Wine and Cheese.

A while back, I was invited to participate in an interactive session on France with a few fellow bloggers. The event was attended by Fabrice Etienne, The Consul General of France in Kolkata, and Catherine Oden, the Director of Atout France. Atout France is currently interested in providing more information about France to the Indian tourists, and the ways Indian people can enjoy the beauty and charisma of the country. 
The event begun with a brief address from both the honorable guests – Fabrice Etienne and Catherine Oden, who were both extremely enthusiastic about the consistent increment of tourists in France from around the globe. France has been a traveler’s choice for centuries, and it harbors, more than anything else, some of the best places to see, food to eat, wine to drink, cool things to do, and basically, have fun. The best part is, now it takes around 48 hours to process your tourist visa to France, and in the future, to invite more travelers to the country, the efficiency with which visa is processed will definitely be maintained and improved if possible. For tourist visa, you should ideally apply no more than three months prior to the date of journey, and if you are going to make a Eurotrip, staying in France the most, you should let that be known (with a rough detail of your itinerary, like how many days you will be spending in other European counties, which countries you would be visiting, et al). 
Catherine Oden spoke about the major attractions of France, and the steady flow of tourists there. Paris is known to be the most romantic city in the world, and definitely, it is visited by thousands of tourists, but apart from it, there is so much more to France, and I agreed with it. Personally speaking, I have always wanted to go on a wine trail across France, tasting as many wines as I can, from regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Chablis and Champagne, and although I know it will take me ages to do so, I would like to do something like that in my near future. 
France also has a rich history which is well-preserved, and yes, it goes beyond the Louvre Museum. It is a great place to hold your next business convention – just think about the advantages of mixing a bit of pleasure with your business. Thanks to the huge number of top hotels and Michelin starred restaurants in France, you would get amazing food and hospitality all through your trip. But great hospitality doesn’t always come with a high price. At present, the average tourist ends up spending much less than €100 a day, which is, again, quite affordable. 
A presentation was made about the numerous attractions of France. What particularly interested me was the mention of Tintin and Marlinspike Hall. Apparently, Herge was inspired by the Chateau de Cheverny in Loire Valley and drew a slightly altered version of it to create Marlinspike Hall. Also, I found out about the Christmas Market in Strasbourg, Alsace, which is the oldest in the world. Another place, I realized, I would love to travel to, is Dijon, which is definitely more than the mustard, I daresay. 
But who can forget Paris? The city of love and dreams, of Moulin Rouge and Ladurée, of Eiffel Tower and Bastille – I was always fascinated by France as a child, and my fascination intensified as the many charms of the city was pointed out. 
My dessert Plate.
After the presentation was over, we were invited to a splendid cocktail dinner, with excellent food that included medium-rare tenderloin and crepes flambéed with brandy and caramel poured over it. I enjoyed a glass or two of some excellent medium-bodied white with a slightly fruity-floral bouquet, and a mildly dry finish, that went beautifully with the numerous cheeses and starters we had. One that stood out was definitely the miniature Quiche Lorraine, with flaky pastry and tiny bits of crisp meat on top. I ended with a sinful chocolate mousse served in a chocolate cup and a delicate lemon tart, and went home happy and slightly more informed about France. 
Group Shot with Catherine Oden and Fabrice Etienne – Rangan, Priyadarshini, Dolon and Moi.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the event at the Park Hotels by Atout France.
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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