Greetings, fellow Gouda Life followers and lovers of all things food. I am Laura, Ms GL’s sister, and she has graciously allowed me to share my recent honeymoon experience with you all. My new husband and I spent ten days this month in France’s Cote d’Azur / French Riviera region, and just could not keep the experience to ourselves.
While I do not possess all the passion, charm and wit that you have come to love and expect from Ms GL, I will do my best to keep your attention. I hope this post not only inspires you to visit this beautiful region, but also to slow down and enjoy everything that life has to offer – no matter how small.
We learned a lot on our visit by immersing ourselves in the culture. Food is not just sustenance; it is a way of life. From restaurants and bakeries to large outdoor markets, food is everywhere. And people take the time to ENJOY it. Dinner in France is an evening long affair, starting with aperitifs and ending with an array of rich and decadent desserts. I also learned to slow down. We spend our lives rushing around, getting to this meeting, picking up the kids, and getting the errands done. But we don’t take enough time to sit back and relax and actually enjoy our lives. Try it – you won’t be sorry!
We certainly took advantage of the food and wine in France, and while I could yammer on for days about it all… you just don’t have that kind of time. So instead I will tell you about some of the delicious highlights.
Best Entrée (the equivalent of an appetizer in Canada):
On our first night we spent what seemed like an eternity walking around trying to find somewhere to eat – but it was worth every step. We stumbled upon La Saliere, a lovely restaurant nestled into the port. We dined on the patio, overlooking the yachts and up at the Prince’s palace. Caprese salad is one of our favourite things to eat, but this restaurant put all others to shame. The buffalo mozzarella was like nothing we’d ever seen – it was hand stretched and tied in a large knot. With the slightest touch it oozed milky goodness, and paired wonderfully with the pesto marinated tomatoes and basil. We even went back on our last night just to indulge one last time.
Best Lunch – On the go:
Between touring and beaches, you don’t always have time to sit down and eat. The solution: sandwiches! Turn down any street, and you will instantly find a sandwich shop. And these aren’t just any sandwiches, these are foot-long fresh baguettes topped with the most deliciously fresh ingredients. All washed down with Coke from a glass bottle (yes, the glass bottle part is a very important detail).
Best Lunch – Restaurant:
I absolutely fell in love with a small town on the coast called Villefranche Sur Mer. The beach was out of this world, the small shops carried such wonderful treasures from the region, the architecture was a photographer’s dream… and the FOOD.. oh the food. Don’t get me wrong, I l-o-v-e me my carbs. Pastas, breads, pizza… they all make my heart skip a beat. But after a number of days of eating nothing but stick-to-your-thighs meals, we sat our bums down at Le Cosmo and added some protein back into our diets. I ordered the tandoori chicken skewer on a bed of basmati rice with curry sauce drizzled over. If I ever have to plan my last meal, this is a definite contender.
I go crazy for anything spicy. I’m talking runny nose, flushed cheeks spicy. However I find it’s rare in Ottawa to find spicy done well. It normally is just burn-your-tongue spicy so that you can’t even enjoy the remainder of your meal. So you can imagine my delight when I ordered the penne arrabiata at L’Escale and was served the most flavourful, deliciously spicy pasta. Made with chili-infused olive oil and ridiculously simple tomato sauce, I devoured every last bite, runny nose and all.
Tiramisu is the obvious answer, but I was surprised at how many variations there were of this classic dessert. My favourite version was that of Le Michelangelo. It was decadent and rich, and the bottom layer just oozed espresso. I am not a big dessert person, but I lovingly ate every last bite of this piece of heaven.
** sorry, I didn’t get a photo of this…. I ate it too fast **
Like sandwiches, gelato can be found on every block. My favourite was my lemon and green tea combo from l’Atelier du Glacier. The flavours were so fresh, and in the 30-degree heat, extremely refreshing. A great mid-afternoon snack (or any time really, let’s be honest).
I have never in my life seen anything quite as fantastic as Nice’s Cours Saleya Flower Market. When you first walk in, you are greeted with the most beautiful flowers. There are rows upon rows of blooms and plants and cacti. When you make your way through that section, that’s where the real wonder begins. Hundreds of little baskets with flavoured salts, loose spices, teas, and soaps. There are fresh veggies, fresh fish, olive oils and breads. I could have spent a full day just taking in all the different tents.
We could not go to somewhere like France and not bring back something absolutely fantastic for Ms GL. It just would not be right. So when we saw a write-up in our Frommer’s guide about a man named Nadim who had a storefront in old Nice selling handmade olive oils that he makes using ingredients from the region, we knew we had to find him. The old towns are no easy feat to navigate through, as street signs are few and far between and all the roads intersect creating a maze-like obstacle course. Just when we had given up hope, I threw my hands up in the air and said ‘we are NEVER going to find this guy!’, and lo and behold we were at the doorsteps of Oliviera. He welcomed us into the shop and we explained why we hunted him down. He let us taste all of the oils, and we finally picked THE oil for Kelly. He grabbed a glass bottle and filled it up right there while we waited, then corked it and packaged it all up for us. It was a very neat experience.
While this is all just a tiny piece of our experience, I think you will be left with a taste of what France is like and I hope you decide to visit there in your travels. You will certainly not be disappointed.
Thank you, Kelly, for letting me step up on the soapbox for a few minutes. I have a new appreciation for your art. My brain hurts and my stomach is growling. xo
Laura Norris, my wonderful sister, is also the talent behind the lens at Laura Jane Photography. Check out her work and drop her a line!