Where do the French go on holiday in France? We discover the favourite places that the French like to visit and holiday at in France. French-born Australia based Yves Calmette re-visits France each summer. He likes to see and do as much as possible and takes us on a green journey from Brittany to Provence, the Ile de Re and the Auvergne via Paris. As for most French people, food plays a large part in what lures nutrition coach Yves to visit…
My very own Tour de France took in a number of departments all of which happened to be very… green! Perfect to reconnect with my culinary heritage and some delicious food, actually lots of delicious, real, fresh, local, whole food. Washed down with French Champagne and perfect crispy summer rosés, traditional in France in summer – it doesn’t get much better.
BELLE-ILE-EN-MER: I started off on the island of Belle Isle en Mer, off the coast of Brittany with a few days relaxing in a gorgeous 18th Century house. Green shutters, green table, green garden. We enjoyed delicious meals: local spring lamb, crepes Bretonnes (the best are at Les Embruns in Sauzon), a lot of fresh lobsters and fish simply grilled and seasoned with Sauce au Beurre, made with some local pasture-fed salted butter and wild dill we picked on the way back from the beach.
PARIS: After that Paris beckoned. I enjoyed superb breakfasts, long lazy lunches and indulgent dinners at the finest Parisian terrasses to catch up with close friends. But the best was to be invited to the exclusive and unique Diner en Blanc. One rule: be all dressed in white and super chic. Every year in June for the past 35 years guests have been invited to a location kept secret until the last minute. This year 14,000 guests took over five of the most beautiful bridges over the Seine. Mine was the Alexander III Bridge in front of Le Grand Palais. Sublime!
CASSIS: After this I went to stay in a tiny little fisherman’s village, by the Mediterranean Sea in Provence. The best taste of the south of France you can get: bouillabaisse, soupe au poisson, ratatouille. Marseille, one of the oldest cities in Europe founded by the Phoceans in 600 BC is only 25km away. Cassis is surrounded by the calanques, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, steep-sided valleys formed by white cliffs rising vertically from the crystal clear green-blue sea. Unique. Cassis’ best kept secret: its Hotel de la Plage Mahogany, a pure 60’s gem, on a small beach with a view to die for (ask for Room 35).
After Brittany, Provence and Paris, my 50-Shades-of-Green Tour de France took me to two very special places. I have visited them every summer, two very green places where delicious, real, local, whole food is celebrated every day, and for me this perfectly embodies the health benefits of the French Paradox.
AURILLAC: Aurillac is the place where I reconnect with my healing food heritage. Aurillac, where I grew up, is home to one of the oldest French cheeses, Le Cantal. It’s also home to nurturing and healing, traditional slow-cooked dishes made with fresh whole foods, like le Choux Farci. Aurillac is in le Cantal in Auvergne, an area called Le Pays Vert (the Green County) due to its pristine nature where the Salers, the famous local cows live, eat and produce a wonderful milk. They also gave their name to the best type of Cantal cheese. Reconnecting here with my family heritage, in the very same house where my great grandmother Marguerite, my guide, my inspiration, was a popular cook and health practitioner in the 1920’s means a lot to me.
ILE-DE RE: I have spent all of my summers on this tiny island off La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast since I was 10. I have not missed one single summer ever since, even now that I permanently live in Australia. The court of Henri IV loved staying in the Ile de Ré. There is a ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ there. Everything is beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Twelve white villages and gorgeous little houses. All shutters and doors have to be green (by law). Time seems to have stopped here. You eat the best food: the best strawberries (Marais des Bois), the best unrefined sea salt, the best oysters, the best salted caramel, the best clams… and the best ice creams (Gourmandise) from La Martiniere in Saint-Martin.
Over these fantastic four weeks, I did eat a bit too much, had wine and indulged in desserts every day but did not put on weight. It all comes down one key principle: I ate real food… 80% of my meals were home-cooked with fresh, local, whole food. and love. I also walked, cycled and swam a lot. Each day was about celebrating, enjoying every single minute, and being present in the moment. Each meal was beautiful and sacred. No guilt. Pure joy. Bliss.
Yves Calmette is a French born Australia-based nutrition coach