A Walk On The Wild Side – The French Basque Country…

Village of Bera, País Vasco…

The weather forecast called for a near perfect Spring day recently, so we decided a Sunday tiki tour was in order to: (a) shake the cobwebs off Gertie, the 1975 Land Rover, and (b) to explore & visit a bit of the French Basque country since it’s just over the border.

We sorted out a circular road trip which had us headed for the Spanish village of Bera as our first stop of the day. We arrived earlier than planned, so the village was more than quiet, though it was quite obvious that things be shake’n in Bera as for a village its size it appeared that it could feed Napolean’s army with the number of dining establishments spotted.

We wandered up to the town church and puttered around the graveyard which was peppered with fascinating old, Basque tombstones. Then a wander down a crooked laneway for a wee stroll & then a return via a path along the village river. The water looked sweet & we quickly spotted numbers of trout holding their feeding positions…one looked to run to more than 1 pound which is a decent size for these parts. Hummmmm????

We decided it was time to move on if we were to make our lunch date in St. Jean de Luz & be able to pay a visit to 2 or 3 other French Basque towns. As we left town though, headed for France, we were a tad disappointed that we had not wandered farther along as Bera has a decently sized Old Town section where they were hosting an agricultural machinery fair…damn!

Crossed to the French Side – Cute As Village of Sare…

From Bera you climb up & over the foothills of the Pyrenees and descend down into the first Basque Country village of Sare. You have or hate to admit it sometimes, but the French truly do have a grand sense of style and that was on display in spades in Sare. Tidy as, almost movie set perfect & clean as a whistle…we tested one of the local cafes with a café au lait & it passed more than a muster. A bit of souvenir shopping was completed, then a good zig zag wander round the village lanes & back to Gertie the Land Rover.

We literally made a pit stop in Ascain, it was nice but did not seem to hold a candle to Sare and there appeared not to be a soul on the streets. We made a pause for a bit of refreshment (local brewed beers), in some sun facing deck chairs before making the decision to move on to our lunch destination…

Lunch on the French Basque Coast @ St. Jean de Luz…

Hound #2 had read somewhere, about some cafe or bar that was someplace on the beach, somewhere near or close to St. Jean de Luz – I know, not exactly the directions you can put into Google & achieve success. But lo & behold we managed to find not 1, but 2 bars/bistros on the beach & opted for La Guinguette d’Erromardie. It just had the too cool for school look, with lots of hip folks taking in the sun & beach vibe and clearly tasty food & drink.

Yum Food @ La Guinguette d’Erromardie – Top Left: Caesar Salad; Grilled Fresh Sardines, Baked Potato & Salad; Coastal View with 2 Hounds; Drinks & Flowers Beachside…

The Daily Special was all Hound #2 had to see – grilled sardines with a baked potato & salad – choice made & she was happy as Larry (so was Billie). I thought I’d be healthy & have the Caesar Salad & get my dose of greens, but was disappointed to see the chicken in my Caesar came deep fried, not simply grilled. No serious complaints – all very tasty & washed down with some red vino & chilled cerveza & sweet, sweet staff. This place must rock @ night on the summer weekends.

Top: The Company Car; Beach View Towards St. Jean de Luz; Sunday Buzz…

This type of day needs, needs to be repeated before we depart for the UK, then New Zealand…so close & so interesting…and they have trout!!!!

Advertisements

Paris Birthday Bash…The End.

PAREiffel

We’d been hoof’n it for several days now, so a ride on the Metro was in order to give our shanks’ ponies a wee rest. We’d read that dogs were allowed on the Metro…but they had to be in a bag. Ruh roh…so we brought with us an old, flexible overnight bag to see if Hound #1 was game. I won’t say he liked it, but there were no real complaints to be heard. He got a snack for being such a good boy…

PARBillieMetro

Metro Madness…Dog In Da Bag.

PARScene

We made a beeline that morning for a  market we’d read about in the 15th Arrondissement called the Rue de Grenelle Marché. Things looked initially bleak as we seemed to be walking forever and as yet no sign of market folks. But not to worry, you could not miss this market even if you were totally blind as this was HUGE!

PARGrennellMkt2

The Rue de Grenelle Marché – 15th Arrondissement

Located underneath a bridge or highway overpass, this market stretched for block after block with every imaginable food option on display, multiple times. When we travel to someplace like Paris it’s a dream to rent an apartment for a month or so to take full advantage of the markets food-wise and save your wallet a bit of pain from being forced to eat out. Though that said, the Paris markets we visited did not strike either of us as ‘cheap’.

PARGrennellMkt

The Rue de Grenelle Marché – 15th Arrondissement

After satiating our market tastebuds @ Rue de Grenelle Marché, we wandered in a direction to have a halfway decent view (bit overcast & misty) of the Eiffel Tower – so Paris & French & oh so expensive. Along the way, we eyed a busy pedestrian street across the boulevard – let’s have a look…

PARRueClerc

Rue Cler – O La La…Rue de Food & Wine

Rue Cler was not on our radar in any way, shape or form – but what a find! A lovely no-cars/motorbikes walkway with all the food & wine & sweet shops that Paris is renowned for and busy as. You have to say one thing for the Parisians, they do love their food and get out to support the small local shops in force. A lesson to be learned by the rest of the world…

PARScenes2

Pooped Pooch, Pooch @ the Palais Royal, Pooch @ the Louvre, Lovely Toulouse Latrec Metro

On Hound #2’s ‘I want to do this’ list was a visit to Montmartre & a climb up to Sacre Couer to hopefully have one of the best views of Paris you can have without paying 15 euros a person for. And it was (as the pic at the top of the Eiffel Tower will attest) – except for all the bloody tourists (including us). It is always sad to see such a historic & iconic area be overrun by tat & bric-á-brac shops, buskers & hustlers.

PARScenes4

Montmartre – Sacre Couer

Once we’d descended from the mount on high, a snack & a beverage seemed in order. And as it does not take to many steps to stumble on to a wine store in Paris, we ambled into Le Rouge et Le Verre. A bit of language confusion ensued but we finally sorted it out that, because of licensing, we needed to order some food to have some wine. No problema. Two glasses of a rich & savoury St. Joseph Rhone red were poured and a plat of charcuterie was delivered. We were now powered up to march on…

PARWineStorePlate

Rouge et Le Verre Wine Store…Excellent Charcuterie Plate & Vino…Hound #1’s Cheated.

Our final day in Paris called for a bit of culture, so Hound #1 was left behind for s snooze and we hopped on the Metro headed for Musee d’Orsay. We like the Musee d’Orsay over the Louvre because it is a bit more manageable – and that’s not to denigrate the lovely Louvre. But when you have just an hour or two, Musee d’Orsay hits the right art spot.

PARMDOrsayInside

Musée d’Orsay

And we were not disappointed – we were some of the first folks in queue so we managed to have some sections of the museum to ourselves. An absolute fave was the mind-blowing Impressionists collection on display – all the boys & girls were there…Cezanne, Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, Cassatt, Rodin, Lautrec and my personal fave – Van Gogh. Had to be a couple of billion dollars of art in this one exhibition. And you can get so close & personal – see the brush strokes. Stunning.

PARMDOrsay1

PARMDOrsay2

And post the museum, one more market to do – Place d’Aligre. This is a mixed market with half being food and the other half a flea market. I went for the food and Hound #2 was attracted to the flea. It is reputed to be one of the cheapest markets in Paris and it appeared so…but it is 100% fruit & veggies so you will not find cheeses or charcuterie or meat or fish here. But the street that the market is hosted on is another of Paris’s block of delectable comestibles. There is small but well stocked indoor market that covers all the bases and a stroll down either side of the street will bring you to several wine & cheese stores, butchers and fishmongers. We stocked up on some saucisson for the train ride home…

PARAligreMkt

Marché Place d’Aligre – 12th Arrondissement

Well that’s Paris and my & Billie’s 60th – it was a great combo!

PARCollageOdd3

Paris Birthday Bash…The Middle…

PAREiffel

Day #2 in Paris happened to be my actual birthday but first, armed with a well researched but short list, we set off to find a decent cuppa Joe. Paris, despite its well deserved reputation for many of the finer things in life, struggles to cook up a decent coffee. Having lived in New Zealand and then Australia for a number of years, our coffee palates are finely tuned machines.

PARCafeLoustic

Coffee and Port – What Could Go Wrong?

Out of 5 possible destination candidates, we fingered a place called Cafe Loustic in the 3rd Arrondissement. With their motto, “We aim to be one of the best espresso bars in the world”, ringing in our ears, we had to give it a go.

Well, not really a serious challenge to the baristas & cafes Down Under – they can sleep easy. And it was a strange vibe too — a bit aggro with a customer’s-not-always-right chip on the shoulder. The barista actually refused to make a requested coffee because they simply are not made that way if made correctly he said. Ouch.

But it was worth the visit as right next door was Portologia – a sweet establishment that was all about Port & related spirits and staffed by very kind & informative folks. One fella spoke no English but the other one did, so a fun Port discussion ensued. We mentioned we had just been in Porto and he queried us as to whether we had visited their sister store there & in fact we had! Small world…

PARRicherSign

Birthday Lunch @ Richer

Next up was the Birthday Lunch – we had narrowed down the choices to a small few & at the top of the rankings was Richer in the 9th Arrondissement. The restaurant’s description banged all the right drums and after a speedy perusal of the outside menu, we went in.

PARRicher1

Birthday Billie Got a Few Table Scraps…

Paris, as many folks will know, is a wee bit on the pricey side for most things including food & beverages. You won’t break a sweat dropping €100+ ($167NZ, $109US, $154AUS) for an very average bistro lunch & vino. But Richer was worth every Euro and more. A place after my own heart and a menu very much in the same vein as my old place in Lyttelton New Zealand – London Street. A tres simple menu of 4 starters, 3 Mains and 4 desserts which clearly follows the maxim of doing a few things exceptionally well rather than a lot of things mediocre.

PARRicherEntrees

From Top Clockwise: Noodles, Pumpkin Soup and Côte du Rhône.

My starter was, loosely translated by our waitress, as ‘noodles’. I wish more noodles came like this – a lighter take on a carbonara that had a hint of sesame with sweet fried shallot accents, a scattering of mushroom bits, sautéed seaweed and a perfectly cooked egg in the middle. I could have stopped here…Hound #2 opted for the pumpkin soup & we loved the way it was served with the actual soup being poured table side over the delectable bits which preserved their crispy texture. Our Côte Rhône Domaine des Espiers was a superb match…

PARRicherMains

From Top, Clockwise: Dessert, Pheasant and Lamb.

For her main, Hound #2 chose a fowl that our waitress could only describe as ‘sort of like duck’ – good enough for us. We believe it was pheasant, but no matter as it was delicious whatever it was. Lamb was my plat du jour and a most interesting dish it was…slow cooked shoulder that was then shredded & reformed into a wee brick, topped with a crispy thin wafer and four tiny scoops of what I think was a beetroot/crème fraîche combo & a scattering of flavourful greens. And accompanied by roasted cabbage & melt in your mouth turnips. Estupendo.

Hound #2 declared her intentions to have dessert and so she did – a hard to describe light-as-air concoction that tasted amazing to me. For my dessert, I finished the Côte du Rhône…If in Paris folks, do yourself a favour and visit Richer or their other establishments – L’Office and 52. These folks know food and hospitality.

PARCollage7

A decent walk was on order post lunch, so off we went in search of another market on our list, Marché Saint-Martin in the 10th Arrondissement. Now we’re talk’n ‘market’ – a decent notch or two up from the Le Marché des Enfants Rouges as most stalls were here to sell food and not just feed your face.

PARSaintMartinMktSign

PARMktSaintMartin

Top Left: Cheese, Fishies, Veggies and More Cheese.

We had in our possession a timely article from the Guardian’s Travel section on the up & coming area of Paris call South Pigalle. They were calling it the new ‘Soho’ of Paris so that scratched the right itch with us & off we toddled…

Our morning schedule always includes a coffee stop & we wandered the 3rd Arrondissement in search of another of our caffeine targets but stumbled across Café Pinson by accident – most pleasant place to kick up your heels and plan your next wander. We were soon struck with hunger pains that a croissant or pan au chocolate were not going to do justice to, so lunch was in the cards…

PAROngletLunch

L’Aller Retour’s Plat du Jour: Onglet (Hanger Steak)! Yay! Going, Going, Gone…

We had several options that were nearby but in our random walk we came across L’Aller Retour which by shear coincidence was the sister joint to the place we were trying to find. One glance at the plat du jour & the decision was made – Hanger Steak (Onlget in French)! And a price we could not quibble with – Hanger Steak, Fries & a side of veggies & glass of vin rouge for €11.40…Score! On to South Pigalle…

PARKBCafe

KB Cafe & Corsican Joint

We once again, using our ‘trusty’ tourist map with nano font, got a wee bit lost but finally managed to track down one of the cafes our Melbourne mate Carolyn put us on to – KB’s  Coffee Shop. It looked sooooooo Melbourne-y and stood a good chance of passing the Melbourne taste test except….it was mid afternoon & they didn’t do decaf…Plan B was to stroll the foodie street Rue des Martyrs, do a spot of supply shopping and score a beverage. 100% success…

PARBuvette

Buvette – A Beverage & Dessert

Next on our South Pigalle list of to do’s was to track down a place called Buvette and other than the fact we were, by far, the oldest folks in the place, it was hop’n (they also have a New York spot). We managed to grab an outside bench to enjoy a glass of red (me) & a slice of lemon meringue pie (Hound #2).

PARCollageOdd6

Paris Birthday continued….

Paris Birthday Bash…The Beginning

PAREiffel

Like anyone’s birthday, the day only comes around once each year & it is actually like any other day for all intents & purposes, but for Hound #1  and Hound #3 to hit the big ‘six oh’ (in dog years for #1) was an event requiring a wee bit more than a cake (or bones) with some candles. So Hound #2 sorted out a surprise visit to one of my fave cities – Paris.

PARHappyNot

On Da Train – 1st Class…All Muzzled Up

And she splurged for 1st Class Train tickets from our humble abode in Spain to gay Paris…though Hound #1 did not think it 1st class to have to wear a muzzle. We raided our local fine food store Solbes for some lunch time goodies – jamón iberico, olives, prunes, selection of cheeses, bread (from our mates at Amona Margarita) and a wee cask of vino tinto…we be ready to roll.

Our arrival in Paris was none too welcoming – bucketing down rain and sadly, we had a 20 minute walk to our hotel (Solar Hotel – good eco establishment)…only to find out they had no record of our reservation. Most fortunately Hound #2 had a copy of our confirmation so the sweet hotel staff scrambled & we spent out first night in Paris in a single room. Better than out in the rain!

PARMktMix

Our Local Street – Rue Daguerre 14th Arr.

We based ourselves in the 14th Arrondissement and much of the pre-trip research turned up pretty much nada of interest except for a highly reputed natural wine store (read below). But we were very pleasantly surprised on our first night’s stroll to find Rue Daguerre only 100 feet from our hotel. Rue Daguerre was chocka with bars & restaurants to suit all our needs, but the long block between Rue Boulard and Avenue de Général Leclerc was a cornucopia of food & wine stores. And to paraphrase the Stealers Wheel tune – cheese store to the left of me, charcuterie & rotisserie chooks to the right of me, a couple of wine stores straight ahead, fishmongers behind me – here I am, stuck in the middle of food heaven!

PARMkts2

Rue Daguerre Continued….

As mentioned above, our research on the 14th turned up this little beauty – La Cave des Papilles. By many considered & respected vino opinions, this shop “has risen to become arguably the most dynamic, well-stocked and brilliantly curated natural wine shop in Paris”. I’d have to say I 100% agree…too many choices my friends, too many choices. But I made a few…and we popped the cork that night on the fresh & fruity Vaste Programme Les Maoû. Perfect nightcap to a long, wet day…

PARCavePapilles

Most Excellent Cave de Vin Round Da Corner…

Most happy to awake to a grey overcast sky that was not hosing down droplets. So off on our first explore of the trip…we Hounds (especially Hound #1 with his 4 paws) like to walk & Paris, like New York, is a damn decent walking city. We wandered & sauntered our way through the 5th & 6th Arrondissements to arrive at the Seine & Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. We felt the need to have a squizzy as the crowds were thin at this early hour…

PARNotreDame

Obligatory Notre Dame Visit

Then we made a bee line for a market that according to all the online info, but more specifically BuzzFeed’s blurb – “located in the Marais, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is Paris’ oldest and most charming covered market. It is home to THE BEST Moroccan food in the city…”

Well to say the Food Hounds were unimpressed would be an understatement…it was very small by most market standards, had far more eatery stalls than actual stalls (2 fruit & veggie and 1 fishmonger) to buy food from and was no bargain by any stretch of the price dimensions. Oh well…

PARInfantsMkt

The Marché des Enfants Rouges

By this time, with all the walking, we were becoming a group of starv’n marvins so lunch was next on the agenda. Disappointingly, our Fawlty Towers hotel wifi was inoperable for the first couple of days so we were navigating via a microscopic font sized tourist map, so numerous over shoots & retracing of steps were required. We first tracked down Au Passage, which superficially ticked all the perfect Paris backstreet bistro boxes but sticking a head into the joint revealed a kitchen still unpacking the morning’s deliveries & simmering stock on the stove. No lunch here any time soon. We tried 2 more eateries on our list but they had no appeal – one was a way over-priced, old bistro & the other a nice enough place but they had nothing on their menu we wanted to eat. So we high tailed it to the end of the block & grabbed a table at Chez Gladines

PARGladinesSign

PARGladinesFood

Basic Bistro Lunch…

Chez Gladines was nothing too fancy but offered solid bistro plats & beverages at modest prices – a starving student joint. We started with a shared lardon & lettuce salad which was a meal in itself (Hound #1 had an awesome bacon dinner that night). And we each chose a French classic – pan seared magret duck breast for me, cassoulet for Hound # 2. All washed down with a cheap & cheerful Côte du Rhône. Excellent.

PARCafeColette

Our Local…

We try, when we explore a new city or town or area for a few days, to find a ‘local’ – a place nearby to where we are staying that is friendly, affordable and covers lots of bases well (good coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, wifi, dog friendly). This trip it turned out to be Cafe Colette – just a few block walk from our hotel offering excellent service & value for money. We shared the mixte assiettes plat of charcuterie, cheeses & bread for a light dinner one night  for a mere €7.50  ($12.5NZ, $8US, $11.5AUS) that we found hard to finish. In a city where pints of beer can run to €11 ($18NZ, $12US, $17AUS) , that’s a sweet bargain.

PARCollageOdd

To be continued….

Farmer’s Market – Hendaye, France

French Farmers Mkt Collage

We are muy suerte (very lucky) here in Hondarribia, not only do we have our own local farmers market every Wednesday & Saturday, but a similar market takes place in Hendaye, France at about the same time. Now that may sound like a bit of a hike or an extravagance to toddle off to a farmers market in France, but for us Hondarribians it is a mere 5 minute ferry ride (or in the case of Hound #2, a 10 minute paddle board paddle across the harbour).

French Farmers Mkt Collage 2

Oysters from all Areas, Rotisserized Everything & Charcuterie Heaven

And we have timed our arrival food-wise pretty good – summer has kicked in and the fields around us are exploding with veggies & fruits. In the short time we have been living here we have sussed out our favourite stall holders & make a beeline for them once off the ferry as they sell out quickly – as they should. It is a bit odd in the Basque Country but the use of fresh herbs is close to non-existant – parsley is pretty much what is on offer and most farmers market stalls give it away gratis as though it was a weed. So to France we go – where the likes of basil, thyme, chives, oregano & rosemary are readily up for purchase.

FRMKTBacon

Bacon – Who Likes Bacon?

And it is nice to peruse the various butchery stalls as many of my favourite cuts (bavette/skirt steak, onlget/hangar steak) are frequently sold here – scored a sizeable slab of bavette on my last visit. And of course, there is duck in ALL ITS FORMS – estupendo! The French of all nationalities know duck — nice to see the magret breasts again…the size of a small car. And the queue for the foie gras stand is a bit unnerving – he sells out the quickest!

FRMKTOlives

 

And deli selection to beat the band – a vast array of seriously local & delicious fromage / queso on offer as well as all the other desired deli goods. The charcuterie stands are just plain deadly – free samples almost always lead you down the evil path of purchase. And with 3 saucissons for 9 Euros, a deal to make you squeal, the market is left 3 shorter…

Skiathos Island…Greece

SKBeach The most miserable and far, far too long English winter drove us to sunnier climes – the sweet island of Skiathos, Greece. And a welcome change it was with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, gentle breezes and the tiniest smattering of rain. We were most impressed with our place of accommodation, Skiathos Holidays, where the staff were top notch and the rooms of stunningly high quality. The beach was just a few minutes walk and the breakfast of REAL Greek yoghurt & nuts & flakes, fresh OJ, hard boiled eggs, assorted breads & coffee was the right way to start each day. SKMesostratos Our man Christos, from Skiathos Holidays, was a wealth of advice & local pointers for everything from where to eat to what activities to pursue. One of our favourite tavernas he recommended was the family owned & run Mesostrato. It was clearly evident that everything we ordered was cooked or made fresh. Hound #2’s eyes were apparently bigger than her stomach, but even with a cautionary warning from Hound #3 that she may have ordered too much, she went ahead anyway.  It was all spectacular, just a tad more food than your average person can eat ;-).

SKSaladLunch

Hound #2’s Lunch – enough to feed a small family….

I erred on the conservative side & just had the moussaka – most excellent it was too… SKMoussaka We decided we liked Mesostrato so much we made a return visit & I had to try the meatballs in tomato sauce. Exceptionally well seasoned & basically yummy – Hound #2 agreed that I had won the lunch order contest. The Mythos lager beers went down a treat too & the house rose was very quaffable. SKMeatballs We also took a round-the-island boat trip on the Poseidon which gave us a great view of various parts of the island (we decided not to do the Mama Mia trip to Skopelos Island).

SKWater

Bog standard Greek scenery

And for our final farewell evening meal, we ambled in to Marmita where we had sipped an afternoon beverage a few days before & liked the vibe & the menu. And we were spot on with our impressions…. SKMarmita The owner is a top notch hospitality professional & owns 3 restaurants on Skiathos. And, amazingly, it was just him & one other server that served the capacity crowd. We had an informative chat about their very well selected & priced wine list & we opted for a Greek Syrah not listed for a mere 15 euros. We were very taken with this wine and many of the other Greek wines we sampled on our trip – who knew? Greece makes some good vino…. SKSyrah Hound #3 could not tear his eyes away from the slow roasted pork shoulder marinated in honey, thyme & lemon on the menu. And those flavours shined through this super tender cut – veggies were a winner too.

SKPorkDish

Scrumptious Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder

And Hound #2 jumped on the same cut of meat & cooking method but from a Greek lamb but she felt the pork took the prize. SKLambDish And as seems to be custom in Greece, you need not order a dessert as many places close the meal with a free one. This was wonderful, local Greek yoghurt seasoned with chopped fresh mint & strawberries for dipping & shots of ouzo to cleanse the palate. Marmita is highly recommended. SKStrawberries Much of the produce used by the tavernas & restaurants is locally grown & it shows. As we left Marmita we saw this cart stuffed to the gills with freshly picked garlic… SKGarlic

The Pyrénées and Back to France…

PYRRiver

Sad Water…Rio Eska.

We departed La Rioja and headed for the town of Roncal at the base of the Pyrénées for our last Spanish noche before starting our return trek across France, hopefully avoiding the nasty péage (toll) roads. The drive was stunning as we wound our way through deep canyons of dangerous looking cliff faces to one side, and the fast flowing, gorgeously blue water of the Rio Eska on the other. Intermittent glimpses of the river got the fly fishing juices flowing so several pit stops ensued to have a up close & personal inspection as there mos def had to be fish in that water.

But as it has happened countless times before, looks can be exceptionally & sadly deceptive. Chatting with our Spanish hotel owner revealed that, yes, the Rio Eska used to be chocka with fish but a factory was built upstream many years ago and now all the fish are gone. The way of the world these days…folks who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

PYClimbUp

The Climb…

We set off early the next morning up the N137 through the beautiful Roncal Valley. Our Spanish is pretty good but one critically absent word that was repeatedly flashing on a road side sign was ‘Cadenas’ – chains, as in snow chains. Our wee Nissan Micra (aka Mickie) ponderously crawled up the steep switchback road as the snow to either side grew deeper…and deeper. Lucked out a bit to fall in behind a snowplow but we still kept climbing & the drifts grew ever deeper, the fog thicker and the wind wailed. At the summit & the border, the snowplow pulled over to turn around and we were left with the agonising decision: continue & descend on steep, twisting & possibly icy roads or turn back & take a 5-6 hour detour. A 4×4 Spanish policía pulled up behind us so a chat ensued (the words ‘loco’ and ‘estúpido’ may have been uttered by the policía) and they kindly offered to check out the French side (apparently the French do not salt or grit their roads). And luck be with us – the French side actually was way better weather – shining sun, no snow falling, no ice, moderate winds – yippppeeeee! Into France we go…

PYRSnowPlow

Impending Sense of Doom

We booked ourselves into the ever so sweet B&B Chateau Lamarque (Sainte-Croix-du-Mont) just outside of Bordeaux. The Chateau sits atop a the crest of a hill with views up & down the valley & of the Chateau’s own vineyards (picked up a bottle of red).

FRStCroix

Chateau Lamarque, St. Croix du Mont, France

FRVinesBordeaux

Chateau Lamarque Vielle Vignes

One of our usual to do’s when bumping around a country is to track down any local markets. We again lucked out in that the Machecoul Market just happened to be on the one Wednesday we were camped out @ the fabulous La Mozardière in Legé, France. So with immense expectations we toddled off the short distance to Machecoul and we were not in the least bit disappointed – wow, ces Français font de bons marchés!!!

FRLoireBB

La Mozardière – Legé, France

FRFish

Awesome & bountiful fish selection

FRMussells

Fresh As Moules….

FRVeggies

Bountiful & Beautiful Veggies

FRCheese2

Our Main French Cheese Man – A Little Chèvre pour moi?