Shani Laplume

Scottsdale, Arizona Travel Agent

Food and Fantasy in France

Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel

I first fell in love with France during my French classes in school. I loved the language, the history and everything about it. We had a poster of Mont-Saint-Michel in my classroom, and I would often look at it and think “I’m going to go there one day.”

When I finally got to Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, I was in awe. The abbey sits on the island, and there’s a small village that climbs the hillside with museums, hotels, shops, and restaurants. I was fascinated to learn that the abbey’s history dates back to the 8th century when a local bishop claimed that Archangel Michael had appeared telling him to build a church on that spot.

Culinary travel is one of my interests, and there’s no better place than France for great food. You can go to a Michelin star restaurant or small neighborhood bistro. Both ways, your dishes will be beautifully served, and unlike in many fancy restaurants, in France, you will not be eating decoration. The flavor almost always lives up to the presentation. Portions are usually small but packed with flavor, so you are meant to concentrate on each bite. 

Even the street food is amazing. The flavors are intense and rich, and baguettes are so fresh and light that they almost melt in your mouth. I can still close my eyes and recall my first taste of a French croissant. No one makes them like the French. Crepes were also a surprise. I couldn’t get enough of them, both the sweet dessert crepes and the savory ones. 

Having studied French culture and history in school, I was thrilled to see places like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame in person. Montmartre was, and is, one of my favorite places; the street artists, cobblestone streets and bistros feel incredibly romantic. The Louvre is amazing, but it can be overwhelming; I tell people to plan what they want to see in advance or let me direct them to the most famous pieces. 

One of the most impressive spots for me was Lourdes. It is a pilgrimage site, and I was amazed to see the extreme effort and pain that so many people endure in hopes of being healed. I even saw people in stretchers being carried up. 

I also visited French Riviera. Cannes is beautiful and has a glamorous cache, but it is quite quaint and has great sandy beaches. Nice is also lovely with a lovely flower market and art museums; it also has popular beaches, but they are quite rocky. 

There’s so much to see and do in France, but most of all, for me, it is about enjoying the French way of life. My favorite thing to do is also stop by a market, pick up some cheeses, wine, and a baguette, and voila, you are ready for a gourmet picnic in a park.