All of France
Philip Haslett of luxury DMC Kairos Travel takes us down to the fishermen’s wharf for a sampling of bouillabaisse, a simple stew as iconic to the region as the coastline itself.
Can you tell us about a particular dish from this region?
For the Southeast of France, I have to stick to a very classic dish that conjures up images of Marseille, the Mediterranean, the sound of cicadas, and the wonderful musical accent of the locals often referred to as the accent du soleil or the accent of sunshine. The dish is bouillabaisse: a simple fisherman’s stew initially made from the unsold fish at the market. Originally this dish was not to be found on the finest tables, but over time things have changed. Each family in Marseille has its own recipe that varies depending on the fish available that day. Usually featured are gurnard, conger, and rascasse. I also take particular delight in the wonderfully simple name of the dish: bouille, to boil, and baisse, to turn down. When the fish broth boils, turn it down! Of course, the secret is in the broth itself!
In your opinion, where can the best bouillabaisse be found?
There are many excellent restaurants where you can enjoy a traditional bouillabaisse across the region, but perhaps a special mention for originality should go to Lionel Levy, Michelin starred chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Marseille. If you want to discover the taste of this iconic specialty with a twist, then try his signature dish, “Milkshake de bouille-abaisse,” which, rest assured, does not resemble a milkshake but is just as delicious. Take it from me!
How can guests best enjoy this dish?
In the best of all worlds, a bouillabaisse has to be enjoyed with the Mediterranean Sea within view! Ideally, with a pastis as an aperitif and followed by a white wine from the vineyards of Cassis, although many others work as well. And lastly, in this perfect daydream, since the garlicky rouille sauce is an essential component of this dish and has a habit of staying very present for some time after you’ve finished your meal, a hammock or sunbed for a siesta afterward is a must. Under the shade of the Mediterranean pin parasol pine trees, you’ll be lulled by cicadas singing and tummy rumbling contentedly.
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Sarah Latrous of luxury DMC Kairos Travel brings you inland past Normandy’s iconic beaches to some lesser-traveled gems of Western France.
What draws you to the nature of this area?
Normandy is well-known for the significance of its history and, in particular, the famous Normandy landing beaches. The coast is renowned for its beauty and iconic seaside cities such as Deauville, beloved by Parisians, and Mont-Saint-Michel Bay, a must-see wonder of French heritage with one of the world’s most famous abbeys! What’s more, Normandy also boasts unmatched countryside with beautiful pastures, affectionately known as Norman bocage, dappled with lovely cottages called chaumière and half-timbered houses.
What other icons of natural beauty are hiding in Normandy?
In addition to great sand beaches and limestone cliff coasts, other natural treasures can be found deeper inland. For example, the Mortain Waterfalls are the perfect location for nature lovers en route to Mont Saint-Michel. The towering 25-meter waterfall, with its powerful flow, is the biggest in Western France. While on this hike, you’ll also find smaller waterfalls, the Cance River that flows through Armorican sandstone, and a narrow canyon. Exceptional flora and fauna grow all year round. This mountain landscape in Normandy is incredibly unusual and remains a unique and unexpected natural heritage of Normandy.
Any other pit stops?
There is one more hidden spot not to miss. While passing through the village of Mortain, you’ll arrive at Montjoie Hill, the highest point of Mortain. At the very top, you can visit a beautiful tiny chapel called la petite Chapelle Saint-Michel, inspired by the famous Mont Saint-Michel. Far from the busy cities, take a moment just for you at peace with nature, with no noise apart from birdsong. From there, the beautiful views offer the Mortanais, and on a clear day, Brittany and beloved Mont Saint-Michel!
Philip Haslett of luxury DMC Kairos Travel dishes all things northern Burgundy—where he lived for 16 years working as a tour guide, luxury hotel barge captain, and commercial balloon pilot—giving us a handful of precious cultural gems of the area.
Tell us about this hidden treasure.
For many, Burgundy is associated with wine, mustard, Beaune, and Dijon. While these four are indeed important features of the region, they represent just one very specific aspect of it. Burgundy has one of the richest collections of cultural heritage in France beyond the aforementioned cultural hotspots. Northern Burgundy includes one of the last major Romanesque constructions in France, the Basilica of Vézelay. It was built at the same time as the first major Gothic construction in France, the Cathedral of Sens, which happens to be where my parents were married! In this area, the Abbey de Fontenay was the blueprint for all Cistercian abbeys in the country, whereas the battlefield of Alesia holds the heritage of Julius Cesar conquering and occupying Gaul. Of course, the list continues with beautiful medieval villages such as Noyers or Flavigny sur Ozerain, where Chocolat starring Johnny Depp and Juliet Binoche was filmed. Of course, in the north, Chablis vineyards lead the pack. Still, some delicious finds also await to be discovered in St. Bris, Irancy, and Chitry, which boast local specialties to taste bien sur!
If you had to name just one jewel in Burgundy’s crown, what would it be?
To pick just one would be an impossible task. However, everyone I have taken to this lesser-known part of Burgundy has left feeling like they had discovered something truly special and unique. Their only desire is to come back as soon as possible. Burgundy is at its best in June and September, and of course in the summer months, as well.
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