A sweet ending

Only 3 days left in France and we are taking advantage. Cathy left yesterday and Gail and I had a lovely lunch in Bordeaux. Today we went to the daily market in Bordeaux and picked up wonderful items, including a kind of mushroom (girolles) I have never tasted and some prepared chicken cordon bleu. For lunch, we went to the one-Michelin starred St. James, here in Bouliac. The ambiance and presentation were outstanding. The prix fixe lunch (49 € including 2 glasses of wine each) was pleasant, though not quite up to our expectations. Gail’s cod was relatively tasteless, despite the piri-piri sauce. Later, we will make our final run to Planete Bordeaux for another six bottles of wine. That should hold us til Friday.

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Return to Arcachon

Monday we drove back to Arcachon, about 60 miles each way, though it took us longer than expected since the traffic was murderous. Think of the LIE heading for the Hamptons. Then take away 2 lanes in each direction. Add a roundabout to get off the highway. Voila–un bouchon (cork) as the French call traffic jams.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful day. My hosts in Gujan-Mestras had invited us for lunch, which was a feast. Sparkling wine with homemade puff pastry hors d’oeuvres. Jambalaya (they are enamored of New Orleans) with a Beaujolais. A Morgon with the cheeses and a fabulous Paris-Brest for dessert.

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Waddling on, we drove through the town of Arcachon, where both roads and beaches were jammed (another sort of bouchon). On our way home, we stopped to say au revoir to Christian and his family. Their cat took an interest in Ellie but she seemed unconcerned.

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St. Emilion encore

Today was sunny and we took advantage. First to Libourne for the Sunday market, where Ellie met a pig and a goat.

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Then to a lovely restaurant along the river Dordogne, where I had a duck confit while watching the ducks swimming in the river.

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Finally, a quick jog through St. Emilion, to show Cathy and Gail. Now home, swim and some good wine.

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Train tour of Bordeaux

I’ve finally become familiar enough with Bordeaux to find my way to some of the key spots. So it’s probably a little late to take an orientation tour. Nonetheless, Gail arrived yesterday and I thought she might be too tired to walk, so she, Cathy, Ellie and I took the little tourist train for an hour. I saw some things I didn’t know were here, like some impressive roman ruins, but couldn’t photograph because Ellie was in my lap. A little French boy sat with us and attempted to grab Ellie out of my hands. But she was very patient. Below photo of Gail and little boy

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Before the tour, we went to l’Entrecote, a local institution–the Gage & Tollner of Bordeaux. They only serve one dish–steak frites–and there were hour long lines. Below Cathy and Gail.

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After the tour, we stopped at one of the many wine bars in the quarter. This one was run by the Ecole des Vins. I had a nice St. Estephe but was a little ticked that they refused to bring Ellie any water. Do you think if I had ordered a glass of wine for her, their attitude might have softened?

Musee d’Aquitaine

We’ve had quite a bit of rain the last few days, though with enough sunshine to squeeze in some swims. Cathy took a long walk this am, just before it started pouring again.

So we decided to go to see a museum in Bordeaux. As usual, I got totally lost trying to find it and we ended up in a very old quarter that was actually quite interesting. When we finally parked the car, it was pouring, so we ran for the nearest bistro. Which turned out to be a great find. All they served was 3 kinds of grilled meat (beef, duck or salmon) with a delicious house sauce of wine, tarragon, mustard and cream. And the best frites ever! Here are Cathy and me happily anticipating our lunch.

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After lunch we wandered over to the cathedral, which was closed, and the English bookstore, which was open. Then we finally headed to the musee d’Aquitaine, which traced the history of the region to pre-history. They have a famous cave sculpture from 25,000 years ago called Venus with a horn. Many interesting exhibits on early man, including drawings from the Lascaux caves, which are in neighboring dordogne. Then roman times (below an amazing 1st century mosaic, very well preserved, then medieval Aquitaine, including a copy of Eleanor’s effigy, up through around 1600. There was more, but at this point I was cultured out.

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Planéte Bordeaux

When I saw the sign for Planete Bordeaux from the highway, I thought it was an amusement park. It is. But for oenophiles. It is run by the wineries of Bordeaux/Bordeaux superieures, the winemakers of the region surrounding the city.

They offered a class in wine tasting today, so I signed up. It turned out to be very technical (did you know you’re supposed to hold your wine glass by its foot?) but a worthwhile visit and only 15 minutes away. My favorite was the Cave des 1001 Chateaux, where they offer pretty much every local producer at discount prices. I ended up with 6 bottles for a total of 32€ or about $7 a bottle.

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St. Macaire

I was going to take the day off since the weather forecast called for thunderstorms. But the afternoon was sunny and I saw in the local paper that there was a night market in St. Macaire. Not close (about 40 minutes each way) but Michelin gave the town one star (worth a visit). And the Graves/Sauternes region was the only Bordeaux appellation I hadn’t yet visited. I drove along the Route des Vins, passed the “austere” (Michelin) Chateau de Cadillac, but didn’t stop.

St. Macaire is well worth the trip. I give it 3 stars. The town is situated within its original 12th century walls and has an impressive Romanesque/gothic church. (Photos).

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Unfortunately, the 24 hour clock stymied me again. Somehow, I decided 19 h was 5 pm. Of course, it’s 7. So I stopped in a lovely little cafe/shop where I drank medieval wine (spiced, but not too) and ate a delicious “medieval” pâté. Then it started pouring, so I walked by to see if the market was still going to take place. I didn’t hang around but this is what it would have looked like (just add some people in your imagination).

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Something cultural

Well, yes, Michael. Food and wine are cultural. Still, it’s been 2 months since I’ve been in a museum, and Bordeaux has 6–including a Museum of Wine. But I chose the Musee des Arts Decoratives because I love house museums, especially those that show how people lived in other eras.

The museum is in an 18th century “hotel particulier” owned by a wine merchant family. The exterior is as impressive as the collections.

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Here is the reception room, where guests would be greeted.

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Apparently, dining rooms were an 18th century invention. Prior to that, the would just set up a trestle table in a hallway or bedroom.

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I want one of these. It’s a serving table with a built in ice bucket and wine holder:

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There were some lovely objects in the collection, including several vitrines of early glassware. However, since this mother of pearl fan was the “object of the month” I thought I would show it to you.

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Another market

So today I learned from my previous error and checked that the market in Crėon really was taking place. Not to worry. The Wednesday market draws from far and wide and is really interesting, both in terms of offerings and of history. See my frenchmarketguide.wordpress.com for the scoop.

I also checked tripadviser for the best restaurant in Crėon and made a reservation. What a great find. Right in the market square with a lovely garden in the rear. Photo. The lunch for 14€ included a gazpacho with basil sorbet and pork belly with polenta in a cream sauce. Ellie and I both enjoyed it. Ellie probably didn’t care about the outstanding Entre-Deux-Mers that I drank. It only came in full bottles, but I was recently told I could take home what I didn’t finish. I asked and was told that was fine. So French restaurants won’t doggy bag your meal, but they will doggy bag your wine. Strange but true.

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