Celebrating The Flavours Of France

14 July 2014

It's time to don your beret and pull on your very best striped tee; Bastille Day is again upon us. The French National Holiday, or Le Fete National for our French-speaking counterparts, marks the momentous storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1978. It's a commemoration of the nation's unity during the French Revolution and a celebration replete with military processions, fireworks, and an abundance of feasting and free-flowing wine. To mark the occasion, we've rounded up five of France's finest foodie destinations.

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Parisian Nouvelle Cuisine

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 Deux croissants s'il vous plaît

Charming sidewalk cafes, picnics, bistro lunches, and boulangeries brimming with golden croissants and crusty baguettes are synonymous with Gay Paree. Paris’ culinary landscape is dotted with a staggering 5,000 restaurants that have gastronomes flocking to the city in hoards eager to sample the finest in French fare. Take your time exploring some of the arrondissements and you’ll no doubt stumble upon one of the latest Michelin-star venues – there are at least 25 of these from the likes of Guy Savoy, Alain Passard and Joël Robuchon. The best part about dining in Paris is that many of these gastronomic haunts offer reasonable ‘prix-fixe’ lunchtime menus so you can experience the finesse and flair of these culinary craftsmen without blowing the holiday budget. .........................................................................................................................................................

Marseille Marketplaces

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 The freshest of fish from Marche aux Poissons

Marseille is a treasure trove of history and culture, bursting at the seams with forward-thinking creativity and plenty of fabulous food offerings. Among the chic dining venues that are popping up all over town, this port city has some pretty fantastic markets where wafts of aromatic herbs, freshly baked bread and rows upon rows of colourful produce beckon epicureans to heaving market stalls. The exuberant Le Marché de Noailles is a sensory overload where exotic spices are sold alongside fruits and vegetables, and a visit here will have you feeling as though you've been transported to a vibrant African marketplace.

The most popular market in town is Marche aux Poissons in Vieux-Port where fishermen sell the day's catch straight off their trawlers. You can pick some fresh seafood to cook up yourself, or wander to a waterfront bistro and enjoy a nip of pastis,  an aniseed-flavoured spirit, before tucking into a hearty bouillabaisse crammed with seafood likely caught that very morning. .........................................................................................................................................................

Bouchons in Lyon

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 Sit down to a long, leisurely lunch in Lyon

Where Paris has its delicate haute-cuisine, Lyon is celebrated for its simple, rich fare and revolutionary use of regional produce. With one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in France, this southern city is sprinkled with humble ‘bouchons’ where the focus isn't solely on the meal itself, but on establishing personal connections with waiters in a relaxed, convivial setting. Lunch is the highlight of the day and often turns into a half-day affair - leisurely, lingering and with seemingly endless glasses of wine.

Lyonnaise cuisine has a heavy emphasis on meat - namely offal - and master 'charcutières' around these parts take the nose-to-tail approach very seriously. Many bouchons specialise solely in swine and adventurous palates can try delicacies like andouillette, a course sausage made from pork offal, while others may choose to stick with Lyonnaise classics such as coq au vin, or the decadent quenelles de brochet, a fish dumpling smothered in creamy butter sauce.

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A bottle or two in Bordeaux

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 Bordeaux produces 800 million bottles of wine annually

The mere mention of Bordeaux conjures up vivid imagery of lush rolling hills, immaculate rows of grapevines and medieval chateaux. A mecca for wine aficionados, enthusiasts or simply those who won't say no to a tasty bottle of plonk, Bordeaux produces 800 million bottles of wine each year, only second to Italy. For time-poor visitors with only one day to spare, be sure to visit the most renowned vineyards - Canon Fronsac, The Medoc, Graves, Saint Emilion and Sauternes.

Bordeaux is not all grapevines and clinking glasses - the region has some pretty tasty dishes in its culinary repertoire. Entrecôte marchand de vin, a rib steak cooked in a rich bone marrow, wine and butter gravy, makes for an excellent pairing with vintage vino. In restaurants throughout the area, you can also enjoy signature Bordelais flavours from the classic confit to the indulgent, albeit controversial foie gras.

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Salades and Facades in Nice

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 The popular Nicoise salad

The gastronomy of the Cote d’Azur does not fall short of its sister regions. Nice's food culture is full of regional inflections from the olive oil and fresh herbs of Provence to the abundance of fresh seafood found right in its backyard.

The first stop for many first-time visitors or food tourists is the market on Cours Saleya, a charming street lined with picture-perfect pastel facades. This little corner of Old Town is a lively marketplace where food stalls dish out generous servings of local delights, from beignets de fleurs de courgettes, deep fried fritters in olive oil with zucchini flowers, to the ever-popular salade Nicoise. For a unique take on the city’s food ‘ambassador’ dish, try the pan bangat, a fresh bap filled with the celebrated salad of tuna, eggs, olives, beans and tomatoes.

Anna Howard

Give me street food over Michelin stars, cellar doors over wine bars and small towns and wide open spaces over big cities any day. Travel for me means ticking off the 'to eat and drink' list one regional flavour and wine bottle at a time.