Hello Fellow Foodies and Travelers!
Gourmet Girl Denise here. I am planning to take a rather quick trip to France in May to scout out a possible future living in the Loire Valley, and I am so excited!
I have been to France on several occasions, twice when I was a little girl to visit my grandparents on my mothers side in Provence over summer vacation, and twice as an adult. On one of those occasions, when I was 23 years old, I lived there for one year, dividing my time between St. Tropez in the south and Paris to the north. It was during that year that I learned the French language, and even though my French isn’t perfect, I am able to understand what people are saying if they don’t speak too fast, and I can make myself understood well enough.
I will spend only two days this time in Paris, jump on the fast train (TGV) to Tours, about 2 hours south, then rent a car and drive to my Loire headquarters in the small, medieval town of Chinon. There I hope to meet up with a wonderful woman named Jamie, who is a member, as are we Gourmet Girls, of IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Jamie lives in Chinon with her husband and has a wonderful blog that you can see here: www.lifesafeast.net. I am hoping to get some great tips from her about life in France.
The Loire is an area steeped in history, with numerous Chateau strung out like jewels along the banks of the Loire River. There are so many that I was hard pressed to decide which ones I wanted to visit, given my limited amount of time. There is the Chateau Usse which Walt Disney used as his inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Chenonceau, where Henri II’s mistress Diane de Poitier lived before Catherine de Medici, Henri’s wife kicked her out in 1559, and Villandry, the last great chateau built in the Loire. I am most excited about visiting Villandry, noted for its’ fantastically beautiful gardens, and especially its’ vegetable garden. which brings me to one of my favorite topics! Food!
The Loire Valley is renowned for being the fruit and vegetable center of France, and along with game and fish in abundance, and the local Vouvray or full-bodied Bourgeuil wine, I am sure I will come back a couple of pounds heavier. This is the area of France known for dishes most Americans have probably heard of: Coq au Vin, a delectable chicken stew with shallots (we have a version of this dish in our cookbook The Gourmet Girls Go Camping), mushrooms and lots of red wine, Bouillabaisse, a fish stew, fois gras, and duck confit. And so much more! I plan to eat my way down the Loire from Tours to Nantes.
More than anything, this trip will take me back to my motherland, where I can trace my roots back to the 1600’s and beyond. And as I look towards the last 25 years of life here on our garden-of-eden planet, I find myself longing for the pastoral life; a small farm where I can grow my own veggies, a couple of goats so I can make my own goat cheese, a few chickens for fresh eggs, a friendly big dog and the sound of a softly rolling river to lull me to sleep at night. Which brings me to a line in one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs “Down to Zero”
“I’m learning its peaceful with a good dog and some trees, out of touch with the breakdown of this century. They’re not gonna fix it up, too easily”.