25 July 2015

Chamonix - the French Alps

Under the Shadow of Mont Blanc.
We migrate from vineyards to mountain peaks and valleys.


No, that's not us. I'm just watching them from a safe distance.


It's been SO HOT in Europe this summer. 

UP! We thought. 
Where it's cooler! 
Higher altitudes!

Hopped on a train and headed for the French Alps. 

I found a TINY cabin for rent on a ski slope in Chamonix.

We may have overdone it. 

We had to borrow warm clothes from our hosts to explore the mountain.




A world of rock and wonder.
For strong and active visitors. 

Aiguille du Midi. 
Sea of Ice Glacier.

These are Serious Mountains. 
Even in summer.


Our hosts had ALL the gear. Except shoes that fit Stan. So he went up the Alps in his sandals.


Deep blue sky, filled with paragliders. 
The town is FULL of summer Alpine tourists. 

Trains, bobsled runs, mountain bikes, hikers, helicopters, trams, cable cars, cog railways. 

This place is very popular. 
And very beautiful. 

We hike a lot. 

Down to ice caves, up to Alpine peaks. 
-With the help of a few mountain railways.




The hike up to our tiny cabin. 

It was built by our host's father. 
The family of 6 lived here!




Only 2 rooms.
Perfect for us.

Just far enough out of town to feel secluded.

With a porch. 
And a kitchen.
And perfect summer temperatures.

We might stay here for a while...

Mission successful!

11 July 2015

The Wine Route of Alsace

Welcome to Alsace!

Along the "Route des Vins".

The Wine Route, with brother Tom, visiting from Bordeaux.




Wineries everywhere.

Each town looks like a postcard.


 

There's a "wine route" - from Strasbourg to Colmar - which we drove (it would make a great bicycle trip, too-), stopping in various villages where Tom had set up appointments to taste wines. Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris - completely different from the wines we'd just enjoyed in Burgundy and Provence. 

 





This is a beautiful corner of France!

 

It feels almost German, and of course, it was part of Germany.
France and Germany seem to hand it back and forth over the course of history.

 

The building style, and even the food feels more German than French. 

Strasbourg - lovelier than I ever knew, even though I lived several hours away - for years. 
With an AMAZING cathedral, illuminated at night.


Tom arranged a number of wine tastings. 
We estimated we tried 49 different wines from Alsace! 




But I loved the buildings, and took dozens of photos, fully intending to draw them all someday-




But first a glass of wine.

Especially good with the local brats and sauerkraut.

05 July 2015

Hot Days in Provence, France

European Heat Wave!

Nothing is air-conditioned. 
It's HOT. 

Everyone is suffering.



The woman in the tourist office had her bare feet deep in a bucket of cold water under her desk.
Two fans at full blast.

Everyone is complaining about the heat. 


So - we hopped on a train to Provence. 




Figured we could find a place with a pool - and - some good chilled rosé wine. 




The Mediterranean is just below us. 
2 hours south. 




Italy - just east. 
Languedoc, just west.  

I picked grapes in Languedoc in 1975. 

Last year, we went back and visited the village where I worked. 
Not all that much had changed.



Trish - picking grapes in 1975. Corbières.


Sure enough, I found a tiny stone house in a garden in Provence.  With a POOL.


Our tiny house in Carpentras, Provence.


In Carpentras, near Mont Ventoux, where they grow some excellent wines. 

We found salad makings and wine. 




The small supermarket had an incredible selection of Provence rosé wines - an entire wall.




The villages are lovely. 
Pink stone, churches, flowers. 

Vineyards and olive orchards. 

Mineral baths and wineries.




A bit like the Tuscan hill towns. 
But - Provence style. 




Huge fields of yellow sunflowers. 
No wonder Van Gogh painted them.


We could explore. 
But - mostly - we plan to stay IN the water.

Perfect summer living.
Isn't that what the south of France is for?


In the pool. With the essentials. 

01 July 2015

Wonderful Wines of Burgundy


I love Burgundy wines!




I don't know if I really knew that before.

In fact, I'm not sure I knew exactly where Burgundy was in France.

I didn't know that all Burgundy whites are Chardonnay, which I thought I didn't like.

But I like these.

I didn't know that Burgundy reds are Pinot Noir.

And, unlike the Bordeaux, they aren't blends.




Now, the names actually MEAN something to me.

Côte de Nuits. 
Rully. 
Côte de Beaune. 
Mâcon Villages. 
Puligny. 
Maranges. 
Montrachet. 
Pommard. 
Chitry. 
Meursault. 




And oh, man - they're REALLY GOOD.

Even up to Chablis, and down towards Côtes du Rhône. 

Flinty, silky, delicious.  

I didn't appreciate them enough while we were there. 


When we returned home, I tried to buy some of those names in the US- whew! Pricey!
And somehow - just - not as good. Probably just not the same atmosphere...



Traveling by bus and by train, we stop in various villages in France. 

We stay in a renovated bakery. 
In a medieval tower. 
In the attic of a 12th century abbey. 
In a small village near Santenay. 

Everywhere we go, we ask - 
"Where should we go next?" 
And then we go. 

No guidebook. 
No suitcase. 

Even walking is easy. 
And that senior train pass is a pleasure.




The towns are perfect Asterix towns!
I had no idea they were so wonderfully crooked!




Even though Burgundy wines are so well known, most of the villages and towns here are pretty sleepy. 

Rivers run through them. 
Bicycles are perfect. 




The buildings are old, and the people are delighted we came to visit. 

We're off the beaten Burgundy trail.




When possible, we borrow or rent bicycles and explore. 
It's exactly what I hoped to be doing.

At lunch time, there's always an excellent meal. 
With some delicious wine.




In the supermarket, there's an entire aisle for "Premier Cru" and "Grand Cru" wines only. 

In addition to the generous "regular" wine selection elsewhere in the store.




(As my Dad used to say - "Not too shabby.")