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.
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.
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.
Bordeaux is a great city to visit - it's a lovely, smaller version of Paris (much of Paris was designed after it's 18th century design), but many come to learn more about the wine culture of Bordeaux. If you only have one day, there is plenty to explore in town. I'd invite you to spend at least two, because visiting a producer outside of town is a must, be it the famous Chateau Pape Clement which is accessible by public transport or the intimate, family owned producer of Chateau Beard la Chapelle in the hills near Saint Emilion.
Finally, the day has come (June 9), when Americans are allowed back into France with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR covid test. Here are some things to know before you book your flight :
ArcachonRoute Du Cap FerretAvenue Nord Du PhareVillage Ostréicole de l'Herbe Where do you go to get away from it all? One of the great escapes for someone living in Bordeaux, or Gironde as a whole, is a trip to the Atlantic Coast. One of my favorite places is Cap Ferret, a peninsula that offers both... Continue Reading →
A culinary tour is one of the best ways to see a new place, learn a bit of history and understand more of the culture. It's a multisensory journey...if you are looking for something a bit different, off the beaten path? find that countryside cottage or villa in the vines to cook your locally sourced products to enjoy that farm-to-table style life. If you should want to visit coastal oyster farms or the inland caviar farms...
It was written by the chef Francois Pierre or 'La Varenne', in his book 'Le Cuisinier Francois'? Nothing worthy of mentioning had been written since Taillevents' 12th century cookbook, but this new book was filled with exciting revelations since the incredible influence of Italian haute-cuisine in France, thanks to Catherine de Medici.
If you're looking for a pretty location to go with kids to visit a family owned goat farm, see historic castles, centuries old ruins, and meet a confiture artisan métier...look no further than Prechac in Gironde.
...best way to see the real France and during these covid times a great way to have fun, avoid large groups of people and support smaller communities. Captieux has a lake, Lac de Taste, incredible farms like La Ferme des Filles, is home to one of the most Northern bull rings, and is where the delectable 'puits d'amour' pastry is from! Besides selling incredible produce from seasonal vegetables to eggs on-site, La Ferme des Filles has gites to rent, will eventually run educational events (when covid allows), and offers a lovely large area for your children to roam and meet goats, sheep and chickens...
Gironde has so many beautiful places to visit, some of my favorite (especially in the summer months) are the Langon market (Friday), Verdelais, and Saint-Croix-du-Months. Ira of Lost in Bordeaux came with me a few weeks ago and her talents created a really fun video of some of my favorite places. I wanted to share the addresses and a few more if you should end up that way! A day trip from Bordeaux in Southeast Gironde / Discovering the Southwest of France - YouTube
Reunion Island is an actively volcanic island, which has a fascinating history. When first discovered there was very little animal life and had never been inhabited...while the origins of vanilla are Central and South American, prior attempts to grow the beans in Europe always failed. The natural pollinators were a special species of bees that didn't live in Europe, but this was not known at the time. A slave, a young boy by the name of Edmund Albias, created the hand pollination method and completely transformed the vanilla industry.
You might wonder how to tell the good saffron from the bad safflower, why some threads costing three times as much as other 'saffron'. Well, as with many expensive food items, besides the quality, you also have to question the authenticity. It takes at least 100,000-200,000 threads of saffron to make a kilo, which sells for anywhere from 3,000-6,000 EURO. It's the most expensive spice in the world...During the pandemic of bubonic plague a war ensued called the 'Saffron War', it was so valued as a cure for the suffering that stocks in Europe were depleted and more was ordered from the East.
When I was visiting Libourne a few months ago, I realized I needed to know more and knew just the person to ask - Jennifer Poe of 'My Bordeaux Tours', who is an experienced local tour guide and American expat living in Bordeaux. She is the blogger behind 'American Mom in Bordeaux' and has worked with multiple river cruise companies offering tours to their clients. Libourne has a lot to offer any visitor from walking along the port, wandering through the old bastide section of town, a lovely fine arts museum and exploring it's variety of stores, cafes and restaurants. Especially on market days, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings - this town is alive and vibrant - not just around the holidays.
Guide culinaire, Anne Jordan Boinet a décidé de mettre à profit son réseau. En plein confinement, face au coronavirus, elle a décidé de créer un annuaire de la vente directe.
Truffle Farming came up the other day when a group of us were talking about finding truffle products locally. A friend, Nola D’Enis (culinary guide and writer), was mentioning a local truffle tree farm (truffiere) not to far from us that she had written about it a few years ago called Agri-Truffe. So, I paid them a visit. I had been writing about truffles in Dordogne (the epicenter for France) and decided to go a different route, what if you want to start your own truffle farm? Here are the experiences of three different people who started truffle farms - Alain Fabregues in Australia, Casey Yangeolva in Bularia, and Loic Luzinier in France.