While oyster cultivation has been occurring in our area of SW France for millennia and is a massive industry on the West Coast of France in general (France accounts for 60% of all oysters eaten in Europe, if they get the chance to leave the country). The Bassin (bay) is a large producer but mostly known for being the largest producer of baby oysters, or spat, which are then sent all over France.
Bordeaux is a great city to visit - it's a lovely, smaller version of Paris (much of Paris was designed after it's 18th century design), but many come to learn more about the wine culture of Bordeaux. If you only have one day, there is plenty to explore in town. I'd invite you to spend at least two, because visiting a producer outside of town is a must, be it the famous Chateau Pape Clement which is accessible by public transport or the intimate, family owned producer of Chateau Beard la Chapelle in the hills near Saint Emilion.
Finally, the day has come (June 9), when Americans are allowed back into France with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR covid test. Here are some things to know before you book your flight :
ArcachonRoute Du Cap FerretAvenue Nord Du PhareVillage Ostréicole de l'Herbe Where do you go to get away from it all? One of the great escapes for someone living in Bordeaux, or Gironde as a whole, is a trip to the Atlantic Coast. One of my favorite places is Cap Ferret, a peninsula that offers both... Continue Reading →
A culinary tour is one of the best ways to see a new place, learn a bit of history and understand more of the culture. It's a multisensory journey...if you are looking for something a bit different, off the beaten path? find that countryside cottage or villa in the vines to cook your locally sourced products to enjoy that farm-to-table style life. If you should want to visit coastal oyster farms or the inland caviar farms...
...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...
...after flying over water to see this barren island in the middle of nowhere, with clear skies, we were all excited about our adventure...the apartment we stayed at on the North Coast. It was a perfect escape from the world. What is great about Lanzarote, most everything you'll want to see is outside and the wind blows year round so it's fresh air all the time. It is a rough, moon-like landscape due to a large volcanic eruption almost three-hundred years ago (smaller one since). It's not a tropical island, but it has its own wild beauty.
Reunion Island is an actively volcanic island, which has a fascinating history. When first discovered there was very little animal life and had never been inhabited...while the origins of vanilla are Central and South American, prior attempts to grow the beans in Europe always failed. The natural pollinators were a special species of bees that didn't live in Europe, but this was not known at the time. A slave, a young boy by the name of Edmund Albias, created the hand pollination method and completely transformed the vanilla industry.
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.
There are seaside villages, rustic farming stays and beautiful vistas throughout this area of France. There are equal parts glamour and guts to this part of France, which I love! The food is some of the best in France, featuring plenty of seafood, chocolate, wine, pastry, cheese and...
Over the summer, travel restrictions were lifted in Europe, and after months in a tiny city apartment, my family craved fresh air and nature. Our summer plans initially included an epic vacation in Africa… we held out hope until a few months before departure when it became clear CoVid-19 was not going away anytime soon. After a short mourning period, we jumped into action – what trip would get us out of the city, without much risk of losing money to cancelations or spreading germs? After much debate – we settled on a circuit between France and Switzerland, exclusively by train. This seemed like both the safest health wise (unless you can travel by car), and the least risky financially.
The start of the visit takes place on an old train that passes through the pines into a small village where 'resiniers' cut the sides of pines to collect sap (gammage) and shepherds (bergers) on their stilts (tchangues) would have lived with their flocks of sheep...
At the bottom of the hill to Saint Macaire, the Garonne river used to touch the town and boat loads of wine would make their way to Bordeaux. Sadly, the rare Saint Macaire grape isn't grown much in the region anymore, but biodynamic producer Chateau Cazebonne will have their first bottle of 2020 Saint Macaire ready next year!
Upon entering the tourist office in Agen, you are greeted with a selection of local goods which consists of Prunes (dried plums) in multiple forms. However, Agen is full of other delicious foods, timbered houses, and carved stone hotel particuliers, an impressive art museum, and a really unique canal/aqueduct system built in the mid-1800s that is still in use today.
France notified Americans coming to France need to have a 72 hour covid test. I want to just say how HARD it was to find a place to get tested (I got tested about a week after arriving to make sure I didn't catch something on the plane)
There are so many great natural locations in Sud-Gironde, like the Lake at Hostens or the Atlantic Beaches, but what if you want something away from crowds?
If you have ever been to the Alps, you cannot compare the skiing available nearby in the Pyrenees (try going to Andorra in that case). Within three hours from Bordeaux (or Bazas) you can get a wintery experience at either of these nearby locations.* Gourette : A small, low altitude, affordable, family ski village created in... Continue Reading →
What I discovered while working in Barcelona, was that I loved sharing local food experiences with people visiting. Where someone might mistake the 'local' cuisine to be paella and tapas...which is not Catalan and not local...I was able to introduce to fideua catalane or butifarra.
10am Visit fois gras farm to learn how fois gras is made and taste products 11am Bazas tour of city and learn the history of this UNESCO cathedral village 1230pm Stop by butcher who will show us the famous Bazadais beef cuts 1pm Lunch of Bazadais beef cooked by chef and owner of local restaurant... Continue Reading →