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Food and wine lovers guide to Northern France

Claire is an aspiring nutritionist (and soon to be culinary student) with a serious addiction to bacon, wine, goat cheese and online shopping. She is recently married to a social media guru who loves *almost* everything she conjures up. ...

Where to eat and drink in this food mecca

While dining in many of the cafes, bistros and restaurants of Northern France, you'll notice that the French don't simply consume or inhale their food and wine, but savor and enjoy it. There's truly no better place to visit for the wine-loving foodies in all of us than the enchanting gastronomical wonderland of Northern France.

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If food and wine are your passion, there's no better place to fuel it than Northern France. From Paris, to the Loire Valley to Champagne region, there are so many places to go to find truly incredible food and drink. So grab your fork, your wine glass and Champagne flute and explore the enchanting food and wine wonderland that is Northern France.

La Rotonde

Best cafes and restaurants

If you want to eat and drink like a true Parisian, skip the touristy crepe stands and restaurants near the big sights, like the Eiffel Tower, and dine at a local sidewalk cafe or bistro. On the west side of town, stop by Le Cafe du Marche, which has some of the best people-watching in the city (not to mention some incredible onion soup). The Delaville Cafe is another local favorite that is often packed with theater types and local students. La Rotunde les Touillers, near the Louvre, is a little pricier than other bistros but has a great vibe and fun, fresh classic dishes. Go with the onion soup or the handmade hamburger and frites. Maureen Johnson, an American Express Insider travel agent, highly reccomends Aux Lyonnais for an authentic and rustic French dinner. This Alain Ducasse restaurant is unpretentious with incredible local dishes like wild boar and fresh-made cheese. Plus, the resident sommelier stops by each table to assist in selecting a wine for each dish.

Don't think Paris is the only place you can find an incredible bistro. The Loire Valley, home to hundreds of castles, crisp white wines and France's vegetable and fruit bounty, has some truly exceptional eateries as well. Le Petit Patrimoine is a local favorite that often sees weeklong waiting lists for its incredibly humble and local menu. After visiting the breathtaking Chenonceau Chateau, stop at the charming little bistro Au Gateau Breton in the town of Chenonceaux. Order the whitefish with butter sauce and the house-made chocolate cake.

After a tour of the Champagne Valley's best bottles of bubbly, head to Le Cafe de Reims in the heart of Reims. This little bistro features traditional French fare with a fun twist, like beouf in bleu sauce and steak bavette. Enjoy another glass of Champagne with a famous Reims rose biscuit.

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Photo credit: Ronald Roselli

Incredible wine bars & wineries

Wine bars, which used to be nonexistent in Paris and Northern France, are now popping up on every corner. The French are spending more time and money drinking better wines, which often results in more wines by the glass versus by the bottle. One of the most popular wine bars in Paris is Cavesteve. This wine shop first and eatery second has more than 300 labels to choose from, including crisp whites from the Loire Valley and full-bodied reds from Bordeaux. Le Dauphin is another Paris favorite from chef Inaki Aizpitarte that has a top-rated selection of wines by the glass and bottle and bite-size morsels like snails and pickled cabbage. Willi's Wine Bar is another local institution with an incredible selection of wines by the glass (one of the biggest in Paris).

Located just about two hours outside of Paris is the Loire Valley, which has some of the world's most prestigious wine appellations, from sparkling Vouvrays to fruity roses and quite a few others around the valley's main wine producing regions: Muscadet, Saumur, Angers, Tours and Savennieres. Arguably some of the best wines produced in the valley come from the Savennieres and Saumur regions. The wine made at the Chateau de Chamboreau is some of the best in the region because all of the grapes are handpicked and fermented in wood rather than steel. According to Maureen of American Express, the beautiful castle is also a sight and is well worth the trip to the Loire Valley. Chateau de Hurea in the Saumur region is another one of the most esteemed. Don't leave without taking home a bottle of the incredibly light and bubbly Saumur Brut Rose.

If you prefer a heartier red, visit the Chinon appellation. Stop by the stunning 500-year-old Chateau de Collain for a bottle of their luscious, lighter-bodied ruby red. Locals also highly recommend trying a bottle of Charles Jugot's Clos de la Dioterie, which is a medium-bodied wine with real aging potential.

Up next: Dessert and Champagne in Paris >>

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