Someone's In The Kitchen With Claudia
As promised, you've got me, Priscilla, writing a post today. If you've been keeping up on our adventures, you know that we reconnected on the first day in Paris, with our friend and chef, Claudia Cabri. Claudia is a Canadian who moved to Paris twenty-some years ago for art school and never left. She runs a popular food stall called Babbaluscio, in the covered market, Marché Beauvau, in our neighborhood. On Thursdays, Claudia takes online orders from customers and then is a whirlwind in the kitchen for the next two days preparing beautiful and nourishing food. When her new menu came out on Tuesday, I took one look at it and remarked to Tom that it was incredibly ambitious! I messaged Claudia straight away to let her know I was available to help her in the kitchen if needed. Early Friday morning, we got a message from Claudia taking me up on my offer! As it turns out, she was going to be shorthanded that week. Lucky me, I worked Friday and Saturday and I had a ball!
Again, you don't read about these opportunities in the guidebooks. How fortunate to be allowed to assist a gifted chef and friend in her kitchen at one of the oldest covered markets in all of Paris! I chopped rhubarb and strawberries for compote, formed veggie balls, washed and peeled carrots for Claudia's famous carrot salad, peeled and sliced pears and figs for strudel and washed a few pots and pans in between. On Saturday, Marie, a young college student and a family friend, also assisted in the kitchen, and the three of us prepared, cooked, and packaged a ton of lovely food! I will not be hired as a sous chef anytime soon, but as Jimmy Stewart says, I was a steady worker. Claudia is the Queen of creative food and it shows by the constant stream of customers all day long.
This is our last week with Claudia before she heads off to her Italian island south of Sicily for a month of rejuvenation, painting her beautiful designs for pottery, harvesting capers and perhaps some menu planning for customers eagerly awaiting her return. Merci, Claudia! Until we meet again!
And The Band Played On
I was all set to write about my walkabout yesterday in the Buttes Chaumont Park when I got a text from Priscilla telling me I should bring my camera down to the market because there was a band playing. Not wanting to miss this, I dropped what I was doing and hustled on down to the market with camera in hand.
It was quite a scene at the market. The band members were dressed in all sorts of crazy outfits. More members would show up as if out of nowhere. A good-sized crowd had assembled to enjoy the band's playing. Kids and adults were moving to the music, no one more so than the colorful fellow with the jester's cap, whom our friend Claudia lovingly calls Mr. Rainbow. He is a regular at her stall. I've included a short video clip to give you feel for the environment.
Experiences like this don't ever show up in the guidebooks because you can't plan on them. They just happen. But when we are back at home, it's these type of spontaneous "brass-band experiences" that linger in our memories. I suppose that's why we aren't terribly focused on planning out our days. Of course, being in Paris for a longer stretch gives us the flexibility to not have to plan our time tightly.
I'll have to write another post telling you about the Buttes Chaumont Park. Plus, Priscilla has a post to write telling you about her experiences helping Claudia out at her stall. I guarantee you that will be interesting.
This is one of my photowalk blog posts, short on text and long on photos. Since it was a beautiful, overcast fall day here and we had nothing else planned, I decided to take a walk to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery while Priscilla relaxed back at the flat. It's just over a one mile walk from our flat, taking you through the 12th & 11th arrondissements and into the 20th, where the cemetery is located.
The fall colors at Père Lachaise were gorgeous. We'd experienced a morning rain shower, so the colors were super saturated. As I walked through the cemetery, it dawned on me that the feeling I had walking around Père Lachaise was much the same as when I walk through the Big Woods of Minnesota. When I'm in the woods I'm keenly aware of the cycle of life, just as I was when walking Père Lachaise. I don't mean this in any kind of a morbid sense. Really it's more of a peaceful feeling.
The parallels between Père Lachaise and the Big Woods carried forward into my photography. In the woods you have to pay close attention to how your image is playing out in the third dimension. The same holds true for photographing at Père Lachaise. The image unfolds as you move from foreground to background.
Père Lachaise is the eternal home to some notable people, including Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf. I managed to find both of their graves. The crowds were light today, so I didn't have to jockey for position to make these photos. There was a small group at Jim Morrison's grave and only a couple folks at Edith Piaf's.
I enjoyed everything about my photowalk today. Priscilla and I plan to go back another day, taking advantage of the Metro to reduce the walking to and from, leaving us plenty of time and energy to walk the huge cemetery.
P.S. As a side benefit of my walk today to Père Lachaise, I happened upon a wonderful looking Kurdish restaurant that is situated on one of the tiny alleyways that Paris is known for. We plan to go check it out some night.
Comings and Goings
It's been several days since I've posted, so you'll have to excuse me for the lengthy update coming your way. This past weekend we took the train to Nantes to spend the weekend with Anna. We had a marvelous time. It was so great to see Anna in her home here in France that she loves so very much. As a parent, it's a fabulous thing to see your child making their way in the world on their own. We started our time in Nantes with a walking tour of the riverfront area with Anna and her friend Kira, whom she met through her study abroad program with IES. The Japanese gardens on the small island of the Île de Versailles were exceptional.
Eventually we said our goodbyes to Kira and made our way back to our hotel where Anna and Priscilla relaxed while I did a photowalk throughout Nantes. As I walked about Nantes I was amazed at how pedestrian friendly it is. Most of the downtown streets are either pedestrian only or only allow limited vehicle traffic, at low speeds. Consequently you can walk all around downtown Nantes in a completely relaxed manner. In many ways Nantes reminds Priscilla and me of Oslo, Norway, another super friendly city for pedestrians.
For dinner that night Anna picked out a traditional French brasserie, La Cigale, which is located on the beautiful plaza in front of the opera house. We had a wonderful dinner, topped off with yummy desserts. It's a great help having a French speaker at the table when ordering at a French restaurant.
On Saturday, Priscilla and I were on our own, as Anna was on a day trip to Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel with her IES cohort. We were surprised to see the huge market right next to the tram stop (the tram system is called TAN). The market is one of those that sells practically everything. After walking through the market, we caught the TAN out to see the Jardin des Plantes. We were super impressed with the Jardin des Plantes. It is beautifully taken care of and is laid out in a thoughtful manner.
After the Jardin des Plantes, Priscilla and I made our way to one of Anna's favorite coffeeshops for a light lunch. We chose to sit outdoors at the sidewalk tables because, well, isn't that what you do in France! Soon we saw a crowd approaching at the far end of the street. The shop owner said that they were anti-vax protesters. Not feeling like being in close contact with a large crowd of anti-vaxxers, we decided to move indoors. I did step out to capture a photograph of the protesters, who were peaceful, albeit a bit noisy.
After lunch we made our way to the other end of Nantes to visit the Jules Verne museum, which sits way up on a hill overlooking the port of Nantes. On our return trip from the museum we opted to take advantage of the TAN to lighten the walking load. For dinner that night we chose a close-in restaurant recommended by the front desk at our hotel, the Bistro 7. Their website didn't offer online reservations, so I had to call them. Soon after the man answered from the restaurant, I knew we were in for an adventure in French. He didn't speak a lick of English. Google Translate came to the rescue. We ended our conversation with me being not quite 100% sure we actually had a reservation for 7:30 that night. Regardless, when the time came we set out for our restaurant. Once there we realized that nobody there spoke any English, so with the help of Google Translate we figured out the menu and made our order. We were definitely treated to a traditional French bistro meal in a locals-only environment. We had a great time.
On Sunday we met up with Anna and started our day with a visit to the Château des Ducs Bretagne, an impressive castle that dates from the 15th century. The views of Nantes from the ramparts were beautiful.
After finding some lunch, we returned to the hotel. Anna and Priscilla had some R&R and I went out on another photowalk of the area around our hotel. When out walking, I enjoy heading down alleys and dead ends. That's where I often find some of the most interesting subjects to photograph.
The definite highlight of our time in Nantes was the dinner Sunday night with Anna and her host family. We had a delightful evening with Cedrick, Florence and their family. Anna loves her host family. We were amazed at how comfortable Anna was in speaking French and engaging with the family. The conversation was free flowing all night, sometimes in English, sometimes in French. At one point, Anna was trying to explain something to me and she looked right at me and started rattling something off in French. When she saw the puzzled look in my eyes she caught herself and we all had a good laugh. We took it as a great sign that it was becoming natural for Anna to speak French. Before dinner we enjoyed figs from their backyard along with cheeses. Dinner was a traditional French shepherd pie called a Hachis Parmentier. Then came the cheese course. Dessert was fresh pears with ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce and almond slivers. At night's end, we enjoyed chestnuts roasted in the fireplace in their living room. It was a truly magical evening. Cédric mentioned that this is the first time they've gotten to meet the family of an IES student they are hosting. Anna is the third they've hosted.
The next day, Monday, Priscilla and I made our way back to Paris in time to greet our niece, Maddie, on her return from her trip to Switzerland. Maddie had one more day with us in Paris before heading back to Minnesota on Wednesday. Maddie and Priscilla got some gift shopping in on Tuesday. We also took Maddie on the obligatory walk on the Coulée Verte, one of the stars of the 12th arrondissement.
Lunch Tuesday was at a brasserie near our flat we've been wanting to try, Le Square Trousseau. I think we've found our new neighborhood bistro. The service was excellent and the food delicious. I had escargot for the very first time. Our waiter was a bit concerned I might be put off by the little squiggly buggers, but he needn't have worried. I absolutely loved them! Maddie tried one too and immediately became a fan.
This morning we had an early wakeup to get some tasty treats from Blé Sucré on the table for Maddie's last breakfast in Paris. We bade her farewell when her Uber ride arrived at 9 a.m. I think today will be a quiet one around here for Priscilla and me. I'll probably get out for a walk, but otherwise it'll be low-key around here.
It just dawned on me that we are at the halfway point of our time here in Paris...four weeks in with four weeks to go. The time is going by so quickly.
The Luxembourg Gardens At Golden Hour
Yesterday Priscilla and I decided to take in the Vivian Maier photography exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg. We are both great admirers of her photography. The exhibit is quite extensive and the quality of the prints is exceptional.
Afterward, on a whim, we decided to take a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. This was our first time there. We had no idea how amazing this place is.
We entered the park right at the beginning of the golden hour. The late day fall sunlight gave an otherworldly glow to everyone and everything it touched. It seemed that all of Paris was in the Luxembourg Gardens this day, perhaps playing chess, or engaging in a tennis match, or simply soaking up the sun.
As a photographer who loves photographing people, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had great light and fantastic subjects who weren’t paying any attention to me. I’m guessing we’re about a week or two away from peak fall color here, so we will definitely be back to the Luxembourg Gardens. Today we are off on the train to Nantes to visit Anna for the weekend. More on that later.
A Walk In The Park
After seeing our travelers off to their various destinations, yesterday was supposed to be an R&R day for Priscilla and me, but if you know me well you'll know that I don't sit well. So, on a whim, I decided to check out the massive Bois de Vincennes (woods of Vincennes) park that is close to the eastern terminus of the #1 Metro line, the Chateau de Vincennes stop.
As I told Priscilla when I set out, I didn't have high expectations for this park, since you don't tend to read of it in any of the guidebooks, and the reference I found in Wikipedia said the park was known for prostitution after dark. But since I had nothing else planned for the day and was eager to see some fall color in this huge wooded park not too far from us, I set out after lunch. After getting off the #1 Metro at the Chateau de Vincennes station, I walked about half a mile or so through a not so promising looking area that was bounded by the long-of-tooth and walled-off Chateau de Vincennes on one side and the forbidding looking Fort Neuf military base on the other. Eventually I came upon the large Parc Floral de Paris sign at the entrance. The Parc Floral de Paris is located within the Bois de Vincennes. At this point, my expectations were still measured.
Well, I'll get straight to the punch line. My expectations were utterly and completely blown out of the water by the Parc Floral de Paris. Once I got further into the park, I realized that this was not your garden variety floral park (pun intended). Initially I came upon a large wooded area filled with all manner of playground equipment with children playing on them. It seemed around every corner in the woods you'd come upon another set of playground equipment, for all different age groups. Then I found an extensive high-ropes course where a group of young adults were zip-lining across the forest canopy and stair-stepping through the forest in midair. As if that weren't enough, there is a beautiful, glass-walled art gallery on the grounds.
But nothing prepared me for the dahlia gardens. I followed a sign pointing me in that direction, knowing that Priscilla would want reports, I soon came to learn how this park got its name. I entered into one of the largest flower gardens I've ever seen, dedicated strictly to dahlias. Actually there were multiple gardens strung together. The dahlias were in full bloom, with a riot of color everywhere you looked. I knew in an instant that Priscilla and I had to come back while these dahlias are still in bloom.
Originally I went to the Bois de Vincennes in search of fall color. Yes, I saw some fall color, but I was treated to a whole lot more than that in the Parc Floral de Paris. This park is like a giant wooded playground for young and old alike. It just goes to show that you can make the most amazing discoveries when you get off the well-worn tourist path.
P.S. Later in the day, our friend Claudia told us that there is a special area in the Bois de Vincennes where people walk around in the nude. The signage directing you to that area refers to "Naturists". It's a good thing I didn't come upon that sign, because I surely would have followed it, thinking of myself as one who enjoys nature.
A Fun Few Days
We've had a busy few days here since we last checked in. On Saturday, while Roberta and Maddie were off and about, we spent time with Anna just bumming around our neighborhood and lazing at the flat. She got to meet our friend Claudia at her food stall. We also introduced Anna to the Coulée Verte, which she loved. Later that night, Anna and Maddie attended a 70s/80s themed costume birthday party at Maddie's friend's flat in the 11th, not too far from here. We oldsters didn't wait up for them.
Sunday was a lazy day for the Northenscolds. Roberta and Maddie meanwhile went to see Saint Chapelle, which they came back from with glowing reports. I helped get Anna and Maddie off to the Montparnasse rail station for their train to Nantes. Roberta took in the Louvre in the morning and then met Priscilla and me at the Pompidou Centre for the fabulous Georgia O'Keefe special exhibit.
This was our first time to the Pompidou. We both loved it...the permanent exhibits and the special O'Keefe exhibit. As usual, we didn't have enough time to take it all in. But what we saw we were impressed with. We will definitely come back. I'd like to see the photography exhibits. Plus, the view of Paris from the sixth level is stunning. We made it back from the Pompidou in time for some late afternoon snacks and a dinner cooked up by Priscilla that we lovingly call garbage pail pasta. Ask Priscilla to explain it to you sometime.
Today we started with a visit to the amazing Jacques Genin chocolate shop in the Marais so Roberta could pick up some treats to bring home. Next we made our way to our favorite Paris restaurant, Mokonuts, for a wonderful and relaxing lunch at Roberta's treating. Mokonuts is less than half a mile from our flat, so it's an easy walk. After our leisurely lunch, Roberta and Priscilla headed back over to Place des Vosges in the Marais to visit Priscilla's favorite scarf shop, Sous Le Sable.
Later tonight I'll be meeting Maddie at her train at Montparnasse, as she returns from her trek to western France. She heads off to Switzerland tomorrow to visit another good friend from her study abroad. We will also bid a fond farewell to Roberta, who makes her return flight to Minnesota tomorrow. It has been so much fun having guests this week. It will sure seem mighty quiet around here after everyone leaves.
Travelers From Afar
We've got a full house here at 2 Rue Charles Baudelaire this week. On Thursday, my sister-in-law, Roberta, and our niece, Maddie, arrived from Minnesota, and then on Friday Anna arrived by train from Nantes. Roberta and Maddie's first day was a laid back affair, giving them time to rest and work through their jet lag. We did manage to get over to the Marché Aligre though.
On Friday it was all about museums and walking. I helped get Roberta and Maddie to D'Orsay and then once I got back to our flat I turned around and made my way to the massive Montparnasse train station to meet Anna. After a bit of fumbling around to connect in that huge place, Anna and I met up and then made our way back to our flat to pick up Priscilla and make our way to the Picasso Museum, where we were to meet Roberta and Maddie. Whew! Even writing that all out it sounds exhausting.
After the Picasso Museum we took a walking tour of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, making our way through the Jewish Quarter and the Marais and then crossing over onto Île Saint-Louis and then Île Citie and Notre Dame. There is a display documenting the restoration efforts on the barriers that wall off access. It is an incredible undertaking. There are also reproductions of drawings of Notre Dame from school children around the country.
After Notre Dame continued on to the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Priscilla and I waited outside while the other three shoppers had a wonderful shopping experience inside. We enjoyed the buskers, Matthew and Paul. Priscilla chatted them up (surprise, surprise!) and found out Matthew was originally from New York and Paul was from Kentucky. They live in Paris now. I have to wonder how people make that happen. After all, one doesn't just up and move to Paris. The French government has more than a few rules about such matters.
We finished out the evening with a wonderful dinner at a favorite neighborhood bistro in the Marais, Chez Mademoiselle. Initially we were told that they were all full up, but once we said we'd be fine sitting outside they were happy to seat us. I suppose only us crazy Minnesotans would sit outside on a cool fall night. We must have started something though, because by the time we left at around 9:30, the entire sidewalk patio was filled. The owner, Felix, was a fabulous host for our group. Being a handsome Frenchman, with long wavy hair, didn't hurt his popularity with our group.
All in all, it was a full-fledged Parisian day, with a lot of miles worth of wear on shoes. My iPhone told me I'd walked just over 10 miles by the time we got back to our flat. Toward the end of our tour we supplemented our walking by taking the Metro a couple times. We all needed to rest our feet and joints.
Today, Roberta, Maddie, and Anna took a Giverny tour, returning with rave reviews. The gift shop there rang up record sales I expect from these three. Later today, Roberta and Maddie are planning to visit Sacré Coeur. And finally, this evening Maddie and Anna are planning to attend a 70s and 80s themed costume birthday party for a friend of Maddie's that she met on her study abroad in Italy. We oldsters are definitely not waiting up for them.
A Weekend at Royaumont Abbey
We first read of the Royaumont Abbey in the book by Annabel Simms entitled, "An Hour From Paris". The abbey was originally founded in the 13th century by King Louis IX and served as a Cistercian abbey until it was declared national property during the French Revolution and eventually sold. After going through a few different incarnations, it returned to its original purpose as an abbey in the 19th century. In the early 20th century it was sold to private owners. During World War I it served as a hospital. In the 1930s the owners turned the abbey into a residence for artists to work and rest. In 1964 the Royaumont Abbey Foundation was established, and since then the estate has served as an important center for the arts.
It was our good fortune that the Royaumont Festival was taking place through October 3. This is a major music and dance festival with performances by the artists in residence. The concert scheduled for Saturday evening was by a small baroque string ensemble, Le Consort, along with soprano and bass soloists. The abbey has an offering called A Weekend at the Abbey, which includes dinner, a room in the abbey, and breakfast. Since our concert wouldn't let out until close to 11 p.m., we decided to make a weekend of it.
Getting there from Paris involved taking the Metro from the Bastille Metro station to the large Gare du Nord train station, where we caught a regional train (RER H), taking it to the terminus at Luzarches. A shuttle bus picked us up there for the 15 minute ride to the abbey. In her book, Simms wrote of a 4.5km walk to the abbey from an earlier train stop, but since it was raining hard all weekend, we are happy that we took the shuttle bus.
A three-course meal started off our weekend. We were seated in a beautiful ancient room with a vaulted ceiling. The first course was a wonderful roasted chestnut & mushroom soup, with chestnuts coming from the many chestnut trees on the grounds of the estate. The main course was fish and the dessert was a baked pear tartlet. This was a fixed menu, so you had to be willing to eat what the chef had prepared, which we definitely were. Everything was delicious.
After dinner we made our way to the Monk's Refectory for the concert. The photo above is from a rehearsal the next day being held in this space. The hall has high vaulted ceilings and lively acoustics. The pillars made finding a seat with good sight lines a bit tricky, but eventually we found seats that provided us an unobstructed view of all the performers.
The title of the concert was D'un coeur charmé, which translates to "of a charmed heart". The pieces performed were by 18th century French baroque composers–Francoeur, de Montgaultier, Bernier, Travenol, and Lefebvre. Neither of us had heard of any of these composers. Everything was sung in French, of course, but the language of love is universal, so we could figure out just when someone was being jilted or when they had just fallen head over heals in love. The soprano soloist was Gwendoline Blondeel and the bass soloist was Edwin Fardini. Along with the fabulous string ensemble, Le Consort, I'd have to say the performances were world class, from top to bottom. When you're only paying 20 Euros for tickets, you don't go in with sky-high expectations. But from the moment the first chord was struck, we knew we'd hit solid gold. The performers looked all of 25 years old, but they played and sang well beyond their years.
Our favorite place to relax at Royaumont was the cosy nooks in the cloister hallway with its vaulted ceilings. It was a rainy and blustery weekend, but in our little hideout we were as comfy as could be. The French probably figured we were crazy for sitting in such cold conditions. To us Minnesotans, it was simply perfect. We had no competition for spots.
Sunday morning, after our breakfast, we ventured out for a walk, but soon were drawn to the ethereal sounds of voices coming from the Monk's Refectory, the site of the previous night's concert. There was a rehearsal in progress of a chorale from the Normandy region. Priscilla asked about and was able to gain us entrance to the hall for five minutes to listen to the rehearsal. The sounds of the singing in that hall were absolutely gorgeous.
Although it was still raining, we decided to get out to walk the grounds and check out the gardens. The photographer in me was actually happy to be out shooting on a rainy day. Priscilla was in her element. The gardens are working gardens, not show gardens. That is exactly the type of garden we both appreciate. Priscilla especially fell in love with the marvelous fig tree in the garden of nine squares, with its beautiful lattice-work raised beds.
Our weekend at the Royaumont Abbey is a perfect example of the type of travel experience we love...something off the beaten path and distinctly unique and memorable. We're pretty sure we were the only Americans at the abbey that weekend. It was evident that the Royaumont Abbey is largely enjoyed by the French.
The afterglow from our Weekend at the Abbey has left us with wonderfully warm feelings about the experience. This was definitely one of those "pinch yourself to see if it's real" type of experiences. We will definitely be back at the Royaumont Abbey.
A Few Days En Provence
One of the areas of France we have wanted to visit is Provence. We love the wines from the region, plus we've wanted to take a French cooking class while here, so we combined both interests into a Provence getaway this week in Avignon, the capital of the Rhone region.
First up was a cooking class at Jean-Mark Villard's French Cuisine school. Jean-Marc, the chef, and his lovely wife Alice, the business manager, run this school out of their beautiful home in the village of Maubec, located 30km (18 miles) east of Avignon. Priscilla is going to take over the writing duties to tell you about Jean-Marc's class.
Jean-Marc Villard's School of French Cuisine
I asked Tom if I might write a bit in the blog about our cooking class as I thought it might be one of the highlights of our time here. I was right! Many years ago, I served on the board of Kantorei, a Twin Cities based choral ensemble. One of the singers/board members had a serious side gig teaching cooking classes in Provence. Occasionally he teaches in Julia Child's former home. Since hearing of his classes, I've always wanted to take a cooking class in Provence. While Jean-Marc and Alice's home is not Julie Child's, it is a dream of a home. I could live the rest of my life there...Hah!
The home is set in the countryside, with small vineyards, horses grazing and beautiful homes dotting the land. You enter the home through the garden and up onto a stone patio, where a table sits in the middle. Two large trees, planted close together, have been pruned and trained to grown up onto a pergola and provide enough shade for any hot day. Jean-Marc said it is now too cold to take their morning coffee out there. As Minnesotans we thought 60 degrees sounded perfect. Our taxi arrived 20 minutes late so we arrived late to our class. But thankfully everyone was very kind about our delayed arrival. Next time we will take more photos of the outside of the house.
Jean-Marc and Alice are such welcoming people. Alice took note of my caffeine habit and served me an espresso at every opportunity. As soon as I had finished my second espresso and a couple of lovely shortbread cookies, we headed off to the local co-op to do our shopping for our class. This co-op is such an amazing place. It is owned and run by the farmers that provide everything that is sold. From the vegetables and fruit to meat and fish, everything is produced by the farmers. Each farmer is required to also devote time to working in the co-op during the week. During Covid, the co-op was able to remain open and the community was able to eat and still support the farmers. Jean-Marc only shops at this co-op as everything is fresh and he knows every farmer. Nothing is wasted in the co-op. If any of the fresh food is aging, farmers will put is in a jar. Fruit is turned into jam, meat into a terrine or pâté. I couldn't help thinking of my Grandma Halsted during the war. She and my Grandpa Halsted owned a grocery store, and when the food was on the "edge", she would can it. Even if it was just a half a pint.
Alice runs the back of the house and Jean-Marc, the front end. Alice's brother, who lives on the property, assists with clean-up while cooking is going on, bussing dishes out of sight quick as a flash and returning them to duty minutes later. It is quite the operation. Jean-Marc has a lot of experience teaching in culinary schools, serving as a chef in several restaurants, and in his own cooking school which we experienced. Jean-Marc also had a stint in St. Louis, MO in the USA where he perfected his command of English. All of this to say that we had wonderful instruction. I learned so much and plan to use all of Jean-Marc's tricks to enhance my own cooking and baking. I think you get the idea that I loved this experience and plan to make a repeat visit. I'll let the photos speak for the rest.
On the second day of our time in Avignon we took in a Chateauneuf du Pape wine tour. The reds of the Chateauneuf du Pape region happen to be Priscilla's favorite. In fact, they were her entrée to red wines in general. Our tour was put on by Provence Panorama. We were in a small group of eight...a couple from Sweden, a couple from Poland and Switzerland, a couple from Tennessee (soon to be North Carolina), and us. We were amazed at how incredibly rocky the soil is in the Chateuneuf du Pape area. The harvesting is done by hand. I can imagine the field workers have to be careful not to turn an ankle on those rocks.
In all we visited five wineries, tasting wines from the Gigondas, Lirac, and Chateauneuf du Pape appellations. We stopped for an excellent three-course meal at a restaurant on site at one of the wineries. One of the happy surprises of these tastings was the white wines of the region. Because the production of white wines only comprises about 5% of the total production from the region, all of it stays in France. As our tour guide, Gilles, said, we keep the best for us. Priscilla, who tends to prefer red wines, especially enjoyed the whites from the region. We ended up buying bottles from each winery. We had no intentions of bringing any of this back to the states with us. It will all be consumed or gifted in France. I'd say our favorite red was actually a Gigondas–the 2019 Domaine Grand Romane from Pierre Amadieu. We bought two bottles of that wine.
Schlepping ten bottles of wine back on the train was not for the weak of heart, but we made it no worse for the wear. We have a short outing this weekend to the Royaumont Abbey which we will write about in an upcoming post. Then we will prepare for the Thursday arrival of guests from Minnesota, Priscilla's sister Roberta and our niece Maddie. And then on Friday our daughter Anna arrives on the train from Nantes, where she has her study abroad. She will spend the weekend with us all before heading back on Sunday.