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Daddy-A's Excellent French Adventure


Daddy-A
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A walking tour of France? I never thought of that!!

Pardon me for being so crass, but money-wise, did you find that with a walking tour, you had a better connection to the French people, their culture, their cuisine, ..le terroir... ? Is autumn a better time to visit, or perhaps spring?

And you can answer this question towards the end of your trip: Which did you like better, the city or the countryside? And why?

My husband and I have not done a walking tour, but we've done a few cycling tours (on our own rather than with a tour company, carrying all our gear on the bike). And we've always fallen right into the swing of things, and somehow even been mistaken for locals once or twice. I think any non-car mode of transportation is a good one to forge a connection. Anywhere.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Ah, the walking tour would suit me to a t, but not, alas, my vehicle-preferring husband. And while walking I'd gladly try a walnut beer, followed in short order by a chestnut beer. Uh, I'll skip the truffle beer, thanks anyway. Now, prune beer sounds good...hey, it's 9:00 a.m., is it time for beer?

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One of the downsides to having a fixed amount of time for vacations is your ability to “free-style” is limited. If you find a little village you want to explore beyond the time allotted you’re out of luck. Such was the dilemma we found ourselves in with Sarlat. True, we could have delayed our trip to Beaune, and then our return to Paris …

Sad, isn’t it?

Sarlat has been inhabited since Gallo-Roman times, and by the end of the 8th century was a prosperous city. It has been home to abbeys and conquering armies, and until the 1960’s had fallen into “ghost town” status until the loi Malroux saw the restoration of one of the most beautiful medieval cities in France.

The old town is essentially divided in half by rue de la Republique. Republique is where you’ll find most of the basic shops and services. The old city is where most of the restaurants are (touristy and otherwise) along with the Tourist Centre and many many tourist shops. This is where you’d find foie gras, nut wines and other regional treats. We found the prices better at the market, but the selection better in the stores.

The rest of market day was spent poking around the city, visiting churches, ramparts and other such fortifications. We decided we wanted something pretty low key for dinner. After a week of 4 course meals, we just wanted … pizza.

Pizzeria Romane was suggested to us by one of the vendors we met in the market. “Pizzas cuites au feu de bois” and a nice Cahor rosé and we settled in for a great evening of relaxing and watching the young Italian waiters (again, their cute-ness being confirmed by J) hitting on the young women of Sarlat. This was the only time that cigarette smoke was an issue for us … it took 3 days for our jackets to be completely aired out! However, the pizza was excellent, the service good, and the price very reasonable. Make reservations!

Pizzeria Roman

3 Cote de Toulouse

05 53 59 23 88

Breakfast the next day was on rue de la Republique

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Forgive me, as I have forgotten the name. I think it may be:

Salon de Thé Mourroux

27 Rue de la République

05 53 59 47 00

... but I’m not positive. Whatever the name, the pastries were beautiful, and those we ate:

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Walnut & Caramel Tart

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Walnut Cake

… were delicious. Have a look at what we didn’t order!

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Being able to slow down a bit, we were also able to pay closer attention to other shops. One chocolatier – B. Decaix (also on rue de la Republique) offered some of the most amazing chocolates we had seen to date:

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Some of these will make an appearance on the train to Beaune

Henry Miller once said of the Dordogne, “Here is the Frenchmen’s paradise.” I must admit that were it not for J, I would have passed over the Dordogne for other “sexier” locals. I am so grateful we didn’t.

One small plug before we move on to Burgundy … the cab driver who took us to the train station is a fellow named Philippe Mouret. He runs a company called “Allo Philippe Taxi” that provides taxi service as well as guided tours of the area. In the hour we spent with him before we left Sarlat (15 minute drive, 45 minutes gabbing before the train left) we learned more about the area than we did from any of the tourist guides.

Allo Philippe Taxi

06 08 57 30 10

05 53 59 39 65

allophilippetaxi@wanadoo.fr

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Wow! Those pastries and chocolates look great.

For those who are readers, a good book about the Dordogne region is: From Here You Can't See Paris

A quote from the Publishers Weekly review:

With his wife and young daughter, Sanders spent a year in southwestern France, in the village of Les Arques, tracing the rhythm of rural life and the restaurant at the town's heart.

....

Sanders also investigates French country ways, devoting entire chapters to foie gras and truffles and explaining the history of a region where every house has a name and children grow up on four-course school lunches. He unveils a culture wholly at odds with fast-food America. The book's back matter offers advice for travelers, but Sanders's account is so lovely, and Les Arques so sensuous and ripe with magic, to visit seems vaguely sacrilegious.

Cheers,

Anne

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Wow! Those pastries and chocolates look great.

For those who are readers, a good book about the Dordogne region is: From Here You Can't See Paris

Too funny! I read that one about a year ago, and wanted to go visit Les Arques, but it was just too far out of our way ... especially considering we were on foot!

Another excellent read that takes place in the Dordogne is Castle in the Backyard. Less food-oriented than the Sanders book, but an excellent guide to the Dordogne Valley. We even found the house these folks restored!

A.

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In my humble opinion, the best way to travel around France is by train. We purchased two 3-day France-Rail passes (1st Class) for under $500 CDN. That handled the travel from Paris–Brive (Dordogne), Sarlat-Paris-Beaune and Beaune-Paris. The trains all ran on time, and we arrived relaxed and maybe a little drunk :rolleyes:

Yes, dining on the trains became a bit of a hobby for us. We’d fill one of our day-packs with local goodies and a bottle of the local grape. Once the train left the station we’d fold down the tables and set up the picnic!

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I’m taking a bit of editorial licence here and using a few pictures out of sequence. Those of you with a keen eye would have noticed that this bottle of wine …

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… is from Burgundy and not the Dordogne. But apart from that difference, the picnics were pretty much interchangeable.

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These are the chocolates from the shop in Sarlat. You may have also noticed the dark bag just right of the wine glass in the picnic shot? Those are the famous stuffed prunes from Agen. Prunes stuffed with prune/armagnac puree. Mmmmmmm! Full of pruney goodness they were! Seriously.

A question for those who have traveled via train in France: Did you get the evil eye from some folk when you brought out the picnic? There were a couple times when eyes were rolled after I popped a cork. This may have been because we were in First Class(???) Not that I was concerned or anything. Just wondering if I made some sort of TGV faux pas.

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Sarlat has been inhabited since Gallo-Roman times, and by the end of the 8th century was a prosperous city.  It has been home to abbeys and conquering armies, and until the 1960’s had fallen into “ghost town” status until the loi Malroux saw the restoration of one of the most beautiful medieval cities in France.

I haven't logged on for a few days because I'm on vacation, so I discovered this great thread after an afternoon wandering round .... Sarlat! Not a market day, but a beautiful town in which to spend a couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere.

A day trip to Toulouse (plus market) for me tomorrow, but looking forward to the burgundy instalment!

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...

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Negroni (called Americanos(???) in Paris) at Les Deux Magots

...

Did the drink gave gin in it? In the US, an Americano is a long drink (over ice) made up of Campari and red vermouth with a splash of soda. (So, it is basically like a Negroni without the gin and with the addition of soda.)

Thank you for sharing your fabulous trip with us. Picnics on the train sound very nice. It's nice that they let you open wine there.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Did the drink gave gin in it?  In the US, an Americano is a long drink (over ice) made up of Campari and red vermouth with a splash of soda.  (So, it is basically like a Negroni without the gin and with the addition of soda.)

I'd have to say there was no gin (working on a 4 week old memory), which was fine, since I order Negroni's for the Campari. Thanks for clearing up that mystery.

It's nice that they let you open wine there.

LET us? :laugh: Maybe THAT's why we got the stares! I agree, the liquor laws are so civilized in France. Hell, compared to Canada anybody's liquor laws are civilized ... except Utah.

A.

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Week 3

The Cote d'Or was my choice for the trip. I am an admitted moron when it comes to French wine. What’s worse, even though Burgundy has the reputation of producing some of the world’s greatest wines, I had never had a Burgundy I thought worthy of anything more than adding to stew. I must have been doing something wrong, right? Well that’s what I wanted to find out.

The Hotel Grillon in Beaune was home base for the next 4 nights. I’m focussing on the food & drink aspect of the trip for this blog, but the Hospices de Beaune was the most incredible thing I saw the entire trip. The hospices have been open since 1443, and for the wine folk (keeping this OT) the wine auction is an annual highlight. (CLICK HERE for more information on the wine auction)

We had arrived in Côte d’Or shortly after les vanganges (the harvest), and now “the crush” was taking place. In each small village of the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and even in the center of Beaune the sickly sweet smell of Pinot Noir juice filled the air. As with foie in the Dordogne, evidence of wine-making permeated almost every aspect of culture in the Côte d’Or.

We rented a car and spent the next two days visiting whatever vineyards were open. With this being such a busy time of the year, many of the smaller producers weren’t open for tastings. In addition, we are of the belief that if you taste, your intentions should be to buy at least a bottle. There’s only so much wine you can drink/carry/import into Canada. Don’t worry, we did well … just not as well as we’d have liked.

The following is an out-of-sequence highlight package of the wine touring we accomplished.

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The Chateau du Clos de Vougeot: Home of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

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About 1/10th of the two cellars we were allowed to see.

I would have taken more pictures of the chateau itself, but there were too many tour buses in the way :angry:

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Château Gevrey Chambertin

Aparently, Chambertin was Napoleon’s favourite wine. Unfortunately, the castle proved to be our Waterloo …

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I didn't even need the English on this one!!

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Château de Meursault

South of Beaune, we visited two lovely estates. The first (above) was Château de Meursault. I thought the visit was a little pricey (15 Euro) until we went into the cellars!

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The tour is self-guided right up until you reach the final cave. This worked out well for me as I was playing with the time-exposure settings on my camera to get these shots. Once in the last cave, you are met by one of the estates sommeliers for a tasting.

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They must have known we were coming ...

Meursault is best known for its whites, and for good reasons. But the reds we tasted were also excellent.

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Château de Pommard

Château de Pommard was an equally beautiful estate, and in the end produced the only wine we felt worthy of bringing home. A bottle of their 2003 is now quietly cellaring at home. The sommelier we spoke with (Thomas) was also a wealth of knowledge not just on Pommard, but the entire Côte d’Or.

Up next? What else …. CHEESE!

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Those wine cellars are amazing - great photo's. Loving the trip report - but, unlike Ling, I would like you to keep any 'romance' out of the programming. Your wife is lovely and I do not want to see her subjected to your mooniness - of any sort. No soft focus shots of Daddy-A!

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Cheese is my addiction. In fact, it was cheese that brought me to eGullet almost 3 years ago. Show me a round of crumbling Parm-Reg, a cabecou of Rocamadour or a smelly, oozing wedge of Munster and my eyes begin to glaze over, my breath becomes shallow and I get a silly grin on my face. Ask J. It happened over and over on this trip. I almost needed a paramedic after Marie-Ann Catin’s shop on rue Claire.

In the Vancouver forum there has been much discussion of Epoisses. A cheese with its own website? Stinky, runny goodness? I’m in! So it was with great glee that I discovered that one of three fromageries allowed to make the stuff (under the French A.O.C. rules) was mere minutes from Beaune.

Fromagerie Gaugry is situated in Brochon, just off the highway between Beaune & Dijon (N74) and just north of Gevrey-Chambertin. If you want to see the actual production taking place, be sure to visit in the morning. We missed that by an hour (our lunches were so leisurely) but even so the drive up was worth it.

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Wheels of Epoisses at various stages of drying.

Once dried the cheese is taken to caves and aged for 5-6 weeks. During this time, each cheese is rinsed 1-3 times per week in water to which increasingly higher quantities of marc de Bourgogne (eau de vie) have been added. Remember the marc, we’ll be seeing more of that later …

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The Final Product

Sadly, I was unable to bring home any Epoisses. Canadian laws allow me to import it, but Epoisses needs constant refrigeration. My pack was not suitable equipped. :angry:

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Le Petit Creux, another excellent aged runny cheese available at Gaugry’s shop

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The Gaugry Product Selection

This was just a small sampling of all the cheeses made at Gaugry. There is another display case behind this one that features other cheeses of the region.

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Butter! This entire top section is butter. God I love the French!

South of Brochon is Nuits-Saint-Georges, a beautiful little city that is home to another great discover of this trip … Cassis! Of course we knew about cassis before we went to France, but we had yet to meet “Super-Cassis” at the Cassissium.

Vedrenne has been making cassis and other liqueurs since 1927. A visit to the Cassissium also includes a tour of the production facilities.

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Remember the marc used for the Epoisses? This behemoth of an oak barrel is used to age the marc (as well as a more refined spirit called fine) produced by Vedrenne. There were 12 such barrels in the fermenting room … truly impressive, as was the final product.

The Cassissium might be a little “Disney” for some tastes. The film narrated by their mascot “Super-Cassis” certainly was! We found the gift shop to be a good source for cassis, marc, ratafia and many others. Prices compared favourably with what we found in Beaune.

We’re not quite done with Nuits-Saint-Georges. We still need to have lunch!

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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I am so glad that I found this thread. I recall reading in another thread that you were in France and was wondering if you would do another recount of your trip "a la Daddy A's excellent Okanagan adventure".

I have plans on making a trip to France and am starting to read up on the area now....there is so much to see and do and so little time that I'll get to spend there that I'll need the next year to get my head around it all. In the research I've done, I've been looking at apartments in Paris and am glad that you whole heartedly recommend going that route. Now just to figure out which arrondissement I want to stay in. :wacko:

I'm really enjoying this thread and look forward to reading more.

A truly destitute man is not one without riches, but the poor wretch who has never partaken of lobster. - anonymous
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A few more meals under our belts, we felt ready for another attempt at “fine dining” in France. Actually it had more to do with the fact that we weren’t walking all day any more … but we did feel ready.

Based on many recommendations found here and elsewhere we had a very successful lunch in Beaune at Ma Cuisine. Truffled scrambled eggs (me) and country pate (J) were the entrées, and we both had chicken confit for our mains. Our server turned out to be Pierre Escoffier, one of the owners. The wine was a Sauvigney-Les-Beaune … I forget the chateaux. That’s what happens when you forget the camera!

One of the most memorable parts of the meal came in the form of the cheese plate I ordered. It was (surprise surprise) Epoisses. But what was remarkable was how it was served. Before serving, the plate was heated, and then a slab of Epoisses was placed on it. The result was a beautiful melted plate of cheese, perfectly suited to “spooning” up with slabs of fresh baked bread.

Ma Cuisine is quite a small restaurant (30 seats or so inside, more on the patio when weather permits) so reservations are a good idea. I’ve been told by many that the wine list is top-notch, no doubt bolstered by its own cave, located next door.

Ma Cuisine

Passage Sainte-Hélène

Beaune

33 380 223 022

Our lunch in Nuits-Saint-Georges the next day was even more impressive … and this time I brought the camera! The desitination was La Cabotte, a rec from eG’s Margaret Pilgrim.

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The bread arrived in a paper bag, closed with a small clothes pin. On the left is a graduated cylinder of olive oil, and on the right are two test tubes with a froid/chaud of tomato water. Not sure what that meant, but it was damned tasty!

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The amuse was a soup of butternut squash and cream, accompanied by a croquette of potato and cheese. The soup was so incredibly rich I’m positive it contained a week’s supply of butter in that one small jar.

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My entrée: Galette of beef cheeks and escargots, served with a poached egg and a lie de vin (in the syringe). Very intense, well-balanced flavours, albeit a little messy. Thank goodness I had extra bread to wipe up the egg yolk and reduction!

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J’s entrée: Skate wing and ham pressé, served with an arrugula salad and a cured ham chip. Didn’t get a taste of this one, but J assured me (between bites) it was excellent.

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My main: Magret de canard with polenta chips, tomato confit and mushrooms. Can you see the skin on that duck? Can you? Can you?

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J’s main: Atlantic salmon with fried leeks, and roe marinated in soy and lemon zest.

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The wine. This shows another aspect of the French wine industry I really like … half bottles! We’d already had a fair amount of cassis that day and wanted to visit a few more wineries that afternoon. The smaller bottle is a perfect solution. I wish more wineries would use them

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The first crème brûlée of the trip (notice a theme with the serving dishes?) Those are lemon and raspberry madeleines on the side.

This was a very well executed lunch from the kitchen side. Lots of great flavours presented with a great sense of humour. The only negative was that service was a little too relaxed, even if we compensated for a more laid back “French” dining experience. When our server was there, she was very professional but I would have liked to have seen her more frequently. If not for that, this would have been our best meal.

La Cabotte

24, Grande Rue

Nuits St Georges

03 80 61 20 77

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Absolutely marvelous, Arne! I love the photography and the descriptions.

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Is that a foam on the salad?

The duck looks to be just perfect!

Going back to the epoisses -one of my favorite cheeses- I asume that they were made with raw milk where you visited?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Is that a foam on the salad?

The duck looks to be just perfect!

Yep, that was foam. I have the menu but it makes no mention of the foam, and J couldn't remember what flavour it was.

Something I never mentioned was the serving "dishes" for the entrees, which were slabs of slate! Very cool.

BryanZ ... I thought that meal might appeal to you!

Going back to the epoisses -one of my favorite cheeses- I asume that they were made with raw milk where you visited?

Bien sur! My understanding is that the AOC qualification means it must be made with raw milk ... which means it can't go above a specific temperature (37C I believe). The Epoisses Web Site has all the detailed information if you're so inclined.

A.

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When we return to France, we'll walk again, because it does get you much closer to things than a car or a tour bus can.  What we'll do differently is rent ourselves an apartment and do much shorter trips.

I've always wanted to do a walking holiday in France. Where would you choose to stay if you were charged with arranging the DIY version of this trip?

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I’m focussing on the food & drink aspect of the trip for this blog, but the Hospices de Beaune was the most incredible thing I saw the entire trip.  The hospices have been open since 1443, and for the wine folk (keeping this OT) the wine auction is an annual highlight.  (CLICK HERE for more information on the wine auction)

I agree.. The Hospices de Beaune is one of the most magical places I ever visited. I've been there 2 times and if I was ever in the area, I would go again.

Based on many recommendations found here and elsewhere we had a very successful lunch in Beaune at Ma Cuisine.  Truffled scrambled eggs (me) and country pate (J) were the entrées, and we both had chicken confit for our mains.  Our server turned out to be Pierre Escoffier, one of the owners.  The wine was a Sauvigney-Les-Beaune … I forget the chateaux.  That’s what happens when you forget the camera!

We were at Ma Cuisine 2 years ago and loved it. I had the pate then too! :smile:

great trip report Arne. We have done hiking trips like that all over Europe (where your luggage is transported, and all you do is hike from one place to the next) and it's a great way to explore a region. And, after walking about 20 kilometres, dinner and wine taste soooo good :biggrin:

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I've always wanted to do a walking holiday in France. Where would you choose to stay if you were charged with arranging the DIY version of this trip?

Everything in the Dordogne and Burgundy is so close together that you could just pick a central location and do circle-routes from there. You could also arrange for taxis to take you back to your hotel/apartment if you just wanted to walk further afield.

As to where that central loction would be ... I'd say Beaune in Burgundy and Les Eyzies in the Dordogne would be good places to start, but I'd need to do a bit more research to say for sure.

However, I would still give serious consideration to using a tour company to make the arrangements. The fact that there was someone moving our packs from hotel to hotel made it possible for us to move throughout the region without a)carrying our packs, b)worrying about moving our packs or c)having to return to the same hotel so we wouldn't need to move our packs in the first place. The money we spent was well worth it for the peace of mind it gave us on the trip.

A.

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Those wine cellars are amazing - great photo's.  Loving the trip report - but, unlike Ling, I would like you to keep any 'romance' out of the programming.  Your wife is lovely and I do not want to see her subjected to your mooniness - of any sort.  No soft focus shots of Daddy-A!

AHHH Daddy-A I have been following yoru blog closely...I had to finally respond. I too LOVE cheese. My favorite food ever, by quite a long shot! I love it and devour it daily. Not only on sandwhich's and pasta...I spend a pretty penny on cheese's as the good ones cost a near fortune. I love smelly, oozy cheeses...my soft, runny, oozier the better. I like semi soft, crumbly, and hard cheeses too, but the gooey ones are my favorite, as are goats varieities. I love goat, cow, elk, sheep, you name it. I have never met a cheese I haven't liked. Right now, above and beyond the blocks of cheddars/moz/and provolones and the bags of shredded cheeses, I have to have at least 11 rounds of softer oozey cheeses. I always have to have a variety...when I eat a cheese plate I need at least 6-7 varieties at once...MMMM. I frequent the farmers market for thier lovely capriola Farms goat cheese vendor and Bunkow Cow's milk vendor, Pastoral cheese shop in Chicago, Sams winery and Binny's Winery in Chicago, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and more...all for my LOVE of cheese! Ah the glory of Dairy.

We should have a cheese party Daddy-A. You have hit my weak spot. better tell Mrs. Mommy-A to watch out! Just kidding!!!

"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

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The city of Beaune itself, in particular the historic centre-ville (where one finds the Hotel Dieu Hospices de Beaune) is a maze of cobbled streets. One can be entertained for hours sitting at a sidewalk café and watching the same cars go past 4 or 5 times as they try to find their way to the parking lots outside the city.

Food wise, there are many touristy cafés around the Tourist Centre on Place de la Halle. Much better choices are available further afield. Rue Carnot and Place Carnot probably have the best selection, but if you spend the time wandering the streets you’ll find all sorts of hidden gems. You’re in the heart of Burgundy after all. At least the wine will be good.

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The Café de Paris on Petite Place Carnot.

There are three cafés behind the fountain on this place (a bar, a café and a brasserie to be exact) but we kept returning to the Paris. The wine list here is massive, so we would usually sample a couple wines from wineries we had driven by earlier in the day. It was a great place to sit and unwind. A small sidenote: If you look closely at the top of the building you’ll see a painting of a woman in the window. These faux-folk were in windows all over the city.

Beaune was also home to Bouché. Bouché was not only one of the prettiest Patisseries we encountered on our trip, but was also the name of their 18 month old boxer. While I was picking out chocolates, J was making friends with Bouché.

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Pistacio Filled Escargot

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Candied Orange w/ Chocolate

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Left: Cherry with Kirsch, Right: Mocha Truffle

The Kirsch Cherry was frickin' incredible! It was a good thing we didn't eat them until we got on the train the next day or I would have dropped big coin on more!

The fig cakes at Bouché are also pretty amazing.

Dinner that night was pretty low-key:

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Kebab & Frites! (But check out that wine!)

Our last morning in Beaune was spent at Place Carnot with an espresso and these:

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Apple & Cherry Tarts

Doesn't the morning light look great on those pastries? Don't kid yourself though ... it was startin' to get mighty chilly!

We picked the pastries up at a small shop in Nuits St. Georges the day before. The pastries were really good, but what was really amazing was how they were wrapped:

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We found this to be the norm throughout France. In almost every shop we visited, items were wrapped with care, not just tossed into a plastic bag. The way the clerk at Cantin wrapped each cheese, how a bottle of wine was wrapped in tissue before placing it in a chic paper bag … it was like Christmas for food lovers! I know this isn’t the case everywhere, but for someone from North America, the way food was treated in France was in stark contrast to how it is treated at home. They really love their food, and it shows.

And with that we leave Beaune, and return to Paris to welcome a new vintage from the vineyards of Montemartre.

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