Today, Julia Child would have turned 100. It’s not just her recipes we savor, it’s her life story. She was one of those unlikely heroes, a towering 6-foot-2 cooking sensation who started out barely knowing how to boil water — yet went on to discover the joys of French cuisine and share that passion with a larger American audience: first through her massive 2-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking and later, her TV show The French Chef, which premiered in 1963. On the 100th anniversary of Julia Child’s birth, what better way to celebrate her extraordinary life than by visiting the many places that shaped her culinary passions — and awakened in so many of us the simple joys of a good meal shared with friends. Check out these top spots for Julia Child fans.
1. Dine in Rouen, France
Want to know where Julia Child experienced “the most exciting meal of [her] life”? Head to Rouen, a city in northern France by the Seine River. The place it happened was La Couronne restaurant: Ask for the green salad, sole meuniere, briny portugaises oysters, fromage blanc (with berries and coffee, c’est sur!), alongside a bottle of Pouilly Frume — the same spread that Julia and her diplomat husband Paul Child ordered when they first visited this auberge in 1948.
2. Sign Up at Le Cordon Bleu
When Julia Child attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris in 1950, she thought she’d signed up for a 6-week intensive course, but soon discovered it was the yearlong “annee scolaire.” At first, the school put her in a class for housewives – until Julia demanded a more rigorous program, and landed in a course for professional restaurateurs made up of 11 former GIs studying cooking under the GI Bill. Julia spent the year learning French culinary techniques. “I was in pure, flavorful heaven at Le Cordon Bleu,” she later wrote. Don’t have a year to take off to develop your culinary chops? Pas de probleme! Le Cordon Blue offers recreational cooking classes in Paris and in the US.
3. Explore the City of Light — and Get Kitchen Supplies!
Got a week or two to take off? Spend them in Paris, exploring the same spots where Julia Child used to kick back. Stay at the Hotel Pont Royal — in November 1948, the boutique hotel served as home to Julia and her husband during their first month in Paris. Stock up on kitchen supplies at E. Dehillerin – “the kitchen equipment store of all time,” as Julia called it, where you’ll find high-end pots, pans, molds and whisks. Visit the building at 81 Rue de l’Universite – “Rue de Loo,” as Julia called it – where she first began testing recipes for her massive 2-volume French cookbook. Savor French cuisine at the restaurants where Julia was a regular such as Le Grand Vefour (“you are so hypnotized by everything that you feel grateful as you pay the bill,” she said).
4. Buy Julia’s Favorite Cheese in Provence
Julia also loved Provence. Head to the small French town just above Cannes – you’ll find a charming single-level house, with stucco walls and a red-tiled roof that Julia and her husband called La Pitchoune (or “The Little Thing”). You can even enjoy a chance to cook in Julia Child’s onetime kitchen.
5. See Julia’s Hometown — Sunny Pasadena
See the city that Julia first called home: Pasadena, CA. Starting today through Sept. 27, the city is hosting a 6-week cocktail celebration – the perfect way to toast the 100th anniversary of Julia’s birth. Today, participating restaurants will raise a toast to Julia at 7 p.m. – if you’re in the area, stop by and enjoy the cocktail party! Got a 1950s-style blouse and skirt? Head to Toro Sushi Bar for a Julia Child dress-alike contest.
6. Enjoy Julia Child Restaurant Week – in a Town Near You!
It’s not just Pasadena that’s celebrating Julia’s centenary, so are restaurants nationwide. To find a restaurant near you, visit Julia Child Restaurant Week.
7. Find True Love in Sri Lanka
That’s what happened to Julia Child. She arrived in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) at the age of 32, where she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. She soon met Paul Child, also an OSS employee, who opened her eyes to other cultures and cuisine. Soon romance blossomed in the city of Kandy, which she later described as “like Shangri-La.” Take a Sri Lanka road trip — and see for yourself — through the country’s natural and historic wonders, from Yala National Park to Royal Rock Temple.
8. See Julia’s Kitchen in DC
See the wood-frame home at 2706 Olive Street in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood where Julia Child lived twice. She first moved here in 1948 with her husband Paul, following their time in Ceylon. Then it was off to Paris, until the two returned again 1956, and gave cooking classes to Georgetown neighbors out of her home. Also head to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to see Julia’s kitchen — the one she used in Cambridge, MA, as the set for her 3 TV shows. The 20-by-14-foot kitchen, which was dismantled and donated by Julia to the Smithsonian in 2001, contains hundreds of tools and appliances — see it all through Sept. 3.
9. Visit Julia’s Cambridge Hood
Take a leisurely stroll to 103 Irving Street, the home in Cambridge, MA, where Julia lived for nearly half her life. Also stop by Savenor’s Market, a local market where Julia used to buy produce. The market also has a shelf of cookbooks, including The Way to Cook — so you can peruse recipes right there and shop for ingredients right in the store.
For more culinary adventures, get a look at the Travel Channel editors’ picks for our favorite food cities around the world.