Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Week-end in the Country: Bordeaux

I had the good fortune to be asked to go to a friend's house just outside St. Emilion this past week-end.  One might not need to think I need to "getaway" from anything right now, but the city moves at a much different pace than the back roads and villages in the country.  So, after a few days of poking around St. Emilion, Bordeaux, and all places in between, I feel refreshed and ready once again for bustling Paris.

My friend Doni's place is right on the Dordogne and after one glimpse, I saw many of my favorite French books come to life, and pictured this place as a lovely and likely setting in which to write one of these stories on the fabulous, yet frustrating, life in the country.

Our first night, after the 3+ hour train ride from Paris, we went into "town," which is really just a few small shops each selling a very specific item as is the case in most of France.  We grabbed flowers from the flower shop, bread from the boulangerie, cheese from the fromagerie, and even got milk and eggs from another small shop where the owner asked how many eggs we wanted and then dropped them in a small bag for us.  That began our riverside picnic and drink before we walked into Doni's immediate village center, which consists of a church, a small school and one restaurant. 

Luckily the restaurant is quite good so we were treated to some home cooking by a husband and wife team who run the place, and the post office next door by day.  They have an open grill in the restaurant where they cook all of their meat.  My steak was twice the size of my head with double the amount of blue cheese on top.  It made for good sleeping, not to mention, that the house was a tad bit cold because of a delay in getting the fuel for the heat.  Luckily there were some electric heaters for the bedrooms and we built a fire every morning in the kitchen so it really was country living.

Delicious frog legs
Warm fish casserole, beets and spiced spinach

Steak with blue cheese
Chef, owner, grill master

The next day I took a run through the small villages, looking into each of the farms to see what they were growing (mostly grapes) and giving the vineyard dogs something to bark about.  We then went for a more in-depth wine tour at Chateau Belles Graves in Lalande de Pomerol.  The 3rd generation owner took us around his fields and showed us his cement vats, which you don't see everyday in modern wine making.  The property also has a 4 bedroom hotel, making for a nice, all encompassing stay. 

We tasted some wine, bought some wine, and then went off and meandered through the country on our way to St. Emilion.  There are beautiful sites around every corner, and not necessarily on any tourist map, but half the fun is getting lost and going where the day takes you like a random Brocante in a small town.

We then spent the afternoon walking around the "big city" of St. Emilion, ironically where Doni and I first met 3 years ago during a writing conference. 

We were treated to a beautiful sunset which made all of the stone shine even brighter and more colorful.

We then treated ourselves to a little vodka at an appropriately named L'Absolu cafe.  This was the first vodka based bar I had seen in France, so naturally we had to stop for a glass (or maybe two), and they also gave us a fairly elaborate charcuterie platter for free. 

Dinner was another great meal.  I went all fish with a sashimi dourade to start and then a scallop risotto, served with the maison's name wine.  Delicious.

Sunday we drove into Bordeaux and started our day wandering through the modern art museum.  They had a pretty spooky exhibition on secret societies that included an extremely lifelike man playing dead on the floor.  The visit is almost worth it alone for their lovely rooftop and cafe.

We stopped for lunch at one of the great markets along the water.  The sun was out and so were all the French.  There were people everywhere eating, drinking and getting their supplies for the week.  We had some fabulous oysters, shrimp and of course a bit of wine. 

After a final wander through Bordeaux, we took the last train back to Paris, tired, yet refreshed from a fun week-end.

1 comment:

  1. I would love a weekend like that, with time just to wander. Thanks for taking me along.