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Selfishly Seeking Direction


zoliver
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OK. I'm 28. I'm a single woman. I'm going to France at the end of October. I have tentatively chosen the above-named cities as my targets. I'll be hitting the 'Foire Internationale Gastronomique' in Dijon at the end.

I'm not too interested in museums, citadels, churches, cathedrals, guided historical walking tours, or anything else involving dead people or the objects they used.

I AM, however, interested in eating my face off. Now I know that I'm hardly being original in starting a thread about 'Where to Eat When You Travel to Name-That-Place', but then again, gluttony is all about self-indulgence, isn't it? So help would be appreciated, and I'm only slightly bashful :blush: in requesting your assistance.

I'll be eating alone, on a modest budget, but with the idea of sampling local specialties. I think that given that, I am probably best directed to non-Michelin starred restaurants that seek to maintain quality in a minimal-frills atmosphere.

Oh...also...does anyone know anything about the logistics of mailing back foodstuffs from France to North America? (Only pasteurized cheese, of course :wink:)

What do you think?

Thanks,

Zoe Oliver

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Hey Zoe! How great that you chose the France forum for your first post.

The first thing you'll want to do if you're looking for restaurant recommendations is to look into what people have posted over the last few years here at eGullet, by searching first with the google option at the top of your screen, and then, a detail that we sometimes overlook, the search button that does a more extensive search further back into the archives. Search on Cahors, Montpellier, and Dijon one at a time.

Next, Zoe, your interest in local specialties is a good one - you'll want to find out what they are, even if this means investigating age old customs and traditions that go back hundreds of years (and the dead people that kept them alive generation after generation :blush:). By doing this you'll find that if you order local specialties with some knowledge of how their done and why they are local to these places, you'll most likely be able to choose things that you'll remember as the best you've ever had.

Not long ago, we were on a roadtrip and I'd thrown Waverly Root's The Food of France into my bag to read along the way. As we drove through towns and villages, many which were mentioned in his book, I read all about the foods that make these places special, their histories, etc. It really enriched my journey. Flipping through the book now, I can say all three of the places you mention are in his index. Dijon, especially, has a lot written about it. :rolleyes:

I hope that some of the other members have had specific restaurant experiences that they can recommend to you, Good luck in making your list of things to try and places to eat! :raz:

New thread on mailing foods here.

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... I'd thrown Waverly Root's The Food of France into my bag to read along the way.

How marvelous. France doesn't seem as tied to its historical cuisine today as it did forty years ago when I first started to travel seriousy there, but in the sixties, when I was a lot more interested in the art and architecture than I am now, Waverly Root's book was still the most important one in my bags. With it as my Rosetta stone, I dechipered the cooking of France and with that I learned about the people and their history. I used it to interpret the foods in the shop windows, to read the menus and ultimately to absorb the culture into my gut. I foreswore ordering the foods I knew, and knew I would like for those mentioned as local specialties wherever I went and was richly rewarded for it.

I don't have too much to say about those particular cities. Montpellier, although I have spent some enjoyable time there, may be the least interesting gastronomically. May I ask how you came to choose those three cities, how you are traveling and how long you intend to spend in each city?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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First, I want to tell you how jealous I am that your trip will include the 'Foire Internationale Gastronomique' in Dijon! I really feel that you need little of our counsel if you are already so attuned. That said, I would recommend that you email or fax the local tourist offices of regional centers, and even villages, along your planned route (you can find the addresses under the village name in Michelin). These most dedicated people will send you, both electronically and through the post, extraordinarily detailed information of food-oriented venues in their departments.

Bon appetit! (Wish I were there!)

eGullet member #80.

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I would recommend that you email or fax the local tourist offices of regional centers, and even villages, along your planned route (you can find the addresses under the village name in Michelin).

Last year we put together a list of links to regional web sites in France. It's not as complete or detailed as we would have liked it to be and we haven't had time to check it regularly and keep it up to date, but it might be helpful. In fact I've clicked though Burgundy, Cahors (under Aquitaine) and Languedoc-Roussillon to find numerous intersting links to information, tourist office addresses and even links to request brochures by mail. That page is one of the few efforts we've made to keep the WorldTable site useful and it's worth a look. There are some other French web links of use to travelers as well.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I've been to Montpellier three times in the last five years, most recently May 2004. Not particularly inspired as food and/or restaurants go, but a very pleasant town to visit.

I've posted previously on my experiences there, with Maison de la Lozere being by far the best of a generally lackluster dining scene. Le Jardin des Sens has been blessed by Michelin, and has the prices to match.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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We've had wonderful meals at the Jardin des Sens, but haven't been there since it got its third star. We have had very mixed reports since it's had three stars, but Michelin seems happy enough. It's kept all three for a while now.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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May I ask how you came to choose those three cities, how you are traveling and how long you intend to spend in each city?

Wow! I am so excited to have received so many helpful messages to my post! I feel my level of anticipation ramping up higher and higher! Thanks so much!

I have purchased Root's apparently seminal work on the Food of France online, and I eagerly await its arrival.

In response to Bux's question:

I'm really just floundering around without much clue as to what I'm doing (thus the SOS post to egullet...). I am travelling for 15 nights total, which I planned to break down into Paris (5), Cahors (3), Montpellier (2), Dijon (4), and then Paris again (1). I didn't include Paris in my plea for guidance because there is already alot of information on Paris dining on the boards, and I wanted to stay focused.

Anyhow, I chose Dijon because the International Gastronomy Fair is there when I'm there. At best, it will be fantastic. At worst, I'll eat alot of gingerbread and red wine. I'm staying at the Hotel Phillippe Le Bon...anyone been there?

The other two destinations are still wide open to the power of your suggestions. I had orginally thought that Perigueux would be the best place to stay in the Perigord area, owing to the Wed/Sat foie gras and truffles market. However, review of a few guide books as well as the egullet boards convinced me that Cahors probably had more to offer food-wise, as well as being a better base for exploring the environs.

Montpellier is shaping up to be a bit of a black sheep, it seems. I had originally thought Marseille, but then I switched to Montpellier because I thought it would be cheaper. Plus I hear it's a young town, and I thought I might be able to meet a hunky French man. (That being said, the fact that I am travelling alone on a food-oriented vacation should indicate to you that thus far food has turned out to be a more dependable pleasure in my life. Just ask my 'fesse'.). Someone also told me that nearby Sete is grubby but has great seafood. Where do you guys think is the best food destination in Languedoc-Roussillon?

I also feel romantically/nostalgically/irrationally drawn to the Pyrenees. What do you all think about chopping a few days off Paris to be able to visit there? (Bearing in mind that business will probably take me back to Paris a few times in my life.).

Thanks a million for all your suggestions,

Zoe

(The Little Canadian)

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I'm really just floundering around without much clue as to what I'm doing (thus the SOS post to egullet...).  I am travelling for 15 nights total, which I planned to break down into Paris (5), Cahors (3), Montpellier (2), Dijon (4), and then Paris again (1).

With that less than obsessive need to be in those destinations, perhaps you'll be open to other suggestions. There's a certain dliemma in that Cahors and Montpellier together don't deserve half as much time as Paris, but there's no point in spending just one day in any city especially if arriving by train and plane and at the mercy of timetables.

Anyhow, I chose Dijon because the International Gastronomy Fair is there when I'm there.  At best, it will be fantastic.  At worst, I'll eat alot of gingerbread and red wine.  I'm staying at the Hotel Phillippe Le Bon...anyone been there?

Agreed that this is a sensible and interesting stop, especially with the fair. I suppose that's redundant. There's nothing sensible about stopping in an uninteresting place. I actually believe we stayed at that Hotel the last time we passed through Dijon. Libertel hotels are usually very reliable in their price range. As I recall, we didn't have a reservation and picked it after driving by some other hotels. Truthfully, I don't remember it very well, which is generally a good enough sign when not staying in more luxurous digs. As I recall it was well located for seeing Dijon on foot, but parking facilities may have played a part in our decision. I don't recall where we ate, but it was a rest day between gastronomic destinations.

The other two destinations are still wide open to the power of your suggestions.

Good to know we have that freedom without insulting you.

Montpellier is shaping up to be a bit of a black sheep, it seems.  I had originally thought Marseille, but then I switched to Montpellier because I thought it would be cheaper.  Plus I hear it's a young town, and I thought I might be able to meet a hunky French man. ...  Someone also told me that nearby Sete is grubby but has great seafood.  Where do you guys think is the best food destination in Languedoc-Roussillon?

I've never thought of Sete as "grubby" but I've also never thought of it as a destination. I've stopped in it's cafes for a coffee or beer, but never lingered too long and wonder what a single person would do in such a sleepy town not particularly known for its restaurants. Maybe it's not as sleepy as I think it is, but then I've mostly seen it in the summer. It will be quieter in October.

Marseille always sounds far more interesting than it really is and its food has a better reputation than it deserves. We spent a few days there some years back, including a New Year's Eve. We enjoyed it enough, as we were meeting friends, but it doesn't draw me back nearly as much as many other places in France.

I've been in and through Montpellier many times because friends live nearby, but I might say about it what I've said about Marseille. It's a university town and I don't know much else about the population or the single life. Most of the people we know in the area are married and old enough to be your parents.

I also feel romantically/nostalgically/irrationally drawn to the Pyrenees. What do you all think about chopping a few days off Paris to be able to visit there? (Bearing in mind that business will probably take me back to Paris a few times in my life.).

I love the Pyrenees and the Basque area, but in a good part of it, you're between seasons and the best of it is best seen by car. I generally love the countryside in France, often more so than the cities, but if I were traveling alone, I might prefer even bigger cities. I can talk about food and even museums, but when it comes to a singles scene, I'm out of the loop so I'm loathe to make many suggestions.

Toulouse might be a choice however. Also be careful about distinguishing between comments made about places like Cahors in summer and fall. Places that are lively in summer are often dead in the fall and places that are obnoxiously full of tourists in the summer can be pleasant in the fall. It depends on what you want.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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OK. How does this look:

Paris-Bayonne-Toulouse-Aix en Provence-Dijon-Paris?

Better?

Bayonne is certainly an improvement over Montpellier, it has a fabulous outdoor/indoor market. I prefer Avignon over Aix-en-Provence. There are a lot of restaurants and it has a neat square near the Palais du Pape which gets full of cafes and people. You can also use it as a base to do day trips to other interesting cities, after all, man or woman does not live by bread alone. :rolleyes:

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