|Rue de Turenne, 3e arrondissement, Paris|
I had an incredible time and learned so much about Paris and about myself, but with the exception of a couple of day trips (one to Chartres, and one to Ecouen), I never really made it out of Paris - and in any case, I certainly never made it out of Ile de France. Getting to really live la vie quotidienne was an excellent way to get an insider's view of Paris, but restricted the time I had available to see any of the rest of the country.
In March, a friend told me he was planning on taking a month this summer to drive all over France, with the main aim of sampling the various regional cuisines. He asked me if I'd like to come. When I left my job in May, I began reading guidebooks and planning the visit. Recently (after I had booked my flights and planned most of my trip), the friend who originally came up with the idea had to back out due to familial and other obligations. Consequently, I will be making most of the trip on my own, taking advantage of the French railways to get to as many different regions as possible in one short month! My goal is to get a sense of the aromas and flavors and sights and sounds not only of the foods and wines of different regions, but also of the varying histories and cultures assimilated into this one nation. It's a tall order for one month. Maybe I should take a year.........
(As an aside: The amazing thing about French cuisine is that it's hard to define it exactly: in a country with as much land area as Texas, the regional variations from Brittany to Alsace to Basque country to Provence are like night and day. Crepes and bouillebaisse and escargots are all French dishes, but each with a very strong regional connotation; and ordering bouillebaisse, a pungent seafood soup that exemplifies Mediterranean cooking in Marseille, in the Alps would be like ordering Maine lobster in Arizona. It might bear some resemblance, but it could never reach the full potential of the dish. But I digress.)
Below is my anticipated itinerary at this time:
July 29: fly to Amsterdam
July 30-31: Amsterdam
July 31-August 5: Brussels
August 5-7: Avignon/Orange
August 6: Chorégies d'Orange
August 7-10: Aix en Provence/Marseille
August 10-12: Lyon
August 12-15: Lausanne, Switzerland
August 15-17: Strasbourg
August 17-19: Colmar
August 19-22: Dijon/Beaune
August 22-25: Biarritz/Bayonne
August 25-28: Bordeaux
August 28-31: La Rochelle/Ile de Ré
August 31-September 3: Brittany/Normandy
September 3-5: Tours/Saumur
September 5-13: Paris
September 13: return flight to the US
I'm hoping I'll be able to keep this blog updated fairly regularly. But I'm not the best at keeping a journal, so no promises.
If you have any recommendations of places I should go or things I should do in any of these locations (or any other ones nearby! Preferably easily accessible by train) please let me know!