London. Paris. Rome. They’re such iconic cities. Names, when uttered, evoke emotions. Memories. They are totally different, yet they are very similar.

We had the fortune to have visited all three cities now. Rome in 2008. London and Paris in 2010. Whereas Rome is known as the Eternal City, London and Paris has its own eternal aura about them. The English, for so long, have been derided for their lack of imagination in its cuisines. Even fish and chips, as iconic as that dish is, has its day in the shadows to the Italians and French in its culinary circles. And yet, over the last decade, England has created and forged many of the best restaurants in the world. Gordon Ramsay, a Scot, has the most Michelin stars of any English chef in the world. In fact, he is only behind the “Chef of the Century”, Joel Robuchon in the number of Michelin stars. “Fat Duck” has been perennially been competing with Spain’s “El Bulli” as the best restaurant in the world.

So, it’s not hard to believe that once you get past the obvious, the sights and sounds of London and Paris, that what rests in the soul, or at least the gastronomical souls, of traveling through these two magnificent cities is the food. I could write for days on end about the Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Buckinghamd Palace, the Louvre, Versailles Palace, etc. And yet, I can also write for days about the foods we had on this trip.

Haute cuisine did not greet us every day on our 12 days splash to London and Paris this summer, but that’s not the only way memories are created. A cup of “cafe”, the smell of a boulangerie, the grand luxury of afternoon tea – these are not “haute cuisines”, and yet, they brand our hearts and minds with association to cities we’ve visited. On this trip, we certainly had our fair share of haute cuisines, although we did not visit the royal-ness of a Joel Robuchon or a Gordon Ramsay, we nonetheless ate well in both cities.

Now, whenever I drink a “cafe”, I will always remember Paris. More specifically, I will always remember La Regalade, that wonderful restaurant on Rue de Honore by the Louvre. The next time I have a scone, I will always be transported to the Grosvenor House by Hyde Park. These are memories that God willing, will stay in my heart and mind until I am no longer here, only to be greeted by it again when I get to heaven.

Traveling isn’t just about seeing the sights and understanding how they are incorporated into the history of that city. It’s not rushing into the Louvre and snap some pictures of the Mona Lisa and it’s on to another piece of artwork without understanding the importance that painting and artist has had over the ages. Traveling is also about the tastes and smells of the foods that bring us comfort and that open the door for us to see and experience new things. The comfort of English tea will always remind me of England, but eating and experiencing something new, like a tuna tartare at Le Regalade will always remind me that food is ever changing and evolving. One doesn’t always have to eat fish and chips where the fish is always cod. Hammock and chips is just as good, if not better.

Part of life is about creating new memories that will fill our lives with richness and depth. We ought to appreciate the importance of why the Magna Carte is so important to the history of democracy. And, we also ought to appreciate the tastes and smells of a city as defined by its foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating at McDonalds when you’re in Paris, but why transport a memory you already own to a place you have never visited, or have not re-visited in a long time? Isn’t it time to create some new memories? It was for us. It was for me.

 

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