The Best of France by Carol Cain
What is the best meal you have ever had in France? From which restaurant or French region was it from? Why is it your favorite?
It sounds strange, but one of my favorite dishes in France so far has been the cassoulet. This traditional stew, with its white beans and mixture of meat, pork, and sometimes even duck, was both foreign and familiar to me. The rich, filling dish is traditional to the South of France though I first tasted it in Toulouse while touring the Midi-Pyrenees. I love it because it reminds me of the warm stews my Dominican grandmother would make for me, the perfect comfort food that reminds me of home. My kids couldn’t get enough of it either!
If you are looking for a place to relax while you are in France where is your go to spot? Is it a beautiful beach or a tranquil spa? Where in France is it located and why is it your favorite?
I am a huge fan of the countryside of France. When I want to relax, I like to go to smaller towns surrounded by vineyards and nature. I found the many B&B’s along the Rhone Valley, such as Domaine Dieulefit and Domaine des Clos to be especially conducive to relaxation. Great wine, the smell of sweet fruits and lavender, and the tranquility of nature, these are all my favorite of things about France off-the-beaten-path.
Where is your favorite place to shop in France? What are your “must- haves” or a favorite item you have purchased? Where did you get it?
Aside from the wine, which I like to pick up at the wineries themselves, I am a huge fan of the French sweets both for myself and as gifts. I am a sucker for the macarons of Paris. But food in general is my obsession when I travel to France, especially at the open markets, which is why my most prized possession is the basket I bought one summer while in the small town of Levignac, in the Midi-Pyrenees. It reminds me of the many trips I took with my family to the markets in outside around Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Paris, and the wonderful meals we shared in our apartment rentals with our local culinary finds.
What is your favorite site to visit when you are in France? Why? Where in France is it?
I could spend days in the Louvre, in Paris. It is so vast and diverse and beautiful, and well, impossible to see in just one day. In the summer months when the crowds are huge, it can be a bit too overwhelming, but during the slower travel season, getting lost in the Louvre, especially on a rainy Parisian day is absolute heaven. I especially loved how engaged my kids were too. It is captivating for art lovers of any age. Outside of Paris, I am madly in love with Bordeaux and when there, we like to spend time walking along the Girond river and on hot summer days, we like to cool off at the miroir d’eau. There are many breathtaking places in France, but this city is my absolute favorite place to be.
What is your favorite bar/club/music venue in France? Where do you like to go out at night? Why?
My favorite bars are at the wineries in the vineyards of France outside of harvest season when I have a better chance of meeting and chatting up the winemakers themselves. But in the big city, for the most part, I am a low-key kind of girl, and I am happy to sit in a cafe listening to the street musicians (the ones that gather in St. Germain-des-Pres in Paris are especially talented), while drinking wine and chatting it up with my loved ones.