Tour France: The Must-Eat French Foods


Anyone who has toured France will tell you that it has some of the best food in the world, without question. But with so many dishes to try, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start! We’ve given you a list of Bliss Travels‘ favorite French foods to get you started. Do you have some favorite meals of your own? Let us know if you agree!

1. Fougasse

This bakery good is a specialty of Provence. With a focaccia-like texture and height, the fougasse has several deep cuts which allow the toppings to infuse their flavor throughout the bread. This could be anything from olives to fresh vegetables to ham and cheese.  Our favorite is une fougasse gratins, which is filled with chopped bacon. The bacon fat gives it an incredible crunchy crust and more flavor than one would ever think to find in an inauspicious loaf of bread–marveilleux!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

2. Duck- Canard

The French rarely “do” beef. Instead, they specialize in what we would consider “alternative proteins”– and boy, do they do them well! Duck in France is incredibly tender, with a rich, buttery, and unique flavor that simply can’t be copied. In general, the French do not complicate this dish- it will be cooked perfectly and served with potatoes and perhaps some sauteed vegetables. They know a good thing when they have it! The Burgundy region especially has a reason to brag– clients who tour France with us are always ecstatic about this dish!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

3.  Lamb- Agneau

Speaking of these “alternative proteins,” French lamb is consistently out of this world. One of the reasons these meats are so incredible in France is the way they were raised. Lamb roam the countryside, literally dining on herbs de Provence. Thus, they are flavored with rosemary, thyme and the like –naturally! Raising animals using methods that are considered “organic” in America, with fewer hormones and better quality food– they raise happy lambs! Any version of lamb you get will be to die for. Bliss Travels‘ favorite place is in a small bistro on the Left Bank of Paris, which specializes in an mouth-watering shoulder of lamb for two!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S'il vous plait!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S’il vous plait!

4. Napoleon- Millefeuille

This classic French pastry is crumbly, messy, almost always falls on your lap, and is totally worth it. It has gained notoriety across the world, but France is still the clear winner when it comes to making it. Literally– it’s name in French means, “1000 sheets/layers). And so true! Layers and layers of flaky pastry are interspersed with creamy custard, finished with a distinctively patterned top glaze. Parfait!

Does it get better than this?

Does it get better than this?

5. Any and All Breads- Tous les Pains!

Nothing in France opens before 10 AM, with the exception of the local bakery. And they certainly give you a reason to wake up early–the open storefront fills the street with the heavenly and comforting scent of warm bread. Most of the time, you can find the nearest bakery by following your nose! Baguettes and brioche are always great options. If you feel like branching out, try something with olives or noisettes (nuts), or pain aux cereales, which has whole grains and an pleasant texture.

How can you choose?

How can you choose?

6. Warm Goat Cheese Salad- Salade du Chevre Chaud 

This is a summer favorite! A simple, fresh bed of lettuce provides the counterpart to the the tangy, partially melted goat cheese served on toast that surrounds it. Light and refreshing, yet completely satisfying, every restaurant has their own spin on this dish, usually using local goat cheese. Whether in Provence, Paris, Burgundy or Bordeaux, this is always a great option. As it is summer, a glass of rose is essential to finish off the meal–bien sur!

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese...what's better?

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese…what’s better?

7. Chocolate Lava Cake- Chocolat Fondant

This is France’s gift to the chocoholics of the world. America has tried to copy this classic dish by dousing it in sugar, but the French know that the chocolate should take center stage. Here, the cake is made using dark chocolate, butter…and that’s about it. Rich and almost bitter, these tiny cakes will almost assuredly make you put your fork down after the first bite to shout a happy, “Mon Dieu, c’est incroyable!”

This is perfection.

This is perfection.

8. Melon and Prosciutto

Going without this dish on a trip to France is like visiting America without getting French Fries. It is a staple in the spring and summer months, especially in the Provence region, and starts off just about every good meal. The prosciutto’s smooth, mellow flavor is always appreciated. But the melon is what steals the show! The trick here is to look for “Cavaillon” melons, which is the Provencal town where they are grown. These are to die for!

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Feeling inspired? Come with Bliss Travels to taste your way across France! Our spring and summer trips to Provence are the perfect opportunity to try Cavaillon melon at it’s finest, while our upcoming September trip to Burgundy gives you a chance to sample the heartier fare of the wine region!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Exploring the Arles Outdoor Markets

Provence is known for its laissez-faire attitude, excellent food, and vivid, beautiful landscape. And all of this is captured perfectly in the enormous outdoor market of Arles, France!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome's- you can see the inspiration!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome’s- you can see the inspiration!

Saturday morning, Bliss Travels and our guests made our way over to Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage site best known for its Roman ruins (it was Julius Caesar’s favorite French town!) and stunningly preserved colosseum.

It is also the town where van Gogh famously lopped off his ear and painted one of his most well known pieces, the Cafe Terrace at Night. The cafe is still working to this day- we stopped and had drinks to cool off!

"Cafe Terrace at Night" by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

“Cafe Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

However, on Saturdays these beautiful ruins and even van Gogh‘s tumultuous history are overshadowed by the sprawling market that runs through the two main streets of town. Locals from around the Luberon region flock to this market, the largest around, to buy all manner of things. Mounds of burgundy cherries are sold next to blocks of homemade nougat and wheels of cheese that can weigh up to 60 pounds. Baskets of clucking chickens were stacked next to vats of black olives and woks of fresh Paella that three or four people could fit on!

After strolling through this gorgeous feast, we picked out our favorite foods–fresh forest strawberries (frais du bois), local goat cheeses, brioches, slabs of ham, spit roasted pork, a few bottles of wine, ‘donut’ peaches….amongst many other things!–and headed to a park surrounded by Roman ruins for the picnic of the decade! What a way to tour France.

Every ingredient is so fresh...it's hard to buy just one of anything.

Every ingredient is so fresh…it’s hard to buy just one of anything.

Under the trees, we shared a beautiful day surrounded by good company, piles of delicious treats and centuries of history. What a day- and what a life! Provence is pure Bliss.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

Tour France; Bulls and Bastille Day in St Remy de Provence

Bastille Day, July 14th, la Fete Nationale…whatever you may call it, anyone in France will agree that it is the most entertaining holiday of the year. And this summer, Bliss Travels and our clients were lucky enough to celebrate with the French in St Remy de Provence during our July Provence trip!

The town square was bustling!

The town square was bustling!

Each region of France celebrates things differently. In Paris, there are Fireman’s Balls, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, and a huge military parade, amongst many other things. Provence has a different take on the holiday, especially in St Remy.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

Festivities begin the night before, with a unique tradition. The main square is suddenly sectioned off by a large gate, though the bars are far enough apart that people can squeeze through fairly easily. Everyone–from toddlers to grandfathers–gathers behind the gates, expectant and excited. Some of the bolder young men and boys strut into the unprotected center of the square as a van pulls up to each end of the gates. The van doors open suddenly and, one by one, enormous bulls (or taureaux) burst out into the square, only to be quickly corralled by experts on horseback. They guide the bull to the other end of the square, loading them onto the other van. Meanwhile, the boys in the center chase after the bull, trying to pull its tail and wrestle it to the ground.

Finally, all the bulls are brought to the same van. A brass band plays enthusiastically, the boys in the middle are shooed back to safety behind the gates, and the expectations of the crowd are nearly palpable. All are watching the huge van doors.

Suddenly, they are flung open and the entire herd of bulls comes racing through the town square. The cowboys on horseback chase after them, trying to keep them in line, as the crowd laughs and cheers and sings along to band’s galloping tunes. This carries on late into the night, as it has for decades. Everyone will be sleeping in late for Bastille Day!

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The next morning, as promised, is a lazy one. Bliss Travels guests spent most of it wandering around the local Roman ruins, shopping, or relaxing at the pool. When night fell, we had dinner in a private wine cellar, toasting to Bastille Day and good company! The perfect weather of twilight encouraged us to take our desserts of fresh fruits and chocolat fondant (and wine glasses, of course) outside to be serenaded by a jazz band playing on the corner.

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

Properly satiated, we meandered over to the town square to watch the fireworks with the locals. Afterwards, a large band playing everything from American Top 40 hits, to disco-era medleys, to timeless French classics kept St Remy grooving late into the night. Their Bastille Day song–complete with dancing Marie Antoinettes!–was a huge hit, and the perfect way to end the evening.

Though Bastille Day in Paris is incredible, we almost prefer the quirky and completely unique celebrations in the South of France. Bulls, bands, fireworks, and good food–what better way to celebrate? Come to Provence with Bliss next year to see it all for yourself!

A Bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Burgundy, France and Wine: An Inseparable History

The Burgundy region is ancient, stunning, and rich with history.

The Burgundy region is ancient, stunning, and rich with history.

Burgundy, the “Bourgogne” region of France, has been known for centuries for its incredible wines. But when the Burgundians, the nomadic Scandinavian tribe that gave the region its name, first settled the area, they remained unaware of the territory’s great potential.

This changed when the Romans took over the region in the 3rd century BC. Suddenly, vineyards started popping up everywhere. The Romans specialized in a fermented grape concentrate that was then diluted and flavored with water, honey, and herbs. The popular drink became synonymous with the region- Thank you, Romans! Even when they left and the region was taken over by Christians, the new owners merely converted the vineyards into another moneymaking process for abbeys and monasteries. After all, wine was necessary for taking the Sacrament!

Thankfully, these monasteries and abbeys also specialized in the written word–copying Bibles, manuscripts, and many numbers of important documents for posterity. Thus, the details of the vinification process were saved and passed on to the next wine growers in the area. Vital tips, methods, and experiments were dispersed through the region to maintain the distinctive tastes and excellent quality wines that are still enjoyed today. Many of these abbeys still operate vineyards today, and those touring France are often oblivious to these national treasures. Bliss Travels visits (and tastes) with gusto–because shouldn’t such a time-honored tradition be properly revered?

One of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world- for good reason!

One of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world- for good reason!

At the time, the Cistercians, the major religious group in Burgundy and thus the largest wine producer, knew that production costs would skyrocket if they finished the vinification process for all their separate vineyards in the same place. Therefore, they created cellars near each separate growing area, where the wines were processed and aged appropriately. Eventually, each vineyard region began to have recognizable characteristics. The Cistercian cheapness of the Middle Ages is the reason that we appreciate the different wine tastes today!

Because of this, we can now fully appreciate unique wines such Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and all the more specific wines that have stemmed from these grape godfathers. Curious about the wines of the region? Thankfully, Bliss Travels does gourmet wine tours to the Burgundy region where we indulge in the fruits of the Romans’ labor. In the meantime, check out some of our favorites Burgundy wines from the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. We treat you to Grand Cru and 1er Cru treasures!

If reading about them simply isn’t enough, come with us in September  for a insider’s look at the world of wine in Paris and Burgundy. Check out the video of one of our last trips to Burgundy right here! Sip the best wines in the world in 800 year old cellars, abbeys and monasteries, and private farms with stunning views of the French countryside. Pure Bliss!

In Burgundy, there are no wrong choices!

In Burgundy, there are no wrong choices!

A Bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; A Michelin-Starred Evening

Bliss Clients Create their Own Gourmet Meal

The chef shows us the ropes

The chef shows us the ropes

One thing Bliss Travels prides itself on is giving our clients unique insider experiences on our journeys through France, Spain, and Belgium. Since we customize each trip to suit the interests of the group, these experiences are always a little different. From private wine tastings in 800 year old cellars in Burgundy, to painting lessons in the lavender fields of Provence with a professional artist, to private tours of the Sagrada Familia Basilica of Barcelona with a seasoned art specialist as your guide, Bliss always leaves you with unforgettable memories.

Clients working hard for the perfect meal

Clients working hard for the perfect meal

For our clients touring France this May, this proved to be exactly the case! On our journey through Provence, this group of foodies were taken to a renowned restaurant to meet the head chef, a Michelin-starred creative genius and enthusiastic lover of cuisine. But of course things didn’t end there. The head chef led the group to the restaurant’s kitchen for a private cooking lesson, where they chopped, sautéed, and laughed their way to a gourmet meal.

You can practically smell it from here!

You can practically smell the ripe melon it from here!

Under the guidance of the engaging chef, who is also a TV personality here, the meal came out stunningly. It was promptly enjoyed with bottles of local wine hand picked by Bliss (Who turns down a local wine when the area includes Chateauneuf du Pape and the other great Cote du Rhone wines?)  Of course, it’s not all food and wine. It’s also a great (and small) group of eight fun loving, interesting people that make these sorts of events a success. And this group laughed and enjoyed themselves late into the night.

Pure Bliss? We would say so. Come tour France with us and decide what your next adventure will be!

A Bientot!

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Bordeaux & Barcelona. Spotlight The Sagrada Familia

An architectural masterpiece still under construction.

It’s astounding. That’s why we visited it and why 60 Minutes profiled it.  Look below to get a link to that segment.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

When you look at photos of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain, your mind simply cannot process what it sees. Huge spires reach into sky and it towers over every other building in the city.

Gaudi's tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

Gaudi’s tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

The genius that designed it, Antonio Gaudi, was considered “God’s Architect,” an extraordinarily devout man who recognized that his design was a little complicated and built models for the next architect to follow.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

These turned out to be more helpful that he could have known–construction on his church began in 1882 and is still being working on today, making it the longest running architectural project in the world! In the style of Notre Dame, entire families devote their lives to creating this place, and the passion invested in it is as clear and important as the architecture.

When Bliss Travels clients are shown the Sagrada Familia on our Barcelona trips, the meet the church with an awed silence.  People can spend hours exploring in and around the Basilica in awe of this marvel of architecture. Our native Spanish guide whose specialty is Gaudi’s architectural genius gave us all the inside scoop about Gaudi, and about future plans for the Basilica (Of course, being Bliss Travels, we also spent plenty of time finding the best tapas bars in the city to enjoy!)

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

And yet, at the end of the day there are still no words for this place. The Sagrada Familia has the capacity to make you feel very small, very important, and very proud to be human all at once.

There may be no words, but there are certainly pictures. And if you are as intrigued by the place as we are, come on our April trip to Bordeaux and Barcelona to see this spectacular site for yourself!

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

A bientot!

Bliss Travels

Want more information on the world’s most fascinating building site? Watch 60 Minutes’ special on the Basilica right here.

Vincent van Gogh’s Provence

One of several self-portraits van Gogh painted in Provence.

One of several self-portraits van Gogh painted in Provence.

The Bliss Travels trip to Provence is coming up soon, and it is one of our favorites. The untamed, easy beauty of the region is like no other in the world. Something about the rolling lavender fields, the ancient stone villages, and the smell of pure sunshine just diminishes your worries and makes your stresses seem silly.

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

It really is no wonder that Vincent van Gogh escaped here from the hustle and bustle of life in Paris. In February 1888, the painter moved to Arles, one of the larger towns in the area, to work on his fragile health and to rid himself of the ever-increasing modernity in the cities—the same reason his friend and fellow painter Gauguin left. For a while it even soothed his artistic needs—he had been surrounded by too much gray in the city for an artist whose very essence relied on vivid colors, used with the utmost intention. In Provence, the colors he saw in his head were reflected by nature.

(I sometimes think we give the Impressionists and other revolutionary painters of this time too much credit. Though their work is gorgeous, they did not need to strain themselves much to paint it—the south of France really does have that incredible brilliance to it!)

It was during this time that van Gogh’s inspiration struck. In 15 months, he created over 300 paintings in his “Yellow House” and the sanatorium he lived in after suffering a mental breakdown (culminating with a fight with fellow artist Gauguin and the infamous lop of his ear). This sanatorium can actually still be visited, as Bliss does regularly, and maintains a lovely flower garden similar to the one van Gogh took flowers from to paint.

"The Evening Cafe" looks the same today!

“The Evening Cafe” looks the same today!

Arles was the location of many of his most famous works, in fact, such as “Starry Night”, “The Evening Café” (seen here), “The Hospital Garden”, and “Trinquetaille Bridge”. Many of his floral and landscape pieces are from the time period as well, since he did not know many people to act as models in the new town (and those who saw his unconventional pieces were quite hesitant to be a part of them!)

For even more incredible examples of van Gogh’s work, click here.

It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished for art in such a sleepy town (that Bliss is lucky enough to visit each summer.) Not much has changed since van Gogh’s time there—Arles is still built around stunning Roman ruins, filled with markets and friendly folk, homemade olive oil and soap shops, warm terracotta roofs and lavender wooden shutters, and a deep, innate respect for the beauty of the land itself.

One of the most popular parts of Bliss’ French tours are our picnics out in olive tree orchards. The cicadas chirp lazily—a sound the region is never without—as we snack on typical Provencal food like figs, fresh fruit, and baguettes with locally made goat cheeses and tapenade. Sitting in the dappled sunlight, everything feels easy and utterly timeless, as if van Gogh is just beyond the trees, bringing us a tarte Tatin from his favorite bakery. Provence has an ageless beauty that connects old and new seamlessly.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

One would hope that van Gogh had found as much inner peace in Provence as he did artistic inspiration.  Though sadly that wasn’t the case, we do know that he was in awe of the vivacity of the region. Now it is our turn to love it as much as he did! Come with us to experience his life in a completely unique way.

See you there!

Bliss Travels

F. Scott Fitzgerald in France; The Great Gatsby’s Birthplace

Fitzgerald in the Riviera

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald early on in their tumultuous marriage.

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald early on in their tumultuous marriage.

The Great Gatsby is everywhere at the moment. But surprisingly, F. Scott Fitzgerald was barely on the map at the time he wrote it, an unsuccessful author living in a village on the coast of France.

In 1924 he and his wife Zelda did their own “tour of France” and moved to Valescure, a picturesque little town on the French Riviera, halfway between Marseille and Monaco, which continues to inspire people to this day. Maybe it is because of the medieval villages filled with street artists, little cafes, and bustling markets. Perhaps it is the sweeping views of the coastline, where only the vividly painted fishing boats distinguish where the azure waters stop and the cloudless sky begins. Inspiration may strike purely from the smells of the sea and the lavender fields and the steaming plates of the best food in the world, relished on a rickety table in a cobblestoned side street.

A sidestreet in Monaco, just a few miles from the Fitzgeralds' home.

A sidestreet in Monaco, just a few miles from the Fitzgeralds’ home.

Even Bliss Travels groups are affected in the Riviera. People spontaneously buy journals as they tour France to sketch and start jotting down ideas for the novel they always wanted to write. Maybe one of us will be as inspired as F. Scott and create the next Gatsby on a tour! As Fitzgerald could have told us, anything is possible in Provence.

But despite the region’s astounding effect on his creativity, the esteemed author cut his visit short once he discovered that his wife was having an affair with a French naval aviator. Packing quickly, The Great Gatsby’s final editing was to be done in Rome as the simple joy of Provence was left behind them after only two seasons.

Fitzgerald in Paris

            The novel was published as the well-traveled couple was returning to their beloved Paris, a frequent stop of theirs. Though it was well received by critics, sales were underwhelming, adding to their already stressed relationship.

A rare glimpse of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris

A rare glimpse of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris

Thankfully, it was here that F. Scott found solace in a new friendship with Ernest Hemingway, who was as yet relatively unknown in America. The two shared many things in common—both were literary geniuses and heavy drinkers going through rough patches in their careers.  However, Hemingway would go on to achieve fame in his lifetime—F. Scott would die believing he was a failure.

Yet at the time, neither was aware that their writings would be considered revolutionary or would be read by billions. Their friendship and the city they both loved dearly kept them afloat with hope and inspiration. Can you imagine them strolling through the side streets of Paris—how the great city influenced their work, their thoughts, their lives? Did they meet at Notre Dame to talk of literature? Did they visit the Sacré Coeur and watch the sun set over Paris?

Sitting in a café a few blocks over from the Louvre, perhaps feasting on something we always enjoy –a special menu of Os a Moelle in winter or a perfectly roasted chicken, like only the French make!a dish from a recent vacation in Paris!

It is easy to picture Fitzgerald and Hemingway side by side, contemplatively sipping a café au lait, observing the passersby and dreaming up the world’s next immortal novel. Two friends with extraordinary talents, quietly taking in the most beautiful city in the world. The fact that we can tour France in a similar way is a gift in itself.

Today, you can visit the spot where the two met, the Dingo American Bar and Restaurant (10 rue Delambre) or see the Fitzgeralds’ apartment building at 14 rue de Tilsitt, near the Arc de Triomphe, which give the pleasant thrill of a solid connection with the past.

Cafe de Flore has been around since Fitzgerald's time.

Cafe de Flore has been around since Fitzgerald’s time.

The Fitzgeralds stayed in France for two years, splitting their time between the apartment in Paris and the Riviera, where F. Scott wrote and his wife Zelda became increasingly bizarre (she would eventually suffer from several mental breaks). After much debate, they finally returned to America for a life of fewer distractions than the one they had in Europe, which was ironically the very reason they had moved overseas in the first place.

As a result of his wife’s illness, they returned to France only once more. Did F. Scott miss his adopted home? France has a way of pulling people in and making them crave it once they leave, a feeling that is quickly understood once you visit. Something in the very light makes the world more beautiful, simple, romantic—it provided a muse for The Great Gatsby, one of the best books ever written. And if great authors like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with it, then we certainly cannot attempt to avoid its charms.

Happy viewing,

Bliss Travels

Tour France with a “friend” Not on a Bus!

Tour France with a group of friends, not on a bus. Bus trips and people with banners and schedules really don’t give you a feel for a place –nor do they give you a good time and a relaxing but informative experience.

Look at the below. Tell me what you think!

Tour France: Culinary Bliss

Tour France: Culinary Bliss!

Our trip highlights always include culinary adventures. This trip is no exception. A spectacular tasting menu, a private luncheon, even a special cafe…whether formal or casual, it’s truly Bliss!

Foie Gras…compote….what more can we say?Marscapone ravioli with parmesan foam make the perfect accompaniment —Tomatoes and an incredible fresh ceviche in an almond milk…squab, cherries, and rhubarb….

A nice finish to the day!