Our Tour de France, Part 2

I, myself, have recovered better than my camera’s memory card, which is en route back to Sony, who said they would try to recover the rest of my trip photos. (Yes, I tried recovering software, none of which worked. And I passed on local outfit in Paris, who said they could give it a try…for €400 to €1000.) So in lieu of me shelling out the big bucks to get the photos back, I’m going to wait.

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And we’ll all have to be content with some photos I pulled from my iPhone because as much as I like you all, for a thousand euros, I could spend a week on a beach in Greece — with a hefty budget for Retsina.

France: Loire & Burgundy

(On a related topic, two photographer friends advised downloading and backing up photos daily, using high performance memory cards, and realizing that even new memory cards fail, so keep backing up as much as possible. Storing the photos on an external hard drive, or in a cloud, such as Flickr or Dropbox. Although they aren’t fool-proof, they are other ways to guard and store your photos.)

France: Loire & Burgundy

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, we were heading toward the Loire, where a friend of mine was spending the month. She’s a good cook, and an easy-going vegetarian, and I was happy to arrive to find platters of beautiful fresh vegetables and locally produced goat cheeses, which the Loire is famous for. She was also delighted that we brought vegetables from our friends garden in the Lot, which included a fresh piment d’Espelette pepper, typically used in Basque cooking, and something I wish were grown (and sold) closer to Paris. I love them. If only just outside my window, the landing wasn’t awash with cigarette butts from the neighbors, I could grow something livable out there.

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Arriving in the Loire, we were greeted by more iffy weather, that always seemed to be arriving just as we were. But that didn’t stop us from hitting the market in Loches, with a château (another thing that the Loire is known for) overlooking the city.

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We bought some lovely wax beans from a local producer, which were one-third the price of the non-local wax beans that Romain had purchased at another stand just before. Miffed, he went back to the other stand to ask for a refund. We stood and watched from afar as they said they were sorry, but they couldn’t refund his money for reasons of hygiene. Because he might have touched the beans. I guess the people don’t realize how beans are grown, and picked – and how they handle them themselves (ie: with their own hands, which didn’t look very tidy to me) – but he gave it a try. Me and my friend were amused. We also wondered what would have happened if we had tried returning something at the market.

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We did get some magnificent, hearty bread from a local fellow that grinds his own flour and buckwheat for his breads. And for those who think that homemade and “local” are more expensive, the breads clocked in at about €2,50 per loaf. We bought two, and they lasted us the whole week. And we eat a lot of bread in France. So like the wax beans, buy local – and save! (And eat better.)

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When I was in Corsica, a French fellow asked me why Americans were squeamish about eating rabbit. I didn’t know what he was talking about, because I was at a dinner party last year with some Italian, Swiss and French friends, and of the entire bunch, I was the only one who said he ate rabbit.

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At a stand selling rabbit, I noticed a French publicity sign, noting that rabbit was available already prédécouper, to try to drum up more rabbit sales.

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Part of it is the bad image that rabbit has, as cats were eaten during, and between, wartime, and there is a lingering image of cats being passed off as rabbits at butchers &dmash; even today. So instead of selling them whole, with the heads on (to ensure people that they’re really rabbits), they’re cutting them up and making them more presentable.

Rabbit brochette

Although I like rabbit, I wasn’t ready to eat it cru (raw), so we took them home to grill later (above), and we looked for a place for lunch. The restaurant we wanted to go to was having a fermeture exceptionelle, of course, so we wandered a bit around town. A packed corner café looked promising, so we sat down at the last vacant table. After looking at the menu, our easy-going vegetarian friend asked if it was possible to have the Croque monsieur without the ham. Which doesn’t really seem like a herculean task to execute. The server went into the kitchen, then came out to tell us that it wasn’t possible. After she left us to study the rest of the menu, Romain wondered aloud if the sandwiches weren’t only pre-made in advance (since it would have been a snap to not include the ham), but pre-cooked as well.

It never crossed my mind for a restaurant to buy pre-made sandwiches. But after a little too much back-and-forth with the server, and the kitchen, trying to get a simple dish without meat (you would think being in the middle of goat cheese country, there would be at least a goat cheese salad on the menu…), I saw two plates of “Quiche Lorraine” land on tables. Each was an eerily perfect 360º circle of a tart, without a single aberration, making it obvious that human hands had never touched that quiche. (And likely the rest of the food in the café. Although that probably would have pleased the wax bean stand owner.) So we decided it was probably best for us, and them, if we went elsewhere.

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Happily we did, and found ourselves at La Loir en Tonneaux (29, Grand Rue, Loches). True to the motto on the window, the owner was super nice, and went out of his way to make sure we ate and drank well.

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We had terrific platter of goat cheese from local producers – including a pyramid-shaped beauty called Valençay. Reportedly, it was presented to Napoléon as a full-on pyramid, but he was still smarting from losing a conflict with Egypt and when presented with the cheese, he angrily lopped the pointed top off with his knife.

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The charcuterie platter was especially good, with tender bits of confited pork, local sausages, and the best rillettes I’ve ever had, which they told me were from the Charcuterie Berruer (5, place au Blé), and gave us directions to go there after lunch.

Normally rillettes are packed in an overload of fat. But these particular rillettes, tasted as if someone cooked down a batch of pork until it was soft and meltingly spreadable, and packed it into containers. Wow, were those good. (There’s actually a confrérie, or brotherhood, to a exalt the rillettes from the region with some recipes on their site. I couldn’t find a similar-sounding recipe to the one we had anywhere. But here’s a recipe for pork rillettes if you want to give ‘em a go.) I brought a big tub of them to bring as a gift to our hosts at the next place we would be freeloading. I mean, the next friend’s place where we would be staying.

Another treat we had was a tin of Rödel sardines. (Warning: Site opens with a video.) They’re pricey little fishies, but boy, are they good! I may need to go to the La Grande Épicerie in Paris, after as stop at the pawn shop, to pick up a few tins.

We Americans may have our food trucks, but the Loirois (sp?) have their hardware trucks. And this one also sold wine. Which happened to be en promotion (on sale), the day we passed it. Hence the crowd gathering as they opened.

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And for anyone who dreams of moving to France, at least one-third of the houses in the Loire that we passed were empty, and up for sale. So you could have a picturesque little home in a sweet French village for what wouldn’t even buy you a closet in Paris. We passed a street of deserted storefronts and I dreamed of opening a few little shops, including one that could become a desserted store front.

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Speaking of big dreams, it’s impossible not to visit at least one château in the Loire. There are certainly plenty of them, and everyone has the one that you must see. But we were near to Château de Chenonceau, and went there. Our friend said to prepare for massive crowds. And while we certainly weren’t the only ones visiting, it was a pleasant visit. (For €12,50 per person, it should be.) The kitchen was the best part.

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Even before Pinterest, people were collecting rustic cutting boards…

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And it’s nice to see that even back in the old days, someone shared my inability to stop collecting vintage kitchenware…

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During the First World War, the kitchen was turned into a hospital, which conjures up some, uh, interesting images indeed. But according to the château’s literature, it was fitted with modern medical equipment. (Well, modern for 1915.)

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The château dates back to the 16th century, and while the place was beautifully restored and preserved, stepping into the public restroom was like a trip back to the 1515. Honestly, for €12,50 per person, you would think they could have someone clean the restroom a couple of times a day.

[No picture here. On purpose.]

Before we left the Loire, we stopped at the Ferme-Auberge La Lionnière for lunch in the countryside. After driving through lush fields (due to all the recent rain, which at least was good for the grass…), we pulled up to a big garden bursting with tomatoes on our right, and a barn that normally holds their goats on the other side.

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The three of us love goats — what’s not to like? — but they were out in the fields, munching away on grass, having already been milked that morning for the spectacular goat cheese they make and sell in their shop. So we weren’t able to pet the sweet goats, which, like most animals (including me), put food before anything else. And they weren’t interested us with all that lovely green grass around.

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Further proof that vegetarian food doesn’t have to be limited to trying to coax restaurants to remove ham from pre-made sandwiches before serving, we had a splendid lunch on the farm.

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Big, generous beignets of goat cheese were excellent, and had me craving a pot of spicy sauce to dip them into. The meaty pâté was fine. But paled next to those warm cheese puffs. Fortunately vegetarians not only like to eat well, but are nice about sharing.

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The owners happily made an omelet, cracking a few eggs from their neighbors, and roasting some tomatoes they’d just picked from their garden.

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We were served a chevreau (kid goat) from their herd of biquettes – which is slang for goats, in French.

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Before dessert, there was a nice sampling of goat cheeses as well. All were terrific.

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After bisousing our friend in the Loire goodbye, it was time to head to near Burgundy, to stay with our French gal-pals who live in Asia, but come back to France every summer with their four extraordinarily well-behaved kids. Our friends don’t have a garden, but they have a pool, which kind of makes up for it. (And those kids do an amazing job washing the dishes after dinner…without being asked!) The first night our friends fed nineteen people, including four hungry teenagers visiting from England, without breaking a sweat.

My favorite souvenir of our last visit to Chablis, and the town of Saint-Florentin, were the jumbo gougères. Unfortunately our favorite baker was on vacation, just like the rest of us (and this was about the point where I lost all the photos on my memory card) so we had to scrounge around for some elsewhere. We found some, just next to a café by a fountain – where a market vendor apologized to us because his truck was blocking our view of the historic fountain (!)

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And it was certainly nice of the café waiter, who asked if we wanted large or small glasses of wine, to go alongside, which he poured tableside. Since it was mid-morning (hey, it’s France…lighten up..), we went with the smaller ones, which he filled up as much as he possibly could.

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Our friends bought some lait cru (raw milk), which they promptly brought to a boil when they got home (!)

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We picked up a farmload of cheeses, which Romain later made a spectacular nectarine and apricot tart with passion fruit jam that our friends brought from Asia, underneath. And I fondled the gorgeous summer tomatoes, wondering how many cases I could fit in the car (which was filled with bags of vintage kitchenware that I’d picked up along our 2 1/2 week trek across France), to bring back to Paris.

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It was also great having an open fire to grill over, one of the perks of being in the country. (In addition to trucks that deliver wine that’s on sale.) Romain grilled off three hefty côtes des bœufs that he studded with garlic, and I chopped up bunches of fresh herbs to make a lively chimichurri sauce, which visibly frightened a few of the older folks in the group, when I told them I was making a sauce that had chiles in it. (However, everyone ate it all up without complaint.) And we feasted on yet another tomato salad, using as many as we could before we had to return to Paris.

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Like great tomatoes, another thing that you don’t find easily in Paris are horses. The last (and only time) I rode one, I was in upstate New York and as soon as I got on, the horse took off at full gallop before I could barely grab the reins, racing through the woods, sideswiping trees – which my legs didn’t appreciate – while my friend yelled after me, “Control the horse! Control the horse!” Um, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that when you are on top of something that weights five times what you do, and is fifty times stronger, who is the one that has control of the situation. After the harrowing ride, I managed to get off…and I wasn’t all that anxious to get back on to a horse, ever.

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Depending on who you ask, perhaps it’s a good thing that the photos of me riding a horse were lost on the memory card. And while it took my friend’s 9-year old daughter to teach me how to tame a horse (she stared it down before I got on, with the fiercest determination I’d ever seen), I got hopped on, which I learned how to jump on without scaring the sh*t out of the horse. We galloped and trotted about until I’d had enough, and let the horse go back to the field with her friends, to munch on grass and shoo flies away with its tail. I went back to nurse my injuries. (Obviously whoever designs horse saddles doesn’t have testicles.) But chocolate-covered madeleines helped me recuperate. [No photo : ( ]

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Our post-ride, and last lunch, was Chicken Lady Chicken (from My Paris Kitchen), which Romain grilled off, while I waited for the pain killers to kick in. Our friend made an excellent dessert by whipping mascarpone with a bit of sugar, crumbling speculoos cookies over the top, and topping it with sugared blackberries that he son had picked outside. (Note: I am going to be checking Ebay.fr to see if I can buy some of those French kids.)

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Then it was finally time to leave our friends and head home. One clue was that my French friends – and Romain – were starting to speak French like me. (Yikes..) And another was the dwindling daylight hours, signaling that summer was winding down, and it was time to go back to Paris.

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We hit the autoroute…and drove as fast as the speed limit would allow on certain sections…

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And stopped at some of the rest stops, my favorite being the one with the space-age, retro feel.

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Less-favorite were the ones with fast-food restaurants and shops selling prepacked sandwiches and snacks, where it was easy to tell we were getting closer to Paris by the chain-smokers clustered around the entrances…

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…and I got body-checked a couple of times, trying to make it to the restrooms inside.

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After living in cities most of my adult life, I sometimes wonder – after spending so much time in the beautiful villages and small towns in France – if life would be calmer out there. If I had a garden, I could eat my own tomatoes every day in the summer. (Although after recently reading the hilarious The $64 Tomato, maybe not.) But what if, instead of people racing — and pushing — past me, I got to pet the friendly goats, and eat luscious cheeses from their milk every day? I could buy my cheeses directly from the producers, and get raw milk (and pasteurize it myself), if I wanted to. And I could have picnics by a lake, whenever I wanted to.

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Someone could go out and pick wildflowers to give to friends. (And to me!) #keeper

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I could open a stand selling oversized gougères, like those in Chablis, since every place we went to was sold out by midday, and I think there’s a niche out there for cheese puffs that are available in the afternoon. And I could drink overfilled glasses Chablis alongside them. Even on a weekday morning, at 10:30am.

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The horses? Well, you can keep them. But I wouldn’t mind a few well-behaved teenagers to wash dishes and pick fresh fruit and berries for the desserts. And a 9-year old, to whip everybody into shape.

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90 comments

  • August 28, 2014 8:15am

    mon reve…………!!!! lovely post. what pictures you were able to share with us were gorgeous. the rillettes!!! and the cosmos! (the gougers!) hope paris is not too much of shock after that beautiful countryside.

  • Jessica
    August 28, 2014 10:41am

    Little girls are kick-ass at caring for horses, including staring them down into submission.

    BTW, are you SURE you tried photo recovery software ;) ;)? (Sorry couldn’t resist)
    One of my computers, on which I had, easily, four years worth of writings without any backup made EVER, pretty much fried. Took it to a repair shop that said that well, they COULD attempt a recovery but that the hopes were slim and the price tag would START at 500 euro. Thanks but no thanks, and I went home to mourn my writings and instantly buy an external HD.

    I’ve noticed, the few times I’ve had rabbit, that some sellers leave the tail with the fur intact. About the same as leaving some plumage on a game bird.

    Anyway, looks like a very pleasant journey, despite the loss of the photos.

  • Charlotte K
    August 28, 2014 12:20pm

    I think that might be my favorite post of yours ever, and the Iphone photos are swell! The pictures of some of those simply prepared but perfect dishes–wow. The goat cheese platter made me drool.

  • August 28, 2014 12:57pm

    That was such a lovely read this morning. To see those beautiful images is an affirming reminder of what an incredible world we live in. Thanks!

  • Betty McG
    August 28, 2014 1:18pm

    So very kind of you to share your vacation with us. The pictures are lovely. Sorry about the data loss, sometimes it happens, even with backup and when the backup crashes and burns it’s even worse than when I forgot to backup and lost data. I hope all your wildest dreams come true! (Even if the one about opening a shop isn’t the wildest;)

  • August 28, 2014 1:48pm

    Roasted cat was being sold in inns in medieval Spain as “rabbit”, so rabbit heads were left on back then, too. At least one medieval cookbook has a recipe for roasted cat, buried with rosemary for several days before cooking. The recipe includes a warning about not eating cat brains since the eater would become insane.

  • Claire
    August 28, 2014 2:17pm

    I’m sorry about your memory card, but I have to say that these surviving photos made me weep! Such beauty – of countryside, food, handsome French partners who pick flowers :P

    What is the dish with the pickles? And do you have a recipe for the tomato/green bean mixture with whatever those black things are mixed in?

    This is certainly one of your more beautiful posts and I’m triple green with envy.

  • August 28, 2014 2:43pm

    I read this slowly … actually, I got a bit lost in the “story” and was a bit sad to return to Paris! It was a lovely start to my rural NW Montana (U.S.) morning. Thank you for sharing and the iPhone photos were not lacking at al!

    Giant gougeres and Chablis at 10:30 a.m. sounds wonderful also :) !

  • Cynthia Rieth
    August 28, 2014 3:27pm

    Lovely post David, I was an Chenonceaux six years and your pictures of all the copper cookware brought back such fond memories :)

  • August 28, 2014 3:50pm

    The Boulands at La Lionnière ferme-auberge are our neighbors. I’m glad you liked their cooking and their goat cheeses. No illusions about growing tomatoes here, however. This summer has been too rainy and damp. After years in cities — Paris, Washington, and San Francisco — we moved to the Loire Valley 11 years ago and have no regrets.

  • August 28, 2014 4:22pm

    Another gem of your travels. Thank you for the excellent pictures and comment. Its almost like being there, well, I have been there, and its all you rave about and more.

  • Cherie
    August 28, 2014 4:32pm

    sounds like you had a wonderful trip – I hope you get your pictures returned intact!

    Giant gougeres – sigh – I could have one right now I think

  • August 28, 2014 4:35pm

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing

  • Linda Boerner
    August 28, 2014 4:39pm

    I love your blog — it’s the only one that I read, and I’ve shared it with so many friends. I was very happy to find you featured in the Read & Feed column of our local newspaper yesterday (8/27/14), The Tampa Bay Times. It was a very nice article about your new book, The Sweet Life.

    We’re leaving on Sunday to spend a month in Paris, and today I just discovered your Amazon link and a book that I wish I could have bought earlier, Eating & Drinking in Paris (6th edition). Do you know if it will ever be sold as an e-book? With the airline luggage limits these days, we always try to travel as light as possible.

    Again, David, love your blog. My favorite was about the things that you take when you are a guest for a week or a long weekend. And I thought I was always prepared!

    Keep up the great work.

    Linda Boerner

  • Shona
    August 28, 2014 4:41pm

    Thank you for this post, David. Your posts always make me happy, but this was beautiful. Your writing is always good to read and the photos are lovely. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but beside your writing a lot of other food and life blogs seem overwritten.

  • Kathi Koegle
    August 28, 2014 4:43pm

    You are such a great storyteller and photographer! Every post makes France come alive for us, your happy and fortunate readers. My husband and I leave very soon for a week in Provence and a week in Burgundy. Gougeres and goat cheese, here we come! Thank you for brightening a dreary, late-summer day in Iowa.

  • Kate
    August 28, 2014 5:03pm

    What a beautiful bouquet and what a fantastic vacation!

    David–after reading your memoir and poring over this blog’s archives, I would still love to hear the story of how you and Romain met : ) Has it ever been committed to paper or pixels?

  • Nick Straw
    August 28, 2014 5:16pm

    Paris has a certain something, and I guess other cities do too in their own way, but if you want to have a nice life, doing things you enjoy, then the pays is hard to beat.

    Off to explore the furthest, darkest most profond parts of France on the 16th. Your exploits remind me of years gone by, discovering a way of life I had no idea existed back then.

  • RAISA BERRIZ
    August 28, 2014 5:17pm

    I loved this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cynthia Zulla
    August 28, 2014 5:18pm

    Those gougeres! I make smaller ones to share with my friends at our farmer’s market wine shop during tastings, they are a big hit. I have to try and make these larger ones for myself. Just a lovely story you wrote here.

  • Bev Burgoyne
    August 28, 2014 5:20pm

    I’ve been reading your blog since the Sicily posts, and look forward to it every week! Your photos are spectacular and your writing style is so friendly. Thank you for sharing the wonders of Europe and its food with us!

  • Tammi
    August 28, 2014 5:22pm

    What a wonderful story you can tell. When I read your posts I want to jump on a plane and head for France. The photos are fabulous and the one of Romain’s plum and apricot tart and the tomoato and bean salad has my mouth watering. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

  • August 28, 2014 5:24pm

    You were in Loches??? My backyard! I always schedule my little dog’s toilettage for market days there. (There’s a good vendor for fresh pasta, which is practically unheard of around here.) And, yes, we do eat a lot of the local cheese, patronize the markets whenever possible, and even though I flinch sometimes about ordering wine in the morning, it’s not viewed with shock and horror, except maybe by first-time visitors. Please, please come open up a storefront here!

    Any chance you can discreetly share the name of the restaurant you abandoned? I confess we usually just go to the pizzeria or the crepe place but the Gerbe d’Or is nice, too, for a fancier yet affordable feast. But it’s always good to avoid those kind of prefab places.

    I am definitely going to track down those chevre beignets. I get my own goat cheese in Pouligny which I pass through on the way to the local LeClerc.

    I’m forwarding this post to all my local friends here right now!

  • Molly F.C.
    August 28, 2014 5:24pm

    David, what are the pink flowers (if you know)? Gorgeous photo.

  • Heather McBride
    August 28, 2014 5:25pm

    Lovely read! Thanks so much. Like Lunda B and Shona, yours is the only one I read and share with others and I enjoy so much your images and writing style. I have noticed lately that I am referencing things I have learned on your blog or your FB page with friends and family and it’s fun. I’m the reader who was looking for a blackberry recipe on your blog a few weeks ago (by mistake)! Well, now you’ve graciously shared an image and ingredients for something that gives me another good excuse to go pick more! I overtly share with others that I want to live in France and Spain and do what to are doing! It’s not a secret! I thank you and the universe for my opportunity to try out what I envision doing and appreciate what you have created for yourself that you share with us your readers. Merci! I’m happy to come work or volunteer for you anytime! ;-) Looking forward to seeing those other photos when your memory card get fixed!

  • peg kazda
    August 28, 2014 5:31pm

    what a total delight! you are a funny man david and you take swell pics with your groovy iPhone (i bet….). thoroughly enjoyed this trip this morning and oh would i love a piece of that tart.

  • August 28, 2014 5:37pm

    Bonjour David– A mouth-watering post, and incidentally, perfect timing on your part, as I received my copy of your latest cookbook in the mail in my corner of American suburbia yesterday :-) I can’t imagine the story would have been much better with the rest of the photos (for 1000 Euros, I would go to Greece myself…) You will have to humor this French teacher, but I thought I would mention that, en français, “la piquette” is a cheap, bad wine (piquer = to sting, and that wine is so bad it will sting your tongue.) As for cute little white goats – the most famous of all in my homeland is the ill-fated “Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin,” – we refer to them as “une biquette.” You only got the first letter wrong. :-) Bon weekend, David. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  • August 28, 2014 5:49pm
    David Lebovitz

    French Girl in Seattle: Thanks – and oops. Oddly, that’s one of my favorite new French words to say. Thanks for pointing out the goof!

    Slobhan: I don’t recall the name but it was on a prominent corner downtown. (I think the sign was maroon?) Was surprised it was packed but before we ordered when I went to go wash up, I noticed a couple hadn’t eaten much on their plate, and pushed most of the food to the side. Warning sign #1! – we had a lovely time at the wine bar and they were super nice. Glad we split.

    ken: It’s a beautiful area, and you’re lucky to have them as neighbors. Yes, the rain and gray skies were not conducive to good tomatoes, but they did have a few nice red orbs growing in their garden. The star, of course, was the goat cheese – and the Touraine rosé : )

  • August 28, 2014 5:56pm

    What a lovely post, David, one of my favorites of yours ever. And that’s saying something because I love your work.

    I do hope that you recover your photos. I recently just had a brand new hard drive (one day old!!!) crash, so I can feel your pain. Sometimes I want to bury my head into my pillow at the thought of the years worth of photos and files, but I am trying (but not entirely succeeding) to tell myself that they are just that, files. I still have the memories. Maybe you will fare better than I have at believing that.

    • August 28, 2014 6:02pm
      David Lebovitz

      A photographer friend told me that even brand-new memory cards fail, so backing up is always a good idea. He told me to travel with a portable hard drive, although as you found out, they can fail, too. He also told me pros usually travel with two! Using smaller memory cards and swapping them out is also insurance (since if one fails, you still have pictures on the other.) I’m also going to use extreme pro memory cards from now on, since apparently they’re better (and yes, I ordered two, even though they’re spendy!), although it’s nice that Sony has a service that helps recover photos – well, maybe!

  • Debbie
    August 28, 2014 5:59pm

    please give me some dates you have demonstrations or book signing – we will be in Paris in early October

  • August 28, 2014 6:04pm

    Were this images from a different card, or were this recovered from the misbehaving memory card? Either way, I’m glad you took these images. They are amazing (I particularly love the one with the writing on the window!).

  • August 28, 2014 6:12pm

    I so totally agree with all the good comments about you and your blog and thank you so much. It is such a joy to read it and oh…I am so hungry but nothing comes close to what is in your photos. It is hard to believe you took such great photos with your phone. Sorry for the mishap with your photo chip and hope they can figure it out. Just love and enjoy your blog. It’s just the best!

  • August 28, 2014 6:20pm

    I can’t remember the last time I woke my dogs up, as they napped and I worked (played) on the computer, with my LAUGHING! I tried to feel your pain, but I was laughing too hard, imagining you on the horse.
    It seems an idyllic country life, but somehow I feel you need more adventure and stimulus. One last thing – have you never cuddled an adorable soft and squiggly rabbit? You would not eat one after you came to love it – maybe?! Even before I became semi-vegetarian, I did not eat CUTE!

  • George G
    August 28, 2014 6:24pm

    This was wonderful. Thanks so much.

  • Sandy
    August 28, 2014 6:33pm

    David, the same thing happened to me when I went horse back riding as a teen. Good for you for trying again! I have not, and I’m 68 now so not likely to…

  • August 28, 2014 6:35pm

    Les rillettes!

  • shelley
    August 28, 2014 6:50pm

    Sigh, that picnic by the lake….

    When I was on a three week class trip to Paris, the Loire Valley was one of the weekend trips we took. But in the depths of January, touring those chateaus was damn cold.

  • August 28, 2014 6:52pm

    Love the tour…and the beautiful pics!

  • Terry
    August 28, 2014 6:55pm

    What a wonderful post! I feel like I’ve taken the vacation too. Lovely, lovely photos (sorry about the others) and the food! OMG! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Nancy fenstermacher
    August 28, 2014 7:45pm

    David, absolutely love the blog but this episode was really interesting to me as was once a summer student in Tours. Photos are fab & would love recipes for gougeres and tarte! Been trying a sorts of your ice creams all summer/yum yum! Be well, Nancy

  • August 28, 2014 8:15pm

    What a wonderful post, that marvellous cheese makes me especially happyx

  • Marty
    August 28, 2014 8:17pm

    David, Another photo back up alternative is using a tablet (I have an iPad). You’ll need to purchase a small card reader-about $40. Once saved to the iPad, you can easily view and share the photos via email, or move to a cloud, etc. I did this on recent trip through northern Spain, and it worked very well. Once I got home, I connected my iPad to my PC, and saved all to my hard drive.

  • Linda H
    August 28, 2014 8:19pm

    Fantastic post. My favorite room in the chateaux were always those immense kitchens.

  • Marguerite
    August 28, 2014 8:26pm

    Giant gougères, eh? I love making (and eating) them, but less so piping them from a pastry bag. Can I just spoon big globs instead?

  • Kat
    August 28, 2014 8:27pm

    So, I did the exact thing you are wondering about–I moved away from town, bought a few acres, and started raising goats, chickens, ducks, and the occasional steer to eat. Town stresses are replaced sooner than you might think by country stresses. On the farm, though, you can only blame yourself and your management decisions. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even for Paris, but please don’t think it’s all agrarian rainbows and cute baby goat kids. But oh, do those baby goats make up for it all…

  • Dianne
    August 28, 2014 8:45pm

    David, THANK YOU for sharing all these joys with us. Your pictures transport me there! Alas, however,I am unable to link to your recipe for port rillettes. Is it me, or is it the “internets”?

    PS: I particularly love your forays into vegetarian cooking, as my husband and I are gradually migrating there. With your assistance, our journey has been pretty spectacular!

  • August 28, 2014 8:54pm

    oh this is spectacular – can I just (only!) have the bunch of wildflowers with blackberries of your last photo please?! I think I WOULD go to live further outside of Paris (OK, I already live in the GREEN but in half an hour I’m in the heart of the capital) – and I would keep my ‘pied-à-terre’…. that’s for sure. Most of the charm of the city is that you KNOW you can come and leave when you want.
    Thank you David

  • bonnie poppe
    August 28, 2014 9:10pm

    The hardware trucks! Yes, I think they go everywhere, we have them here in the Languedoc. I have bought things from them, they send out a flyer a few days before they will be passing through. I once bought a ladder forgetting my car was in the shop, it was a long walk home. And Chenonceau is the best. It is still in private hands, owned by the Chocolate Menier family for many years, and is kept up beautifully. I’ve been several times and it is one of my top 3 favorites in the Loire. The others are Beauregard and Cheverny. Oh dear, the garden at Villandry too. Perhaps you should have a “maison de vacance” in the Loire when Paris just gets to be too much!
    bonnie in the Languedoc

  • Nora
    August 28, 2014 9:37pm

    Hi David — Hi Molly F.C. — The flowers are Cosmos, annuals, which readily grow from seed. They are leggy, always cheerful, and colorful as in David’s lovely picture which brought back sweet memories.

    Obviously, this was a marvelous post, with the “exception which makes the rule”, of the missing photos, so sorry, But the ones you have posted are really so fine!

    I had a new camera die many years ago in Bath which took a day to set right, and a “new” card turned out to be too new, too large a capacity to work in a then new digital camera upon arrival in Paris years ago. That time the camera salesman in a food/department store whose name I’ve forgotten figured it out pronto, so nothing was lost. Those mishaps surely make one relish all the trouble free times.

    On another topic David, I’ve been making your Almond Cake recently… new favorite of virtually everyone who has had the pleasure. Thank you! Thank you!

  • Stephanie
    August 28, 2014 9:42pm

    I have two well behaved French boys (age 8 and 12) if you ever want to borrow them… during a summer vacation for example :) :) :)

  • Dedre
    August 28, 2014 10:21pm

    Oh David!! I really do love you. You made laugh start to finish. I can’t wait to plan my trip to France.Your pics are gorgeous!! Love the one with the field flowers. I hope Romain presented you with that pretty pretty bunch!! Can’t wait to see pics of you on the horse i’m sure it will be hysterical you are such a riot.
    Bon Nuit

  • Farmer Susan
    August 28, 2014 11:37pm

    WOW! That tomato salad, off to farmers’ market for green beans. Tomatoes and onion in the garden, the olives done brining. Thank you for a great read.

  • Sarahb1313
    August 29, 2014 12:29am

    Sigh. Well I wasn’t going to write anything here… but…
    I do so enjoy your recounting of your beautiful travels. It only serves to reinforce that I am not missing anything by skipping the cruises, hotels and otherwise typical vacationing that colleagues undertake. I am definitely with you when it comes to traveling.

    I was hanging in there until I got to the copper kitchenware at the castle and the goat cheese platter and the gougère photos!!
    You have inspired me and our next trip will include family in Denmark as well as Lausanne and Lisbon, mostly a gastronomic endeavor, so don’t hesitate to comment.
    :-))

  • Burndett Andres
    August 29, 2014 2:01am

    I SO enjoyed this post, David. Thank You! XO

  • Bebe
    August 29, 2014 2:21am

    Lovely reminders of happy times in France. Loved seeing Chenonceau, probably themost beautiful of the Loire chateux and one that has a fascinating history. Catherine de Medici (who brought haute cuisine to France from her native Italy), Diane de Poitier. And during WWII it was indeed a hospital – and not just the kitchen. The large bridge area became a ward. And the story of people escaping through Chenonceau from Occupied into Free France is also of legend.

    A magical place.

    Funny thing about rabbit. When I was a new bride, a teenager in the First Ice Age, and we were poor as church mice, rabbit was a bargain food in every decent market in Southern California. Fresh, cut into serving pieces and nicely packaged. And so cheap. We ate a lot of rabbit. Then it disappeared.

    Thank you for an afternoon’s escape…

    Bebe

    (Question: I have a lovely set of Dehillerin copper pots – tin lined – chef’s grade. Bought in 1978 and rarely used. I don’t do Craigslist so am hoping for a private placement in the Los Angeles area. Any ideas? (Not attempting to peddle them here!!!)

  • Bebe
    August 29, 2014 2:27am

    Please excuse my second Comment.

    Well, cameras fail and so do memories. Here is the history of Chateau de Chenonceau. I got it almost right from memory.

    The line of ownership went (by force) from Diane de Poitiers to Catherine de Medici. And the hospital use was in WWI. It was used as an escape route across the River Cher from Occupied France to Free France during WWII.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Château_de_Chenonceau

  • Anne Wright
    August 29, 2014 3:16am

    David, you are too funny! Thanks for the entertaining words and gorgeous photos! You reminded me of when father-in-law had a very large vegetable garden up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We would always go up to visit the first two weeks in August so we could get our fill of the wonderful corn and tomatoes! Of course, he also had blueberry bushes he had transplanted from his home in Maryland. Keep on traveling and enjoying!

  • August 29, 2014 3:21am

    I’m with you, David.

    I wouldn’t shell out that kind of money to recover a memory card with a photo of Elvis Presley and Justin Bieber having lunch together at Jules Verne in Paris.

    I’d bet they don’t even wear a mask when giving those exorbitant quotes.

  • Lien
    August 29, 2014 3:39am

    Your post makes me hungry and missing France a whole lot

  • Linda Fernandes
    August 29, 2014 5:07am

    Be prepared next time, but frankly this is a great post! I’ll be traveling via train to Avignon, then renting a car to explore Provence with my base being Chateau Rochegude. I can’t wait for this new adventure and your blog was a great intro to road trips in France. Thank you!

  • Danielle
    August 29, 2014 5:19am

    I haven’t commented in a long time, but thank you for yet another lovely post and story. You’re an amazing story-teller and your pics (including the phone ones!) never cease to delight. Thanks for sharing!

  • August 29, 2014 5:40am

    David, your photos are fabulous. If they are able to recover the photos on your flashcard, I can only imagine how beautiful they are with iPhone photos as nice as this. Thanks for sharing.

  • August 29, 2014 6:45am

    David, I adored your Tour de France – un grand merci! It told me again why I fell in love with France so long ago, especially just meandering from village to village, market to market in the 60’s, the real France profonde. Romain’s bouquet left me with happy tears.

  • Pamela Jo
    August 29, 2014 7:56am

    Many thanks for the Tour de France. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I
    was in Paris, Lyon, and near Avignon in June. When I read your blog, I am transported back to France, and it makes my heart and soul smile.:-) I shall return in two years, but until then, I will trust you to keep my memories fresh. Cheers!

  • August 29, 2014 10:40am

    The perfect omelette, the chevre, the gougeres, the salad..drooling here and I want to eat lunch at 10AM.
    I’m thrilled with uploading daily to flickr now that there’s a terabite of space. I went from 3,000 over 6 yrs to 21,000 in a few months.
    Flickr Studio app makes it so fast, easy and very good for finding stuff.

  • August 29, 2014 10:51am

    ” Honestly, for €12,50 per person, you would think they could have someone clean the restroom a couple of times a day.” Ha ha ha, How long have you lived in France, David?

  • Carole
    August 29, 2014 2:34pm

    David, The next time you have computer or camera problems, go to the rue Mongallet where French of Chinese origin run the shops. Having been quoted 400 euros to install a new windows program with no guarantee of retrieving anything, I went to Mongallet One (person’s name was Weili, pronounced Willy) where a new program was installed (in French this time, but that was OK) and nothing lost for 55 euros. This was 3 years ago, so I’m sure cost has increased somewhat but the work was done within the day (the French place said 3 weeks) and I haven’t had any problems since with that particular laptop. I’m sure they, or another shop on the rue Mongallet, would have been able to do something about your camera’s memory card too. Nice phone photos….
    Carole

  • Ronnie Gronek
    August 29, 2014 10:53pm

    David, loved this post. Your photos were so lovely, I felt that I was was there with you!your vacation sounds idyllic. Hope you and Romain are happy to be back home.thanks for your blog. I love it!

  • mimi taylor
    August 30, 2014 12:14am

    As GertudeStein said, A rose is a rose, and a Rose wine is not a hybrid to be infused with other things to make a
    not rose

  • Nicolette
    August 30, 2014 5:29am

    David,
    Lovely entry. Now of course, I am craving gougeres, with a side of wine! Oh, and if you do end up on a beach in Greece, just make sure the retsina is chilled!

  • August 30, 2014 5:39am

    I would love a little country house in the Loire Valley. And I agree about the raw rabbit…that def requires a certain palate! :)

  • Carol
    August 30, 2014 9:19pm

    OK so the old medieval traditions sure did everything backwards in riding horses, the men should have worn dresses(like the Scots) and ridden side saddle, while the ladies wear pants! Truly, you HAVE to command the horse, you’re the boss! Cheers, lovely pics.

  • Betty
    August 30, 2014 11:13pm

    LOVE your blog! Would love to trade places from St Pete Fl to Paris for a while!

  • Michele
    August 31, 2014 5:33am

    Once again I wish I was on your trip. Those magnificent photos of countryside AND FOOD!! The Loire valley is magnifique! Thank you for sharing your trip.

  • August 31, 2014 5:44am

    oh David, this is so so beautiful. it looks like you had an absolutely lovely trip! i’m very sorry to hear about your memory card and I really hope Sony can fix it and get it back to you soon. enjoy the upcoming autumn season! saludos from Panamá :)

  • Alison
    August 31, 2014 5:51am

    I don’t have testicles and it’s been 15 years since I’ve ridden, but you might be more comfortable if you try posting. http://horses.about.com/od/learntoride/ht/postthetrot.htm Watch the horse’s shoulders for help.

  • Gavrielle
    August 31, 2014 6:31am

    Such an enjoyable post, and so many lovely photos, particularly the first one of the flowers (on an iPhone? Bravo! ) and the one of the chateau. You’ve given some excellent advice in here about how to avoid photo loss – another tip is not to fiddle with the card too much. I used to edit down each day’s photos directly on the camera every day when travelling, deleting the duds, but then read that that increases your chances of data loss. So now I leave ’em alone till I get home – it means I have to take handfuls of cards, but the peace of mind is worth it!

  • Corrine
    August 31, 2014 10:55am

    Yes, why not live in the countryside? I can as long as I have good internet connection so I can always read your blog like forever!

  • jane
    August 31, 2014 5:18pm

    Dear David Lebovitz,
    For the second year we have just had a few days at the Auberge de Chassignolles, high up in the beautiful hills, not far from Clermont- Ferrand. Very simple, no fuss, but everything that is necessary, beautifully presented, warm friendly atmosphere, only open May-October but such good simple food, treated with respect, everything fresh, home made using what is available locally, at an extremely fair price (a 25 euro menu) + a very interesting wine list.

    I am afraid, yet again, it is an excellent example of young foreigners managing to outdo the French as what they once did so well. Just thought you might make a week-end visit before they close this year. I think you would appreciate it. (Peter Taylor is brilliant, as well as a young American chef who did some training at Chez Panisse – Matthew Robertson.)

    We live in the Gers, I so wish we had a restaurant like this here!
    Very best wishes,
    Jane

  • thea
    September 2, 2014 5:37am

    Oh my, dear David, someone in your party knows how to arrange flowers! Oh, tres bien!

    • Jane
      September 2, 2014 9:46am

      I just have to add to above note, that was one of the most lovely things at Chassignolles, bunches of wild flowers on every table.

  • kathryninthekitchen
    September 2, 2014 10:49am

    I always enjoy your posts – this one particularly, It is simply lovely. Thanks for making my day David.

  • Linda
    September 2, 2014 4:51pm

    When I was a young child in Southern California during the early ’50’s, we ate rabbit all the time. My mother would drive to the rabbit ranch, and the owner would sell her freshly cleaned and cut-up rabbit, which she would fry or stew. We all loved it. Then we moved to Texas. I remember the day she went to our neighborhood butcher and asked for a cleaned rabbit. He said, come back tomorrow. She picked up the rabbit the next day, and put the whole thing in a big pot to stew. After about two hours, she showed it to me and said, ‘I don’t know what this is, but it’s definitely not rabbit.’ We buried it in the back yard. I’ve never had rabbit again and you don’t see Texans eating much rabbit.

  • Arturo
    September 3, 2014 11:40pm

    @ bebe I am a cook in the LA area if you are looking to find a loving home for your pots. You can contact me at quesada.arturo@gmail.com

  • Sandra Jacobsen
    September 4, 2014 4:39am

    Your photos David always make the journey no matter where you go, extraordinary. Thank you for that. Everytime I read about what you and Romain are ‘snacking’ on I wonder how you both manage to stay so slim and not weigh in at 300 pounds. Do you have a secret? Perhaps like me you are snackers…tasting just enough to satisfy. Do let us all know since we all I’m sure wish to eat and stay on the slim side. Love all your blogs.

  • Sandi
    September 4, 2014 5:28am

    I just want to tell you that I LOVE your posts and always read them + attachments, zigs & zags several times…Love your sense of humor & honesty in writing…no surprise why you are so popular and in demand. Each post is like it’s own little book! Can’t you find time to write WEEKLY?? (haha)

  • Mary
    September 4, 2014 8:28pm

    Wonderful trip report David! Your goat cheese pics reminded me of the lovely 4 day old Rove cheese I had when I was in Paris and Provence in May/June. The Rove goats dine on thyme and lemon verbena which was detectable in the cheese. Lovely.

    No, no I just cannot do rabbit and it seems to be trending both in France and here in the U.S.

    Thanks for the afternoon read and transporting me back to France!

  • September 6, 2014 1:19pm

    What a gorgeous post! Loving the copper kitchenware. So luxurious.

    I saw the new App in your feed and couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s a fantastic and much-needed application to find those hidden gems. Can’t wait to use it one day soon.