Here we are. Still staying home. More travel restrictions announced here in Canada (about 10 months too late but better late than never…). The outlook for travel is looking bleak for 2021. If you’re missing travel as much as I am, you’ll no doubt be looking for ways to travel from home and, while technology is fantastic and there are SO many fabulous ways to travel virtually these days, there’s still nothing quite like a good book, right?
I’ve had a hard time focussing on reading recently – too much going on in my head – but I just finished a fabulous read that transported me to France for 30 minutes each day as I read my way around each “stage” of a very special “Tour de France”. Clearly I just needed to find the right book! Felicity’s Cloake’s One More Croissant for the Road is, quite simply, a delightful escape that all Francophiles should read!
A land of glorious landscapes, and even more glorious food, France is a place built for cycling and for eating, too – a country large enough to give any journey an epic quality, but with a bakery on every corner. Here, you can go from beach to mountain, Atlantic to Mediterranean, polder to Pyrenees, and taste the difference every time you stop for lunch. If you make it to lunch, that is…
Part travelogue, part food memoir, all love letter to France, One More Croissant for the Road follows ‘the nation’s taster in chief’ Felicity Cloake’s very own Tour de France, cycling 2,300km across France in search of culinary perfection; from Tarte Tatin to Cassoulet via Poule au Pot, and Tartiflette. Each of the 21 ‘stages’ concludes with Felicity putting this new found knowledge to good use in a fresh and definitive recipe for each dish – the culmination of her rigorous and thorough investigative work on behalf of all of our taste buds.
Now, I most certainly am NOT a cyclist – though Neil did book us on a cycling/ hiking/ kayaking trip of France many years ago – the cycling UPHILL to Rocamadour in the middle of the day (what’s that about “mad dogs and Englishmen”???) didn’t exactly change my opinion (though the view was STUNNING) so I wasn’t too sure if this book would focus on the cycling side of things too much for my liking. At the start, though when I saw she names her bike “Eddy” (after Eddy Merckx, a pastry loving Tour de France great) and talks about getting kitted out to look the part even if she isn’t a serious cyclist, I knew this was the “cycling memoir” for me!
But Felicity Cloake is, first and foremost, a food writer, an EXCELLENT food writer and this shines through so brightly in every page. She is hilarious and knowledgeable and down to earth and so is the book. So, while it’s not a cycling memoir per se, if you WERE planning to cycle around France and eat good food, you’d want this as you only guide book, it’s actually super informative about a lot of things you need to consider – I know this as I have a friend who DID cycle from England all the way through France and Spain. I mean, great that a town has a famous dish but do they have a campsite? What is the campsite like? Maybe you need a hotel that night. You know, important stuff like that!
I loved this book because it really is a roller coaster that will have you turning your pages faster that Cloake can sniff out the best boulangerie in every town she visits (as an aside, I loved the summary at the end of each stage, including a rating system for each croissant she tastes, 35 in total over the 2300km with the best being from Blé Sucré in Paris).
A wonderful mix of French food (the incredible Michelin starred meals, the ordinary meals, both good and bad), everyday French life (which she doesn’t over-romanticize – while her love of the country is clear, she also writes about the not-so-good aspects – inconvenient shop or restaurant hours, “fermetures exceptionnelles” where things simply close for no reason, and sometimes “customer service” isn’t exactly all that), insights about cycling and glorious scenery mixed with good humour makes for an excellent read and a vivid escape from the everyday in this dreary winter in the times of Corona(virus).
Rating? 10/10 (better than a croissant from Blé Sucré!)
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