Secret France - Part 2: Central & The North
On the banks of the Loing river in the Loiret department lies Montargis; the self-proclaimed “Venice of the Gâtinais. With its half-timbered, flower fronted houses and placid canals it is a truly unique destination. A small town with a an eclectic history, over the years it has acted as a stronghold for Frankish King Clovis I and in the 14th and 15th centuries, a royal residence, not to mention that it was free of taxes for three centuries! Besides the physical beauty and interesting history of the town, there is also something for the gourmands amongst you… Pralines came to life in Montargis over 400 years ago, and the original shop is still in business!
Chez Georges & The Polidor (Paris)
If you find yourself spending a night or two in Paris, perhaps either side of your luxury barge cruise, then pop by the charming Chez Georges bar in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. An institution since 1952, the crowd here is a wonderful melange of old, young, locals & tourists and the interior is as Parisian as it gets. Small wooden tables, framed black and white photos and a genuinely friendly staff make it an excellent place to sit with a glass of vin rouge and talk away the early evening hours.
If you find yourself a little peckish after your exploits at Chez Georges then head over to The Polidor, just a few steps from the famed Odeon theatre. Upon entering, take a look around, the large wall mounted mirrors and the small wooden booths look a little familiar do they not? That’s because the Polidor was used as one of the main filming locations for Woody Allen’s 2011 film ‘Midnight in Paris’ and a number of the scenes involving Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemingway were shot here. Take a seat, settle in to the warm, exuberant feel of the place, and if you’re in the mood for food the boeuf bourguignon is some of the best in the capital.
At the junction of the Canal du Nivernais and the River Yonne, Auxerre is a beautiful city and a pleasant port, with elegant buildings gracing its waterfront. There’s plenty to explore here, from the stunning 5th century Saint- Germain Abbey on the banks of the Yonne, to the Salle Eckmuhl – a resplendent collection of Louis – Nicolas Davout’s military uniforms, personal correspondence and extensive library. Davout, Napoleon’s ‘Iron Marshal’, was a French General and Marshal of the Empire throughout the Napoleonic era and he was considered to be quite possibly Napoleon’s finest commander.
If the history and the architecture hasn’t quite sold it as a place of interest for you, then allow us to seal the deal. Gougère. If you find yourself in Burgundy, it simply must be tried. These tiny delights involve choux dough being mixed with cheese of the Gruyère or Comté variety, and baked until golden brown and are best sampled when they’re fresh from the oven!