Sunday, 29 April 2012

Vin, du vin et plus de vin!!!


Seeing that I visited the Food Capital of France, it was necessary to visit the Wine Capital of France. 
A passion for excellence in life and style and the appreciation for the craftsmanship and heritage of winemaking is what I experienced during my visit in the vineyards of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux, in south-western France, is arguably the most famous wine region in the world. It is rivaled only by the likes of Burgundy, Champagne, Rioja, Chianti and the Napa Valley. The region takes its name (which translates roughly as 'next to the waters') from the port city of Bordeaux, which serves as its logistical and administrative center.
The Bordeaux viticultural region stretches 130km inland from the Atlantic coast. It is home to more than 10,000 producers, who turn out a vast quantity of wine in every vintage. These range from inexpensive table wines through to some of the world’s most expensive and prestigious labels. The majority of Bordeaux vineyards are planted with red wine grapes, although some white varieties are used in the production of dry white and sparkling wines. The remainder go into the region's highly esteemed sweet wines.

I booked a wine tour as soon as I got to Bordeaux. Most of the tours were already fully booked but I managed to join a walking group that were going to visit 2 Chateaus. Our group was a mixture of French, Asian, Australian, American and Russian folk. Our tour guide was full-on entertainment. A proper "French aunty". She first asked me if I was an Ausi because I was wearing flip flops in stead of hiking shoes. I replied: "No, I am from South Africa", her reply was: "ppff you are all the same!!!"

The Tour Guide

Our tour started in Bordeaux centre and we got on a bus that took us into the wine region.  We then started walking towards the first Chateau. 

Our first stop was at Château des Gravières
This is a small château in the Graves appellation of Bordeaux, producing Merlot-dominated wines. The Château's flaship Cuvée Prestige, which is aged in barrique, has good balance with fine fruit and deep colour and offers great value for money.

We started off with a sweet wine tasting, followed by a lunch of duck maryland's stuffed with home-made foie gras, duck and foie gras terrine, asparagus and freshly baked baguette's.  For dessert we had home-made honey cake and an espresso.

This bottle made the rest of the walk a bit more challenging!!

A few miles from Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Garonne, spread, well exposed to the south on the sunny slopes of Loupiac was the final stop at Chateau Le Portail Rouge.
Here we also tasted sweet wines in the under ground cellar and saw ancient Roman spa's.


Place de la Bourse at night with the Miroir d'eau
Imposing, majestic, spectacular…there is no word to describe this masterpiece of 18th-century architecture, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, architect to King Louis XV. The perfect symmetry of the facade and the reflecting pool, echoing the Garonne River. 

St. Émilion...

Saint-Émilion's history goes back to prehistoric times and is a World Heritage Site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets.
The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine.

Truly a beautiful little village. I spent a whole day here just walking around and tasting wine. I bought a bottle of Pomerol for John. This bottle travelled from France via South Africa to London!

This couple was so cute. The nonna's feet didn't even touch the ground!

A great way to end my trip in France...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Capital of Gastronomy - Lyon

After Tuscany, I resigned from the yacht and decided to back pack more throughout France. I had to throw a lot of clothes away as I couldn't fit everything into my K-Way. I left half of my baggage at a backpackers in Nice and only travelled with the necessities.

My friend, Armand lived in Lyon at the time so it would be the perfect destination for my first stop.  I booked a ticket the next day. It was a 5 hour trip so I decided to go First Class. Backpacking in style!!!

Lyon is the capital for all foodies.  When I was in my first year at chef school, I did a project on Lyon and ever since I have always wanted to explore the culinary beauty of the city.

Armand picked me up at the train station and gave me a tour of the city.  These guys were living the life. They were barmen at 4 different clubs. Every night after their shifts they would party at the boat until 5am and wait for the boulangerie to open and grab a freshly baked croissant and then go to bed. I must admit, it was the best jambon et fromage croissant I have ever had!

Le Rhone 
Pont Lafayette

Ayers Rock Australian Bar (the boat)

If you’re a foodie and you’ve never been to Les Halles Paul Bocuse in Lyon then quite frankly you haven’t lived. Forget La Grande Épicerie de Paris and the covered market in Cannes, this glass and steel ‘temple of food’ attracts shoppers and tourists from far and wide thanks to its mouth-watering displays of the finest regional produce and down-to-earth atmosphere.

The Paul Bocuse Food 


Cosmopolitan Bar

Armand in action

We had the most amazing lunch at the Le Bistro du Potager
Chef Franck Delhoum is the magician in the kitchen.

Amuse Bouche - Chicken broth

Corsican cured ham, grilled figs and goats cheese on bruschetta

Grilled duck breast with creamy polenta

Chocolate fondant

 Thank you Armand for an amazing time in Lyon.
Done with the it was time to drink some wine in Bordeaux...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


3 September 2011

John's birthday was coming up and I thought celebrating it in Tuscany would be perfect. I booked all the hotels and did the planning. All he had to do is fly to Milan. 
I took the 5 hour train ride from San Remo to Milan. Booked into the hotel and strolled the streets of the fashion capital. I ended up at a little restaurant and ordered a glass of vino and read my Italian Vogue, waiting in anticipation.
John arrived just after 10 pm. It was so hot and he was wearing a suit. All I can remember is how ridiculously good looking he looked!! This was John's first time in Italy.

We went strolling through the streets, looking for a restaurant because both of us were starving. We shared our first Italian pizza and drank delicious red wine from the region. He then surprised me with a gorgeous pair of diamond earnings.

Espresso in Milan before we catch the train to Florence

Eurostar to Florence

We arrived in Florence and got a very warm welcome from our hotel receptionist. Got to love the Italians!  Florence is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)

Statue of David
We did see the original statue at the Gallery but were not allowed to take any photographs. I never expected the statue to be so large and was truly amazed by the intricate detail of this piece of art. 

We celebrated John's 24th birthday with a bottle of Vintage 2002 Dom Perignon

Piazzale Michelangelo


We then hopped on to a train and went to Pisa.

The view from our hotel room

Had a very eventful ride. We didn't follow the map and got lost in the alleys. It was hilarious. Not long after lightning struck and we got rained on.

Sopping wet from the storm!!!

Typical Italian anti pasti - Melon and Parma Ham 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

After an incredible weekend in Tuscany, we had to say our good bye's once again! I went back to Nice and John went back to London.