And there it goes, three months in France gone in the blink of an eye. And for the final three weeks, it was a complete whirlwind.
I left Provence early October to visit my good friend who lives just north of Dublin, Ireland. For two weeks I pottered around Ireland with a quick weekend visit to Edinburgh, Scotland. While enjoying the stunning natural beauty of these two places, I seriously investigated the local food. I visited some top-drawer restaurants and food producers, including a lovely cheese producer who makes Glebe Brethan, an amazing Comte style cheese. After a weekend extravaganza in Waterford Country, a ceilidh at a local church hall in Edinburgh, walks along the beach, many pints of Guinness and co-hosting a cooking demonstration in a small town south of Dublin, it was time to head back to France for my final week.
And what a week it was, chock-full from beginning to end. I was with two Canadian friends, Didi and Elspeth, and we, “les trois Canadiennes”, had an amazing journey braving rental cars, bad GPS, tollbooth altercations and complicated directions to find some of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. We started our travels in Brittany, where the seascapes and towns were gorgeous and the food delectable. Brittany, the home of butter and seafood provided us with some fantastic meals, including a lovely lunch in the seaside village of Saint Servan at L’Atre, just beside Saint Malo. The sun was shining as we ate piles of fresh seafood, drank wine and soaked up the beauty of this little port town.
After a few days in Brittany we headed to the Loire Valley, on then onward to Champagne. The whole purpose of this “tour de france” was originally planned around our graduation ceremony for our degrees from the University of Reims. To make good use of our time in Champagne, we booked a couple of tours and tastings, and of course, several good meals. We couldn’t wait to return to Les Crayères where we had a brilliant meal last year, but this time we slummed it a Le Jardin, the brasserie on the same property. It was no slouch at all, and with a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, I must admit, I enjoyed it immensely. Our days were filled with bottles of champagne, fabulous food, amazing company and hours of laughter.
After Reims we had one final stop to make—Paris. Indeed, no trip around France is complete without Paris. Elspeth and I had a foot-long list of things to see and places to eat. We called it “research”. And for the most part, it actually was. Within the less-than-24-hours that we were there, we went to three olive oil shops, six patisseries, a chocolate shop, a famous parfumerie, a truffle shop, two restaurants, a creperie and of course Hermès (not that we bought anything at Hermès, but one can always look, non?). We went to sleep completely delighted with our day, and totally exhausted. Elspeth left early the next morning, but I had a few more hours left. I bought coffee and pastry and watched the sun rise over the Paris skyline. It was beautiful. My heart was breaking knowing it was time to leave again, as it always does. After shedding a few tears, I packed my bags and waved goodbye to the place that has captured my heart, my soul and my imagination—my beloved France, until next time.