Fall In Love All Over Again
By Aatika H Jain
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” said Ernest Hemingway in his memoir, A Moveable Feast. When you hear the name France, the first thing that leaps to mind is its capital Paris, and rightfully so. Paris is indeed an amazing city with its neoclassical architecture and iconic buildings such as Eiffel Tower. But there is unimaginably more to the world’s most popular country, France, which hosts more than 82 million international tourists annually. People from all over the world throng to this country steeped in art, culture, fashion, and history. From its exquisite wines and mouth-watering gourmet food to the romantic lovely chateaux and scenic countryside, France will take your breath away and leave you wanting for more.
Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful after all.
T S Eliot
The French capital has inspired poets, artists, and actors for eons while it remained the socio-cultural hub of the world for centuries. It is one of the European biggest cities and the world’s most visited and has been called with numerous names such as the City of Lights, Capital of Fashion and City of Love. Considered one of the most romantic cities, it continues to be the center of art, culture, fashion, gastronomy, and entertainment. It also boasts the world’s most luxurious and celebrated fashion houses and cosmetics such as Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, Clarins, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Lancôme, L’Oréal, Guerlain, etc.
Located on the River Seine, Paris is a fascinating intermingling of the past and the present. The famous monuments lining the boulevards, awe-inspiring museums, charming cafés, chic boutiques, art, and multimedia galleries, there is so much to see in Paris that you would not be able to cover all of it in even on your second or third visit. Landing in Paris and not gawking at the sky-kissing Eiffel Tower would be next to blasphemy. The majestic Arc de Triomphe overlooking the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the Château de Versailles, the Notre- Dame Cathedral, the Sacré-Coeur, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Musee d’Orsay are just a few of the must-see places in the city. Not to forget the Musée du Louvre. After all, you cannot possibly miss gazing adoringly at dear old Mona Lisa, now can you? Draw your own things to- do, the places-to-see itinerary for Paris before you visit the city to enjoy it to the fullest.
The French Riviera
The French Riviera, called Côte d’Azur in French, is on the Mediterranean coastline of southeastern France. A favorite of artists and writers such as Francis Bacon, Somerset Maugham, Huxley and Picasso, the French Riviera is still a hotspot for the rich and the famous of the world. Popular for the Cannes Film Festival, the luxury resort town of St Tropez and glamorous micro-state Monaco, there are plenty of other places to visit in the area.
Start at Nice with the glimmering Mediterranean shore. Stroll through the Old Town with its quaint cafés and galleries. Perched on a rock at 1,400ft above sea level and located between Nice and Monaco is the charming medieval village of Èze surrounding the remains of a 12th-century castle. It offers a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, apart from the enchanting stone buildings, the meandering, cobblestoned streets with archways giving way to tranquil courtyards and hidden squares with fountains. The fascinating little village is dotted with artisan and tourist shops.
Then there is Grasse, the picturesque French medieval village popular as the world’s perfume capital and home to several famous perfumeries such as Fragonard Perfume Factory which you can tour for free. Don’t miss out on taking long walks through the endless fields of lavender that cover the hills here. Take a breather at the quiet, coastal village of Menton, boasting lovely, almost deserted Mediterranean beaches, charming boutique-lined alleyways, and pretty little cafés.
French cuisine is immensely popular across the world for its finesse. Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and herbs form an integral part of French cuisine. The fertile soil is good for the cultivation of grapes, which are used to prepare some of the world’s finest wines. Food and wine are important elements of French society. Baguette is the well-known French bread which tastes lovely on its own as well as with some traditional French cheese such as gruyère and brie. Soupe à l’oignon is a simple, traditional, slow-cooked French soup made of caramelized onion and beef stock, topped with croutons and cheese. A typical French specialty is foie gras, which is commonly eaten during Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Confit de canard is considered one of the finest French dishes. It is cooked using the traditional old recipe, dating back several centuries, of preserving and slow cooking, called confit. Marinated with thyme, salt, and garlic for 36 hours, the duck is then slow-cooked in its own fat. Confit-roasted potatoes and garlic are served as a side dish. Flamiche is similar to quiche and is a puff pastry filled with cream and leeks. Ratatouille is a delicious vegetable stew that can be used as a stuffing for other dishes or as a side dish. It is made of eggplant, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, onions, basil, bell peppers, thyme, marjoram, and other green herbs.
For those with a sweet tooth, there is chocolate soufflé which is a crispy chocolate crust with gooey chocolate in the center. The tarte Tatin is the yummy version of an apple tart, albeit upside down. Crème brûlée is a very popular French dessert, with a thin hard caramel top covering velvety custard below. These sophisticated-sounding dishes are just the tip of the iceberg that is French cuisine. Stuff in, for YOLO. All days are cheat days on vacation, aren’t they?
There is no place like France that has inspired and attracted artists, writers, philosophers, actors, and musicians for centuries. The lure of Paris, the snow cloaked Alps, the stunning bright Riviera, the delicious wines of Bordeaux and the picturesque countryside is strewn with chateaux, France will make you fall in love. Rick was right when he told Ilsa in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”
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