Shopping, Eating and Exploring

Come along with me and discover some off-the beaten paths in Southwest France

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chinon and the Loire

We are experiencing beautiful, sunny, warm weather. Very unfrench-like. It's great to return to the Loire Valley and show it to my husband and friends who have never been there under ideal weather conditions. We ate lunch outside in the square today, and last nights dinner as well.

Chinon is a lovely town, tucked in the shadow of an towering chateau fortress. When I was here two years ago, other than the best tartare du boeuf I've ever had, I remember walking through the ruins of the chateau. No roof, crumbling walls, exposed fireplaces. This is the place that the young Joan of Arc met the French King Henry II, to implore him to take back France from the British. Today, there is much activity in Chinon. There is a roof, walls are being rebuilt, and they have added an elevator to get people from the village to the chateau. When we walked up to the elevator, the sign asked us to please understand, but it was not operating due to work. My friends husband pushed the button, the door opened, and up we went. Pas probleme.

The best part of the 16th Century hotel we are staying in? I can see the tower and ramparts of the chateau as I lie in bed. My least favorite part? Fourth floor, no elevator here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the Road....

We decided with the weather so nice, a road trip was in order. Heading south to St Jean de Luz is a pretty quick trip, only 2.5 hours from home. Lovely and mild, sunny with a gentle breeze made the choice perfect.

Our first stop was in Espelette the town famous for the pimments. They start harvesting in August, and finish sometime in November. Many of the homes in the village are hung with long strings of peppers. When they were allowed to add the AOC to the peppers, the town's prominence shot up, as well as the economic well being.

St Jean de Luz sits on the French side of the Spanish border. All the signs are in French and Basque, shops are filled with espadrilles (which I can never pass up), berets, fabulous striped fabrics, and chocolates. Our hotel was directly on the beach, with views of the whole bay.

We had a great meal in a local find near the covered market. I had grilled squid, and we all split an interesting assortment of tapas.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Most Prolific Fig Tree in France

Autumn is always a favorite time to return to France. The apple trees are heavy with fruit, grapes are ripe, pomegranates weigh down the branches in our garden. Then there is the fig tree. We used to have two fig trees, but they so shaded the garden we took one out. The remaining tree gets pruned back every winter, but grows so large, and bears so many figs that it is almost a nuisance. I can't share them with friends or neighbors, because they all have fig trees. I loved making cherry jam in the spring, but the thought of spending hours making fig jam doesn't thrill me. With each breath of wind and or rain shower, figs rain down on the terrace, the stones, causing fig "poop" to stick to the bottom of our shoes.

Then there is Sally, who mooches about looking for the perfect fig to eat. I have no idea how figs affect dogs, but she seems none the worse for wear.

This is Monday, a quiet day for antiques but we had a great weekend shopping. A big yellow tian bowl, and the largest confit pot I've ever had were among the finds.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ok, We are finally here

We have all landed safely in Villefranche. It is certainly fall here, but more Indian Summer. The Vendage has certainly commenced. (the grape harvest) Machines are busy night and day to get the harvest in on time. Signs are up declaring "Borreau est Ici!" Borreau is the "new" wine made from the first crush. It looks a little like unfiltered apple cider, but has a little bit of effervescence and the alcohol content of beer. Borreau and chestnuts are a classic Fall combination in the Dordogne.

We went to Riberac for the Friday market yesterday and are heading to Bordeaux for a brocante market this morning.

This is Heritage weekend all over France. We will go to St Emilion tonight for the Nuit du Patramoine. More about that tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ice, Ace Bandages, Duct Tape and Expedited Passports

Traveling allows for all those new experiences, sights, food, shopping...but you are always missing something at home. I have spent a good chunk of the Spring and Fall for the last ten years in France. I wouldn't change that. This week, as I was racing around with last minute details (like expedited passport), and five days of tennis, there was a little twinge of what I would miss here in California over the next six weeks.

I play a little tennis here in California. Great group of women, and being part of a team with all the comradeship and competition was really unexpected at this point in my life. This week I had two matches, with different partners. We pulled out a win both times. The small price is my foot encased in an Ace bandage, and my right hand wrapped as well. Ice is something I look to put on the aching hand and foot, not in my margarita. Out on the court, with adrenaline pumping, the pain fades, and I concentrate on not letting my partner and team down. I will miss the rest of the matches in September and October, but look forward to some Anglo-American-Franco competition in France. You can't do everything. Stepping away and into an ancient village life puts a different perspective on tennis and life.

Almost every village seems to have tennis courts in France. My friends in the next village send their two little boys for tennis lessons on Saturdays. When they come out to play against me, it's with a wooden racket and knee braces. Ah ha! you might think. But no, it is all a ruse, they are lovely players who clean my clock. We adjourn to the bar for aperitifs to celebrate their win!

Next week the Nuit du Patromonie in St Emilion on Saturday, dinner at L'Envers du Decor and fireworks. I will keep you posted on what is happening on the otherside of the pond!
A beintot.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Healdsburg, Alameda Point, and on to France!!!

Here are some photos of my booth at the antiques show in Healdsburg held last Sunday. While Saturday was incredibly hot, Sunday was pleasant, and my booth was under the giant trees. Great crowd, and really nice variety of antiques. What was really great was staying with Glen and Beth, who rented a home for the summer a block off the square. Great dinner the night before at Dry Creek Kitchen.

This Sunday, I'll be at Alameda Point, booth G-8; show opens 6am, closes at 3pm. If you have never gone, this is a great show, and weather should be perfect for the weekend.

We are off to France on September 16th. It really creeps up quickly, and there seems to be so much to do to prepare for the trip. I am trying to line up show schedules, and what areas we will be visiting.