When we talked about how to write this post, we quickly concluded that it's going to be the absolute worst for folks back home to read. No matter how you tell it, a tale of French travel just sounds pretty swanky.
And what could be more maddening to the francophiles in our lives (looking at you, Mom and Dad) than a whisper of a concession about the struggle of not knowing French, swiftly drowned out by the taunt of le Tour Eiffel, or the teasing splash of Bourgogne's cru across the page?
So we're just going to put it all out there, white flags flying, in the knowledge that our 3 weeks in France looked a lot less like gritty exploring and a lot more like heaven.
City of light
We started off with a few days wandering around Paris, revisiting some of our favorite sights and enjoying the atmospheric boulevards in between. Luckily, we got a great deal on an Airbnb right next to the Place de St. Michel, so we were in a prime location for strolls along the Seine as well.
Since both of us had been to Paris before and fought upstream in endless queues, we took a much more relaxed approach to museums and sightseeing this time around. The only real goal we set for ourselves was to make our way over to L'Orangerie and see eight examples from Monet's Water Lilies series. There's nothing better than finding a relatively quiet afternoon to sit and really examine each one.
And while it was a bit of an accident, we were impressed to find that the whole city was much quieter than any previous visits. As it turns out, mid-late August is one of the most relaxing times to head to Paris, as this is when the locals squeeze in one last trip before the end of summer holidays. We totally recommend it if you're willing to put up with the occasional window sign telling you that the owner will be back in September.
On our final afternoon, we kicked back a little bit to gear up for the train ride ahead of us. Joining what seemed like the thousands of other day-drinkers in Paris, we picnicked with a menagerie of French clichés: a bottle of red, a mini wheel of brie, and a view of the Eiffel Tower.
The next day we set off for the tiny hamlet of Geligny, about 30 minutes west of Dijon and home to the cutest little French cottage there ever was.
Over the next few days, things were pretty magical. When we weren't strolling outside and startling cows, we'd head off to one of Burgundy's many vineyards or fromageries for a taste of the good stuff.
While in Beaune, we stopped at an especially noteworthy winery, Joseph Drouhin. While their wines were exceptionally good, and their regular cellar tour included a taste of an older vintage than we'd ever had before, the history of their operation was what amazed us most.
Located right in the heart of the city, the winery has been in the family since just after the French Revolution, and before them the local monks had kept the cellars in active use since the 1200s. They still juice the grapes every now and then on their medieval press built in the 1500s. Our American minds were boggled at the deep tradition that has been etched into their winemaking process over the centuries.
Though we only dipped a toe into Burgundy's thousands of wineries, we thought we'd share some of our favorites from Joseph Drouhin:
- Meursault. 25% of the chardonnay in each bottle is aged in oak, giving a subtle creamy finish to this round, elegant wine.
- Clos des Mouches Rouge, Beaune Premier Cru. This classic style rouge comes from an incredibly old vineyard where its previous owners, the monks, used to keep bees "mouches de miel". Red fruit forward, but with a more complex finish of soft earthiness, smoke, and tobacco. It ages exceptionally well - we were lucky enough to taste a velvety 1996 vintage.
After an incredible week in the country, we hopped a train to the south of France for a few blissful days on the Mediterranean.
We luxuriated in the endless sunshine, calm seas, and perfect afternoons laughing with Nick's adorable whispy-haired angel cousins.
While we weren't 100% rested after countless late-night games of Perudo, we were both totally recharged by the quality time we got to spend with Nick's effervescently fun family and thankful that it all worked out for us to join in down south.
We've booked our car and we're ready to begin driving/devouring our way through Italy's Piemonte region.