My in laws tell me that back in the day in South-West France, during the months of October and November, there were so many people hunting wild pigeons (when the birds migrate flying from the northern lands towards the Iberian peninsula), that it was not possible to get married because the priest would have been at the palombiere.
We visited the east bank of the estuary right before the summer break in 2021, crossing from our home in Gironde into the department of Charente Maritime, luckily when restaurants were just restarting their on-site service. Being so close to the water, it was no surprise to learn how important the fishing sector has been throughout the years, with a few typical varieties getting the podium: the Lamprey, the Meagre (that, despite the name is of XXL size and can weight up to 55kg) and the Sturgeon that is a protected specie since 1982, after being overfished to the point of risking extinction in barely 60 years since the French "discovery" of caviar.
Located just west of Bordeaux, between the Landes pine forest and the Atlantic ocean, the mighty dune du Pilat is a great place to view both land and sea! It is almost 3km long, just a little over 106 meters high and more than 600 meters wide. Each year the measurement has to be recalculated, as the dune is still in movement and it continues to advance inland, through the forest from one to five meters per year.
The south west of France has always been a land of passage and trade: the Romans introduced the vine (la vigne), the Arabs the still (l'alembic armagnacais) and the Celts the barrel (la barrique). This is how the oldest recorded distilled wine in France came about. There are even documents citing the Armagnac as early... Continue Reading →
Built along the Garonne river, the historic part of the city is found on the left bank. If it feels like a mini Paris, you wouldn't be mistaken. 'Modern' 19th century Paris was modeled after 18th century Bordeaux. Even the Paris Opera was inspired by the Bordeaux Opera house. My favorite area to wander is probably along the narrow streets between the Grosse Cloche and the Eglise Saint Pierre. It's a great area to wonder around and find some of the old Medieval buildings on streets with names like 'Rue du Loup', named after the trades of people who used to work on them, in this case selling wolf skins. You can taste historic dishes like lamproie a la Bordelaise at the oldest restaurant La Tupina or more modern and unique meals at chef owned restaurant C'Yusha.
16th century Annonciade couvent in Bordeaux used to collect the egg yolks from the wine makers who had used the egg whites to clarify the wine (some say to seal they used the egg whites to seal the barrel but that makes less sense). The legend likes to add that they collected extra vanilla, rum and sugar shipped back from the Caribbean, and added flour and milk. It's all very romantic, and one can envision nuns in their habits looking for the spices to be scavenged from the spice storage in Chartons (now the modern art museum). However, there are some key issues with the story.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...
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
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...