Shopping, Eating and Exploring

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where do you want to spend your vacation?

France is a major destination for vacationers from all over the world. Most of these visitors head for Paris or Provence; both wonderful places. That leaves a huge and diverse area largely undiscovered by many Americans.

When Sally and I started renting vacation homes in Europe, we had to look through books with grainy photos, and read "Brit Speak" descriptions. Now with the internet, you can go to sites and scroll through dozens of rentals. Still, I think Americans are a bit timid about venturing far from Paris and the south of France. Today, I am going to tell you about a vacation spot in an unspoiled village near where I live in the Dordogne, Chez Lili.

To begin, Chez Lili and the village of Carsac de Gurson is easy to get to. From Paris, a simple transfer by train or plane to Bordeaux. Pick up your rental car, and drive through miles of rolling hills planted with the grapes that will be turned into Bordeaux wine. Stone villages, church spires and chateau can be spotted with great frequency.

Paul and Lisa are the hosts at Chez Lili. Content to let their guests make discoveries on their own, they are also there to help with suggestions for local markets, restaurants, or happenings in the village. They provide a perfect home away from home, outfitted with everything you would need. In France, these homes are called "gites". Basically stand alone homes, that for less than the cost of a hotel room, Chez Lili provides you with a fully equipped kitchen, two bathrooms, private pool and hot tub, laundry, living room, and garden. Perfect for a couple, or small family.

Now, one of my favorite things is to sit in the garden, on one of the long summer nights (it stays light past 10pm) and enjoy a bottle of wine with Paul and Lisa. The French would say "tres drole". I would just say they are completely entertaining. The lovely Lisa, with her kind heart and love of stray animals; Paul with his quietly quick wit.

Chez Lili is a perfect base to explore the 1,001 chaeaux in the Dordogne, visit St. Emilion, see where the last battle of the 100 Years War was fought, bicycle through the vines, and enjoy some of France's best cuisine. Of course, I go for the ANTIQUES!!!!!

I almost forgot to mention, this charming gite is available for less than $80 a day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Not Always About France

It wasn't looking good for a quick trip to France for a couple of weeks in March. Too much work at home to get away for two weeks, April was out of the question, because of the Remnants of the Past antique show, and a simultaneous visit from two dealer friends from the East Coast. So, when a friend, casually asked if I was interested in going to Ixtapa Mexico in five days, I jumped on it.
Nothing wrong with sun, great food, pristine beach, and warm tropical air in February is there?

Last Monday morning, we were jetting south. I have been to numerous areas in Mexico; Cabo (30 years ago, before it was so cool), Guadalajara, Cozumel, Oxacca, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, but never to Ixtapa. Ixtapa, is really two different destinations; Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Ixtapa is the newer, fancier, resort and Zihuatanejo is the older, more really village.

The group I was with was primarily interested in golf, so I had plenty of time to get into trouble on my own. I checked the internet for cooking classes. What a treasure I found with Monica! She didn't answer my emails, she shyly explained, because it is difficult for her to write in English. Her English was up to the job of explaining all the nuances of one of the specialties of the region, chili rellanos. We charred, peeled, stuffed, rolled in flour, and then beaten eggs and fried. This was all under the watchful eye of an enormous iguana. Monica said he was more of a pet and lived in the tree with a couple of smaller females.

Just to add to the atmosphere, the authorities came through the neighborhood and announced the possibility of a tsunami between 2 and 5 pm, the result of that monster earthquake in Chile. I am going to post a video of Monica on UTube later tonight.