As much as it pains me to say it and for all of us to think about it—we may not be traveling for awhile. At least not in the way that we think. Our “Travel from Home” (TFH) series is designed to help you build a fun evening at home that itches the travel bug, polishes your QT with family and friends, or helps you escape by yourself. The scenarios we’ve built may seem a little over the top, but that’s ok! Be as unapologetically inauthentic and cliche as you want to be in the privacy of your own home! If we can’t actually travel, we want to set a really intense stage.
We’ll be providing a themed cultural experience that includes: music; a quick dinner and dessert option (along with a more complex option); adult and kid-friendly movies; cocktail, wine, beer, and mocktail; and a virtual experience that borders on education (think museum tour, Youtube tour, or artist’s website).
Get in the mood with themed music while you’re prepping dinner. For the “sound” of Paris, we think you might like Pandora’s French Cafe Radio station. You can also try Édith Piaf’s Greatest Hits, the Soundtrack to Amélie, or, if you feel like dancing, french electronic duo Daft Punk’s classic album Discovery.
Easy Mode: French food can be complicated at best. We’re not really going to go there, especially in our first TFH series post. Shamelessly stolen from the picnicking culture in Europe, one of our favorite fake-it-til-you-make-it meals in our house is what we call the “picnic dinner”—for when you want to feel fancy and fun without putting forth much effort. This can get as easy or complicated as you want it to be. Grab your favorite cheese, charcuterie, fruit, veg, bread, spreads, pickled thing, beverage, and dessert, and arrange it all on the nicest platter or paper plates you have. Here is our list of recommendations if you want to feel at least a little French about it:
- Cheese: A soft, stinky camembert, or a gooey bucheron and mimolette
- Charcuterie: Saucisson sec and rolled jambon
- Fruit: Pears, stone fruit, or dried fruits
- Veggies: Radishes and blanched asparagus; cornichons are a must (Trader Joe’s has very nice ones)
- Bread: Store-bought baguette or croissants; or make your own if you can find flour and yeast
- Spreads: Any pâté, and don’t forget the Nutella!
- Dessert: Store bought macarons or crème brûlée are going to be your best bet for easy and quick.
You don’t have to picnic while watching your movie, but how fun would it be to open your windows to whatever night sounds you have at your disposal (frogs, bugs, or city sounds can all be just as romantic…sometimes), and spread out a blanket outdoors, or on your floor, and picnic while you chat or watch.
- Wine: Sancerre or an Alsace white; Loire valley cabernet franc for red
- Beer: This is a lot harder. I don’t often find French beer at my day-to-day grocery store except for Kronenbourg 1664. For something more fancy, find a style called biere de gard at your local specialty shop.
- Cocktails: French 75, Sidecar, or a Death in the Afternoon (tips: absinthe should not look like mouthwash…don’t buy that one; and please do not drink 3 to 5 of them, as suggested by Ernest Hemingway)
- Nonalcoholic: Try a citron pressé or a Perrier with a wedge of citrus.
There are so many movies set in Paris–your possibilities are endless.
- For the adults: Here’s a little something for most tastes—Amelie; An American in Paris; The Pink Panther; Moulin Rouge; and the Versailles series on Netflix
- Family-friendly ideas: The Aristocats, Beauty and the Beast, Ratatouille, Hugo, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Learn something new and see something you’ve always wanted to see!
Google Street View strolls: One of my favorite, secret time-killers is exploring cities of the world via Google street view. Check out this list of 10 of the most charming streets in Paris, Google map them, and then drag and drop your little Google dude to see the sights. Sometimes, if someone has uploaded the right photos in the right locations, you can go inside buildings, shops, or attractions.
- Notre Dame Cathedral: See it as it was before the fire. Here is a nice compilation of virtual Notre Dame tours.
- The Louvre: Tons of virtual tours on their website. See you in a few years…
- Versailles: Google Arts and Culture has put together an amazingly robust Versailles Expedition.
- Light a few white candles or a ton of those flameless tealights
- Relocate a comfy rug to cushion your floor picnic
- Cut some neighborhood wildflowers or greenery (nobody will miss a few sprigs of their boxwood)
- Change into some indulgent PJs and cover yourself in French perfume—Frédéric Malle (this is one of my favorites) and Diptyque Paris (here’s an intense white jasmine scent) are mid-priced, fairly easy to find, and have unisex options
- Fluff up your bed and change out the sheets for something crisp and pastel, and linen if you’re a bed picnicker.