Friday, September 14, 2007

I Can't Quit You . . .

After 10 days of living la dolce vita, we headed to Bordeaux in search of la belle vie. While I enjoyed being on equal footing with Monsieur Frederic in Italy, I have to admit that it was nice to be back "home" with my personal translator. (There were a few times during our trip when, forgetting where we were, I completely tuned out in the midst of getting directions only to turn to Fred after and ask: "What did he say?" During one ugly incident, I raised my voice at him in frustration and accused him of "not listening"; he kindly reminded me that he did not speak Italian.)

In Bordeaux, we stayed in a comfortable and reasonably priced chambres d'hôtes called chez in-laws. The only cost was enduring a few annoying comments from one of the proprietors. That being said, my belle mère is a wonderful cook. Following are some of her offerings, including duck breast (that my beau père barbequed on sarments aka vine shoots); moules à la marinière, a chorizo and potato omelet accompanied by home-grown tomatoes, and wine and cheese (with all of the above):

I've come to realize that my favorite vacations are where we don't have an agenda, where we can sleep in and the day is marked by meals, not a wristwatch. As much as I tease Fred for being pampered by his parents (e.g., having his mother do his laundry, not filling up the gas tank after he uses his dad's car, having his parents prepare our meals and fetch our morning croissants), it's amazing how over the years I've allowed myself to accept it and profit by association. Something about staying with them puts me in a time warp. Perhaps it's sleeping in Fred's old bedroom with the tropical beach scene wallpaper, his 1980s CD rack, and boyish belongings. I feel like a teenager on summer vacation without a care in the world. Bilbo, who came along for the first time, quickly adjusted to being pampered as well.

The first two days of our stay, we were joined with another guest, someone just as even more important than Bilbo, our friend Todd. We did a day trip to the beach town of Arcachon and then a small hike up La Dune du Pyla. Here's a photo of Fred and Todd at the top. There's a picture of the three of us, but I refuse to post it because the stranger charged with taking it didn't count to trois so my eyes are closed and I'm not sucking it in. My bag, however, is in the picture because Fred is a sweet husband and carried it up for me. (Just thought I'd clarify that Fred does not carry a man purse like many of his countrymen.)

The next day we walked around Bordeaux, something I never get tired of doing. We were married just outside of Bordeaux nearly 3 years ago and my 30+ American friends and family took over the city for the weekend, thus it holds very happy memories for me. But this year, Bordeaux had something else to celebrate. It was named to the UNESCO World Heritage List based on it's stunning architecture:

The Fountain at Place des Quinconces

La Grosse Cloche (the bell that used to signal the start of the grape harvest)

Place de la Bourse (by day and by night)

Le Petit Bois
A cute little wine bar tucked away on a side street near L'Eglise Saint Pierre. It's decorated to look like you're outdoors with trees and lights, a little like The Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland in the Pirates of Caribbean. A glass of wine runs about 5€ and you get your choice of a salty or sweet snack plate gratuit. (Le Petit Bois is dark and cozy, more of a relaxed bar atmosphere. For a more sophisticated/serious wine tasting, another great place is Bar à Vin du CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux), located just across from the Office of Tourism. A glass of wine at the CIVB is around 2-4€.)

The highlight of our trip, however, was a tour and wine tasting that Fred's parents arranged for us at Château Rouaud (an organic winery in the wine region (AOC) Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire).

The contact info is:

Château Rouaud
17, grande rue
Tél : 05 56 76 41 69

They also have a chambres d'hôtes. It's not fancy, the restroom is on par with that of a ferry boat. But the hosts are very lovely and generous people with a passion for their work. Part of the charm of staying there (I imagine, I haven't done it yet), is that it's a small family vineyard and you can stay during the vendage and learn about the process. It sounds like a great experience for those who are interested in wine making. But if you want a relaxing 4 Star-type vacation, I don't think this would be a good fit.

[Sorry, I'm boring myself too! It's almost over . . .]

After the winery, we did a quick tour of l'ancien village de Saint-Macaire:

Finally, on the last day of our visit and the primary reason for our visit, we attended the baptism of Fred's second cousin, Audrey. Her parents hosted a lovely brunch, evidenced by this cute little dessert (a poussette de petit choux au chocolat et à la vanille)

The End!


Italy 1 France 1
Rematch in 2008

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Put on a happy face . . .

The party's over. I got a new job. It's full time in the Paris office of a British law firm. I'm very excited about this opportunity, but I'm a bit concerned given my propensity to lash out at rude people on the metro. My new office is 150+ so the odds of me working with that annoying commuter next to me (or being witnessed in an eyerolling match) on the metro just shot up.