A Foodie and Hiker’s Paradise in the Languedoc: Parc des Cevennes
For an off-the-beaten path experience, consider the Languedoc, in particular the Parc des Cevennes, an expansive and stunning national park situated in the southwest of France. It's often described as a great place for seasoned travelers to visit, as it offers something new, different, and largely undiscovered by tourists. But it's also wonderful for the active traveler who is looking for a trip that includes plenty of walking.
Plus, it's been immortalized by one of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest works, "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes." Just steps from the mas (guesthouse) of Rip and Stéphane, guests can walk in the footsteps of the famed author and experience the natural splendor, just as he did in the 19th century. The area around Pont de Montvert is at the heart of his tale, and it's one of the places guests visited during the culinary-related excursions during our cooking vacation French Gastronomy in the Parc des Cevennes.
"There are seven trails of discovery in the immediate area of our home, and they vary in their level of challenge and necessary exertion from almost none to very rigorous and rugged," host Rip says of the hiking trails. Walking these paths, you'll pass areas rich with swirling fresh water streams filled with trout (keep reading for a recipe), as well as tiny villages that date back to the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, and plenty of rugged, unspoiled nature. According to Rip, "Bathed in generous sunlight, chestnut and holm oaks also grow vigorously on the land, which is terraced with the abundant stone and stretches terrace after terrace as far as the eye can see. Everywhere the hand of man, and the spirit of ancestors, is present." In other words, a hiker's paradise.
But what of the food to fuel your hikes? The area is particularly known for its foie gras and chestnuts, and it's largely a Mediterranean diet here, as it is in much of France. Seasonal vegetables always have a place at the table, as well as dishes like blanquette de veau, and rack of lamb. And as mentioned earlier, trout is often on the menu too.
Here's one recipe in particular from Chef Stéphane, a trout almondine. While delicious no matter where it's served, Stéphane and Rip recently enjoyed the dish outside in the south of France's lovely warm weather. Prep time is only about 10 minutes, with cooking about 20 minutes.
- 4 trout
- 8 tbsp salted butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 splash lemon juice
- Fresh black pepper
- Shaved almond, to taste
- 10 sprigs parsley
1. Clean the trout.
2. Chop up the sprigs of parsley and discard the stems. Season the trout with salt and pepper.
3. Spread the flour onto a plate, and then dredge each trout in flour, shaking off any excess.
4. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add the trout, and then cook over high heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the trout and cook on the other side for 8 to 10 minutes again.
5. Set aside and keep the trout warm. Sprinkle them with lemon juice and parsley.
6. Melt the remaining butter in the skillet with the almond. When it's browned, removed from the heat, and plate the trout.
7. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.
The dish goes fabulously with potatoes or rice — the perfect hearty meals for all your walks. But need some help on those hikes? Your hosts will gladly help arrange a hiking experience with a donkey, if you'd like!
By Liz Hall
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