La Belle Amelia - French Flair of a Florida Island
As a formerly French island with more than a dash of Provençal style, Amelia Island is feeling extra joie de vivre with this weekend's Bastille Day and the appearance of France in the FIFA World Cup Finals. From Pétanque matches to delectable favorites on local menus to a weekly market and the bike trails that beckon you to do your own "Tour de Amelia," enjoy la vie en rose on this Florida island all year long.
In 1562, (58 years before the Mayflower made landfall,) French explorer J
ean Ribault arrived on Amelia Island, raised the French flag, and named it "Isle de Mai." Today, the enchanted island offers visitors from around the world the delicious and distinctive French flair for great food and good times.
is a beautifully restored wine and spirits bar offering charcuterie and desserts
along with special tasting events including Champagne Wednesdays and Rosé All Day.
The annual Pétanque Amelia Island Open is the largest pétanque event in the Americas, drawing World Champions and players from across the 50 states and more than 20 countries. Held at Fernandina Harbor marina, with plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance, the breezy, sunny, setting is much like La Ciotat on the French Mediterranean coast, where pétanque started in 1907.
The Amelia Island Boules Club
holds pickup games
Saturdays at 9:30am and Wednesdays at 5:30pm on the Fernandina Beach pétanque
courts at the south end of the downtown marina in fall and winter and at Central Park in the spring and Summer. The public is always welcome to join (no need to bring anything but enthusiasm)
Challenge yourself to decide which croissants on offer on the island are your favorite: Nana Teresa's Bake Shop Amelia Island Cofffee, Diana's Family Bakery, and Marché Burette at Omni Amelia Island Plantation should be on your list. (Bonus tip: the first bakery on this list also has a bon assortment of macarons.)
Have a perfectly French date night
at Le Clos
in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, which serves authentic French dishes by candlelight in a quaint 1906 cottage. Chef/Owner Katherine Ewing recieved full degrees in cusine and pastry from Le Cordon Bleu and L'École de Gastronomie Francaise Ritz-Escoffier, Paris.
The Patio Place
features sweet and savory crêpes,
which the owners prefected preparing in France, plus a wine bar and an expansive outdoor space that provides a prime spot for meeting and people-watching.
Saddle up and do your own "Tour de Amelia,"
exploring shady paths through the maritime forest, the historic district, or the Atlantic coastline. Fernandina Beach has been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, and the Amelia Island Cycling club offers free organized rides
every week throughout the year.
The Fernandina Beach Marketplace
is a Farmers' Market
that would not be out of place in a French village. Every Saturday, it draws locals and visitors with a wide variety of fresh produce, breads, artisinal offerings, entertainment, and the addition of a biweekly arts market. This spring, the
renowned Chef Jacques Pépin made an appearance
to sign his books and enjoy meeting fans.
The Amelia Island Culinary Academy
offers tours of the Market that include cooking and eating the bounty purchased there, the Academy also offers the opportunity for cooks of all ages to try out new recipes and learn new skills in the kitchen.
Inheritors of the grand French tradition of an exclusive car show paired with displays of fashion and luxury
goods, the annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
provides premier people-watching. (It also utlizes the "French system" of show judging that prevailed in those first concours in the Bois de Boulogne.)
Pack up a picnic that wouldn't be out of place at the Bois de Boulogne at the Picnic Basket
in downtown (here are some secrets
to making it exquisite.)