I’m just back from the trip of a lifetime… celebrating Mark’s & my 20-year anniversary!!! Twenty years of marriage is something pretty special no matter how you look at it, and being away together to celebrate in Paris and the Loire Valley was truly amazing.
This trip couldn’t have come at a better time… just 3 weeks after my first bodybuilding competition and the structure and discipline that accompanied it. I was so ready to ditch the weight scale and the food scale while I was away and just eat according to my heart’s desire. And I did.
We arrived in Paris to a beautiful suite in the Peninsula Hotel. Awaiting us was a cold bottle of champagne and a beautiful pastry… chocolate in the middle of the day without having lunch? Mais oui!
The first night we ate at Le Oiseau Blanc restaurant at the Pen… finding out later it’s Michelin-star rated. And no wonder! Every detail of each course was completely on point, from the appetiser all the way to this lovely anniversary dessert. Chocolate again, who would have guessed! We had beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower from our table as well.
We went to our favourite restaurant the next night, La Lorraine Brasserrie, within walking distance from the hotel. It’s a busy and bustling restaurant with plenty of people-watching to do.
We started with rockfish soup, these beautiful green beans, and langosteins (like mini lobsters) served with Dijon mustard and pickles.
But it’s dessert that truly stands out at La Lorraine, and we learned on our first visit years ago to order it along with our main course to allow the kitchen time to prepare. Mark always gets the chocolate profiteroles (tiny cream puffs filled with ice cream & covered with homemade chocolate sauce) and I get the Grand Marnier soufflé, knowing I’ll be able to pilfer some (or a lot!) of Mark’s extra chocolate sauce. Totally delicious!
Basking in the indulgences of Paris, we hopped in our rental car and drove southwest through the beautiful Loire valley. This is a prime wine-making region of France, but lesser-known than the more popular Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Champagne.
Our first stop was La Ferte St. Aubin, a little town just south of Orleans, about an hour and a half outside Paris. We stayed in a 650-year old chateau- refurbished of course! We were the only guests there for the night, and our hosts took generous care of us, making dinner reservations for us on a Sunday night when most restaurants were closed.
We awoke to a beautiful breakfast seemingly set out for us by the non-existant ghosts our host laughingly warned us about the night before… or maybe it was fairies from the looks of it… fresh croissants & baguette, butter (that I thought was cheese, whoops!), a big bowl of fruit, & freshly squeezed juice. It fuelled us for our drive farther south to Saumur.
In Saumur we stayed in a 150-year old, beautifully-renovated chateau. Our hosts graciously recommended dinner places for us and made the reservations.
The first night we had a bistro dinner with pumpkin soup, roasted chicken & quinoa, & a green salad.
And wine, always local wine… usually I had rose.
The following night we dressed up and dined at another Michelin-star restaurant. I can’t even imagine how they did most of this food! Each course was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. It was just beyond.
If our nights in Saumur were spent eating, our days were spent wine-tasting! We visited 3 wineries and tasted probably 27 wines in total, both sparkling and still. Lunches were pretty fun after all this wine tasting! Annnd we learned a lot about wines as well.
My absolute favourite wine of the whole trip was this Ackerman sparkling rose. Something about sparkling rose just makes me happy, and this was an exceptionally good one. I wanted to get a whole case… but sadly our shipping contact was on his way out of the country that very day.
Mark’s list of must-see’s included Le Musee des Blindes (the Tank Museum!) in Saumur as well. So off we went one day after wine tasting… I must say it was a well-timed visit! The tank museum was actually very interesting (if not freezing cold!) and housed tanks used in the 1st & 2nd World Wars that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.
We loved Saumur so much that we didn’t think Amboise could possibly charm us as much, but it did. Amboise is a town right on the Loire about halfway between Saumur & Paris. We stayed in a chateau overlooking the river, directly underneath the protection of le Chateau Royal d’Amboise, the enormous castle set to protect the town from invaders.
Ah, Amboise! Full of little shops… patisseries, chocolate shops, creperies… cobblestone streets to explore… and SO. MUCH. FOOD!!!
Fortunately we went for a loooong walk that morning all throughout the town and its surrounding areas, to build up an appetite and maybe burn off a few of the excess calories we were eating at all times. But how could we resist? We were in France, and we were on vacation. Enough said.
On our last night, we ate in a little bistro, nothing fancy. But I’ll always remember La Reserva as the place I had “the whole camembert.” Yes!!! This was my appetiser… warm camembert with honey & toast… it was truly enough for 8 people, but I ate every bite myself (except for what I shared with Mark.) It was the most amazing and indulgent thing I’ve probably ever eaten, and worth every last calorie. What a perfect meal to end a perfect vacation.
And I’ve been full ever since! Haha, I’m sort of kidding… but sort of not. Indulgent eating on such a dreamy vacation is sooo wonderful! It is freeing and joyful and completely intuitive. We weren’t bound by time or structure or nutritional guidelines at all. We just ate. And enjoyed. And so in a way I am still full… full of great food and great memories. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.