Friday, August 31, 2007

La Fin

We wrapped up our trip with three days in Avignon, best known for the Palais de Papes, occupied by the pope when Avignon was in Roman hands during the 12th century. Avignon is also the capitol of the Cotes du Rhone region de vin, home of some of my favorite wines, consisting of syrah and grenache grapes, and sometimes other varieties like mouvedre or carignon.

We had a nice one at a wonderful restaurant one night with a four course meal. I had hazelnut rabbit pate with carmelized onions followed by pork cutlets in a mango sauce, followed by fresh cow cheese and completed with a flourless chocolate cake drizzled with a coffee cocoa reduction. All for only 25 euros. Remind me why I live in the US?

Right now we're on our way to Paris, where we have a 15 hour journey--9 of which wll be in the air--ahead of us. The kids have been great, aside from their to-be-expected unpleasantness at being woken up at 6am this morning.

See you soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Last stop

Leaving Genolhac, arriving in Avignon.....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Les dernier jours

Ah, the end of summer in the mountains.....

Temperatures have hovered around 85 degrees the past couple of days, so we've retreated to a nearby river for both of them, having a picnic and a swim. Its been perfectly lazy.

Meals are a magnificent part of every visit to France. Last night Michele--Flo's step mother, just to keep you in the loop--made gambas avec encornet, two fruits de la mer, shrimp with calamari. Wine was brought by a visiting husband of Michele's cousin's mom. Yup, that's right. Lots of family stop by for a meal, including many kids to meet each other and begin forming relationships.

Back to the wine. It was an ever transforming 2000 cabernet-syrah-carignon blend from Coteaux de Languedoc. Served from 750ml bottles filled from a 3 liter bottle, it was by far the best wine of the trip, taking on an almost orange hue, and tasting similar to a great pinot. Surprisingly, it went well with the seafood platter, which was cooked flambee au pastis.

Another lazy day today. Les enfants had a ride on Jean-Louis' tractor down to the river to pick apples and look at the sheep. Exciting for all.

Tomorrow we head to Avignon to spend our final days in France with Flo's mom and brother, before returning to Les Etats-Unis.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Journey

It would be easy to stay put, and just enjoy the scenery outside the kitchen door. A pleasant river meanders through the mountains not far from the house, plenty of trails offer themselves to us throughout the forest, and of course there is family to spend time with, playing cards, preparing meals and chatting together.

And not to mention that the boys tend to get car sick everytime we go out.

But yesterday we took our motion sickness medicine and ventured out into the surrounding countryside. (Needless to say it didn't kick in in time, and both Adrian and Dylan spilled their breakfast all over the car. Yummy.)

Our destination was the village where Jean-Louis, Flo's dad, was selling his honey, as well as the wares of other farmers in the area. We first stopped by and had a look at his bee hives, then had a wonderful lunch of coq-au-vin at a restaurant next to the market. Meals in France typically take a couple hours and this was no exception.

After taking in desert and cafe, we went in search of Jean-Louis' horse, who was spending her summer roaming the mountains above the village of Vialas. We didn't find the horse, but the views and smells were incredible.

We returned home around 6pm, and slothed about for a few hours, recovering from the days' journey. Today we're heading to the river for a picnic, and hopefully a swim if the weather holds. Never a dull moment in Cevennes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bush beer

I haven't posted any exclusive beer reviews, so I figured it was time.

Bush was a great beer, unlike the one that is in charge of our country. Listed as the strongest Belgian beer ever, coming in at 12 percent, it indeed packs a punch. However, you have to be careful as it is so smooth and full of caramel, you can easily get lost in a bottle. I guess its good the bottles are only 25 cl, because that's all you need.

I'll be back soon with more accounts of my travels....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chateau de Portes

One of the requirements when visiting France is to visit at least one castle. The north has few remaining castles from the medievil ages, most of them having been reduced to rubble in the various wars that have plagued Europe. So, the south is the place to go to see castles, and fortunately for us, we're spending a fair amount of time there.

The closest castle to Genolhac is Chateau de Portes, started in the 11th century, and finished in the 17th, with the marquis having the image of a ship in mind when he constructed the final building--the only one like it in France.

It and the town of Portes were built on a sea of coal, which was heavily mined during Les Guerres Mondiales, resulting in the subtle yet devastating sinkage of both town and castle. The town was eventually razed and rebuilt, with the benefit of coal outweighing the cost of rebuilding. The castle, on the other hand, was left to deteriorate with vandals assistance. Only in the last 30 years or so have countless volunteers aided in its reconstruction. Its a small but magnificent chateau, located high in the mountains of Cevennes, and one is easily reminded of the battles that likely took place here many years ago.

(BTW, that's my brother-in-law Simon giving his approval to my photo.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parfums and gouts

Ahh, the sweet smells of pine and herbs has replaced salt and sand. The rain and chilly weather of our first couple days in Cevennes has left, and now sun and warmth has arrived.

There are lots of wonderful cooks in the Dubaille famille, including Flo's half brother Sylvain, who's studying to be a chef, and practices on his family. I can't say I am complaining. Our first night here, he prepared an amazing meal of tartare salmon, and for lunch yesterday we had rabbit (raised and subsequently killed right here) simmered in a cream and mustard sauce. Um yeah. Incredible. I've told Sylvain he can stay at our house when he's done with his studies and I'll help him find a job in Minnesota. Ya got any leads?

Of course all of all meals have been accompanied by great wines, and some good beers. Sylvain and Simon, Flo's step brother, is a fan of Belgian beers as well, so unique brews fill our glasses regularly. Leffe and 3 Monts and Kwak. I'm getting thirsty already.

Monday, August 20, 2007

La prochaine etape

We wrapped up phase deux of the trip on the island, where the stay at Les Joyeux, a complex of petite maisons where many of Flo's relatives live, completed with a grande fete for my birthday. Nothing could have made me happier. I prepared a wonderful meatloaf to share, and contributed two bottles of homebrew, which were enjoyed by all, along side some great wine.

After dinner we sat around and drank some simple Spanish beer brought by--surprise, some friends visiting from Spain--and played the guitar and sang songs. I did neither, until Ricky shocked us when he busted out "Smile" by the Jayhawks. Apparently, they get quite a bit of airplay in Spain, and tour there regularly.

We're on the train now, outside of Marseille, on the way to Flo's father's house in the mountains of Cevennes. He has some sheep, a couple horses, rabbits and chickens, an impressive garden, and what he makes a living from, bee hives. Its hard to leave the paradise of Porquerolles, but the hospitality and amazing vistas near Genolhac are always looked forward to.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jealous?

Another day in France, another day at the beach....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A la plage

Not much time--well plenty of time, but not much interest--in sending emails to Blogger! I'll try to be better about bringing my phone to the beach with me, but as you can see I'm a little preoccupied.....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Les premier jours

Stage one of our trip is complete and we're headed south now for the beautiful island of Porquerolles.

Our stays at my wife's aunt and uncle's are always filled with amazing meals (as is most of the trip) and unique wine. We had a great 2001 Aix en Provence Chateau Beauferan, and an equally impressive Nuits Saint Georges premier cru from 1993. If I was as well versed in the nuances of wine as I am in beer, I could tell you about the undertones of coffee and plum, but I'm not. I can only tell you that I enjoyed them immensely.

I also picked up some beer from the region, which is located outside of Paris near the town of Fontainebleau. It was a dark ale, that actually did have undertones of coffee. It was a perfect fall beer, perfect considering the weather was a bit chilly for August. I can't say I was as impressed with the beer I got from Brittany, but then France is known for its wine, and it must be difficult competing with Belgium.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Blogging France

I'll be in France for a little bit. I hope to figure out this mobile blogging thing, and keep you updated about all the sights, sounds, and most importantly, the tastes of the french country side!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Stone is ruining my life

On a recent trip through Colorado, my friend Valerie calls me. "Hey, we're on our way out of Colorado. Should I pick you up some beer?"

Um, hell yeah!

So I just finished my second Stone Ruination IPA, one of the great--if not the best--West Coast IPAs. Despite over 100 IBUs and approaching 8% abv with the alcohol and hops slamming into you at first, it totally balances out into...orange-ish caramel? Centennial hops maybe? Whatever. It was good. Even though it supposedly ruins your palate (get it? Ruination IPA?), I thought it was an extremely smooth and drinkable double IPA, at the same time pushing the edge of smooth and drinkable. Very nice.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Discin' Surly

A good time and lots of good beer was had by all at the first "Leave Your Balls at Home--Surly Disc Golf Open." The course at Hyland Ski Area kicked my ass, especially considering I hadn't played in about 3 years. Thankfully the free beer along the holes made the trek manageable.
Cheers to Omar and the Surly crew for a helluva event!

Steve Kelley for....

While I've been brewing, apparently Steve Kelley has been busy plotting his next move. A news letter from the former state senator and statewide candidate arrived in my e-mail in-box today, informing me of Kelley's new endeavors, and his need to retire his debt.

Not surprisingly, Kelley continues to be involved in public policy at the Humphrey Institute, as the new director of the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy, as well as working on K-12 reform. He remains one of my favorite candidates for whatever he runs for.