Travelogue France 2003
9/28/03 – 9/30/03: Paris, France
10/1/03 – 10/25/03: Avignon, France
Flying Denver to Paris via Chicago on United, First class (using up United frequent flyer miles before United goes belly up.) The flight from Denver to Chicago is on a 767-300 “2-class”, which is a plane they bill as having first and coach, but it is really business class and coach. Calling this first class is absurd.
Arrival in Chicago, no problem. Beautiful UA International First Class lounge. Nice hors d’oeuvres.
Departure delayed 1 hour due to equipment problems with the plane. Nice seat, good food, nice flight but a lot of turbulence due to a hurricane off the coast of the southeastern US.
Monday September 29, 2003
Arrive, no problem but 1 hour late. Air france bus to Gare de Lyon.
Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon. Great location, but as with all train station hotels, potential noise problems. My room is pretty quiet with only the occasional rumble of trains over tracks. People on the other side of the hotel complain that they can hear all the train station announcements. That would drive me nuts. Free wireless internet at the hotel for the month of September. Nice.
Walking tour of Paris, then knife shopping at Delherine, then the Louvre (alone), and Bertillion ice cream.
Dinner at <where>. Just OK. Took so long that I left before desert to go home and get sleep.
Tuesday September 30, 2003
Breakfast of pain au chocholate and a double espresso at a snack bar at the train station. Hotel only offers a €10 breakfast.
Group visit to Allesse <?> cheese caves. Fascinating. Some fantastic cheeses. Gruyere from the high alps of Switzerland like I have never had before. A Compte reserve that was a masterpiece. Fantastic, wonderful experience.
Unmemorable lunch somewhere near Place Madeline, then fantastic pastries at Laudurée (on Place Madeline.) Then shopping at gourmet shops. Bought several exotic fruit, and finally found out that the amazing mignardise I had had last time I was in Paris are simply ripe tomatillos.
Dinner at Ô Rebelle, 24 rue Traversière, 01-43-40-88-98. Nice appetizer of crab in puff pastry, overly strong entrée of mackerel (not recommended), and fantastic desert of a moist hazelnut cake with a quenelle of rum ice cream, berry coulis, and crème anglaise.
Wednesday October 1, 2003
Up, quick coffee and pastry. TGV to Avignon.
Avignon TGV station, we pick up 5 cars and deliver everyone and their luggage to our several houses and apartments. The house where I am staying is just across the Rhone from the central part of Avignon, on the island of Ille de Piot. The house is a bit old, and decorated in vintage 1960 orange and brown, but it is well maintained and pleasant and has a nice yard. There are 5 of us staying here. The landlady speaks no English, so as she showed us around I translated for the other 4 guys. It was a fun challenge. Surprisingly, we had no problems at all divvying up the rooms, and though I got the room that I wanted, I later discovered that the bed was heinous, with no structure at all. Lying in it feels like lying in a hammock.
After everyone was settled into their respective domiciles we reconvened in the square outside of the Palais des Papes. Chef Andy took us on a break-neck paced walk through Avignon. I don’t think it helped anyone at all. Mostly we were just running after him. He has some kind of a Jedi teleportation trick where one moment you’re right behind him, and the next he’s a block ahead.
Dinner at Restaurant 75. Excellent. Good time had by all. Amuse bouche of a tiny cup of mushroom soup, appetizer was a quenelle of salt cod puree on toast (fantastic). Main was goose in filo, then for desert individual sized tarte tatins.
Thursday October 2, 2003
Up at 6am to meet the group outside the Palais des Papes (PdP) at 7:30. From there we walked to Les Halles and bought pre-cooked ingredients for lunch. We wont actually be cooking today. Next we drove 45 minutes north to the town of Suze la Rousse and the Universite de Vins where our school kitchen is. Then Chef Andy broke the news to us: Michel Depardan, our primary teacher while in France suffered a massive brain hemorrhage the night before and would be hospitalized indefinitely if he survived at all.
This is really terrible news. Chef Depardan is said to be brilliant, entertaining, energetic, and an all around great guy. In addition, he is a close person friend of our chef instructors, and Chef Andy is clearly very upset. This does not mean that the program is over – we will be taught by Chef Andy and Chef Gallit here in France, just as we were in America, but, some things will have to be cut because Chef Deparan is not available. We will make the best of it.
We clean and set up the kitchen, retrieving items from the cooking school’s store room, get a tour of the Palace that houses the University du Vin, then have our lunch. After lunch we are taken to a lecture room for an incredibly long talk on the wines of the Cote du Rhone region. I’m sitting in the front row and was out cold within seconds of the lights going out. Later friends told me that everyone in the room was asleep including one of our Chef Instructors. The lecturer was very pissed off. After lecture we went back downstairs for a wine tasting where I hated every wine we tasted. The lecturer asked what we would serve with a particular wine. I leaned over to a friend sitting near me and said, “I’d serve this wine with an apology.”
Friday October 3, 2003