Saturday, November 29, 2014

Revolution in the French gastronomic capital

Have you heard about the sac gourmet, aka the French-style doggy bag? Probably not since doggy bag almost non-existent there! Yet, doggy bags are trying hard to make their way into French restaurants. This would be a total revolution for the culinary etiquette of France. Let us tell you why this is going to be a rough task. 
First of all, when you get lunch or dinner in a French restaurant, you would be surprised about the proportion of food served. While it may be over-sized in the US, it appears to be most of the time the right amount in France. 
Food is also sacred in France and this is one of the other main reasons of the lack of doggy bags there. Many chefs and restaurants would never allow or even consider putting left overs in a bag or a box! And if it is part of the French culture to raise their kids to finish their plates, France is still a strong wasteful country. In 2011, French people threw away 21% of the food they bought (about 200 lbs. per person/year!). The EU declared 2014 the “year against food waste”. 
By the end of 2014, only 31% of the restaurants in France already offer a doggy bag service to their customers or would be willing to. In Lyon, the gastronomic capital, a couple companies offer doggy bags to restaurants, try to change people’s mind, and warn about food waste. 
It is not sure that doggy bags will make their way in France and if they do, this will be a big change in French gastronomic culture. We will keep you posted!

Photo from

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nancy, son Art Nouveau et ses Bergamotes

When you hear Nancy, you think of the East of France, you think of the magnificent Place Stanislas (or Place Stan’ as the locals call it), you might know the Ecole de Nancy, and that’s it. Since we were already in Metz last week, why shouldn’t we stop in Nancy? The city has many treasures you’re going to like, believe me. How many of you have had in their house that famous poster with a black cat (La tournée du Chat Noir avec Rodolphe Salis) hung on the wall? That poster is a pure example of the Art Nouveau movement, and the Ecole de Nancy was indeed, the spearhead of the movement in France. If you are a fan of Art Nouveau, you should definitely check out the Villa Majorelle and the museum of the School. Back to Place Stan’, built in 1750’s and classified UNESCO World Heritage Site 31 years ago, is an astonished pedestrian square in Nancy. At first you might think of Versailles while admiring the gold, the details and the beauty of each building and gate. But you are still in the East of France. Time is running out! Run to the closest confectioner and buy a pack of Bargamotes de Nancy, a specialty of the city. This golden and transparent sweet is a mix of cooked sugar and natural essential oils from the bergamot. Jump in the train, next stop: the German border!

View of the Place Stanislas, Nancy

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Metz, la Ville verte de l'est aux multiples facettes

La Porte des Allemands, Metz

Sorry, this time you don’t pronounce the ‘t’ in Metz. But no worries, many French people don’t even know it either. With its proximity to Germany and Luxembourg, Metz offers an interesting mix between a strong Germanic culture and Romance influence. There are many things you should see if you are in town. Take the TGV (French speed train) from Paris and make it all the way east in just 1h30min! As soon as you will step in the train station also called the Imperial Station Palace, you will be impressed by its facade. Take the time to visit the Saint-Stephen Cathedral with the largest expanse of stained-glass windows in the world, or the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, one of the oldest churches in the world. One of the last bridge castles in France is located in Metz. It is called the German’s Gate (la Porte des Allemands). If you are not in the mood for visiting old buildings, chill in the numerous public gardens thanks to which Metz gained its nickname of the Green City. Don’t hesitate to visit the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a branch of the Parisian Pompidou arts center. Jump in the train, we won't go far away next week!

View on Metz historic center from the Centre Pompidou-Metz

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arras, son beffroi, sa Grand-Place et ses Boves

Unlike many French words, the last ‘s’ in Arras should be pronounced. In between Lille and Paris, Arras is the historic capital of the Artois region and has a history older than 2,000 years! Back in the day, in the Iron Age, the Gauls established Nemetocenna, the ancestor of nowadays Arras. Like Lille, the city was once part of the Spanish Netherlands in the 17th century. Thousands of visitors come each year to Arras to explore the rich architecture and the historic buildings the city has to offer.

Here’s a list of why you should visit Arras if you’re nearby:
  1. The Town Hall and its Belfry (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  2. The Boves (a maze located 10 meters underneath the streets, formerly chalk quarries from the 10th century, the galleries were used by the allied troops during WW1)
  3. The Grand-Place and the Place des Héros
  4. The Saint-Vaast Abbey
  5. The Nemetacum site (the ancient town of Arras founded 2,000 years ago)
  6. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial (6 mi North of Arras)
Town Hall and Belfry, Arras

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lille, la rayonnante capitale des Flandres

The capital of the Flanders has a rich history. Lille was not always French and the Vauban Citadel is a big heritage of the wars during the reign of Louis XIV. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Lille faces social issues due to the decline of the coal, mining and textile industries. In the last decades, the city started a large cultural program and it is nowadays an important cultural hub in France, offering many cultural festivals and exhibitions. With its proximity to international cities such as London, Brussels and Paris, the 4th biggest metropolitan area of France is easy to access and commute. Charles de Gaulle was born in the Vieux-Lille, the old district of Lille, where you have to spend a few hours on your next visit there and wander in the narrow cobble-stoned streets! Eventually, you should try some of the local and Flemish typical dishes like the Carbonnade flammande and have a piece of Maroilles, a very distinct cheese from the North. If by any chance you are in Lille the first weekend of September, you won't miss the Braderie de Lille, the biggest flea market in Europe, with more than two million people bargaining in the streets.

 Place aux oignons, in Vieux-Lille