Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

     A Newsletter by Carolyn Grote and the rest of the staff
Summer 2014
In This Issue:
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Graphic   Graphic
Mont d’Or cheese;
David Lebovitz, the famous US chef who now lives in Paris, wrote a wonderful article about this cheese, one of his favorites.
Click to read it
Sardines in Saor
I make this dish at home and you can too. It’s like a mini trip to Venice. Click here for the recipe from Saveur Magazine Click here for the recipe from Saveur Magazine .
To purchase the Little Saint, by Hannah Green you will need to order it online. Use Amazon through the link on our home page and we get a commission. Click here to do so. And thanks!

This issue of our newsletter focuses on things to remember as you get ready for your trip to France/Italy or Spain. From how to get your euros to which foods to taste to watching out for theft., we’re here to help you prepare. Read on traveler.


Getting money: The common wisdom these days is to bring a few debit/credit cards with you and get all your euros from an ATM. Check with the card company to find out what extra fees (if any) your bank charges, then use the card with the best deal. Be sure you have a PIN number for each card and test that by withdrawing US cash before you leave. Also bring more than one card, just in case.

Mobile phone: Cell phones are so common overseas, that even many vacation rentals don’t offer landlines. And how convenient to make a call to an owner if you’;re stuck in traffic and will arrive late to the property. In addition, iphones are wonderful overseas for letting you check your email, receive texts(much cheaper than telephone calls from home) and especially for driving directions. Before leaving check with your telephone company about how to set up your phone for overseas calls/ texts/ and data usage(yes all 3). Then do so. Read our Winter 2014 newsletter for more details.

Data Roaming on your Mobile: Be sure to turn OFF data roaming on your phone unless you are actively using it. Your phone automatically “checks in” throughout the day to update its clock, etc etc, incurring data charges. This uses up a lot of data without your even knowing it!

Be a Wary Traveler: Take a photo of your passport and email it to yourself so you can access it in the event of a theft. In a public place, don’t leave purses on the floor or hanging on the back of the chair. Be wary of leaving your mobile phone on the table where a passerby can scoop it up. In the car, leave valuables far from open windows. Leave expensive jewelry home. Read our Summer 2013 newsletter for more details on safety.

Electronic Gear: Bring the appropriate plugs for your electronic equipment. Whereas you can buy them overseas, local stores can be sold out. In most cases, all that is required is the small converter plug to change to the 3-prong type for the country you’re visiting. Most appliances nowadays can themselves be converted from 110v to 220v. Bring several converters as it is easy to unplug your appliance and leave the converter stuck in the outlet!

Review your Itinerary and Reservation Forms: Before you leave, review all your reservations and confirmations. Do you know the name and location of the rental agency where you pick up your car? (Sometimes the local agency has a different name than the company that organized the rental) Do you see what time you are supposed to arrive at your rental? Do you have the directions to the house?


If you are traveling soon, you are in prime vacation season. That is terrific because when the Europeans are on vacation, there are usually lots of special events. So once you get to your destination be sure to check out the local tourist office or newspapers to find out what is happening during your stay so you don’t miss out. Usually these events don’t need advance reservations. In the past I have seen: a sheepdog competition in the Dordogne, fish festival in Brittany, traveling circus in Provence, opera in Palermo, dance festival in Uzes, organ concert in Venice, and even the Palio in Siena (it is true I did not plan that in advance!) The list is extensive.

Also check out the day for the outdoor markets in your area. For us Americans simply going to the weekly market is an exciting and worthwhile adventure. These are usually in the morning only, so you’d want to know in advance to be sure you don’t go sightseeing that morning and miss it! Bring your own straw bag to carry home what you’ve purchased. (It avoids trips back to the car.) And remember these markets sell all sorts of things, not just food. I have bought: soap, champagne corks, salt grinders, espadrilles, dish towels, place maps, and even an antique French nightgown!


In France, food is a philosophy, a way of life. We French people spend a lot of time in the kitchen and sitting down à table, enjoying the simple pleasure of a good meal. As a French citizen, when I go home after having lived in the US, I cannot wait to indulge in my favorite foods.

Here are a few dishes I love and you will too:

- Croissant au beurre — especially at Poilâne, in St Germain in Paris. This bakery is world-famous for its sourdough bread with a recipe that’s been a family secret for decades. Any of their breads is worth a trip, but I love to start my day with one of their real butter croissant.

- Cheese is the food item I miss the most in the US. In France, there are so many sorts of cheeses. Here are my two favorites. Mont d’Or, called the “holy grail” of raw milk cheeses: a soft cheese with a crust sold in a wooden hoop. Brillat Savarin, a triple cream soft cow cheese with 75% fat. If you visit a serious fromager (cheese store), they will advise you and even let you sample some of the cheeses.

- As a fish lover, I adore a sole meunière served in a Parisian brasserie. This is a very simple, classic, yet succulent dish. The whole fish is dusted in flour then sautéed in butter and lemon. At a good restaurant, the waiter will bone it for you at the table. That alone is a treat for me to see. Another must is moules marinières: mussels steamed in white wine, garlic, cream and parsley usually served with fries. Often this is referred to as moules frites.

- I love meat as well, and I adore a boeuf bourguignon. This is an earthy beef stew in an aromatic thick red wine sauce with mushrooms. It is usually served with mashed potatoes. Substitute chicken for the beef, and you now have a coq au vin.

- When I am in hurry and in need of a quick snack, I order a croque monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel (a thick cheese cream sauce), toasted in butter and usually served with a green salad (avec sa petite salade). Add a sunny-side egg on top, and it becomes a croque madame.

- Pastry shops in France always have a beautiful display of their cakes. They are a delight for the palate as well as for the eye. The opéra is a layered dark chocolate cake. The bavarois is a fruit mousse. When I’m in a restaurant, I love an iles flottantes -- islands of soft meringue with caramel floating on a vanilla custard sauce.

- Finally, while in France, I make sure to eat a real couscous, at least once. This is not a traditional French dish but it has become part of the French gastronomic landscape since so many French have come from the Maghreb (North Africa). It is a fragrant vegetable broth served with steamed semolina and a choice of chicken, beef, grilled lamb chops, merguez (spicy sausage), or meatballs.

I hope you will add my favorites to your list of things to experience on your next trip to France. Remember these foods are part of the French character. Charles De Gaulle once said “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese? “.


When I go to Italy I always love to taste the foods which are typical of the region I am visiting. Whereas most of us know there are local wines, we might not realize that there are also local foods—even different types of pasta. So whereas you might be able to taste this dish outside the region, it is always best to order local specialties. Here’s my list:

Bolognapasta filled with meat and cheese like a hearty lasagna. I think the pasta from this region of Emilia Romagna is the most complex and most flavorful in Italy.

Montepulcianopici or pinci — hand rolled pasta similar to spaghetti usually served with a hearty meat sauce. Because it tends to be uneven it is especially good for holding a thick sauce. It goes very well with the famous local red wines : Montepulciano or Montalcino (Brunello).

FlorenceFlorentine steak - a surprisingly simple but delicious dish of grilled steak brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and then grilled. Its flavor is dependent on the quality of the ingredients.

Venicesardines in saor – sardines dusted in flour and fried in olive oil, then marinated for days in onions, olive oil and vinegar.

Lucca – tortelli lucchese, yellow pasta (with eggs) topped with seasoned meat.

Sicily - gelato in a brioche – ice cream served in a sweet roll that has been cut open and often topped with whipped cream and a cookie.

Amalfi Coast - limoncello, a lemon liqueur made from local lemons and often offered freely after a meal in a restaurant.

Romepasta carbonara – eggs pasta with a sauce of cheese, guanciale/pancetta (bacon) and black pepper.

Naplespizza margherita. Named after the queen, it is made exclusively of fresh tomates, mozzarella, basil and salt. Or pizza marinara which is similar except with oregano, garlic and olive oil.

Spoletopasta with truffles. Both black and white truffles grow in this area and a simple pasta with grated truffles is considered a treat here.

Throughout Italy:

Antipasti: I love entering an Italian restaurant on a hot summer eve and seeing a table covered with a vast assortment of cold appetizers: cold rice salad, marinated artichokes, local sliced meats, anchovies, mozzarella balls, etc. I then get to chose which I want.

Gelato: I love standing in line at a gelateria and selecting from the many flavors—far more varied than one can get in the US: bacio(hazelnut), fior di latte(cream), lampone(raspberry), pistachio, canella (cinnamon), etc.

Coffee: You can get the perfect cup whether you’re at a bar, on the autoroute or at an expensive café on the Via Veneto. I love standing at the counter and ordering my cafè alongside the locals. When it comes to iced coffee, the Italians have created an elegant sit-down beverage. Shakerato -coffee, sugar and ice, hand-blended in a shaker until it is icy and foamy, then served in a martini glass.

Prosecco: Although this sparkling white wine is a regional drink from the Veneto, it is served throughout Italy, often taken standing up at a bar. It makes a refreshing, low alcohol and generally inexpensive aperitif.

Aperol Spritz: This orange drink is a popular cocktail on hot days throughout Italy. Three parts prosecco/two parts Aperol (Italian bitter aperitif) /one part sparking water served on ice with a slice of orange. See lots of folks at an outdoor café in the afternoon drinking an orange drink with ice? It’s a “spritz”. Join in.

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Saint, By Hannah Green

Much of what I love about Europe is traveling back in time to a history I can only imagine. Whether we are visiting the Marquis de Sade’s castle at Lacoste, Notre Dame in Paris, the ancient towers at San Gimignano or the cobblestoned streets in a tiny village in the Dordogne, it is just that feeling of travelling back 500 years that is appealing. We walk the cobblestoned streets and get lost in time.

The Little Saint helps us understand the history and the life in the tiny medieval village of Conques in Southwest France. It is an entertaining and enlightening book by Hannah Green. Green was a gifted writer who spent many years in Conques entering into the daily life of the villagers and learning about Ste Foy, the Little Saint to whom the magnificent church is dedicated. In fact Conques although tiny, has been a major stop on the Chemin de Compostelle, the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago. So by learning about Conques we learn a great deal. We understand the role of the Catholic church in the life of the French people, what it means to venerate a saint, how Hitler’s invasion of France affected the French people, and how the rural villagers eventually made the difficult transition to living in the 20th. And along the way, we fall in love with the village and the villagers. It is a worthy read on vacation.

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