Friday, April 30, 2010

Assemblage, the secret behind the Bordeaux wine

Last year we went on a special wine outing arranged by the Bordeaux Tourist Office in cooperation with Les Médocaines, four female wine growers in the Médoc wine area. At the La Tour de Bessan Castle we learned a little about assemblage, the art of mixing different grapes to create a wine. Here they say that assemblage is what gives the Bordeaux wines their soul.

La Tour de Bessan Castle

The La Tour de Bessan Castle does not resemble a castle. It's a futuristic creation in the shape of a cube, totally modern. When we arrive we are greeted by Marie-Laure Lurton, the owner, who shows us three different wine glasses in front of each seat. The first glass contains a wine made of merlot grapes, the second a wine made of cabernet sauvignon grapes and the third a mix of the two grapes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pool is open!!!

Children by the pool rescuing insects
We are privilegied to have our own pool. Can't tell you how much I appreciate that - not to mention the children that grow fens during summer... I just finished the after-winter-start-pool-again-treatment and the water looked so tempting that I gave it a try. It was kind of refreshing. I didn't stay for long!

Clara followed me for a short dip but her brother made a more sensible decision and stayed by the border rescuing small insects that had fallen in the water.

The oak trees in the background have tiny little leaves now and summer seems to be in reach... this is the best time of the year...

Monkey tree business

Common in the Landes pine forest are different installations high with adventure paths high up in the trees.  Clara had already tried the children version at Adrenaline Parc outside Moliets, but this time Bjorn was finally old is enough to join her. They both got a thorough explanation of how to use the safety harness and how to unclip one at a time, making sure that at least one clip out of two is attached at all times. Then they headed off together, Clara helping out her brother at times. He was very proud to finish the four different paths for children. The instructor said that next year Clara could try the adult version, much higher up and much more difficult, if she was accompanied by an adult. Maybe I should go there and practice before? Who wants to join me?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beach Bliss in Moliets

We can go to the beach all year round, but we really don't go very often during winter. In spring, retrieving the beach and the sand is always a bit emotional. Does it show?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunny Saturday in Dax

Father and daughter in Dax

Dax is the closest city to my village, so I go there pretty often. I'll get back to you about Dax, because I want to tell you about its thermal water and about the Férias de Dax, the yearly festival. But this time we just went there to have lunch and and a stroll in the old pedestrian centre. New shoes for Bjorn, trousers and perfume for my husband, pink nail polish for me. Sunglasses on, walking slowly...

The square

Simple salad
Simple salad with Spanish ham, cheese and chorizo

The Splendid Hotel, newly renovated
The Splendid Hotel, newly renovated, and its palm trees

Typical street in the old part of Dax
Typical pedestrian street in the old part of Dax
Plane trees still all bare
The plane trees are still all bare, while all the other trees are freshly green

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bonaguil, impressive medieval military architecture

Bonaguil Castle

The Bonaguil Fortress from the 13th century is a perfect example of medieval defense systems. Most of the defense techniques were put in place during the 15th century by Bérenger de Roquefeuil. The constructions lasted for forty years. The funny thing is that it afterwards it was never attacked... a new era was starting and the Bonaguil Fortress became obsolete.

I went there with the children on our way to Penne d'Agenais last year in May. When I told them we were going to see a castle, they started moaning. No, not another castle! I just kept on driving on a beautiful road along a valley, turning and turning, waiting for the castle to appear.

Suddenly it did appear, as you see on the photo. Massive, impressive, beautiful.

The children went silent. Is that the castle we are going to? Wow!!!
No more complaining...

Walls of the Bonaguil Castle

Stairs at Bonaguil Castle

Aiming point

The path up to the Bonaguil Castle

We didn't do the guided tour, as I thought 1,5H was too long for my little one, but I would reallly like to come back and do that to get a thorough understanding of how the defensive system was supposed to work. Seemed very interesting!

The official web site for the Bonaguil Castle
Interesting article about the history and defense system

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sssch... Messanges is my little secret

End of the day at Messanges beach

Some things are best kept secret. Those special spots... with special memories attached. You promise not to tell anyone?

Messanges is a tiny village and sea resort on the Silver Coast in Landes. There you find a small restaurant up on top of the sand dunes, with the most astounding view over the beach and the ocean.  A view like that is extremely rare here, because most parts of the coast are protected, so there are no buildings close to the water. This place is actually the only one I know of with this kind of view between Mimizan and Vieux Boucau.

Snack bar de la Plage

I go there to walk on the beach, take a coffee and enjoy the view in the morning or to have lunch. Sometimes we take the kids and have dinner there, all soaked in salt and sand. The sunsets are incredible... and last for an eternity as the sun slowly falls down toward the sea horizon.

Path down to the beach

View from the restaurant

 Children playing next to the restaurant

Sunset at Messanges beach

The restaurant is called Bar snack de la Plage and they serve a short menu of fresh really nice salads, a piece of meat or cod. Their sangria is top and the waiters are very friendly. Come just before noon, when they start serving food, if you want to have a seat, because when the weather is nice, it fills up quickly. Another good place in Messanges is La Hitillère, a bar restaurant with fresh food and great music.

The Telegraph elected Messanges one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world... secret is not so secret any more I guess!

Messanges beach and big blue sky
Big blue sky....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A romantic getaway in Saint Emilion

Overlooking Saint-Emilion

Saint-Emilion might look like the standard example of a tourist trap. It is very touristic - but still. This little medieval city has an incredible amount of charm. UNESCO has put both the city and the surrounding vineyards on the world cultural heritage list. Steep stone laid streets, real old stone houses with thick walls and wine shops in every corner. At several places you have an astounding view over the tiled roofs and the vineyards.

The roof tops of Saint-Emilion

I went there with my husband on a romantic getaway.... perfect! We stayed at the Logis de la Cadène, one of these real old places with stone walls and furniture with a history. From our room we saw out over the restaurant below and its terrace covered in vines. We had lunch there, with the sun light filtering through the leaves...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

San Sebastian leaves me speechless

Cafe next to the Victoria Eugenia Theatre
Café in the Gros district of San Sebastian

Just to make things clear: San Sebastian is not in Aquitaine. It is very close though, go on for fifteen minutes once you cross the border and here you are, saying Hola and Gracias (most of my Spanish vocabulary right there) and experiencing a completely different culture. You are in the north of Spain, in the Spanish Pays Basque.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Biarritz rugby team wins important game

Happy Biarritz rugby team supporters
Basque supporters who came from Paris to support their team

I have already told you that rugby is important in the Southwest of France. Now I finally have some good pictures to show you, because I finally made it to my first rugby game! Biarritz against Ospreys in the quarter final of the European Cup in San Sebastian.  Important match. Many supporters. Big sun on a big blue sky. The kind of day when you don't even have to like rugby to enjoy the match!

Asado, giant barbecue

Maybe this isn't typical for Aquitaine... but I the result was so good, I had to share a recipe with you! Take one lamb, about 14 kilos in this case, an hang it over hot coals for about six hours. Turn regularly and dab it with oil every now and then.

The result is a meat so tender, so good.... if you then add some friends, some drinks and a big sun, that makes the reicipe for a perfect Sunday afternoon....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gujan Mestras and the seven Oyster Harbours

Larosse Harbour in Gujan Mestras

The Larosse Harbour in Gujan Mestras makes for a perfect postcard picture with the oyster farmers small boats and the little huts where you can taste fresh oysters with chilled white wine. Gujan Mestras has no less than seven harbours and stands for half of the Arcachon Bay's oysters.

I went there last spring with the children. We started with some play time on the Hume beach next to Gujan Mestras. The tide was low, so the sand stretched far out and the boats where tipped on the side. The air smells of sea! This just dry landscape is difficult to take pictures of, it is beautiful in a subtle way with shades of green and grey and beige...

Friday, April 9, 2010

They are or they have?

As a newly arrived foreigner in France, you pass through many small difficulties, some hard to imagine for those who have never tried to live outside their own country. One of my small challenges was to hear the difference between they are = ils sont and they have = ils ont.

When you say them, the first one gets a simple S from the word sont and the second one gets a toned S by binding together the two words that is pronounced as a Z.  I had major problems in hearing that difference!

Funny thing about this is that in Swedish we have the letter Z in our alphabet, but we seldom use it and pronounce it as S...  I felt like the Chinese that say L instead of R!

Now I hear the difference very clearly, in fact so clearly that it is difficult for me to understand how I ever could fail to hear this difference....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Get Charmed by Bayonne, the Chocolate Capital

View of Bayonne and its cathedral

The charm of Bayonne is hard to resist and it is my favourite shopping place. You combine the rationals of shopping with the pleasures of winding streets, cafés and a beautiful setting by the Nive River. Maybe you know that Bayonne is famous for its ham? A little less known is that Bayonne also is the Capital of Chocolate in France. About one shop out of two has a shop window full of chocolate...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter in Paris

Eiffel Tower in Paris

This Easter weekend we went to Paris to visit my husband's brother and show Paris to our children. Paris, o Paris....

My first stay in Paris I was a student (studying at ENSAM and ESCP for those who know about French schools) and living in Cité Universitaire, a huge student area. I had a cosy room of 8m2 all for myself, with WC and shower in the corridor, in a building that was situated about 2 metres from the périphérique, the ring road around the centre of Paris. From my second floor I had an excellent view over the six lanes and quite some noise from the cars.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Moliets, our Beach

Moliets is our favourite beach.

Amazing Moliets beach

Since the outflow of the Courant d'Huchet runs freely, it overflows on the beach every year, which has made the Moliets beach the largest one along the whole coast.

The only problem is that once we're here, the children never want to go home.

Children dancing on Moliets beach

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Bells come with Chocolate Eggs

Happy Easter! Here in France the children will go out in the garden to look for chocolate eggs. The Bells - les Cloches - have left them there. Don't ask me about the story behind it.... well, according to Wikipedia, the bells are silent and mourning since Thursday, then they go to Rome and coming back they bring the eggs and spread them out. Strange tradition!

Easter chocolate eggs
Photo Wikipedia

In Sweden the children get loads of candy in fancy decorated eggs made of carton. Then we paint real eggs and use feathers to decorate branches of trees.

This weekend we are going to Paris to see my husband's brother. Maybe I will share a few photos from the City of Lights when I come back...
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