Off to Bordeaux

LOCATION: Bordeaux, France

WEATHER: Rain in AM; nice in PM. High 70

We said good-bye to our homeowners and cats, dropped off our rental car in Bergerac, and hopped on the train to Bordeaux. The train ride was mostly through wine country, including another glimpse of beautiful St. Emilion…

We heard that Bordeaux is expensive, so we are trying to economize. We bought a 24-hour tram/bus/water taxi ticket that gives us free entry to the Cité de Vin Center and an open-air sightseeing tour of the city. We took the tour in the PM, enjoying the sites…

Bordeaux is a beautiful town with a rich history.

To get our money’s worth out of the transportation card, we took a tram to the outskirts of the city, then the bus (also included) back to downtown, just to see more of the city.

We stopped at a sidewalk cafe to people watch, which has the effect of making me feel dowdy as compared to the chic French women.

Then, dinner at this neat restaurant near our hotel…

We shared a big pot of steamed mussels with French fries. Very good!

Picturesque French village with a lot of Brits!

LOCATION: Housesitting in SW France, between Bergerac and Bordeaux

WEATHER: Rain most of the day. High upper 60s

Being our last day here, we spent the morning tidying up and packing a bit. Then we hit the road for a village that our homeowners had recommended.

It was about an hour away. They told us that part of the road was “wibbly-wobbly” and indeed it was – hairpin curves and one-lane roads. Very beautiful scenery.

This village won an award for being France’s most picturesque village. It was very cute.

It would have been every prettier with sunshine. The streets were full of outdoor cafes and nice shops…..and tourists. We found a cute bar/restaurant with a terrace overlooking the lower part of the village. Its wall was made of old doors and signs.

We saw British and Dutch car license plates in the parking lot, and heard English spoken everywhere. The restaurant was owned by a Swede and run by a Brit. The British waiter said that this area of France is full of English ex-pats due to the lower cost of living and nice lifestyle. Also it is a popular wedding venue for Brits.

The homeowners returned in the afternoon. Then, we went in to Bergerac for a lovely dinner. We went to a tiny restaurant that is one of their favorites.

As with many French restaurants, they have about 4 starters and 4 main dishes from which to choose, on a fixed price menu. For my starter, I had white asparagus. It was served with toast points, some dabs of sauces and a poached egg. For my main, I had rack of lamb, again with dollops of sauces and some veg. All the dishes were beautifully plated. George had crab as a starter and rabbit for his main. At each course, the waiter (the chef/owner’s wife) stood by the table and explained each dish – very French. A great send-off for Bergerac.

Foie gras meets morel mushrooms. Wowsi!

LOCATION: Housesitting in SW France – between Bergerac and Bordeaux

WEATHER: Light rain all day. High 60s

George started the day by fishing out a dead frog from the swimming pool. Sad…

Then, we took off for today’s outing, our destination being a chateau where American singer/burlesque dance Josephine Baker used to live.

Our GPS let us down again. We were doing fine until it had us get off the main road to a secondary road. We were a bit uneasy, as there was no signage for our destination. We passed through beautiful medieval villages, and by old chateaux and churches. Just beautiful. But then, the GPS instructed us to turn down this lane….

From there, the lane deteriorated further, and we ended up in a farmer’s driveway. The GPS was not too helpful…

We turned off the GPS, retraced our route, and finally saw a sign for the chateau. We thought we should eat before we started touring the chateau, so we pulled off the road to try this restaurant. What a find!

We sat overlooking the Dordogne River

George ordered a dish which ended up being one of the best meals we have ever had. It was foie gras, lightly seared to perfection, over a bed of tagliatelle in a morel mushroom sauce. It doesn’t get much better than this!!!!!

The chateau we visited was outstanding. We learned about Josephine Baker, a black woman from Missouri who ended up in France as a singer and burlesque dancer. She bought this chateau and raised a large family of adopted, multi-racial children. She ended up bankrupt. Recently, new owners bought the chateau and renovated it and the gardens beautifully.

DINNER: Being our last dinner here, I tried to use up leftovers. Pasta with lots of veg in a cream sauce. Certainly can’t compare to lunch!

Back to see Cyrano in Bergerac

LOCATION: Housesitting in SW France, between Bergerac and Bordeaux

WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 75. Rain in the late PM and overnight

This area of France retains a culture of slow living. During the week, we are not allowed to make noise (like mow the grass) between noon and 2:00. Ditto for all day Sunday. Many shops close between those hours, and almost everything closes up all day Sundays, including supermarkets. Knowing that the small towns would be absolutely dead today (Sunday), we returned to bigger Bergerac for the day.

Roses grow really well here. This is our neighbor’s house on our way out for the day…

In Bergerac, we checked out the newer of the 2 Cyrano de Bergerac statues. He and I are comparing noses…..

We strolled around the streets, admiring the architecture

After a nice pizza lunch in an outdoor cafe on the Cyrano de Bergerac plaza, we took a boat ride on one of the old flat-bottom boats that used to be used to haul cargo on the Dordogne.

The guide tried to do some of the commentary in English for us. Really cute.

DINNER: Pasta with a veg Bolognese sauce. Artichokes from the farmers’ market for an appetizer.

Lovely St. Emilion

LOCATION: Housesitting in SW France -between Bergerac and Bordeaux

WEATHER: Very nice Highs in 70s. Rain in late PM

We checked out the market at a nearby village. It is one of the largest markets in the area.

Not only do they sell the normal farmers’ market veg, flowers and fruit, but they also have a huge seafood section, lots of cheeses and pates, artisan baguettes, and of course – foie gras. We bought some veg, a herb-crusted hard salami, spicy tapenade, and a baguette. White asparagus are in season and they were beautifully displayed.

We returned home and did a few chores, including finishing up the mowing. They have a big yard so it is a pretty big job.

Then, off to St. Emilion, one of the most famous Bordeaux wine regions We stopped for a picnic along the Dordogne River – a baguette sandwich with some tasty cheese and the salami we bought at the market.

St. Emilion is a beautiful old city. Surrounded by chateaux and vineyards, it sits atop a hill that you can see from a long distance.

Although a bit touristy, it is still quite nice – almost every shop is a wine shop or wine restaurant.

We learned that you need an appointment to visit most wineries. We stopped in one wine shop to taste and buy some wines. They only do reds in this appellation.

If we have time, we might make an appointment and visit one of the wineries next week.

It poured in the late PM (conveniently after our day trip) so we won’t need to water the veg for awhile.

DINNER: Paella that I bought at the farmers’ market this AM. It was surprisingly good – big chunks of chicken, shrimp and sausage. Arugula (or as they say in Europe – rocket) salad, and flat beans, also a market purchase.

Getting lost among the vineyards

LOCATION: Housesitting between Bergerac and Bordeaux in SW France

WEATHER: Some sprinkles, then sun. Highs in 70s

At this assignment, we are taking care of 3 cats. We don’t see too much of them, as they like to bask in the sun. They come inside at mealtimes, and each goes to his designated, labeled bowl….

Then we were off to one of the many chateaux in the region. The GPS wasn’t working correctly, and took us to the wrong place. On the upside that meant that we drove hours through tiny villages and through vineyards and vineyards and vineyards – you get the picture.

Finally arrived there, but too late for the restaurant that our homeowners had recommended. Lunch in most places is served between 12:00 and 2:00, but you have to be there and order no later than 12:30 or so. We arrived at 1:00, and they turned us away even though there were tables available. So, we went to a little bar and had a nice vegetable/cold cut platter that was excellent – and was a lot cheaper than the restaurant would have been!

This is the 12th century castle there…..

We found the town’s wine center – where they have info about the wines in the region and let you sample some. Even though we are only 25 miles or so from our house, this is considered a different “terroir”, therefore different wines. We bought 2 – one red and one white.

As we were walking around the village, I saw this condom machine along the wall in the parking lot. The French have a different (more open) approach to sex. Interesting, though, that the name of the machine is in English ”love sex”. :-).

Back home, we did some of our chores. I mowed the grass some (until I pooped out) and picked a big bowl of strawberries…

DINNER: Omelette with vegetables and potatoes. A crunchy baguette on the side and some beautiful, steamed asparagus. Oh, and did I say wine?

A French kiss and foie gras – wow!

LOCATION: Housesitting near Bergerac, France

WEATHER: Very nice. Highs upper 70s

After the homeowners left around noon, we made our plan for the day: lunch and shopping. We drove to a small village nearby. It was very quiet, although we have heard that it explodes on Saturdays for market day.

We weren’t seeing many lunch options until this chef rushed out of his bistro, and beckoned us in. He was a real character. There was no menu, so we winged it. They didn’t want us to split a meal, so George got their steak special and I ordered a “small” salad. It turned out like this…..!

He came out to see how we liked the food. The French couple next to us were debating about whether to order the steak. We heard the chef explaining the cut of beef in wondrous detail. Then, he went back to the kitchen and hauled out a huge loin to show him where he would cut the steak. (It worked – they ordered it). He was very dramatic!

After a bit of a driving challenge, we found the major supermarket in the area and stocked up. Then, to the wine cooperative. It is literally in our backyard……

The local farmers bring their grapes here and this co-op blends them all together for local wines. There are bottled wines for sale, but most people bring in their plastic jugs and fill up…

We are taking care of 3 cats. They seem pretty easy.

In the afternoon, we planned out our week’s itinerary.

DINNER: Really decadent. As my brother pointed out, I am slipping a bit. It took more than 24 hours to get to the foie gras! We bought a jar of it. You can buy goose or duck, but the duck is less expensive and tastier, or so we heard. You can buy 100% foie gras, or pates mixed with foie gras. We bought the real thing. We couldn’t figure out how to open the jar, so Google You Tube saved the day! We spread it on a baguette and had some goat cheese and a salad on the side. Fresh strawberries from the garden for dessert. Are we in heaven or what!