In the spring of 2008, I traveled to the south of France and northern Italy with my mother, aunt, two cousins, and a friend. I looked forward to the majestic cathedrals and castles, the landscapes, French and Italian boys, and shopping. But what I dreamed about the most was food, glorious, food! From the first Panini in Marseilles to my last gelato in Italy, the trip of a lifetime proved to be a culinary delight.
After the boat trip back from the ominous Chateau d’If, food was the first thing on our minds before getting back on the bus. We made our way into a small cafÃ© and had the first of many memorable Panini sandwiches. The warm bread with the mozzarella and ham were heavenly! With the breeze of the Mediterranean Sea wafting through the opened door of the cafÃ©, each morsel of the Panini left me wanting another. Within minutes back on the bus I was asleep and dreaming of my first Panini.
Within a couple of hours we checked into our first hotel. Well….hotel is not the correct description…it was a castle! The Chateau Hotel de Rechegude resides in the region of the Cote du Rhone vineyards. Even though dinner was too sophisticated for my 16-year old palate, the breakfasts did not let me down. The buffet consisted of creamy scrambled eggs, crunchy waffles, airy croissants, an assortment of jams, and butter that I could eat by the tablespoons.
For our second dinner in Provence, we stopped in a cafeteria. At first my cousins and I didn’t say anything; the look on our faces said it all: “We are in France, and you are taking us to a cafeteria!” However, as we wandered down the aisle of food beyond the cases, our look of disgust melted into mouth-watering glee. There were rotisserie chickens, mussels steaming in white wine sauce, chicken cordon bleu oozing with cheese, an assortment of fresh salads and vegetables, complimented with fresh baked bread. It was here that I had my first French sorbet; the flavor was passion fruit, it was so good I wanted another. My mother denied my request but my cousins, friend, and I would make up for it in the remainder of the days.
Every day after that when we were given free time, we ventured out to find our treat. The most diverse selection of sorbet was found in Nice across from the Cathedral Sainte Reparte; from Tomato-Basil to Chewing Gum, but I stuck with my Passion flavor. There we sat capturing the spectacular architecture of the cathedral in our minds, listening to the people talking in their native French language while eating our favorite flavor of sorbet.
Our gastronomic adventures continued while walking the steep, wavy streets through the towns of Italy’s Cinque Terra. Open-air food markets displayed flaming red tomatoes, fish caught 5:00 that morning, and vibrant colored flowers. The aroma of garlic and basil floated through the air as we ate our huge plate of spaghetti; the tomato sauce coated each strand that we sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese. Each town we walked through, we indulged in a scoop of the creamy, rich gelato!
Perfumed hillsides of lavender, the massive Pont du Gard Roman bridge, flirting with French boys, dipping toes in the Mediterranean, and bonding with family and friends are some of my recollections. However, in the forefront of my mind are the brilliant colors, tastes, and aromas of the French and Italian cuisine. I will traverse the cobblestone streets some day to indulge in their gastronomic delights.
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