Je ne sais quoi


I’m sure you’ve heard the French expression “je ne sais quoi,” that something you just can’t put your finger on, that something not easily described. That is the country of France to me – my favorite European country.

Experiencing French culture requires an open-mind and adventurous spirit. And if you need help to embrace everything French, you need to visit Stéphane Gabart of My French Heaven, who lives in Libourne, outside of Bordeaux. His business is customizing culinary tours in France. And that includes him cooking for you in his lovely home!

I have two posts on my blog about visiting Stéphane with my daughter in 2014, here and here. Because of my wonderful experience last year, I knew I would be visiting Stéphane again. And I did.

Last month, my girlfriend Gabriella and I visited Stéphane for 8 fun-filled days. My friend had been to Paris, but she’d never experienced French villages, which is to me quintessential France. The hamlets with the cobble-stoned alleyways, the little bakeries, tucked-away restaurants, and the farmers’ markets. Oh, and also the vineyards and the chateaux and the castles.

What I love about having Stéphane as a personal guide and chef is that you can plan exactly what you want to do and eat. Days spent with Stéphane are called his foodie days. You plan what you want to eat, go to the market with him, and then watch him do all the work! You can choose half days as well, but if you did, you’d miss out on Stéphane’s great humor and joie de vivre.

But your visit doesn’t have to only be about food. For one thing, there are Stéphane’s artistic photography skills. Whether you’re passionate about photography, or only own an iPhone, I can attest that his expertise is inspirational. Look at his blog and you’ll see what I mean.

And, there is sightseeing, of course. You can travel with him to any area of your choice. My husband and I have already booked a trip with Stéphane to Provence. My husband is my favorite traveling partner, but he has hesitated coming with me to visit Stéphane because he thought Stéphane and I would force him to eat foie gras and snails! But the trips are custom-designed for exactly what you want to experience!

Gabriella and I spent a day in Cap Ferret and Arcachon on the Atlantic coast, and also a few days in the Dordogne region. To show you the variety of our daily activities, check out our travel itinerary here!

So why do I love France, you ask? Je ne sais quoi!

I mean, we have doors in the USA also.

And we have roses.

We have cheese.

There’s produce at our stores and markets.

And of course we have food…

Obviously I’m being tongue-in-cheek here. I’m not trying to compare what we have in the states to France, because there is no comparison. It’s not that only good food and wine is available in France. But to walk into an abbey from 4 A.D., to visit a village built in the 14th century, and to gaze upon a chateau from the 15th century – such as Chateau Filolie in the featured photo – is to experience what I love about Europe. The food and wine only add to the experience!

Merci, Stéphane! (that is obviously my look of pure bliss!)

59 thoughts on “Je ne sais quoi

  1. Mimi, what a delightful post, in every sense of the word. I’m deeply envious that you’ve been to stay with Stephane not once, but twice and are planning yet another trip. If you ever need a shopping bag sherpa, just let me know.

  2. Just love this beautiful and energetic post!! You look amazing and so does all of that food. I have always said when I get the money, it is not back to the States I am heading, but off to explore Europe. First stop, France!!

  3. I love France too but have only been there once! We will definitely be going back. My husband and I love to travel together, and may be taking a similar trip to Tuscany next year. I will definitely look into Stéphane’s tours too. Your pictures were great.

  4. I loved reading this, I am lucky enough to live in France in the Charente Maritime. but you have really captured the essence of what I love so much, the visits to the market, we never know what we will cook until we see what fish is on the fish stand, what vegetables are fresh that day. Walking through vineyards, a quick dog walk around the village that I know so well still makes me stare in awe at the 12th century church, doors and archways probably even older, rambling roses and flaking paint on shutters. I think even though I live here I will always be in love with France!

    • It seems to me that everyone, including Stephane, who lives in France, appreciates all of its charms. And the fromages!!! I seriously am envious of you!

  5. Oh Mimi you look so absolutely happy in these photos! I’m very sold on Stephane and I love reading his blog and looking at his remarkable photographs. If I ever make it to France I will definitely plan on using his services!

    • That’s what everyone said after last year’s trip! I’m deliriously happy, but he’s also extremely funny, and we laughed all day every day!

  6. This is a lovely post Mimi you’ve captured just the sense of delight in everything that Stéphane does in his blog – there certainly much to love and inspire here in France Perhaps if you visit Stéphane again you can include a trip to visit me and my boutique – there’s a tearoom too to satisfy the tastebuds!!

    • I am visiting Stephane again but we’re going the other direction, into Provence and the Riviera. I wish I’d seen your blog before this last trip. I read about your property and boutique and it all sounds so lovely. And as I said, your photography skills are magnifique!!!

      • I’m sure Provence will be a wonderful experience – somewhere still on my list to visit! I shall enjoy sharing snippets of your experience via the blogosphere and thanks again for your kind comments re my photography :) !

  7. Awesome post, captured the essence of it all! Loved it!

    and, of course, your expression in the final picture is worth a billion words! ;-)

    • Somehow, pretty soon after starting my blog, I discovered his. Then he began this “business” of his and it was perfect timing for me to visit last year!

  8. What a wonderful way to learn about a country – its culture, food, people and places. I would love the opportunity to have Stephane as my guide one of these days.

    • You would love it Norma! First of all, he’s a wonderful gentleman, and for another, it’s a total French immersion. Way more fun than figuring out a country by yourself – and you don’t have to drive, either!!!

  9. I had to rush over here after reading Stephane’s post! You went again…that’s fabulous Mimi. I remember reading all about your last visit and this one looks even more fantastic. What a gorgeous way to spend 8 days.

  10. Hi Mimi, Thanks for stopping by my blog – we are so alike! (Only I am lucky enough to live in France and live your visit every day!) You must stop by the Lot next time too… Rosie Paddon

    • Oh, I’m so envious! I have a French mother and spent a good part of my childhood there, which does help my bias towards France. but it’s a beautiful country nonetheless! Where is Lot?

      • Right next to the Dordogne! I know most of what you visited this time, I live very near… and I still do appreciate it, especially the busier and more complicated life gets. (ps, Never decide to open a restaurant in France, sometimes it seems it is impossible!)

  11. Beautiful! love the photos that you shared..there’s definitely sth about France..I love it too.
    and you’ll be heading back to Provence soon. I’m envious!

  12. Love the tongue in cheek bit. It just doesn’t compare! I was talking with my husband the other night about this. America is such a melting pot of fabulous cultures but somehow it managed to blend everything into a blandness. With all the different zones in the country we should be able to have the produce and resulting meals with the same flare.

  13. Visiting France is indeed bliss. And yes, we do have much of the same in our country but it is just not the same. Our country is too new. :)

    • Every American should visit some country in Europe once. We couldn’t afford it for a long time, but it finally happened when my girls were in high school. I created traveling monsters! Once even lived in London for years, and has been to more places than I have! And my husband could live there easily. It’s a wonderful kind of existence.

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