Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
The translation for non, je ne regrette rien, which is a French song title, is essentially, “I regret nothing.”
Made famous by Edith Piaf, the song came to mind when I was discussing the matter of recently “eating” my way through France.
Food is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Of course, my highest priorities are my lovely family and fabulous friends, but beyond those, my life revolves around food.
My husband and I took a two-week trip that began near Bordeaux, continued easterly through Provence, and ended on the Riviera. Our itinerary was custom-designed by Stéphane, from the blog My French Heaven. Because our French vacation was essentially a road trip, we ate at restaurants. I know – heaven! So I thought I’d put together some of my photos showing what we ate.
Even with a basic knowledge of French, menus in France can be challenging. But with Stéphane’s skill in menu interpretation, my husband and I always got exactly what we wanted, and also tried some locally traditional as well as new foods. Below is a shot of my husband seriously contemplating a menu, with Stéphane’s help.
So when I was thinking about all of the food I enjoyed in France, about that second croissant I enjoyed one morning, with butter, of course, about the abundance of octopus I ate until they were practically crawling out my ears, that éclair that I was really too satiated to eat, but I did anyway… I realized that I enjoyed every bite of food and had no regrets.
Like the few bites I took from this nutella calzone. Be still my heart. But not too still.
Stéphane worked hard to find restaurants we would enjoy the most, whether in a village plaza, on the ocean, or in an alleyway en plein air. As much as upscale restaurants are fun, I much prefer what we call in the US the hole-in-the-wall types, with crooked floors, leaning stairs, and the bathrooms about 1/2 mile walk.
On our first day’s drive, we stopped in Castelnaudary to have traditional cassoulet. It was at a small restaurant off of a side street filled with locals. Always a good sign. All they served was cassoulet, but you could request your choice of meat. I chose pork and sausage. It came out bubbling hot, of course, so we had a chance to enjoy a local red wine and people-watch the regulars.
Here is the town as you enter it:
If you want to read a humurous post on cassoulet, which includes a recipe, check out this blog post here, by Serious Eats.
Then we headed in to Provence. The region is known for its olives, and so it was common when ordering an aperitif to be greeted with olives, toasts, and tapenade. At one bistrot, we enjoyed the bright green Picholine olive, which even Stéphane had never experienced. Crunchy and buttery. I’m still trying to get my hands on some!
The countryside was full of the beautiful grey-green olive trees and we even visited a working olive orchard – Bastide du Laval.
In France, it’s common to order from three groups – typically entrée, plat, and dessert, whether it’s a lunch or dinner menu.
At a tiny restaurant in old Aix en Provence, I ordered octopus salad for my starter, followed by curried cod. Both were magnificent. Especially paired with a Bandol.
I felt somewhat obligated to accept a dessert, because it was part of the price. I shared it.
I actually lived in Aix as a child. I remember nothing! But it’s beautiful.
Our next destination for 5 nights was Le Bastide de Boulbon, in Boulbon. I offer a photo of the hotel, because we ended up eating in their beautiful dining room 3 nights in a row. Their chef was inspired and the menus changed daily. Plus it ended up being our favorite hotel.
One night we drove to a recommended restaurant called Bistrot du Paradou. It was a large, bustling bistrot, with red and white checkered napkins on old wooden tables. Every night they served only one main, and on this night it was rotisserie chicken.
Stéphane and I started with ravioli, and my husband had pistou, which he said could have been his whole meal. The chicken doesn’t look like much, but it was excellent.
The first photo, above left, shows the chef’s table in the kitchen, with the rotisserie chickens along the back wall. The other photos shows the mafia members who filled the table near us. They don’t know where I live.
On another day, we traveled up over 3,000 feet to visit the Gorges du Verdon, which is like the French Grand Canyon, except really small. We climbed to the top-most village called Rougon for an enjoyable few hours in the sun. At possibly the only restaurant in “town” – a crêperie, with one of the best views in France, my husband and I ordered pizza-styled crêpes, which were delicious.
In Cassis, on the coast, we stopped in a seaside restaurant which has the highest rated boullabaisse, according to Stéphane’s research. The whole experience was really fascinating.
They first cook up all of the fish and potatoes for the bouillabaise, and present it to you on a platter. Then a waiter ladles a thick rich broth that is more like a bisque into your bowl. You place the different kinds of fish and other goodies into the bowl. To finish, a spicy aioli is spread on toasts, which are placed into the bouillabaise. According to our very engaging waiters, no one has ever finished a meal of bouillabaisse!
One day we drove to old Avignon and visited the Palais des Papes. I’ve never seen cobblestones quite like here.
It was one of the two times it rained on us in France, so we enjoyed a long lunch, in order to stay dry, of course. I ordered l’escargots cause, well I could. They’re such a great excuse to eat bread!
Stéphane and I ordered veal toes, called pieds paquets. They were fabulous. Just don’t think about it.
On another day in St. Tropez, I sardines for lunch. It was in a beautiful seaside restaurant.
And then there was a very special meal in Menton, which was my favorite of the cities along the Riviera.
It’s actually closer to Italy than Nice, and the colors of the buildings are striking, similar to those in Vieux Nice. But what came as a surprise to us was the wonderful Italian lunch we had off the beaten path, sitting outside, of course. Not having had my fill of seafood yet, I chose squid in a red sauce. The boys had pizza, and we all enjoyed everything.
Along with Tiramisu and my nutella calzone, the cutest glasses of limoncello I’ve ever seen, plus the tall, dark glass of water that was our waiter, this was a lunch that I will always remember, and never regret!
On our last day before flying out of Nice, we spent the morning exploring vieux Nice, and shopping at its market.
At lunch I tried socca, which is something that’s always tempted me. It was in the form of a crepe, served with a Niçoise salad. I also had a Niçoise salad on another day. When in Nice…
There were many more restaurants, many more villages, miles walked, and a million laughs – especially listening to my husband attempt speaking French! Then it was over. We had to say au revoir to Stéphane, who is the best friend and guide a person could have. We already have two more trips in the works!!!
What a wonderful trip! So nice to read about it and see your brilliant photos :)
Thank you so much Kay! It was truly wonderful.
What a fantastic culinary tour you had with your own special guide. I could read French when my husband and I were there so that helped figuring out menus! What a beautiful country perfect for any “foodie”. We loved staying in the various chateaus scattered across the country. You ate some things that I would not even consider eating but you must have loved it to sign up for two more tours! What fun :)
It’s a beautiful country, and I’ve still seen only a small part of it. My French is pretty good still, but truly menus have become more complicated, even according to Stephane. One morning at breakfast I read, “pommes de terres a la grenouilles.” I knew that meant potatoes and frogs legs somehow, so i assumed the potatoes would be tossed in a parsley garlic sauce, and yet they were simply roasted potatoes. no parsley in sight! So there’s a bit of enhancement, which requires a bit more thought when reading the descriptions!
Great post Mimi, on our Paris to Nice cycle last month, we stayed in Aix for a night. Lovely town. We spent a couple of days at the end in Nice. We dined in the Negresco – a very special hotel. You guys obviously had a great time.
I have a pretty photo of the Negresco – it’s so beautiful! That must have been quite a dining experience! I’m happy I was in a car for this trip and not on a road, bike tho. But it looks like you all raised lots of money!
Really enjoyed this post Mimi, the photo’s and description of your wonderful French vacation are so amazing. The food the landscape everything is just fantastic. Stephane is such a good friend and great guide.
He really is wonderful, in so many ways. He really stresses about restaurants being perfect, but they always are! This is exactly where his passion lies.
Absolutely lovely! I’ve got to meet that Stéphane guy someday… :)
hee hee hee!
What a trip….thank you for sharing with us……My dream vacation is to follow in your footsteps and also have no regrets!
Such a compliment to Stephane!
What a great post and beautiful pictures! I would have loved to hear more about the wine, but, well, you know me!
Then the post would have been ten times as long… My favorite was a Chateau du Mayne, 2012, Graves. Trying to get my hands on some here in the states. Any ideas?
It certainly was!
Edith Piaf and the south of France are among my favorite things, too. I’d love to try that bouillabaise. Lovely trip!
It certainly was. Thank yuou!
What an amazing trip. Stephan did an amazing job with the restaurants. Look at all of that wonderful food. The most tempting to me is the cassoulet. But i love the mafia photo and the gorgeous shots of the brickstone. What a dream trip. Glad you enjoyed.
I actually went over to the group of men at one point and talked to them, then asked if I could take a photo. the guy at the head of the table said no!!! i guess i fooled them!
Ha! Well done then!
Oh Mimi, this sounds like the perfect trip. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Thanks for reading!
Beautiful and mouthwatering pictures!
Thank you so much!
Wonderful post Mimi, I was transported……I adore Paris and always make a point of a stopover when in Europe, but the rest of France is unexplored. Engaging with Stephane is high on our priority list when we finally get there. My best memories all involve food
Absolutely you need to! I’ve been to France many times since my childhood, and yet I’ve only really seen a small part of it!
Oh, Mimi! What a wonderful trip! The market in Aix is one of my favorite in the world, and I love socca! I first had it in Italy, where it goes by a different name, although socca sounds Italian! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and all the food memories! Yum!
Thank you for the lovely compliment. France and Italy are the best! Although I love all of the countries I’ve visited as well. So much more to explore, so much more food to experience!
The green eyed monster has well and truly reared its head reading this fabulous post. This is exactly the experience I would love to have. I’m forwarding a link to this post to my husband. Having followed Stephane’s blog for some years now I already knew what a wonderful host, guide and friend he truly is. This is definitely on high priority on my wish list of things to do.
oh, you definitely need to visit him! especially if you haven’t seen his part of france. he’s quite special.
OH I am so glad you got to spend another adventure with Stéphane! I love the photos and experience you shared with us. It’s still on my bucket list to arrange something with him in the next few years…
oh, you would love it. do it!!!
Oui oui! Magnificent post and my mouth is drooling.
What a wonderful trip! Your pictures just took me there and make me want to stay! You are right that there is so much to see that you can go back so many times and do something different every time.
There is so much more to explore!
Great post! Remember though.. The Mafia always know where you live!
Hahahahahahaha! You’re probably right. At least I’m 1/2 Sicilian!!!
Then furr -ged-about it! Hahaha
Your culinary trip in France made my mouth water!!! So happy you enjoyed all the Française delicacies there (and some Italian too)! :)
Actually I used to have the same limoncello shot glasses at home! They’re quite common in Italy, always kept in the freezer! :)
Oh, I had never seen them before! I’d even use them for little flower vases!!!
THE BEST BLOG YET………. >
Oh gosh I’ve lived in so many places and in some of them I remember nothing! I’m sort of glad to read you remember nothing of Aix, it sort of makes me feel a bit better… What a wonderful culinary trip!
Unfortunately the part I remember most when I lived in Aix was having to go outside of the school to use the bathroom, and they were 3-sided outhouses. No doors, and all the other kids in line in front of you. Even though I was 6-7 years old, i had still been born and raised with normal toilets! I still saw a couple of toilets in france (or holes) with the footprints. ugh
An absolutely amazing trip – so much wonderful food and such a fabulous guide too!
Yes, he’s pretty wonderful!
Ooh la la, what an amazing trip! I can’t wait to go back. So many things to enjoy. Thanks for sharing.
I know – ain’t that the truth? I could go twice a year, and hit a different area. Still haven’t been to the Northwest.
You’ll just have to keep going back! :)
Amazing Mimi, sorry its taken me so long to get round to reading the post. Work is a tad busy at the moment.
Francophile envy sitting here reading it. We’ve pencilled in next years cycling in the Dordogne. I do love what Stephane can offer though. I would always love a bit more local knowledge when I’m there.
Veal toes!!!! I didn’t even know they were available. I’ve tried chicken feet in Indonesia but…..
Ha! It all sounds wonderful. Traveling is the best. And so is Stephane. Do consider taking advantage of his great skills! He’s a fabulous person!
A beautiful post Mimi. Sounds like you had such a wonderful time travelling and eating your way through southern France… and with Stephane as your guide, I can’t imagine it could get much better than that. :)
You’re exactly right. He’s so sweet, funny, knowledgeable, and a great driver!
Wow! What a great trip! Great places and great food! And lovely photos of you xx
Thank you! I’m very happy in France!
I am so jealous of your trip. I would love to eat my way through France. Stunning photos. You obviously had a wonderful time. Emma xx
I hope you get to one day! Especially if you’re a wine, bread, and cheese lover!
Wow! I’ve been oohing and ahhing and drooling over this post and still need to go back to look yet again. What an absolutely fabulous trip and great experience. I can definitely see where traveling with Stephane would make this an unforgettable trip. I think I’m with you on a couple food items…I will try just about anything just best not to ask.
No about that waiter … Think he’s still there?
Yeah, I would bed he’s still there. He was very pretty.
Looks like a delicious trip!
Thank you! It was worth the weight gain!
What an amazing trip! Your food looks divine.. I want some of that cassoulet!!
It was pretty amazing.
The stuff that dreams are made of…
Thank you Frank!
Totally jealous…I also ate my way through New York recently, and je ne regret rien!
Yes and it definitely looked fun! I’m going to be going out to dinner on my birthday in NYC next april, and I told everybody I didn’t want to choose for once. So we’ll see where we end up…
What a fantastic trip! There is no bad food in France. I think that is by decree. Even when you stop for gas on the highway, where in the U.S. you’d find a surpringly new flavor of Doritos and – hey, what’s that? A chocolate-covered Twinkie? – you find ham and brie on a baguette … and it’s fresh … and the ham is really good. My only regret is that trips like that have to come to an end!
Isn’t that so true?! And you can find good, real chocolate instead of twizzlers. I’ve certainly never had a bad meal there. I have lovely memories from my childhood as well. but I was served casu marzu once. have you heard of it? i have a post on it once. It’s the only thing I’ve never seen my mother eat!!!
Mimi, I have no regrets about reading this post, even at this late date. Your trip re-cap was simply sublime.
Haahahaha! You’re funny! And thank you!
P.S. Lovera’s Market in Krebs carries all kinds of olives in the fall — not sure about Picholine, but that’s where I get Castelvetrano and other “hard to find locally” olives when they’re in season.
Oh, really good to know. Although we never go that direction. Maybe they can mail order?
Yes, ma’am — here’s their link: http://www.loverasmarket.com/#home I see they’ve expanded their cheese-making efforts (JOY!) since I was last there, too. If you ever decide to head that way, please holler and I’ll go with ya!
Oh wouldn’t that be fun?!!! Thanks for the link.
You’re welcome… and I truly hope you consider a trip to Krebs. (Where are you from here?) I’m 30 minutes away from that store and I drool uncontrollably every time I visit. (Hope you don’t mind — be forewarned– and bring paper towels, LOL!) xo
oh, I’m in Enid.