Yeah, yeah, I know. My Spanish friends have already threatened to disown me for calling it “Paella.” But that’s what you get when you combine the Beaujolais harvest in France with the best-you-can-do-with-what-you’ve-got paella made outside of Spain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We made our trek to Spain at the very beginning of September, anticipating our life there — full of cooking, eating, drinking, and not least — great friends. But this year had a couple of added bonuses. We usually try to take at least one long weekend to hop to another country in Europe. We feel obligated (!) to take advantage of the ridiculously cheap trips you can find. But this year was extra special.

Our friend Anne asked if she and her husband John could visit us in Spain and go to the DNA food festival (which we later discovered is now only held every 2 years, and this year ain’t it).  Of course I was happy to offer to help them find a place to stay, despite the lack of the food festival.  But then something unexpected happened. She said “And you should come with us to harvest in Beaujolais.”

Rule #1 — NEVER ask the Milligans to travel if you aren’t serious about it. Because we’re GOING!

So we did. And the old adage about “Be a traveler, not a tourist” has never been more true. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit a country with the locals, DO IT!  It’s an entirely different experience than visiting a country as a tourist. From the traditional family style 7 course dinner, with Ghislane’s Mom (her name is Denise, btw), to exploring medieval villages, to helping in the kitchen and picking Pinot Noir grapes, and sampling the wine made on the property (ahem…  well, a bit more than “samples”), we soaked it all in.  Incredible people, beautiful surroundings, wonderful food.  I ran out of expletives — the good kind — about 15 minutes into this trip.  It was flat out AMAZING!

Here’s something you’ll want to remember — you, too, can experience at least some of this for yourself. Ghislane and Michel have several “gites” — guest houses as well as guest rooms, that you can rent for a few nights or longer.  So if you’d like to have an extra-special French experience outside of the cities, check out their properties here: Les Buit du Chardonnet (just one of the gites they own in the northern part of Beaujolais).

And it just kept getting better. Mutual friends put Anne and John in touch with Olivier (now FATHER Olivier!), a French friend that they hadn’t seen in 30 years.  As a teenager he’d stayed with Anne and John in the U.S. and had come back to France to become a priest (hmmm….  I wonder what that says about his experience in the U.S. ;)).  

We spent 2 wonderful nights in Father Olivier’s beach house in Sainte Marie de la Mer, in the South of France (yes, now it’s time to officially be impressed).  And he somehow managed to squeeze extra time out of his incredibly busy schedule to take us to eat fresh raw seafood right on the sea.  We also got to visit his breathtaking 13th century church, and the last day he took us to Collioure, a spectacular village a stone’s throw from the Spanish border.  I told my Catholic sister that it may be time to convert…

Then on to Spain, and Germany, but those are stories for another day.

Without further ado, here are just a few of the hundreds of photos that Al took, with a couple of my phone photos thrown in.  THANK YOU THANK YOU Anne, John, Ghislane and Michel, and Father Olivier (and all the other amazing people that we met).

Vive la France!

Ghislane and Denise

Ghislane and Denise prepping dinner

 

First cheeseboard Cogny France

First (of MANY) cheeseboard Cogny France

Dinner at Denise's Beaujolais

A real French family dinner in Beaujolais.

Harvest dinner prep France

Peeling potatoes for harvest dinner in Cogny, France

 

 

 

Ghislane and Michel Perroud

Winemakers Michel and Ghislane Perroud

Cheeseboards for Harvest Lunch Beaujolais

Cheeseboards for Harvest Lunch Beaujolais

Anne, Ghislane, and sausages

Anne and Ghislane discussing an armload of Saucisson French sausages

 

Pinot Noir harvest in Beaujolais

Pinot Noir harvest in Beaujolais

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest lunch for 35 in Beaujolais France

Harvest lunch for 35 in Beaujolais France

Saucisson and Gratin dauphinois Beaujolais

Harvest lunch main dish – Gratin dauphinois and Saucisson in wine

 

Peroud family winery Beaujolais

Perroud family winery Cogny, Beaujolais

Making Paella in Beaujolais

Making Paella in Cogny, Beaujolais, France

Paella Beaujolais Cogny France

Paella Beaujolais Cogny France

 

 

Southern France fishing port

Leucate – Southern France fishing port

 

Raw oysters southern France

Raw oysters in Leucate France

Anne, John, and Father Olivier eating raw oysters Southern France

Anne, John, and Father Olivier eating raw oysters at Le Petit Bigorneau, Leucate France

Anne, John, Father Olivier in his Church

Father Olivier, Anne, and John in Olivier’s church Argeles France