French Heaven

As many of you know, especially those who have seen the photos of beautiful French food that I’ve been posting, my daughter and I flew to Bordeaux to spend four days with Stéphane. He is the author of My French Heaven, his blog, andYour French Heaven, his business.

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As soon as he picked us up at the airport, we knew we were in good hands. Stéphane is so likable. Lovable, in fact. He’s funny, smart, and slightly irreverent, which suited our personalities to a T.

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I’m not here only to promote Stéphane’s business; it needs no help from me. But for a little explanation in case you’re not familiar with it, he customizes your visit to the part of France where he was born and raised, based on your likes and desires and how many days you have to spend.

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Of course for me and my daughter as well, our daily plans revolved around shopping for food, cooking it, and eating it.

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But we also got to see the stunning countryside, enjoy the local wines, and see some sights for the benefit of my daughter and her specific interests in the world of art history.

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We also shopped at a brocante, which was a new word for me. It’s a combination of an antiques shop and flea market.

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This blog post could easily be a book because of how much we packed into each day.

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I’ll keep most of the details to myself as cherished memories, because Stéphane designed our time together just for us. He will most likely never duplicate these days, because of course all of the food we prepared together was based on what was fresh and available at the daily markets.

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Some people may not want to have the same extreme foodie days as we did!

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As much as I enjoy meat, we wanted to focus primarily on the lovely seafood available in that corner of France.

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My daughter and I stayed at Chateau Saint Jacques Calon, near St. Emilion, which is the B & B that belongs to Stéphane’s family. That is not mandatory, but it added to the magic of our holiday. (Not available any longer.)

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In fact, the weather was so perfect on 3 of the 4 days that we took breaks and sat by the beautiful pool.

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After a generous breakfast every morning, we drove to a different market.

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No matter where we went in the area, everybody seemed to know Stéphane. It was lovely hearing him chat away in his native French.

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And speaking of that, Stéphane’s English is perfect. I had moments of remembering French words and phrases, as French was shared with English in my home as a child, but mostly I let Stéphane do the talking.

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Stephane always had a general menu in mind for the day, but it all depended on what was available at the market, of course.

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On the first day together, I got to get my hands “dirty” when I helped prepare a foie gras terrine that was planned for our last day.

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That first evening, we walked to a local restaurant, owned by friends of Stephane, and enjoyed a wonderful meal as we watched the sun set.

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The most exciting thing for me was the walk through the French countryside, with grape vines just popping new leaves, and flowers showing off their spring splendor.

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The one good thing about hanging out with another blogger is that it’s okay to constantly take photos. My daughter was often the focus of our photos, because of her innocent beauty. She might have cared, but she didn’t show it, which is a testament to her calm and patient personality.

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She was often my model.

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As well as my hand model.

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Every morning we went to the market, and also stopped by Stéphane’s favorite bread baker for fresh baguettes.

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Then we’d go back to his house to prepare and enjoy lunch, typically outside because the weather was so perfect.

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One day we visited the beautiful village of St. Emilion.

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Which is where we also went to a wine tasting.

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Stéphane also showed us a beautiful part of Bordeaux.

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I’ve never been to this corner of France before, so everything was new to me. The expansive vineyards are quite impressive, especially along the Dordogne.

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Stéphane made sure we always sampled the many different regional wines, and kept us well stocked.

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He also made sure we enjoyed some of our favorite cheeses, as well as experience a few I’ve never heard of before. Fabulous!

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On our final full day with Stéphane, he put out a variety of cakes that he’d ordered from his favorite patisserie in Libourne.

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Both of our birthdays, mine and Stéphane’s, are in April, so we celebrated Easter as well as birthdays!

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I even got a birthday candle!!!

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For our final dinner together, we began with the foie gras terrine paired with Sauterne. Life just doesn’t get much better than that!

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It was bittersweet leaving France, but at least I got to spend a few days with my daughter in London, before leaving her behind and returning home. But we both shared fun, beautiful, and delicious experiences, thanks to our host, Stéphane Gabart.

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And I didn’t have to do dishes!!!

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By Published On: April 28th, 201490 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

90 Comments

  1. thesinglegourmetandtraveller April 28, 2014 at 8:09 AM - Reply

    What a wonderful post, Mimi! It’s lovely to read about your stay with Stephane and see the brilliant photos. It’s obviously a very special place.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 8:23 AM - Reply

      Thank you Kay! It was a fabulous experience.

  2. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs April 28, 2014 at 8:32 AM - Reply

    It has been wonderful living vicariously through you Mimi! I’m happy that you had such a wonderful time with Stephane, filled with so many happy memories. The landscape is just lovely…and the food… Oh, the food… you must have been in pure heaven! Lovely post! I hope that we get to hear more! <3

  3. Cecile April 28, 2014 at 8:37 AM - Reply

    I can’t even begin to tell you how very much I enjoyed this post!! I honestly feel, due to your gorgeous photos and enthusiastic comments, that I just took a wonderful trip to France. What a perfect ‘holiday’!! I’m Pinning this under ‘travel’. Again – I LOVED it!!!

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 9:19 AM - Reply

      That’s very nice of you Cecile. I had an embarassingly good time!

  4. mycookinglifebypatty April 28, 2014 at 9:53 AM - Reply

    So many great photos! Thanks for sharing French Heaven with us and safe travels home, Mimi.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 10:52 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much! It would have been hard to take really bad photos of such beautiful food and scenery!!!

  5. Heather @ Sweet Precision April 28, 2014 at 9:54 AM - Reply

    It looks like you had an absolutely fantastic vacation Mimi! I love the pictures from the brocante, I can imagine myself spending hours browsing around.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM - Reply

      Everything I wanted to buy was big and heavy, and I already had an overweight bag. It was tough putting those treasures back on the shelf…

  6. Angeline M April 28, 2014 at 10:22 AM - Reply

    Beautiful photos. The food looks fabulous, as does the wonderful countryside. This has to have been a very special vacation.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM - Reply

      I’m afraid it was once in a lifetime. My husband wouldn’t appreciate it if I did this sort of thing all the time!!!

  7. Jovina Coughlin April 28, 2014 at 10:22 AM - Reply

    Beautiful photos

  8. flippenblog April 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM - Reply

    That is truly heaven. Happy Bday to you!

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much. A nice way to celebrate!!!

  9. 13 Spices April 28, 2014 at 10:31 AM - Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post Mimi! We all need a Stephane in our lives! Your journey through Bordeaux with your daughter, and all of the the lovely photographs really inspires me to visit this region. And don’t even get me started on the foie gras terrine and Sauterne! French Heaven indeed!

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM - Reply

      I’ve made terrines, foie gras, and pate de foie, but never a foie gras terrine!!! It was heavenly, especially with the Sauterne!!!

  10. My French Heaven April 28, 2014 at 11:26 AM - Reply

    I wish I knew that Stephane guy… :0)

  11. dishnthekitchen April 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM - Reply

    That sounds like the perfect vacation! It would be much nicer to be able to sample the local markets and be able to cook with the goods rather than eating out all the time. I missed cooking in France :(

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM - Reply

      The only thing is, it’s also nice to take a break from cooking. But this was a perfect set up!

  12. viveka April 28, 2014 at 2:23 PM - Reply

    I adore France, but avoid Paris. What a fantastic post … in both word and images. So breathtaking … your photos are just brilliant. It was like I went to France every holiday in 70’s. St. Emilion one of my gems … what a fantastic adventure – good food, great wines …. and friendship.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM - Reply

      I don’t love Paris either, except I still love the Eiffel Tower! I prefer villages over cities, but since my daughter has lived in London, I do have a love affair with it! London is just so much fun.

      • viveka April 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        London, is a fantastic city …. been my playground for many years …. long fantastic weekends .. great food, shops and shows.

      • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 5:19 PM

        I have never met a London pub I didn’t like!!!

      • viveka April 28, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        *smile … not a pub person … but I have never met a calorie that I didn’t like*smile

  13. saucygander April 28, 2014 at 2:29 PM - Reply

    Your post and Stephane’s post have me wanting a holiday to France, specifically his corner of France. It sounded like whole days of pure foodie bliss!

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 2:42 PM - Reply

      Indeed it was. I’m so glad to have been shown around, otherwise I might never have ventured that direction! It’s a beautiful part of France.

  14. ladyredspecs April 28, 2014 at 5:37 PM - Reply

    Oh Mimi, it looks like wonderful experience. We are starting to brush up on our French language skills with plans to travel to France in 2015. It will of course include some time with Stephane. Thanks for sharing your experience

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 6:04 PM - Reply

      Absolutely! You will love Stephane. I feel like I left a new best friend behind.

  15. spiritedcook April 28, 2014 at 6:14 PM - Reply

    Looks like fun! Thanks for sharing! France is on my cycling trip wish list in the next few years!

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 9:36 PM - Reply

      Oh my gosh. If you haven’t been, you definitely need to go!!!

  16. apuginthekitchen April 28, 2014 at 7:13 PM - Reply

    Glorious, what an amazing vacation. Everything is just beautiful.

  17. Jessie April 28, 2014 at 8:20 PM - Reply

    Wow, I envy you. It seems that you had a wonderful vacation there. The place looks like a heaven. ^^ I like your photos very much.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2014 at 9:37 PM - Reply

      Thank you. It was heaven. It was also embarassingly wonderful!!!!

  18. Michelle April 28, 2014 at 10:52 PM - Reply

    What a lovely trip you had.

  19. mmmarzipan April 29, 2014 at 2:53 AM - Reply

    What an absolutely stunning and inspiring blog post, Mimi! I can only imagine how amazing the experience was for you and your daughter… just fabulous! Both Stephane and his corner of the world sound delightful :)

    • chef mimi April 29, 2014 at 4:12 PM - Reply

      It was beautiful. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  20. Amanda April 29, 2014 at 10:54 AM - Reply

    Oh Mimi, I’m swooning. My heart literally has this feeling of being full. Your photos are so beautiful and it’s evident that you really had the perfect time there with such good company, your daughter and the food! The landscape is almost unreal. Your daughter is beautiful. I need to do something like this sometime soon. What a beautiful post. I feel like I’m right there with you.

    • chef mimi April 29, 2014 at 4:12 PM - Reply

      Thank you so much Amanda! It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. Thank you for your lovely comment!

  21. Green Door Hospitality April 29, 2014 at 5:39 PM - Reply

    Amazing!! Visiting Stéphane and having one of his custom experiences is one my husband and I’s dream vacations! So wonderful that you and your daughter did this!!
    Jessica

    • chef mimi April 29, 2014 at 7:51 PM - Reply

      I wanted my husband to come with me, but he thought it was a bit too foodie for him, plus he doesn’t eat quite the variety of food that I do!!! But I highly recommend a visit.

  22. Choc Chip Uru April 29, 2014 at 7:00 PM - Reply

    French Heaven indeed, thank you for sharing your gorgeous experience with us :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  23. anotherfoodieblogger April 29, 2014 at 11:49 PM - Reply

    You have always surprised me with your posts and culinary/travel experiences! What a great read and fabulous photos!

    • chef mimi April 30, 2014 at 7:22 AM - Reply

      There might not be another post quite like this. My husband opted not to join me on this adventure, but I think he doesn’t want me doing this all of the time! Thanks for the nice comment.

  24. love in the kitchen April 30, 2014 at 3:27 PM - Reply

    Mimi – what a fabulous trip. I love France so much – am quite envious but also inspired by all you managed to pack in. C’est fantastique!

  25. DellaCucinaPovera May 3, 2014 at 3:33 AM - Reply

    I don’t even know where to start. Everything looks beautiful and AMAZING! Im pretty jealous over here. Looks like you had a really lovely time.

    • chef mimi May 3, 2014 at 11:47 AM - Reply

      I’m almost jealous of myself!!! It was an embarassingly wonderful time!

  26. eliotthecat May 3, 2014 at 8:05 AM - Reply

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful pics. I definitely want to plan a trip and follow in your footsteps!

    • chef mimi May 3, 2014 at 11:45 AM - Reply

      You won’t regret it! It was a trip of a lifetime!

  27. kathryningrid May 10, 2014 at 5:09 PM - Reply

    It’s been decades since I was fortunate enough to travel a little in France, and this made me more interested to go back than I’ve ever been. Beautifully told, photographed, and yes, cooked! M. Gabart seems to be the absolute perfect host and a delightful person, but you and your daughter are clearly great to have as guests and touring companions, too, so it was obviously a grand match! Thanks for sharing.
    Au revoir, lovely Chef Mimi,
    Kathryn

    • chef mimi May 11, 2014 at 6:02 PM - Reply

      Aren’t you sweet! It was the perfect immersion trip! You must go back France, if nothing else but for the cheese!

  28. chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 4:07 AM - Reply

    Reblogged this on chef mimi blog and commented:

    This visit to My French Heaven took place in April, but I’m missing Stephane and his beautiful corner of France. Enjoy, just in case you missed it…

  29. Phil @foodfrankly July 31, 2014 at 4:12 AM - Reply

    Can’t believe I missed this first time round. Looks amazing. I think us Brits are always a little envious of the French ‘joie de vivre’. Not that we’d admit it of course….

    • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 2:53 PM - Reply

      Having just spent over a week in England, I don’t think that you Brits are missing out on any joie de vivre. This was maybe my 10th trip, to London and elsewhere in England, and I think you just go to pubs to enjoy life!!!

      • Phil @foodfrankly August 4, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        So glad you enjoy it Mimi. I do think with us English it’s more joie de ‘ale’. Born out of frequenting pubs through centuries of ‘less than ideal’ weather. I’ve no doubt it’s why we took to the seas to seek out warmer ones…..

      • chef mimi August 4, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        It was just 85 degrees in London!!! Never thought I’d miss air conditioning!!!

    • My French Heaven July 31, 2014 at 3:08 PM - Reply

      Well I’m French I I am envious of your amazing countryside and sense of humor, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I really wish I had the time and money so I could visit England more often… You know that us, South Westerners, used to be British (well almost)…

      • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        England is absolutely gorgeous. And, Brits are funny. Why do they have a reputation of not being funny? All of the best shows have been British, from Monty Python to the Office, and now, my favorite – Episodes. Hysterical.

      • My French Heaven July 31, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        I’ll have to check that out… Don’t forget Ab fab and Little Britain ;)

      • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        Emma and I always watched Ab Fab!!! That’s why in April we had lunch at Harvey Nick’s!!! Will have to check in to Little Britain…

      • My French Heaven July 31, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        Little Britain is a little vulgar, but I really love it… Oh and what about faulty towers?! The list is never ending I’m afraid…

      • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        Will definitely look into it. You must check out episodes. It’s 2 Brits and the guy who played Joey on friends. So funny on so many levels!

      • Phil @foodfrankly August 4, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        I must admit, that’s great to hear Stephane! Some mutual appreciation across the Channel, or indeed, La Manche. I really had no idea about the English/South West connection – a very interesting ‘Google’.

  30. Sofia July 31, 2014 at 5:17 AM - Reply

    What a marvellous trip! am green with envy that you had Stéphane to look after you two so well. I’ll be off to France soon, but to the north of France. Mother and daughter are both beautiful ;)

    • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 2:50 PM - Reply

      You are so sweet, Sofia. It was a heavenly dream trip, I must say!!!

  31. Conor Bofin July 31, 2014 at 5:55 AM - Reply

    Wonderful Mimi. An extended version of our fantastic experience.

    • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 2:50 PM - Reply

      Exactly. So much fun and lovely food. And the walk by the windmills? Priceless.

      • My French Heaven July 31, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        You guys need to start a club I swear ;)

      • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        I’ll be the treasurer…

  32. Our Growing Paynes July 31, 2014 at 6:56 AM - Reply

    What an amazing trip for you! Gorgeous photos. :)

  33. emmabarrett1508 July 31, 2014 at 7:34 AM - Reply

    I am so jealous of your trip. It looks exactly like my kind of holiday. Stunning photographs. I would love to visit one day. Emma xx

    • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 2:46 PM - Reply

      I hope you can, Emma. I know of another young couple who are considering this dream trip!!!

      • emmabarrett1508 August 1, 2014 at 1:41 AM

        Was that your daughter Emma in the photos? I am glad she is ok. She looks so much like you.

      • chef mimi August 1, 2014 at 4:50 AM

        Yes! I don’t know if she’d like to hear that, but thank you! She’s getting better – its a new chapter in her life!

      • emmabarrett1508 August 1, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Oh good. I love the photo of you and Stephane too with the river in the background. And OMG that seafood – wow! Emma.

  34. chefjulianna July 31, 2014 at 10:05 AM - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow, Mimi! This looks like my absolute dream vacation!! I so enjoyed your post and photos! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us! :D

    • chef mimi July 31, 2014 at 2:45 PM - Reply

      Absolutely! It was my dream trip, as well!

  35. dianeskitchentable August 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM - Reply

    That is truly a stay in heaven. What a wonderful experience.

    • chef mimi August 1, 2014 at 4:20 PM - Reply

      It was unfortunately a once in a lifetime experience!

  36. The Literate Chef September 21, 2014 at 7:10 AM - Reply

    Mimi. I just came across this, must have missed the original post. What beautiful pictures and a wonderful experience. Thanks.

  37. thefolia June 1, 2015 at 3:44 PM - Reply

    How charming!

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