Joy Maintenance in France

I was thinking the other day about how my mood elevates significantly whenever I’m in France. I think a lot of it has to do with the variety and rhythm of the day’s food and drink intake, which basically goes something like this:

1. Breakfast

First thing I do every morning is go get a fresh croissant or pain au chocolate for breakfast.


I grab the Herald Tribune at the Tabac. (This is the International edition of the New York Times. A great paper.)


Once home I have the French Breakfast of Champions. Croissant (or tartine), juice, and café-au-lait.

Now, let’s just say that you’ve had a few glasses of wine the night before. I know, I know, a shocking thing to do in France…but just in case you have, you might not be feeling 100% yourself. This Breakfast of Champions will truly set you straight:

• Café au Lait:  An almost 50-50 mix of strong brewed coffee and milk. Add a little sugar. The coffee perks you up and the milk is soothing, restorative, and sustaining. An espresso with milk (café crème) will do the same thing.

• Croissant or Tartine (or better yet, both): Croissant has butter. Or, slather some major butter on sliced French bread, top with jam, and enjoy what the French call “tartine” (from the verb tartiner, which means “to spread”). Either way, you’ve got something that tastes great while giving you a little heft in the form of fats—and let’s face it, you need those fats to sustain you through the morning and also feel better when you’ve had wine (or whatever) the night before.


Linger over the Herald Tribune as long as it takes for that coffee buzz to set in. Then, go about your business, which in my case often involves a trip to the market to figure out what’s for lunch. Or just go for a walk, get exercise and already you’re feeling great. Especially if your walk involves something like this as that caffeine is lifting you higher and higher.



2. Settle in for lunch. Of course, because you’ve bought everything fresh at the farmers market, the food is going to make you feel utterly amazing. Artisan cheeses, free-range chicken, local produce. Really, this stuff makes you feel good. Whether or not you drink wine at this point depends on how well you tolerate day-drinking (me, not so much…at lunch, I tend to drink Badoit, a gently fizzy mineral water that has offers its own kind of refreshing lift).


3. Time for that afternoon coffee. Just as you’re starting to feel sluggish from the meal, pop into your favorite café and get an espresso. If you’re lucky, they’ll serve it with a little piece of chocolate (a mood-elevator in itself!). Once again, the caffeine will set you straight. Then, simply do whatever it is you do in the afternoon–a hike, a swim, shopping. Or in my case, menu-shopping for dinner (or figuring out what I’ll make back at the apartment).


4. L’heure de l’apéritif: Yes, before you know it, it’s about 6 or 7 p.m. and my utterly favorite time of the day: The apéritif hour. Read my ode to the apéritif here.  The little drink has a way of readying the spirit for the joys to come.

Generally, we enjoy the apéritif on the balcony of our studio apartment. That’s me, with a kir in front of me and a 16th century fort behind me.


Though sometimes we go to Les Templiers, the best bar in Collioure (yes, those paintings are originals). Picasso and friends hung out there. And if you roll your eyes and say “touristy” then you simply have no idea.


Favorite apéritif at the Templiers: A little Banyuls, made just down the road. Americans often get dessert versions of this port-like wine; regional versions are more suited for apéritif sipping. Note the cute little glasses–it’s all you really need. Truly.


If dinner is far off, we might get some tapas to go with the little drink. Because we’re so close to Spain, there are plenty of tapas spots in Collioure.


Or, we might just go all touristy and get a Sangria overlooking the port and the clocktower.


5. Dinner: Feeling relaxed and right with the world, we settle in to dinner, some wine. With wine that has sane alcohol contents and food that’s served in sane portions, you practically float home and into bed.

Sleep well. Get up. Repeat.

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5 comments to Joy Maintenance in France

  • Love it. I had forgotten all about Banyuls. You brought back some very old memories. Thanks.

  • Greg

    What a great post and photos – are you there now? You know my fascination with the French and how they can create balance in their lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight. I suppose some French are on “diets” but I hear they don’t talk about it as Americans do.
    What is a typical dinner menu? Dessert – on occasion only?
    One day I’ll get there…

  • Wini

    Thanks, Jessica! Banyuls is awesome as an apéritif, but I can’t quite get to the bottom of why it’s an apéritif there and a dessert wine over here. It’s driving me insane! I do think they’re two different styles of Banyuls. I want what they have in France!!!

    Greg–no, I’m not there right now, but I have been thinking of the place all day!!! That’s why I posted on the topic. And, btw, when are you coming to DSM?

  • From one delicious, wonderful meal/drink to another! Love it x 100. Yes, my mood always improves in France; there is something about that lifestyle that is so refreshing and so easy to enjoy. I love the “Sleep well, Get up, Repeat”!!!

  • Greg

    not sure when I’ll be down – lots of new changes at work – computer upgrade, inventory changes,new hiring and buying – will be sure to give you advance notice! Best.

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