Carolyn's and Tom's Trips to France: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday night - still raining in Bordeaux

So, it's been raining now -- pretty much constantly -- for the past four days.  What does one do in Bordeaux when it's raining?  Eat, plan eating, drink, and find new things to drink.  We've done a good bit of all four of these.  Visited two town markets (Tuesday, it was Libourne; today it was Creon), did a bit of wine tasting, wine buying, etc.  A high point was a trip to Sauternes where we had lunch at a pleasant little restaurant (Saprien) and drove by the legenday Chateau d'Yquem (where there was no sign, no paving, and no welcome -- the only way we found it was on our GPS.  You can't see much behind the trees and wall.  


We went to the Sauterne wine cooperative and tasted several of the legendary wines.  We could have bought a bottle of 2005 Chateau d'Yquem for 700 euros but demurred.  We did buy a very fine bottle of Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey (according to the lady in the coop, it was "just under" Yquem) which we've been enjoying with dessert.

We picked up Tom Grumbly in Bordeaux -- he'd been at a conference and was able to take off a couple of days and join us.  The weather is supposed to improve (we saw stars this evening -- maybe the sun tomorrow!).  We have touring plans (wine tasting, of course) to St. Emillon and other spots in the area over the next couple of days.  Then we're off for Normandy with Tom, dropping him at Caen to go back to Paris and home.

Maybe we'll have more pics tomorrow in the sunshine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bordeaux


Our drive to Bordeaux was long and wet.  The GPS found this very rural place with no trouble and we met our hostess, Carol deMontrechard -- an American expat who married a Frenchman in the early 70s and has run a B&B, raised several kids, and -- now a remarried widow -- continues to run the a touring and B&B business.  We're in a cottage, with a fireplace, kitchen, and living room/bedroom.  Couldn't be nicer.  It rained on and off today.  We spent the morning getting our stuff organized and talking to Carol about what to do in our time here.  Then we went off to the city of Bordeaux,  It rained most of the time, which probably soured our view of the city.  Tomorrow is supposed to be wet as well.  We're planning a trip to market day at a nieghboring town,and then will play it by ear.  I'm sitting in front of the fire writing this missive -- where we finished a great dinner that Carolyn cooked.  But now it's time for bed.   

Burgundy notes

Burgundy was wonderful -- rural, friendly, and beautiful.  Also great wine.  The place we stayed was really spectacular -- very friendly hosts, great dinners with friendly people.  We want to go back already.  

More coming here on meals, wines, etc.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Burgundy



Leaving Alsace, we said goodbye to our friend, the stork, who had his nest on the roof of the 
town hall, next to our hotel.  We didn't see a lot of him; presumably he was off delivering babies. After a spectacular drive over the Vosges mountains -- with snow along the side of the road and, at lower elevations, whole hillsides covered with daffodils -- we arrived in Burgundy at our B&B in Autun, about an hour's drive southwest of Beaune. The two guys who run the place are really special innkeepers and the design and comfort of the place is wonderful.  They may rival Coveside in attention to detail and a warm welcome.  Here's the front:


We had a nice dinner in Autun at a tiny restaurant where the whole meal -- first course, main course, cheese, desert -- was 28 euros (including tax and service; about $37).    Next day we slept in, explored a bit, and then had a fabulous wine tasting lunch at one of the premier vinteners at Puligny Montrachet -- probably the village producing the finest white wines in the world.  

Entering the village, ,the town square, and the restaurant:

(The tall lady on the left isn't real).  For this wonderfully woozy lunch, we tasted fourteen (count 'em, 14) wines accompanying with various courses.  All with a the sommalier giving us instruction in what we were drinking.  Believe it or not, we ended up dumping close to half of the wine into the jug in the center of the table, because if we didn't we'd never taste the last, best wines and couldn't drive home. Dumping fine mersault into a spittoon was a sad experience. After lunch we went for a long walk through the vineyards before driving home.  Beautiful landscape.  And tiny patches of defined vineyards -- some only a couple of rows wide.


After getting home and taking a nap, we had dinner at the B&B with another couple -- the young mayor of a local village and his wife.  His English was, believe it or not, worse than our French.  We didn't communicate very well until after several glasses of wine, when discourse became far easier, though perhaps not so coherent.  A great meal produced by our hosts -- scallops and fresh white asperagus, duck breast, new strawberries on a fancy crust.  

Today our adventure was bicycling along the Burgundy canals.  Another beautiful day and adventure. We rented bikes at the tourist bureau and rode for 6 miles or so to a wine village on the canal.  Had lunch at a lovely little restaurant and then cycled back to our car.  About as bucolic as you could get.  



Tomorrow market day in Beaune and perhaps some careful purchases of red wines to take home and put down for a decade or so. Then on to Bordeaux.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

C's Final Notes from Alsace

There certainly is no shortage of cows here to supply wonderful milk for cheese and cream.  Munster is the most noted Alsacian cheese and it has nothing to do with the munster we get at home--creamy and a bit stinky with a soft redish rind.  It often has cumin seeds in the cheese or they serve it with cumin seeds sprinkled on the plate.  One night we even had it with a bit of maple syrup (from Quebec).   This is the season for white asperagus.  It is on every menu often paired with deux jambons and deux sauces.  I must say I prefer Maine asperagus from Five Islands Farm. And, pork is king.  We are not eating the Provencale heart healthy diet.
 Note to Susan who will probably never look at this blog.  Filling your tank with petrol would take your breath away.  Our first tank of gas cost 70E or about $95--or about 1.18E per liter.  Ouch!  Also your wood pile is miniscule compared to the wood put away in Bavaria for winter.   They are all so neat--all pieces the same size and stacked in a precise straight line.  This is one of the sloppier piles we saw.


Now we are off over some snowy passes to Burgandy.   I will prefer this wine.  The reisling is very interesting and better than most reislings we have at home,  but I am looking forward to discover what Burgandy has to offer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alsace notes

Great hike today from one set of castles to another along the mountains overlooking the valley.  Before hiking, we had a fine picnic at the trail head with the usual -- several kinds of cheese, bread, local pinot noir and the most amazing tarts -- one slice rhubarb in a custard of some sort, the other red currants.  We hiked more than 3 hours which undoubtedly wore off all the calories.

In Colmar, prior to all the exercise (agitation en francais) we got a tablecloth for Emily and Matt -- tres provincial -- and a print of a famous Alsacian artist of the mid-20th century -- Hansi.  

Tonight we desperately wanted beef and red wine.  So we returned to La Grangeliere (our first meal in Eguisheim; www.lagrangeliere.com)  and both had filets.  Tom's salad was worthy of repeating at home:  endive, smoked ham, apple, blue cheese (forme d'ambert) and walnuts with a light vinagrette.

We may have more meal notes, and pics of great Alsacian signs, but we're off to bed since we have a long drive tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Colmar


A fine day. Found a place that would do the laundry for only an expensive price, rather than a ridiculous price. Then we wandered the day away in Colmar, the capital of the Alsacian wine country and a delightful small city -- complete with 14th century timbered houses, canals, and a wonderful museum.  

The French are nuts about Easter -- especially the chicken, bunny, duck side of it.  Every window box  is festooned with displays.  Here's a couple:


For lunch we had traditional Alsacian food - tarte flambee,  like a very thin-crusted pizza topped with cheese, onions and bacon.  
 
Here's Tom, about to finish one off.

And then, after,  there's the coffee and some kind of fancy macaroon/cookie things. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Alsace

The drive to Strasburg from Munich started out beautifully.  Here's Neuschwanstein -- Mad King Ludwig's castle.  The best view is this one; the closer you get, the more crazy tourists.

No pictures of the horrific traffic, or the B&B in Strasbourg where the owners 
didn't show up.  Here's the beautiful spot we ended up staying, the Hostellerie du Chateau, in Egelscheim.



Saturday - got up late.  Rainy.  Did some touring in the rain.  We came home
and had some wine in our room.  Here's the view from our window at cocktail time (pic taken the next morning when the sun was shining).


Then we had a terrific dinner.
    Sunshine today (Sunday).  A great 2 hour walk in the vineyards road -- up to a little village that is the highest point in the Alsace wine road (Husserin des Chateaux).









Then a trip to a country "spring market," where we ate far too much food.  




Then a drive to a couple of the terribly cute, and terribly crowded wine villages.  They were amazingly preserved 14th and 15th century buildings and streets, crowded with tourist shops and tourists.


Tomorrow great exictement -- a trip to the capital of the wine country, Colmar, to do tourist things and wash our clothes.






Saturday, April 18, 2009

Misadventures on the way to France

Here it is Friday night, and we're in Alsace.  But, as usual, things didn't go quite according to plan.

We left Munich on a cloudy day and headed toward Strasburg, but via Garmisch, at the foot of the Alps.  This was more by chance than anything else, but the trip was spectacular.  The Alps were snow covered and in sunshine, against the grey sky.  Leonardo would have known what to do with this scene.  We then went to Neuschwanstein, Mad Ludwig's castle, which looked fabulous from a distance, and truly awful up close, with thousands of tourists (mostly kids on school holidays) mobbing the streets below it.  We enjoyed the view and headed on to France.  This was the end of the good part of the day.

Your intrepet travelers had no map of Germany -- we decided to let the lady in the GPS guide us for this minor part of the trip.  Problem was, she figured out that the best way to get to Strasburg was via the autobahn that went about 60 miles out of the way.  That might have been fine if we were cruising at 100 mph, but we got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams near Stutgart and spent what seemed like hours stopped or moving an a snail's pace.  That was bad enough, since we were both pretty crotchety when we arrived (around 7 pm) in Strasburg.  But when we got to the B&B, no one was there.  We banged on the door, telephoned them, etc.  But no response. 

So, we called the place in the little wine village we were planning to go to after two nights in Strasburg and asked them if they had a room, which they did.  An hour later, we checked into this truly wonderful inn in a town that looks like something from Grimm's fairy tales.  Had dinner and passed out.  Next morning (this morning) we woke up at 10 am -- a tribute, I guess to the amount of wine we consumed the previous night and our mental state after the drive the day before.  

The final misadventure -- Carolyn discovered that she had left a boatload of stuff in the Munich hotel -- including her toilet kit, jeans, a couple of sweaters, etc.  They're sending the stuff on, but a hassle for all concerned in the meantime.

It rained off and on today.  We tried a walk in the vineyards and got rained out.  But we had a great dinner and are expecting better weather tomorrow.  And, perhaps, fewer screwups.  

Oh, and the car is fabulous.  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Munich notes

General observations - not as expensive as we'd expected.  Especially with the Euro at 1.33. Munich very pleasant, obviously livable city.  Many bicycles. Unexpected and welcome sunshine the whole time.

Hotel Uhland, 1 Uhland Str.  Great spot in a quiet neighborhood near the university, 15 minutes walk from Marienplatz. Simple but pleasant room looking over leafy street. Bath with shower. Nice breakfast included and very friendly staff.  Easy access to bus and tram. Offstreet parking for the new baby. 94 euros/night.

Tuesday night: Der Pschorr.  Newish brauhaus, a bit more modern than typical.  Ate outside.  I had wonderful lamb (15 E); C had Schweine Braten -- roast pork (12 E).  Total bill 48E.

Wednesday lunch: in funky place in the market.  Great weissbier. (28E)

Wednesday dinner: tired of German food. Ate at La Vecchia Masseria, nice Italian spot close to the hotel.  I had saltimbocca, C had carbonara. With a liter of red wine -- 45E.

Thursday dinner:  Weisses Brauhaus near Marienplatz.  Supposed to be the best traditional Munich bauhaus in terms of food, well regarded in Chowhound.  Ambience more upmarket than Haufbrauhaus (no fist fights or drunken revelers).  I had saurbrauten (good, though meat was dry, perhaps as it's supposed to be); C felt a bit queasy and had potato pancakes and applesauce. 28E with great Schneider weissbier.

Finally -- a new car


Well, yesterday we screwed up on the date on the delivery of the car; today it was BMW.  We got to the factory at 8:45 am, early for a 9 am appointment and a 10 am car delivery, only to find that the car wasn't there (what happened to German efficiency?).  We could pick it up at 4:30 pm.  Not pleased.  But we went through an introduction to the car with an "associate."  And a fabulous factory tour -- more than two hours and we saw almost every part of the production -- from stamping to welding robots to painting to the assembly line.  Then a long lunch subsidized by BMW. We finally got the car at 3:30.  We think we like it, though the mixup was disconcerting and the color of green is lighter than we expected.  We had planned a trip outside of Munich this afternoon but it was too late in the day.  So we drove it to the hotel (10 minutes) and that was it.   Tomorrow we're off to Strassburg through the black forest. We're looking forward to running it through its paces, but must be careful, however -- for the first 1000 miles -- the "breakin period" -- we aren't supposed to go over 100 mph for extended periods of time.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BMW? What BMW?

So much for careful planning.  We arrived at "Die Welt," (BMW's modestly named "The World"), marched up up to the fancy lobby for those picking up their car, announced our name to the elegant receptionist, and  - Auch du lieber! -- we weren't on the sheet.  Grosse Gott!  Turns out we got the date mixed up (or, in Carolyn's view, they got the date mixed up).  No great tragedy, however. They were expecting us tomorrow (Thursday).  So, we journey again to BMW's World tomorrow morning to pick up our baby.

Note for Jack G -- they had your BMW on display at Die Welt.  Here's it is.  You need this!


Afterward we walked so far we both needed motrin for our aging legs and feet. (As soon I finish this blogging business, in about three minutes, we're hitting the Scotch we got at duty free -- another story for another time).  We tramped through the Olympic Park (thinking, of course, primarily about the Munich tragedy of 1972), to the Nymphenberg Palace -- a small version of Versailles and pretty boring (except for the royal coaches and sleighs -- especially Mad Ludwig's amazing coach, upon which Disney modeled Cinderella's.
 
Food notes:  German menus are not as easy
as French menus; of course, that
may be because we speak pretty good menu French and almost no menu German.  (I almost ordered lamb's lungs last night!). Prices are pretty much like the US.  And the beer -- especially the Weiss Bier -- is truly spectacular. Above are pictures of our lunch spot, and Carolyn's yummy wurst.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Munich

Arrived on schedule about noon (6 am Maine time).  Warm and sunny.   Our luggage wasn't on the plane, but the good news is they delivered it to our hotel this evening and we didn't have to deal with getting it to the hotel this morning.  Dinner at a great bierstube. Tomorrow we get the Bimmer. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

We're off



Here he is, sitting in Logan, waiting for the flight.  And what is he doing?  Blogging

Amazingly, we actually left Georgetown early.  Why? So we could eat at our favorite Portland dive for lunch -- the Miss Portland Diner (no Slimfast for the next three weeks) .  And what fabulous delicacy did we eat, getting ready for trois semaines en France? But of course..... Whoppie Pie Cake.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Our itinerary

April 13 7:10pm Depart Boston American Airlines (AA108) to London and connect to Munich (AA/BA 6543) arrive Munich 12:05 pm
April 14-16 Munich: Hotel Uhland (http://www.hotel-uhland.de/)
April 17-18 Strasbourg: La Belle Strasbourgeoise (http://www.la-belle-strasbourgeoise.fr/)
April 19-21 Eguisheim (Alsace): Hostellerie du Chateau(http://www.hostellerieduchateau.com/)
April 22-25 Autun (Burgundy): Moulin Renaudiots(http://www.moulinrenaudiots.com/)
April 26-May 1 Entre-deux-mers (Bordeaux): La Forge
(http://www.bbfrance.com/montrichard.html)
May 2-4 Normandy: Le Manoir de Hérouville(http://www.herouville.biz/mdh2/)
May 5 Giverny: La Pluie de Roses(http://www.giverny.fr/LA-PLUIE-DE-ROSES,25.html)
May 6 1:30 pm depart Paris/Charles de Gaulle American Airlines (AA 147) to Boston; arrive 3:20 pm

Spring in Maine - time to go!

April 1 - April Fool's Day. It's been a snowy, chilly, long winter, and spring seems far away. Here's the view down to the cove from just last week:

We're off in just ten days!

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