderate trails that traverse a softly folding landscape of limestone hills covered in lime green grasses dotted with grazing sheep which supply delicious brebis cheese for the hungry walker.

France is a walker’s paradise...

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