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Nothing is More French than a Trip to Bordeaux

February 21, 2014 2:04 pm - Posted by Jody in Travel

Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

By: The Culture-ist, By Liz Schaffer

bordeaux 2 Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

At the turn of the 21st century, Bordeaux was in trouble. Dusty and lifeless, the once majestic stone city was crumbling. So understandably, contemporary Bordeaux feels a little like a phoenix from the ashes. With eons of soot removed from its opulent medieval churches, Baroque-era facades and Art Nouveau town houses and its once questionable docklands transformed into a playground for the hip and design conscious, Bordeaux is once again a European gem.

Bordeaux architecture Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Surrounded by the ancient vineyards of Aquitaine and one of the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage sites, Bordeaux now blends Old World elegance with cutting-edge design. It’s a classic French beauty with bite.

Timeless Bordeaux shines bright in the heart of the city. Gothic wonders sit amongst narrow streets and century old squares. There’s the St.-Andre Cathedral, which boast sword-like spires; St.-Seurin Basilica, that sits atop an ancient crypt; and the 18th century Place de la Bourse. This particular attraction comes with a modern twist. An ultra thin miroir d’eau, a haven in the heat, reflects the palace-like building, transforming traditional architecture into contemporary art.

Bordeaux food and wine Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Tradition also reigns supreme on the food and wine front. Long famed for its culinary prowess, Bordeaux has foodie treasures aplenty. Frequented by Jacques Chirac, La Tupina, and its cuisine de terroir, is both earthy and rich. Here flavours evolve, the cellar is noble, herbs hang from the ceiling and the menu is thoroughly French ““ lamb cooked for seven hours and French fries cooked in duck fat. Similarly, Chapon Fin, one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants, is a Mecca for food and history lovers. Dating back to the time of the revolution in 1789, this Art Nouveau restaurant, which comes complete with a grotto, attracted the Paris elite (who were greeted by valets in period attire) and has had Clemenceau, Sarah Bernhardt and Toulouse Lautrec dine at its tables.  Accompanied by perfectly matched wine, their degustation menu is bold, inventive and blissful.

Bordeaux vineyards Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

History also runs thick in the surrounding Chateaus and vineyards. Built largely from stone and prone to glowing in the sunlight, these building, and their wineries, are both imposing and beautiful and come complete with manicured gardens and rich aromas. Wineries can only be visited by appointment so it’s best to join a tour. BordoVino offers small trips with young, wine-loving guides who know the area’s history, impart their wine tasting knowledge (one must see, smell, swirl, smell and savour) and hold rather unconventional degrees.

Bordeaux galleries Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

It’s the converted docks alone that prove Bordeaux is no longer “˜La Belle Endormie’. Here an old warehouse the once housed German submarines now hold regular art exhibitions, Le Garage Moderne, a junk filled hanger, doubles as a contemporary art gallery and Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain, which collects the works of contemporary artists, take to heart Bordeaux’s modern sensibility. The piece de la modern resistance is Seeko’o Hotel. With a jagged white exterior that plays with light and shadow, high design décor, electric gadgetry aplenty, mirrored ceilings and a chic air, a night spent here feels like a night spent in a living art instillation. This unorthodox urban landmark proves that Bordeaux can do contemporary. And it can do it remarkably well.

liz shaffer 150x150 Insight: Bordeaux, the French PhoenixAbout the Writer

Liz Schaffer is an Australian-born freelance travel writer and photographer who set up in London hoping to live behind a blue door and fall in love with famous faces. When not pounding the pavements of Notting Hill she’s lost in Antarctica, climbing hills in Patagonia, swimming in the Adriatic and eating her way around Italy. Her work has appeared in Yen Magazine, International Traveller, Sublime, Lost in London and Australian Traveller. Read her articles on her personal blog: http://lizschaffer.wordpress.com/

Feature Photo by  Ted Drake

All other photos by Liz Schaffer

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This article, Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix, is syndicated from The Cultureist and is posted here with permission.
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Off the Beaten Path in California Wine Country

February 17, 2014 10:58 am - Posted by Jody in Travel

It’s Time to Drink Wine (in Livermore Valley)!

Reposted by permission of Tales Told From The Road

Tom Wilmer Book

Along with my wife and friends, I’ve made many “Economic Stimulus Trips” (that means eating fine food and drinking fine wine) to California’s famous wine-making valleys:  Alexander, Napa, Russian River, and Sonoma.  I’ve traveled to some of Europe’s top wine regions like the Alsace, Burgundy, and Tuscany. And in October I had a grand time at British Columbia’s Okanagan Wine Festival.But guess what long-time wine producing region, not far from my home, I’ve never, ever, ever, set foot in? If you said “Livermore Valley”, you would be right.  And what’s amazing about my failure to get there is that the very first wine I drank when I came to California back in 1968 was Pinot Chardonnay from the family-owned Wente Vineyards which has been in business since 1883.

The Wine Seeker’s Guide to Livermore Valley by travel writer Thomas C. Wilmer is going to change all of that.  This guidebook to one of California’s “hidden” wine destinations covers Wente (page 141 of Tom’s book) and thirty-nine other wineries.  The names of three are particularly intriguing to me:  Darcie Ken Vineyards & Underdog Wine Bar (I always think of myself as an “underdog”), Longevity Wines (I’ll drink to a long life drinking wine!), and The Singing Winemaker (has Elvis entered the winery building?).

But since man (nor woman) cannot live by wine tasting alone, Tom has included an extensive “Things to Do and See” section at the end of the book with these headings:

  • Shops & Wine Bars (Niles Canyon Railway’s Wine Tasting on Wheels” sounds like the way to go)
  • Events (I worked at a wine country cooking school, so the Taste of Terroir:  Livermore Valley’s Wine & Food Experience has got me salivating)
  • Theater (the Livermore Shakespeare Festival is much closer to my home than the similar theater extravaganza that I often attend in Southern Oregon)
  • Activities (I like to go day-hiking, and this guidebook lists several trails and parks in the Livermore area)
  • Places to See (the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the long-burning Centennial Light Bulb at Fire Station #6 will appeal to “high energy” fans)
  • Golf (best to try making par on Wente’s Greg Norman designed course before you begin wine tasting)
  • Restaurants (stay to dine at Wente after your round of golf, or play bocce ball and then eat at Campo di Bocce)
  • Lodging (major hotel chains, the stylish Rose Hotel, or the rustic Purple Orchid Inn Resort & Spa)
  • Visitors Resources (contact information for the local wine growers association, visitor & convention bureau, and chambers of commerce)
  • Towns (a brief description of the region’s seven towns and Livermore Valley American Viticultural area)

Now that Northern California’s damp and stormy winter has blown away and spring has arrived, I’m excited about using The Wine Seeker’s Guide to Livermore Valley to plan my next wine tasting excursion.  Since it’s also available in a Kindle version, I could read the e-book on my PC and highlight those wineries and other places I want visit on my first trip, then leave my printed version at home and refer to my Kindle notes using my iPhone.  (Thanks to Tom Wilmer for providing me with a review copy of  his guidebook).

(Tom Wilmer got into journalism as a copy boy for the West Coast edition of the The Wall Street Journal.  Since then his travels around the globe have racked up more miles than two trips to the Moon—the one place he hasn’t been yet—and back.  His Audiolog travel programs have aired on Central California NPR affiliate radio stations for over twenty years. Now you can find him on YouTube (as in this clip about Livermore Valley wineries), too. Tom and Dick Jordan are both members of Bay Area Travel Writers.)

 

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Drinking it Up Downunder

February 7, 2014 1:29 pm - Posted by Jody in Travel

Guide to Planning a Road Trip to the Best Vineyards in Australia

By: Authors at WickedGoodTravelTips.com

Too often, visitors to Australia see only the main attractions, missing the amazing views of the more rural countryside. One of the best ways to truly experience the sights, sounds, and flavors Australia has to offer, is to go on a vineyard themed road trip across the outback.

Australia Vineyard Road Trip

Over the last decade, Australian wines have gained popularity around the globe with new vinicultures starting every year. Those interested in independently traveling through the wine producing areas of Australia should plan a road trip that lingers at vineyard tours. While there are over 60 designated wine regions on the Australian continent, it is recommended that you focus on the largest wine valleys, where tourism is more prominent, and vineyards regularly offer tours, and other accommodations are readily available.

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley Vineyard

Yarra Valley is located just 38 miles east of Melbourne. Road tripping through the Yarra Valley insures a unique view of the Dandenong mountain range. The area is cool year round, and is home to more than 50 distinct wineries. It is considered the fastest growing wine district in all of Australia.

The area’s most prestigious winery, the Domaine Chadon, offers tours from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm daily. Wines for tasting can be procured by the flute, or by the bottle, and guests can meander through the bottling area, and the riddling cellar. For those who wish to linger in the area, accommodations can found at Melbourne, and a total of 20 vineyards can be easily visited as day trips, each of which allow wine tasting in their cellars.

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Vineyard Mt Pleasant

Hunter Valley is located 114 miles north of Sydney. It sets in the long river bottoms of the Hunger River, largely considered the most fertile area of Australia. Some of the best white and red wines in the world come from this region, which has been known for its viniculture since the 1800s. The valley is home to more than 80 wineries, each set in the midst of growing farmlands.

Anyone who visits Hunter Valley should take the time to visit Rothbury estates, at lower hunter. The staff offers free tours of winemaking at every stage of its development, and offers free tastings of Shiraz.

Barossa Valley

Barossa Valley Vineyard

The Barossa, located 28 miles northeast of Adelaide, is home to half of Australia’s wineries. The area was settled by German immigrants in the 1840s, who had brought their own vines, and vinicultural style with them. They recognized the promise of Barossa’s shallow valley soil, and immediately started making traditional German wines, which have made the valley famous.

Those road tripping through the valley should take the time to visit Angaston, one of Barossa’s oldest, and most respected wineries. Their tours will give visitors a sample of German wines, like Riesling, Frontigac, and Grenache, as well as German hospitality and culture that is still palpable in the area.

The sights that can be experienced when driving across the Australian countryside are endless and unparalleled. Go to The Australian Informational Website at http://www.auinfo.com/australia_wine_regions.htm for more information about Australia’s unique landscape, and the ways it has embraced viticulture to create vineyards nestled into quiet pastoral passageways, and busy business centers.

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About The Author:  Elizabeth Bailey is an avid travel blogger. She loves combining an outback driving adventure with a bit of wine tasting and cheap overnight stays.  Visit Expedia Australia for more information about car rentals.
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Photo Credits – Flickr cc: #1 Lina Hayes, #2 Crafterm, #3 Diane Byrne, #4 GOC53

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Did you know…

December 20, 2011 11:21 am - Posted by Jody in Drink, Learn

According to the California Wine Institute, 14 million people visit the California Wine Region a year!

Some additional California wine facts:

  • There are 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in California (of the 188 AVAs in the US)
  • There are over 60,000 registered California wine labels
  • 90% of US wine exports are from California
  • 42% of this exported wine is shipped to the European Union
  • In 2010, the U.S. surpassed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation.  Total consumption increased by 2% from the previous year, to nearly 330 cases of wine!
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