Feed all your senses near Nice

The most exciting thing about traveling is the discovery of new experiences that stimulate all your senses. Well, this hike around Cap d’Antibes in Côte d’Azur did just that! It is one of the highlights of our trip to the French Riviera. My daughter and I took the bus from Nice to Antibes and then caught a local bus to our starting point at Phare. We hiked to the town’s tiny chapel on the top of the hill at the highest point of Cap d’Antibes with mesmerising view of the Mediterranean Coastline, with St. Tropez to the south and Italy to the north.  We descended down on a little long stone path to the beach at the edge of town. After more than an hour walk in the blazing sun, we arrived at Plage de la Garoupe looking for the signpost for the path that circles the Cap. But this point, we were already exhausted, sweaty, thirsty and hungry. When we saw the cluster of seafront restaurants, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to refuel and rehydrate. We were delighted with a delicious local fresh seafood meal by the sea in the typical French leisure style.

With our bodies recharged, we were ready to start our pilgrimage to the southern end of the Cap. We picked up the the costal footpath, Sentier Littoral, at the end of the sandy beach. Along this rocky hike, my daughter and I had the best mother-daughter chat about life as we admired the breathtaking views. She turns 19 in a few months and will be returning to college after the summer so moments like these are food for my soul.

With the recent terror attack in Nice on Bastille Day, it may instill fear in even the most adventurous traveler. We were thankful that we arrived home safely 2 days before the tragedy. On our journey home, I saw a quote on a billboard that continues to resonate with me “Those who live see much. Those who travel see more.” I must add that those who travel feed their senses most. Don’t ever go hungry but just choose your diet carefully!


Vietnamese food in France

imageIf you’ve ever wonder why an Asian country would be known for a delicacy that looks a lot like a baguette sandwich (Bánh mì) just review Vietnam’s history. The French colonized Vietnam for more than 6 decades so there are many French gastronomic influences in the Vietnamese cuisine. They brought delicious ingredients and flavors indigenous to France. While I’m here in France, I tried my favorite Vietnamese dish, Bún gà chä gïò ( grilled chicken, fried egg roll, lettuce, carrot, peanut with vermicelli) and discovered that the favors are ever more French influenced with more intensity and creaminess rather than clean and refreshing taste typical of version in California.


Italian meal for 7 Euros

imageMy daughter and I took the train from Nice to Ventimiglia on the other side of the Italian border today for a shopping spree at the popular Friday market that sprawls more than a kilometer. We got some great deals on handbags and accessories but the best deal was our take home dinner. A bottle of Chianti, a block of goat cheese,  a small loaf of Ciabatta bread, and some apricots, all for 7 Euros!


In seach of French bistro food in Cannes

After 4 days in the South of French, you think I would come across French food as we know it in North America. Not! When we were in Monaco couple days ago, I went searching for Bouchon French Bistro recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook on Provence and the Côte d’Azur. There was no snails, onion soup, nor steak-frites as the guidebook highlighted. The menu was more like California cuisine – organic eggs,cold pressed juices, and smoothies. It turns out Bouchon changed their menu concept in December 2015 and the guide book was published in January 2016. Okay, I guess I should have checked Bouchon’s website first but I am on vacation needed a break from technology. Sometimes it’s best to just wander the streets and look at the menu board and see what people are eating when you walk by their table. Well, we did just that yesterday in Cannes and found a prix fixe menu that included escargots and mussels. Score!


Nice Breakfast in Nice

imageMy first breakfast in the French Rivera was long anticipated but far from healthy. It was absolutely the best almond croissant ever and I didn’t have to go far for it. The highly popular cafe, Chez Maitre Pierre was outside the door of our hotel on Rue Massena. The nutritionist in me had to at least try to balance out my meal with some freshly squeezed orange juice. When I looked around the cafe, this is pretty much standard breakfast for the French. I wonder if the American high protein powerpack breakfast trend will catch on here anytime soon?


Food allergies made easy in Valencia

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My daughter’s lifelong food allergies has become a way of life after living with it for 18 years. When we travel, she often compromises with what and how much she eats depending on the restaurant server’s knowledge of the ingredients. With food allergies on the rise, restaurants are no longer surprised when you ask about food ingredients. Many tend to error on the cautious side and not serve any items if they are uncertain. We appreciate the cautiousness but it narrows the choices down to none at times. All you people with food allergies can properly relate to this problem when you travel. It was so exciting to see a restaurant in the old town of Valencia noting allergens with symbols on the menu. It is not what you would expect to find in a restaurant housed in a medieval building. My daughter was able to eat the duck samosas without having to ask a bunch of questions. They were so delicious, we ordered a another plate.


Amazing new flavors in nouvelle tapas

On our 10th day, we discovered a new twist to in the traditional Tapas at Tapearte (www.tapearte.net), a wine bar bistro filled with locals. All the dishes we had were delicious but the 2 that showed off the innovative flavor combinations are pictured here. The grilled octopus with oreja de judas were tender prieces of octopus on a base of grilled potatoes, topped with wood ear (an edible fungus). The cruchiness of the wood ear combined with the slightly chewy texture of the octopus made this dish delightful. The other dish is “Fresh tuna grilled”. From the simple name on the menu with no description, I didn’t expect much. It turned out to be slices of tuna perfectly cooked to order of doneness over a bed of black pasta (assuming it’s squid ink pasta) and seaweed. The saltiness of the sea enhanced the tuna without needing any other condiment. The seaweed also added beautiful texture to the dish. All I can say about the flaviors is WOW!

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Markets in Spain

imageOn our 9th day in Spain, we immersed ourselves in the old town of Valencia, Ciutat Vella. It’s full of beautiful old buildings and markets. There is no better place to learn about the local diet than to shop at it’s local mercado. This is where you get everything you need to feast on a Mediterranean diet!