Moving day/St. Emilion

We left Gujan-Mestras today, after a very happy month. We drove about an hour east to the suburb of Bordeaux called Bouliac. We met the daughters of our hostess and some of the cats (there are three). Then we took off for St. Emilion.

A beautiful medieval town, with some of the defensive walls still intact, St. Emilion is also a major wine producer. We had lunch, scaling some steep cobblestone streets (visitor warning: wear shoes with rubber soles. Libby didn’t and had to walk barefoot to gain footing).

Tasted some wine walked about a bit and are now ensconced in our new, very fancy, digs. Ellie is trying to get the cats’ food. I hope they are not scared off.

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Bones and water

A cute story of cultural miscommunication:
Libby and I had dinner at a charming bistro in the next town. Libby had lamb shank and when we finished, I asked the server to give me the bone (l’os) for Ellie. A few minutes later, she brought Ellie a bowl of water (l’eau). Ellie was thirsty and grateful and I thought “how nice of the server to think of it.” It wasn’t until we were paying and I asked about the bone that the misunderstanding became clear. Sorry, Ellie. No bone for you tonight.

Two chateaux

Libby and I have been taking it easy. Sitting by the pool. Dinner in Arcachon. Today we wandered a bit further afield. First, we visited the chateau de la Brede, which belonged to the French philosopher Montesquieu and which still has vestiges of the 14th century.

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Then we went to another sort of chateau: Chateau Pape Clement, one of the important wineries of the Pessac-leognan appellation. We toured the wine making facilities, saw some really old bottles, and got to taste three wines, including the first cru, from 2007, which was good but probably not worth 140€ the bottle.

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Then we came home, had another bottle (a burgundy, actually, something of a faux pas in Bordeaux country) and had dinner at a nearby restaurant of moules frites.

Dune de Pyla

Sorry for the radio silence this week. I rested up a bit after Bernard left and on Friday drove to the airport to pick up Libby. We had a nice lunch en route back to Gujan-Mestras, after which Libby collapsed. Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the market in Teste de Buch where we saw some amazing seafood.

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In the evening we were invited to Christian’s house for aperos. In between, we decided we needed to do something touristy. On the whole Arcachon basin, there are only a few things to see. Michelin lists them:
Lighthouse in Cap Ferret
A boat basin somewhere I never heard of
The winter resort in Arcachon (already did this)
Oyster farms (check)
The dune of Pilat (also spelled Pyla)

It is the highest sand dune in Europe and while I had seen it from the boat, I figured it was worth a quick drive by. Not a chance. The parking lot was half a mile from the dune through scrub and sand. Poor Ellie kept getting tangled in the scrub, and sinking into the sand. I had to carry her the last part of the way. And for–a pile of sand! A large pile of sand, but still… Libby climbed part way while Ellie and I sat at the bottom. Then we had ice cream.

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A lovely lunch in Arcachon

Bernard leaves tomorrow so we decided to celebrate today. Drove around Arcachon (the town) which has some beautiful Belle Époque villas. I chose a restaurant recommended by Michelin, right on the beach. Lovely spot (see photos). Good seafood. I had bulots, which are essentially sea snails in aioli. Followed by scallops cooked a la plancha, with a bordelaise sauce and warm sushi (?). No, really it was good. Dessert was profiteroles, made with a Bordeaux specialty pastry called cannelės. And then we ordered a neon green digestif (see photo) called izarra Vert, made with 16 herbs and quite tasty.

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Cap ferret (2)

The town of Cap Ferret–on the other side of the Arcachon peninsula– is probably no more than 15 nautical miles from Gujan-Mestras but by car it is a good hour’s drive. (See map below). I was invited to visit by a woman with whom I had corresponded about a possible exchange. It turns out she is interested in film and so we arranged to meet this summer.

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Anne-Marie is a painter whose house is part studio and built on multiple levels overlooking the bassin. (Philippe Starck is a neighbor). She, her husband and son entertained us with an outstanding St. Estephe and interesting conversation. Her dog, Philo, a white lab, entertained Ellie by sharing his dog food and staying as far away as possible.

En route, we stopped at a roadside tavern and enjoyed a margarita (photo).

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Weather

It’s been too hot to post. Yesterday it was 101 degrees and the only place to cool off was in the pool. (Photo of my guest, Bernard). There is no A/C in the house. In fact, I’ve encountered very few homes in France–no matter how grand–that even have so much as a room air conditioner.

But after three days of stifling heat, the weather turned cooler today and we are now having thunderstorms.

Bernard arrived on Thursday. He is my oldest friend that I am still in touch with. We met when I was in high school, the first time I visited France. (I won’t admit to the year). Yesterday we sweltered, but today we went to the marchė in the town of Arcachon (see my other blog) and had a lovely lunch in La Teste de Buch. Do not ask me what that means–I have no idea. We were going to go to an outdoor concert this evening, but it was rained out. Tomorrow, if the rain lets up, we may go to an outdoor performance of Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles.

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The balcony of Bordeaux

For those of you following our adventures, Ellie passed her audition with the cats, with honors. Even though one cat hissed at her (actually it was more of a low hum), Ellie ignored him. The other two made no appearance.

The house in Bouliac is lovely and I will post pictures once I move in. For now, here is a picture from the town center, showing Bordeaux spread out below. Bouliac is known as the balcony or terrace of Bordeaux because it is on a hill just above the city.

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Bastille Day

Sorry, I don’t have pictures of the fireworks. They are about 6 miles away and while I can see them from the house, they don’t show up on my ipad camera. They are on the beach in Arcachon and Christian dissuaded me from going. First, I would not be able to park. And I wouldn’t get home (what with the traffic) until after 1 am. (They started at 11 pm).

It was, however, a pleasant day. The weather cleared up after 2 days of rain. I had invited Christian and his guests–a lovely French family who live in Porto, Portugal–for aperitifs. They teach in the French school there and we discussed movies. They are acquaintances with the son of the well-known Portuguese director, Manoel de Oliveira, who began making movies in 1927 and is still doing so at the age of 105!

We drank some nice wine and snacked on some good fougasses I picked up at the boulangerie this morning. I was surprised to find several markets open and also managed to score a jar of duck rillettes with foie gras. Other experiences on French holidays had found me hungry and wine-less, as both large and small groceries were closed. I don’t know whether things are different in a seaside resort or whether Bastille Day is different from the religious holidays. In either event, there were a lot of other people shopping and the line at the boulangerie was 12 deep.

Tomorrow I am visiting my next (and, alas, last) house where Ellie is auditioning for the 3 cats. I will report back.