Good Eats in Bordeaux

On my very strict budget, I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve “eaten out” in France. And let’s be real, most of them were when my dad came to visit. Thanks dad! But for some reason, we wanted to be boss for a weekend in Bordeaux. Go big or go home, right? Here are my recommendations for budget friendly eats in Bordeaux.

Our first culinary delight was in a beautiful little corner of Bordeaux, right past the gallant Porte de la Monnaie. We crossed underneath this arch and entered a gorgeous neighborhood, choosing to eat outside at charming red tables while awaiting the sunset. Our meal started with a homeade gaspacho topped with fresh parmesan, a perfect summer appetizer. I continued with the piece de resistance, confit de canard. You really haven’t lived until you have eaten this. This is heavenly duck leg slowly cooked until the end result is tender, juicy, and flavorful – a typical dish of the Gascony region.

On Saturday night we went to a fresh, local restaurant called Palais des Sauveurs. A little Bordelaise woman and her husband Gilles opened this quaint restaurant, off the beaten track and known only to locals. A cozy room distinguished by its tables set with mismatching dishware, I felt almost as if we were eating at the couples house. I had fresh steamed fish with local veggies and wild rice, which was refreshing and light. The menu changes daily according to what is in season, but always features their delicous savory tarts. The best part, however, is the homeade cakes and sweets for dessert. They also have an extensive list of teas – so if nothing else, be sure to stop here for tea and dessert after an afternoon of sightseeing. I had a dense, dark chocolate cake topped with lots of ripe strawberries. Miam miam.

We were lucky enough to be in Bordeaux on a Sunday, so headed to the Marché des Chartrons. This wonderful Sunday market along the river was what I hope heaven will be like. Tables filled with seafood and white wine, appetizing pastries like Cannelés de Bordeaux, runners jogging by the river, and gourmet cheeses calling my name. The ambiance was so calm and relaxing, a perfect Sunday activity.

After walking around, Craig and I sat down to eat at a table that was offering grilled meats and vegetables. I basked in the sunlight while Craig ordered for us. Poor Craig “accidentally” ordered duck heart – claiming he never thought “coeur de canard” could actually be the heart of a duck. He put on a good face and tried it anyway, but I still couldn’t stop calling him a duck heart consumer.

The moral of the story is that you can’t order wrong in France, until you order duck heart. Or Andouillettes. But that’s another story for another time.

Bar Cave de la Monnaie, 34 rue Porte-de-la-Monnaie
Tél : 05 56 31 12 33

Le Palais des Saveurs, 69 Rue Palais Gallien
Tél: 05 56 81 22 09

Marché des Chartrons, quai des Chartrons, 7am-1pm Sundays

happy memorial day weekend

It’s not Memorial Day weekend here, but I find myself nostalgic for my JCrew white bootcut jeans and my cute sandals forgotten in the depths of my closet in America. At the largest American cemetary outside of the US, just a few kilometers away from me, we’ll be having a French military ceremony again. This time, with horses! So when you’re sipping sangria on NYC rooftops, or at the Windrift down the shore, think of me in the countryside!

Bon weekend

Bordeaux

Great guesses from all you commenters – but my new favorite city is Bordeaux. You might be thinking, this girl loves everything! Well, maybe that’s true. But bet me a bottle of vintage red wine, Bordeaux tops it all. Already fixated by the south of France, I was shocked to find I had been missing out on the southwest. I have three words for you: confit de canard.

Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Not to mention, almost everyone is good looking! Is there some sort of procreation laws in Bordeaux? Or just that Mediterranean vibe? After living in rural France for so long, we all agreed that this city was the epitome of the idealized France – what we all dreamed France would be like before moving here.

We devoted an entire day to wine tasting, because we could. The Office of Tourism in Bordeaux puts together some really nice wine country trips – and we found a steal on a day trip with other youngsters. The excursion consisted of a museum visit at Planète Bordeaux, where we learned the basics of wine production. I would highly recommend a visit there if you want an informative, and well-presented exhibition of the wine distilling process. Of course, the museum visit ended with wine tasting, as every good museum visit should, another plus!

 

Next we took buses to Entre-deux-mers, one of the Bordeaux wine regions. We visited Chateau la France, a beautiful vinyard close to Planète Bordeaux. I had no idea there were so many individual appelations in Bordeaux – all put in place to control the quality of the wines. Now I know what to look for! While we had an excellent time, some Bordelais informed us this is not where you find the best of the best Bordeaux wines. For rural newbies to the wine world, this visit was perfect – but to more seasoned wine enthusiasts you might want to check out St. Emilion or the Medoc region.

Then there is the plage. One day, we took the train to Arcachon, a beautiful little beach town along the Bassin. The waves were calm and I was in the water all day long – it was a little bit warmer than the North Sea in the Netherlands. Just a little. We ambled through the market, only to hear the long-lost call of the marketman, “venez gouter! venez gouter nos belles fraises!” I had my way with tapenades, dipped baguette in olive oils, and ended up with a huge barquette of strawberries. Perfect for a picnic at the beach.

But even exploring this bourgeois city had us oogling at every site. The gorgeous 18th century architecture, the mirroir d’eau in front of the Bourse, the Garonne river,  and the flea-market in the biggest square of Europe.

This city is so beautiful – you will never run out of things to do. We even found a movie theatre that was built in an old church. Quelle ambiance! I pictured myself living here and catching Woody Allen classics in Version Originale … can you see why I miss city life?

I can tell you one thing – I did not want to leave.  I nearly missed my 5pm train back to Meuse TGV – but somehow I jumped on just as the train was pulling out of St. Jean station. Does anyone in Bordeaux want to find me a job? I’m willing to go back whenever!

petits plaisirs du monde

Evan has awarded me a blogger award. Thanks Evan! Instead of telling seven facts about myself, I am going to tell you seven of my most recent petit plaisirs du monde.

a 30 km bikeride through the countryside with my students

a beautiful letter written by my Scot

a package full of goodies from a best friend full of things we love

when someone asks oh so politely if they can “tutoyer” me (address me informally)

finishing a good book, and thinking about it for weeks

hugs from my little students (i miss hugs!)

the smell coming from the bakeries on my walk to work – heavenly

 

I’ve had to say lots and lots of goodbyes recently, so luckily I have tons of petits plaisirs to keep me going! What are some of your favorites?

ps. “like” my facebook page?

it’s like a fairytale

So, As soon as I arrived in this wonderworld, all I kept saying to myself was, “this is so freakishly-fairytale-quaint and adorable I want to be sick”. I joined the tourist masses while drifting dreamily through Bruges, Belgium. While some couples were arm in arm in a boat, sneaking kisses under bridges, I was cuddling with my ample supply of belgian chocolate.  Don’t worry, I soon left my cyncial side behind and embraced my inner pretty-pretty princess while visiting the magic city.

Bruges charmed me with it’s tiny stone bridges lined with whispy willows, listening to the sound of horses hooves clack along the stone path. I bravely climbed the harrowing steps of the Belfry, only to be welcomed by the midday choir of bells that awaited me at the top.

While wandering along the canals, I entered into one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen; and of course, Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child was conveniently perched on the side to complement the already gorgeous art and architecture in the church. I even found a little oasis down the way in the Beguinage, a convent opened in the 13th century which now houses Beneditine nuns. Just follow the bridge – it’s right under the majestic white doors.

You can walk and walk, and you won’t find one thing that breaks the fairy-tale bubble, charm oozing from the cracks of the stone walls.  No amount of mass tourism can take away from it. The adult Disneyworld for romantics and dreamers, Bruges will be sure to try your heart as well.

What’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been to?

brussels is tricky

i don’t know what to say about brussels, except man oh man did it pull a few tricks on me. I pulled into Gare Centrale, and headed right to the main attraction. The advantage to this square, over Place Stan in Nancy, is that Belgium strategically placed waffle shops in every alley leading to the main place, making you think you are in a whimsical butter filled sugar dream. Darn you, waffles!

Ok Belgium, you have waffles. Whatever. But then you found my weakness, chocolate. I mean, there’s a chocolate store every other window. How can I say no?!

Luckily, just as soon as I feel guilty about eating french fries and chocolate for lunch, I got to the Magritte museum, where I question the existence of fries in general. I even might have scribbled down the word “fries” next to a picture of an apple. Where are you now, Belgium?

The best part about Brussels was trying to find my bus back to Paris. Leaving myself an ample 45 minutes of leeway, I nearly missed it, because I was lost in the ‘hood surrounding Gare du Midi, and everytime I asked someone for help in French they asked me if I spoke English. Yay diversity!

final score: 3-1 belgium

round two: bruges v. me (the underdog)

la bd

Brussels is famous for it’s comic strips – “le pays des Schtroumpfs et de Tintin,” or Smurfs and Tintin (also home of the Frenchie’s beloved Lucky Luke). I didn’t even go on the tour or to the museum – these are just some comics I saw popping up around town! It added a definite funk to the city’s backdrop.

Have you been to Brussels?

Van Gogh Tour

After renting a bike in Amsterdam and nearly dying a few too many times (bike traffic does not mix with lost tourists), I was loving this leisurely Sunday stroll through Nuenen, near Eindhoven. Van Gogh here lived here for two years, and it’s where one of his most famous early-works, the Potato Eaters, was painted. I have followed Van Gogh through Auvers-sur-Oise, where he died, and in the south of France in Arles and St. Remy (where he chopped off his ear!), so I was excited to see some of his young-life inspiration. We took a little tour of his village by bike.

Above is the house where the Potato Eaters was painted! The sun was shining and I couldn’t get enough of this little village. We stopped in a cute little park and got ice cream. Everyone was out and about enjoying the beautiful day.

I even got to see a water mill; a staple of dutch culture! I love how the dutch take care to preserve traditions that were started in the Netherlands hundreds of years ago. Van Gogh painted this mill as well!

I was such a happy girl! Of course, as soon as we finished biking I made Stef take me out on his scooter, and we frolicked along in the countryside and rode along the canal.

Do I have you sold on the Netherlands yet?