Usually on Sunday we run a piece for an out of town restaurant under the header of Road Trips, since people often head out of town in the summer. Today, to finish up our French-themed week concluding with Bastille Day today, the piece will be about food experiences very far away. Specifically, the South of France, one of my favorite places in the world.
The first time there, I didn’t eat at all, preferring to sit on the tiny pebbles on the beach at Villefranche-Sur-Mer looking for sea glass with ML. Another time I drove the coast with my sisters, and popped into a small store and got several pieces of cheese and a baguette from the bakery next door, and some wine from a third storefront. It made for a nice beach picnic.
On another trip I walked the Promenade de la Croisette In Cannes, all alone, settling on a blue bench with a little bag of gougeres, which I purchased by the kilo. (That just sounds so much more daunting than ounces.) The beach in front of me was pretty large, with a long stretch to the water. Roasting bodies were everywhere, in various stages of European undress, periodically cooling off in the water or on one of those floating barges like in the movie, "To Catch a Thief." When our family tried this, it was hard not to step on someone.
A few years ago, we had a large group with us on an Eat Club cruise. A lovely couple who had cruised with us a few times really wanted to take us to dinner. To be truthful, we should have been taking them, because they had provided such fun to all the groups they had been part of, they should have had billing as entertainment. They were older though, and the really fancy place that they wanted to go was only open for dinner. It was too late for them. And for Tom, so ML and I wandered around the cruise terminal environs.
For some reason, every time we have been to Monaco, it is either right before the Grand Prix or right after it, This means that the area around the places you might need to walk is all fenced off. An extreme nuisance that we figured out by the second time. On the plus side, the entire waterfront in the marina is lined with very cool pop-up bars and restaurants, sort of like one of our food festivals. Only very European. It is fairly heavenly in Monaco, so outdoor dining is the norm.
ML and I set out in the afternoon for the Casino Royale (its non-movie name is Casino de Monte-Carlo), which is part of a complex that includes the outrageously exclusive Hotel de Paris and Cafe de Paris. It’s accessed by a singular drive and ends in a cul-de-sac, which will forever be remembered in my mind as the spot my sister exited a cab and the entire contents of her handbag fell onto the ground. Des Americains!!!
This trip was a little less attention-grabbing. ML and I walked the perimeter of the marina past the banks and arrived in the cul-de-sac full of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys and yes, Aston Martins. Too many Mercedes to mention. In a place such as this, that’s like a Ford. Our first stop was the Hotel de Paris, where the enormous floral arrangements scent the air. These are worth the price of admission, which is high enough to admit only the kinds of people in James Bond movies, or the passengers of the cars out front. These people never drive their own cars.
After a few minutes of gawking, we moved over to the casino, which is a peculiar place. Prive was the word here, meaning you are not invited. Well, maybe you could be, but not us. The place was empty, and apparently gambling for very high rollers takes place behind closed doors. This ain’t Vegas.
Stepping on the very cobblestones that held my sister’s pennies the year before, ML and I walked over to the Cafe de Paris. (pictured.) We wanted to see if Tom’s report from the year before was accurate. Was there really a $1,200 soup here? We didn’t see it, but we didn’t want to spend the money to eat with the real people, settling on a tourist section for our little snack. It had a great view of the cul-de-sac where the beautiful people arrived. We paid our 9E for the 6 oz coke and some snack I can’t even remember and moved on.
The way back to the ship passed a Laduree. This outpost is sort of tucked away behind the casino and on the water. Laduree is one of my favorite pretty spaces in the world. Starting in Paris in 1862, this chain of glamorous patisseries most famous for their pastel macarons has now made its way across the pond to where else? NYC and Beverly Hills. I’m not a macaron fan, but I would pay to just sit here. Fortunately, they have much else, and we stopped briefly for some tea and a pastry.
By this time it was early evening, and we dropped in on some of the pop-ups surrounding the marina. Impossibly Eurohip, these are pulsing places befitting the owners of the yachts parked just steps away. But not us. Interesting social observance nonetheless.
We landed at a quiet place near the ship which was quite good, and quiet and the perfect way to end the outing. Quai des Artistes has an indoor space, an outdoor space, and an outdoor space covered in plastic. We chose a table right by the door under the overhang. The uber fattiness of European butter was the subject of most of our conversation about the food. It was divine on this crusty country French bread. ML got a salad and I got a roasted Cod with saffron and some risotto. It was exactly right for this little French bistro by the sea. What wowed us was at the adjacent table - an enormous tower of seafood. I hope this was even half as good as it looked.
When the ship’s horn warned us that departure was imminent, we left. And sailed away in the darkness, the twinkle of lights of Monaco getting smaller by the minute.