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France March 05-The Broken Toe Tour!

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We spent 12 days in France from March 15-27. Here are my impressions, itinerary, experiences and what we learned.

First I guess you are curious about the title. Our reservations for the first two nights were in Mougins at Hotel Les Muscadins. The room was beautiful and if the weather had been totally clear would have had a view all the way to the Mediterranean. There was a step down into the room leaving a small stoop which my husband managed to ram his bare foot against breaking two toes. Why do these things always happen the first day not the last? Anyway he is a stoic and refused to see a doctor or apply ice. (He finally did later and he was lucky I travel with those chemical ice packs.) I wasn’t very sympathetic since I thought he had only stubbed the toes above the incision from the surgery he had in December. He was a trooper though and managed to make it through all the walking a trip like this entails with only two days of grumpiness-one which he said I caused. Looking back there were a lot of things we didn’t see because of the amount of walking it involved. Well, we will just have to go back again.

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    Mougins: The first two nights we stayed at the aforementioned Hotel Les Muscadins. ( It was a lovely place. Buffet breakfast included which we had the first morning on the terrace in the sun.
    We visited the photography museum. The photos of Picasso were great especially the one with him sitting on the floor with his children coloring. Also loved the small winding streets and there is a great kitchenware shop. I resisted temptation.
    Nice: Just went in to see the Flower Market on Cours Saleya. Parked near the harbor and walked back along the Quai des Etats-Unis. It was a small market probably since it was so early in the season but they had some gorgeous flowers. I bought some anemones for the room and some candies-candied ginger and orange rind-for my father.
    Vence: I really wanted to see this perched village. It was really nice but I was glad we were in Vence in the off season. The town is so small it must be wall to wall people in the high season. Unfortunately there was a funeral in the Chapelle du Rosaire so we couldn’t see the Matisse windows.
    St-Paul-de-Vence: for the Fondation Maeght which was gorgeous especially after the school trip vacated the premises. We parked at the first sign for parking for the Fondation that we came to which turned out to be ancillary parking. Poor Tomas had to trudge up the hill on those two broken toes.
    Cassis-We stopped here on our way from Mougins to St Remy. We took a 7 calanque tour on a boat named Moby Dick. The water was so clear, much clearer than I would ever imagine the Mediterranean would be. I regret that my French wasn’t up to the commentary the captain was giving but I wouldn’t have missed it for that reason. I wished we could get a tour of the ruins that the Michelin family converted into a home overlooking Cassis.

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    St Remy de Provence- We returned to the Mas des Carassins where we stayed on our trip last year. We got a warm welcome and an upgrade to the same mini suite we stayed in the prior year. My parents met up with us here to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday. We stayed here for 5 nights.
    L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Sunday morning)-We had a nice picnic from what we picked up in the market along side the Sorgue.
    Abbaye de Senanque beyond Gordes. This is the Abbaye from all those photographs with the lavender fields in front of it. The road from Gordes to the Abbaye was one car wide with a hill up on the right and a drop off on the left. Tomas was looking at the view and saying ‘will you look at that?’ and I was saying ‘don’t look at that-look at the road!!!!’ Definitely a white knuckle ride down! When you meet another car coming towards you one of you has to back up to the cutouts in the cliff for that purpose. There were only tours in French and the next one wouldn’t start for another half an hour so we just wandered around outside.
    Roussillon-What a beautiful place! The ochre colored cliffs are amazing. We didn’t go up the path to see the mines but walked up into the town for the views.
    Arles- The only place on this trip we didn’t care for. I don’t know if it was that the day was grey, that Tomas’ mood was grey but we left feeling unimpressed.
    Dentelles- We spent a day winding in and out of these little villages-Le Barroux, Malaucene, Vaison-la-Romaine (we didn’t even get out of the car-there is so much to see here that we decided it needed a day by itself on a future trip), Gigondas, Beaume-de-Venise.

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    Paris- We stayed at the Hotel Madison for the last 4 nights. We had a room facing the Eglise. It is a lovely place with a great location near the Metro.
    Rodin Museum- The grounds were beautiful-just coming into bloom. I always like to see the houses and to imagine what it was like as a home.
    Musee D’Orsay- They have finished the entrance which is on the end of the building near the Metro. Door C is for the museum pass but there was a short line there due to the bag inspections. If the Neo-Impressionist exhibit is still there when you go you will need to pay another fee for that. Definitely pay the 1 or 2 Euros for the exhibit. It was wonderful especially at the end where they had some paintings from non-Impressionists trying to be Impressionists ie Modrian. Go to Caisse 6 before you enter the museum.
    Musee Marmottan-One of our favorites for the Monets and the room to see them without tour groups moving between you and the painting you are viewing. Also in a house which feeds my imagination about how they lived. Notice I am only curious about rich people.

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    Impressions, Experiences & What We Learned

    We only skimmed the surface of most places we visited. We try to fit too much in too short a period. I hope that when we retire we have the means to take longer trips. Or even better we win the lottery and have all the time we need.
    I really need to work on my French. We miss so much by not speaking the language. While we were in the Neo-Impressionist exhibit there were several tours discussing the paintings. It is hard to eavesdrop on a conversation in French. We can manage to find where we need to go and get what we want but that is about all.
    Flights from Boston are always packed. We flew AirFrance and they were nice enough to check our bags all the way through to Nice even though we had booked the two flights separately. That was a big help since we had to change terminals for the second flight. The interesting thing was that we didn’t go through passport control until we reached the second terminal. We suffered in coach on the way over with the woman in front of me pushing her seat back to its farthest extent all night long. The payoff was that we got upgraded to Business Class for the flight back. That was the second time we have gotten upgraded. Lucky us!
    We rented a car through Auto Europe in Nice. We thought about upgrading it to a convertible when we got out into 70 degree sunny weather but resisted. That was a good thing since we scrapped the side of the car which cost us $896. Now I wasn’t worried because we charged the car on my Amex card and there is insurance coverage with that. BUT I hadn’t realized that since I charged the rental on my Amex Green card in Dec and paid for the damage with the upgraded Amex Gold card the insurance was invalid. My husband argued our case before the supervisor and promised we would never do such a thing again (especially since I am closing out our Amex Green account) and they are considering the claim. I mention this as a lesson to you.
    My husband spent a lot of time before we left getting our technology set up. I have a Dell Axim with WiFi that he made sure could access the Internet. Of course it didn’t. While we were waiting for our flight to Nice we bought a WiFi Orange card. It didn’t let us access the internet. Tomas spoke to as many people as he could about the problem. The final verdict came from the Orange people who admitted that their product did not support PDAs. It was a great idea but for the future.
    The other piece of technology we both spent a lot of time preparing was the iPod. We use it in the car here and took the setup with us to use in the rental car. It is always the littlest things that trip you up. The way the system works is you set the radio to a station without a signal and then you transmit from the iPod to that frequency and it plays on the radio. The Renault radio we had could not be tuned to a blank station. We stopped into a Renault dealership to ask and I can imagine the discussion after we left. “Those crazy Americans-why would you want to tune to a blank frequency?” Anyway the iPod was good for the flights.

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    Welcome back AGM!

    Sorry to hear about the toe incident. Glad you were able to make the best of it and still have a great time.

    Thanks for posting a trip report. That's an area of France I still need to see.

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    One last thing I have learned-if you see something you want, buy it! I never regret what I buy as much as I do what I didn't. This trip we went to the market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to get the little watercolors I passed up last year. Next year I will go to buy the jacket I didn't this year. Also I should have bought the morels for 9 Euros and taken a chance on getting them through customs. Since they just waved us on at Logan I would be home trying to recreate some of the fabulous dishes we had with them. I will post about our restaurant adventures tomorrow.

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    Had some vicarious pleasure reading your report. Surprised to hear Vence was so crowded and you thought it small. Did you mean St. Paul?

    I've recently started making a chicken dish with morells. I buy them dried and they get soaked in hot water for a half hour. Taste great. ;)

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    Hi AGM,

    Thanks for sharing.

    >...he is a stoic and refused to see a doctor or apply ice.<

    It's a guy thing. :)

    >I hadn’t realized that since I charged the rental on my Amex Green card in Dec and paid for the damage with the upgraded Amex Gold card the insurance was invalid. My husband argued our case before the supervisor and promised we would never do such a thing again and they are considering the claim. <

    Please let us know how it works out. I am rather bothered that AMEX would quibble over which account you used for what.


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    Hi AGM!
    It sounds like a great trip, except for the broken toes!

    What did you think of the Madison as compared to the Relais St. Germain?

    I think I may still like the Relais St, Germain better, especially since the Madison keeps getting more and more expensive. I'm curious about your impression.

    A question on the morels: how much could you get for 9€ ? They're SO expensive here-- if they're a lot cheaper there I'd be tempted to try bringing them back, too.

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    Glad to hear you too liked the Madison. We seem to have similar taste in hotels--and a lot of other things, too. One of my major travel rules for years has been "If you see it and want it, buy it, because you're unlikely ever to see it again." The rule grew from the time I saw an exquisite cameo brooch in Rome and my husband thought we would see better ones.

    Too bad about your husband's toes--I just stubbed one badly (the last time I wore sandals!) visiting a friend in England, but I did learn from the experience that "plaster" is English for bandaid.

    Your trip sounds marvelous. And I do hope that AmEx comes through with the repair costs for the car.

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    Sorry to hear about the toe and the car, but otherwise your trip sounds delightful.

    I often feel that we pack a bit too much in as well, but in some ways, I think the skimming helps us determine which places we'd like to go back to and spend more time in (and fantasize about real estate . . . ).

    You hit some of our favs--Roussillon, Beaumes de Venise, Vaison--but we have never been south of the Luberon to places like Cassis. And certainly not to Nice. Next trip, maybe. Thanks again.

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    Thanks for the comments.
    Indytravel-loved your Alsatian trip report. How do you remember so much detail? I am surprised you haven't been to Provence yet. The weather at the end of March has been wonderful for us, especially after the winter we just had.
    mclaurie-Vence wasn't crowded but the roads in the old town were narrow and I could imagine them wall to wall people. We loved it though.
    Ira- I know it is a guy thing. Looking back we should have bought him some sandals so that his toes wouldn't have any pressure on them. They are slowly getting better. Also I wasn't happy with the first response I got from Amex which was an unequivocal no to the claim. We will see how it works out.
    Marcy/Underhill- we liked the Madison but prefer the Relais St Germain. I heard the RSG got purchased by a chef so who knows what will happen with it. I thought the Madison was expensive for what it was and while the breakfast buffet was nice, the pastries were awful.
    Morels!-If I had known then what I know now about morels there would have been some in my bags. Anyway the fresh ones were 9 Euros for 100 grams. I am not sure how that would have come out. We didn't make it to one of my favorite shops in Paris-G Detou which is a restaurant supply shop. If I had I would have bought dried morels as the next best thing. I will have to do some searching locally (actually it will have to be in Boston).

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    Maybe this is the time to tell you we spend outrageous amounts for our meals. I am a former chef who likes to see what the creative people are doing. I try to moderate our spending but this is what we like to do. We don’t usually get prixe fixe menus because we like to have the widest range of choice. There is a lot of negotiation since we split almost everything. Also I have to admit I thought the prices on menus were higher this year than last year over and above the difference for the depressed dollar. I keep saying to myself that I will try more moderate restaurants but then I read about one that sounds fabulous and off I go. Another thing that drives up the cost for us is that we try to get half bottles of wines and nice wines at that. I think that the half bottles cost more than half of a full bottle. Also my husband has a fondness for Armagnac-vintage if possible- that he indulges whenever he can. I won’t tell you how much we have spent on a glass of Armagnac but we might be able to pay the mortgage off if he resisted.

    Provencal Restaurants
    Le Mas Canille- ( This Michelin one star is in the sister hotel to Les Muscadins so we went there the first night. After Tomas’ little incident with the foot I didn’t want to wander about looking for a restaurant and I had looked at the website before we left home and thought it looked interesting. It was very interesting. The staff at the hotel said it was a ten minute walk but we took the car. Lucky for us since it was a ten minute walk from the front gates of the property. It was an expensive meal but if you want to see how the other half lives you might try going for drinks on their patio in the summer. We had drinks (the bartender had concocted a champagne cocktail with fresh mint and lime juice that was yummy) before the fireplace while we considered the menu. We are very good at saying bon jour and bon soir so at first blush the staff thinks we speak the language. So when they were presenting the menu they realized we didn’t speak French and tried to hold on to the menu while offering an English menu. No dice I want the French menu. How am I going to learn if I don’t try. We had the Red mullet "crème brûlée" with local artichokes barigoule style (30€) and Our special tatin of foie gras with Armagnac sauce (36€) for entrees. With that we had a half bottle of local white wine which we can’t remember the name of but the bill says “Rasque Blanc de Blancs” (20€). Our main courses were Scallops à la plancha, asparagus tagliatelle with morel infusion (fabulous!) (53€) and Duck twice served: breast of duck in a pitchoulines olives crust, thigh "grattons" style with rocket leaves salad and "mendiants" (46€) with a half bottle of our favorite Chateau Romanin red (30€). We both had cheese courses followed by desserts (16€ each) which were a Tatin of apples poached in Calvados, creamy chocolate, red fruit reduction with, spices and an Araguani chocolate fondant, panfried mangoes with rosemary caramel, lemon sorbet (16€ each). We then returned to the bar and Tomas discovered that they had a bottle of 1958 Armagnac. He thought that would soothe his toes.
    Restaurant A la Table d’Edmond in Mougins Village. The hotel recommended this place and it was very nice. We started with Salmon & Escrevisses which was thinly sliced raw salmon marinated with chervil and cucumbers and garnished with escrevisses and Ravioli a la Provencal which was just cheese raviolis with a light tomato sauce (12€ each). We had a half bottle of Domaine Ott Rose (29 €) to start. Then we had Filet of Veal and a rack of lamb (28 & 26€ respectively). They were both very good but they both had the same sauce and vegetables-mashed pototoes and assorted veggies. It was a little strange. With the plats we had a Domaine Tempier red (26 €). Dessert was a wonderful gratin of red fruits (10 €). This was a nice little place with an enclosed patio which I imagine in the summer is open to the fresh air.

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    Provencal Restaurants cont'd.
    Vence- Lunch
    Pechuer de Soleil- This pizza place we found in the Michelin guide. It was great. We sat in the courtyard across the street in the sun while we ate. We felt bad for the waitress who had to run back and forth across the road. There are 600 pizzas listed on the menu. I forgot to bring my menu book so I stuck to things I knew fortunately avoiding the Corsican pig liver sausage pizza and the gizzard pizza. Those were the two things I wanted to look up. We split a pizza, a salad and a half bottle of red wine. I think it came to about 30€.

    St Remy
    La Source-dinner with my parents. My folks had the Escargot to start and they were delicious. None of the rubbery texture you can get here. (On the road from St Remy to Avignon there is a snail farm. Maybe these were from that local source.) I had an asparagus appetizer which came on a pastry almost as thin as filo but not the same texture with an herb sauce. Tomas had the foie gras with a myrtille sauce. My parents and I had lamb with caponata which was served on a pastry that was a cross between pita bread and pie crust. Very good. Tomas had filet of beef with Chateauneuf sauce. We had a full bottle of Chateau Romanin red. For dessert my parents had the Crème Brulee flavored with anise. I had Sable aux Frais and Tomas had a Colonel which was lemon sorbet with Vodka. I don’t have a menu for the prices but the total was 185€.
    Sette E Mezza-lunch-a pizzeria that Pierre from the Mas recommended. It was a weird situation since we wanted to sit in the courtyard where other people were eating. The waitress said that belonged to the other restaurant but she was working at both. I think she didn’t want to walk across the street to serve us. Anyway we managed to talk her into putting two tables together so we could sit next to the open window. My parents and I got the full pizza and Tomas was smart and only got a half. We tried the fromage, poiviron & olives, fromage & chorizo, and onion, anchovy, caper and olive pizza. We also got a salad and a 50 ml carafe of wine. The pizza was good but I think the one in Vence was better. The total was 70 €.

    Grain de Sel- dinner, does not take credit cards. We started with a cassolette de Saint Jacque with petit legumes (I love these soups, so much flavor!) and a MilleFeuille of courgette, chevre and Caviar de tomate sechee. Then we had a Filet of Beef with sel guarande (sp?) and a Filet of Veal with Morels. With that we split a 50cl of Chateau Romanin red. We didn’t have dessert since we realized at this point it was cash only which we did not have. Tomas ran out to the ATM across the street which was out of service. They were very nice and took the name of our hotel and were going to call and have the hotel put the charge on our bill. As we were driving back to the hotel we passed another ATM and stopped. It worked!!! We went back and paid our bill. It was 104€ with two kirs and a bottle of Vittel.

    Alain Assaud Le Marceau-dinner We weren’t so sure how we felt about this restaurant until desserts came. They blew us away!! So save room! We started with Soupe de Poisson w/ Rouille (my mother has been after me for years to teach her how to make this-I will definitely make time to do that soon.) and Foie Gras terrine. Our main courses were Lamb with anchovies (which came with the dreaded spinach and was too salty) and Pot au Feu de Cuisse de Canarde which was wonderful. We had a half bottle of white and red but I didn’t write down what they were. For dessert we had Tarte au Citron Meringue and Pommes au Caramel. My husband is Very picky about lemon desserts and this one he said was as good as mine. It was very lemony but very light-ethereal is the word for it. The Pommes were thin slices sautéed and served with a wonderful caramel sauce with little chewy bits of caramel sprinkled on top. I can’t find the credit card receipt but it was about 127€.

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    L’Oustalet Maianen-dinner. This was my father’s birthday dinner. After much discussion both on the board here and with the hotel this is where we ended up and we were very happy with our choice. While we looked at the menu we nibbled on little cream puffs filled with a fresh cheese, toasts with tapenade, a skewer with feta cheese, a tomato and parsley and little cheese rounds. We had one little mix up which was that my mother just wanted a simple salad for her entrée even though there wasn’t one as a choice on the menu. The waiter said fine it can be done. Then he came back and asked if tomatoes would be ok. She assumed tomatoes on the greens but it turned out to be slices of out of season tomatoes. She ate one or two and pushed it away. Then without being asked the waiter brought her the confit d’legume which accompanied another entrée. She was very happy with that. My father and I had the foie gras terrine with onion confit (I have to find a recipe for this stuff!) and Tomas had a fabulous veloute de chou vert with cappuccino de morels. For a cabbage soup it was surprisingly good. For main course my mother and I had Riz de Veau with morels and asparagus, Tomas has rack of lamb and my father had taureau (bull). We split a cheese plate which had a dry chevre, a fresh local chevre, morbier, a munster with cumin seeds and brie. For dessert we had a millefeuille with orange cream and olive oil ice cream (very good) and tartlet de praline. Then they brought us little shot glasses with chocolate pot de crème with menthe whipped cream and tuille cookies. We had a 50 cl of Cotes du Ventoux and a 50 cl of Chateau Romanin. The total was 181€- the menus at 36€ each. The one thing my husband and I appreciated is that the waiter spoke English but since we were attempting to speak French he would only speak English for as much as it took to overcome any problems. Then he would revert to French. My parents really enjoyed dinner and they even let us treat them for a change. Actually my father was thrilled we wanted to pay for them. The one drawback was that there was a large party at the next table who were really noisy. At one point one of the guests at that table stopped by our table to chat, fully explaining how she blew her knee out while skiing and how it was affecting her life. She was the co owner of the restaurant (Bistrot d’Eygalieres) where we had been planning to have my father’s birthday but they were not opened that night. Under normal conditions Tomas and I would have tried it since it is supposed to be really good but she just put us off. After she finally left we looked at each other and wondered who had given her the opening to come and chat.

    Arles-lunch We had asked at the hotel for a recommendation for a restaurant in Arles but the place was now a tacky tourist t-shirt shop. So we tried one of the places in the Michelin guide-only to be told that we were too late at 1:45. We found a small restaurant down a street off of rue la Calade called Restaurant L’Amandier which was very good. I got the 13 € menu with Soupe de Poisson w/ Rouille, Poulet au Piperade with rice and my favorite Crème Caramel. Tomas just had a Salade au Chevre Chaud (which was 13 €) and we split a Pichette of house rose.

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    "Thanks for the comments.
    Indytravel-loved your Alsatian trip report. How do you remember so much detail?"

    I laughed after I read your meal report...Your details on your meals is fabulous...sounds like you had a great trip.
    How long are you on the one lane road to the Abbey? Did you have to do any backing up??

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    I can sympathize with the broken toe--having broken an ankle in Mexican. You're right; why do these things always happen at the beginning of the trip?
    Be sure to let us all know how the car incident works out. They actually made you pay on the spot before settling out the insurance?
    I too am wondering about the road to Senanque. I hadn't ready anything unusual about it. Any more details?

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    Welcome back Abby. You've made me anxious for my return. I'll be going back to St-Paul-de-Vence and the Maeght
    and Maillane. You made me so happy appreciating an area I love.
    Domaine Tempier! A favorite of mine. I have the cookbook, "Lulu's Provencal Table." Her Tempier makes the besr Rosé.
    I hope your darling is not in too much pain now how lucky he is to have a wife who travels with her ice packs :)

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    4totravel-I guess you can see where my interest lie-in my stomach. Also I take notes about the meals, collect menus and have my receipts to refer to while writing.
    The road to Senanque wasn't that long-about 1/2 mile. It will accomodate a tour bus but I was happy we didn't meet one coming or going. We had to back up once.
    The toes are healing nicely.
    The car rental place at the Nice-Cote D'Azur airport required a 1,000 Euro deposit before we took the car. They must know about those planters. We were not expecting to put a deposit down so I hadn't even brought my Amex Green card with me. We rented through Auto Euro/Eurocar last year in Avignon without having to pay a deposit. They took the payment from that deposit.

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    What wonderful meals you had! I'm saving the descriptions/restaurant names for Next Year in Provence.

    If you think the Relais St-Germain is better than the Madison, we might give that a try. But I've heard that the Bourgogne et Montana is now under the same management as the Madison but is less expensive and in a very nice area. So...

    Where and what did the car hit? Our one experience with a problem was when a car careened madly down the side of a mountain in the Lubéron and caught the driver's-side mirror of our car. Good thing we were going fairly slowly or we might have gone over the edge.

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    Hi AGM, you are making me seriously reconsider my usual dining strategies and think about eating in some (OK, maybe just one or two) more expensive restaurants the next time I go to France. Usually we stick to moderate places (a term I will continue to use despite the lack of respect it receives on Fodor's). But you make your meals sound absolutely wonderful.

    Now I am curious what places you like on Cape Cod, where I am enjoying the sunshine today, salivating over your trip report.

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    Mimi, I was thinking of you when we saw a wine called Cigale Chant at Lavinia in Paris. Please do go to the L'Oustalet Maianen when you are in Maillane. It was very good. My husband thought I was crazy to be schlepping the ice packs but he changed his tune.
    Underhill-You know those cement planters the look so pretty filled with flowers? Well, Tomas parked next to one and didn't realize it was there. He scrapped the passenger's side of the car.

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    Nikki, I haven't even gotten to the best part-Paris!! Anyway where are you on the Cape? Our favorite place is in Chatham-Vining's Bistro. It is on the second floor across the driveway from the Christian Science Reading Room. Let me know where you are and what you like.

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    We're in Brewster, always looking for interesting places. Whatever you like sounds good to me after reading your descriptions of France. And I'm looking forward to your Paris report.

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    Vin sur Vin- Dinner This was the best restaurant of the trip. It is a 7 table restaurant in the 7th arrondissment. I don’t think it is a place for everyone as it requires a certain enthusiasm and interaction with the owners who wait on the tables. Each table is decorated differently and the room has all sorts of unusual items on display-ceramics etc. You can tell that this is the personal expression of the owners. The food was exceptional. The amuse bouche was a small dish of a vegetable ratatouille which was very nice and different Then we had an Asparagus soup with morel cream. The soup came in a small bowl with a layer of asparagus puree with slices of asparagus then on top there was a layer of morel cream. We were instructed to dip the soup so that you got a taste of each layer in every bite. Why don’t the asparagus here taste like those? And the morels… heaven!! The other starter was a rabbit and foie gras terrine-the rabbit was wrapped around the foie gras. Very yummy! With that we had a fabulous Alsatian Grand Cru Riesling-Clos Saint Imer La Chapelle Riesling Goldert 2000. This I know because we had them soak the label off which we never do but it was an extraordinary wine. For one of our main courses we had the house special which was a chicken which was stuffed with a forcemeat of liver and other yummy things with a variation of a Supreme Sauce. I could have eaten the sauce with a spoon alone. The other dish was a pigeon which to tell you the truth I don’t remember that well. I gave the menu and my notes to my folks and haven’t gotten them back yet. It was good but paled before the chicken. We had a Comtes Lafon Volnay Santenots 1997 with that. Leave room for dessert. We had an excellent chocolate soufflé-hot, rich and melt in your mouth dark chocolate. The other dessert was an Orange Tart with Clementine Sorbet. Of course this kind of perfection and attention to detail comes with a price. The total was 439 € which was worth every centime. By the time I left I felt that we had been the personal guests of the house. The patrons came and shook our hands and thanked us as we left and they ushered us into our cab. This will be on our restaurant list for our next trip to Paris. One small side note-if you are a photographer take your camera. Vin sur Vin is at 20, rue de Monttessuy. When you turn onto the rue there is the Tour Eiffel in all its glory. If the night is clear as it was with us it is a beautiful site. Tomas regretted that he hadn’t brought his camera and even made us go back another night. I sat on a park bench for 20 minutes while he tried to get ‘the perfect shot’. I think it was easier before digital cameras. You tried your best and moved on. Now you try, look at it, notice that guy moved into your picture, try again, but the light wasn’t quite right, try again, see something else….

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    Taillevent-Dinner. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the world. We consider it a fabulous piece of theater and now that they have changed the table arrangement you both get a ringside seat. We started with champagne while we examined the menu and negotiated what we would have. The amuse bouche was a langoustine veloute-wonderfully rich and flavorful. Then we had the Confit of duck foie gras with quince marmalade and a wonderful quenelle of chicken with truffles and crayfish sauce. With that we had a half bottle of Puligny Montrachet Clavoillon 1990. Then I indulged myself with a Chausson feuilleté de ris de veau (which the English menu prosaically describes as a Sweetbread turnover) with tarragon and gremolata. Since Tomas isn’t as crazy about Ris de Veau as I am he only had a taste of it and I only had a bite of his rack of lamb with a pimento rub. With that we had a bottle of wine which we would only order in a place we trusted. It was a Beaune-Cent Vignes 1989 which was wonderful but the label was totally disintegrated. We were one of the last parties to leave that night but everyone remaining laughed as Tomas whipped out his camera to take a picture of the nonexistent label. As usual we had cheese that night but we have started to notice that we are one of the few people who do. The first time we went to Taillevent it was a huge rolling cart of at least 30 cheeses. Now it is a tray of about 15 cheeses. Tomas always gets the Epoisse but I try for things that I haven’t tried before. Nice blue cheese but I can never catch the names. Dessert was a chocolate and caramel concoction and Tomas had the sorbets. He always goes through sorbet withdrawal after we return. One of the best things about Taillevent is the service and the staff. I had chosen this restaurant as the first Michelin 3 star (to date the only-I think we should remedy that) because of the service. I was worried that it would be intimidating especially with the lack of language skills. Everyone on the staff speaks excellent English and have been very friendly. This trip we chatted with the table next to us- they are an American couple who moved to France for business and then retired there. What an ideal existence-at least from my view. They are friends of the people who own and run Vin sur Vin. I hope they passed on how much we enjoyed our evening there.

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    Btw, have you considered Hotel Luxembourg Parc? It seems very nice too although it's across the Luxembourg Gardens and not in St. Germain yet it's closeby at around 5-10 mins. walk.

    Also Relais Saint Jacques looks exceptional although that is located farther in the Latin Qtr. and close to the Sorbonne and Val de Grace.

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    We aren’t big shopper except for things that you can eat or drink. No big surprise there. Here are a few of the places we picked up things.

    Olive Oil- we really liked the Castelas AOC olive oil we bought last year. Their shop is on the road to Les Baux de Provence. The litre tin is convenient for traveling since you don’t have to worry about a broken glass bottle of oil staining everything in your suitcase.

    Tapenade, Pistou, Pesto, Confit de Tomate Sechee- All those wonderful things that are so Provencal can be obtained at the local grocery store. We went to the Intermarche in St Remy and stocked up. It is fun to go to the grocery store anyway and see what they carry that your local Stop & Shop doesn’t. These little jars make great gifts too.

    Wines- We bought a selection of wines from Provence by stopping at the local cooperative in Rasteau, Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise. The prices are reasonable and you get to taste it right there. My husband dies of jealous when he sees the locals come in with their plastic jugs which get filled from the large vat. Unless you know a specific winery you want to stop at or have a recommendation this is a good way to get a basic understanding of the local wines. Also it supports the small producers who are able to afford the costs of marketing beyond their villages.

    Joel Durand- In St Remy Joel Durand has a shop with amazing chocolates. We got a 16 tile box last year and moved up to a 32 tile box. When you enter the shop you will see a case with all the chocolates in it. There are all square with a nice dark finish and a gold letter on it. The sales person will give you a key to the letters. Then you can pick which chocolates you want. Be adventuresome! I would never have thought that dark chocolate with Baux olives would be edible but it was fabulous.

    Watercolors-At the market at L’Isle-sur-la-sorgue last year I saw these little watercolors that I loved. Being an idiot I thought I would see the artist at another market later in the week. Then I would be able to pick the watercolors I wanted based upon where we had been. You know that I didn’t see her again until we returned to the market this year and she was in the same place. I did not hesitate. I marched up to her and said I want three little watercolors and the only decision I made was what scenes I wanted. I now have these watercolors hanging in my bathroom and it reminds me of my trips to Provence every time I brush my teeth.

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    Paris shopping-
    Maille Mustards- this is another great place for little gifts. It is at place de la Madeleine. There are 32 different flavored Dijon mustard as well as the traditional plain. You can buy a little crock with a cork top which they will pump mustard into from a tap that is similar to a beer tap at a bar.

    Lavinia-If you go to the Maille Mustard shop then a block down blvd Madeleine is the three story wine shop-Lavinia. There wines are reasonable priced and if you buy 6 bottles for 4 Euros you can have them box them for the plane. If anyone you know is like my husband and interested in Armagnac this is the place for you. There were vintage bottles back to 1908-all you need is money. There is also a little café which serves wines by the glass that are appropriate for each dish.

    BHV- We bought some of those neat number tiles for the house for my sister last year. Unfortunately we forgot about them when we check the bag that didn’t pass security and two broke. The basement of BHV is filled with all sorts of neat stuff like that. If you know anyone with a dog or cat there are some funny signs about beware of dog or cat in French.

    Marche St Germain-We go to this covered market in the 6th arrondissmont for flowers for the room. There is a small wine shop in the corner which is where we buy liqueurs such as Framboise, Mure etc. Also Tomas found a bottle of 1982 Armagnac (the year we got married) for a reasonable price. He wanted me to mention this shop to keep them in business.

    Gerard Mulot- When we go to the airport to fly home we take a picnic with us. This is where we go to get a little pastry for that picnic. I wish that the bakeries around here would make these little gems. This year we got a tarte citron and something chocolate covered with a raspberry on top that was out of this world. I also bought some Easter chocolates for my staff –they said they were wonderful.

    Maison du Chocolate- I stood in line here the day before Easter to buy boxes of chocolates for my co workers and my breakfast gang. This is one of those places that give you a guide so you know what you are picking but with the crush in the store and the pressure to pick and move I have no idea what I got. Everyone said there were wonderful and when they were gone a guy in management suggested that the company send me back for more. I was game but it was all just talk. If you go the chocolate with raspberry puree was wonderful but as you might guess this is one of my passions.

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    Nikki-You have to try it to believe it. Even if you don't try that one how do you feel about chocolate and herbs such as basil or rosemary?

    Francophile03- I looked at the Relais St Germain website and didn't see any mention of the discount. (Not that I will be going back that soon, unfortunately!) Was it through some other consolidator?

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