Are you ready for the Tour de France?

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It is less than a month away, to that great holiday that is known as the Tour de France. Well maybe it is just a holiday in my house. It only happens once a year and is said to be the largest and most difficult sporting event in the world. What other sporting event can you stand on the side of the road and see some of the fittest athletes’ race by you so close you can touch them, and do this for free. Twenty one days of grueling and amazing stages that run all over France and then ends on the Champs Elysees. But this is much more than a bike race and watching guys ride around on their bikes and a lot of people don’t really understand it, or my fascination with it. I have to admit that I first watched it years ago quite by accident. We happened to turn it on one early morning when Lance Armstrong was riding for his 5th win and I was glued to the television. And the rest is history as they say. Most of my friends and family don’t really understand, they think it is pretty boring. But once they give in and watch they see that one of the best parts is watching the amazing French countryside being seen from a helicopter. From the highest peaks of the French Alps to the flat and very fast final stage running into Paris or the fields of sunflowers that are bending and stretching to the sun in the south of France there is never a dull moment and you don’t want to miss a minute of it. So with my love of the Tour, cooking and all things French last year I decided to take on a little project. I decided to cook my way through the Tour de France, cooking a special meal that would coincide with each stage and the area or town that they are in. I decided this only a few weeks before the start of the Tour, after all how hard would it be to find specific specialties of each region and department of France. Well, it’s not so easy and I soon found out. I wanted to be as specific and as accurate as I could be. Although Salad Nicoise or Escargot is now served all over France I wanted to get back to the basics on where these things came from and the how and the why as well. For instance Stage #1 in the 2008 Tour de France was in the Brittany region and started in the town of Brest and ended in Plumelec. Because they are so close to the Atlantic coast seafood is big there and more specifically Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Bretonne also known as Scallops can be found all over as well as the buckwheat crepes with both savory and sweet fillings. Although it was a lot of work last year I had a great time and learned a lot and made some really great discoveries and some fantastic recipes that I have made over and over again. So for 2009 I thought I would really give myself some ample time and really do the research. At the end of October each year the route for the next Tour de France is unveiled. Each year it switches from clockwise to counter-clockwise on its route around the country and the route is a closely guarded secret until that October afternoon, but some of it starts to leak out. So on an October morning in 2008 I watched and waited for the big map to be unveiled. And then there it was in all its glory, the bright yellow map of France with the route laid out, but somehow it strangely looks like a bear standing on its hind legs, look at it and tell me you don’t see it. Closer in with only a month to go the full map is revealed with the towns that all make up each of the days that fill in and all become a part of this amazing mobile event. And now the real work begins, I pour over my many, many and I mean many French cookbooks and travel guides to find out all I can on each individual starting and ending town of each stage and start to get ideas for each menu. So I hope you check back and “ride” along with me as we tour the countryside and eat our way through the amazing place that is France, but all from my kitchen in Portland, Oregon — You can read more about the 2008 Tour de French Cuisine and all my other adventures on my blog.
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Claudine Hemingway had a deep love of Paris instilled in her at an early age from her beloved grandparents. Following in their footsteps, she is happiest strolling the historic cobblestones soaking in the architecture, art and history. Highly sought after to plan your Parisian adventure that ventures off the beaten path and digs deeper into the historic and secret Paris. Contact her at [email protected] to plan your trip. You can follow her adventure and daily Paris history lesson on Instagram @claudinebleublonderouge