Archive for May 10th, 2021

May 10, 2021

Deep pyrénées at Saint Jean Pied-de-Port!!

And again updating older posts which as said has been a pleasure moment to revive these old memorable travels with the family! I am bringing you back to a fav area of my belle France. This is deep pyrénées and basque country of Saint Jean Pied de Port!! Hope you enjoy it as I.

We were in our road warrior journeys thru the area base at Pau, and we enter the domain of the Basques as well as their reputed excellent cuisine. I usually drive by passing this mountaineous area to go by Oloron Sainte Marie or go further into Saint Jean de Luz areas , and Spain.  We took the plunge into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port again in the Pyrénées Atlantiques dept 64. We drove along the most scenic route ,meaning mountains !! 

We set out on the N134 direction Oloron Sainte Marie, and here took the road D919 direction Aramits (yes please the famous member of the 3 muskeeteers is from here ,the film Aramis personage real name  Henri d’Aramitz), so I can .say been to see Richelieu, D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos ,and now Aramis. My motto all for one and one for all !! Here we took the road D918 directon Tardets, and then we hit the mountains on the D26 to reach Larrau and then Iraty and its col de Bergagi!!!1327 meters high through the clouds wow!!! on third gear on the D19 now, then again thru huge mountains we hit the road D18 direction Saint-Jean-le-Vieux (here they had a fairs all goodies from the region and it was packed traffic directed to connect with the road D933 that took us in to Saint Jean Pied de Port at last!!! Great ride!!!

We got in thru the citadel ramparts of the old castle of citadelle de Mendiguren that you can meandered through. You need to see the Church of the Assomption de la Vierge (that locals still insist is the old name that counts such as Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont)(see post) . The various gates or portes surrounding the old town along rue de la Citadelle such as Porte St Jacques, Notre Dame, Navarre, Spanish , and France.  This street is full of shops and restos very quaint and picturesques. The Bishop’s prison or Maison prison des évêques is nice small museum. 

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The most impressive for us however, was the food, we are very gourmand and wine lovers so we had our lunch with local products at a butcher, traiteur shop, this is the real thing forget the restaurants. We had our Bayonne ham, Roncal brebis(ewe) (goat) cheese, basque sangria with piment espelettes,and delicious cherry and apple gateau basque or basque cakes  at Charcuterie Basquaise Maison Gastellou on 9 rue d’Espagne (and we follow them when in our Fairs). Go for it !!. We took it and ate at the parc with an overview of the city by Place Floquet. We then came back to buy more to take home! And gladly they come to my Vannes for the gastronomique salons so we keep buying every year except the virus time. Webpage: http://www.maison-gastellou-jambon-de-bayonne.com/page/la-famille-gastellou

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We went for the basque macarons at the La Fabrique de Macarons on rue de la Citadelle, yummy for desserts. here they had almonds, chocolate, lemon, noix de coco, almonds with piment d’espelette, flavors that we clean the house. webpage: http://www.lafabriquedemacarons.fr/

At the La Caves aux Fromages we clean up on brebis(ewe)  cheeses in different shapes and textures from Ossau-Iraty region simply awesome we eat them at home like bread lol!!! They are at the place des remparts back on the left of the covered market, this is what you would get there the real thing. webpage: https://www.ossau-iraty.fr/etape/cooperative-laitiere-du-pays-basque

And to end it all, we stop by the store of Etienne Brana, one of the original irouléguy wine and do not forget the apéritf wine Txapa ::)  , the page for them, which you can also tour their winery, we decided to go for the wine at the store instead on rue de l’église. webpage: https://www.brana.fr/?PGFLngID=1

Now we were all set to go back on a full day swinging since early hours, we decided to take it easy and go thru more flat terrain now; so we head out of the D933 road direction St Jean le Vieux. Then took the D918 direction Mauléon-Licharre (see post).  Continue on fast empty departémental roads we took the D2 direction Navarrenx (see post) , took the D947 direction Orthez (see post) and then the rocade road D817 to Pau (sse post). And rest at our base there!!! but ready for more…always!

The Basque country tourist office on St Jean de Pied: https://www.en-pays-basque.fr/territoires-et-destinations/le-pays-de-saint-jean-pied-de-port/

The city of Saint Jean Pied de Port on its heritage: https://www.st-jean-pied-de-port.fr/decouvrir/histoire-et-patrimoine/sites-et-monuments/

Hope you enjoy it ,really very nice part of my belle France in the deep Pyrénées mountains, this is Saint Jean Pied de Port. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

May 10, 2021

Rabastens in the Tarn!!!

Another dandy in wonderful nostalgic Tarn dept 81 of the Occitanie region of my belle France. We have come here several times and on my road warrior mode gone to many towns all wonderful and most already mentioned in my blog. One more nice one is Rabastens, and i like to tell you a bit more on it now. Hope you enjoy it as I.

We are in the area of the south west or Sud Ouest of my belle France, waving our way thru wonderful country.  Here again wine and cathar history mingle, the cathars are gone but the wine remains in the appellation of Gaillac. The birth region of my dear late wife Martine, late father Pierre.

Lets talk a bit about Rabastens, it sits half way between Toulouse and Gaillac on the D988 or old N88 road, easily done and parking by the long promenade in city center close to Hotel de Ville.  You can use the fast A68 to the village of Coufouleux ,exit or sortie 7 on road D12 ,where the train station is before entering Rabastens, only 800 meters (2640 ft) from city center.  The train station is at gare de Rabastens-Coufouleux , which is a nearby village of Rabastens.  The bus system is the TarnBus, and it covers the town bus No 702 from Albi or Gaillac. Even thus we always come here by car.

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It is an old town as such in the area, been inhabited by Visigoths from which it takes its “ens”. The Cathar or Albigeois was big here as the city was considered a center of heresy!  By the treaty of Paris of 1229 the city is forced to destroyed its religious buildings. The war of the Hundred years by 1337 does a lot of damage and many perished under it force, by 1450 the end of the war, the new discovery of pastel or the teint in textiles gave the city a new birth, but then again the war of Religion of 1561 the city is a center of protestanism and suffer heavy damages.  The peace in 1563 does not stop here what is started in Paris with the massacre of St Barthelomy.  Finally the cave or cellars of wine in 1953 gives the wine back to the city and its a source of prosperous times still today.

Some of the things to see and do here are the Hôtel de Ville or mayors’ office an old prayer house and tower of the 16C; and the Museum or musée du pays Rabastinois house in the mansion or hôtel particulier of the 17C, it contains collections of archeology, art and local history, and exhibitions of ancient and contemporary art. Located at Hôtel de la Fite, 2 rue Amédée Clausade.

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The must church in town and listed on the route to Santiago or the road to St James de Compostela is Notre Dame du Bourg, it has wonderful stained glass paintings showing the religious life real or legendary of  James the Mayor or St James. The oldest part dates from the 13C completely done in red brick.

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You have a wonderful district or quartier du Bourg with old quaint medieval streets looking into the river Tarn, especially rue Gouzy, a lovely red brick bridge, and the gorgeous ramparts that show the fortifications of old at quai des remparts, and the district or quartier du Chateau; the oldest in town, limits of the quai des rempartsquai de la Libération ,and quai du descargadou. This is a great town to walk its ramparts and medieval streets especially in spring time. Lovely.

For shopping the best is the winery at 33 rue d’Albi, its actually a cooperative where many small winegrowers (about 150) pull their resources to make a delicious wine, well known in France. The Cave de Rabastens, lovely appellation Gaillac from indigenous grapes of the region like the Mauzac for whites. webpage: http://www.vinovalie.com/caves

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The Vignobles Bastides local tourist office on Rabastens: https://www.tourisme-vignoble-bastides.com/en/towns-villages/rabastens

The city of Rabastens on things to see: https://www.rabastens.fr/ma-ville/rabastens-et-le-pays-rabastinois

The Occitanie region tourist board on Rabastens: https://www.tourism-occitanie.co.uk/eglise-notre-dame-du-bourg/rabastens

Have a wonderful trip in a gorgeous country of the Tarn, and of course pretty Rabastens!! Always looking forward to be back when possible!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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May 10, 2021

Lisle sur Tarn!! My Tarn!!!

Let me bring you back this older post of a wonderful memory to the nostalgic Tarn deparment 81 of my belle France. I like to showcase for you and me wonderful Lisle sur Tarn! Hope you enjoy it as I.

Let me take you on a nostalgic run ride thru the southwest or sud ouest of France. Like I have said,the region is full of amazing small towns all with a rich history on its own,and worth your layover I am sure.  I am going to talk a bit about Lisle-sur-Tarn, of course ,it is in the Tarn department no 81, region of  Occitanie. Halfway between Toulouse and closer to Gaillac, as it is ,also, in its wine region.  It is a bastide or fortified town of the 12C  ,around 1229, easily reachable by the road A68 or the D988 (old N88). Parking is easy at the rue Saint Louis next to the plaza and tourist office turn left into rue porte peyrole and right on Les Promenades, free parking!  The bus system is still the Tarn bus system, that serves the main towns in the area, and the train station is the TER Occitanie .

It is on the road to Santiago de Compostela or St James in Galicia,Spain. It is best known for its dyer’s woad or blue taint on textiles and the Gaillac wine appellation.  Today only the wineries remains, and they are very good, especially the one at Tecou, a coop now group under Vinovalie ;that serves folks from Gaillac, Montans, Lisle sur Tarn, Graulhet, etc. webpage: http://www.vinovalie.com/

Just to say again, my dear late wife Martine father’s side comes from this area and still cousins at Montans, Graulhet, and Gaillac. Her late father  Pierre was born in Lavaur.

The best way to see Lisle sur Tarn is on foot, see its quaint medieval cobblestone streets with four squares with fortified doors on each entrance, and a central plaza ,the biggest in the south west for a fortified town or bastide. The front facades of the houses in the plaza are in red brick or in columns pylons style. The main plaza or place aux couverts,( also known as place Paul Saissac), is completely covered so shaded with a nice fountain in the middle call the Griffoul typical of many in the area, this fountain was offered to the town by  Jeanne de Toulouse (daughter of count Raimond VII) and her husband Alphonse de Poitiers (brother of king Louis IX or Saint Louis). Going around in the same plaza is the Hôtel de Ville or mayors’ office from the 18C. Just by going thru the plaza and going out at the right hand side upon arrival by car as above parking, you go thru an arch door and into the Church Notre Dame de la Jonquière ,gothic art built between the 13C and the 14C .  Again by the beforemention parking Les Promenades you will see a pigeonniers or pigeon tower of the 13C  recently renovated. And the only harbor on the river Tarn of the bastides of the southwest! port de lisle sur tarn. For the nature lovers there is the lake or Le Lac Bellevue, located at the entrance of the town direction Gaillac with many outdoors activities including fishing!

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Other nice things to see and do here is the Musée Raymond Lafage, 10 rue Victor Maziés, it recount the engravings, and drawing of this local artist born here in 1656 and died in 1684 at Lyon , very well known  his work is found in many buildings and museums in France but also in Europe, United States even with individual collectionists. The other museum is the best reason other than wine to come here, Le Musée Art de Chocolat is right in the place aux couverts closest to rue Saint Louis upon entering into the town’s center.  The tour is given showing all the major production areas of  cacao, the making of it, the shipping, and of course very good portions of tastings of the end result chocolate from Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, etc etc etc, just a mouthful, do come over, these are the creation of  maître chocolatier Michel Thomaso-Defos  that makes recreation of figures and places with chocolate done by painter and sculptor Casimir Ferrer ,and sculptors Marie-Madeleine Gautier and  Marta Solsona.

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The wines that are my personal choice and family from this region are Chateau Clement Termes, Chateau Lastours, and Chateau de Saurs as well as the cooperative wines. Wonderful over the years ,you won’t go wrong find them in your area or better come on over !  We have refreshments at the main plaza in town, place aux couverts with O’Centre , 11 Place Paul Saissac;  internet and sports TV Screens available as well as Salsa dancing lessons in 1st floor!!

You can see a bit more of Lisle-sur-Tarn in the region of regional tourism office Vignobles et Bastides. webpage: https://www.tourisme-vignoble-bastides.com/en/place-lisle-sur-tarn

The Tarn department 81  tourist office on Lisle sur Tarnhttps://www.tourisme-vignoble-bastides.com/en/towns-villages/lisle-sur-tarn

The Occitanie region tourist board on Lisle sur Tarn things to seehttps://www.tourism-occitanie.co.uk/mots-cles?search=lisle+sur+tarn

Hope you enjoy the ride, it is wonderful in Lisle sur Tarn and the Sud Ouest (southwest) of my belle France. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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May 10, 2021

Bordeaux, Médoc, and France!

I am delighted to update this older post for you and me. This is my fav area of France and for good reason other than wines; there are wonderful beaches too and many family vacations here over the years. Let me give you an introduction to the Bordeaux, Médoc region of my belle France, sort of on my trips there. Hope you enjoy it as I, and thanks for reading me since 2010!!!

Bordeaux is it, and those words means a lot more than the city. You need to go around it and into the Médoc peninsula to see more gems.  As my belle France the sights are endless.  I like to tell you a bit more on our family vacations sort of a nostalgia event for me. Bear with me please ,and hope you too can enjoy it with your family. This is the Médoc and Bordeaux, one-two best!

I like to talk today about the Bordeaux region, one my favorite in all of France. There are many regions in France, total 13 as the country is divided sort of like States but not the same. The Bordeaux sits in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine and is great because of the following reasons :  first,the wines, the best in the world in my wine lovers’s opinion. Second ,the beaches, true only good for july and august but they are on the same level as the  best in Europe and the Americas. Third, the abundance of its gastronomy, diverse natural passages, and its friendly people. There is a huge amount of information here, will need an entire blog to tell you, have written several posts on it so browse my blog for more or contact me.

If you take the city of Bordeaux, you have a bit south the area of the Graves, and Leognan, and Cadaujac beautiful country towns with many activities for the kids and wines of course.  The whole huge area around Bordeaux is connected by a beltway road, the “rocade” or the A630 that takes you into the city or out into the other areas and Spain. My best is to go into the Médoc, the famous area of wines but it has a lot more. From the rocade you  take exit 4 to go into central Bordeaux or exit /sortie to no 7 that takes you into the side D1/D2 of wine country along the Garonne river, the other exit/sortie no 8 takes you into the beaches and central area of Médoc.  There is a bus from the Bordeaux train station St Jean to Lacanau near the beaches the No 702, 701,and 710 (need to check for updates as never taken them) ; and train service to Pauillac (again check update as never taken it). Once in the Médoc you have many department roads that takes you everywhere there, like the D215 and D207,D208,D3,and D5.

The main sites in the city of Bordeaux are; Esplanade des Quinconces ( one of the biggest plazas in Europe, see the towers statues of Montaigne,and Montesquiou ; Grand Théatre ( one of the most beautiful in France b. 1773-1780); walk the street of Cours de l’Intendance ( where at no 57 Goya lived,died in 1828,and now a Spanish cultural center); Place Gambetta (houses style Louis XV, the English garden where the guillotine was placed during the French revolution,and the door porte Dijeaux b.1748 ; Place de la Bourse (b. 1730-1755 with its fountain Trois Grâces b.1860), Place du Parlement (old royal market place), Basilique Saint-Michel (b. 1350) ,and its tower Tour St Michel with it clock dates from the end 15C,and the tallest tower in the south at 114.60 meters {378 ft]) ; Porte de la Grosse Cloche ( from a belltower of the 15C the big clock is an institution in Bordeaux); Rue Sainte-Catherine (pedestrian and full of shops and restos, walk it about 2 kms long); see the Musée d’Aquitaine ( the prehistoric to today history of the region) ;Musée des Beaux-Arts or fine arts museum( next to hotel de ville great paintings); Cathedrale St Andre (by the place Pey-Beland, the most majestic of the churches in Bordeaux, built in the 12-13C) Tour Pey-Berland ( 229 steps to reach the top,and a beautiful view of Bordeaux); Centre Jean Moulin( the hero of the French resistance, deportation,and view of WWII); Basilique St Seurin ( UNESCO heritage site, built 11C; great historical chapels,and rosaries, gorgeous); Musee du Vin( for the wine story in detail by the river Chartrons district), Hotel de Ville (palais de Rohan b 18C), and Pont de Pierre. These are the highlights, you could easily spend two days in the city alone.

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For shopping the city is just like Paris, you have all the main stores here too, and for me and the family  the shopping mall at Meriadeck is great and easy to reach on public transport from anywhere in the city plus a great underground parking for yours truly.  If you want to buy wines,etc in the city, the very best selection, service, and availability with price is La Vinothéque,near the tourist office.  Food is king so we have eaten in many over the years, our long time favorites are: El Bodegon, 14 place de la Victoire. Brasserie du Passage St Michel, 14 place Canteloup; Cafe Opera, (inside Grand Théatre) Place de la Comedie, Le Dix (now the Gabriel), 10 place de la Bourse, le Bal des Grands Hommes, (inside shopping Les Grands Hommes, good parking underground) 2 rue Montesquieu; Cafe des Arts, 138 cours Victor Hugo, just a sampler of my hangouts.

 

Going over the Médoc, now you are in heaven country, my country, we are base here always. We go here every year, sometimes twice a year during school vacations, the long one in the summer we spent 3 weeks each year. We skip 2018 due to the death of my dear wife Martine, will see when going again.  Our favorite was to rent a camping at Les Grand Pins ,and great for the whole family only 300 meters from the beach!!! You have a nice mobile homes, with all amenities, great pricing, with grocery store ,bike rental, pool, exercise room, dancing at nights,and free parking so close to all in the region even trips to Bordeaux. The beach is glorious here, as good as any anywhere. It is in the town of Lacanau-Océan. Webpage: https://www.lesgrandspins.com/en/

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You are along the ocean here, you can go south or north from here or over the pines central section of the Medoc to the wine chateaux. Lacanau-Océan is a world center of Surfing in Europe and the best come here to compete in the Lacanau Pro event.  We eat at the camping on our own, but if we splash out of town our evening favorite is Kayoc, by the beach overlooking its sunsets glorious. For ice cream we go to Pinocchio in city center, for groceries and more selection we go old supermarché Shoppi, now a Carrefour at 4 rue Emile Baudoux, near the main street to the beach . And further by the huge lake of Lacanau with many water activities, we eat at Restaurant La Conche, 24 allée du club de voile, la Grande Escoure, We head for the beaches of Cancans and Hourtin as well like our playground area, crisscrossing this wonderful region, great beaches there if a bit smaller. We love the italian ices in Cancans, and the pizza at Hourtin. Can’t missed the ice creams in Cancans its right in the small city center street facing the beach at Maubuisson at 2 rue Rossignols,  The pizza at Hourtin is Restaurant Pizzeria Le Palerme (now closed) at 8 place de l’église, right in front of the church, in the market plaza and the road to the beach. The Hourtin area has a huge lake too.

Throughout this wonderful area we enjoy all kind of beach activities, but,also,kart racing, bike riding ,and horse riding at these places . For Karting we go north along the ocean to Vendays-Montalivet motorsports center, great rides all pro done, and fun for the teen kids, You can contact them ahead for info and direction but its really easy on the D6 road. For the horse riding we have been using since 2005  this place, Lacanau Equi-Passion, you can taylor made the rides according to level of expertise,and arrange for rides on the ocean ! For bicycle riding, we can use the local rental at the camping but they have a limited number of bikes, so we go out into the town and rent at Locacycles, Avenue de l’Europe, Central Garage  just before the Kayoc resto on your way to the beach.

While at the famous D2 wine route and cruising all these wonderful properties, we have eaten at the Restaurant La Toscane, 28 rue Aristide Briand, Pauillac, right from the harbor city center up the pedestrian street to the resto on your left side;great Italian dishes and Pizza which our teens love always. Try for local traditional dishes the Restaurant Saint Martin, 5 quai Leon Perier across from pleasure boat marina, Here of course you are in heaven at least me, its my place PAUILLAC, got it.  You can indulge yourselves by visiting the museum and property of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild or the museum of the property of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Other than visiting the chateaux direct, if time is of the essence, you must stop by the vinothéque de Pauillac, it is in the Maison du tourisme et vins de Pauillac building just at the entrance to the town ,with many souvenirs and food items from the region as well: https://www.pauillac-medoc.com/fr/pauillac-tourisme/vins-chateaux/

Once in the area I recommend heading over to Chateau Lanessan at Cussac-Fort-Medoc, with its nice fortress (Fort Medoc) by the river in the town , and on the chateau property a very nice carriage museum and horse history with tastings, my kids introduction to wine tasting was here back in 2008! webpage: https://www.lanessan.com/en/home/

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Another great wine and information center is the Maison du vins de Margaux ,which has it own webpage  http://margauxwine.fr/ ; here we have try the Brasserie du Lac part of relais de Margaux complex and its wonderful. Do not forget to stop by in Margaux at the Mademoiselle de Margaux chocolates, for the famous serments de Medoc. webpage: https://www.mademoiselledemargaux.com/

Going to Saint Estéphe, the maison du vins there is excellent in inner court of the street very quaint area. webpage: https://saint-estephe.fr/

The Bordeaux tourist office: https://www.bordeaux-tourisme.com/

And, a site in French, for everything, or almost everything you need to know about the Medoc, Bordeaux region or the Gironde, private site Caruso33; webpage: https://www.caruso33.net/

Of course there are many individual properties visited over the years too numerous to mention, buy the Feret edition, Bordeaux and its Wines book at any serious book store, the essential historical analytical guide to the wines of the Médoc (Bordeaux) , I have the last edition from 2014. webpage Feret: https://feret.com/livre/bordeaux-et-ses-vins-19e-edition-2014/

Hope it bring some taste for visiting the Bordeaux, Médoc region, its glorious, for all ages, and the France profonde/deep France I love so much.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

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