For the first time, this week, I got to see with my own eyes a medlar tree. The fruits are slowly growing and will be ready to be harvested ripe, only in autumn.
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.
Its origin goes back various centuries and its manufacturing process starts right in the forest, while the branch is still attached to the tree.
It is quite fascinating how an artisan carves over the warm months the branch so that the overflowing sap produces a design. The branch will only be cut in winter when the decoration of the stick has naturally appeared.
The fine work is done with heat, to smooth and straighten the wood.
Braided leather is used to cover the handle that is then topped by a metal grip and a horn knob.
The tip that touches the ground is made of steel. The handle hides a point made also of steel, that might comes in handy while walking the mountains and encountering wolves or bears (for example).
The metal parts have traditional Basque motifs and are used for an engraved short dedication.
These sticks are usually offered as a gift to mark an important event, be it the coming of age of a youngster or visit of a president to the region (Reagan was offered one as well as Pope John Paul II).
About 10 minutes from the vibrant village of Bazas with its many restaurants, charming shops and Saturday market, you have the calm of the Sud-Gironde countryside. Small historic towns, thousand-year-old churches and herds of cattle dot the pastural landscape. After driving behind the church in the village of Saint-Come, further into the trees, you’ll arrive at the Moulin de Laborie. This is a house rental with tree house, completely independant from the owner, Jan, who lives on site. The large guest house (that can accommodate ten comfortably) has a heated pool, outdoor grill, and communal kitchen. There is also a separate tree house with it’s own balcony for enjoying a nice glass of Graves and watching the sunset (tree house alone is 140 EURO a night). It’s a great place to escape the crowds and appreciate the natural surroundings. Perfect for small groups wanting to self isolate. Private educational trips to local farms to choose your fresh, local foods for meals can also be arranged / https://moulindelaboirie.fr/cabane-perchee/ / 1 Laboirie, 33430 Saint-Côme, France / +33 (0)5 56 25 47 92 / firstname.lastname@example.org
This château is about 15 minutes from Saint Emilion has really beautiful guest houses, with fireplaces, large Italian showers or two person tubs, and individual garden areas to host couples or families. Their Spa, TerreHappy, is calm and welcoming but also reasonably priced. The owner is super personable and charming and the estetician, Jemma, is so talented! JUNE 2020 – At 50 EURO per person, you can escape for the day to enjoy yoga, meditation, nature walks, spa (treatments extra) and lunch (15 EURO supplement) at the Chateau Latour Segur every Saturday through the month. Retreats are open to six people maximum due to covid regulations / www.chateaulatoursegur.com / 1 Rue Latour, Lussac, Aquitaine, France 33570 / +33 (0)6 24 53 75 50 /
More information and photos on Chateau Latour Segur can be found here
Boating on the Bassin d’Arcachon in a sailboat or pinasse
After working for years in yachting, I don’t find anything more relaxing and serene than being on the water. Blessed to never feel sick, the lulling of a boat is a sedative for me! I haven’t had the chance to do individual boating experiences in the Bassin but we have done a larger group excursion from Arcachon to Le Canon with stops along the way, and it’s honestly the best way to enjoy our area. There are plenty of sailing boats and the elegant, classic ‘pinasse‘ for taking a few hours or a day out…some even with a picnic supplied (of course local oysters will always be on the menu!). Starting rates for a smaller, private vessel with captain, are around 200 EURO for two hours. I’m waiting to hear back for my own individual trip this weekend (weather hopefully will change for the better), so I’ll keep you posted! Until then, check out these options :
After a few days of grey sky, we almost forgot it is already late spring.
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’!
Despite being a pretty secular society, they can’t help but trust Saint-Mamertus, Saint-Pancras and Saint-Servatius, 11th, 12th and 13th of May. Respectively, these days are considered as the last ones that might bring nightly frosts and only after these three days it is safe to plant in the garden the most sensible plants: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and pumpkins.
Saint Mamertus, who lived in the 5th century, is the only one with a real connection to the farming world: he’s the founder of the rogations, processions followed by prayer, that farmers hold on to for good crops (read more here).
I have always looked at this tradition with skepticism, and this year, I decided I trusted the weather forecast better than medieval beliefs.
Winter has been particularly mild, so I planted my tomatoes two weeks back… along with every other single sprout I had worked on since late February.
Well, the curse of the Saints took a modern twist, sending hail for 10 minutes, followed by 36 hours of intense rain. In total, 24 of my tomato plants ended up like Marie Antoinette, decapitated by ice.
If you are in the countryside, you will find French who decided to take a slow pace towards de-confined life, happily bent over, in their veggie patches, planting tomatoes and marigolds.
An engraving of Saint Mamertus from an 1878 book, Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints @wikipedia
(Pour lire dans Français ou une autre langue, s’il vous plaît vérifier sur le côté de la main de la plate-forme de la page pour le bouton à traduire)
The produce stand can be a challenge in supermarkets, everything is available nearly all of the time…and it maybe even says ‘organic’or ‘bio’ 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?
Local. How local is local? Let’s say that the products are only being transported from the farm to point of sale (market), or that you are buying from the farm directly where you can see how everything is managed up close. This is going to have a low carbon footprint, but you will also being helping farmers immediately in your community. There are plenty of farms that you can buy locally from or sign up for their weekly delivery of seasonal products through an AMAP.
Organic. Buying only based on the word ‘organic’ or ‘bio’ is generally going to be the worst choice for the environment. It is likely produce that is coming from Spain (in Europe) and grown in very unsustainable methods, in dry landscapes with row after row of greenhouses where water has to be diverted to. Then it is also being transported long distances, adding to its carbon footprint. Many smaller farms find achieving official organic status impossible because of the many government demands, when in reality they essentially are. Farms listed as biodynamic are immediately given organic status, as their farming methods are rigidly controlled by natural systems.
Seasonality. Then there is the idea of seasonality, because nothing tastes better than a tomato in August or a strawberry in June. The idea that we eat only those items available during a certain time of year is really only natural and ensures the best version of that product. Plus, many vegetables that grow during a certain time of year supply our bodies with what our bodies need during that season, like a watermelon supplying our body with more water in the summer and mushrooms being high in Vitamin D which is needed in the winter.
Local farms with pick up and delivery are available on our website but we want to hear about your favorite local product! Send us an email or post it on Facebook at Aquitaine Travel Guide! Right now is asparagus and strawberries-enjoy!
ENGLISH If we can’t be out giving tours, we can still help bring local products to our neighbors. Please keep supporting your local farms. They will still be growing and raising food. By buying online on their websites, you’ll support local business and keep the people who feed us in business! Most deliver to your home or a local pick up point. FRANÇAIS Si nous ne pouvons pas être dehors pour donner des visites, nous pouvons toujours contribuer à faire venir les produits locaux chez nos voisins. Continuez de soutenir vos fermes locales. Elle continuent à faire pousser et élever. En achetant en ligne sur leurs sites, vous soutiendrez le business local et aiderez ces gens qui nous nourrissent à maintenir à flot leur affaire. La plupart livrent à domicile ou dans un point de collecte local.
Here are some options for online delivery orders with multiple farms in France (individual farms are next, des fermes individuelles ont dans la prochaine liste) Voici quelques options pour les commandes de livraison en ligne avec plusieurs fermes en France (les fermes individuelles sont les suivantes dans la prochaine liste) : Note this is new to me as well, please share your personal experiences with each provider, if you’ve used them, in comments below. Thank you!
My Farmers– works with producers locally, register online to make your order of what is available for delivery in central Bordeaux / travailler avec des fermes locales, créé votre compte et choisir des produits dispo pour une livraison a Bordeaux https://www.myfarmers.fr/
Pourdebon– some producers are not selling during this time period, be sure to click in description to verify their Facebook page seems to have what is available posted / certains producteurs ne vendent pas pendant cette période, assurez-vous de cliquer en description pour vérifier. Leur page Facebook semble avoir ce qui est disponible posté / https://www.pourdebon.com/
Cagette.net – Nouvelle Aquitaine / Offers multiple options for delivery (usually to a fixed location) from different local farms and producers / Offre plusieurs options de livraison (généralement à un endroit fixe) de différentes fermes et producteurs locaux / www.cagette.net
La Compagnie Fermiere – Merignac and Gradignan / store with local producers that does pick up and just starting delivery in Bordeaux and surrounding areas / magasin avec les producteurs locaux qui ne ramasser et tout juste de commencer la livraison à Bordeaux et les environs / Merignac@lacompagniefermiere.fr et email@example.com / https://www.lacompagniefermiere.fr/
Individual Farms – ENGLISH I’m working hard on collecting local farms still delivering, as long as they’re allowed to. Please feel free to send me more to add. There are a lot of farms open for pick up, I’m just not sure how much longer we will be allowed to drive very far. I’ve worked with many of these people, they make some amazing products in BORDEAUX/GIRONDE/AQUITAINE generally x FYI Some farms needs masks, if you have some at home or know how to make any…please give them to your local farmer! FRANÇAIS J’ai travaillé dur pour rassembler des informations sur des fermes locales qui assuraient encore des livraisons, tant qu’ils en ont encore le droit. Il y a plein de fermes ouvertes pour une collecte sur place, même si je ne sais pas combien de temps encore nous pourrons nous déplacer loin. J’ai travaillé avec plusieurs de ces producteurs sur BORDEAUX/GIRONDE/AQUITAINE. Certaines fermes ont besoin de masques, si vous en avez à la maison ou savez comment en faire, n’hésitez pas à leur en faire parvenir.
Vegetables / legumes
Ferme de Cantis – Couthure (10 minutes de Marmande) / call to order your vegetable basket to be picked up at farm / appelez pour commander votre basket de legumes à être ramassé à la ferme / Bastien +33 (0)6 16 31 86 40
Le Domaine d’Ecoline – Sadirac / vegetables and fruits, legumes et fruits / pick-up or delivery w/in 20kim of Sadirac, récupérer ou livraison entre 20km de Sadirac / order online for delivery in 48hrs, faire la commande en ligne pour livraison dans 48hrs / +33 (0)6 10 13 26 81 / Lieu dit Joyeuse, 33670 Sadirac / firstname.lastname@example.org / https://www.domaine-ecoline.fr/
Asparagus, Asperge – Noaillan / pick-up at farm, récupérer à la ferme / asparagus,asperge 5€ kilo, tips et des points a 6€ kilo / Chez FAUQUE Nathalie, 1 Suscarrot, Noaillan / +33 (0)5 56 25 39 05
Thierry Premieur– Langorian (closed) et Podensac et Langon (ouvert) / vegetable stand doing pickup and delivery orders via ONE SMS (put name, address, contact info) / stand de légumes faisant des commandes de ramassage et de livraison via UN SMS (mettre le nom, l’adresse, les coordonnées) / +33 (0)6 08 01 47 92 (Thierry) / https://www.facebook.com/thierry.primeur
Muriel ARNULL – Langon, Bazas, Cudos, Captieux, Villandrault / delivery of chickens, pintade, and butchered duck as well as eggs and duck hearts / livraison des livraison pour la volaille, poulet 7.80 le kilo, pintade 9.30 le kilo, canette 9.60 le kilo et magret découpe plus des œuf pleine aire et les coeurs de canard / email@example.com
Little Black Pig – Montesquiou / charcuterie products for pick or local delivery / des produits charcuterie, récupérer sur place ou livraisons local / +33 (0)5 62 07 15 19 / Enjouanisson, 32320 Montesquiou / firstname.lastname@example.org / http://littleblackpig.eu /
Duck / canard
Palmagri – Magasins aLangon, Auros, Bordeaux et Bazas / pick-up and local delivery at local duck coopérative making foie gras and any other sort of duck product from magret to rillettes, des produits canard et foie gras / récupérer sur place et livraisons locales dans coopérative de canard local faisant du foie gras et tout autre type de produit de canard du magret aux rillettes, des produits canard et foie gras / http://www.palmagri-foiegras.fr
La Ferme de Queyran – Bernos-Beaulac / duck and foie gras products, canard et des produits foie gras / pick-up for orders under 50€ and more than 10km, récupérer sur place ou livraison pour les commandes plus de 50€ et mois de 10km / Fabien +33 (0)6 03 19 17 86 / https://www.facebook.com/fermequeyran/
La Ferme du Moulinat – Loubens / canned duck goods, sunflower oil and canola, bio lentils, dried corn, grains for animal feed and they are part of the association Les Paysans d’Aqui, we are a group of organic or very reasoned producers who offer sales via cagette.net on Thursday evening at the new plant (former prison of La Réole), the second Wednesday of the month at my farm and we have just set up specially for sales containment on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the farm / FRANCAIS conserves de canard gras (et produits frais sur commande) huiles de tournesol et de colza Bio, lentille bio, maïs popcorn bio, céréales pour animaux bio et ils faites partie de l’asso Les Paysans d’Aqui, nous sommes un regroupement de producteurs bio ou très raisonnés qui proposons des ventes via cagette.net le jeudi soir à la nouvelle centrale (ancienne prison de La Réole), le second mercredi du mois à ma ferme et nous venons de mettre en place spécialement pour le confinement des ventes le samedi matin de 9h à 12h30 à la ferme / email@example.com / www.lafermedumoulinat.com
La Ferme Gauvry – Rimons / Bazadais beef, ducks and canned goods for pick-up, bœuf bazadais, canards et conservés pour récupérer sur place / Lieu dit Gauvry, 33580 Rions / +33 (0)5 56 71 83 96 ou +33 (0)6 07 75 19 43 / firstname.lastname@example.org / https://www.lafermegauvry.com/
La Grise de Bazas – Bazas / Bazadais beef, race bazadais veal veau Le semaine de 23 mars ready for pick-up the week of 23rd March with sausage and pate ten days after / veau le semaine de 23 mars prêt pour récupérer sous place le semaine de 23eme mars et des saucissons et pâte dix jours après / +33 (0)6 12 27 84 16 / email@example.com / https://www.lagrisedebazas.fr
Cheese and Milk / Fromage et lait
La Ferme de Pre Chic – Prechac / fresh goat cheese (and soaps), pick-up and delivery locally on orders over 15 EURO / fromage de chèvre frais (et de savon) récupérer sur place et livraison a domicile locale pour 15 EURO commande / 4 Lieu-dit Bergey et Bardine, 33730 Prechac / envoyer message sur Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lafermeduprechic/
La Ferme des Jarouilles – Coutras / pick-up at 17h Monday-Friday goat and cow, milk, yogurt and cheese as well as grains and eggs, / récupère a 17h le lundi à vendredi du chèvre et vache lait, yaourt et fromage et des graines et les œufs / +33 (0)5 57 49 28 20 / 36 Les Landes, 33230 Coutras / http://www.jarouilles.fr/
Dénis Morlans – Sendets / organic bakery delivering locally, pick-up at bakery. Hugo Délices a Bazas or at Bazas farm Johan Musseau on Saturday – boulangerie organic pour livraison locale, Hugo Délices a Bazas, récupérer sur place ou à la marche à Ferme Johan Musseau a Bazas les Samedis / 4 A Rippes, 33690 Sendets / https://m.facebook.com/LesConfituresDenisMorlans
For general inquiry check these locations :
Bienvenue à la Ferme – Great source for local farms and even places to visit after the virus quarantine is over. They are working with farmers to make sure all necessary hygiene and safety measures needed to deliver local foods / Grande source pour les fermes locales et même les endroits à visiter après la quarantaine du virus est terminée. Ils travaillent avec les agriculteurs pour s’assurer que toutes les mesures d’hygiène et de sécurité nécessaires à la livraison des aliments locauxhttps://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/nouvelle-aquitaine/produits-fermiers-produits-de-la-ferme
Lodene headed by Nicolas FAUGERE will be updating his list with map as well to help you find local producers – with a great interactive map! / Dirigé par Nicolas FAUGERE mettra à jour sa liste avec carte ainsi pour vous aider à trouver des producteurs locaux – avec une grande carte interactive!http://www.lodene.com/annuaire-covid.php
These are some cheese (non-exhaustive list) from the SW of France with basic information and where you can see the farm production of each cheese. Check out each AOP (Product Designation of Origin) Route des Fromages, as they will have a drivable route with plenty of relevant places to visit in each area. Please call all farms in advance if you would like to make a visit and be sure to tag us on Instagram @aquitainetravelguide when you go!
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. The type of animal and what it is feeding on during lactation will change the flavor. Some will have salt washes, some salt rubs…some will be wrapped in linen and others to air dry. All of these different methods (and more) will add the to the unique flavor and texture of the product.
Rennet – the curdled milk from the stomach of a baby cow, the byproduct of veal production, used in the cheese making process to make the curds
Artichoke Thistle (cardoon) – used often in the Mediterranean, one of the many vegetarian options, also less expensive options, available to curdle milk in cheese production
Microbial Rennet – vegetarian rennet alternative, used to curdle cheese in France, derived from molds
Fermier (artisanal) – farmhouse cheese, made with raw milk from cows on the farm (small production)
Laitier – commercialized, large production of pasteurized cheeses / many cheeses will have a pasteurized version for international sale
CHEESES : Locally to Bordeaux, we have small goats cheese producers like Cheverie Dunie in Gajac which makes lovely fresh and aged using vegetarian rennet or La Ferme du Pre Chic in Prechac which makes really young, fresh cheese and goat milk soap. The delicious Tomme de Bazas, from pasteurized cows milk, is actually made closer to the Pyrenees (not in Bazas). Please feel free to share your local favorites below!
Saint Nectaire – cows milk, AOC since 1955, curds the size of corn are placed into a round inox mold for an hour, salted on both sides, wrapped in damp linen and returned to the inox molds. They are stored in 8C-10C for a week before being taken to the aging room (cave d’affinage). Should have a semi-soft rind and soft interior. Visits to a local farm Ferme GAEC de l’Oiseau can be made here or GAEC de la Ferme du Clos here.
Bleu d’Avergne – cows milk, AOC since 1975, first made in 1854 by a roquefort cheese maker, has the blue mold Penicillium roqueforti but a creamier taste to Roquefort. Outside and inside should be crumbly. Aged over sixty days. Visits at La Grange de la Haute Vallee can be made here, which also offer other local AOC cheeses like Cantal and Salers.
Cantal – cows milk, AOC since 1956, one of the oldest cheeses in France and mentioned since Gallo-Romain times. The larger curds are salted en masse and pressed twice then aged from 30 days up to eight months. Exterior should be hard and the interior crumbly in more aged versions. For visits.
Salers – cows cheese, AOC since 1961, and fermier produced from spring to autumn. ‘Tradition Salers‘ is made from hand-milked, Salers cows. At least 300 liters of milk is used for each round of cheese, which is aged around nine months or more. As with other SW cheeses, Henri de La Ferté-Senneterre is a local from Auvergne famous for serving Salers to Louis XIV and finally giving them notoriety even though it has been produced for thousands of years. For visits.
Rocamadour – goat milk, AOC since 1996, familiar small round of cheese that is aged for 12-15 days. Should be white and soft on the inside. Named after the Lot Valley mountaintop village area where it is produced, Rocamadour (also worth a visit). Tours at one of the 90 farms can be made here.
Ossau Iraty – sheep milk, AOC since 1980, traditional cheese of Bearne and Pays Basque. Made during the late Spring and early Autumn months, 5-6 Liters of milk make one kilo of cheese. They are aged from 2 1/2 months up to even 12 months. The Pays Basque age in dry caves while the Bearne cheeses are in a more moist environment, even wrapped in moist cloth, which explains the difference in taste and look of the Ossau Iraty varieties. For visits, you can stop by Farm Gaec Hobiaguehere.
Explore the whole Pays Basque area which includes the production of the tiny pepper piment espellette, which was used as a black pepper alternative in the region, Bayonne with it’s important chocolate history, and the land of a very cute and small variety of horse, Pottoka.
Another cheese in this area, Kukuklu, is a goat cheese and you can do a self guided tour at the farm La Ferme Kukuluhere.
Laguiole – cow milk, AOC since 1961, takes its name from the same little town also famous for their knives, Laguiole. Considered to have a nutty/acidic flavor, from the Simmental or Aubrac cows milk only, aged six to 12 months and should have firm crust with a firm yet creamy center. This is used to make the famous ‘aligot‘ potatoes – a rich dish of cream, potato, butter and cheese. Visits at the Ferme des Claudels can be made here.
Bleu des Causses -cows milk, AOC since 1949, considered the mild variety of Roquefort. Aged from 3-6 months in North Aveyron and Causses’ natural limestone caves and perforated (like other blue cheeses) to allow for mold growth. Ferme Gazenas offers group visits here
Roquefort – sheep milk, AOC since 1925, 4.5 liters makes a 1 kilo of cheese. Named for the region it is produced, Charles the IV in 1411 grated the locals of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon the sole producers of the cheese. The mold, Penicillium roqueforti, is found inside the natural limestone caves where they are aged. Fromagerie Papillon is one of my favorite cheeses, visit the cellar here.
Fourne d’Ambert – cows milk, AOC since 1972, uses the same mold as Roquefort. Generally made with pasteurized milk, there is a small artisanal production which has started. La Ferme des Supeyres makes unpasteurized cheese and you can buy directly from them here. They are also included on the Route des Fromages AOP Auvergne.
On a sunny Saturday morning, we left earlier than usual by our typical family outing standards and drove south east for about two hours, avoiding toll roads as we could, to drive by sleepy villages along secondary ways.
Our first destination was the historical capital of Gascony, Auch, (French pronunciation: [oʃ]): it’s always been a joke reading the name on road signs, pretending getting hurt. The name stems from the Aquitaine peoples who once lived there, called Auchi.
To my great surprise, apart from the stunning blue sky of a perfect and unusually warm winter day, the city of Auch is lovely, a gem not so rare in the French south-west. It is only a brief detour from the Bordeaux-Toulouse axe, in the Gers department.
When we walked towards the center, the market (held Thursday and Saturday) was in its wrap-up phase. The Cathedral Sainte-Marie dominates the main square and the Auch Tourist Office is smartly placed by its side, in a 4-story building, whose top floor is used to look at the square from a higher point of view. It’s colorful and has indoor swings, a playground for visitors of all ages / 3 Place de la Republique, 32003 Auch City / +33 5 62 05 22 89
We walked out with a map with a suggested itinerary not to miss the most important sites and for our children were given tablets for them to participate in an interactive treasure hunt with a thematic reward at the end.
Auch Monumental staircase is imposing with its over 300 steps connecting the low city with the high one and it’s worth climbing. Along the steps there is a statue of Charles de Batz-Castelmore D’Artagnan (who was a famous musketeer for Louis XIV and was the inspiration for one of the three Muskateers characters) in nearby Château de Castelmore. There is also a bronze sculpture quoting passages from the Biblical Flood myth to commemorate the devastating floods of summer 1977.
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 in France.
Before the end of the day, we drove an hour to spend the night in an Airbnb in Montauban, which is known for, among many other things, its reddish brick buildings, its rugby glory, and for briefly hiding Leonardo’s Mona Lisa during World War 2. We closed the day with a sunset walk across the Tarn River and a generous plate of local cassoulet – a local dish of beans and meats like pork sausage, pork belly and duck confit (there are many varieties), named after the dish it is baked in, the cassole. Mardi Michels (author ofIn The French Kitchen With Kids) has a great post on cooking the regional dish.
In the morning, we walked around discovering the Montaubon Cathedrale, the pretty national square and the gardens and the Ingres Museum which houses artwork of the Neoclassical painter, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres / 13 rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville Montauban / +33 (0)5 63 22 12 91
The reason why we took this weekend road trip was for me to finally visit the Romanesque Abbey in Moissac which I had learnt about while visiting the Grande-Sauve Abbey, near Bordeaux.
We arrived Moissac on a foggy Sunday morning, drove around in circle a couple of times, in search for a parking as we didn’t know the market attracts hundreds of visitors and is very big considering the season.
We left the car along the canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to Toulouse and goes on to become the Canal du Midi, till Sète on the Mediterranean Sea, and walked towards the center.
We ate in La Terrace du Cloitre the only restaurant we found open on a Sunday, by the entrance of the abbey, quickly enough to be at the guided tour of the early afternoon.
I like the tranquil atmosphere abbeys convey: the geometry of their corridors, the symmetry of the columns, the stubbornness of ruins still standing despite revolutions, wars and the simple passage of centuries. I like how the tradition of these places aimed at self-sufficiency and inner peace.
Moissac, as the cathedrals in Auch and Montauban, is part of the St. James Pilgrimage path (also known as Camino de Santiago), a UNESCO world heritage site for humanity since 1998.
Our guide to the abbey and nearby church, knew every brick, every column capital, every bas-relief and anticipated all our questions with information revealing what everyday life used to be like over the span of 14 centuries, since its creation around 650. 1-2 hour Guided tours are available on weekends November-March and daily April-October. Visiting hours vary by season, check website before arriving.
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, please feel free to message me for more suggestions or if you have any questions.
Arriving into Barcelona by train is simple, Barcelona Sants is centrally located and it is a nonstop six-hour trip from Paris for around 80 EURO each way (some deals for under 30 EURO can be found). From Bordeaux it will take just as long, if not more, and will require a transfer. Train bookings open up three months prior to date of departure.
Flights are equally simple and cheap, Vueling and Easyjetcan have nonstop flights as low as 20 EURO each way. Once you leave the airport, the AEROBUS can take you to Placa Catalonia starting at 6 EURO. Taxis are cheap in Barcelona as well and will run you around 20 EURO from the airport to town. UBER doesn’t exist, so you would want to download the local versions app Cabify.
Driving is another alternative which allows you to explore the beautiful Costa Brava coastline between France and Spain, as well as take side trips to Romain ruins at Empuries or theScala Dei vineyards of Priorat. Parking in Barcelona isn’t hard and there are plenty of parking decks starting around 18 EURO a day.
For the metro, buy a T-Casual ticket with ten trips for 11.35€ from any machine in the metro. Make sure you don’t bend it or keep it next to a magnet.
WHAT TO SEE :
As I am a food-centric person, you’ll have to excuse the fact that my trip primarily revolves around meals, markets and snacks! You have to take the time to visit at least a couple of markets. Each neighborhood of Barcelona has a market, at least one, and they are impressive. The quality and vast range of products will make anyone with a kitchen happy! Plus the prices, if you’re coming from France.
The Boqueria, on the Ramblas, is probably the most well known and visited market. There has been a market on these premises since the 1217, when the local farmers would pull up with their produce to sell. The current structure is from the mid 1800’s and is beautiful. I’m sad to say, however, that over the past decade the number of authentic stands (not dedicated to tourism) have waned dramatically. If you want to get a sense of what the market used to feel like, go early in the morning (aim for 8am) and after walking around, stop at one of the counters, order una cana (beer) and a plate bunyols (fried cod fritters). The fish section of the Boqueria is incredible, but due to high numbers of tourists the fish mongers will prefer if you refrain from taking photos.
If you want to visit a local market less frequented by tourists, try the Mercat Santa Caterinain La Ribera with it’s tiled roof of a pixelated image of fruit and vegetables, or head to the newly renovated Mercat de Sant Antoniin Poble Sec (great neighborhood for tapas hopping).
If the Ramblas is the Times Square of Barcelona, then El Born Neighborhood is the Brooklyn. It is a really fun, hip place to be with beautiful streets to wonder through, a chocolate museum and school and a covered market that has been turned into an archeological museum. Bar del Pla is perfect spot to grab lunch or dinner, with classic tapas but also creative additions in a traditional bodega setting / Carrer Montcada, num. 2, 08003, Barcelona / +34 932 683 003
The Gotico neighborhood is where a lot of shopping can be had and where the beautiful Cathedral Santa Cruz is located. During the Christmas season, a giant caga tio (excellent video by the late Anthony Bourdain) is placed in front and you can watch local children stand in line to beat the log…as we would line up to sit on santas lap. If you don’t know about the caganer or caga tio, watch this. It’s the most unique European Christmas tradition I’ve seen yet.
If olive oil is your thing, and this would be the traditional cooking fat of Spain, thenOroLiquido is a must. The owner, Ana, has an incredible selection of oils from all over Spain and Xavier (who also has his own olive oil farm BOOC) will be happy to take you through how to taste the different varieties / Carrer de la Palla 8, 08002, Barcelona / +34 933 022 980
There are plenty of great hotels in Barcelona, but the most important part is choosing the right neighborhood. Avoid Raval, as it is changing but you might also still find shady characters and goings on. The Gotico can be too crowded and while generally safe, is best avoided. The Ramblas, like Times Square, is an invitation for pickpockets as well as visitors. Airbnband VRBO are a great option in Barcelona, because the ability to use a kitchen and work with all the amazing products is a treat!
If you want quiet try the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi, near metro stops Muntaneer or Sant Gervasi, which is residential and completely dead on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but is only a five minute metro ride into Placa Catalonia. The Mercure is clean, safe, offers parking, and has a great breakfast / Via Augusta 127HB003342, 8006, BARCELONA / +34 932 094 511
El Born will be lively at night with plenty of bars and clubs, so be aware of who your neighbor is to avoid loud music and yelling in the streets, which is the same to be said for Barceloneta (not great for distance from metro). Eixample is safe, residential, as is Poble Nou which is also close to the beach and much calmer. Escriba, a master of pastry in Barcelona, has a wonderful paella (not local, Valencian origins) and fiduea (Catalan version of paella) restaurant on the beach Xiringuito EscribaAvinguda Litoral, 62, 08005, Barcelona / +34 932 210 729
WHERE TO EAT :
This list is just a taste of what there is to be had in Barcelona. First lets talk cuisine. You’re in Barcelona, so Catalan and Molecular cuisine are king. Make reservations at any place listed, if possible.
While Barcelona is in Spain, their identity is Catalan which is a region reaching to the Pyrenees and South of Barcelona. The local language is Catalan, with many older people speaking French as a third language and the younger generation speaking English. There is fierce pride in their language and identity after decades under authoritarian regimes that tried to erase their language and culture. Catalan cuisine is unique in many ways, the influence between the border with France might be the biggest difference between their food and the rest of Spain. Their love of mar i muntanya (surf and turf) will be immediately noticeable. The five sauces you will find in nearly any traditional dish – romanesco, sofregit (sofrito), aioli, picada, and samfania – really characterize the dishes.
Classical Catalan at Freixa Tradicio was my favorite, but it has since closed (2018). Modern Catalan can be found in many places, but the two OG’s of bistrionomic cuisine in Barcelona would have to be Embat and Gresca.
GRESCA – modern Catalan restaurant with local ingredients and great technique (no molecular) and newer adjoining wine bar, think eggs and jamon Iberico with a twist / Daily for lunch and Monday-Friday for dinner / C/ Provenca 230, 08036, Barcelona / +34 934 516 193
Most people have heard of El Bulli, that institution and birth place of molecular gastronomy in the hills by Roses on the Costa Brava. Gourmet magazine referred to Adria as “the Salvador Dali of the kitchen“. Thanks to the Adria brothers, the look and feel of food has been forever changed. Ferran Adria is still active in the culinary world, many restaurants in Barcelona will say how he has come to their establishment to dine. However, the new head of the Adria empire is Albert with elBarri restaurants. From the circus-styled taperiaTickets to the modern take on Mexican at Hoja Santa, your senses are sure to be simultaneously tricked and pleased.
El Bulli produced not only impressive food, but incredible talent like Akreme Benallal whom I had the privilege of staging with in Paris years ago. The whole city of Barcelona is filled with restaurants that have chefs who either worked at or staged at El Bulli…from Disfrutar to Alkimia.
They may not be Catalan, but Spanish tapas are everywhere…alongside their Basque cousin, the pinxco. So, where to try them? Head to Poble Sec, one of the more up and coming neighborhoods that has transformed immensely in the last five years.
A great place to start, is Els Sortidors del Parlament will have barrel tables near the front and long wooden tables in the back serving up typical Xarcuteria plates and formatges, little bowls of local Arebequina olives and pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato). Take a glass of the house vermut or local beer and take in the locals laid back ambrience / Carrer del Parlament, 53, 08015, Barcelona / +34 934 411 602
Afterwards, if you can get in, try Quimet y Quimet if only for their smoked salmon and truffled honey. Then head toCarrer del Blaiand grab a little of everything…the street is filled with spots for tapas.
Further afield is another favorite, Lolita (currently closed until March 2020). The friend eggplant and molasses, tiny goat ribs, beans and truffle and their own version of the Quimet y Quimet classic / c/ Tamarit, 104, Local 2-4, 08015, Barcelona / +34 934 245 231
If you want more restaurant recommendations, please send me a message with the dates you’re going and budget.
When we lived in Barcelona we would often take visitors to the beautiful old bullring, La Monumental, which had been disused since the region of Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010. A small museum shows the costumes of some of the matadors and the heads of a few prized animals. The gift shop has old posters and figurines. After nearly 100 years in use for the corrida, it is now used as a site for food truck and music events.
During tours of La Boqueria (old covered market in Barcelona), I would mention how years ago you could find bull meat after a fight. It was considered a delicacy, although the meat itself was tough and needed stewing for hours if not days. There are still some restaurants serving bull meat, but it’s a rare occurrence. One might be able to argue that in this case, the death of an animal was not in vain.*
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. Some big names have passed through this arena, like El Juli, while others started here on their way to matador stardom.
They still use this ring – and it’s brutal. A lot of missed and failed attempts to quickly down the bull occurred during my short time there. The horses, covered in thick quilted blankets were charged. Here, in the end, the animal is not used for human consumption. A man I spoke with argued the meat is too tough and not worth it. There was a journalist next to me and we both kept looking around at the people cheering, some as young as five years old.
Cultural differences and traditions aside, I’m actually incredibly surprised that the French government still allows this to happen anywhere. There are alternatives where animals are not hurt, which embrace the corrida and are equal part arts and athleticism, like the Basque Countryrecortadores.
Invisible Bordeaux wrote an article on the local Bordeaux bullrings, if you want to read here. For more information on the anti-bullfight movement in France, read here.
*I only mention this to show what could be the natural progression for an animals life in such circumstances, not to simplify what is an incredibly delicate discussion (all that to say, I am against bull fighting).
EVENT : February 20th, 2020 – The Fete des Boeufs Gras is in its 737th year and has been held in very much the same was as since medieval times. The date moves from year to year but is always held the Thursday before Carnival, Fat Thursday. Bazas, normally under 5,000 inhabitants, swells to accommodate over 20,000 visitors.
This Fete was a response to the demand in the 13th century that all butchers should give the clergy a bull for the Fete de Saint Jean in June. The compensation was that the farmers of Bazadais cattle could 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 in February. The element of ‘competition’ for the best cattle is a later addition, but which is still held towards the end of the afternoon.
Throughout the day there are parades, traditional Landaise dancing with men sporting the large stilts of the sheep herding men before the Landes Forest was planted (great article here).
By the afternoon, the cattle are all lined up in the center of town on display for the crowds to admire before heading to their final destination. There is a large sign in town that will show the name of the animal and where it will ultimately end up, be it a butcher or super market. A little bit of reality shed on an otherwise happy event.
Then the dancing continues, the wine flows, and there is eventually a concert and dinner in the local community hall (reservation required).
FOOD : The streets will smell of grilled meat with every local restaurant and organization selling their own version of fat cow…from steaks with roasted vegetables to sandwiches with shallots. If you want a table at a restaurant, book now as they are all offering special menus for the day and go fast (Caro&Co, Le Boeuf Pop!, Le Maquignon, Indigo, Hugo Delices and Le Bistro Saint Jean, to name a few). Prices are usually between 35-50 EURO for a three course meal.
BUTCHERS :If you want to take some Bazadais home, there are butchers all over town who will have the breed, Bazadais, or local cows, Boeuf de Bazas. If you see the label Boeuf de Bazas, you might be getting Bazadais…or maybe Blonde d’Aquitaine or another breed which was born and raised in the Bazadais region.
TOURS : Aquitaine Travel Guide will be offering 2hr tours in English of the city and the Bazadais, with a tasting of local food and wine after. Please call us at +33 (0)6 33 91 37 90 or email to book your place, tours are 10 EURO per adult (cash only), with kids under 10 years of age free. Meeting point is the Hotel le Rodin / 1 Allee Saint Sauveur, 33430 BAZAS
February the 19th at 3pm
February the 20th at 930am and 1030am
For morning visits in French, please contact the local tourism office located in the town square.
ACCESS : Bazas is not accessible by train and there are very limited buses from the Langon Gare, which are either very early in the morning or will not get you in until after lunch.
Parking is not available in the center of town during this event. Arrive early to get the best places, you’ll likely need about 10 minutes walk to get into the center of town, but it’s an easy walk.
It is not recommended to bring your dogs as the crowds are tight and they can overwhelm the cattle.
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 vintners 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.
Charles started working for a brewery in Seine-et-Marne before coming down to this region to begin his own brewery. This is a one man show using barley (orge) and making ales (beers made with a high fermentation level of 18C-23C). He is an excellent teacher, which I noticed from the beginning, so it wasn’t surprising to hear that he offers beer making classes (in French) on Saturday afternoons (book here) and beer tasting ateliers.
It was interesting to hear how the smaller, independent breweries will bottle their beers while they still have no bubbles but with the addition of sugar these beers ferment one last time in the bottle (much like champagne). This gives the beer a finer and more delicate bubble.
There is a reason for the ‘distillery’ in the name. With the small leftover materials from the beer making, Charles has started to distill a 40% alcohol called ‘Esprit de Biere‘. The past year he made 100 bottles that have already sold. I guess you could compare the taste it to a smooth grappa, it really didn’t have the horrible bite some stronger alcohols do. It’s a beautiful bottle as well.
Finally, in partnership with Sandrine GONDOLO, he has a ‘Confit de Biere Ambree‘ made which has a flavor much like a quince which can be used with fois gras, cheese or in similar styles to the classic Sauternes confit.
If you are looking for something a bit different from the standard vineyard visit but equally interesting and tasty, take a detour to Saint-Croix-du-Mont or book one of the classes on offer with Charles…or come to Le BoeufPop! in Bazas and taste his beers on tap!
There are so many lovely towns to visit within an hour of Bordeaux. One of the most authentic and unspoiled French countryside towns might be Bazas. Its arcaded town square, beautiful Saturday morning markets and unique festivals are only a few of the reasons to visit. Come for a taste of what French life was, and has been, for centuries.
Lovely Spring Morning on Cathedral Square
How to Get There:
The closest airport is BordeauxBOD which is serviced by AirFrance, Vueling, Easyjet, RyanAir and Volotea among others. A bus can take you to Bordeaux Saint-Jean Gare for 8 EURO one way and departs every 30 minutes and tickets can be purchased online, inadvance with http://www.30direct.com.
The closest train station is Langon (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) which has regular service from Bordeaux Saint-Jean Gare. The round-trip fare is around 18 EURO for adults. There are car rental companies within walking distance to the train station.
There is limited bus service which makes arriving by car the only way to visit Bazas and is the main reason it has retained its authentic French countryside charm.
What to See : There are tours of Bazas village, Saint-Jean the Baptiste Cathedral, the ancient hospital apothecary, summer underground visits and even theatricla tours for children through the Bazadais Tourism Office, in French. There is a small archeological museum underneath the mairie which can be visited during high season on Thursday or Saturday, or with a guided tour. This traces the growth of the village and area from prehistoric times, with displayed artifacts collected over the centuries of habitation. Hours vary depending on season / +33 5 56 25 25 84 / Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas
The Cathedral and town itself is considered a UNESCO heritage site due to its placement on the Saint-Jacques Compostelle Trail. The building suffered through the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, with many of it’s riches stolen or destroyed. One can still appreciate its significance by strolling through the aisles or by watching one of the local concerts from the pews.
For a bit of nature, take a walk along La Breche, a path along the outside wall of the cathedral with a pastural view of the town. Or, rent a bike with Les Cycles du Bazadais to tour the town and surrounding area as there are plenty of bike paths. Half day starting at 10 EURO / +33 (0)5 56 25 48 26 / 5 allées St Sauveur, 33430 BAZAS
Private tours of the town and food tours visiting the local farms can be booked through Aquitaine Travel Guide, contact directly for pricing and times / firstname.lastname@example.org / +33 (0)6 33 91 37 90
Chateau Cazeneuve 15 minutes drive from Bazas, in Cazeneuve, this chateau was started in the 13th century. The residence of Henri IV and Queen Margot has amazing gardens on its grounds for picnics and an enchanting walk to the queens grotto. Tours in French only / 11,50 EURO adults / check website for hours / +33 (0)5 56 25 48 16
Chateau Roquetaillade 15 minutes drive from Bazas, in Mazeres, is a chateau started during the 100 years war with a rather unique style. They also have a beautiful heard of Bazadais on their property and a farming museum (open in summer). Tours in French or English on demand / 9.50 EURO adults / Winter hours are Sunday only with more tours during high season / +33 (0)5 56 76 14 16
Queens Grotto at Cazeneuve
Where to Stay : While Bazas works as a day-trip from Bordeaux, there is plenty to see and it’s worth an overnight stay.
Le Sorbet, is a bed and breakfast in the hills just 5min walk to Bazas. Their stunning French countryside bedroom with balconied bathroom is a relaxing countryside escape with a garden view over the cathedral. 90 EURO for double occupancy / +33 (0)6 32 31 74 64 / 3 Sorbet, 33430 Bazas
Le Clos de la Cathedrale opened in 2019, the larger bed and breakfast has elegant rooms in an old mansion with garden, in the center of town near the cathedral. 86 EURO for double occupancy with breakfast / Book online / 9 Rue de la Taillade, 33430 Bazas
Domaine de Fompeyre*** is a larger hotel, about 15 minutes walk into town, with a great view of Bazas and covered, heated pool. They also have a restaurant and substantial parking. Rooms start around 70 EURO a night for double occupancy / +33 (0)5 56 25 98 00 / email@example.com / Route de Mont de Marsan, 33430 Bazas
No matter where you eat, you’ll want to try some Boeuf Bazadais! (pictured at Caro&Co)
What to Eat : There are a great selection of restaurants for this small town, all with their own unique charm and great lunch menus. However, don’t miss this opportunity to taste some of the Boeuf Bazadais*.
Boeuf Pop!offers up a great burger with fois gras and works with local farmers to serve locally sourced meats and cheeses with lunches under 30 EURO. Ask for a terrace seat in summer. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 (0)9 83 72 28 28 / 30 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas
Caro&Co works with local farmers and has a light touch with their food, incorporating a lot of seasonal vegetables and beautiful plating and a lunch menu around 18 EURO. Nice garden area for dining in summer. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 (0)5 56 65 24 58 / 38 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas
Hugo Delices does classical French and some international plates with a French touch and lunch menus at 16 EURO. Small, so request indoor dining in winter. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 5 56 25 54 34 / 23 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas
Indigo has great classics like sweetbreads with truffle sauce but also incorporates hints of SE Asia in many dishes and lunch menu at 16 EURO. Nice for date night. Reservations can be made with LaFourchette well in advance / +33 (0)5 56 25 25 52 / 25 Rue Fondespan, 33430 Bazas
Le Maquignon has an open grill to sear your Bazadais steak to perfection, a cold buffet and a lunch menu at 14 EURO. Good for groups and they have a covered terrace out back for summer months. +33 (0)5 56 65 58 73 / 4 Cours du Marechal Foch, 33430 Bazas
La Breche Antiques Hunting
Where to Shop : Not all the shopping is found on the pedestrian street of Rue Fondespan and antiques lovers will want to come Saturday when all of the antiques stores are open.
Antiques of all varieties and pricing can be found in Bazas. The charming Jean-Luc Creiche on 8 Rue Bragous has a collection of tableware, light fixtures and furnishings of all price ranges and will search for whatever you need. Un Air de Curiosities specializes in fine French countryside antiques in a romantic shop under the arcades at 43 Place de la Cathedrale. When you look to the Cathedral, notice a small road leading to the right called Rue Theophile Servieres and you will discover Antiquites La Breche which is like going into your grandmothers garage and realizing she collected unique antiques during her travels.
Fine foods and fresh produce can be found at the idyllic green grocer Serge Baradat on Rue Fondespan who sells fois gras products from Palmagri in nearby Auros. The Concerverie Lamigeon under the arcades at 26 Place de la Cathedrale has been making excellent pate since the 1940s, like porc pate with Sauternes wine and pate of boar or deer.
If you are looking for a nice memento of your visit in Bazas, look no further than the Bazas Tourism Office with mugs, aprons, books and other items for sale. The tableware and cavisteTradition, on Rue Fondespan, has charming plates with the Bazadais cattle or palombes on them to take home, amongst other specialties.
When to Visit : Outside of festivals the town is great to visit most days, except Monday when everything tends to be closed. Oddly, for a small town, on Sunday mornings and early afternoon there are shops and restaurants open. Saturday, however, might be the most charming day to come and enjoy the market, shops and dining. During festivals and market days, the parking in the main square is closed. Try finding a spot on Avenue Anatole de Monzie (near the rugby stadium) and take the 5 minute walk into town.
Fete de Boeuf Gras 2019
20 February, 2020 – for the Boeuf Gras Festival, get there early as this town of 5,000 people swells to 20,000 to celebrate epiphany and the cattle bearing their name. Bazadais cattle were originally brought over by the Moors during the 400AD invasion. A smaller breed, they were used for pulling carts and work but in 1980’s were brought back from near extinction and have found their place as one of the finest beef products for their marbled, fatty flesh. Bazadais have been celebrated since 1283 with parades, demonstrations and stands serving any style of beef. Restaurants also have special menus this day, but you’ll need to book at least two weeks in advance.
24 June 2020 – Festival of Saint Jean, to coincide around the summer solstice, is an evening parade (arrive early for a good view) and fire spectacle with people jumping through bonfires by the end. The entire town turns into outdoor bars, live music and restauration during multiple days. It can get messy in the late hours but the day time is fun, there is even a carnival for the kids by the library.
TBA September/October 2020 – Fete de la Palombe, a celebration of the hunting season. Specifically, the wild pigeons. Come learn about this unique hunting method and hear bird calling coemptions, witness the blessing of the pigeons in the cathedral, horn concerts and meet the brotherhoods celebrating the palombe and other regional delicacies.
Fete de Saint Jean
*Restaurants in alphabetical order and not exhaustive. Boeuf Bazadais represents a race and could have been raised and slaughtered anywhere in the country. If the restaurant is serving Boeuf de Bazas, this is an animal raised and slaughtered in the area but could be a Blonde d’Aquitaine, Bazadais or other race.
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.*
Piou Piou ESF
Charcuterie for two, with fondue
Gourette : A small, low altitude, affordable, family ski village created in the 1960’s with a good selection of trails
The instructors are really great with kids and introduction lessons for 3-4 year old kids with Ecole du Ski Francais start at 61 EURO for 2×2 hour courses during the weekend. An adult ski pass costs 37.50 EURO for the day. Secured parking is also very reasonable. Adult ski rental equipment from SkiSet starts at 18 EURO a day (13.50 if booked in advance online).
The restaurant selection is OK, you can get cheese fondue with morelles at La Quebotte if you book in advance. Lots of garbure (traditional Gasconne soup) and even palombe are on offer, depending where you dine. There is the Maison Casaux, a cute coffee shop with patisserie, decorated in skiing antiques and mountain bric-a-brac.
There didn’t seem to be an particular hotel but lots of apartment rentals and chalets. There are groceries, cheese shops, bakery and a butcher by foot.
The bad – Outside of skiing, there is not much to do.
Saint Lary Soulan : A charming mountain village with slopes for families and experienced skiers, spas and thermal indoor pools.
The good +Saint Lary and its 58 pistes has a snow park and toboggan run, but so much more…so it’s a great place to go if you have people in your group who don’t want to ski.
There are lessons with ESF for beginners under 5 years, starting at 36 EURO for one 2-hour lesson. Ski passes can be booked online and start at 44 EURO for an adult day pass. Most hotels have free parking and there is plenty on the street as well.
The main town of Saint Lary has a good selection of shops and little stores to buy the gateau a la broche – a delicious cookie/cake that is cooked over an open fire and resembles a pine tree. There is a great selection of restaurants serving everything from galettes to local beef, even wine bars for socializing like Le Balthazar.
My favorite place to stay in the town is the Mercure Sensoria, they have a NUXE spa and decent restaurant attached, lovely lounge area with fire place for after skiing and are just at the bottom of the tele-cabin to the slopes. They are great with kids and offer a small play area with PlayStation and sitting area to read their books. Prices can be as low as 200 EURO a night for a family, but go up in season and tend to book fast. They also offer a pool and play area with thermal spa waters, which is also available to the public.
The bad – It is more expensive than Gourette for the basics and most everything is in the village if you don’t want to ski.
I’m writing about Barcelona because that’s where my culinary tours really took off. I started working for Context Travel, working with Voulez-Vous Diner (now called MamazSocialFood), hosting guests at my apartment for dinners, and blogging about the food scene in Barcelona (link if you want to read my old blogBon Gust BCN).
While in Barcelona, I lead market, chocolate, and tapas tours throughout the city and to this day I continue to advise travelers on the city and take clients. Besides the beautiful architecture and beaches, they have a unique food culture compared to the rest of Spain. Catalan cuisine has shared a lot of influence with France (just ask which came first, the crema Catalana or the creme brûlée) and unique flavors, such as their love of ‘surf and turf’ and squid ink, which can be found in many dishes.
Oh yes, and the drinks! From cava to Priorat, vermut and local beers…you will drink well.
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. So, I’ve taken this love and have been working for years to create a tour focusing on local cuisine and products in the Bordeaux region (Bazas Farm to Table Tour) which is now also offered through Context Travel. I feel like it’s all come full circle and I’m really looking forward to 2020!
Tapas Tour of Barcelona – Bodega 1900
If you want some tips on traveling to Barcelona, check out this article on Conde Nast Traveler and avoid the Ramblas any time after 10am. There are so many interesting cultural things to do in the city, so don’t spend all your time in one area. Buy tickets to museums and Sagrada Familia in advance. You can walk everywhere generally, but if you want to use the metro, buy the T-10 metro pass. Try to stay outside of the main old town areas like Gotico, Raval, and Barceloneta if you don’t like a lot of noise. If you are traveling to Barcelona soon, feel free to contact me with any questions!
First of all, know that a ‘pain au chocolate’ is called a ‘chocolatine‘. The chocolate filled puff pastry dessert has the same taste, but a different name. Now that we have that covered…the South-West of France, like many parts of the country, has it’s own regional desserts which cannot be missed when you are visiting! Here are some of the best :
Macarons – The classic macaron people think of when in France, is the Bordeaux or Parisian macaron. This is the pretty, colored and multiple flavored, delicate sandwich of almond-meringue cookies with a special cream or jelly center. Did you know that THE original macaron, the first one made 1620, was actually from Saint-Emilion. The small, idyllic countryside village in the vineyards is also where the first recipe for the Italian style macaron was made, which is almond flour and meringue, often sold on a paper disk.
Canele – Maybe you’ve seen the ridged conical shaped dessert and not know what it was. Legend has it that the nuns in Bordeaux created this dessert hundreds of years ago with the scraps from the many trading ships coming into town – vanilla and rum specifically – and the yolks of the eggs left over from winemakers using the whites to purify wine. Traditionally, they are made with copper molds, waxed with bees wax to prevent sticking on the interior which also makes the best for a crunchy exterior and lighter, soft interior.
BUY at the chain Baillardanor even take a class to learn how to make them in Bordeaux at 36 Place Gambetta. Open 8am-8pm Monday-Saturday and 930am-730pm on Sunday. Phone +33 (0)9 67 79 42 74 / http://www.baillardran.com
Dunes Blanches – Essentially a cream puff with crunchy sugar on the top, sometimes the simpler things in life are the best. Created in Arcachon, a coastal community, you can now find shops in Bordeaux as well.
Miques – These are something you won’t see everywhere, or all the time, as they are unique to the Easter period. They are sugary balls of dough with a light, sugary alcohol center. Making them is actually a really fun process and pretty simple compared to many French desserts.
Puits d’Amour – Created in Captieux, about 15 minutes drive from Bazas, these can now be found in pastry shops all over the region. They are a light pastry with a light meringue center and a burned sugar top…think of a bite sized, airy crème brulee. Yeah.
Jesuit – Is a flakey pastry with powdered sugar, frangipane and shaved almonds in a long, triangular shape ment to represent the hats worn by Jesuits. Said to have been created in Bordeaux, it’s one of my favorites, like a cross between an almond croissant and a mille-feuille?
This town is easy to drive past, and off the typical tourist map, as there are no trains or public transportation to take you here from Bordeaux. Which is probably how everyone locally would like it to stay…a historical gem in the countryside. It’s location, just on the outskirts of Graves and before heading into the stark Landes was why it was once considered the last bit of civilization.
Walking into town is most idealic on Rue Fondespan, with it’s cobbled street and small businesses. This opens into the large Place de la Cathedrale, with Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bazas (a UNESCO site) which was sadly vandalized during the Protestant reformation. The structure itself is still breathtaking and the small Jardin du Chapitre to the right is a lovely place to stroll and look over the valley below.
The town square is surrounded by arcaded buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Take a walk down any of the side streets to see wooden timbered facades, ornate stonework and secret courtyards. To see Bazas on a Saturday morning, filled with stalls of vegetable, meats and local product vendors is like stepping back into time. It has to be one of the most beautiful markets in the area.
The Bazas Tourist Office is incredibly helpful and offers weekly tours on the history of Bazas or the ancient city hospital Apothecary. These tours need to be booked in advance and are only offered in French at this time. Please fill out the form below for someone to translate the tours for free.
For a town of under 5,000 people, there are a large number of really wonderful places to eat and you’ll likely never have a bad meal. All will over the famous boeuf Bazadais, a large breed of cattle which are raised upwards of seven years, living on grass in large pastures before slaughter. There is the yearly Fete des Boeufs Gras which can draw 10,000 visitors into town to watch these cattle parade down the streets, with flower decorations and local dancers in historic costume.
Bazas also holds a wonderful animation for the Fete de Saint Jean in June and the Fete de la Palombe in the autumn for hunting season. The energy of the town and the pride the Bazadais have for their history is clearly evident.
Cathedral Saint Jean – There is a mass in French on Sundays at 1030am, but you are welcome to visit and walk around anytime as the church remains open. There are occasional concerts inside as well as the Secrets of Bazas Tour which is at 1030am on Tuesdays starting April 16th for 5 Euro. Check the Bazas Tourism Office for events www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com
Apothecary of Hospital de Bazas – Attached to the old hospital, built in the 18th century and in use until only 50 years ago, the Apothecary is one of the best preserved in France. While not open to the public on a general basis, there are tours offered through the Bazas Tourism Office at 1 Place de la Cathedral. Contact to inquire on dates and times. Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 84 / www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com
Antiques Shops – there are many all over town, but Saturday is the best day to stop by as they will all be open. The owners are fun to talk with and discuss items histories, and while prices are usually good compared to big cities, if something seems too much, you can try to negotiate pricing. Hours vary.
Airbnb offers great options in town starting around 40 Euro a night, including our home…so why not stay with us?
Domaine de Fompeyre – 10 minutes by foot from town square, up on a hill overlooking the town, is this classical hotel with a restaurant and pool. Parking on site. Prices are very reasonable, starting around 65 Euro a night. 1 Fompeyre – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 98 00 / firstname.lastname@example.org / http://domaine-de-fompeyre.com/
Most are only open for lunch during the week and offer great menus starting at 14 Euros, but all will over a nice cut of Bazadais beef! Best to book in advance for weekends or evenings.
Caro&Co – South African female chef and co-owner with her French husband, this couple have a fabulous restaurant using local and seasonal products from nearby farms and shops. Plates are beautiful and often have lots of colorful vegetables, not seen in many French restaurants! 38 Place de la Cathedral – Open daily for lunch, dinner on Friday and Saturday, closed Wednesday and Sunday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 24 58 / www.restaurantcaroandco.fr
Boeuf Pop! – Friendly meat-centric restaurant popular with locals. They have a great terrace onto the Cathedral Square for taking in the spring sunshine. Local Bazadias beef, sheep and pork with duck fat fries…also have an amazing burger with local cheese and caramelized onions! 30 Place de la Cathedral – Open for lunch Monday – Saturday and dinner Friday/Saturday – +33 (0)5 56 65 77 56 / https://www.facebook.com/Leboeufpop
Indigo – Chef owned restaurant serving unique dishes with local ingredients and a SE Asian twist. Great valued lunch menu at 14 Euro. Perfect for a date night. Also own Café Noosa on Cathedral Square, which has a light salad lunch menu and is a great place to grab a coffee or ‘gouter’ (sweek snack). 25 Rue Fondespan – Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday – Saturday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 52 / https://www.thefork.com/restaurant/indigo/44162
Lamigeon – Pate and canned goods store in Bazas which has been making local products for nearly 80 years. You can find all sorts – wild boar, deer, fois gras and classic pate de campagne. If you are traveling back into the USA, I have made it through with canned products from there with no problem. Unique, reasonably priced gifts to give to family and friends, or to bring as a thank you for staying with someone! Open Wednesday-Saturday, from 10am-1230pm and 3pm-7pm – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 58 49 / email@example.com / http://www.lamigeon.fr/
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
3pm Visit goat cheese farm
Tour, with translator and guide starts at 100 Euro per person (two person minimum) and includes all visiting fees, tasting fees, and a lunch of Bazadais beef with dessert and one glass of graves wine. Tours offered on Monday, Thursday and Friday.
Please be sure to advise of any food allergies or aversions at least one week in advance.
Can also include chauffeured car with pick up from nearby train station in Langon, please contact us for pricing.
Please bring comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes (preferably ones you don’t mind getting a little dirty)
Feel free to ask questions and have fun! These are small farms and this is the livelihood for these farmers / butchers / chefs and their families and they are happy to share their passions with you!
This tour will happen, rain or shine, so please dress for the occasion 😊
All-inclusive, six nights and seven days in the culinary capital of the world with Anne Jordan from May 6-May 12, 2019! Want to read more about your guide? Click About ATG
We will spend three days in Paris and four days in Bordeaux exploring the idyllic French countryside and seeing some of the ‘real’ France. If you love the Farm-to-Table movement, this trip is for you! All hotels, meals, visits, and transportation is included in the price.*
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Paris is a must-see on many visitors lists, as the magical Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and River Seine are a dream! This tour will include stops at all of these locations, but will also include visits to incredible Michelin restaurants and markets, bakeries and cheese shops. Some highlights are :
Rungis – the largest wholesale food market in the world with warehouses full of fruit, vegetable, cheese, fish and meat
Marche des Enfants Rouge – the oldest, continually running food market in Paris with unique food stalls to enjoy lunch before exploring the Marais quarter
Michelin Restaurants – Dine daily at a Michelin starred restaurant, past visits have included La Tour Argent, Le Clarence, Dominique Bouchet and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
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Bordeaux, known worldwide for its top red wines and as a major historical port of call, this city has recently enjoyed a renaissance with tourists with the newly opened Cite du Vin. The city is charming and full Michelin meals but is also surrounded by some of the top producers of fine edible (and drinkable!) products.
Ferrandi-BEST – One of the top culinary schools in France, see where the top chefs are trained and enjoy a gourmet lunch made by the students
Local farmers and producers – From fois gras to caviar, lamprey eels to oyster cultivation…and of course some of the beautiful vineyards producing fine French wines
Don’t worry, there will be plenty of ‘down’ time to enjoy time to yourself and explore on your own or to arrange private side tours based on your interests.
Price is 4,679 USD per person, based on double occupancy in three-star hotels. Should you desire four-star hotels, please add 700 USD per person for double occupancy. 400 USD deposit is due at time of booking and is non-refundable unless the 10 guest minimum is not met by March 31, 2019.
*Prices do not include airfare, health insurance or spending money. Exact tour description may change based on availability and size of the group. Please be available to meet in Paris by 11am on May 6 and be available throughout the day of May 12.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a meeting one-on-one, via FaceTime, Skype or in person in Winston-Salem, NC.
If the end of June is any indicator, this summer is going to be a hot one! Here are some of our favorite places to swim during these sweltering days (click name for maps and links in articles for more information) Lather on the sunblock before heading out! :
Arcachon – About 45 minutes from Bordeaux, although traffic in high season and on weekends can double that. Parking happens to be free on Wednesdays, but it’s a great place to go any day of the week. Arrive early in the day (Place de Verdun is a quick and easy walk to the many beaches). Bring your beach umbrella and pack a picnic, or have lunch at any number of the restaurants in town. Most restaurants do not have the best hot meals, but a fresh seafood platter with local oysters and shrimp will certainly hit the spot! Dogs are not allowed so best to leave them at home.
Bazas – Should you find yourself in the SE of Gironde, this charming town with UNESCO protected cathedral, arcaded town square and many wonderful chef-owned restaurants specializing in regional cuisine with local products, is well worth a visit. Plus, the newly opened public pool with its large water slide is a hit with the kids! There are also two kiddie pools, one for the under three and one with waist-high water for older kids. Two euro fee for adults and kids under five are free. Hours in July and August are 1100-1300 / 1500-1900 with closure on Sunday. Small snack bar with drinks and ice cream, lockers require a one euro coin.
Biscarrosse – Low lying lake water that is only up to your knees, which is great for small children as you don’t need to worry about waves and tides. This area is popular with families and has areas for your furry friends as well. Pack a picnic and be prepared to look for parking in high season, but at least it’s free! There are water sports and there is plenty of camping available nearby and hotels.
Cap Ferret – only a 30-minute ferry ride from Arcachon (although you can access from the North by car) you will want to rent or bring a bicycle with you to get to the quietest beaches. Off season is great and you can almost have the whole beach to yourself outside of July and August. There are infinite oyster shacks to have a lunch with a view of the Bassin. Ferries hours may vary, so be sure to check, but generally are on the hour from Arcachon, and on the half hour back (with a pause between 1200-1400). No need to book ferries in advance as you should find places even at the height of the season. Tickets are 15 euro round trip and leave from the Jetee Thieres in Arcachon.
Casteljeloux – Famous for its spas and thermal water, this town just outside of Gironde in Lot-et-Garonne has the Lac de Clarens, a man-made lake. With sandy shores to build sand castles, boat rentals, golfing and a casino (!). Not a lot of shade, so you’ll want to bring an umbrella but there is a restaurant and you can picnic. Outside of season, it is free, however, during July-August, there is a fee of 2.50 for adults.
Hostens – Close to Louchat and Le Barp, Lac de Lamothe is another man-made lake with paddle boat rentals, hiking trails, camping and a snack bar with panini, ice creams and drinks. Lots of shade from the pine trees on the outer edge, but bring your umbrella if you want to be closer to the water. Free entrance and parking with space for dogs offseason.
Lac d’Espiet is an old quarry with beautiful, clear water about 20 minutes from Saint Emilion. They also have a lakeside restaurant, water sports, and kids water recreation area. There is sand on the shore, but some parts are a bit rocky in the water so water shoes might be nicer to those with delicate feet. Some shade is available from the nearby pines and there isn’t too much space to set up an umbrella. Adults are five euro entrance, kids under 3 free. Parking is free, but you are not allowed to bring a picnic (I have seen people kicked out for bringing food in, however…). Dogs are not welcome on bathing beaches.
My recent visit to the Le Cabestan Ferme du Pêcheurin Sainte-Terre near Saint Emilion was so unique and fun! I learned something totally new and unfamiliar…the lamproie (lamprey eel). David and Sabine Durand make these prehistoric creatures their livelihood. This third generation fishing ‘farm’, which is seasonal work until the middle of May, is unique. It is completely dependant on the seasonal migration of younger lamprey eels on their way to the sea.
The Durand family has an incredibly well-run operation, from fishing to cooking to presentations for kids and adults. If you want to see something out of the ordinary, taste something very regional (like the lamproie rillettes or slowly cooked eel in red wine) or learn about an unusual species – this would be the place to do it. Visits are 15 euro per person and include a tour, video, and tasting (degustation). Cooking demos or lessons can also be arranged in advance.*
Like the sweet wines of Sauternes which are currently not trendy, the lamproie is out of favor and not eaten as regularly, even locally. Hopefully keeping people informed, as they do with school visits, and teaching visitors will keep this product around for the next generation.
Le Cabestan Ferme du Pecher can be found on Facebook or on their website http://www.lamproie.fr/ which is filled with more information, photos and videos / 2 Port Peytor, Sainte-Terre 33350 / Phone +33 (0)6 20 89 41 84 or contact directly through Facebook and website / Hours vary depending on the season.
When live eels are not available at the farm, you can also visit the Jardin de la Lamproie museum at231 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 33350 Sainte-Terre (5 minute drive).
Aquitaine is a region of a thousand villages so choosing which one to visit is never easy (even for those of us living here!). In the summer months, there are so many fun events that you’ll always feel like you’re missing something. In the winter, while many shops may be closed and some feel like a ghost town, visiting during those cold months is a great way to explore and discover a village in solitude and at your own pace. Plan ahead by contacting the Saint Macaire tourist office at least a week in advance and you can still get a guided tour (only in French, however).
Saint Macaire has an amazing, festive medieval fair in the summer – with crafts, gastronomy, beverages, and costume (even fireworks at night!). The old ramparts, private homes and village center, ‘Place de Mercadiou’, all display their beautiful architecture and history. The village is equally stunning in the winter; when you can admire the cobbled streets and stone-framed windows or bask in awe of the ethereal dome of the Saint-Sauveur church.
Visit the local artisan store and art gallery of Simone et les Mauhargats to find postcards, prints, bags and other creative crafts made by hand. The gallery on the upper level recenty had Maud Langlois of Bordeaux whose etching I was given and absolutely love!
During the summer months, the restaurant L’Abricotier is a wonderful place to sit outside under the trees and enjoy some really great local cuisine with quality products and lots of ambiance. For a quick, inexpensive meal where you can eat like a local, try La Belle Laurette. It’s bar style service, no frills but the price is right and it’s tasty. Wherever you decide to eat, don’t miss an opportunity to have a glass of Saint Macaire wine (sadly, the rare Saint Macaire grape isn’t grown in the region anymore).
Saint-Sauveur Church – 12th-century church with artwork gracing its interior and splendid painted apse – Hours may vary depending on church services – 9 Place de l’Église Saint Macaire
Simone et Les Mauhargats – https://www.simoneetlesmauhargats.com/ – Friendly art gallery and artisan collective with something to please anyone, on any budget. Events as well, such as art classes or coffee meetups – 19 rue Carnot Saint Macaire – Open daily from 10am – 630pm with lunch break, and Wednesday / Sunday from 12pm – 6pm – Phone +33 (0)9 67 01 24 33 or email@example.com
La Belle Lurette – lhttp://www.bar-labellelurette.com – locals, no thrills restaurant with good 12 Euro weekday lunch menu (I had 1/2 duck breast and fries); events and bands playing year round, check the website for more information -2 Place du Général de Gaulle – Open for lunch-only all week and dinner Saturdays – Reservations via phone +33 (0)5 56 63 02 42 or LaForuchette
Of all the local towns, the one my daughter knows best, is Sauternes. It’s not for the wine, but for their swing set in the playground (we don’t have swings here in Bazas).
Sauternes is one of my favorite little villages as well. It’s rather idyllic with well maintained, provincial homes and rows of lovely grapevines streaming the slight hills, changing color with the seasons. There are great restaurants and a wonderful wine collective called the Maison du Sauternes where you can go a sample almost any version of the sweet Sauternes that was ever made for free (Chateau Y’quem is one exception, however it also costs around 70 euro to visit the chateau so no big surprise!).
You need not spend more than an hour walking around the town, but you could easily spend a morning here, visiting the chateau nearby (Chateau Filot is right next door, with its charming owner and decadent wines you can taste in the chai), perusing the book of wine at the Maison du Sauternes and then a classic, rich Southwestern lunch of duck breast and fois gras at the Auberge les Vignes.
If you’re lucky enough to be here in the autumn, you might just get to see the ‘noble rot’ which makes these wines so sweet and unique. It is a fungus that grows on the grapes due to the humidity and micro-climate created by the lands location between the Ciron and Garonne Rivers. The grapes shrivel and the juices condense, making them sweeter. The incredible guide (who speaks perfect English) at Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey gave a wonderful tour where we were able to sample the shriveled Semillon grapes (if you like!).
There is also a local tourism office just across the street from Le Saprien if you want to get advice on what else to see in the area. Always keep an eye out for events like the Portes Ouverts where the chateau offer tastes of their new vintages with arts, food and music or the Fete du Vin de Sauternes held in late May/early June every year.
Maison du Sauternes – http://www.maisondusauternes.com/ – great place to get information on all of the local wines, degustation and visits for local vineyards – hours vary by season so be sure to check their website – open 7/7 from 9am-7pm (summer) – Phone +33 (0)5 56 76 69 83 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit any of the amazing chateau around Sauternes by asking at Maison du Sauternes, calling the individual chateau or using any of the available websites listing wineries. Most chateau are free, or request a nominal fee for a visit plus tasting. Some of my favorites are mentioned in the blog.