A Travellerspoint blog

Rain, rain, go AWAY!

Monday in Paris


Mondays in Paris tend to be quieter - residents are back to work and some museums are closed. Our plan wasn't to visit too many anyway but to do some shopping. After Mary Ann's swim (the pool is a 3-minute walk from the apartment!) and breakfast, we headed out to Galeries Lafayette. This massive department store has 7 levels of shopping and the most beautiful stained glass domed roof.
Before we left Canada, we spoke about getting something here in Paris that Alena can use or wear at her wedding next year. She found a lovely lace bomber jacket at Lafayette! The wedding is in April and with a little outdoor time for photos, she'll need something to keep warm. It'll be a great addition to her wardrobe. (sadly, the dress Mary Ann had her eye on for the wedding was far too expensive to consider)
We made our way to the 7th level terrace to see the cloudy, rainy views of Paris. The large building is the back of the Opera. This is another of the many grand buildings in the city. Beautiful.
Across from the Galeries, is their food emporium.
Look at the spices! 90_IMG_0229.jpg
Look at the wines! IMG_0231.jpg
There's a very large section of wines from all over the country, certainly featuring Bordeaux too.

After the shops, we went round to the front of the opera house - then back onto the Metro & to the apartment. We had lunch with some rose and a bit of a rest. 90_IMG_0235.jpg

Back to the Metro and we went North to the Montmartre district of Paris. This is the artists' haven and the site of Sacre Coeur Basilica which is at the highest elevation in the city. I expect the views are beautiful - all we saw was rain.
So, what do 2 girls do in a city when it's raining? Shop of course! This is also the area of fabric shops. The attendants are armed with scissors and metre sticks to measure out your fabric choices right at the bins - no separate cutting tables!
Lots of hilly streets, artisan shops and of course cafes & bars.
Alena discovered a little bar in the area - La Degustation (the Tasting) where we enjoyed a beautiful charcuterie plate with a Grenache-Syrah blend red wine from South-West regions. Pork terrine, peppery saucisson, cheese, baguette, roasted/salted almonds (de Californie!) and a lovely assortment of pickled veggies - the carrots were so very good! The bar also had some cookbooks for sale - including one all about hot dogs and 2 that were for burgers!
We were up in that neighbourhood to take in the campy, touristy cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge. Surprisingly, the cast was very large, costumes were gorgeous and the show was a solid 2 hours. Little intermission acts included a strongman/gymnast, a juggler and a ventriloquist. Fun & campy for sure.

Alena's fiance's last name is O'Sullivan and right next door to the Moulin is O'Sullivan's Irish Pub. We thought we'd go and grab something with the name but it was crazy-packed with EuroCup fans. You guessed it - IRISH!! This time, prepping for the next day's Northern Ireland team match. A few drinks and a few songs - we had a lot of fun!

Tomorrow's forecast is for a tiny bit of rain - sure hope not!

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 09:27 Archived in France Tagged rain shopping ireland opera wine rouge northern irish montmartre spices moulin wines dresses Comments (0)

Paris still Rains

First Day in Paris

overcast 18 °C

Rain, Rain, Go Away
First Day in Paris

Mary Ann started the day by attending Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. Such a stunning building with gorgeous sculptures and stained glass. Weird though as there were still tourists allowed into the church while Mass was taking place.
Afterwards, we went to the Bastille. Commemorating the revolution, it’s a well-known landmark.
Behind the Bastille is a huge outdoor marche - market with lots of growers, producers and general sellers of stuff. We bought food for the next few days, for meals that we won’t have to eat out. Musicians & a choir also added to the fantastic atmosphere.

Beautiful, fresh lamb, some herbed sausages, goat cheese that’s so fresh, and lots of vegetables. We were hungry so we had galette complet, buckwheat flour crepes with egg, cheese & ham. Made a delicious brunch. We also bought these beautiful peonies - just a gorgeous fragrance.
We brought home & put away our market treasures, including those gorgeous fresh apricots, then headed out to some thrift stores that Alena found. Kilo Shop sells used clothing by the kilo. We both got skirts and a couple of scarves. Very cool. We also tried Free-P-Star but the store was kinda just a mess. There were a number of the Kilo shops and it seems we checked them all out!

On our way back along Boulevard Saint-Germain, we came upon Patrick Roger - one of the well-known chocolatiers in Paris. We stopped in and bought just a couple of exquisite chocolates - one had lemongrass & mint flavouring the ganache, the other with lemon & basil.! so Wonderful!
Thirsty, we stopped at a neighbourhood cafe for some rose and a serving of Creme Brulee. Loving the rose's from the Provence region of France - so light & fresh!
Yes, there was rain today, but not as bad as yesterday. There are still flood warnings for the Seine. Sheesh!

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 08:31 Archived in France Tagged chocolate market peonies store notre dame thrift gourmet bastille Comments (0)

Travel Day #2

TGV to Paris, Getting around our Neighbourhood


After experiencing the insane traffic of Bordeaux yesterday, we figured we should leave the hotel with lots of time to spare. We had to gas up the rental and return it to ‘Ah-vee’ - Avis. Thankfully, traffic was very light and we had just over an hour once we got into the train station. There can’t be many people left in Ireland - they all seem to be in Bordeaux! We finally figured out how we would know which platform would be used to board the high-speed train and we just waited. We still weren’t sure which car we should be on so we just got on one that was marked for our class and sat down. It’s a small part of a car and there were only about three other passengers - nice & quiet for this leg.

We can actually see out the windows this time - vineyards turned to farmland turned to city.
There are still lots of clouds in the sky but more blue than we’ve seen this week. 590kms travelled in 3 hours, 20 min! Love the high speed TGV trains!

Getting into Paris (OK, we saw the very top portion of the Eiffel Tower) we took the Metro on 2 trains to meet our Airbnb host. Salim recognised me when we came up out of the subway and he escorted us to the apartment. Pretty spacious actually for a downtown Paris location. There is a full bedroom and a pull-out couch. Nice little kitchen with a washer/dryer!

After waiting for the rains to finish (yes, Paris has had heavier than normal rains this Spring too - the Seine flooded its banks a couple weeks ago!) we ventured out. We’re staying in the 5th arrondissement about 10 minute walk to Notre Dame cathedral. Also nearby is Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore famous for it’s literary visitors over the years. Writers including Alan Ginsberg and Ernest Hemingway spent time in the store, so we decided to head there. On the way, we got hit with a HUGE downpour. We took shelter under an awning and waited it out - almost 20 min of really heavy rain.
But it finally stopped and we kept going to the bookstore. Quite a tight, OLD place - an English language bookstore in the centre of Paris. While we were there, one of the staff, helping another customer had some books fall over. He said it was probably George - he threw books at customers when he owned the store and is still throwing them after his death!

A couple books bought, we started out again, this time in sunshine. We took an inviting side street and found a restaurant serving rotisserie meats AND with piano entertainment. It was actually a pianist and a lovely singer. We enjoyed a couple of appetizers (who knew BACON would be so good on Camembert?!) Then a trio of roasted meats - chicken, duck and pork. So delicious.
We headed back to the apartment and have a full day planned for tomorrow.

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 23:59 Archived in France Tagged villages rain paris train books countryside bookstore airbnb bacon rotisserie Comments (0)

Dunes & Beer

Sea of Green!

semi-overcast 20 °C

What a day!!
Sadly, we left the chateau and Saint-Emilion to continue our trip and for a day on the ocean. We drove past the city of Bordeaux and on to the town of Arcachon which sits on the Atlantic coast. Very much a tourist region, they are also known for oysters. We parked the car and went to the beach where we found a lovely restaurant with a large patio. They offered 2-course lunches - choice of appetizer and main course or main and dessert. Alena had mussels and then duck confit while Mary Ann enjoyed a fresh tomato salad followed by grilled Merlu (a type of hake) both accompanied by a glass of white ‘Entre-Deux-Mers’ Bordeaux. Lovely.
We then drove a little south through the town, admiring the beautiful villas and summer homes on the way to Dunes de Pilat. This gigantic sand dune on the coast is over 2.5km long and reaches a height of 500m. WE CLIMBED IT!! It was pretty windy and we didn’t go to the very top-most ridge, but we did reach the top. And without the stairs (we didn’t even see the stairs until we were at the top -they’re on the lee side of the dune!).
The plan then was to drive back to Bordeaux where we had a hotel reservation for the night. Before hitting the hotel, we wanted to go to a new museum experience called La Cite du Vin - the City of Wine. The online photos look stunning but alas, traffic was insane! IMG_0186.jpg We changed our route and went directly to the hotel as there was no way to get to the museum before it closed. Even getting to the hotel was crazy - the highway into the city was achingly slow but in the downtown was even moreso. IMG_0187.jpgRemember reading about all the Irish on our train the other day? Well tomorrow is their match here in Bordeaux and green shirts were on just about every corner. There was a large group and lots of gendarmes (police) when we went past an Irish pub (go figure!) Alena did a fabulous job getting through (thank goodness for GPS!) and we got to the hotel just before 6pm. We enjoyed a salad and then went out to explore Vielle Bordeaux - the oldest part of town.

Our goal was to see 2 things: the Quinconces Esplanade and it’s amazing fountain, then the Mirror of Water on the bank of the Garonne River. However, on the way, we saw a motorcade leading the Irish side to their hotel just 2 blocks down from ours! After watching them off the bus, we found ourselves a few blocks later near that Irish pub…the crowd was even larger, singing & chanting for their team. We went down to absorb the atmosphere - so much fun!IMG_0668.jpg

Gradually, we made it to the Esplanade which is also the Bordeaux FanZone for Euro ’16 so lots of Irish and Belgians there. The monument is massive - with a bronze fountain on each of 2 sides. Just fascinating, “Le triomphe de la République” – “the triumph of the Republic”, and on the other side, “Le triomphe de la Concorde”- “the triumph of Agreements”. As we made our way around, up on the platform of the monument were…a singing/cheering group of football fans, mixed Irish & Belgian! 270_IMG_0683.jpgIMG_0688.jpg
At the other end of the esplanade, we came across a pub and bought a couple pints. European cities allow you to walk through with your drink!

Next stop was the Mirror of Water. It was built in 2006 by the city to reflect the Palais du Bourse. Just gorgeous, the water’s only a couple cm deep and it drains out every 15 minutes to be replaced via a mist. Really lets out your inner kid - we even saw a guy doing pushups in it (yes, he was Irish!).
As we headed back to our hotel, we again went down to the Irish pub where even more supporters were taking up the entire end of the street. It was the kind of event where you couldn’t stop smiling - watching these fans so excited and having such a good time supporting their team (and all the pubs & restaurants along the way). Lots of countries/cultures have their good times but Thank the good sweet Lord for the Irish!

Stopped into a little pizzeria (yes, 2/3rds of the tables were filled with Irish lads!) for a thin crust and some wine - half the pizza will be our lunch tomorrow on the train to Paris. The first part of our journey is just about done!

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 11:05 Archived in France Tagged traffic fountain sand atlantic seafood irish dunes Comments (0)

The Janoueix Wines

Hunting for Foie Gras

rain 17 °C

Last night’s rainbow and sunset really didn’t forecast the lovely weather we were hoping to have today. But the sky sure was gorgeous!!!
This morning’s trek was with Jean-Philippe Janoueix, owner of the fabulous chateau that is our home this week. He is also partner to John Howard, owner of megalomaniac where Mary Ann works part-time. Jean-Philippe took us to visit his other properties in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion/St. Georges. His family has owned Chateau La Croix St. Georges in Pomerol for 4 generations. Neighbours to La Croix include some of the most famous chateaus of Pomerol - Le Pin, Cheval Blanc and Petrus. Yup! Impressive!
We also visited properties in the nearby appellation of Montaigne St. Georges. There is one estate fully-owned and another partly owned. The expectation is that St. Georges will be owned by M. Janoueix and M. Howard soon. And of course La Confession where we met Titou, the very large & very calm Great Dane. He wears the flag of La Confession as a scarf!
That was something else we learned today! Some chateaux fly flags - usually their own. However, when they have guests, they fly the flags of the guest’s home country. We are honoured by having the Maple Leaf flying at La Confession!!
We dropped M. Janoueix at La Confession and made our way to the town of Bergerac to search for the Foie Gras route. We arrived during the lunch break - businesses close between 1 - 2 for lunch, and the tourist office was closed. We explored this little town and discovered that it was the setting for the story of Cyrano de Bergerac!!! We went to the tourist office, found our map and some restaurants close by so we drove out…only to find that restaurants are often open only for lunch and dinner but closed in the afternoon! SIGH!

Deciding to head to Libourne where we knew we could get an electrical adaptor (the one we brought was USB only, no good for the hair dryer!) we found a farm selling foie gras de canard - duck! The lovely lady there explained to us the various products, we made our purchases and headed back. Hopefully we’ll find somewhere in Paris with foie gras on the menu.

All afternoon was quite rainy and a walk through the vineyards after dinner bore that out - lots of water pooling between the rows. It’s not been a great Spring for the Bordeaux region - far too wet & cool - here’s hoping the rest of the summer is better.

A bientôt

Mary Ann & Alena

Posted by otisandma 13:51 Archived in France Tagged sky rainbow great gras foie pomerol dane Comments (0)

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