Sunday, June 22, 2008

luscious loire valley, france

the loire valley was the playground of the nobility. amongst the thriving vineyards that dot the countryside sit fairytale chateaux that were the homes of royal mistresses or summer retreats of the born wealthy.

things i love about france (and in particular, the french countryside)

  1. people sit down for their coffee. coffee isn't a vente non-fat latte caffeine-fix "to go". i suspect that's partly why bars and cafe's charge an exorbitant price for any drink -- they expect you to sit down for a length of time and enjoy your beverage while having a social interaction.

  2. open-air markets. we found an excellent weekend market in our base town -- tours -- where we were able to purchase beautiful cheeses and olives, fresh baguettes, an unusual variety of strawberries (the vendor was selling five different kinds!), and delicious red pears to have as a picnic at the postcard-perfect chateau of chenonceaux.

  3. environmentally-friendly! everyone at the market carried baskets or reusable bags to do their weekly shopping, all sourced locally. lights in hallways and bathrooms were all on timers, to switch off automatically within a few minutes. our shower in the hotel was a push-button shower (like the push-button faucets you get in public bathrooms) to save water. and the trains are uber cycling friendly, with lots of carriages holding special bike racks so that you can take your bike on-board.

  4. croissants!!! oh so yummmmmm. no one does them like the french!

  5. a real "joie de vivre." shops, supermarkets, gas stations and even (annoyingly) car rental places are all closed on sundays and even mondays. an inconvenience when travelling -- but in a way also very refreshing to know the locals probably spend their weekends with friends and family rather than running errands.

  6. no food chains! no starbucks, mcdonalds, kfc's, or chain restaurants in sight! you walk into a little restaurant and you know it's run by mom and pop. and while i love some of the italian eateries in london, it's a bit depressing to see them identically repeated in neighborhoods throughout the city, and even all over the country.

photos: the chateau of amboise on a very very rainy day; the cutest little french tea shop ever; view from the fortress at the top of chinon; gothic cathedral of tours; the gorgeous gardens and chateau of villandry (last two pics)


Anonymous said...

Those photos are wonderful

happyd said...

totally agreed.

love the photos, b!

gilda said...

oh my gosh... i have never been to france... or any part of europe actually. and i really do want to. france looks gorgeous.