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Category Archives: France

Paris was my final destination in Europe before heading home to Hawaii. The City of Light was also the last stop on my last Euro-trip 2 years ago. That time I visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the catacombs, and did a lot of the must-do touristy things. This time around, I would only be in town for 3 nights and 2 full days and decided to try to casually soak up a little of the city rather than run around it looking at sights.
Home base for me was just outside of the city limits to the south in a place called Arcueil where I had yet another great Couchsurfing experience. Thanks Viet! My host Viet’s place was a few minutes walking from the metro and I could be in the heart of paris in less than 15 minutes.
Paris is home to some of the best restaurants in the world and I made sure to budget some money for a proper meal or two. I thought I had made a reservation for Pierre Gagnaire’s 3 star place, but when I showed up they informed me that I had booked for Gaya, his more casual restaurant. It was disappointing to not get to eat at one of Paris’ best restaurants, but my meal at Gaya was amazing. I had the menu of the day, which consisted of a cold mussel and bean soup, roast chicken with mushrooms, and a tart but delicious dessert. The flavors were great and everything was executed to perfection. The wine was a perfect companion for the food.
Honolulu lacks diversity in non-Asian ethnic eateries. Our only Ethiopian place was a short lived pop-up that had a degree of sourcing difficulties. I took advantage of multicultural Paris and had the best Ethiopian food of my life at Queen of Sheba. The injera was so sour and so good.
My “last supper” and biggest splurge meal of the trip was at Passage 53. A friend of mine joined me and we did the tasting menu. It was one of the best meals of my trip and Passage 53 lived up to the hype. The dishes were creative, flavorful, and well balanced. The “white dish” consisting of squid and cauliflower stood out visually and taste-wise. Thanks to Ono Kine Grindz for yet another great recommendation.
I had a brief, but really nice stay in Paris. Just as before, the people were great, the food was amazing, and it was difficult to leave this special city. Paris was an ideal last stop on this great adventure and I hope to visit again in the future!

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My final WWOOFing experience of this trip was different from the previous two, but, like the others, I learned a lot and had an amazing time. As in the Drome, my WWOOF host in Dordogne was an English teacher. Corinne was covering for her mom, who was in Korea for a Slow Food conference, as WWOOF host and couldn’t have done a better job. She lives in a beautifully restored farmhouse in the southwest of France that features a large organic garden as well as some fruit and nut trees. The barn has been restored and is rented to visitors. Of course no one was booked for the time I was there, so I got some very nice accommodations.
Corinne makes sauces and chutneys with some of the fruits and vegetables from the garden and sells them at Christmas markets. I got to make this year’s batch of fig chutney and chili tomato sauce for her. I also prepared a few meals. It was a pleasure cooking in her kitchen. The place was equipped with a professional quality range, heavy pots and pans, and an island that was more of a continent. My more conventional WWOOF duties were harvesting beans, tomatoes, figs, and walnuts.
Corinne left me her car to use to explore the countryside while she was at work. Her car was a stick and I had never driven one before, managed to get around with only stalling a few times. I went to some great open air markets, the Saturday market in Thiviers being the biggest and best. I also visited a cool cave in Tourtoirac, but they didn’t allow cameras.
The Dordogne is duck country and I made sure to sample the local delicacies. I had a couple very nice and inexpensive lunches in neighboring towns during the week. On my last night, Corinne and I went to the only restaurant with a star in the area, L’Imaginaire. The food was very good, but not life changing. We both opted to get the 25euro lobster supplement as our main. It was tasty, but not the best value. Overall, the meal was good, but not great. The company made up for any shortcomings in value.
The highlight of my time in Dordogne was when Corinne took me to her school. I told her how I went to school with my previous WWOOF host and she decided to give it a shot. She teaches at one of the top hotel management colleges in Europe and was covering the role of food critics and food bloggers with her students. I talked with her students about those subjects and the Hawaii food scene. The students were great and the day went really well. They even invited me to a party that night. I had a great time at the party. They were all extremely nice and excellent hosts.
My week in Dordogne flew by and it was very hard to leave. All of the students (especially you, Arthur) were great and I hope to keep in touch with them. Corinne could not have been a better host and made me feel very welcome. Dordogne is a place that I would like to come back to and spend more time. It was everything I hoped the French countryside to be and more. The people made a beautiful place a special place; a place I fell in love with.

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My second WWOOFing experience took place in the “Tuscany of France,” the Drome. Located just above Provence in the southeast of France, the climate and environment was very similar to its Italian counterpart. Though different than my time spent WWOOFing in the Tuscany of Italy, this experience was very special and taught me a great deal.
The beginning of the story was funny. I arrived at the wrong farm through a series of miscommunications and coincidences, but things worked out for the better. My wonderful host, Odette, was kind enough to take me in despite having declined my request to WWOOF at her place and having another WWOOFer arriving on the same day.
This time WWOOFing included very little field time. WWOOFing doesn’t necessarily mean laboring in a garden and can include a variety of other activities. I got to help out a little in the kitchen and in the garden, but most of my “work” was done away from the farm.
Odette teaches at a forestry school and brings her WWOOFers to class to talk to her students about where they come from and places they have traveled to. I really enjoyed talking to her students about Hawaii and my current trip. They were attentive, polite, and kind enough to feign interest while I blathered away. I was thoroughly impressed with both the faculty and the students and wish I could have spent more time with them.
One day Odette took us to a butcher/cheese/wine shop after school. It was the single greatest seller of things I love that I have ever been to. They had every part of every animal, a variety of house made pates, terrines, and sausages, a killer assortment of cheese, and a wine selection that can hold its own anywhere. This place makes Eataly look like a 7-11. The sommelier was outstanding and hooked me up with a few bottles to take back home. I could have spent hours/days in this place.
My co-WWOOFer, Julia, and I had a nice day trip to Avignon. When we returned to Montelimar, we had dinner at one of Odette’s friend’s house. This friend also hosts WWOOFers but didn’t have any at the moment. Along with her husband, she converted an old stone barn into a very beautiful home. If I hadn’t just met them, I would have taken pics of their house. It was that nice. We had a great meal featuring homemade pate, seafood gratin, and three local wines.
There is one restaurant in Odette’s beautiful little town of St. Marcel les Sauzet. Le Priorie received two Michelin forks, which are the small-scale equivalent of a star. I had an excellent meal there that included foie gras three different ways, veal kidneys and sweetbreads, and a beautiful dessert.
Odette is a dedicated nature lover and took Julia and I on a couple hikes. The first place she took us is full of fossilized seashells despite being hundreds of kilometers from the sea. She pointed out many of the local plants and taught us quite a bit about the environment surrounding her home. Wild thyme, fennel, rosemary, and juniper seemed to be everywhere.
For my last night in town, Odette’s son Olivier took Julia and I to a house party. It was nice being around people my age and they were all incredibly nice. In fact, everyone I came across in the Drome was beyond nice. I can’t recall a place I’ve been to that had nicer people.
My week spent in the Drome seemed like a (very long and full) day. We squeezed a lot of things into a small amount of time and I enjoyed every second of it. Odette was an incredible host and I am truly thankful that she took in an accidental WWOOFer and showed him how she lives. The beauty of the Drome is only surpassed by the kindness and hospitality of its inhabitants. It was a week I will never forget.

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After a really great three days helping Odette at school, she gave my co-WOOFer Julia and I Friday off. Odette recommended we visit nearby Avignon and we followed her advice. Avignon is a beautiful medieval city that is about one hour by train from Montelimar.
The city is most well known as being the home to some Popes for a period of time in the 14th century. Our first stop in the city was a visit to the Palais de Papes. It is a very big compound that is more fortress than palace. The real Pope’s house is much more beautiful, but it was cool walking around the French equivalent.
The other big tourist attraction is the real “bridge to nowhere,” the bridge of Avignon. The city is bordered to the north by the Rhone and the partial remains of an old bridge can be accessed (from one side only) for a small fee. There are a couple museums and cathedrals in Avignon, but we opted to walk around the city and admire the gothic architecture instead. There are also canals, some of which have old mills that were used to power something.
Now for the important part, lunch. I did my usual research for dining options and decided on going to Numero 75. It is an upscale, but not crazy-upscale place that serves up some really good food. It was very hard walking past several much cheaper places that looked great and were packed with locals enjoying their lunch, but I’m happy I tried Numero 75. I had a foie gras starter and braised pig cheek for my main. Dessert was a pastry with sea salt caramel butter cream, raspberries and raspberry sorbet. The food was really good and the service was outstanding.
My time in Avignon was short and highlighted with a delicious meal. It was similar to the few hours I spent in Siena, but I preferred Siena’s scenery and food. Avignon was still beautiful and is a place I would go back to.

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The south of France is one place that has been on my “must go” list. I took a few days to get a taste of the region before resuming WWOOFing. I Couchsurfed with a host that lived about a half hour train ride from Marseille, just outside of Aix en Provence. The only eventful thing I did around her house was attend the saturday morning market, which was really nice. I scored venison, boar, herb, and pepper salamis, 3 types of chevre, and some really nice bread (all local and direct from farmers).
My host, Diane, let me know that I could not leave Marseille without visiting “les callanques” They are a series of limestone mountains on the sea that have small bays between them. She was right, the callanques were beautiful.
Marseille is famous for being the home of bouillabaisse and aioli. I did my usual thorough research and found the best place in town, which in this case means the world, for bouillabaisse: Chez Fonfon. The only problem was that it was a Saturday night, they were booked, closed on Sunday, and I would be leaving on Monday. I wasn’t leaving Marseille without having bouillabaisse and I don’t settle for second best. I got an order of Marseille magic to go. Fonfon is located right on the water and I planned on eating my very expensive takeaway on the dock in front of the restaurant. The problem this time was that there was no silverware in the bag with the food. An establishment of this caliber does not typically do takeaway and did not have plastic cutlery. I walked a couple miles to the train station, got plastic silverware at McDonald’s, and had my meal in their dining area before heading back to Diane’s. It was my first time eating at the franchise I loath the most in several years, but I made an exception given the circumstances. The bouillabaisse was incredible and worth all of the effort. In addition to the
signature red broth there were 5 types of fish, one of which was new to me. It was extremely fatty and oh, so good. My happy meal also included toasted bread with the best aioli I’ve ever had and another condiment that was spicy and I actually preferred over the aioli.
The other Marseille specialty is pieds et paquets, which is lamb feet and stuffed lamb intestine. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal delicacy and this was not the season. There are also a lot of ethnic eateries in Marseille, especially African. My only regret for the city is not trying one of these places.
I didn’t spend much time in Marseille and there is a whole lot more to see, do, and eat in France’s second city. Due to the brevity of my stay, I can’t offer a fair evaluation of Marseille. I enjoyed the time I spent there and wouldn’t mind going back in the future.

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