A lunch time visit to La Cigale enroute back to the UK lifted our post vacation spirits. La Cigale dates back to the 1890’s and the décor is truly breathtaking.
Ornate tiling between the wooden panels and gorgeous mosaics. The white-aproned waiters were straight out of Allo, Allo.
The Cigale can be seen in various poses in the tiles and mosaics. Apparently the cigale plays and eats all summer, a creature of the moment. The ambiance of La Cigale coupled with the delicious food, sea food is a speciality, encourages you to live in the moment.
After winding your way through the Marais district, behind the Place des Vogues on the corner of a street, is a small bistro bursting with colour, ambience and delicious food. You can wait for a table by the bar, which has a fabulous range of Provencal wines and then nestle into one of the chairs or benches, under large bright prints with scenes from the French Riviera. Starting with some tasty olives, the food is fantastic, especially the classics such as the mussels, steak and duck; somebody at your table (even if it’s for one!) has to have the chocolate mousse. Although very popular, this bistro seems to be off the tourist track, humming with local chat and is so quintessentially French, it has become a favourite place to visit in Paris.
This is a warm and friendly French bistro that we found by accident when walking away from the tourist crowds through the back streets of Montmartre (we almost walked past the wooden frontage of the restaurant!) It's a lovely little spot with a great atmosphere, reasonably priced and very tasty classic dishes (around 15 euros for a main course). The wine list has a good unpretentious selection of wine too. Make sure you try the chocolate parfait for dessert! We went around 9pm when it was quite buzzy, and it seemed to go on until quite late - we loved it as the clientele were pretty much all French with the odd tourist dotted around (presumably they had got lost and found it by happy accident like us!)
Typically we stumble on the best restaurants on the last night of our trips, and invariably they are right under our noses. Such was the case with Le Basilic. It is intimate, atmospheric, inviting and affordable with a three set menu for 23 Euro's or the Parisian staples of escargot and duck from the a la carte menu. After feeling ripped off in the majority of Parisian eateries, Le Basilic restored our faith in French bistros, especially considering its location within a mile of Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur (both of which are worth a post dinner stroll). We first found Le Basilic in 2000, were delighted that it was still open when we returned to Paris in 2008 and we make a beeline for it whenever we are are near Montmartre.
A fantastic stop off on your way down through France. A beautiful village in the Beaujolais region. The bistro is situated in the Georges Dubœf Wine Museum serving all the latest wines from this amazing French wine king. The food is simple yet delicious, the cleanliness of the restaurant is exemplary and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. It is just a step off the TGV station or not far from the A6 Autoroute. The museum is also well worth a visit if you have time.
It is a small welcoming French bistro in a side street in the 11eme, a bit off the tourist track
The menu is short and the food good and the wine list has something for every pocket.
We discovered the Auberge des Peintres in the picturesque hamlet of Saint-Ceneri -Le-Gerei on an overnight stop in Normandy. Situated on the main square in a building dating back some 300 years, the bistro’s wood panelled walls were hung with canvasses of local painters, continuing a long association with writers and artists including Baudelaire. All the old favourites were on the menu. Starters included rilettes de maquereaux, ouefs cocotte, pates and salads. Juicy pave de boeuf, pink magret de canard, creamy gratin de mer, andouilletes, boudin noir, and cote de boeuf were but some of the mains. The joys of chocolate fondant, charlottes and tarte tatin followed. Prices were reasonable for the excellent cooking. Best visited in the evening when day trippers have left and a pre-dinner stroll takes in the frescoed, Romanesque church, a beautiful stone bridge under which kayaks glide, wild flower gardens and Les Jardins de la Mansoniere, a garden in which candlelit classical music concerts are hosted in summer.
Le Bourg, 61250 St Ceneri le Gerei, France
Google map: bit.ly/wMIn2g
Le Columbier is a lovely family run restaurant away from the tourist area in Toulouse. Nestled between a couple of shops, an unassuming front opens up to a rustic, friendly restaurant. They have something to cater for all tastes. They specialise in cassoulet and classics such as magret de canard. After a heavy main course try a refreshing sorbet "drowning" in champagne. A delightful meal from start to finish.
A beautiful fine dining restaurant in St Juire Champgillon (between Saint Hermine and Chantonnay). Wonderful service and beautiful food! You need to book in advance as they fill up quickly.
11 Place de la Mairie, 85210 St Juire Champgillon
+33(0)2 51 27 86 91
Google map: bit.ly/z418Bz
A cafe/bistro just next door to the Musee d'Aquitaine. Friendly service, bright, pleasant decor and an excellent lunch menu.
It is not often that you can find an excellent bistro in Paris at very reasonable prices, but Chez Germaine certainly ticks all the right boxes.
Directly in the heart of Paris (7th district), the restaurant exudes class and authenticity with its simple, yet elegant interior. Likewise, with its daily special set menus and extremely friendly (and English speaking!) waiters, there is no wonder why Chez Germaine is so popular for both locals and tourists alike.
If it is classic French dishes you are after, I would recommend a homemade terrine to start with, followed by pork with lentils. If you are still not full after that (doubtful), I would top the meal off with a papillon au chocolat. Glorious!
Suitable for both romantic dinner dates and a family lunch, though one final tip would be to book in advance as it is a little small and obviously always crowded!
Set lunch and dinner with three courses- €18.60.
30 rue Pierre Leroux
+33 (0)1 4273 2834
Metro station: Vaneau.
Google map: bit.ly/y28SXR
Peace and quiet, some great views, the Romanesque Church. An old man fishing under some ancient trees, reflections of the arched bridges in the clear blue water, spotting some big fish under the bridge, an ancient pigeonnier, a beer in the market square, a meal in the riverside restaurant, stroking a friendly cat that follows you along the bank.
This is the cosatal region of Poitou-Charentes and is the centre of oyster culture. It is very picturesque and has some great restaurants obviously specialising in sea food and particularly les huitres, There are also some great beaches especially on the two main off shore islands Ile de Re and Ile d'Oleron.
This is a 'brocante' (antique/flea market) that is not to be missed. It's medium-sized and takes about an hour or so to wander up and down, and it has the most wonderful selection of goodies. There's all sorts of classic antique French tableware including stunning linen and lace, as well as homeware objects and furniture set out alongside old posters and adverts on old weatherbeaten enamel panels. The last time I was there I picked up a huge one and a half metre high neon-lit 'Tabac' sign (I was there with my car, admittedly!) for just 60 euros. There are food stalls at either end so you can stop for a coffee and a croissant, and if you're feeling cultural there's also the Muséum Naturelle d'Histoire de Toulouse next door on the edge of the equally impressive Jardin des Plantes. It takes place the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month from around 8am until lunchtime.
Allée Jules Guesde, Toulouse (next to the Muséum Naturelle d'Histoire de Toulouse in the Jardin des Plantes). Nearest métro stop: Carnes / Palais de Justice
Google map: bit.ly/y9eyzz
While Corsica may not get quite the same freezing temperatures as the rest of France, on the Plateau d'Ese, near the village of Bastelica, one can spend a great time skiing and snowboarding. Altitude tops 2,400m, there are only four ski lifts, but it's a great place to escape for the weekend. There's a small restaurant and equipment rental is also available. For those of you lucky enough to visit Corsica in winter (best seasonal food, fabulous hikes, hunting, friendly locals...), it makes a fun day out. For the locals, it's heaven to be able to escape to the slopes at the weekend. For cross-country skiing, one can also try "plateau du coscione" and "col de Vergio". It is quite rare that Corsica does not get any snow, and the best chances are in February and March.
The ‘brocantes market’ in beautiful Aix en Provence is held on a wide boulevard shaded with trees and surrounded by fragrant flower displays.
The locals set out stalls under bright coloured umbrellas and hours can be spent wandering from one to another, enjoying coffee and pastries at the street cafes along the way. There is a wonderful eclectic mix of antiques from extravagant chandeliers and glamorous jewels to dusty books and agricultural ironwork.
The market has a lovely relaxed air; visitors can soak up the atmosphere created by the sunshine and chatter of the locals whilst searching for a little piece of treasure.
Place de Verdun: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Google map: bit.ly/H2XobA
Breezy runs a cosy, relaxed catered chalet close to Chamonix town. Fantastic food and flowing wine. Her intimate knowledge of the valley is invaluable when it comes to making the most out of your precious ski or snowboarding holiday.
Who needs Bora-Bora when you have Brittany? I'll wager that when you arrive on the Îles de Glénan, an archipelago off the southern coast of Finistère, you'll consider these desert isles as good as any that you might find in more exotic places. If you're not here for the sailing school, there is little to do except bury your feet in the white sand, kayak across a clear lagoon, or watch the black headed gulls, weave and dip, on their flight out to sea.
Widely considered the toughest trek in Europe the GR20 follows the spine of the Corsican mountains from the north west to south east of the island. The trek, mountains and views are spectacular. The hut infrastructure is good and the people are very friendly.
Some people go out and do as much as they can of the route in a week. It can be completed in less than 2 weeks but give yourself 1 week more and you can take the 'alpine variations' and a few side trips. Treat yourself to some time in Corsica at the end of trek to enjoy beaches, good food and powerful cheese.
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