Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Two-for-One French Meal Deals

Booking opened today for the 10th annual Tous au Restaurant promotion, in which restaurants across France offer special "buy one, get one free" multi-course menus at lunch or dinner or both. Tous au Restaurant runs Sept 30 to Oct 13 and roughly 1000 restaurants are signed up. What a great opportunity to sample restaurants you’ve been wanting to try...or to plan a foodie road trip...or to make like a big shot and treat your friends to a fancy meal! 

Launched in 2010 by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, it's meant to encourage people to eat out more often: in mom-and-pop bistros, in top Michelin-starred restaurants and everything in between. Last year roughly 250,000 people reserved tables in close to 1800 restaurants. Organizers say the two-week festival is designed not as a money-maker—many restaurants just break even--but to get people out and about, discovering new chefs, neighborhoods, cuisines and more. 

So what's the deal? Book online and order the special Tous au Restaurant menu and a second person at the table enjoys the same menu free. (Pas mal!, as the French would say, when something is very good indeed.) The restaurants choose what meals to offer, on which days and times. In some cases there's no choice; you eat what the chef is serving. In many cases however, you have multiple choices for each course. Restaurant ratings come from the French restaurant-booking site La Fourchette, the major sponsor. 

A small caveat: the Tous au Restaurant site just went live this morning (10 am France time) and isn't quite up to speed. For example, if you choose Provence or Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur from the drop down menu, you get just eight or nine restaurant choices. But if you choose one city--Marseille, for example--you see 28. Hopefully the kinks will be worked out soon so be sure to check back. Also, restaurants are still being added and will be, probably right up to Sept 30. That said, the most-popular places and times sell out quickly so book early and book often!

To get started, click here and click the red box Je Réserve. Start typing your city and choose the correct one from the drop down. (In Paris you can search by arrondisement or see a complete list.) Find the restaurant you want, review the special menu and then click "
Réserver avec cette offre." You'll be asked to pick your day, time and party size...and then be taken to another page to input your contact info and special requests. I assume they follow up with a confirmation email. The site is only in French but it's fairly easy to figure out; it also works pretty well if you have your web translator on although that leads to some cute names such as "The Plug of the Transplants" (Le Bouchon des Greffes in Nimes) and "Craftsman of the Marsh Truffle" (Artisan de la Truffe in the Marais neighborhood of Paris).

Reservations are online only. If you book and need to cancel, you can do that through the site as well. Cancellation policies vary but are clearly stated. Can't wait to hear where you ate and what you loved. Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Heritage Days are Sept 21 & 22

It's that time again: The 36th annual Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, in cities and villages all over France. The program was launched by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (officially it's now called European Heritage Days). This year the theme is "Arts & Entertainment" and 17,000 sites in France are participating, with 26,000 events. It's one the biggest events in France and one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The idea is that a wide range of historic monuments, religious sites, estates, gardens,  domaines, workshops, galleries, ateliers, factories and more are open for special visits, including many that are normally closed to the public. Most sites are offering free entry and will have a guide on hand; some are hosting special tours and events (mostly in French). Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. 

The main website is here (or in English here) but you'll fare much better with the department-by-department listings here. Or, check in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village, city or region you want to visit. For example, as of today the department-listings page mentions just six participating sites in my village of St. Remy (in Department #13, the Bouches-du-Rhone) but every year the village publishes its own terrific guide and this year it lists 22 participating sites. You can see them all, with the map, here. If you prefer a printed copy,  you can pick one up at the St. Remy Tourist Office or at most of the participating sites.

Here are programs for AvignonAix, ArlesMarseille and Nice. But don't forget about tiny villages, many of which offer fantastic tours, visits and programs as well.  

The best idea is to choose the village you wish to explore, pick up or download their schedule as early as possible and map your route, because some events happen only at certain times. Some villages have events on Friday Sept 20 as well.

To get you started, here are the listings for the six departments of PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur): Alpes-de-Haute-ProvenceAlpes-MaritimesBouches du Rhone, the Hautes-Alpes, the Var and the Vaucluse. And here's the Gard (which is not technically in Provence but never mind). For an amazing list of what you can see and do in Paris, click here.

And here's a list of local and regional Tourist Offices in Provence and on the Cote d'Azur, all of whom should have info on their own sites and events.

Vive le Patrimoine de France!

Photos: Get out there and explore! A few of the thousands of sites offering Patrimoine events include The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar (Alsace), The Confectionery Factory Roy René and Museum of Calisson outside Aix, the fantastical houses of Jacques-Emile Lecaron in Clamart, the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, La Cite Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Cap Ferrat, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Jewish Cemetery in St. Remy, the Maison du Riz in the Camargue, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, the Heliport of Paris, The Château Raspail in Gigondas and the Palace of Versailles.  At the bottom, this year's poster.