Tag Archives: Europe

Frenchie and Chinon

29 May

When a friend buys a hotel in a small serene historical town nestled in the Loire Valley, you just have to go!

I arrived in the very petite gare de Chinon during a foggy morning.

Bleak and oppressive.

I knew my train was surrounded by a very lush bright green nature as it made its way to the station but I could not enjoy any of it.

The cawing crows seemed to follow me as I made my way to the hotel.

A bit eerie yet exciting to be somewhere I had never been.

A quick walk. Already seized by the quaint homes and color accents in the old streets.

It’s very promising I thought!

Jamie and I know each other from blogging.

I’ve followed her life, adventures, thoughts and recipes for years now.

Her words, her stories. Sa vie.

They are tiny glimpses into her heart and soul.

They make me strive to write differently and better every time.

They take you on a journey – a slice of someone else’s life.

And it’s no secret she has a sweet tooth, which means her blog features delightfully enticing recipes.

We always talked about meeting when I am visiting family in France.

It never happened. C’est comme ça.

Until now…

As the sun started to peek through the thick Chinon morning fog, the hotel courtyard appeared.

I don’t even know where to start to describe the place.

The outside white spiral staircase, the second floor terrace with swinging French doors, the roses, the garden, the stylish arbor with climbing plants, the open bedroom windows under the eaves with curtains floating in the morning breeze.

I know I am forgetting a thousand other details.

The first thing you’ll notice when stepping inside Hôtel Diderot is how warm and cosy the place is.

The second thing I noticed, of course, is the armoire à confitures. 

Hundreds of home-made jams of various colors, each carefully labeled and piled up in an open armoire for everyone to admire.

Made avec amour by Hôtel Diderot” some of the labels read. Is it time for le petit déjeuner yet?

And in true Frenchie and the Yankee style, multi-colored serving spoons were adorning each open jar still decorating the breakfast tables as the last guests were leaving the dinning room.

Appetizing names such as gelée de cassis, pêches rafraichies à la menthe, fraises et framboises, bananes aux raisins did indeed keep me good company during breakfast.

I unfortunately hit my sugar intake for the month and did not get to taste all 20-some variety of jams on the breakfast tables but if you read this site you know that I’ve been obsessed with banana jam since Tahiti so Jamie’s impressive range of banana-based jams were a hit.

And I could have pocketed some of the orange cocoa marmalade jars.

No shame. Non, non.

Chinon was everything I could have hoped for.

An attractive architectural wonder with Gothic and Renaissance gems to discover.

A sprawling wine country and tastings available pretty much everywhere.

A warm welcome by Jamie, her husband Jean-Pierre and the staff at the hotel.

A cosy, fun and colorful room – a home away from home in a charming setting.

Private castles to admire in the countryside at every street corner.

Surprisingly good seafood.

Winding streets to discover and the enjoyable game of getting lost in a medieval setting.

Roses, roses and more roses. I don’t think I’ve seen that many roses in one place. Various shapes and colors. A delight for the eyes.

Meeting a friend for the first time and already looking forward to reading more of her new adventures as a brand new hotel owner in Chinon in her upcoming book.

Congrats Jamie!

If you go:

– from Paris, take the train to Tours and change for Chinon

Hôtel Diderot

– follow Jamie’s blogs: Life’s a Feast and Plated Stories – you can also catch her on Twitter and Instagram

– for a wine tasting in a historic family château and vineyard: Le Château du Petit Thouars

Pierre and Bertrand Couly also had an interesting wine tasting worth a visit

– walk the historical streets in the old town leading up to the Château de Chinon because the view from above overlooking the old roofs is breathtaking

L’Océanic for seafood

La Part des Anges for a more intimate dinner either with a loved one or to catch up with a friend – merci encore Jamie!

Frenchie and Amsterdam

20 Nov

How is it even possible I’ve never traveled to Amsterdam before?

I am in love!

And I am still thinking about this trip and our time walking around the canals last month when it was still 65-70 degrees outside.

A mere 3 hours away from Paris by train – it is beyond me I have never thought about spending some time in Holland before.

But I should really thank my friends from the Midwest for moving to Amsterdam and giving me this opportunity to stroll through the city and absorb as much as possible le temps d’un week-end.

By bike, by boat, by feet and by tram, we went around and around like mice in a maze of bridges, picturesque water views, tiny streets and cool cafés.

And Paris should definitely be scared because when it comes to cafés Amsterdam is in my opinion winning.

A few of my favorites and best discoveries are listed below.

– Café van Leeuwen – a lunch outside sitting at the terrace with views of the canal? Yes please! And you cannot go wrong with their spicy butternut squash soup with a kale salad and a local beer.

– De Koffie Salon on Utrechtsestraat – drinking a tea or coffee upstairs with oversized pictures of old European movie stars make you feel like you are in a black and white movie. And eating a blackcurrant pastry with Sophia Loren watching over you is my definition of indulging.

– Museum Van Loon – a private maison bourgeoise to visit while picturing a time when rich merchants ruled the city and the canals. Time capsule Amsterdam style.

TwoForJoy – and who wouldn’t want another pastry from a place where people sit outside and drink their coffees while playing cards or focusing on a coloring book?

Vinnies – the space is what attracted me first. An old piano next to a refurbished Louis XIV style sofa on painted white wood boards. And the organic mint tea to soothe an aching body from walking too much in the city.

Ibericus – it is not often I get to stop on the side of the road, dismount my Gazelle Dutch bike, and walk into a place to order jamón ibérico to go. This place has it all!

De Taart van m’n Tante – like stepping inside a doll house or your worst kitsch nightmare, the colors will surprise you, the fake flowers will make you smile, but the appeltaart will make you want to have a second piece.

Sama Sebo – when in Amsterdam, eat Indonesian food! And when it’s rijsttafel night, make sure to come hungry.

Frenchie and a Colorful Adventure

23 Oct

I feel lucky!

Lucky to have amazing family and friends who took care of me for 3 weeks.

Lucky the weather smiled at me throughout the trip with warm temperatures and a bright golden sun.

Lucky to still discover unknown streets and areas – nooks and crannies to stumble upon.

Lucky to have readers who push me to share more of my experiences, tips and addresses.

Some of you asked me to include new addresses I’ve noted along the way, which I have done in the past but apparently not enough.

So without further ado, my Top 10 list in no particular order of my recent French trip.

1. Lunch at Buvette to share small plates, a slice of pâté, a glass of rosé, a tartinette and a pastry. Little, cosy and rustic. And if you cannot make it to Paris, there is a location in the West Village in New York City.

2. La campagne à Paris in the 20th. A small parcel of land with plant-covered houses, small gardens and picket fences – in Paris! A quick magical instant resembling more la province than the capital we all know (rue Irénée Blanc, rue Paul Strauss).

3. Tucked away in the 1st is Verjus with a tasting menu that would most likely thrill the pickiest eaters. French in spirit but American to the core, it is a unique experience.

4. Did you know that 55 minutes by train from Paris there is a town where the old city is so well preserved that the Roman wall surrounding it is still partly standing and dates back to the 3rd century? How could I not encourage friends visiting France to spend a day or two in Le Mans. It is picture perfect for anyone looking to snap pictures of a cathedral built between the 11th and 15th centuries and to walk the tiny narrow streets where the oldest houses are from the 14th century and the newest from the 15-16th centuries with people still living in them.

5. My friend Lindsey took me to La Pulperia one night for a meal I won’t forget anytime soon. And dragging this Rive Gauche boy to the other side of the world in the 11th is not easy, trust me!

6. If there is one thing that I absolutely love about Paris is the small non-touristy streets with lots of plants, colors and charm. Rue des Thermopyles in the 14th, Villa Santos Dumont in the 15th, la Cité Florale in the 13th (rue des Iris, rue des Glycines), and the stunning rue Crémieux in the 13th where Notting Hill meets Paris – truly a feast for the eyes.

7. Is there a prettiest name for a hotel than Hôtel Amour? The courtyard in the back is a must-see, especially before winter and before the leaves fall and disappear from the trees, for a goûter or an apéritif with friends. A peaceful serene greenhouse-like ambiance away from the hustle and bustle.

8. While I mentioned this bakery several times already, it is always a stop for me when I am in town – Au Petit Versailles du Marais. And I decided to mention them again because they won 2nd place in the baguette tradition competition this year. First place next year? I hope! Even if you’re not hungry when you walk by it, the Belle Époque ceiling, the tiles and the mirrors will give you a stiff neck from looking around, up and down.

9. Even though I only had a kir there during their happy hour, I was fascinated by the space at Le Jules in the Carreau du Temple. Truly creative and impressed by the renovation they did of that space. Very spacious and modern, yet chic and warm with a voluminous design soothed by the wooded light framework. Bravo!

10. If you like the New York High Line, you will like the Paris Coulée Verte. They are still working on it as I am writing this so don’t expect the same length of green path through the city. However, the Petite Ceinture in another area of town also offers a walkable green promenade.

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