After a year of partial confinement in the French countryside, we looked forward being at sea as much as possible. Luck was on our side when friends told us they were going to Sardinia and accommodation in their same residence was available, at friend's discounted rate. Sardinia / Sardenga is an island south of the French island of Corsica. It is often thought of being filled with yachts belonging to the rich and famous. It's so much more, the natural landscapes and seemingly endless supply of beaches make it a nature lovers paradise.
Short history of sugar in Europe and the New World with links to sources to learn more.
pilgrimages towards St. Jacques de Compostela. With it's cathedral from the 12th century and beautiful brickwork, Rieux-Volvestres charm will surprise every traveler that arrives here on purpose...or by just getting lost along secondary roads boarded by the many corn and sunflowers fields.
While oyster cultivation has been occurring in our area of SW France for millennia and is a massive industry on the West Coast of France in general (France accounts for 60% of all oysters eaten in Europe, if they get the chance to leave the country). The Bassin (bay) is a large producer but mostly known for being the largest producer of baby oysters, or spat, which are then sent all over France.
Bordeaux is a great city to visit - it's a lovely, smaller version of Paris (much of Paris was designed after it's 18th century design), but many come to learn more about the wine culture of Bordeaux. If you only have one day, there is plenty to explore in town. I'd invite you to spend at least two, because visiting a producer outside of town is a must, be it the famous Chateau Pape Clement which is accessible by public transport or the intimate, family owned producer of Chateau Beard la Chapelle in the hills near Saint Emilion.
Finally, the day has come (June 9), when Americans are allowed back into France with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR covid test. Here are some things to know before you book your flight :
ArcachonRoute Du Cap FerretAvenue Nord Du PhareVillage Ostréicole de l'Herbe Where do you go to get away from it all? One of the great escapes for someone living in Bordeaux, or Gironde as a whole, is a trip to the Atlantic Coast. One of my favorite places is Cap Ferret, a peninsula that offers both... Continue Reading →
A culinary tour is one of the best ways to see a new place, learn a bit of history and understand more of the culture. It's a multisensory journey...if you are looking for something a bit different, off the beaten path? find that countryside cottage or villa in the vines to cook your locally sourced products to enjoy that farm-to-table style life. If you should want to visit coastal oyster farms or the inland caviar farms...
It was written by the chef Francois Pierre or 'La Varenne', in his book 'Le Cuisinier Francois'? Nothing worthy of mentioning had been written since Taillevents' 12th century cookbook, but this new book was filled with exciting revelations since the incredible influence of Italian haute-cuisine in France, thanks to Catherine de Medici.
If you're looking for a pretty location to go with kids to visit a family owned goat farm, see historic castles, centuries old ruins, and meet a confiture artisan métier...look no further than Prechac in Gironde.
...best way to see the real France and during these covid times a great way to have fun, avoid large groups of people and support smaller communities. Captieux has a lake, Lac de Taste, incredible farms like La Ferme des Filles, is home to one of the most Northern bull rings, and is where the delectable 'puits d'amour' pastry is from! Besides selling incredible produce from seasonal vegetables to eggs on-site, La Ferme des Filles has gites to rent, will eventually run educational events (when covid allows), and offers a lovely large area for your children to roam and meet goats, sheep and chickens...
Gironde has so many beautiful places to visit, some of my favorite (especially in the summer months) are the Langon market (Friday), Verdelais, and Saint-Croix-du-Months. Ira of Lost in Bordeaux came with me a few weeks ago and her talents created a really fun video of some of my favorite places. I wanted to share the addresses and a few more if you should end up that way! A day trip from Bordeaux in Southeast Gironde / Discovering the Southwest of France - YouTube
You might wonder how to tell the good saffron from the bad safflower, why some threads costing three times as much as other 'saffron'. Well, as with many expensive food items, besides the quality, you also have to question the authenticity. It takes at least 100,000-200,000 threads of saffron to make a kilo, which sells for anywhere from 3,000-6,000 EURO. It's the most expensive spice in the world...During the pandemic of bubonic plague a war ensued called the 'Saffron War', it was so valued as a cure for the suffering that stocks in Europe were depleted and more was ordered from the East.
When I was visiting Libourne a few months ago, I realized I needed to know more and knew just the person to ask - Jennifer Poe of 'My Bordeaux Tours', who is an experienced local tour guide and American expat living in Bordeaux. She is the blogger behind 'American Mom in Bordeaux' and has worked with multiple river cruise companies offering tours to their clients. Libourne has a lot to offer any visitor from walking along the port, wandering through the old bastide section of town, a lovely fine arts museum and exploring it's variety of stores, cafes and restaurants. Especially on market days, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings - this town is alive and vibrant - not just around the holidays.
Truffle Farming came up the other day when a group of us were talking about finding truffle products locally. A friend, Nola D’Enis (culinary guide and writer), was mentioning a local truffle tree farm (truffiere) not to far from us that she had written about it a few years ago called Agri-Truffe. So, I paid them a visit. I had been writing about truffles in Dordogne (the epicenter for France) and decided to go a different route, what if you want to start your own truffle farm? Here are the experiences of three different people who started truffle farms - Alain Fabregues in Australia, Casey Yangeolva in Bularia, and Loic Luzinier in France.
There are unlimited amounts of things to do with children in this area, from beaches to parks and museums. It's a very family friendly area, with lots of great camping grounds in all price ranges (the French version of a holiday home/camping/vacation park). Most larger French towns have a beautiful old carousel which kids adore, good parks and public pools.
Unfortunately, I don’t live in the center of Bordeaux and the charming promenade along the Garonne river is not included in my permitted 1h daily walk. So now while all I can do is dream about deconfinement, I want to share with you the three things that I plan to do once I’m allowed to return to Bordeaux!
I was hooked almost straight away. Even though we didn’t travel far and wide with that first trip, I loved the idea of the freedom and flexibility a CV would give us. I couldn’t stop thinking about how useful it would be to own one, especially here in the Nouvelle Aquitaine with so many wonderful places to visit literally on our doorstep. Not only could we go on long summer holidays, we could also decide on a whim to take a weekend break or overnight stop to the coast, or the mountains if the weather is good.
There are seaside villages, rustic farming stays and beautiful vistas throughout this area of France. There are equal parts glamour and guts to this part of France, which I love! The food is some of the best in France, featuring plenty of seafood, chocolate, wine, pastry, cheese and...
Over the summer, travel restrictions were lifted in Europe, and after months in a tiny city apartment, my family craved fresh air and nature. Our summer plans initially included an epic vacation in Africa… we held out hope until a few months before departure when it became clear CoVid-19 was not going away anytime soon. After a short mourning period, we jumped into action – what trip would get us out of the city, without much risk of losing money to cancelations or spreading germs? After much debate – we settled on a circuit between France and Switzerland, exclusively by train. This seemed like both the safest health wise (unless you can travel by car), and the least risky financially.
The start of the visit takes place on an old train that passes through the pines into a small village where 'resiniers' cut the sides of pines to collect sap (gammage) and shepherds (bergers) on their stilts (tchangues) would have lived with their flocks of sheep...
Traveling from the US to France with a small dog (17 pounds or under 8 kilo) is easy as they can travel in the cabin, a larger dog either needs to go into the cargo hold or be accepted as a companion animal for nervous fliers. Since living in Europe, Bear has travelled all over - from Spain to Reunion Island and a five-star hotel in Rome. She's lived the life and is a really great cabin dog.
This is a list of some of the local products you can purchase to give to your favorite teachers, take home to your family, over friend's houses or wrap under the tree this holiday season (or any time of year!). All items are made locally to Bazas by farmers or artisans.
At the bottom of the hill to Saint Macaire, the Garonne river used to touch the town and boat loads of wine would make their way to Bordeaux. Sadly, the rare Saint Macaire grape isn't grown much in the region anymore, but biodynamic producer Chateau Cazebonne will have their first bottle of 2020 Saint Macaire ready next year!
Upon entering the tourist office in Agen, you are greeted with a selection of local goods which consists of Prunes (dried plums) in multiple forms. However, Agen is full of other delicious foods, timbered houses, and carved stone hotel particuliers, an impressive art museum, and a really unique canal/aqueduct system built in the mid-1800s that is still in use today.
France notified Americans coming to France need to have a 72 hour covid test. I want to just say how HARD it was to find a place to get tested (I got tested about a week after arriving to make sure I didn't catch something on the plane)
The incredibly talented Camille Brouillard of L'Huitrier Pie in Saint Emilion (shown with her equally talented partner Soufiane Assarrar). Together, they create finely detailed, precise dishes which perfectly showcase their love of local, seasonal produce. A must try when in the region. Interview is in French but can be changed on website with the google translate option.
Chef Élodie Pichard, Chef with her partner and husband Jeremie, Duck Tartare and Seared Fois Gras When the Michelin Guide came out with its new list of culinary stars in the region for 2020, it was impossible to miss the lack of female chefs. I regularly work with Chef Caroline Alix of Restaurant Caro&Co in... Continue Reading →
In the Basque Country, this tree is not valued as much for its fruits, but rather for its wood, used to create the typical stick of the region, la makila.
There are so many great natural locations in Sud-Gironde, like the Lake at Hostens or the Atlantic Beaches, but what if you want something away from crowds?
The temperature dropped considerably last weekend and only since Thursday, it is going slowly up, back to the usual for this time of the year.
It is no surprise for the French, we just left behind the ‘Ice Saints’!
The produce stand can be a challenge in supermarkets, everything is available nearly all of the time...and it maybe even says 'organic', which is a great idea. In France, if you are buying in your local market you'll find the best selection of local and seasonal produce but it may not be organic. So what is better for you? Which is better for the environment?
With many markets closing let’s try to keep our local farms in business while we can with delivery or pick-up of local products.
Most cheese in France are made from the milk of either a cow, sheep or goat and a rennet will be used to make the curds, which are then pressed into a form and aged for varied lengths of time.
Along the narrow and steep streets of the center there are nice timber-framed buildings, a house where Henry II spent a night, and The Musee des Jacobins (also known as Musee des Ameriques) hosting the second most important collection of pre-Colombian artefacts.
This is by far one of my favorite cities to visit and was so lucky to have been able to call it home before we made the decision to move to the Bordeaux region. These are my suggestions for your visit in Barcelona.
Bullrings are found in only 10% of French territory and mainly in the South of France. In Captieux, about 20 minutes from Bazas, there is a small bullring used in the amateur bullfighting circuit every year for the Rugby y Toros.
Bazas, normally under 5,000 inhabitants, swells to over 20,000. Farmers of Bazadais cattle choose their best representative of the breed, place large wreaths and crowns of flowers on them and bring the animal into town to the delight of many admiring onlookers.
This region is famous for wine production, so when Charles DELALAND opened up his Brasserie Distillerie Cabestan he wasn't very worried about the competition or fitting in with the local vinters in Saint-Croix-du-Mont. The brewery is tucked into the center of town, almost hidden behind a tall gate that from behind looks out over the Garonne valley and onto the vineyards of Sauternes in the distance. It's an incredibly scenic and inviting atmosphere for summer evenings.
One of the most authentic French countryside towns might be Bazas. Its arcaded town square, beautiful Saturday morning markets and unique yearly festivals are only a few of the reasons to visit.
If you have ever been to the Alps, you cannot compare the skiing available nearby in the Pyrenees (try going to Andorra in that case). Within three hours from Bordeaux (or Bazas) you can get a wintery experience at either of these nearby locations.* Gourette : A small, low altitude, affordable, family ski village created in... Continue Reading →
What I discovered while working in Barcelona, was that I loved sharing local food experiences with people visiting. Where someone might mistake the 'local' cuisine to be paella and tapas...which is not Catalan and not local...I was able to introduce to fideua catalane or butifarra.
From the macaron to canele, to puits d'amour to mouchous...the SW of France has a wide variety of bite sized sweet treats! This part of France is also were chocolate is believed to have entered from Spain and makes it home to some incredible chocolate shops!
Visting the historic center of Gironde, circa 1400. UNESCO Cathedral, Saturday Markets and Cultural Festivals.
10am Visit fois gras farm to learn how fois gras is made and taste products 11am Bazas tour of city and learn the history of this UNESCO cathedral village 1230pm Stop by butcher who will show us the famous Bazadais beef cuts 1pm Lunch of Bazadais beef cooked by chef and owner of local restaurant... Continue Reading →
Visit the historical culinary capital of the world, from the city of Paris to the countryside of Bordeaux during one week take in as much find dining and history as possible!
When the sun is too hot you can take a dip in one of these watering holes for a break!
The Durand family has an incredibly well-run operation, from fishing to cooking to presentations for kids and adults.
e time to go...when the oak leaves are changing color and the air is cool and crisp. This part of South-West France has some of the most impressive seasonal landscapes. Sarlat-la-Caneda, a stunning medieval village in the Périgord Noir of Dordogne is a great place to stop if you're visiting the area. This town is full of half timbered homes, stone buildings with the classic pitched roofs, and plenty of culinary delights!
When you first meet Caroline ALIX, or Caro, in her charming restaurant 'Caro&Co located under the stone arcades in the countryside village of Bazas, you see a charming and sociable chef. The warmth she puts into creating her colorful and seasonal plates is expressed with seasonal vegetables and local meats, sometimes with a hint of those South African roots. Maybe the most unique dish you can try is a beautiful bobotie (spiced mince gratin from South Africa) or maybe a chilled tumeric and carrot soup.
From Bordeaux you can take a non-stop flight on multiple airlines, generally for under 50 EURO round-trip if you are flexible date-wise. I flew Volotea this time, which has a lot of great priced flights from Bordeaux....If not, find a tour. Mine, naturally, was food focused, light hearted and really fun. It was around three hours long and took you into the belly of Naples...Take a ferry from Naples to any of the Islands, Capri is beautiful but I spent to many summers only seeing that island, so on this trip I decided to go to Procida
...after flying over water to see this barren island in the middle of nowhere, with clear skies, we were all excited about our adventure...the apartment we stayed at on the North Coast. It was a perfect escape from the world. What is great about Lanzarote, most everything you'll want to see is outside and the wind blows year round so it's fresh air all the time. It is a rough, moon-like landscape due to a large volcanic eruption almost three-hundred years ago (smaller one since). It's not a tropical island, but it has its own wild beauty.
Reunion Island is an actively volcanic island, which has a fascinating history. When first discovered there was very little animal life and had never been inhabited...while the origins of vanilla are Central and South American, prior attempts to grow the beans in Europe always failed. The natural pollinators were a special species of bees that didn't live in Europe, but this was not known at the time. A slave, a young boy by the name of Edmund Albias, created the hand pollination method and completely transformed the vanilla industry.