French foodie treasures for the autumn
Gourmet holidays for foodies
The schools go back. The gardens look tired, at best blowsy. Leaves cover the lawns. Autumn is a time for changing gear.
In the UK we tend to take a pragmatic approach to autumn – time to clean the lawnmower, switch the wardrobes around, dig out the welly boots. Even worse, we set the clock ticking to Christmas by monitoring, and then complaining, when we see the first tinsel in the shops or hear the first sounds of Slade in the supermarket
The runaway train that is the countdown to Xmas begins some time in September, hurtling directly to Halloween and a spot of trick or treating before pausing momentarily at Bonfire Night on 5th November.
Meanwhile the magic of the changing seasons is quietly taking place. All too often the bounty of autumn around us is taken as a by-product of the season. Something to be managed rather than celebrated.
Autumn in France
In France it’s rather different. It’s an industrious time when the abundance of nature is gathered and treated with reverence. Autumn is an excuse to turn the page of the menu and is synonymous with gathering and harvesting the raw ingredients for sensational cuisine.
The orchards are busy with apples and pears being brought in. Many a French cider press springs into action and the sweet-sour smell of gentle fermentation begins to hang in the air.
And the vineyards are a hive of activity with grapes being harvested in the annual vendange. Distilleries are cranked into action to produce fine spirits like Cognac, Calvados and the subtler Armagnac, as well as countless smaller-scale eaux-de-vie, marcs and country hooch.
Autumn is the season for foraging, increasingly popular in the UK but treated slightly more circumspectly by many. It’s common to see French foragers stumbling around the woods in search of truffles and all kinds of fungi. The French are a nation of fungi fanatics and, usefully, most pharmacists are trained to be able to distinguish the edible from the inedible.
It’s a busy times in all corners of France. Olives are harvested and pressed, late season crops like figs are brought in and the woods yield their chestnuts and walnuts. Traditionally families would plant walnut trees as they were so versatile providing food, timber, flour, cooking oil and even walnut ‘wine’.
All this activity and abundance results in sensational ingredients, memorable dishes and a cuisine that is deeply rooted in seasonality and provenance. How better than to indulge than on a relaxing holiday.
A taste of French autumn with Belle France
At Belle France we are keenly aware that walking and cycling holidays are not just for summer - they can be enjoyed during the spring and autumn too. In fact there are compelling reasons why autumn is the best time of all.
Balmy weather, not too punishing, quieter roads once all the tourists have headed home and a pervading sense of more time to linger on leisurely meals of real substance.
Summer is a season of flimsy salads, floaty, snacky dishes that don’t weigh you down in a soporific haze. Lighter items at the lighter end of the culinary scale. All very well, very tasty and just what you fancy in the sultry months.
But the autumn menu seems to be the reward. The prize that we have all waited for. The crops, the raw ingredients have all been growing dutifully, ripening, plumping up in anticipation of the great season of feasting to come.
So as the shadows lengthen outside and the leaves begin to curl, we can pour a hearty glass of red and peruse the menu.
We have put together some Belle France holidays, all with a ‘gourmet’ tag. Here are a few highlights.
Six of the best Gourmet Holidays
Dordogne Prestige à Pied
Spectacular Dordogne combined with special hotels
Admire the spectacular views as this moderate walk takes you through the splendid scenery of the Quercy Natural Park, past rocky overhanging cliffs with wonderful views across the Dordogne river. Relax in luxurious hotels at the end of each day...
Provence Wine Trails - Châteauneuf du Pape
Easy walking through stunning vineyards
Châteauneuf du Pape is southern France’s most prestigious wine village: a small village of only 2000 people. Grapes have been grown here for 700 years and the best way to discover these vineyards is by foot, strolling between the gnarled vines...
Luxury Sparkling Champagne Walk
Bubbly sensations, luxury hotels and gourmet dining
Drinking Champagne in Epernay is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg. Walk through leafy vineyards and lush woodland on this luxurious holiday, where you’ll enjoy charming accommodation and fine cuisine. 5 Champagne tours and tastings en...
Loire Prestige à Pied
Enchanting châteaux and picturesque villages
Live like a king on this luxurious holiday, which takes you through scenic countryside to some of the Loire’s most prestigious châteaux. The easy walk follows pathways alongside the river and through vineyards, to luxury hotels...
Burgundy Prestige à Pied
Rolling vineyards and ancient châteaux
Discover vine-clad hillsides, quiet lanes and attractive villages on this easy to moderate walk. Take in the stunning views and stay in prestigious hotels and converted châteaux at the end of each day.
Grands Vins de Bordeaux
A must for wine lovers
A leisurely walk through the prestigious vineyards acquaints you with the reds of St Emilion, the dry whites of Entre-Deux-Mers and the sweet Sauternes. Plenty of tasting opportunities are available en route and there’s even a chance...