It has been a few days since I blogged. We did not have internet at our Como location, although the town of Brunate where we stayed provided wifi in the town center. Blogging requires steady internet connection and this was not the case. More on Como/Brunate on my next blog.
In our quest to drink/taste as much French wine as possible, we planned a stop over in the “Goats do Roam” area of Provence (South East corner of France). The Rhone River is responsible for much of the development North of Marseille (which is on the Mediterranean) in the Provence region of France. That said, Liz and I felt like we were in Italy. Men established the borders of France and Italy but the towns and people of Provence are quite similar to those found just over the border. I didn’t take pictures of Aix en Provence for this blog. There seems to be two types of city in France; Medieval (established between, say 900-1500) and “Classical” (re-established between 1700 and 1900). You have seen pics of several of both of these types of cities so I spare you the repetition today.
Driving from place to place has many advantages, but the challenges exist as well. Parking and driving in bigger cities is disastrous, and for this reason, we stayed up on the hillside above Aix en Provence. This area reminded me of a cross between Shadow Hills and Cloverdale California; dry, wooded, vineyards and fruit trees. We stayed on the bottom floor of home that converted the area into a studio flat. Here are some pix that will give you a sense:
Two shots of the yard (about an acre) from various directions:
The pool. They had a pool, ping pong and badminton, along with olive and fig trees. Liz and I jogged through the woods each day and took a dip in the pool when we returned. Nice!
A pic from the road just above the house overlooking the valley below
If you remember the movie “Princess Bride”, Princess Buttercup was worried about potential RUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size) in the woods. Wesley remarks that there are surely no such thing as RUS’s whereby he is promptly attacked by…..an RUS. We have done our share of walking and hiking in the woods of France and I always remind Liz to watch out for RUS’s; tongue in cheek, of course. Well, in Europe, they indeed have RUS’s. The first night residing up on the mountain….in the woods, we are awaken at about 1am by grunting and crunching. Apparently, about 6 wild boar had broken through a fence barrier and were feasting on fallen olives and figs, 15 feet in front of our front door! With just under a full moon, and all windows and doors wide open, I jumped up, looked out the window and quietly shrieked….WTF!! As Billy Crystal was forced pull a baby from a cow’s you know what, in City Slickers, he yelled, “This was not in the brochure!!!!!!” I quickly closed the front door and waited til they had moved on. Next day, I rec’d an email from our host Annie (who lived up above) apologizing profusely and letting me know that they must have broken through the fence. And yes, please remember to watch out for RUS’s! I wish it would have been day time, so I could have been able to take a picture of these rooting fellows.
Day one was devoted to walking through the old town of Aix en Provence and visiting a few museums. Two were devoted to painting. One was Darius Milhaud’s home; a big time turn of the century French composer. Here is a shot of his house and his piano. The home is now devoted to his complete library, reference library and meeting rooms for symposia on Milhaud’s music.
We visited two wineries in the afternoon, and three wineries the next day. This province of Provence is divided into roughly 5 appellations (regions of grape commonality). We were able to taste in two of the 5 appellations. Like Bordeaux and Loire Valley, the dirt is a combination of limestone and clay. And like Loire, the terroir gives the wine a very earthy and mineraly flavor. Most importantly, the wine produced here is known for its Rose. With the soil, Rose’s are very sec or dry. The main white grape harvested is Vermentino (Italian name) or Rolle (French name). The Vermentino originates from Italy, but again here in the Mediterranean, it can be grown all over the region. The French call it Rolle. Through out Provence, you see Chateau de …… and Domaine…….on the bottles. This refers to the both the blend of the wine and the process for making it. If a Vintner follows protocol for producing the Rose, and at least 50% of the wine consists of Vermentino, then the wine will be called Chateau de whatever. If not, it will be labeled Domaine de whatever. This distinction with the wording DOES NOT necessarily have the same meaning anywhere else in France. Wineries have names like Chateau and Domaine……. regardless of what wine they produce in all regions of France.
Most of the wineries are ho hum in appearance and are dotted along the countryside. The last winery we visited was an exception. La Costa contained an art gallery, gardens, sculpture and a beautiful tasting room. You pay a bit more for their wine, but at the end of the day, it was also the best wine that we tasted in this region. Back in May, we ate at Liquidity, a restaurant in the Okanagan that had a sort of “endless” water feature. This winery surrounded it’s modern gallery building with just such an endless water feature which I include a pic or two here.
Time to say au revoir (goodbye!) to France, and head to Italy. We start out with a little R and R in Como on lake Como (wine tasting is SO tiring!) as a base to see Turning of the Screw at La Scala in Milan, pick up Brett and Teri at Malpensa airport and proceed on to Cinque Terre. Let’s hope for good weather!