During my latest visit to Paris, I spent most days just outside the City of Lights exploring picturesque villages on bicycle. A hands-on macaroon-making class, a leisurely picnic on the banks of the Seine in Vernon (the Normandy village just outside Monet's house in Giverny), and an hour strolling the weekly outdoor farmers' market in the village of Versaille helped build a more complete view of life in France. Local producers were excited to share a "gouter" of their homemade cheese or a taste of a non appellation controlee wine--no label, but about $5 a bottle. At that price, I liked everything I sipped!
Riding twenty miles a day on bicycle helped justify the pain au pommes (or two) for breakfast, the entire baguette and saucisson for lunch (don't forget the Camembert), and the prix fixe six course dinners of foie gras and cassoulet (all with an allowance of a bottle of wine per day). Yes, seeing the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower up close remain absolute tourist musts, but let's face it--we all return to France for the food!
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