France is full of history, art, culture, gardens, beautiful fresh produce, stunning jewelry, couture, gorgeous women, charming men, postcard-worthy children, seaside resorts, Alpine adventure, war memorials, castle fortresses, lazy rivers, rivers with purpose, picturesque villages, pre-historic cave paintings, fields of lavender, ancient monasteries, grand cathedrals, small country churches, great bread, expensive wine, cheap wine (both delicious), and food. Cheese, and more cheese.
Paris is and should be a bucket list item for everyone. But after that romantic venture (and there is no more romantic place on earth), I highly recommend that you board a train or rent a car and GET OUT. Get out of Paris. And I say that with nothing but love. Because to see France, to understand France, is to understand the world order today.
OK, perhaps that’s overstating it a bit. But it is a most enjoyable lesson. It is that rarity of rarities that one can buckle down to read about the Hundred Years War while snacking on the perfect almond croissant, seated on a terrace at the foot of an 11th century castle that Richard the Lionheart once scaled. Or wander through the spa town of Vichy, drinking sulfurous water and looking for remnants of the collaborationists. One of my favorite moments in many years of traveling in France was driving up a hill in the Auvergne and discovering a frites stand at the top. Of course we stopped. Many will be surprised to learn that libertine France is very family-oriented; cities empty out on Sundays and holidays as many head back home for a family dinner.
At home I spend time in France virtually, in my kitchen. Every region has its foods, and those foods tell a story. Not the foods of the great Julia Child, whose heroic work to bring French food to American tables has necessarily run afoul of the time constraints and patience of modern working women. There are wonderful meals, practical, cost-effective, and healthy that deserve a place on our home-cooking menus as much as pasta and barbecue. I’ll share my stories and recipes from the land of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Marie Antoinette, and Louis-es good and bad, and Jeanne d’Arc, and hope that you will come to love France as much as I do.