Top 5 Underrated Destinations in France

Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.

Advertisements

I wasn’t initially planning on writing about France today but since yesterday was Bastille Day and today France’s Les Bleus won the World Cup, It seems appropriate maybe even fated to write about France today. But what to say, after all I write about France a lot, I have visited many different areas, tried many different foods and wines so how could I pick a favourite today? France is so varied and so interesting, where to start? Every time I get ready to visit France again, I usually get the following feedback: “Haven’t you been there before?” and ” Have fun in Paris.” Well France is a large country with many different regions with their own unique cultural nuances and I haven’t been to Paris on my last 4 trips to France  so instead I thought why not focus on France’s underrated gems. France is one of the most visited countries in the world so anything being underrated seems like a stretch but these are my picks for the top 5 underrated places to visit.

  1. Arbois, Jura, France. Jura itself is a relatively unknown region in France. East of Bourgogne, , Jura is often considered a mirror image of the Cote D’Or. Arbois is one of the larger towns and a great spot for day trips to L’Etoile and Chateau-Chalon to taste the region’s famous vin jaune. IMG_2468 Try the Fruitiere Vinicole for a great opportunity to try Jura’s most famous wines. http://www.chateau-bethanie.fr/fr/chateau-bethanie-vins-jura-arbois.php Nearby are many restaurant selections with great food. As well you are close to Bourg de Sirod to hike the famous Richebourg ruins.
  2. Beaune is the heart of Bourgogne’s wine region. It isn’t exactly underrated but Beaune is often overlooked if just visiting France. Check out the Marche aux vin to try a selection of Bourgogne’s famous wines. Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ However Beaune is also an epicentre of Bourgogne’s famous food culture. Try La Grilladine for Bouef Bourguignon, escargot, charlois beef or the chicken in mustard.http://lagrilladine.fr/ Le Carnot has fabulous wines and excellent gazpacho and beef tartare as well as the beauty you would come to expect of a typical French brasserie. I could have stayed just for the atmosphere, wine and people watching alone..http://brasserielecarnot.com/ Beaune is also a beautiful town with a lively market. Hotel Henri II is close to the city center and retains its old word charm with beautiful modern touches. the last time we stayed in Beaune we were able to score a last minute room at the Hotel Henri II. After our other option which was similar to the Bates Motel, The Hotel Henri was a welcome reprieve. So much so that I cried with relief when we saw our room. The bar was a fabulous place to watch the world cup too! http://www.henry2.fr/UK/
  3. Salon De Provence: Though not exactly underrated either, Salon often suffers next to its more famous Provencal counterparts. But Salon De Provence is a wonder, from the castle that housed Catherine de Medici (complete with her herb garden) and Nostradamus to the medieval festival, Salon de Provence does not disappoint. As well, its surrounding wineries are delicious and more inexpensive then there more famous Provencal and Rhone counterparts. The restaurant at the Ibis hotel is surprisingly good with local ingredients and Provencal specialties. https://restaurants.accorhotels.com/gb/restaurant-0797_R001-ibis-kitchen-salon-de-provence.shtml
  4. La Rochelle: located on the Atlantic cost, La Rochelle is a beautiful city. Known for its seafood, it is indeed worth it to try. Walking along the harbor alone makes it makes La Rochelle a must do but take the day boat trip to Ile D’Aix. No cars are allowed so rent a bike check out the beautiful view, go for a swim or simply enjoy the village. AS well Cognac is also a day trip away so be sure to check out the beautiful town and the tour at Remy Martin in which even my teetotaller mother learned to appreciate cognac. So much so that she bought cognac. for my cousin alas not us. https://www.remymartin.com/ca-en/
  5. Mende: Located in the center of France in Lozere we stumbled upon Mende by accident while trying to avoid tolls en route to Beaune. Descending into Mende is like parachuting in Mende is a beautiful village and definitely off the beaten path. The wine is cheaper than water. It can be challenging to get to but worth it.54589271

It really doesn’t matter where you travel in France. Prepare to be enthralled and charmed and you will have yourself a great if not fabulous time. Congratulations Les Bleus

Beaune Appétit!

Try more wine, eat more food. just enjoy after all that is why we go to Beaune in the first place.

Beaune the heart of Bourgogne/Burgundy. The epicentre of Borgogne wine, home of the Hospice de Beaune, seat of the former Duchy of Burgundy and culinary mecca. If you haven’t bee there yet, go now. Seriously I will wait while you book your ticket. Ok you are back? Good, so sit back and read about Beaune and get all sorts of ideas for your upcoming trip.

 

As I am sure you know since you just booked your ticket, Beaune is and hour and a half north of Lyon, 3 hours east of Paris and 2 hours northwest of Geneva. Even shorter by train! And it is amazing. @benton8tor and I have been twice and can’t wait to go again. Beaune in the heart of Bourgogne (the French term, Many English speakers know it as Burgundy but in recent years there has been a movement to reclaim its French name worldwide). Bourgogne along with Bordeaux in the South West are well known as the powerhouses of the French wine industry. And they are very different in their approach to wine. Bordeaux has Chateau, and the Chateau are ranked. In Bourgogne, it is Domaines and the vineyards themselves are ranked.IMG_8971 Bourgogne unlike Bordeaux can have very small vineyard lots and a Grand Cru vineyard can be tiny. Bourgogne is home to the Cote d’Or including the more northerly Cote de Nuit home of the famous Romanee Conti vineyards and the Southern Cote de Beaune home to Pommard and Puligny- Montrachet. In fact some of the vineyards fame eclipses that of the village so the village has added the name of the vineyard to its Village name (see Puligny Montrachet). Famous for the Chardonay and Pinot Noir grapes, nowhere else in France does the terrior play such a prominent role.

Understanding Bourgogne wine can be overwhelming at first that is why I have a handy dandy guide to help you navigate the awesomeness of Beaune so:

  1. Go the Marche aux Vins which should be the first thing you do after you check on into your hotel.because you will want a drink and why not wine? After all you are in the most prestigious wine region in the world (don’t tell Bordeaux though, or other countries after all you don’t want to hurt feelings) Marche aux vins in located in the center of Beaune near the Hospices to Beaune. Marche aux vins allows you to taste 20 Bourgogne wines in the cellars and Abbey in central Beaune. Even better there is a sommelier to explain the Bourgogne labeling, terrior and vineyards so you can really understand and enjoy . what you are tasting.

    http://www.marcheauxvins.com.

  2. DO a wine tour. Beaune has tons of tours to pick from but @benton8tor and I chose Vinetours. It was amazing. We went to both Cote de Nuit and Cote de Beaune. Our guide was amazing explaining the history of the vineyards and vines (including vineyards that have been continually planted since Charlemagne’s time) we drank wine in the vineyard ( my fav!!) saw the old huts where the wine harvesters would rest and toured the  domaines. It was amazing. http://www.burgundy-wine-tour.com/en/#/Accueil
  3. Beaune Market as I mentioned Beaune is a culinary mecca so go to the market, olives, seasonings, jams, bread,IMG_8986 cheese, produce, goods. It is all here and it is spread out and easy to navigate. the only difficulty in the market is dragging @benton8tor away from the array of mustard.Yes that is right IMG_8985, Beaune is in Bourgogne as is Dijon so Dijon mustard is easy to get and spectacular. Also go to  Emond Fallot for mustard. http://www.fallot.com/.
  4. Did I mention Beaune is a culinary mecca? Oh I did? well it is. Famous for Bouef bourguignon, Coq au vin, gourgeres, Charolais Beef, Chicken in Mustard and its terrines. Where to start. Well you can go high end such as 21 Boulevard and Le Cheval Noir and your food will be amazing or you can go to an everyday or mid range restaurant and still have an out of this world meal. My personal favourite places to eat were La Grilladine with its Charolais Beef, Boeuf bourguignon, Chicken, Ham terrine and pears in wine. It was delicious with exceptional service.http://lagrilladine.fr/.

    Le Brasserie le Carnot has amazing gazpacho, beef tartare, and jambon au beurre. In fact we went here with my parents once and my mom ordered a jambon au beurre  and salad. What she got back was a huge baguette and salad. ‘ How am I going to eat all of this? I ordered too much’ she tells us. We go on enjoying our dinner and she is remarkably quiet. In fact we look over at her and not only dd she finish everything, she kept insisting on finding a restaurants that served the jambon baguette every other place we went. However we finally got her to try the chicken in mustard and then she switched to that instead. She is definitely a creature of habit and a finicky eater so if she likes it, you know its good. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/. Bonus point Brasserie le Carnot has that beautiful French look and feel that makes you feel as though you are in a movie, drinking out of this wold wine and eating delicious food.

     

    We also frequented le Concorde. It has the very best croissants and features superb (Beaune is so good, I am running out of superlatives) Cremant de Bourgogne, Bourgogne’s sparking wine which is delicate, toasty (I know but it is) and extremely enjoyablethumbnail_IMG_8426. Though my favourite part was people watching, including the locals that went there at 10 am every morning for their 2 beers.http://www.la-concorde-beaune.com/

  5. GO to the Villages. This is where you find the wines and the villages themselves are beautiful. Puligny Montrachet is a short drive from Beaune and it should be your first stop. Olivier Leflaive is located here and it is all kinds of fabulous. We booked for lunch and wine tasting. ‘Would we like a tour of the vineyard first’ its probably not appropriate to scream ‘hell yes’ so i settled for ‘mais oui’. The vineyard tour gives a great overview into winemaking process and of course the impact of terrior and micro climate on the grapes. You move onto lunch and oh my gosh go hungry because your five courses will be so ridiculously good and well paired that you will continue to eat and drink no matter how full you are. We had gorgeres, carrot souffle (simply one of the lightest, tastiest, most delicious dishes I have ever tasted) ham terrine, and chicken along with dessert. The wines were perfectly paired. The whites were crisp, citrus and full bodied. the reds were silky, velvety and I wanted more. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/. It is a definite must visit ééééé

You’ll need to stay somewhere in Beaune and both @benton8tor and I recommend Hotel Henri II. It is a beautiful hotel with old oak beams, the nicest bathroom ever and the friendliest service that will dispel any stereotype you have heard about France in 11 seconds. It has an beautiful bar which is a great place to relax and drink some wine at the end of the night while watching the world cup. Side note: probably don’t tell the other guests they are cheering for the wrong team even if they are, it can be awkward. But all kidding aside staff and guests were all kind and we had so much fun. http://www.henry2.fr/UK/

 

There is still more to do in Beaune, go shopping, visit the Hospice de Beaune, see more villages, Go to Bourg En Bresse for chicken, Try more wine, eat more food. just enjoy after all that is why we go to Beaune in the first place.IMG_8968

Vines and Voyages 5 Fav Restaurants in France

Le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world

Often when travelling, deciding where to eat can be a challenge. Maybe you have done your research, read the reviews, and made your plan. There is a lot of value to this approach. You are less likely to be disappointing and it can save time but… you can miss out on lesser known amazing restaurants, you can be disappointed and maybe once you are actually travelling you feel like trying something different. Or maybe you take the other approach and decide to ask locals once you are there or simply scout around looking for a restaurant that looks good. Whatever the approach, they all have benefits and drawbacks.

Eating in restaurants and trying different foods is one of my favorite reasons to travel. In France especially, the food is usually fresh, seasonal and regional. Asking for recommendations is key and staying away from restaurants in tourist areas (i.e. Eiffel tour) is key. I have put together a list of my top 5 favorites.

5. Cafe L’absinthe Paris France. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html. Located in the northern part of the Marais, Cafe L’absinthe is a very local bistrot. The service is especially friendly, the atmosphere cozy and the wine delicious and inexpensive. The food is solid. I had the charcuterie and @benton8tor the lamb. Also try the absinthe!

4. Brassiere le Carnot in Beaune, France has the classic French feel. dark wood, french lighting and wine served in beautiful porcelain jugs. thumbnail_IMG_0704Beaune in the heart of Burgundy is the center of Burgundy’s famous wine and the epicenter for Burgundy’s legendary gastronomy. Burgundy is famous for bœuf bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and more. Le Carnot features local ingredients. In the summer the gazpacho is amazing along with the jambon. Beef tartare is a don’t miss. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/

3. Still in Beaune La Grilladine offers amazing set menus featuring Burgundy classics. Both the restaurant and the patio offer a lovely atmosphere.Europe June 2010 393 The bœuf bourguignon is delicious as is the parsilined ham.. @Benton8tor swears by the perfectly cooked Charolais beef and scallops. My dad loved the escargot and my mom had the underrated chicken in mustard dish ( You are close to Dijon so…). The wine is incredible ( you are in Burgundy after all) but ask the servers for recommendations to pair to get the best wine experience. My dad and I had wines from the famed cote de nuit which we loved. Desert for me was pears poached in the the burgundy wine. Definitely check it out. http://lagrilladine.fr/

2. Olivier Leflaive. Well we are still in Burgundy. It is a culinary hot spot so it makes sense. If you are violivier-2siting Burgundy make sure to check out Olivier Leflaive. located in the famed Puligny-Montrachet village and appellation, Olivier Leflaive is vineyard, hotel and restaurant and is not to be missed. The 5 courses were paired perfectly with some of the best wines.2014 We started with the lightest gougeres and moved on to a ham terrine with mustard sauce.We also enjoyed a amazing carrot souffle, chicken and desert. We upgraded to the 7 tasting with our meal which included a a few grand and premier crus. Looking for a wonderful French experience, try Olivier Leflaive. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

  1. Leaving Burgundy fr Provence, My favourite French restaurant to date is Restaurant le Vivier in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is amazing. @benton8tor had researched Michelin starred restaurants and we decided to give it a try. Away from the main drag in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world, followed by a bacon, mozza and tomato soup. My pork course was amazing and my peach and chocolate desert with raspberry sauce was incredible. @benton8tor nicknamed it the space odyssey dessert as when you poured the raspberry sauce on the chocolate sphere, it opened to reveal a peach based dessert inside. The wine was Provencal, light and easy drinking. @benton8tor opted for a rose and pigeon pie. His dessert featured violets from the neighboring Langedoc. the patio overlooks the river and the service is perfect. You won’t be disappointed. https://www.levivier-restaurant.com/cuisine-gastronomique-etoile-restaurant-le-vivier-vaucluse/

There are many other amazing restaurants in France, I didn’t get to mention but asking locals, restaurants featuring regional specialties, or just going to the market yourself, you are sure to enjoy France and its its world famous food.