Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pass the Mustard Week 2 Recap

May 2019 - France
Please note that we are travelling this month so I will not always have access to reply to your comments.

Also I am way behind on my daily recaps, so this is the quick overview, mainly food oriented!

Click here for week 1 Paris recap.

Saturday May 4 - Paris to Dijon

Click here for our day's details.  You really do do need to visit the daily post to see the incredible distillery and a video of our tour.

We left Paris around 8:15 AM and made our first stop in Epernay, home of Champagne.

Lovely weather...

Designed to impress, the Mercier underground wine cellars are among the most visited in the Champagne region, with more than 100,000 tourists each year.The visit starts with a film which retraces the history of the founder Eugène Mercier. Take the panoramic elevator and find yourself 30 m below the ground! Aboard the little train, with your multilingual audioguide, you travel along the impressive 18 km of tunnels. The wine cellars are the first to have been designed on one level and are set out geometrically. They were inspired by the design of New York and are intended to be easily accessible to visitors!

Returning to the surface, enjoy a glass of Mercier champagne.

A truck stop lunch, not bad, and not a burger joint in sight. You could even get small bottles of wine with your lunch if you wanted.

Then onto Dijon with the weather getting worse even progressing to snow.


Our hotel.

John went on the walking tour while I stayed in nice and warm.

Huge sculpted green metal head of which there were several,  in Place Rude (named after Francois Rude, born in Dijon 1784).

John came back around 6 frozen to the core but bearing gifts for me.

Staircase in our hotel.

A warm drink was in order  before we head out.

There is a small stone owl carved into a corner of the oldest church that you can see in the daily recap. His face has seen better days and he’s less than a foot tall, but for over three centuries he’s had a big job: granting wishes to all who reach up and stroke his little face.This is the Owl of Notre Dame de Dijon, the city’s symbol and unofficial talisman. 


Check list for dining in Dijon:

✅Begin with a kir
✅Borgogne wine with dinner

✅Eggs en Meurette  is a classic Burgundian dish of poached eggs in a rich and flavorful red wine sauce.


✅Beef bourguignon

✅Cheese plate for dessert.

STEPS 8,714

Sunday May 5 - Dijon to Lyon

Click here for our day's details. Way too busy to complete.

We headed to Beaune, looks gorgeous but it is freezing!

Beaune is a walled town at the center of the Burgundy wine-making region in France surrounded by the Côte d'Or vineyards.

But our first stop is a wine tasting.

How cold is it?

A few tastings early in the morning in a former church.

A wine dispenser.

Lunch at Le Concorde

We even had brandy with our coffees and delicious omelets.

Interesting sculpture of wine bottles.

From there we headed to Lyon. Our hotel in the distance, known as the Pencil.

You would think it was a gorgeous day, NOT, the MISTRAL had blown in and we could hardly walk with the wind.
Mistral is a strong, cold, northwesterly wind that blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion in the northern Mediterranean.  It produces sustained winds often exceeding 66 km/h (41 mph), sometimes reaching 185 km/h (115 mph). It is most common in the winter and spring, and strongest in the transition between the two seasons.

We were almost blown off the overlook and quickly bolted into the church leaving the guide behind.

A specialty from Lyon, these brioches aux pralines roses are buttery, sweet and known for their vibrant pink color. What makes these brioches special are the pralines roses, or pink pralines.

You can find us anywhere!

Across the street from the National Orchestra of Lyon, and a 12-minute walk from Gare Part-Dieu - Vivier Merle metro station, this upscale hotel is also 3 km from Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

The hotel lobby is on the 32nd floor and the rooms are above. The bar and restaurant are on the 32nd floor as well. Being Sunday the restaurant wasn't open but you could get food in the bar.

The rooms have panoramic views.

If you want to use "modern technology" perhaps you should test it. They bring one iPad, with tabs for different types of drinks. While John peruses the whisky list the server is asking me what kind of wine I would like. DUH I haven't seen the menu. At least with paper we could each have a copy to view. This got worse as our group grew and still only one iPad...

Then when we wanted food they brought paper, go figure.

BUT the worst was the service, awful.

STEPS 10,038

Monday May 6 - Lyon to French Riviera
Click here for our day's details. No time to update!
STEPS 7042 5.3 km

Lovely drive through the Alps.

A long bus ride today so a quick stop in Sisteron for lunch.

Sisteron is a pre-Roman town built at a narrow rocky gap (clue) where the Durance and Buech rivers join. The gap at the north edge of the town rises in a cliff to the Rocher de la Baume on the east side of the river, and to the rocky peak topped by the imposing 13th-to-17th-century citadel on the west side, protecting the town. From the north, the road enters the town through a tunnel beneath the citadel, and the town is still protected by parts of the 14th-century walls.

It is Monday so many cafes closed.

We found a cafe and had a wonderful "white" ham with butter (tasted like cheese) baguette with a local white wine. Perfect.

AC Ambassadeur Antibes, Juan Les Pins

The hotel is situated in the town of Juan Les Pins. The Gare de Juan Les Pins railway station is about a half mile away.

It is now a Marriott, and its theme is jazz.
As the oldest jazz festival in Europe, Jazz in Juan remains an amazing melting pot where different trends all blend together. Many performers have trodden the boards of the stage in the mythical pine grove since its creation in 1960. The festival has established itself as one of the legendary places where jazz history was made and is eternally renewed through young prodigies like Marcus Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Salif Keita, Diana Krall, James Carter and Joshua Redman.
Our hotel carpet is decorated with the words to "It's A Wonderful World".

Included dinner at the hotel. Generic hotel food, and they "ran" out of wine. Have not seen this on a tour before.

After dinner Laura took us on a quick walking tour to get oriented. She strongly suggested we stop for a drink at the Belle Rives Hotel.

We ordered drinks and then L and A joined us, the Duke then came along and seemed to be disoriented looking for the Duchess.

Tuesday May 7 - French Riviera

This could have been a full day of leisure, but we opted for two tours.

In the morning we headed to Antibes for a tour of the town and a visit to the Picasso Museum at Chateau Grimaldi.

Antibes is a resort town between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur). It’s known for its old town enclosed by 16th-century ramparts with the star-shaped Fort Carré. This overlooks luxury yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina.

This museum features works of art from the artist Picasso while he lived in Côte d'Azur. Although the amount of work from Picasso himself is not extensive, it shows his main works while living in this area. The museum also provides insight into the life and works of Picasso. It has an extensive range of contemporary art exhibits with works from other contemporary artists. The museum building offers scenic views facing the sea – another good photography spot.

We then had free time to stroll around.

It was a market day so the old town square was filled with vendors selling fresh fruits, produce, and also other Provencal products.

We sat in the sunshine and saw L walking on her own and invited her to join us. We were soon talking to a young girl from Cork.

On the bus back to the hotel where we will have about three hours until our next excursion.

It was so lovely out we walked to the beach to have lunch.

These were the biggest bowls of mussels we've ever seen and delicious.

There are symbols of jazz everywhere.

And of course we found a mural and a church.

Then in the evening we drove to Monte Carlo in Monaco.

We made a photo stop at this lovely view and Laura had brought bottles of champagne for the group.

Monte Carlo was busy getting ready for the Grand Prix.

Long before the James Bond films were made and the Las Vegas resort was built, Monte Carlo began as a small, bankrupt town on the coast of France. It wasn’t until late in the 19th century that the first casino was established on Monaco’s sun-kissed shores, and Monte Carlo slowly crept into the eyes of civilization.

The casino started to gain momentum in 1878 when the building was expanded to the designs of two renowned architects. By the 20th century, the casino was home to the Grand Theatre de Monte Carlo and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. It has served as the primary source of wealth for the Monaco economy.

We chose to dine at the Cafe De Paris and L invited herself along with us.
Do not expect good service or smiling waiters, just remember that they see thousands of tourists like you every day.

John's steak frites was very good.

My lamb stew was delicious.

Click here for our day's details.
STEPS 12947 9.6 km

Wednesday May 8 - French Riviera to Avignon to Carcassonne

Bathroom break

Next stop, Avignon, where we did a short walking tour and then had time to ourselves for lunch.

The famous bridge of the song.

The Palais des Papes is an historical palace located in Avignon, Southern France. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century.

We chose this for lunch, I thought I took a photo of our charcuterie plate but...

The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. The Pont du Gard, built as three tiers of archways to bring water to the city of Nîmes, is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 because of its historical importance.

John and Joe chose to go down below. Barbara and I walked back to the Visitors' Centre in the rain.

Carcassonne has been on my bucket list since I read Kate Mosse's Labyrinth in 2005.  While putting our schedule together I discovered that a film had been made in 2015.

The hotel was a Mercure, not a favourite chain of ours. But the view...

Other group dinner, sigh.
Mushroom and walnut salad. John was getting the gluten free meal and the serve said "oh, you can't have walnuts"?????

It was a good pork stew with potatoes.

Dessert was a poached pear in wine and John's came without the cracker.

We chose to walk up to the castle after dinner. It was very quiet and worth the photos.
Its citadel known as the Cité de Carcassonne, is a medieval fortress dating back to the Gallo-Roman period, and was restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853. It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

Carcassonne became strategically identified when the Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC.

Click here for our day's details.
STEPS 12,328 9.21 km

Thursday May 8 - Carcassonne to Lourdes

Our morning view of Carcassonne!

We check out and board the bus for the drive that we walked last night. We are taken on a walking tour with a very knowledgeable guide, however most of the group is too busy running around and getting in our way taking photos and not listening.

In 1067, Carcassonne became the property of Raimond-Bernard Trencavel, viscount of Albi and Nîmes, through his marriage with Ermengard, sister of the last count of Carcassonne. In the following centuries, the Trencavel family allied in succession either with the counts of Barcelona or of Toulouse. They built the Château Comtal and the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus. In 1096, Pope Urban II blessed the foundation stones of the new cathedral.

The tour ended with a tasting of Hippocras, a spiced wine that was highly prized during the medieval era.
The presenter did nothing to provide much information about her product.

On our own, we stroll around town and John finds a t-shirt.

YUM gizzard salad!

We chose a random restaurant that appeals to us. As I leave the bathroom I see Laura, our guide, sitting inside.

As we plan to sit down inside Richard appears and he and John outnumber me and we sit outside. Along come B and S and then L who sit with us as well. The "Japanese rulers" (they are an elderly Korean couple who resemble the Japanese royal family and are such lovely sweet people) then also join us.

Goat cheese salad.

John's sausage and fries and my cassoulet.
Here is a recipe for cassoulet, which is basically pork sausage, duck leg and beans. Another ✅

Time to move on to Lourdes.

Bathroom break.

Le My Lord disco as we enter Lourdes.

Gallia Hotel.

Laura was doing a walking tour but we opted to go on our own.

The main cathedral, much more to come.

We saw a procession and discovered the underground church.

The Basilica of Saint Pius X, informally known as the Underground Basilica, is a large Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. It is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. A huge mass was taking place.

In town.

Back at our hotel for yet another group dinner.

Goat cheese salad.

Duck leg and noodles, John got potatoes. We all agreed our duck leg was much better at lunch.

Laura was guiding a group to the procession but we went on our own with the Aussies and S.

You view the nightly candlelight procession (buy your candle beforehand from one of the souvenir shops) in front of the Basilica and around the main square, with singing, prayer and a rosary said in many languages (alternating half-decades in English, French, Italian, etc.).

Sue had her candle.

The Grotto and B getting her holy water.

Our hotel elevator.

Back in our room and we discovered that we couldn't charge anything nor did the TV work. John headed down to the desk where they asked him to bring his converter which worked down there. Conclusion the breaker had gone and there was no one to fix it. They charged John's phone for him.

Click here for our day's details.

STEPS 10,400 7.7 km

Friday May 10 - Lourdes to Bordeaux

Never have I been anywhere you had to checkout at 9:15 AM, but it is Lourdes and it is only about making money.
However, this was our latest departure time at 10:15 so we went out walking.

Even this early in the morning there are processions of sick and elderly in wheelchairs being pushed along the streets, each accompanied by three people, one pulling the chair and two at the rear. Sad exploitation!

This thousand-year-old fortress, which has never been conquered, is a listed historical monument and a museum of France.

Now that's morning coffee!

Aboard the bus for a long trip.

Lunch in a truck stop.

Saint-Emilion is a charming medieval village located in the heart of the famous Bordeaux wine area.

There is actually another gourmet specialty of this city that is passed from generation to generation. A delicious recipe that dates back to 1620 when the Ursuline sisters established their monastery in Saint-Émilion. The macaroons recipe comes from the religious community of Ursulines Lacroix whose sister was the mother superior.
A remarkable recipe became a trademark
This recipe was saved after the French Revolution and was sent to the Goudichaud widow, mother of Madame Grandet. This is his eldest son, Joseph Grandet who inherit and which shall have the sole right to manufacture macaroons of Saint-Emilion with the recipe old religious of this community.

A visit to this winery.

After which we have several tastings.

And Laura surprises us with some of these special macarons.  I much prefer the Parisian macarons, these reminded me of marzipan.

We then had free time to wander, it involved a church as well...

And we found our way down below for a glass of wine.

Onto Bordeaux, probably my favourite city and I wish we had more time there.
The hotel was another Mercure in a rather odd part of town.

Group dinner, again but in a restaurant in town and it was decent. Brasserie L'Orleans, service was average, maybe less...

Table was good company other than one of the holy roller couples who were "stuck" with us. He didn't want the red wine which was originally served, but managed to quaff it down before he got the white. These two don't like any of the food anywhere.

I have to laugh, the tour guide had requested gluten free for John. This is eggs mayonnaise and the server says "oh, you can't have the tomatoes".............

However no comment when it came to the mushroom sauce on the chicken..,

Dessert, pineapple sorbet, delicious.

Back for drinks in the bar with the Aussies and the Duke and Duchess deigned to join us. We left but we must have done the Duchy in as I heard them say the next day that they weren't going to the bar the next evening...

Click here for our day's details. To come.
STEPS 3,682 2.7 km

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  1. The Carcassonne citadel, the aqueduct, and view of the Alps particularly stand out here.

  2. So much to take in. Food sounds and looks very good. Accommodation ok. Service, French/German standard. In many places in the world service staff serve thousands of tourists a week yet still make you feel like you are an important customer, and it is not all about tips. Thanks for an enjoyable few days in France, with more to come.

  3. YOu're killing me!!!! I was in France less than a year ago. Now I NEED to go back!!!!!


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