Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington


We have just spent two days away visiting Tours and Poitiers as a family. We have enjoyed some great visits, and fabulous meals. France is definitely a gastronomic country, each region boasts its own specialties, and you can find great quality ingredients everywhere. In Touraine and Poitou, we enjoyed among other things beautiful rillettes, fabulous cheeses, cakes, etc. And this is without going into all the good quality local wines.

Having said that, breakfast has to be my favourite meal of the day, and hotel breakfasts feature among the best… but it is pretty interesting how we all approach the buffet style breakfast in different ways.

The real French breakfast 1

Personally, I always head straight for the loose tea, fruit, cereals, yoghurt, “seeded”’ breads, and cakes if present (I came across a rather interesting spicy cake while in Poitiers: absolutely delicious!), whereas Mark bypasses this section and prefers to check out the bacon, sausages, eggs and toast, happy to wash it down with a large cafetiere of strong black coffee.

It’s the first morning of the weekend: Mark and I follow our usual routine, no surprise there, then I look across to our table: Iona and Joe are dunking their croissants in huge cups of steaming hot chocolate. I am horrified.


“No!” I inwardly scream. I abandon my muesli and race past the other hotel guests to our table to plead with our children to please show some manners and to stop dunking. But I arrive too late and as I reach the table, Iona has already poured her cereal into her cup of hot chocolate.

“What are you doing?” I hiss. I am in total disbelief.

The real French breakfast 2

The kids look bewildered and make me feel like I have fallen from another planet. “Why are you dunking your croissant in your hot chocolate? You have never done that at home so why do it here?”

“I always dunk my croissant when I go for a sleepover chez Louisa. All the French do it, Mum. Look at that lady behind you” Iona replies.

I turn, not entirely subtly, and yes, behind me, to my surprise, a rather respectable businesswoman is dunking her pain au chocolat into her coffee.

“Ok, but are you sure it is acceptable French behaviour to ‘dunk’?” I ask my ten-year-old daughter.

“Yes, of course it is. Louisa’s father even dunks camembert in his coffee at breakfast time” Iona replies.

“What is with the cereal?” I ask.

“Well, after you have dunked your bread in the hot chocolate, you put the cereal in the hot chocolate, and after you have eaten the cereal, you drink the chocolate. Do you want to try a ‘real’ French breakfast?” she asks grinning.

I return to retrieve my muesli. My decidedly British stomach is not up to the ‘real’ French breakfast!

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