The Beloved Croque Monsieur

French food has always appealed to me. The sauces, the spices and the aromas draw me in like a pin to a magnet. As a young woman, living in France in 1979 and 1980, I had opportunities to sample many different dishes, but it was the croque monsieur I remember most fondly.

Famous Cafes in Paris

Boulangeries and Magasins de vin are essential in the life of many Parisians. So are les cafés. In certain parts of the city, every other shop appears to be a bakery, wine merchant or café.
 
It is a treat to wander down boulevards, admiring the window displays or inhaling the scrumptious smells wafting out of a café or bakery. And, as you stroll along, inevitably you will pass the quintessential French scene – a restaurant with outdoor tables, red awnings and colorful flowers.
 
Many of the cafes you pass in Paris are renowned. The Café Le Procope, founded in 1686 by Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli, a Sicilian Native of Palermo, became a popular meeting place for Molière and other literary types. Continuing this trend, Voltaire, Rousseau and others frequented the establishment. According to French Moments, “Benjamin Franklin, then Ambassador to France, worked on the U.S. Constitution at a table” inside Café Le Procope. Other cafes, such as Le Deux Magots and the Café de Flore became popular gathering places in the 1920’s by many intellectuals and literary types, including Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Hemingway and Picasso.

Farmers’ Markets in France

Most villages in France have a farmers’ market once a week during certain times of the year. These markets are often a mix of stands and stalls offering homemade items, cheeses or a full-range of produce straight from the farm. 

Exploring Paris On Foot

Are you planning a trip to “The City of Light”? Perhaps you have dreamed of strolls along famous Paris streets or through quaint Paris neighborhoods. In this remarkable city, each turn brings a new café, historical site or a fascinating store to explore. And what about those ornate bridges over the River Seine? Many of these bridges offer stellar views.

Andouillettes? No, Thank You

My trip to France in 1979 opened my eyes to a whole new world, especially with regard to French cooking. Raised in a humble family with very few extravagances, we rarely splurged on anything, including food. Madame Dubois, my patron at the Château de Montclair, and her mother, Madame Moulon, introduced me to some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. There were, however a few dishes I would rather forget.

“Le Petit Prince” Returns

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My husband and I recently moved to a smaller home in Arizona and this required lots of downsizing. As I rummaged through old boxes, sorting “keep” piles and “give away” piles, I stumbled across my copy of Le Petit Prince from my stay in France in 1980. My heart lurched as I picked up the well-used book, turned to the first page and discovered  an inscription — long forgotten — from my love interest in France. 

Luscious Libations from the Loire Valley

When I worked as an au pair in the Loire Valley in 1979, I sampled many fabulous wines, from Sauvignons to Cabernets. Once, as I strolled through the farmers market in the Loire Valley, I sampled unfermented new wine. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, chronicling that event.

Award Contests – Yea or Nay

I’ve entered my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, in two contests.

In the spring of 2014, I paid $89 and submitted my book to the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Contest.Later that year, they notified me that I won the Bronze Medal in the “Non-Fiction Travel Category.” There was no monetary prize for this award.

Fabien the Dog

Several readers have asked about the dog who lived at the Château de Montclair during my stint as an au pair in 1979. Fabien was an endearing, scruffy, shepherd mix who lived outdoors, except in the winter months. The children, especially Antoine, loved the dog, but most everyone else either ignored him or shoved him aside. Some days, he was a “hazard” and this excerpt from my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley depicts this sentiment perfectly. In this scene, Marie (a domestic helper at the chateau) and I are tending to the laundry.

Memoir Nightmares

memoirsI’ve often wondered how the main characters in my memoir, the Dubois family, would feel if any of them picked up a copy of French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley. For those of you unfamiliar with my story, I worked as an au pair for Madame and Monsieur Dubois in France in 1979. In 2007, when I decided to write my memoir, I searched the internet using their real names and found nothing. No mention of them at all. Another search using the name of their chateau produced zero results, so with trepidation I progressed with my project. Five years later, when I published my memoir, I revisited the subject of how the Dubois family might react to my story. I had changed the names of everyone I met in France and followed my diary religiously, but I still worried about the reaction of the Dubois Family. My name was on the cover, after all, and I was sure that Madame Dubois still cursed the day she took me in. Read my book and you’ll understand.