Return to Cruzy

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Dave and Claire enjoying a Sunday sangria in St. Chinian

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hello to my three faithful readers.  It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything but that shouldn’t be construed as meaning nothing of interest has been happening.

On Friday, Michael and I left Bordeaux and drove to Toulouse airport where we turned in our little Renault Captur and awaited the arrived of Claire and Dave on the  13:55 flight from Frankfurt. Flight was delayed fifteen minutes, then it had to wait for a gate to open up, then C and D had to wait for their luggage . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . until it became clear that D’s bag wasn’t doing to be spat out onto the conveyor belt.  It still has not arrived in spite of: Obviously false information that the bag would be on Friday’s 18:00 flight from Frankfurt; and, many communications with various people at the airport, the airline and the company that deals with luggage . . . none of whom knows anything but all of whom are willing to spew forth some nonsense about the situation.  I don’t think I would be able to maintain my composure as well as D has.

In spite of the delays, we made it to Cruzy in our new Peugeot big car in time for us to: Unload; scurry around the village purchasing essentials; and, be up on the terrace with wine and nibbles in time for the seven o’clock flurry (the long ringing of the bells that takes place every day at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m..  It’s wonderful to be back.

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Michael and Virginia also enjoying a Sunday sangria in St. Chinian

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Final Bordeaux Images

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Our last evening in Bordeaux, we took a walk downtown and, in one of the main squares, we found a boules tournament going on.  How very French.

When we went to get our car on the morning of our departure, I noticed that the entire side of the parking garage/apartment building, about four stories tall, was covered with masses of Passion flower vines.  Complete with flowers and fruit.  The pigeons seem to love the fruit and, why not, it is delicious.

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Note flower in lower left

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Bye Bye, Bordeaux

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Bordeaux cathedral with flowers and clouds

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019

Gosh, it seems like just yesterday I was greeting Bordeaux and tomorrow morning we will be driving out of town.  Guess I’d better make a few comments on how the past two days have been spent.

Yesterday, we chose to stay in town and just mosey around.  In spite of the fact that there are many places of interest in Bordeaux, museums, monuments, restaurants, etc., we opted, during this stay, to wander without much in the way of an itinerary.  It has proven to be a nice, gentle way to see some of this lovely city while getting over jet lag, which has pretty much gone.

Our wanderings yesterday took us past some of the arcades that are tucked away in parts of Bordeaux, past shops selling beverages in colors not only not found in nature but not even found in the 64-crayon box of Crayolas. I upset an employee in the Nespresso store when I snapped a quick photo of their colorful display of Nespresso pod sleeves.  It didn’t seem to me to be a place of such security but I was told quite emphatically that what I had done was a big no-no.  I include the photo in this blog in spite.

We also stumbled upon a noon-time concert at the cathedral.  Two young (18 and 15) singers (soprano and mezzo-soprano) were singing a selection of totally unfamiliar but spectacularly beautiful songs to a piano accompaniment. Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Debussy and more.  It was one of those special moments of serendipity.

In the evening, we sat at a café, outside in a square, sipped refreshing drinks and nibbled on a dry, rich and tasty saucisson, that would be sausage or salami to those of you less sophisticated than we.  It seems to us that more young people smoke in Bordeaux than we remember elsewhere in France.  I don’t think there was a single table other than ours that didn’t have smokers at it.  We get so spoiled in the states that we sort of recoil when confronted with smoke in a public place.

Today, we headed out of town again.  This time we headed southeast to the Sauternes  region.  In fact, we began our exploration in the village of Sauternes at the Maison du Sauternes.  It was a great beginning with a nice young man dribbling sips of various Sauternes into our glasses and explaining the differences we should be experiencing. It was fun and delicious.

I have always thought of a Sauternes as a wine to have after dinner instead of dessert because they can be so sweet.   We were informed that they can be consumed with food and do well with bold flavors or spicy flavors.

Our nice young man gave us brochures for four chateaux to visit.  He told us they were open and that we didn’t need reservations and that we were at a good time of the day for visits and tastings. Hmmm.  Let’s just say the countryside was spectacular.

Our first stop was at Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, which has some affiliation with Lalique.  One couple was just finishing up a tasting but when the lady was done with them and I approached the counter she told me that she had a tour in five minutes and the next English tour wouldn’t be until 5 p.m.  Since it was about 11 a.m., we opted out of that.  On the up side, we saved ourselves 50 euros, which is what the tasting cost for two.

We next went to Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, which was about 1/4 mile down the road.  No one was in the office; a tour was in progress and no one was the least bit interested in us.  We drove off, diddled around and returned in about 30 minutes but the results were the same.

We then attempted to find Domaine de la Gauche. We found the ENORMOUS sign telling us they were open daily. But, when we headed down the narrow lane seemingly indicated by the arrow on the ENORMOUS sign, we found nothing. When we got to a little crossroads, which had markers for various other chateaux, Domaine de la Gauche was not among them. We assumed that must mean that we had passed it but we had passed nothing. Very disappointing.

However, we were not going to let our lack of success with winery visits get us down; so, we headed back to the Maison du Sauternes where we tasted several more vintages from various chateaux. Before leaving the Maison, we bought three bottles from different chateaux (a much better way to invest that 50 euros) and I have great plans for large wedges of Roquefort cheese and Sauternes once we get to Cruzy.

A tasty lunch at a restaurant in Sauternes rounded out our outing, which was, ultimately, a great success.

 

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Wine by Any Other Name . . .

vin, vino, wein . . . is still wine but Bordeaux is Bordeaux.  Well, sort of.

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Lunch in Macau: A heaping pot of mussels for Michael

We took a road trip yesterday, Tuesday, September 10, and headed north to the Margaux area of Bordeaux.  Margaux is a tiny village in an area of many tiny villages but it has a long and fine winemaking history and history of fine wines.

We tried to begin our exploration at the wine headquarters in Margaux: Maison du Vin et du Tourisme.  It was supposed to open at 2 pm, so, we stopped for lunch on our way there so as to not arrive too early.  Alas, apparently the employees of the Maison took an even more generous lunch than did we; the door was firmly locked when we arrived at 2:10.

This forced us to visit the delightful fancy-schmancy chocolate shop around the corner.  After generous samplings and purchasing of liquor filled, chocolate covered cherries and other delights, we strolled back to the Maison only to find the doors still firmly shut.

”How hard can it be to find some wine tasting?” we asked ourselves.  Every twist and turn of the road revealed yet another “chateau” of one sort or another.  We headed off without the benefit of guidance from the professionals.  The first turning we took had us driving down a long and ever dwindling lane, which ended at the closed gates of Chateau de something or other.  Okay, back we went. Better luck this time at a slightly more industrial looking chateau de something else.  It was open but the wine was only so-so.

Back toward Margaux we stopped at chateau who can remember its name.  A delightful young man led us through a three wine tasting, all of which were quite tasty.  The best of the bunch (no pun intended) was way out of our price point at 80 euros a bottle (what the heck! Do they think these are Oregon wines?) But we did splurge on the quite excellent middle range bottle.

Finally, back at the Maison, we found the door open. We were told that, if we hurried, we would be in time for a tour at Chateau Desmirail, which was just south of Margaux.  We had a very nice tour of the facility, which has been there since the late 1700’s, and an equally nice sampling of three of their wines.  They produce a rosé that we both liked enough to purchase as well as delicious, deep reds.

It was at Desmirail that we learned there are over 10,000 estates in Bordeaux producing many different wines from Sauternes to, well, something very different from Sauternes!  I think we were told that there are 88 estates in the Margaux district or maybe those were just the estates that produce what is called “Grand Cru Classe en 1855.”  As you can tell, we began the day knowing almost nothing and when the day ended we were pretty much in the same place intellectually but richer by four bottles of wine and a bag of chocolate.

In other words, a day well spent.

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La Cité du Vin

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La Cité du Vin – exterior view

Monday, September 9, 2019

When I began planning this trip to France, I looked for a place close enough to Toulouse to be an easy drive but far enough away to be different from what we have seen before.  I looked at a map, saw the city of Bordeaux and recalled that that had something to do with wine and decided it might make a good destination for our get-over-jet-lag-week.

I asked our go-to girl for France about Bordeaux and, after first saying that she didn’t know much, she told me that she had spent some very good time here and that La Cité du Vin was particularly worthwhile.  Good enough for me.  I booked a lovely apartment and our plans were done.

Yesterday morning, we hopped on the B-line tram and went to La Cité du Vin.  Whoa!! It is extraordinary.  I don’t know how I feel about the exterior; parts of it I really like and other parts not so much. But, it is what’s inside that is exceptional. Even for a person who is only moderately interested in wine, which means I am most interested in just getting on with it and drinking the darned stuff, the exhibits are fascinating. Vast amounts of IT let each person interact with the displays in very engaging ways.

In one section, you tap your personal head phone gizmo to a spot on the display and you are given the choice of hearing from various vintners from a particular wine growing region.  The vintner selected pops up onto a screen and talks to you about his particular area. While he or she is talking, photographs and other material appear before you.

Another section has a long row of clear bottles each with some doodad inside.  When you touch your gizmo to the bottle, you find out the significance of the doodad:  The bottle with part of a clarinet in it told me that one particular viticulturalist played his clarinet to the vines because . . . well, let’s face it, because he is probably a bottle short of a full case. Nonetheless, it is cunningly clever.

Yet another section.has large bell jars over various smelly things.  You squeeze a rubber bulb and inhale at a copper funnel to attune your nose to the aromas you may find in wines.  Lots of fun.

We managed to spend several hours there before Michael’s back said, “enough.”  Happily, there is a very nice restaurant right across the street and Michael was able to rest his back over a lovely lunch of duck leg, pumpkin and some of the best fries we have ever eaten.

 

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Bordeaux, By Golly

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V and M in our living room

Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019

Well, we made it.  Flights over were pretty much uneventful.  Because our flight from Seattle to London was much earlier in the day than usual, we decided NOT to try to sleep on the way over.  Left Seattle at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, arrived London at 7:00 a.m. Friday, left London at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and arrived in Toulouse about 4:30.  A long day but a good night’s sleep in Toulouse. Perhaps our plan was working.

Picked up car (Renault Captur) on Saturday morning and motored up and over to Bordeaux arriving just in time for our 2:00 p.m. check in at our apartment on the Quai de Chartrons.  Lovely people whose home this is when they aren’t at their other home somewhere on the coast.

Perhaps our plan isn’t working because Michael is being slammed with jet lag. I left him collapsed on the sofa yesterday afternoon.  I took a walk down towards the city center in search of (what else?) pastry.  A very particular pastry: Canelés de Bordeaux.  They are beautiful: all caramelized on the outside of their lovely fluted shapes and soft in the inside. Very rummy. Very chewy. In my opinion, not that great.  I am so happy to find a pastry I can pass.  It doesn’t happen often.

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Even Buster stopped after one bite.

This morning, we did a double decker bus tour of the center of the city.  It was a gorgeous morning and the tour provided an excellent overview. After a not-so-quick lunch, we went back to revisit some of the sights from the morning.

Because we bought a 24-hour city pass and because tram rides are included in the pass and because we were beginning to flag, we spent the last of our afternoon just riding to the end of the tram line and back.

At the moment, Michael is, once again, collapsed on the sofa and I am contemplating heading out for an hour or so.  I have a load of laundry going but with this machine, which both washes and dries the clothes, it will be another three hours before it is done.

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Here We Go Again

Thanks, Mom

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BA lounge, SeaTac

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Dismal Nitch?

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What, exactly, is a dismal nitch, you might well be asking. It could a place where the Lewis and Clark party spent six miserable days and nights near the mouth of the Columbia River. A place that William Clark referred to as “that dismal little nitch.”*

OR, it could be the inspiration for a new adaptation of “Macbeth.”

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*When the party left the dismal nitch, they moved to a spot that Clark referred to as “blustering point,” “Stormey point,” and “Point Distress.” Do we detect a theme here?

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Undaunted Courage

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Ready to begin another road trip with Judy at the wheel

Thanks to Stephen Ambrose for the title of this post. “Undaunted Courage: Because we are ending our trip on the banks of the Columbia River very near the place where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 on their journey of discovery  of the west; and, because that’s the kind of mind set it has taken to accept that our journey of discovery with Heather and Judy is reaching its conclusion.

But a trip isn’t over until it’s over and we still have a few hours to spend together. So, let’s recap the past couple of days.

We headed west from Salem on Sunday morning under beautifully blue skies. This was another drive that showcased the diverse landscape that Oregon has to offer. Agricultural land, forested land, dairy land and astonishing coastal vistas.

First stop was Tillamook; see photo above to get a sense of the new-ish visitors’ center.  Lines for ice cream were too long; old folks just don’t have that much time to devote to dairy products.

Final stop was the Holiday inn Express in Astoria, Oregon.  It may be a chain hotel but its location right under the bridge is hard to beat. We did a little recce of the town, checking out some of the many brewpubs the town has to offer before settling on Buoy Brewery on the waterfront. Good beer, good cider, great view of the river.  Short trolley ride back to the Bridgewater Bistro for a delicious dinner.

Yesterday, we began the day with Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop, a reconstruction of their winter camp on the banks of the Netul River (also known as the Lewis and Clark River). The visitor center/museum provides excellent context for the visit and walking through the forest under the BIG evergreens dripping with lichens is very pleasant.

Fort Steven’s State Park and the wreck of the Peter Iredale were also on our itinerary.  Lunch of burgers at Fort George brewpub back in Astoria. Our afternoon included the maritime museum and a visit up the hill to the Astoria Column with its exterior covered with a spiral of sgraffiti images of the history of this area since the arrival of white people.  It was also good fun to watch people launch their balsa wood gliders from the top of the column and follow the paths of the little planes as they were buffeted by the winds.

Pink bubbly stuff back at the hotel and another delicious dinner at the Bridgewater.

We’ve packed quite a bit into the past sixteen days and, if Judy and Heather have enjoyed them even half as much as have we, it has been a most incredible vacation.

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A Second Slice of Salem

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Rodney in our backyard

After a hotel with author-themed rooms, we returned to home base where the main theme is dust control . . . and the dust is gaining ground.

Splendid summer weather in Salem for our two days back. More Saturday marketing for Saturday dinner.  More dogs at market than last week as well as more buskers; both signs that summer is heating up.

We paid a brief visit to Salem’s “World Beat” festival at the waterfront. Masses of vendors and purveyors of everything from Peruvian knitted finger puppets to Indonesian print shirts to Hawaiian shave ice to Philippine lumpia. We saw ospreys and dragon boat races. We saw children playing in the water fountains and other children learning how to play African drums. In a city with a very pale past, it was great to see the tremendous diversity that makes up our community . . . a diversity that is still too often not seen.

Turns out our Saturday marketing was wisely done because Saturday night’s dinner was another grilling success.

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