Travel

provence1.jpgI’m not a foodie.  I seldom watch the Food Channel.  The one cookbook I own came with my microwave.  I only go to Williams-Sonoma to get a gift for someone else.  So I’m surprised that some of the best memories of my bicycle trip in France last summer are of food.
 
I was the only American in our group of 14, the rest were Irish or British.  Every day we biked 20 to 35 miles through the beautiful Provençal countryside and every evening we had dinner at one of the many restaurants in the village where we stayed.  Even the smallest towns had dozens to choose from.  Sometimes we were the only ones in the place. 
   
Dinner was our evening’s entertainment.  The group would meet in the hotel lobby, then wander the narrow streets checking out menus in restaurant windows until we reached a consensus.  Usually, the only dissenter was a snooty vegan, a London financial planner studying to be a yoga instructor.  She would frown as she studied a menu. “Can’t eat that.  Won’t eat that.  Ugh, no way.”  Then she would drag her poor husband off for a salad somewhere.  Once, I offered her some of my sunscreen.  “I don’t put chemicals on my body,” she told me.  She came back at the end of the day with a spectacular sunburn. 

 

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ImageWalking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, on my final night in the city before leaving for Rome, I found myself skipping the turn to my apartment, for something much more appetizing than a healthy amount of sleep – in fact something much more unhealthy—a croissant filled with chocolate.

But shh…it’s a secret, and no one is supposed to know.

The secret that I speak of is that of the secret bakeries that fill the back alleyways of Florence, Italy. But to learn of the secret locations, you need not read about them, seek them out, or stumble upon them. No, it takes something much more simpler than this to learn of the secret bakery locations – your nose, and not a very strong one at that.

Walking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, at a distance of four blocks away, the smell of fresh bread, pizza, and chocolate lurked through the streets like a night prowler searching for it’s prey. Like a textbook kidnapping, the bakery smell took my ability to make a conscious decision to go straight home.

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An excerpt from  "Hungry for Paris"

paris1.jpg Some ten years ago, I went to dinner one night with no expectations. A London newspaper had asked me to write about Lapérouse, an old warhorse of a restaurant overlooking the Seine on the Left Bank—it was doing historic Paris restaurants, and this one’s been around forever. I politely suggested that there might be better candidates, because as far as I knew, this place was still a slumbering tourist table flogging its past: it has several charming tiny private dining rooms with badly scratched mirrors—as the legend goes, these cuts were made by ladies testing the veracity of newly offered diamonds (real diamonds cut glass).

The editor was unyielding, so off I went. The stale-smelling dining room was mostly empty on a winter night, and though the young mâitre d’hôtel was unexpectedly charming and gracious, I was more interested by my friend Anne’s gossipy accounts of a recent visit to Los Angeles than I was by the menu.

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irelandlIt's no secret that my best friend, Missy and I love to travel. We met 25 years ago in the parking lot of a Winn Dixie grocery store in Valdosta, Georgia. I was in college there and she was home on Spring Break from Pepperdine in Malibu, CA. I thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen and never imagined that we'd grow up together and travel the world.

She put a damper on that for a few years when she got married and had 3 boys back to back. But I think we've pretty much made up for that in the last 6 months as we have been to Italy, Tuscany, Rome, the island of Capri, Spain, the South of France, Nice and Monaco. Tunisia is in Northern Africa. I hated it, she loved it. We spent a week in Paris in December, with 5 of our best girlfriends in a rented apartment on the Seine.

As many places as Missy and I have traveled to, we both have such a huge love for Ireland. Come Spring and Fall, we both feel a need to go there, to have some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness. Her middle child was doing his class project on Ireland and my 18 year old nephew, his Grandma's favorite child (my only nephew) is about to graduate from high school.

I talked my nephew into telling his grandma that he wanted nothing more than a trip to Ireland with his favorite aunt and Missy talked her son into telling his Dad that it would mean the world to him to go with his mom and me (his Godmother) to Ireland to complete his school project.

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hominygrits2.jpg I think I stopped giving grits a chance many years ago when Lucy became our family pet. She's an amazing bird, a Yellow Naped Amazon parrot that has an unbelievable vocabulary, an infectious laugh, can tell my identical twin brothers apart and eats grits every morning for breakfast. Sounds charming but think about being awakened by a bird with a loud, piercing voice calling my name every morning demanding her grits.

By golly, you better get them right or she gets mad and starts screaming. She likes her grits a bit runny, butter, salt and pepper with a sprinkling of cheese. They need to sit for a few minutes so they won't burn her beak because that really makes her mad. Get it right and she turns into this loving soul who will say in her lovely southern accent "Praise the Lord" and "You're a very pretty girl." Gee thanks.

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