Sunday, May 2, 2010

POST-TRIP THANKS, AND A FEW LAST PHOTOS



    We’ve now been back from France for a full week.  While my blog postings mostly featured the scenery, chateaus, and wine (plus a few cats and ice cream), there was one other thing that made this trip especially memorable: the wonderful people we met throughout the trip.  So I want to thank all of the people we met who helped make this trip so special, including the following:

    Corinne Lannaluc, proprietor of the apartment in Lyon that we rented at the start of our trip, who was kind enough to pick us up at the train station and drive us to the apartment, as well as give us tips about the city.
                       
    Patrice and Francoise Reverger, proprietors of our gite in the Ardeche, who invited us into their home for a delightful evening with their family, gave us a fine bottle of Chatus wine and a lovely late-harvest Viognier from the local cooperative to which Patrice sells his grapes, and also suggested that we visit Domaine Mazel in the village.

    Jerome Mazel, Ardeche vigneron extrordinaire, who poured his wonderful wines for us on several occasions and chatted with us about the winery and his background, and also Jerome’s parents, who gave us a tour of the winery on our first visit.

    Melanie and Sebastien Juillard, proprietors of our gite in the Jura, who gave us some insights into the fascinating wines of the Jura, and also gave us a wonderful bottle of Cremant de Jura from a small producer that we would never have discovered otherwise.

    Dominique and Valerie Fender, and their two children, Leanne and Samuel, a family from Alsace who rented the gite next to ours in the Jura, with whom we spent several hours over aperitifs and local cheeses, and who shared a bottle of a fabulous Alsatian Gewurztraminer they had brought from home.

    The woman managing La Bonne Auberge in Segny in place of her vacationing son (the owner of the auberge), and who, among other things, lent us the use of her refrigerator and a corkscrew, as well as a couple of outdoor chairs, so we could enjoy some local wines in the delightful setting of the auberge.

    And finally, Andy and all of the staff at the Hotel de Savoie in Annecy, where we stayed for 3 days at the end of the trip after getting stuck in France due to the Iceland volcanic eruption, for being so friendly and helpful.

    I also want to finish this last posting with a few more photos.  While I wrote a fair amount about wines we tasted, everyone knows that one can’t live on wine alone; there’s also cheese, bread, and pastries.  So here are a few photos.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back in the USA; Jura Recap

  We're now re back in the US, and I’ll briefly recap the last half of our week in the Jura as a vehicle to post some more photos.
   On Wednesday of that week, we spent time visiting a couple more spectacular Plus Beaux Villages not far from where we were staying: Chateau-Chalon and Baumes les Messieures.  We also drove by 2 nearby chateaus, Chateau de Frontenay and Chateau le Pin, and stopped at two more cheese fruitieres to pick up some Morbier and Comte.
       Village of Chateau-Chalon:

     Baume-les-Messieurs:
              Chateaus Frontennay and Le Pins:
    On Thursday we spent most of the day in Dole, the largest town in the Jura, which is dominated by a large church in the center of town perched high on a hill.  The Doubs River runs through the middle of town, as does the Rhone/Rhine Canal.  Before heading back to our gite we took a long walk along the canal, and watched a boat traversing one of the locks in Dole.
The next day, our last full day in the Jura, we drove through the wine village of Pupillin again, stopping to pick up more sparkling Cremant de Jura at DesirĂ© Petit, and also tasted some wine at Domaine de la Pinte in Arbois.  We then drove into the hills outside Arbois and through the nearby valley, stopping at the village of Les Planches to see its waterfall and at a few viewing points with some spectacular views of the valley below.
     We also spent part of the day observing, and also feeding, some of he wildlife in Brainans, the village we were staying in:
                                  Some cows in the field behind the back yard of the house we were renting:
                                                        Hungry cat in the village:
                                               Feeding the goats grazing in the field by the church:

      On Saturday morning we left our gite in the Jura.  Before leaving we spent some time talking to the gite owners and the Alsatian family who had rented the house next to ours, and we found out a little more about the extent of the volcanic eruption in Iceland and airport closures, although we were told that the problem might clear up in a day or two.  It wasn’t until we got to our next destination that it became clear that we wouldn’t be returning on Monday as planned.

    After leaving the Jura we drove to Yvoire, another one of the Plus Beaux Villages of France, which is located on Lake Geneva.  We didn’t do much of anything there besides walk around the medieval center of Yvoire, admiring the architecture, flowers, and the chateau that dominates the town.  With dinner at our hotel (Le Vieux Logis, located at the entrance to the medieval center of Yvoire), we continued our exploration of obscure regional wines, trying some white wines from the minuscule Savoie appellation of Crepy, which is situated near Lake Geneva isolated from the rest of the various Savoie appellations.

  After we left Yvoire the next morning we drove to Segny, on the other side of Lake Geneva but also in France.  We chose Segny because it was only a few miles from  the Geneva airport, where we were returning our car and flying home from the next morning, or so we thought. But, as I have already written about in a couple of prior positings, we wound up spening an extra night in Segny at La Bonne Auberge, 3 nights in Annecy, then the final night in Geneva.  And now here I am in Las Vegas writing this posting and dealing with the fallout from my mother's death a couple of weeks ago.  Funny thing is, Las Vegas seems far more foreign than France.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ice Cream in Annecy; Fondue in Geneva

    Here I am in our hotel in Geneva, after having had fondue for dinner, wishing I could have some ice cream from one of the fantastic ice cream shops in Annecy. On our last full day in Annecy we decided to do a comparison of some of the ice cream places in town.  There are ice cream shops all over the center of the town, as there were in the small town of Yvoire, where we had stayed last weekend.  When we spent a week in Annecy in April 2009, we visited one particular shop – Glacier des Alpes – several times, and never experimented with any others, because it was so good.  Amazingly, when we stopped at this shop this week, the proprietor came up to us and said hello and shook our hand, saying that he remembered us from last year.  Since this place is always swarming with business, I couldn’t believe that he remembered us.  And this afternoon, when we had an ice cream there after lunch just before leaving for Geneva, he did what he did last year on our final visit – he gave Ann her ice cream without charge; but not mine.
  Here's the shop before it opened for the day:

      Here's a view of it from our hotel window, at the end of the narrow street:

    In any event, we decided to try some other places to see how they compared with that shop. At first it was going to be a “scientific” test, comparing each shop’s Noisette (hazelnut) -- which is Ann’s favorite – and Cassis – which is one of my favorites.  However, several places didn’t have Noisette, so we couldn’t follow through on that.  Also, we found it impossible to try every place, since there were too many of them and we got full too fast.  The verdict – all were good, some better than others, but none were as good as Glacier des Alpes.  Below are some photos of a few other places.
   
               And across the canal from our hotel window:


   We did do more in Annecy than eat ice cream.  Like eat cheese and drink wine. And take walks around the lake.  Yesterday we took a bus along the lake to the town of Talloires, which we discovered in walking around the town, has a branch of Tufts University.  Here's are a couple of views of the lower part of Lake Annecy taken from the bus stop in Talloires:

   We didn't take any pictures in Geneva.  After the beauty of the rural countryside and medieval Annecy and its lake, Geneva was kind of a letdown. It's just a huge, bustling city of business.  And not a place to try to get by on a budget.  But we did have very good fondue and Swiss white wine for dinner, including wine fom the Aigle region from the Chasselas grape, which had been recommended by a friend and also by a resident of Geneva whose sister is a good friend of ours.

  And tomorrow we return home, where I hope to finally post some photos from the last half of our week in the Jura.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Wine and Cheese of the Day

  This morning in Annecy was packed with action - an early morning walk along the canal, a walk to our favorite cheese shop to pick up some cheese and a bottle of wine for lunch, followed by a 6-8 mile walk along the lake.
    
      By the time we finished the walk, we were as hungry as these two ducks:
  At the cheese shop, we talked to the owner, whom we had met last year, and left some cheese from Maine when we arrived at the start of the trip.  He thought the cheese, from Hahn's End in Phippsburg, was excellent.  And the wine we bought today, a 2008 Chignin-Bergeron from Denis et Didier Berthollier, was amazing.  Chignin-Bergeron is a small appellation in the Savoie which only has white wines from the Roussanne grape variety, which is one of the noble grape varieties of the northern Rhone.
 
    We had a couple of goat cheeses with the wine at lunch -- one was from the Savoie, and one was from Burgundy, which we had bought at a market earlier in the trip.  Links for the wine producer (in French only) and Burgundy cheese producer are listed below:
http://www.chignin.com/
http://www.chevres.com/

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back in Annecy .... Again

  My first posting on this trip was from Annecy, entitiled: Back in Annecy, France. I didn't expect to be back so soon but here we are, probably for 3 days.  At some point I still hope to post some photos from our week in the Jura, but for now I'll just continue from the last post.

        On Monday, the morning that we were supposed to fly home from the Geneva airport, we extended our car rental and our stay at La Bonne Auberge for one day, and then drove to the nearby village of Challex.  We had read that the only vineyards in the entire area were in and around Challex, on the Swiss border, and I knew absolutley nothing about the wines of the region. In Challex we saw a sign for Domane de Mucelle, and although the owner/winemaker normally only opens his doors to visitors from 5-6 p.m., he said he would be happy to open his tasting room for us.  He said there were a few other grape growers in the village, but he was the only one who bottled and sold wine.  We tasted a couple of whites -- a 100% Chasselas and a 100% Pinot Gris – and a few reds (Gamay and Pinot Noir are the rd grapes grown here).  There are no AOC wines in the area; all of these wines were designated Vin de Pays de l’Ain (the Ain is the department we were in).  I was amazed at how good the wines were, and we bought a Gamay, a Pinot Gris, and a sparkling Chasselas.  We had bought some wine glasses at a winery the week before, and having managed to secure a corkscrew and a cheese knife, we enjoyed these wines over the next couple of days, along with a lot more cheese.


    That afternoon we drove through the Jura mountains and visited some small villages in the valley on the other side.


    That night I managed to book a hotel in Annecy over the Inernet, so on Tuesday we returned our car at the Geneva airport and took a bus to Annecy, where our trip had started exactly 3 weeks before.  The hotel, while modest, was right in the center of the old part of Annecy, and we had amazing views of the canal below, as well the chateau and church high above the town.  These photos were all taken from our room:

  

Monday, April 19, 2010

TO BE CONTINUED ...

   Our vacation has been extended for the rest of the week; the earliest flight we could get was Saturday.  So now we have to do some planning. Meanwhile, La Bonne Auberge, where we stayed last night, had a cancellation, so we're here one more night.  Below is a view from our window, plus a photo of a nearby chateau and a resident cat.  This town and he nearby towns are not very attractive, but at least the Auberge is charming, there is an excellent bakery and cheese shop across the street, and there is an abbaye not too far where cheese is produced, so we're planning a trip there.  The Jura photos will follow when I can get them organized.