For a food lover, a trip to France is like a football fan going to the Super Bowl: impossible to recount every play. But I will try to share some highlights because France is such a magical place and so inspiring, from food to flowers to fashion. And I read My Sweet Life in Paris by David Leibovitz on the flight over, so if you want to know even more and live vicariously from someone who has been there longer then 10 days, I highly recommend it.
We felt very lucky to be staying in the Brittany region in the northwest – it turned out to be totally enchanting. Our house was in Dinan, which is about 1,000 years old, and is one of the oldest towns in France since it was bypassed during WWII and was never bombed. We also explored the beaches of Saint-Malo three of the days, which was leveled during the war but they rebuilt it and it is just beautiful. We really felt like we got to know both towns. Then we took the train back to Paris and spent two nights there. It was great to contrast a small town with the big city, and both places had their own charms.
Dinan sits on the Rive Rance, and though it is a small town, it enjoys a lot of tourists since people boat all the way from Great Britain for the day. The house we stayed in was on a street filled with artists, shop keepers, jewelry and ceramic makers.
A lot of what made our trip great was the house. It was a 500 year old stone house that stayed so cool even during the worst heat wave. We had the windows and doors open the whole week, and the back yard was a dream terraced creation that I could have read and sipped coffee in every day if there wasn’t so much to do. And talk about lush – roses, hydrangeas, impatients, ferns, ivy and forget-me-nots were all overflowing in our backyard and in all the window boxes.
As soon as we got there, after walking down the biggest hill you could ever imagine (think Lombard St. in San Francisco and you are part of the way there):
We of course immediately went and had champagne at a bistro on the river while the kids and my father in law settled into the house.
Then we dropped off some champagne for my father in law and some macarons for the kids:
After digging out my very rusty French, I got directions to a market that turned out to be much too far away, and much too uphill. (There was one closer that we learned about a few days later. That the person who gave us directions didn’t know we didn’t have a car is filed under ‘lost in translation’. On the plus side, we burned off all the wine and bread we were about to eat since bottles of wine are not light and we had many).
We settled in on the patio with delicious foods for an easy dinner our first night.
It was such a happy time. After a long flight and a full day of trains we let out a deep sigh and drank lots of wine with these treats.
The next day we walked around and learned about our city of Dinan, which was a major foothold for wealth and transportation during the middle ages. There is a large cathedral and a walled fortress that runs around the whole town. And the aqueducts were amazing:
Having our big kids along was a joy, they were such good travelers. I think they made memories that will last them a lifetime. Plus, they really did skip down three doors in the morning and get us fresh croissants. Slave labor or enrichment? You decide.
We found a great place in the heart of the city to have dinner after our day of exploring and shopping. Those red blankets on the backs of the chairs were so cozy! The night got cool and they were such a nice touch.
I had an amazing filet with Bernaise sauce and au poivre sauce, and a little pat of foie grois like it was no big deal.
Then we had some shenanigans around the town:
The next day we went to Saint Malo. At the bus station (which has the most beautiful fresco on the wall):
We ate a quick lunch we had picked up along the way. It was a pizza with ricotta and a salad made with celery, tomato, egg, comte cheese (like gruyere), ham and mayo. It was a reminder of how good a salad made with celery can be.
When we got off the bus at Saint-Malo, we were in heaven, especially since it was a heat wave. The cool ocean air was parfait.
There were artists everywhere, and we did some shopping and toured the Castle. We sat out at a bistro for, you guessed it, bread and cheese. And our kids had 3 square meals of ice cream every day.
Then we took the bus ride home with a baguette and some wine and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
Naturally, the next day I was craving some greens. Lucky for me Les Halles was open and the market vendors held out gorgeous veggies. The tomatoes were amazing, I don’t know what is in their soil that makes them taste that good.
We made hot dogs for the kids and feasted on a summer bounty. We still had 4 glorious days left in Dinan and 2 in Paris.
But you’ll have to wait for the next post because I am sure there has to be a limit for how many photos you can squeeze into one blog post. To be continued…BUT if you have some time on your hands, feel free to try out Martha Stewarts recipe for macarons – she shows you how to make all the flavors so her version looked the best and I can’t wait to try them at home!
RebeccaAugust 2, 2015 at 1:01 am
Wow! What amazing experience! Your photos of the town are so lovely! Can’t wait to read part two! 🙂 -Rebecca