France

If there were only one place outside the States that Dominique and I could ever visit, it would be France. We cannot get enough of the country and its culture. Dominique has 100% French blood running through her veins and has lived and worked in Paris. I am Dutch by birth, but the Dutch are total francophiles and I suppose I fit into that camp. I also lived and went to school in a small fishing village on the South Coast of France when I was 9-11 years old, and I recall that time well.

We tend to alternate (or combine) our visits between two methods. We either stay in a small boutique hotel in Paris and just walk around for days. Or we rent a car and drive through the countryside seeking out the smallest villages we can find. Dominique speaks fluent French and I am there or thereabouts, so this helps.

flag of france musee de l'orangerie

Flag of France flies above the Musée de l’Orangerie – Paris 2010

The things we like to do most on our visits are to eat, drink French wine, and poke around looking for cool places off the beaten path (probably in that order). Regarding the café’s we seek out, the more out of the way they are, the better. It’s amazing what you can find. One particular meal I distinclty recall, Dominique and I had landed in Paris, rented a car, and were headed out to Normandie. Along the way we found we were famished, and started to look for somewhere to eat. It was nearing 2 PM and most of the small cafés close at that time in the little villages we were driving through. So the next village we came to, I drove straight to the main square and parked the car. We walked up to the only café on the square, entered and asked if we could eat. In typical French style, the proprietor seem a little miffed that we arrived so close to closing, but she said she had one meal left. She described it to us, we didn’t quite understand what it was, but is sounded like some kind of poultry. “Oui, s’il vous plaît!” we said. We shared the meal with French bread and man, I have to say that was one of the best things I have ever eaten anywhere. Mon dieu…

simple cafe kitchen ille saint louis

Small kitchen in café on Île Saint-Louis – Paris 2010

What is often striking is the very small kitchens that French chef’s use to put out incredible meals. Above the photo shows the kitchen of a small café on Île Saint-Louis in Paris. The chef/owner graciously let us take a photo after we ate. She fed lunch to around 7-8 tables, just from this little stovetop, and boy was the food delicious.

plates at the ready ile st louis

Plates at the ready in café on Île Saint-Louis – Paris 2010
backlit cafe bar ile st louis

Bar in front of colored window in café on Île Saint-Louis – Paris 2010

By now you may have started to notice a trend in the photos that we take when we travel.  They are not of the typical things that most people would photograph, and this is probably a reflection of what we look for as we meander around. The unusual, the special, the unnoticed… In France, especially, the ability to make life beautiful and yet simple is just taken for granted. The French simply have this in their DNA, they don’t even seem to try. It just happens, and you can see examples of it everywhere.

a l'ancienne aix en provence 2010

Restaurant l’Ancienne – Aix en Provence 2010

This is a typical example of a restaurant that you might miss unless you were paying attention. Walking down a main street, off at the end of a side alley, there is this little gem, waiting to be discovered by you. It might end up being one of the best meals you’ve ever had, you just need to try it out.

lettres patina

Old rusty mail slot in a building – Aix-en-Provence 2010
beautiful wooden doorway aix en provence 2010

Beautiful carved wood doors – Aix-en-Provence 2010
blue volets in a row aix en provence 2010

Volets in a Row – Aix-en-Provence 2010

Above you can see the typical Provincial shutters, or volets. These are used to keep the building cool in the heat of the day. Here they are all painted a wonderful shade of pastel-lavender-blue, with some patina for good measure. We are in love with this color.

statue at fountain jardin du lux

Statue at the Fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris 2010

Carved stone is something we tend to see all over France, sometimes in unexpected places. It’s breathtaking, and stunning, often, that so much effort was taken to decorate what might be a fairly mundane building. There are also many statues, in parks, squares, above doors, you name it. We like to discover these.

statue patina

Statue seen in random location – Aix-en-Provence 2010
Paris building statue 46

Statue on side of address No. 46 – Aix-en-Provence 2010
intricate doorway paris

Ornate doorway header – Aix-en-Provence 2010
statue in courtyard paris 2010

Statue in random courtyard – Paris 2010
statues surround window

Carved stone window surround – Aix-en-Provence 2010
bust on the side of paris building

Stone bust on side of building – Paris 2010

Dominique and I are taken by the beauty of the store displays throughout France, but especially in Paris. It does not matter if it’s an expensive boutique or just a stall in a marketplace. Somehow the merchandise is displayed in a way that captures the eye.

flowers in a row in shop paris 2010

Simple display of flowers in a shop – Paris 2010
fruit baskets at market paris

Selection of berries at a market – Paris 2010
artisan boulanger ronde des paris

Tasteful sign at boulanger – Paris 2010

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