Eating France & Spain 2016

3 WEEKS OF DELICIOUSNESS ! PARIS, PROVENCE, NORTHERN SPAIN, BARCELONA......

When Brendon & I host small groups for our overseas destinations we have some criteria which remains the same regardless of the destination. We seek to attract like-minded participants so the group dynamics are easy and comfortable, we keep the group small, generally a maximum of fourteen, and we ensure that your holiday is a great mix of culture, history, relaxation, gorgeous accommodations and of course fabulous food and drink along the way.

So started our Eating France & Spain tour in September 2016. Without writing a blow by blow daily account of our twenty days away, I might try and capture some great moments, meals and memories and let the photos fill in some gaps too. Paul Muntz came along as our wine guide and brought to us his fabulous knowledge of wine and love of all things French. Chloe also joined us, as a Parisian resident, fluent French speaking, knowledgeable on art and history she was an absolute treasure. As an Australian hailing originally from Albury, Chloe had plenty in common with our group, and she brought the average age down too!

We met in Paris, arriving at our home for the next three nights, Hotel Saint Paul Rive Gauche in Saint Germaine. Some of our group had been to Paris many times, some were first timers and everyone spent their time accordingly, visiting the iconic sights or re-visiting old haunts and coming together for dinner, one night a classical French bistro, another a modern Parisian bistro. Our food walk with Ute was an absolute treat, wandering the old market precinct, seeing the current change makers in the food scene and much in between. A lunch at Canard et Champagne,the family who grow the ducks are also the family who run the restaurant and it was delicious from start to finish. Another group favourite from the walk was the dessert shop - a small modern franchise featuring one signature cake from every Michelin starred dessert chef in Paris. The cakes were stunning, and you don't need to travel all over town to discover.

One of my Parisian highlights was completely accidental - often the nicest way - unplanned, unexpected. On a free evening after a pretty busy day Paul, Brendon & I were sharing a quiet glass of champagne and going over the logistics of the next days move to southern France. We were heading out for a simple single course dinner at a bistro a couple of doors down, Paul decided to come after seeking assurance that it was to be quick and simple - everyone was tired! Leaving the hotel, chatting as we went, we had strolled half a block before realising we had headed out in the wrong direction. About to turn around Paul spotted a previously unnoticed wine store across the road, he dashed, we followed and on entry spotted a short menu board by the door too.  Among wall to wall, floor to ceiling wine bottles sat a couple of big old tables set for dinner. We asked, our host cleared settings and the dinner decision was made. His rough English and our dodgy French meant we were getting the set dinner offer, easy! Paul had chosen a wine to start and one to follow, by the glass thankfully, but we could see our simple meal diminishing. Next appeared two large ceramic terrine dishes with an equally large chef's knife protruding out of each. Terrines - two types, pickle, bread & wine, help yourself, we were happy, very happy. Thinking we were about done, main course appeared - a bowl full, I kid you not, full, of quail breasts lightly grilled, carrots, zucchini, beans, potato, simple delicious - oh and a red wine to go with, of course! By now we were relaxed, very, still tired but thrilled to have found this little gem. Our host was completely downcast with our refusal of cheese as he had warmed to Paul and Paul's wine knowledge, he had a red lined up to go with cheese - so, we had to have it! Not bad for a simple dinner, three courses, four wines, but happy, that's why we love Paris!