EUROPE

FRANCE: CANELE QUEST

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STORY AND PHOTOS   //  BY RON STERN

Sometimes, no matter how much I love  my job as a gumshoe,  I have  to take time out to please  the  wife. In  this case, it was a trip to France in search of… Canele’s of all things. What are Canele’s? Good question. Here is my story:

My wife loves to bake, everything from bread to scones to her latest passion—canelés. These small French pastries are made with milk, eggs, sugar, and flour and are flavored with vanilla and rum. They are baked in special molds, which give them their characteristic striated cone shape. Once done, they have a soft chewy center and a harder caramelized exterior. And they taste…well, divine!

It all started with a recipe and a pan she ordered online and her practicing with me as a guinea pig. The first few didn’t taste right but after a few more rounds, she perfected them. All this was done in advance of a trip we had planned to France, where she planned to compare her canelés to those of the best French bakeries or pâtisseries.

We started out flying to Paris via American Airlines, which has convenient flights from major gateway cities. I fly American whenever possible since I like their service, routing and frequent flyer program.

From Paris, we took the TGV to Dijon where we boarded the L’Impressionniste, one of the luxury canal barges of the European Waterways fleet. This was a seven-day cruise through the Burgundy area where we enjoyed three gourmet meals a day prepared by our personal chef and slowly made our way through some of the prettiest countryside in France. Each day, we stopped at various towns and had time to explore.

More than once, my wife ducked into a pastry shop and came out with a bag filled with these tempting little treats. After sampling them, she gave her seal of approval (big smile on her face) that let me know that they were at least as good as hers but probably better.

We had about four days to spend on the return trip to Paris and part of our stay included the luxury hotel, Fouquet’s Barrièr. Complete with your own personal butler, free minibar stocked with your favorites and plush surroundings, this is the place to experience, at least once in your life, what it’s like to be truly pampered.

Paris is divided into 20 districts (arrondissements), each one containing its own treasures that include some of the world’s best museums, cathedrals, gardens, and, of course, pâtisseries that specialize in pastries and sweets.

Getting around was easy since we ordered a Paris Pass package in advance. This is a great value that gives you access to the main Paris attractions and more than 55 museums. The pass also includes unlimited travel on the metro, buses and RER (trains) within central Paris and a free hop on, hop off bus tour.

The Metro takes a little getting used to but is one of the best ways to get to and from various areas. I liked the St. Michael and St. Germain districts and we spent a good deal of time walking around the cobblestone streets, taking photos and sampling canelés. It has been suggested that canelés were an invention of 18th century nuns in a Bordeaux convent. The confections are typically about two inches in height and, as I found out, quite addicting.

During the tourist season, Paris is crowded with visitors, making me wonder where all these people go to the bathroom? You can find an occasional department store that has restrooms hidden somewhere on the upper levels. We stumbled on one of these (BHV) on a busy shopping street that not only had a restroom but a huge cooking section with canelé molds galore, sending my wife into mild euphoria. Her only problem was figuring out how to squeeze another cooking item into her already crammed rollerboard case. “I’ll get it in there,” she confidently muttered.

Since we did so much walking, we found that this tended to mitigate the extra poundage we probably gained from our dessert intake. I also previously found some lightweight travel clothing through Magellan’s that was very useful. One in particular is called a SCOTTEVEST® (www.scottevest.com) that has 19 pockets and allows me to carry quite a few odds and ends without a backpack. For more information on the many features that SCOTTEVEST has to offer take a look at our Gear to Go column of our Fall issue. 

As our time in France came to an end, we made our way back to the airport and back home. Our memories were still strong, lingering in our jet-lagged haze, but it was comforting to know that whenever the mood struck, we could always bake our way back to the land rich in history and canelés.

 

INSIDER TIPS:

The most famous landmark in Paris is without doubt the Eiffel Tower but its also one of the most busy attractions in the entire city, to avoid the insane lines book a guided tour prior to your arrival from Easy Pass Tours (www.paris.easypasstours.com). For just €40 euros you will Skip-the-line and gain direct access to the elevators as you get a historical introduction from your host. Best decision you will make. 

Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière Paris

46, Avenue George V
75008 Paris, France
P. +33 (0) 1 40 69 60 00
www.fouquets-barriere.com

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