Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

France on a Shoestring


Recommended Posts

Most of our discussions about eating our way across France center around the top end of the market. That’s a very pleasant way to do it; but there may well be lurkers on our list who can only do it on a modest scale. For their benefit (and for those plutocrats who feel like slumming) I’d like to suggest an alternative which I’ve followed for most of my continental excursions.

First of all, I’m not talking about hitch-hiking from barn to barn. I’m assuming a reasonable budget which the traveller wants to optimize. In outline, my plan of attack involves driving my own or a rented car; planning and following my route with the aid of a laptop computer loaded with Microsoft AutoRoute and GPS; and staying mostly at B&Bs.

THE CAR: Whatever you choose to drive, it’s essential that it have enough concealed storage space so that your bags and suitcases aren’t on show. You want to be able to leave it with relative safety in parking lots, and so it’s wise to rent a fairly modest car that doesn’t scream wealth. If you’re coming from the US, you’ll probably save a lot of money by arranging the rental before you leave.

My own vehicle is an ancient VW van with mortise locks all round, a sophisticated burglar alarm, a bulkhead and no windows in the luggage compartment, and an enormous collection of travel stickers all over the rear door. I’ve had it from new and kept it in tip-top mechanical shape, but let the bumps and scratches accumulate. The unpromising exterior has allowed me to transport thousands of pounds worth of sound equipment all over Europe in perfect safety – never an attempt at a break-in during fifteen years and 180,000 miles, even when parked overnight on unsavory city streets.

AUTOROUTE AND GPS: This has been worth its weight in truffles. At the very least, it’s worth having the program on your home computer for advance planning of itineraries. I’ve gone for the full monty and have a lightweight slimline IBM laptop which sits on a tray I installed on my dashboard and is connected to a Garmin GPS 35 PC, so that my route automatically scrolls in front of me as I drive.

In between these two extremes, I would suggest that, if you have a laptop which isn’t too heavy, you take it along with AutoRoute fully installed so that the CD doesn’t have to be inserted. When you’re planning your journey at home, you have the luxury of listing all the locations you want to cover and then asking the computer to arrange them in the most efficient order. You’ll get a map on screen with your route outlined, on which you can zoom in and out at will, and you’ll also get a point-by-point textual analysis which will tell you how many miles you’d have to cover in a day to get it all in. Route options include “fastest”, “shortest” and “preferred”, in which you can set relative preferences for or against motorways, etc. You can also program in your expected average speed on different grades of road. The final route can be saved so as to come back to it instantly. It’s also worth having separate programs for each day’s travel. If you take the computer with you, of course you can revise your plans day by day. On our last two-week trip we stuck to our hotel reservations but considerably altered our daytime schedules as we went along, and AutoRoute made this very easy and reliable – we always arrived at our final destination well within half an hour of the time we had planned.

GUIDES: For restaurants it’s worth taking both Michelin and GaultMillau, or buying them when you arrive – that is, if you want to keep your options open. The big Michelin atlas is essential. As a primary source of information I’ve always used Alistair Sawday’s “Special Places to Stay: French Bed and Breakfast”. This describes the places in sufficient detail for you to form subjective opinions, which are likely to be reliable. For instance, farms which serve noteworthy dinners made with their own produce are clearly identified. One of our most vivid memories is of the finest quiche we ever tasted, a simple affair made with freshly laid eggs and unpasteurized cream from their own cows. His “French Hotels, Inns & Other Places” includes more upmarket establishments. Not infallible, but on our last Dordogne holiday, out of nine hotels, only two were not to our liking and there were four we would eagerly return to.

If anyone has any questions I’ll try to answer them.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many alternate moderate routes. We generally stay in small hotels and inns, but only occasionally in Relais Chateaux. In fact, we never stay in a Relais Chateaux unless it's attached to a multistarred Relais Gourmand. On our last trip which I've documented here up to the point where we hit the Relais Gourmands, our most expensive room was at Michel Bras, which others have noted as a bargain and relatively inexpensive at 176 euros. Regis Marcon's Clos des Cimes was 130 euros, but my two favorite places ran 67 and 75 euros for a lovely room with private tile baths and very comfotable beds. One of these places has what I believe to be the most under rated one star restaurant south of l'Astrance. The other is not yet in Michelin. GM has them pegged at 16 and 15.

We seem to get by renting what I believe is sold as a compact car--VW Golf, Renault Megane, Peugeot 307--and the Michelin 1:200,000 scale maps for the area from the double digit series. Analog road signs and the sun, on the few days it seems not to rain on our travels, pretty well serve as directional aids. We are card carrying members of the digital age nonetheless. We have a France Telecom Telecarte and a couple of ATM and credit cards. A red Michelin is handy for city maps as much as restaurants. More and more we've already booked our dinner in advance and tend not to have a full meal for lunch in France. (In Spain we often do the opposite--book lunch and eat tapas for dinner.)

I enjoyed your post on the Dordogne and I hope someone is interested in the less expensive stops we made last month.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Two things I should have included:

COST: The B&Bs we stay at usually cost between 30 and 50 euros per night for two. Dinners at these places, including wine, are usually between 15 and 25 euros apiece.

TELEPHONES: Large parts of rural France, especially in the mountains, do not have reliable contact with mobile phone aerials. Even if you have a mobile that's authorized for continental use, buy yourself a French phone card with a lot of units. Even rural areas are pretty well supplied with phone booths, and none of them take coins.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

Visiting top French patissiers' shops can be relatively low cost and rewarding. Some even have savory items (e.g., certain sandwiches at Pierre Herme; Peltier has certain Conticini savory creations). While I have not executed this plan, a wonderful meal would be to have those savory items, plus one or two desserts purchased at the same time, with a 1/2 bottle of white from the Rhone or Loire (or water, for the very budget conscious).

Other ideas -- 71 euros for a prix fixe special lunch at three-starred Grand Vefour (I know that's not necessarily inexpensive). Poilane's bread with a blue.  :wink:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Under another topic, someone recommended as a primary source on French cuisine that great book by A.J. Liebling, _Between Meals_. If it weren't for questions of copyright and fair use, I would have prefaced my suggestions for "France on a Shoestring" with the entire fourth chapter, entitled "Just Enough Money". Instead, I'll content myself with a brief quotation, the last sentence of which is constantly anthologized:

“A man who is rich in adolescence is almost doomed to be a dilettante at table. This is not because all millionaires are stupid but because they are not impelled to experiment. In learning to eat, as in psychoanalysis, the customer, in order to profit, must be sensible of the cost.” A.J. Liebling, _Between Meals_, Chapter IV, “Just Enough Money”, pp67-8.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm bending the "across France" part of the thread, since we never left Paris except by Eurostar, but when Laurie and I spent a week there, it was a deliciously frugal experience.  This was partly deliberate and partly happenstance.  We were there the week of Christmas, so a lot of things were closed.  We had been hoping to eat at Les Crayeres.  Closed.  Then we thought too late to try for a reservation at Arpège, and didn't get one.

We had no trouble getting a reservation at La Régalade, made a last-minute res at L'Epi Dupin, and dropped in for lunch at L'Os à Moëlle.  Our most expensive meals were on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, at some fading brasseries (if only eGullet had existed back then).  Our hotel was an inexpensive and charming on in the 6th.  Basically, if you just eat at places on Whiting's web site, you can have a memorable Paris experience without spending so much.

Interestingly, I kept ordering surcharge dishes (such as foie gras) at the bistros, but never got surcharged once.

In fact, some grad student friends of ours when we lived in New York took a trip to Paris on some cheap round trip tickets, and they had a great time even though they couldn't afford any restaurants at all.  They bought wine, charcuterie, bread, pâtisserie, and ate it in parks.

I would have liked to make it to one of the starred places, sure, and I probably will next time, but as John said, if anyone has the idea that France must be done lavishly or not at all, I say piffle.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone tried the sometimes-touted method of following routiers (truckers) to the cheap restaurants they frequent?  You get behind a truck or a convoy at around noon.

I have done this occasionally, with mixed success: 6 out of 10 times, the food is both good and inexpensive, the other 4 it's pretty awful.  It's astonishing and more than a bit frightening to see the quantities of wine that the drivers consume before getting back in their trucks.  The restaurants are unfailingly child-friendly.  Even in Mougins, a town that tends toward the upscale (cuisine bourgeoise and grande cuisine!) has several of these places; two of them (Le Grillon and Au Routier Sympa) very good for what they are.  The latter makes pizza and roast meats in a wood-fired oven.

There is a website for Relais Routiers, (click here), but its coverage is uneven.

Only thing I would add to the good advice already posted in this thread is to use guidebooks that are up to date, especially if you are looking for small or out of the way places.  These restaurants seem to change hands frequently, perhaps because they run on lower operating margins than the big establishments and depend on the human capital (= blood, sweat and tears) of the owners.  Many of the good small places we've visited in Brittany, Normandy, Loire, Charente are now gone or have degraded, 5 to 10 years on, and new ones have replaced them.  We end up buying guidebooks every year, a pleasant if slightly costly habit.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, Routier. Our last lunch before leaving France was at a Routier restaurant. Outside it looked unpromisingly like an English transport caf, but the dining room was cosy and not ill-decorated, with tablecloths , formally set places and a litre of vin rouge ordinaire on each table. It was a bit late for lunch so there were only a couple of tables occupied, one by two middle-aged French couples and the other by what we took to be a couple of truck drivers.

We were promptly brought menus which offered two price levels; we chose the more expensive at 14 ½ euros, which offered paté de foie gras as a starter. Two generous blocks arrived together with warm toast wrapped in a napkin. Obviously the paté had come out of a can, not prepared on the premises, but the quality was decent – as good as you’d get gift-wrapped at any up-market tourist trap for not much less than the cost of our entire meal.

The other two tables were engaged in lively but not raucous conversation, having a jolly time with no apparent intention of leaving very soon, nor was the waitress at all impatient.

For a main course I chose faux-fillet au poivre and Mary went for a fillet of white fish (we forget what) with a sort of béchamel sauce. She didn’t particularly care for it, but I fared rather better. I asked for it bleu, and so it was, well seared outside and translucent within. It was a bit tough but very tasty – I’m always prepared to make that trade-off. The made-up sauce had not been prepared from scratch in the classic manner and was a bit too thick, but the flavor wasn’t bad at all. I genuinely enjoyed it. And the pommes frites were generously supplied and just fine.

In the meantime the wine was disappearing from the open bottle at an alarming rate. Where was it all going to? It was perfectly decent stuff; I’ve had much worse at exorbitant mark-ups from pretentiously cradled bottles.

Then a cheese course. A plate was brought around with half a dozen choices. Nothing to write home about but perfectly edible -- no processed rubbish.

And desert. I chose a coconut cake, Mary a dish of vanilla ice cream. She swore it was the best she’d ever had. I sampled it and was inclined to agree. She generously offered to share it and we both ended up with coconut cake a la mode, as the Yanks would say. Delicious.

By this time the other tables had emptied. We asked if we could have a coffee (for me) and a hot chocolate (for Mary). No problem. No hurry. We took our time and asked for the bill.

Then came the shock.: 29 euros for two four-course lunches, one euro each for the coffee and the chocolate, total 31 euros. No charge for the wine – that was included. We thought of what such a meal would have been like, at what cost, in an English motorway pit stop restaurant. Fervently crossing ourselves, we left in a state of euphoria. If you ever find yourself in Yerville, give the waitress our love.

S.A.R.L. L’Escale, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, 76760 Yerville, Tel: 35 96 78 06

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

To quote Bux "We have a France Telecom Telecarte", I would like to add, European Telphone Cards are different from stateside ones, as they are prepaid, yes, but you do not need to dial the provider number first, and a pin number second, since the phone accepts these cards in a provided slot and validates minutes/amounts left, simplefying the whole operation tremendously.

And furthermore, for the ones on a budget, who is not?, I found by using the Guide: "Logis de France", available through you local French Tourist Office (for a fee / used to be free), I never fared badly. And that includes eating in many of these establishments, especially the ones embellished with a little "Casserole" icon, referring to local specialities. If the Tourist Office does not provide, contact direct: Federation Nationale des Logis de France, 83 Avenue d'Italie, 75013 Paris France.

Another decent guide seems to be the "Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe", Secretariat Europeen: Grand Marnier, 91 Boulevard hausmann, 75008 Paris France, and

"Maitre Cuisiniers de France", from the Association des Maitres Cuisiniers de France, 40 rue Blanche 75009 Paris France

Peter
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh yes, I almost forgot: the Michelin Atlas Routier France as it is called is usually available in Super Markets, much less expensive then anywhere else. I bought mine in June 1997 for FF58.80, which at that time came to $10.80, it's the huge version 16"X12" spiral bound in 1:200 (1cm=2km), 192 pages, can not be beat.

Peter
Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's not forget that in addition to awarding stars for superior food, Michelin points out restaurants that serve a simple but acceptable menu for less than 14 euros using two coins as a symbol, and with the "Bib Gourmand," restaurants that offer good food at moderate prices which are noted as around 28 euros in Paris and 21 euros in the provinces. I've found these pointers as reliable as the stars when you want a light meal or a budget meal.

We haven't eaten at a Routier very recently, but sometimes pass them at inopportune moments and think fondly back to our first road trips in France when we traveled without plans or reservations and always on the lookout for the red and blue Routiers signs. The last time we ate in a Routier, it was in a small city and we had purposely headed there as it was also one of the Michelin small change listings. We had a charming little meal of the sort that reminded us of the joys of traveling poor in a place where it was almost impossible to find a bad meal. That's unfortunately not true in France these days, and I can't say if the Routiers signs are as reliable as they were forty years ago, but between them and the Michelin you ought to be able to find a meal that's cheap and will not insult to your palate or stomach.

[JD] a bit frightening to see the quantities of wine that the drivers consume before getting back in their trucks.
As much as we loved the food we found in the Routiers restaurants, they often served to convince us that the safest time to drive and cover any distance was from noon to two o'clock while the truckers were having lunch and the most dagerous time to be on the road was when the truckers finished lunch. We often developed a strategy for buying provisions at eleven-thirty before shops closed for lunch and holding off our picnic until two. It worked well enough until the aroma of cheese and paté wafted through the car. A half kilo of very ripe strawberries from a market could stop the car as soon as we could pull over.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I've found Logis to be the most useful single guide covering the whole country with a veritable milky way of tiny stars. They are all independently owned hotels which come together into a sort of association, but there are inspectors who must pass and rate them before they are accepted. One benefit of the association is that individual hotels with restaurants are strongly urged, if not required, to include a menu du terroire in their carte. Some I've experienced have been very good indeed.

France understands better than Britain (or most of America) how to make cooperatives of various sorts work well for the small operator without becoming enmeshed in fruitless arguments over "socialism". They aren't ideological organisations, they're practical mechanisms for mutual aid.

And yes, Bux, the Michelin red bib recommendations are very useful and pleasurable, though they're not as thick on the ground as the Logis hotels.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Routiers have a myth about them as undiscovered treasures. The truth, as far as I have experienced, is that those truckers' places offer decent food for very decent prices. Sometimes quite good, sometimes dismal with ingredients straight from the supermarket frozen section or worse. French truckers are allowed a two-hour break for lunch, paid by their company (lunch included, within budget).

To illustrate: once, I stumbled on an off-off country road on a Brinks or other security co. van, all doors open, view of the loot, one of the guards quickly emerging from the back of the van, still chewing his lunch (sandwich?).  Lunch is sacred in France.

The best shoestring French meal, to my mind, is a picnic assembled from ingredients found at a market. Each French village has a once or twice weekly market, a major French town a daily market. There you find the products of the terroir that make a very satisfying meal. If I can speak of my region (southern Provence), I would visit the local market, basket in hand, buy tapenade and/or anchoiade from the sympa woman who owns the stand. Even if I try hard, I could never approach her excellent tapenade. Ok, also a scoop-full of Nicoise olives. On to the vegetable stand with its surly owner. Are those melons from Cavaillon? Without speaking, he points to the, required in France, notice that lists the provenance of each product. Ah, there's the farmer with his fresh tomatoes. Opposite, the mini-stand of the goat cheese fabricant. My basket is filling up with lettuce, tomatoes, tapenade, olives, cheese, a small container of wild strawberries (perhaps with the young goat cheese?). I need more, a base.There's the truck with roasting chickens, rabbits and pork ham. I choose a farm chicken, "oui, jus inclu," and finish my shopping round at the boulanger for a couple of baguettes à l'ancienne (these baguettes are made the old-fashioned way, grayer inside, and much tastier).

With the loot, we could drive to a favorite spot, Col de Babaou for instance, in between Collobrières and Bormes-les-Mimosas, where you find a splendid, high-up view of the Mediterranean sea and the Iles d'Or.

Does anyone have a favorite market in France, or even a favorite picnic spot?

Frieda

Link to post
Share on other sites
The best shoestring French meal, to my mind, is a picnic assembled from ingredients found at a market.

A shocking number of years ago my wife and I were staying in Paris and took a day trip to Chartres.  We had a tiny flat on the rue Jacob, where there was a compact but very good market. We picked up paté, bread, ham, cherries, olives (etc.), caught a train to Chartres and spent an enjoyable morning climbing around the Cathedral and hearing Malcolm Miller talk about the windows.

Around 1 pm it started to rain, and the rain turned icy.  No way to sit outside and eat...and no easy place indoors.  So we put the food back in the bags and wandered into town.  Up one street...down another...and we found a small restaurant, just below street level.  Its sign proclaimed "cuisine femme" (often a good omen) and it looked warm and inviting.

I remember a surpassingly good chicken, poached in a copper pot with spring vegetables and adroitly carved at table by the waiter, for the two of us.  And a warm apple tart that left us ready to face the cold rain and the journey back to Paris.  But I cannot remember the name of the restaurant...if it is still there.

So the meal was "assembled from ingredients found in a market", and it was very good.  This time, though, our shoestring ended up a bit stretched.

If anyone comes across a small restaurant in Chartres, run by a couple of women, I'm missing one.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Frieda, you've raised the stakes. Of course a lunch you put together yourself from real French "fast food" will rival any Routier.

My favorite French market town, for a number of reasons, is Perigueux. This is from a write-up I did a couple of years ago of their biannual cookery book festival:

EVERY day there were a few stalls in the old market squares selling this and that. Thursday had been particularly rich in fresh wild mushrooms, with such an abundance of horn-of-plenty and chanterelles, at such modest prices, as to make me wonder if there could be any left in the fields. But Saturday proved to be the really serious market day. The stalls, under square blue umbrellas packed edge-to-edge, held fruits and vegetables I’d neither seen nor heard of. There were exotic varieties of turnip with concentric decorator-rings and luxuriant masses of greenish-purple tops, enormous black-skinned radishes, a dozen different varieties of goat cheese from a dozen independent farms, from puckered little Cubjac crottins—i.e., turds, as these sophisticated Gauls call them—to the soft fresh Le Biquet from Mére Elyann, a venerable fromagére as round and wrinkled as her cheeses.

But even more impressive than the comestibles were the plump, sharp-eyed women who moved purposefully from stall to stall, squeezing a radish, hefting a pumpkin, pressing a chicken breast to test its resilience. They are the substratum of culinary culture, the critics who must be constantly satisfied, the foundation of taste and integrity which gives the markets—in fact, the whole agricultural complex of Perigord—the inspiration and the incentive to maintain its standards. Such traditions are not handed out by publicists, or even taught by experts, but rise ultimately from the very earth which gives savor and sustenance.

THIS particular Saturday was the opening of the foie gras season, and so a huge double tent had been set up in the Square St-Louis, within which long rows of tables were occupied by perhaps a couple of dozen local farmers and their wives exhibiting what looked like the entire duck population of the world since time began. There were free samples, little squares of toast spread with fresh foie gras; in the jostling crowds, the unscrupulous browser could have gone the rounds again and again, consuming a small fortune in duck livers. [N.B. I didn’t.]

In front of the tent were dancers and musicians in folk costume, the latter playing accordions and elbow-inflated bagpipes much like the uillean pipes I’d seen in Ireland. Off to one side two sweating cooks, laboring over a massive barbecue like the fires of hell itself, were grilling an acre of sizzling duck legs whose tantalizing aroma was rapidly drawing to the square everyone who passed within sniffing distance. And there in the midst of it all was the ubiquitous Mayor, delivering fluent extemporaneous speeches, reaching into a basket and extracting winning raffle tickets, chatting with passers-by, cracking jokes. During a lull, I asked him if he ever went home. “You’re everywhere, ” I teased. “Last night I expected to find you in my hotel room.” A loud laugh and, quick as a flash, the French reposte: “Only if I were with your wife.” Touché!

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to post
Share on other sites

John's post has prompted me to mention a place Lucy and I stayed in while exploring the Loire valley last September.

It's a posh B&B in a petit chateau called La Chaussee at Huismes, just north of Chinon. Run by a small but big-personlity French painter and her Dutch husband. Marie-Jose and Hans were both excellent hosts, and steered us to a couple of decent meals and some interesting winery visits. Large and attractive room was about FF400/night, including breakfast, now Eu59

La Chaussee

One of the places we ate (and I'm a bit ashamed not to have mentioned this before) was a recommendation, via Bux, from Jacks' Travel site - the Auberge de l'Ile at L'Ile Bouchard, a small island in the Vienne. Nice sandre aux ecrevisses et beurre blanc was the standout. About FF800 with aperitifs, a bottle of Chinon blanc and a glass of Vouvray moelleux with the foie gras. 14/20 in GM I think, and worth a try if you're in the area.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is a small world. I don't know how often Jack has returned to l'Astrance, but he and I ate there on the same day in July of last year. He had lunch and we had dinner, as I recall. It was the weekend we first met him and his wife in person. We had been long time correspondents and I had hosted his earliest guides to Paris on the WorldTable site. We met for dinner at Chez Michel, (10, rue Belzunce, 10th arrondissement, 01 44 53 06 20) a fit restaurant for this thread. If memory serves, Margaret Pilgrim was one of the first people to tell Jack about l'Astrance.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

John, the Perigueux market I remember from 20+ years ago and have not forgotten until today.  Such an abundance of fresh farm foods. But then, the Perigord is a region with rich taste.

In my region of southern Provence, my favorite market is that of Saint-Tropez. A produce as well as people-watching place. Twice weekly, Tuesday and Saturday morning. In the high summer season, practically undoable, with the acces road jam packed, parking at the port always full, the toursist throngs moving along the stalls, pushing baby-buggies, some  double wide (the number of twins+ is astounding these days). But off-season, or early morning in summer months, the market is a delight for its varied stalls. There you can find anything from a unique farm Roquefort (forget about Président, and its high-market luxury-brands, that has 95% of the market), the best pizza in the world at a truck stand with wood-burning oven,  in season the most delicious cèpes, at a price, and fresh, fresh, vegetables. The roasting stand  on the far eastern side is an absolute must with the juiciest hams. The first time I joined the waiting line, I asked a Tropezienne (you can tell because they wear either all black or all white, with plenty of golden jewelry, sometimes carrying a helmet in hand -- a Vespa is the most practical mode of transportation in Saint-Tropez) if this was an OK stand. She told me that it was the very reason to visit the market.

The market is on the Place des Lices, an area of firm dirt soil, shaded by centuries-old Plane trees. On off-market days it is a busy place for Pétanque (jeu de boules) players. Since Jan. 2000, EU regulations stipulate that food products on a market should be sold on a hard surface, black top, concrete. For a brief moment, local newspapers were full of articles about the possible solutions on this issue. Should the Place des Lices be black topped (evicting the Petanque players)? Or the market moved to the austere parking du port? Solution? Do nothing. To hell with those bureaucrats from Brussels.

If you visit St. Trop, do include the daily fish market, just behind Sénéquier on the port.

Frieda

Link to post
Share on other sites
EU regulations stipulate that food products on a market should be sold on a hard surface, black top, concrete.
Bureaucrats can be amazing. What they do best is make regulations where none are needed. Can regulations that govern a situation that doesn't need regulation ever be reasonable. I'm not an anarchist by nature.

I should not be surprised if those bureaucrats next propose that cows, sheep and goats are grazed on a hard surface as well so that it can be hosed down in the evening.

Edited to acknowledge Frieda's comments about placement of the quote box.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux, Thanks for the quote, but only the first sentence came from my keyboard. Who knows, maybe I am an anarchist by nature.

John, next time you visit the region I'll give you a tour of vrai St-Tropez, sans phone booths, though your card may still be valid.

Frieda

Link to post
Share on other sites
I should not be surprised if those bureaucrats next propose that cows, sheep and goats are grazed on a hard surface as well so that it can be hosed down in the evening.

I think they have almost been there and done that.  Do you not remember the chapter in A Goose in Toulouse that described goat dairy farmers being required to tile the floors of their milking barns, resulting in wet floors freezing, goats skittering on the ice, milkers falling, and the eventual rescinding of the preposterous regulation?  Of course, no one reembursed the whiplashed farmers for their expensive tile jobs nor for the retrofits.  At least their broken bones were covered by France's medical system!

eGullet member #80.

Link to post
Share on other sites

we found that to get by a bit cheaper, we always ate out for lunch, and then bought bread, pate, cheese, meat and salad and ate in. And if staying anywhere for a week, its nearly always going to be cheaper to find an apartment/Cottage etc. While in paris we stayed here. And in Languedoc we stayed  here.

When we want hotels, we either get them from the Lonely planet, which alos has good low budget food recommendations, or Hotel Boulevard for some of the bigger cities.

Instead of hiring a car all the time, we didn't have one when we were in Paris, but we hired from the locations we went to; so we only needed a small car because our luggage was left in a hotel, and we didn't need them every day. Getting most places is faster by TGV, and if you prepurchase your tickets and get the j31, j8 and decouvert fares its very reasonable. But it is worth noting that some locations don't have auto cars.

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'

- Frank Zappa

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...