Results tagged travel from David Lebovitz

Quelle difference

The TGV Lyria train makes the trip to Switzerland is just about three hours. If you buy your tickets in advance, first-class seats aren’t that much more expensive than regular fares (sometimes the difference is little as €5) and as a friend said to me, “Since I don’t use drugs, I spend the extra money on first-class train tickets.”

tgv food

Lest you think first-class is elitist, I often go second-class. The good thing about first is that the seats have electric outlets, which is great for getting work done. As in, all the 119 pictures you saw on the Swiss posts I processed on the train ride home. Plus there isn’t the usual “seating scrum” that happens in second class trains in France where it’s not surprising to board the train and find someone in your reserved seat. Then the process is you go sit in another seat. And when that person comes, they go find another seat. I always want to say, “Why doesn’t everyone sit where they are supposed to sit?” But Romain tells me, “C’est comme ça. You don’t understand.” And you know what? He’s right.

Aside from having a seat with an electric outlet, and even better—no one in it—when I looked at my ticket it said “Meal Included.”

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Lard de Begnins

charcuterie

Everyone once in a while – and I could likely count the number of times on one hand – I’ve put something in my mouth that silenced me. Unfortunately for the people around me, it doesn’t happen all that often. But when I was told that there was a special lard made in Nyon, I changed my plans for the morning because something inside me (perhaps my rumbling stomach…) told me that it was something that I just had to check out.

lard de Begnins

When we pulled up in front of Chez Philou, the windows were blocked by stacked crates of cabbages, no doubt destined for saucisse aux choux fumé, or smoked cabbage sausages, a specialty of the region. But a pile of raw cabbage didn’t really interest me as much as the smoky aromas clouding the windows of the shop and wafting outside whenever a customer went in or came out.

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8 Things About Hotels I’d Love to See Changed

breakfast in bed

I’ve worked in the service industry since I was sixteen years old and realize how hard the work is, and how much the people who work in it are undervalued and generally underpaid. On a recent trip I stayed in quite a few hotels, a different one every day for a week, and realized they could be doing a few things that would make things more pleasant for guests, as well as make life easier for the good people that work there:

1. Put amenities in large refillable bottles.

I’ve stopped taking home those tiny bottles of shampoo and body lotion. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I’m no longer that cheap and don’t mind spending a few dollars every couple of months to buy my own. I suspect most people that take them aren’t merely using them as travel-sized bottles for their carry-ons. I’ve always wondered what happens to those little bottles if I use them once. Do they get refilled, or tossed away? I assume they’re tossed, so I no longer bother to use them and bring my own. But for those who just have carry-ons, let’s all make the switch to using large refillable bottles.

2. Give me a checklist with checkboxes asking me what level of service I want.

I am sure there are people out there that like it when someone knocks on their door in the morning, asking if they’re in there so they can clean the room. And I am certain some people like it when they’re watching television and relaxing in the afternoon and someone stops by to see if they need the minibar filled, then thirty minutes later, another person comes by to lift the top of the sheet from the bed and fold it down, otherwise known as ‘turndown service.’

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Comté Cheese Making

Comté wheel & tools

I was recently joking that when I’m forced to wake up very early in the morning I’m not sure if I should feel sorrier for myself, or for the people around me. So when my friend Jean-Louis, who works with the people who make Comté cheese finally gave in to my incessant pestering to join him for a visit, I was excited when after three years, he finally said “Oui”. Actually, he speaks very good English. So he said “Yes”.

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Lausanne, Switzerland

near Lausanne

Everyone has a story about the Swiss, which sometimes ends up with them getting reprimanded for moving something out of the exact place where it belongs. Or arriving 12.5 seconds too late and missing a train. So I was freaking out when I was en route there because I filled out the blank spaces myself on my railpass that asked for my name and passport number. Just after I did that, I read that it said not to do that: the station agent must be the one to take care of it.

chocolates candied oranges in chocolate

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Brie

brie de meaux cheese goat cheeses

This week I watched a television program on the phénomène of locavorism in France. Being a resolutely agricultural country, the French are no strangers to being connected to the earth and to farming. But those days are waning and the announcer went to a supermarket in Paris and came out with a basket containing just a couple of items in it. (One was pain Poilâne.) And when she inquired about that, she was told, “There’s not much grown on the Île de France.” (The IDF is the départment where Paris is located.)

But if she had gone to the local fromagerie, she would have likely seen several substantial disks of Brie de Meaux resting on the counter, a cheese which is made about an hour outside of Paris.

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Real Irish Coffee

Irish coffee

Popular legend has it that Irish Coffee was invented in San Francisco, but, of course, it was invented in Ireland at the Shannon Airport. Which was the first place transatlantic flights landed when planes started flying across the ocean, their destination being Ireland. I’m sure the trip took a lot longer than it does now. But it easy to see why the Irish Coffee was popularized 5000 miles away, although going to the source is the kind of adventure I’m always up for.

cows in Ireland

And when you’re in Ireland, and an honest-to goodness Irish lad, whose mum is a cheesemaker) offers you a drink, even if it’s barely 10:30 in the morning, one could reason that since it’s coffee-based, then it’s fine. Which I did. However when I saw that giant jug of Irish whiskey come out, and tasted my first sip, it was easy to see why Irish eyes are always smiling.

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10 Things to Bring Back from Your Trip to Paris

On my last visit to the states, I engaged a bit in the all-American pastime of le shopping. Of course, I wasn’t looking for things made in France (although folks have a tendency to want to direct me to French bakeries), but I did see what was—and wasn’t, available from my adopted country.

Interestingly, I get a fair number of people coming to France and asking what they should bring their hosts. Generally speaking, the French aren’t especially interested in macaroni & cheese mix, backside-burning hot sauce, or jars of organic crunchy peanut butter. But I always recommend people bring things like bean-to-bar chocolate, Rancho Gordo beans, and a big bag of dried sour cherries, which I’ve only seen at a few places in Paris, and they sell for over €55 per kilo (2.2 pounds). Their hefty price reflects the fact that they’re imported from America.

In the reverse direction, outside of France you’ll often pay hefty prices on French-made items; certain goods one can buy in France quite cheaply. Of course, shipping, exchange rates, taxes, and other costs figure in to those prices when you see them in a store in New York City, but if you’re coming to France, here’s a few things you might want to check out. I didn’t include things like chocolates, macarons, or other obvious things simply because, well, they’re pretty obvious.

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