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Where should I spend my vacation this summer?


Christopher Haatuft
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Im sorry for the general topic, I know the forum is full of people needing advice on this and that. The thing is, I have really no clue on where I should spend two weeks of vacation other than getting tickets to Paris and hopefully taking a train somewhere nice. My girlfriend and I are leaving around mid July and staying for two weeks. Ive never been to France and I want that "french vacation" all seasoned chefs talk about having when they were young and getting in to the craft. I want to eat fresh oysters bought from a proud oysterfarmer, trick my girlfriend into having tripe for the first time and pretend like Ive had it a million times myself. I have a friend who told me the air around Dijon smelled of mustard! Thats the stuff I want to see. And eat!!! Downside to this is that Im on a budget. Im a apprentice chef, and my wallet fits the rang. I would like to rent an apartmenthotel somewhere not to touristy thats near a beach. The latter is the only requirement my girlfriend has. I spent some time in and around San Sebastian last summer and absolutely loved it. Would moving over the border to the french part of the Basque country be worth it? Or should I try the south, like Marseille or thereabouts? Mayby the coast by the English channel is nice? I had great luck using the Spanish agro-turismo websites while traveling last year, but I cant seem to find any for France? Thank you for taking your time reading this, and hopefully youll have a tip or two for me. :smile:

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Don't discount the southcoast of Brittany. Pont Aven is a beautiful little town that Gaugin spent much time in. If you stay a bit to the west you will also have access to the beatiful coastline of western Brittany. You can eat some of the best oysters in France there, the country and oceanside is beautiful and we ate very well. Quimper and Mont St Michel are both nice excursions. We did eat at several special places but I'm not sure I could dig up the names at this time.

There are tourist guest farmhouses in France--I think they're called something like "Gites de France". We visited one that our friend's family owned and it seems like it can be quite a nice arrangement. Since they are each so individual, it would likely be a good idea to investigate a particular option. Others may have more information on their overall level of quality, etc.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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We really enjoyed our time on Belle-Ile-en-Mer (Brittany) last summer. Go in late August, after most of the tourists have gone and the water is still warm (by Nova Scotian standards!).

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Don't discount the southcoast of Brittany.  Pont Aven is a beautiful little town that Gaugin spent much time in.  If you stay a bit to the west you will also have access to the beatiful coastline of western Brittany.  You can eat some of the best oysters in France there, the country and oceanside is beautiful and we ate very well.  Quimper and Mont St Michel are both nice excursions.  We did eat at several special places but I'm not sure I could dig up the names at this time. 

There are tourist guest farmhouses in France--I think they're called something like "Gites de France".  We visited one that our friend's family owned and it seems like it can be quite a nice arrangement.  Since they are each so individual, it would likely be a good idea to investigate a particular option.  Others may have more information on their overall level of quality, etc.

Thank you, that was very helpful. I found this website gites de france

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We really enjoyed our time on Belle-Ile-en-Mer (Brittany) last summer. Go in late August, after most of the tourists have gone and the water is still warm (by Nova Scotian standards!).

So Brittany is nice, huh? I got to go in July, though...I start at a new restaurant in the beginning of august :biggrin:

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Moi, j'adore Ste. Maxime!  :wub:

Between Cannes and St. Tropez? :hmmm: sounds like its beyond my wallet :laugh:

It's been a few years since I've been and I'm sure it's more expensive now--what isn't?!?!?--but at that time (we were there for a wedding), it was actually quite affordable, compared to Cannes and St. Tropez.

Deb

Liberty, MO

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I think my favorite place was Alsace and Champagne. Hubby is Burgundy and Rhone.

Burgundy might be a little too much like Napa...

Provence too crowded in the summer.

I think I'd choose Alsace, since the architecture, the cuisine, everything is a bit like a French/German combination. Very different and not a lot of other English speaking people; which makes us feel like we truly are in a different culture. It's not all Charcroute....good grits and wine!

Philly Francophiles

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I'd ask those who recommend Normandy/Brittany what the beach scene is, as I assume your girlfriend's not looking for a rustic beach and a chill drizzle coming off The Channel. I am aching to spend time again in Normandy myself, but would not go there -- based on my admittedly limited experience -- expecting to hang on the beach as you would in, say California or the East Coast.

On the other hand, one assumes that the Cote d'Azure is too crowded and expensive.

What about near the Spanish border? Either on the Med side or the Atlantic? No experience but that's my best guess.

PS: If you like music, look into the festivals. We have rented a place in Nice in July (only 300 euros for the week -- maybe you can afford the Cote d'Azure) and it happens to coincide with a Jazz Festival. And then we got another apartment in small town a couple hours inland -- a classical music festival! who knew? Anyway, once you narrow down the search, it's probably worth googling the tourist boards and seeing what's in the 'hood. And if you want to know about the apartment in Nice -- which I assume is brutally small but is in one hell of a location -- PM.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Will you be renting a car, or traveling by train only? If by train, you're restricted to the centers of larger towns (and cities), while you'll have more flexibility as to accomodations -- as well as places to see/dine -- if you have a car.

For reasonable places to stay, you might want to check out Logis de France, a federation of independently owned inns. Prices and facilities range from extremely modest to somewhat pricey. Some of the inns also themselves on their restaurants.

If you do have a car, you can stay extremely cheaply at motel chains such as Formule 1 or Premiere Classe. A lot of French people and other Europeans stay there while traveling. They're modern and super-clean, but don't have air conditioning (in case that's a consideration for you). Most of the motels are located by major highway interchanges in the suburbs.

I'd second (or third/fourth....) Normandy and/or Brittany as a destination if you'd like to be by a beach. Don't miss the oysters! You can see a lot of oyster beds if you take the drive between Normandy and Brittany, near Cancale and Mont St. Michel.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Im sorry for the general topic, I know the forum is full of people needing advice on this and that. The thing is, I have really no clue on where I should spend two weeks of vacation other than getting tickets to Paris and hopefully taking a train somewhere nice. My girlfriend and I are leaving around mid July and staying for two weeks. Ive never been to France and I want that "french vacation" all seasoned chefs talk about having when they were young and getting in to the craft. I want to eat fresh oysters bought from a proud oysterfarmer, trick my girlfriend into having tripe for the first time and pretend like Ive had it a million times myself. I have a friend who told me the air around Dijon smelled of mustard! Thats the stuff I want to see. And eat!!! Downside to this is that Im on a budget. Im a apprentice chef, and my wallet fits the rang. I would like to rent an apartmenthotel somewhere not to touristy thats near a beach. The latter is the only requirement my girlfriend has. I spent some time in and around San Sebastian last summer and absolutely loved it. Would moving over the border to the french part of the Basque country be worth it? Or should I try the south, like Marseille or thereabouts? Mayby the coast by the English channel is nice? I had great luck using the Spanish agro-turismo websites while traveling last year, but I cant seem to find any for France? Thank you for taking your time reading this, and hopefully youll have a tip or two for me.  :smile:

First off, don't apologize for asking this general a question; as you've already seen, it has and will generate enormous responses because everyone has his/her own favorites.

Having found the Gites site and books, you've got the best source of info on rentals that's available; look for the words "house of charm" as a key to nifty places.

Of all the places you've mentioned I'd knock Dijon and the English channel off the list right away. And the problem with Brittany (either side, north or south) is the weather that can go either way as was mentioned before.

It sounds like you're most inclined to go to the Basque country since you liked it before, it has sand beaches, it's not jam-packed and over-priced like the Cote d'Azur, the weather is better than North and the food good, interesting and varied. You can also do day trips if you were to bring your car, into the mountains, up to Bordeaux, Toulouse, etc.

But as I said, I'll bet you'll get tons more responses. Stay tuned and let us know afterwards how it turned out.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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San Sebastian is the best place I ve ever been on vacation, so if the french part of the Basque country is anything like it, Ill parobably love it. The only thing is that Im afraid it will to much like were Ive been before. If thats true, then I guess I could just as well go back to San Sebastian? Guess my question is, is there a big difference in the French and the Spanish part of the Basque country?

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Christopher. Now if the decision to stay on a coast somewhere, I would not be so quick to dismiss going north. There are lots of great beach and seafood experiences up north. I actually prefer it to the Riviera for vacationing, mainly because there is so much more to discover gastronomically along that coast, and the fact that you can find uncrowded beaches - the crowded beach being a harsh reality of the Med. Up north is where you get the savage majesty of nature and the oysters you're talking about, the quaint seaside towns with the tides - where you can take a bucket and a shovel and hunt for clams and cut oysters straight from the rocks and then watch as the water comes rolling back in to cover it all up again (this element is completely missing on the southern coast although the snorkeling is beautiful there). The legendary crepes and andouille, and the variety you get with every town you go to, the salt marsh fed lamb and more. Although the sun is warm and the fish are plentiful on the Riviera, the unfortunate reality is that it's expensive, parched, crowded, and overdeveloped anyplace affordable in high season.

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Christopher.  Now if the decision to stay on a coast somewhere, I would not be so quick to dismiss going north.  There are lots of great beach and seafood experiences up north.  I actually prefer it to the Riviera for vacationing, mainly because there is so much more to discover gastronomically along that coast, and the fact that you can find uncrowded beaches - the crowded beach being a harsh reality of the Med.  Up north is where you get the savage majesty of nature and the oysters you're talking about, the quaint seaside towns with the tides - where you can take a bucket and a shovel and hunt for clams and cut oysters straight from the rocks and then watch as the water comes rolling back in to cover it all up again (this element is completely missing on the southern coast although the snorkeling is beautiful there).  The legendary crepes and andouille, and the variety you get with every town you go to, the salt marsh fed lamb and more.  Although the sun is warm and the fish are plentiful on the Riviera, the unfortunate reality is that it's expensive, parched, crowded, and overdeveloped anyplace affordable in high season.

Is there anywhere in particular you would recomend?

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I would definitely reccommend touring, renting a car and moving along the coast.  Where to begin a gastronomic tour of Northern Brittany/Normandy?  So many choices, let me consult and come back with some suggestions.

Thank you. I get the feeling renting a car is the thing to do. Easycar gave me a good deal last year in Spain.

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What about taking the train? My girlfriends not to keen on the idea of another car-vacation.

It's certainly possible, taking the Train to certain towns and then visiting the coast by bus. You can get started and look at some suggested itineraries in Brittany for traveling without a car Here, by clicking "ciruits".

But just because I think you'll love the variety of food in Brittany as a traveling chef does not mean there aren't others with convincing reasons to travel in other regions, too.

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What about taking the train? My girlfriends not to keen on the idea of another car-vacation.

It's certainly possible, taking the Train to certain towns and then visiting the coast by bus. You can get started and look at some suggested itineraries in Brittany for traveling without a car Here, by clicking "ciruits".

But just because I think you'll love the variety of food in Brittany as a traveling chef does not mean there aren't others with convincing reasons to travel in other regions, too.

Well the food is definately my main priorety when traveling, so if Brittany come highly recomended, then thats something I will check out. Thank you for finding the web page for me.

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Of course, everyone has their favorites. I love just about all of France, so just about anywhere would do.

As far as beaches, I prefer the Mediterranean over the Atlantic because the water is so much warmer, bluer, and the weather is generally better and more reliable. The bright sunlight that all the painters talked about is a reality.

For better deals, the Var coast between St Raphael and St Tropez is a bit cheaper, as long as you stay out of St Trop itself. Great beaches, and of course, as in all of France, great food.

The chambres d'hotes can be very economical as well as charming. Many serve a community dinner at a "table d'hote" where you feel like a personal guest of the hosts. A great experience. Find these places at:

http://www.gites-de-france-var.fr/

Bon voyage!!

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