Monday, September 22, 2014

A Beautiful Blend in Bordeaux

Back in France! 
Alexander Dumas salad, roasted chicken and a Bordeaux from Marquis de Garraud

Sometimes it really isn't a savings.  I scored some great priced tickets from Stockholm to Paris, however, when your already late flight is late and you miss a key exchange and end up driving at 1 AM to a city you don't want to visit with wrong instructions and the English speaking people are not around, you just want to grab some wine and cheese and relax..... We made a wonderful Dumas salad, a little wine and we got the road off our backs, Merci beaucoup. 

Long term stay Visa issues always pop up, the best way to to accept them is to jump on a train, get an apartment overlooking La Garonne in Bordeaux and start exploring.  We are here 5 weeks if anyone is in the area. 

Much like their incredible wine, Bordeaux is a blend.  
A great Bordeaux will include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Bordeaux the city is a blend of many cultures and  lifestyles.  Although the French will always dominate, the Spanish are in by 20% and the town has 70,000 students whose presence gives the city a youthful energy.  Skateboarding, cycling, running are always happening around you.  The city has two very long stretches of pedestrian friendly areas.  The Rue Saint Catherine is a nearly one mile street of shopping without cars. The Waterfront has over 2 miles of 30' wide sidewalks to let the city have a place to breathe. Also next to this incredible public place are acres of gardens to hide and have a quiet picnic with a bottle of wine and steal kisses.  An enormous skate park for all ages and skills gives terrific free entertainment as they all compete for admiration.

View from our apartment window.  A BIG thank you to Patricia and Pierre the owners of this apartment we found on AirB&B for all the little luxuries that make for a wonderful stay!

On the street outside of our apartment we stopped at the closest cafe for our first taste of Bordeaux in Bordeaux

Outside our apartment, a very International choice of restaurants and cafes


 Time to go to the south of France and spend time in a city we only drank about!

Before we get off to the wine country, we thought we would share some of the sites of Bordeaux.  1,810 hectares of the city of Bordeaux in 2007 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site:

Why is it all the Italian Restaurants are always crowded no matter what country we are in??

View of Cathedral Saint Andre 
We are taking the picture from the Pey-Berland Bell Tower, which is one of the two 15th century bell towers in Bordeaux.  From this view you can see it is a flat city - so wonderful for walking and bike riding!  Most of the town center is pedestrian, so really the only thing you are dodging are the trams running throughout the city and the tourists on bikes.

"La Belle Endormie" or Sleeping Beauty - one of the nicknames the Bordelaise give to their city, (and it is not a Disney Princess reference), mainly because of what pollution has done to the buildings. The city is still a work of art in progress though, as you still see many streets and building in need of TLC - not so Sleepy anymore with all the work being done in the city.  Bordeaux, also calls itself "The City of Art and History" with 362 monuments and the old city itself is " outstanding urban and UNESCO architectural ensemble of the 18th century created into a melting pot of humanism, universality and culture..." 

This is Porte Cailhau - a stone gateway or Bordeaux's "Arc de Triomphe" commemorating the victory over the Italians at the Battle of Fornovo.  Hmmm, since we were in Italy - the Italian's are also calling this battle a victory.....Who really knows as they didn't have TMZ back then..... a few soldiers did say the actual battle was 15 minutes long killing 3,500 men.....

A quiet morning facing St Andre Cathedral.  
Bordeaux is sometimes known as "Little Paris" -  when you compare the populations in the Metro area, Bordeaux has 1.1 million people  vs 12.3 million in Paris, being in a town this size is rather enjoyable.

The "Miroir des Quais" or the Quay Mirror is the largest water mirror in the world.  Pictured above is during the day above and the evening below - 

The building in the background is the Place de la Bourse or the Place Royal.  Stunning 18th century architecture.

The Chartrons neighborhood by the Notre Dame Church - --- an old neighborhood where the "out of town" wine merchants hung out - now an upscale bohemian mix of antique shops, wine houses, mixed with the artists.

Hanging with the students of the University of Bordeaux - one of the largest campuses in Europe with 70,000 students which makes for a lively nightlife here.  The students are all going through "Rush", so even during the day hordes of students take over the city dressed up usually in Greek togas and other festive costumes. 

The circus was in town and asked us to join.  We told them our Visa does not allow us to work

Bordeaux is a wine paradise - so before visiting any wineries, we attended a class to introduce us to the Bordeaux vineyards. (Though we were really introduced to a 1982 bottle of Latour from our dear friends Joel and Eva Davis many years ago - that one bottle is one of the reasons we are here today)

 Jane is a wonderful instructor from l'Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux or the Bordeaux Wine School 

"... Bordeaux today has 7,800 winegrowers with the average vineyard size 15 hectares (about 37 acres) and produces 700 million bottles a year (89% red / 11% white), this is only 1.4 % of global production in the world but accounts for 80% of all wine resold..."

Richard is definitely Teacher's Pet in this classroom - He was the only one taking notes!  "....Let's see  2,000 years of history...Romans started cultivating wines here.... left bank gravel hot soil.. right bank clay cool soil..,  Medoc, Saint Emillion, Graves.... 60 different appelations.....Cabarnet, Merlot, Sauvignon, Semillon,  grapes....The Dutch drained Medoc and came up with sulfites......AOC has strict rules for Bordeaux....2009/2010 great years....70 different aroma molecules...whew - I hope I pass the test!"......

A Cabernet from the Medoc Appelation.  
I have attentively done my look and smell, now the taste.....I take a small amount of wine into my mouth and "chew" it well to asses the wine's balance, then as I am "chewing", I am told to breathe air in through my mouth and expel it through my nose (this is called the "retronasal effect")..... since I can't do two things at once, do I need to tell you what happened next?  Why would anyone want wine expelled through their nose????  
Somehow, that part of the tasting I failed.  
Note to self: Do not wear a white blouse if I pass to the advanced class.

Yay!!! Richard passed the Bordeaux Oenophile exam!!!!... 

Now we hit the vineyards!!......

Swine and Dine lost a member this week, Tony Tirri.

A great man, a wonderful cook and our friend. We dedicate this Post and our 12th Century Chateau Post to him.
Rest in Peace 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'll Take Sweden, YA YA YA...

Stockholm has to be the most civilized Capital city in the world. 
The Metro/bus/ transit is the finest we have seen, on time, clean and filled with art work - some say its the longest art gallery in the world.  The city is loaded with Nordic Museums, Theater and Music. The people are so polite that if they bump you they will run up to apologize, really!  The city has the beauty of the Swedish Archipelago lined with historic and incredible buildings. Islands and rivers twisting through the downtown with bridges made for photo shoots. The clean keeps washing over you. Surprising in a city to see so little graffiti, perhaps it is the socialism that makes people think they are part owners of this city, so why deface it. We visited during the election time and the freedom of choosing, or even forming your own party was evident. I believe there is a feminist movement party that is looking to reprogram men to better understand consumerism.:-)  (this came from a male on the street pushing a stroller as a stay at home Dad, very popular in Sweden). Unfortunately, these Nordic countries just don't fit World Nomad budgets, so a quick trip to get Renata into school and off to the south of France.

I will say, after selling and driving Volvos for 25 years it was a pleasure to see so many on the streets. Police cars, taxis, all over were the beautiful Swedish cars. Perhaps that is what made Stockholm so beautiful?



We took a Viking Ferry from Turku Finland into Stockholm Sweden.  The Ferry ride which included a Swedish Smorgasbord was 10 hours and worth the 35 Euro!  Besides views of the archipelagos, there was entertainment on board, gambling, shopping and everything else you find on cruise ships. When we docked in Stockholm, we found another city we fell in love with (of course it was August)....

....When we got off the boat - the city had such a positive vibe about it, I don't know what it was -as Rich said, it smelled clean!  Stockholm is one of the cleanest Capitals in the world free from pollution surrounded by nature reserves, green spaces and waterways, which make up 60% of the city area (could also be the absence of heavy industry and fossil fuel power plants??)   Renata and  Rich are facing the Baltic Sea. If you zoom in on Richard he is wearing his tattered Volvo jacket - maybe after we leave Sweden he can finally lay it to rest.

We walked all of Old Town (Gamla Stan) - the original Stockholm from the 13th Century. The Old Town was first occupied about 1000 AD by the Vikings and the layout of the streets were kept medieval.

The tourist area of Old Town (Vasterlanggatan) trying to keep the Viking legacy alive by selling cheesy t-shirts and helmets.  Hmmm I think I remember Rich in the Norway post with a viking helmet......

We didn't take part, but we were able to watch the Vattenfall 2014 World Triathlon Stockholm  that took place in city center...made me tired and hungry watching...where's those opened face sandwiches Sweden is famous for!

The changing of the Royal Guard ceremony in Stockholm takes place every day at noon and lasts 40 minutes.  We have seen London, Athens, Prague, Vatican, etc. -  I have to say this was the most spectacular one I have seen.  The mounted military band is the largest in the world and quite impressive playing their instruments while trying to keep their horses at bay.

Everyone loves royalty - especially if they are cute. "Royal Pretty Boy" Prince Carl Philip and the paparazzi waiting for him to appear.  Bottom right is a female Royal Guard - Side-note:  In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Sweden is named as a world leader in gender equality measured in the areas of economics, politics, education and health (Iceland, Norway and Finland are up there too).  Bravo!

View of Grona Lund an amusement park at the edge of the Sea.  It is the oldest amusement park in Sweden founded in the 1880's.  There are 14 distinct islands that make up Stockholm - Grona Lund is on Djurgarden Island.  It's the island they try to keep all the tourists on.

What "Pops" up in your mind - QUICK -  when you think of Sweden??  Some will say Steig Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - others like myself, will say ABBA!!!! 
Rich and Renata refused to go in this museum - what snobs!

Anyone who has been to IKEA - rest assured, a visit to the Stockholm Ikea cafeteria and the meatball dinner taste exactly the same as in the USA  (I don't know if that is good or bad, or why we would even go there)

We could not leave Sweden without tasting Swedish Meatballs with lingonberries from a place other than IKEA.... (It is so tough after our excellent Finnish Family meals to even try to say this was delicious).

We had to taste the street food in Sweden, and while we were waiting in line at Gunter's to taste the Swedish sausage - the Swede pictured said "No - order the German or Austrian sausages they are far superior to ours- Swedish sausages are for the children!".  (OK, we already know for a fact how good Austrian sausages are).  We chatted a bit about the raising of children in Sweden, and he is quite happy because it is his turn to stay home with his child for the next 30 days and get paid 80% of his salary to do so.  We noticed there were 3 men with their strollers in line for those Austrian Sausages
Good for Sweden!

There are a 1,000 restaurants in Stockholm and as diverse as the city is, so are their restaurants.  We ate Chinese, Mediterranean Fusion, Thai - OK, now where do you find good Swedish food?  We loved the cardamon cinnamon rolls - if they are famous for that, then sign me up because they are perfect with coffee.  You find these all over the city - our favorite gooey buns were found right out of the oven in a little Kafe Sjostugan outside of the city in Solna. (no picture of these buns - sorry, we ate them too fast!) Swedish pancakes are always delicious - you can have them plain with lingonberries or stuffed like a burrito.

 When you attend outdoor symphony under gray clouds without an umbrella and it rains (which is often in Stockholm) - nothing is funnier than seeing pages of music flying everywhere and musicians trying to beat each other to cover.  The vocalist was a trooper and kept on singing.

Why did we title this post "I'll Take Sweden, YA YA YA"?  (For those of you who are as old as we are,  it is a 1965 Bob Hope, Tuesday Weld, and Frankie Avalon so-called comedy - but we are just stealing the title)  It is because our lovely and talented daughter Renata decided to go to ThSwedish Academy of Realist Art - Antelier Stockholm (SARA) for the school year!.....So we leave the daughter until Christmas!

Hej da! Ha det sa bra!

On our way to Bordeaux!!