Sunday, May 31, 2009


My love affair with France began at age sixteen. I was lucky enough to spend an entire week in Paris with my high school French class, thanks to the generosity of my father and step-mother. It was the Spring of 1976 and I fell in love with Paris and the French almost immediately. A lot has changed in Paris since those heady first days. I have returned often but somehow each time is like that very first time. Always exciting, always something new to see and discover. This time was no different. Once Robert and I stepped out of the cab in front of the hotel I felt that wonderful frisson I always feel in Paris. Somehow I feel more alive in Paris. I tell people often that France is my second home. I have traveled a lot, been to many foreign countries, liked most all of them but when I am in France I feel at home. Like I belong. Being back in Paris was like returning chez moi. I now feel so very comfortable there. I know how to communicate, how to order in restaurants, how to travel by métro, how to deal with the quirks of the French and France most Americans are confused by.

Our two days went by quickly and were filled with seeing friends who live in Paris. We ate well but that was not the focus of our time there. Because time was so short and because I was trying to see three French friends and two American friends we didn't have the chance to really focus on food. We did eat as much bread, butter and café crèmes as we could. We did grab wonderful leek quiches and fruit crumbles from the corner patisserie for the TGV ride to the Languedoc. We did walk more than we have walked in a very long while. The city enveloped us, wrapped us up in its magic charm and almost didn't let us go. I found it very hard to leave. But another friend in the Languedoc awaited us so I reluctantly boarded the TGV to Béziers.

The Languedoc was all about food (more extensive blogs coming when I return) due to my French friend Anne de Ravel of Saveur Languedoc. Anne has returned from the U.S. to her family farm near Béziers and now runs a cooking and lifestyle company that concentrates on the food and wine of the Languedoc. Those who wish to can spend five days with Anne learning to cook local food and eating in regional restaurants, touring wineries, and meeting local chefs and food purveyors. Because of her connection to food her home, and our stay, was food-filled. Fresh lettuce and Swiss chard from her garden, local seafood from the open air market in Narbonne, local cheeses, fresh bread bought in Montady, the closest village, each morning. Anne and I cooked together and we all ate like kings. Some of the dishes we prepared were fresh sardines barbecued over grape vine cuttings, or souches, a mixed grill of beef short ribs, fresh sausage, chicken that we picked up in Béziers - a medium-sized town close to Anne - also cooked over les souches; local delicacies like tielles, an octopus tarte. We also ate a lot of fresh vegetables either from Anne's garden or from the farmer's market. That is only some of what we ate.

I am going to stop this short as we have a train to Barcelona to catch but I wanted to get something posted at the mid point in our trip. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my laptop doesn't accept the media card from my camera before I left so this post is without photos but I have taken hundreds that I'll be posting with new blog posts I add when I get home next week.

A bientôt!

My Status: Robert and I leave for Barcelona this afternoon at 3:45 p.m., and return home on Saturday, June 6.

Upcoming Posts: Spain: if time allows, I'll be posting blogs from Barcelona. The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce when I return. As well as several posts about our food experiences in France and Spain.

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  1. So glad you're having a wonderful visit "home". And don't worry about not posting photos just yet. I didn't really need them because you described everything so beautifully.


    p.s. I'm going to have to search out tielles (the octopus tarte) here in L.A.!

  2. Great to hear that your trip is going well, Charles. When you write of your allure to France, it mirrors paragraph after paragraph the first 2 chapters of Julia Child's "My Life in France." It sounds like you've made that same connection.

    I've never been, but hope to within the next few years. Travel has never been something within my budget, but times are different now, and I need it more than ever.

    Can't wait to hear more about France and ESPECIALLY Spain. :-)

    Beau Jour!

  3. Thanks Jo & Phil! We just got in to Barcelona - it's a beautiful city much like Paris. Can't wait to go explore. More soon!

  4. Hi Charles! Your love affair to France reminds me of my father’s love affair to it.
    He went to schools in France for about 14 years and loved it. He use to always tell us stories about the life, cultures and food and much more.
    When I went to France, I was really young child, but I still have some memories of it. I would love to go and visit again now.
    We’re so happy for you guys, it looks like you are having a great time.

    Enjoy Spain!!

  5. Charles, if a comment from me appears twice, I apologize, but this post is certainly worthy of an emphatic "two comment" response. Though your itinerary required that you keep this short a lot was conveyed in it. I really enjoyed reading it. It's obvious that you're feeling very much at home and I could sense your joy and inspiration in your writing. Looking forward to the longer posts when time permits, but until then I hope you continue to enjoy the trip! Steven

  6. Oh it sounds like you are having a wonderful trip! My Last Bite is right- no pictures are needed as my imagination is going wild with your descriptions. We need to plan a trip very soon and the trip to Languedoc is exactly what I've been day dreaming about!