Do you have a bucket list? A list of travel experiences that you want to do before you die? I started a list back in 2009 and to my surprise, I have crossed many off the list:
- riding a camel into the desert (my camel did not smell, nor did he spit)
- attend a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show in Chicago (yes! 5th row!)
- run (and drink my way through) the Marathon du Medoc (wine at each water station)
- get up at sunrise to see Monument Valley in northern Arizona
- hike in Cinque Terre, Italy
But there are some items on my bucket list that pertain to France and you might consider these for your next trip:
- Fly In A Hot Air Balloon: When I was in the Loire Valley, my friend Laurie and I visited many chateaux, but there’s nothing like seeing them from above. The flight is entirely dependent on the weather and you can either go in the early morning or at dusk. We chose dusk and the experience involves not just the flight, but the adventure of inflating the balloon and having 10-12 people scurry into the wicker basket before the balloon lifts off. You are at the whim of the wind and the pilot must manoeuvre the balloon over trees and through wind currents. The amazing thing is that except for the propane blasts every now and then, the ride is very quiet. As our balloon skimmed the surface of a field, we saw a rabbit running across a field and a beautiful private chateau hidden in the woods. The trip lasted just over an hour and when we landed and rode back to the starting point, we celebrated with the requisite champagne. The cost was approximately 190 Euros.
- Take A Course At Cordon Bleu: this famous cooking school, made even more famous by the book and movie, “Julie and Julia”, about Julia Child’s time in Paris and at the famous culinary school, Cordon Bleu, was on my list because I wanted to experience “true” French cooking and if I was lucky, the chance to learn how to make macarons. I cringe when I hear people say, “macaroons”, which are entirely different (those have coconut). Macarons are sweet, meringue-based cookies made with sugar and ground almonds. They come in many different colours and flavours and at the half-day course I attended, we made chocolate macarons with a chocolate ganache. The instructor (who only spoke French but had an interpreter) also made pistachio ones to add to our collection. We were provided with aprons and tea towels and in front of each of us were the ingredients and utensils to make 40-50 macarons….which we got to eat and take home. The 3 hour course is not cheap (at the time I paid 90 Euros) but it is an experience worth taking. Be sure you book well in advance.
- Lunch At The Jules Verne Restaurant In The Eiffel Tower: July 14 is not only Bastille Day in France where there is a spectacular parade down the Champs Elysee, but it also happens to be my birthday. Coincidence that I love France that much? I don’t think so. Anyways, one year I was in Paris and my friend Laurie and I watched the parade in the morning and then went to the Eiffel Tower to have lunch at the famous Jules Verne Restaurant. It is located on the second floor and you get there by taking a private elevator up the south pillar of the Eiffel Tower. No line ups here! We had an absolutely fabulous lunch:
- champagne cocktail
- smoked salmon
- sole with crab
- ice cream parfait
- bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape wine
- chocolate truffles
Today, the restaurant is run by famous French chef, Alain Ducasse. What a way to celebrate one’s birthday! (Note: sorry, no pictures of the food and the one I have is so dated it’s embarrassing!)
4. Bicycle Tour: my first bicycle tour started in the Dordogne and ended in Bordeaux. Each day we would cycle approximately 50 km, leaving our hotel at about 9:00, stopping for a coffee at 10:30, biking for another two hours, stopping for lunch with wine, and biking on to our next town, arriving at about 4:00 pm. Our luggage was transported by van and at times our group would split off, where some could bike at a faster pace. Do you need to be in shape to do a bike tour? Couldn’t hurt. Most of the paths are flat; however, when it is hot in the summer, the biking can be that much harder, particularly going uphill. Stopping for a wine tasting doesn’t make it easy either, but does make it that much more enjoyable. Fortunately, our panniers did hold a considerable amount of wine! And the delicious food you consume at dinner each night is your reward for burning lots of calories. I’ve done two bike tours and could easily do another.
- Be In Paris On New Year’s Eve: Being in Paris in winter is a really enjoyable experience. You don’t have quite the large crowd and it is not freezing cold like in Canada. You just bundle up and you’re fine. My friend Laurie and I began the evening drinking wine and eating oysters. We then headed to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower; however, it was extremely crowded. The drizzling rain didn’t help getting a good view as everyone’s umbrellas were in the way. We decided to head down to the Tower, but they had blocked off the area, so we walked along the Seine and found the perfect place to look at the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight: on Pont de Bir Hakeim (Birk Hakeim bridge). Not only does it provide a perfect view, it is also covered…..great when it’s raining! Although things may have now changed, there weren’t any fireworks at the Eiffel Tower; just a light show. Fireworks were taking place in other parts of Paris. Yet, it was still a memorable experience.