Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bordeaux Fete Le Vin - 2016 - Celebrating the 10th Edition!

 Bordeaux Fete Le Vin - The Bordeaux Wine Festival
Happening this weekend - June 23-26, 2016
 Hello everyone - it's been a busy day and a beautiful one at that!  Yes, the blog is back and this post will share with you the first glimpses of the 10th edition of Bordeaux Fete le Vin - Bordeaux's historic wine festival.  It opened today along the Quais and there is so much to see and do, I know I won't be able to share it all - but it's going to be a great weekend!!

For those of you who live close by - it's a wonderful way to taste some of the regional wines, and learn about wine, and also enjoy what this region has to offer.   
 The festival itself is free and open to the public - It's beautiful to stroll along the key side of Bordeaux and check out all the different stands.  In order to taste some of the wines, one needs to buy the festival pass.  The pass this year is a key card and includes:  10 different regional tastings plus 2 extra as your favorites, a zen tasting experience, a wine school workshop and other experiences.  This pass is either purchased ahead or presently is available at the festival.  
As it was hot today, I did my first tasting at the Sweet Bordeaux stand where I was introduced to a lovely fresh tasting wine from Loupiac.  This right-bank sweet white was light and fresh, still having that wonderful sweeten light syrup taste but not too strong.  

What I loved about this tasting was that it was a great opportunity to enjoy a different sweet white - than the traditional Sauternes whites.  I'm looking forward to exploring and learning more about the appellations of Cadillac, Loupiac et Saint Croix du Mont - all right bank wines but still of the sweet variety and a great value for their cost.
 Each region surrounding Bordeaux has their stands and it's a wonderful opportunity to gain more knowledge about each region and also more specifically how the appellations (geographic designations) within each region differ.
 As this is the 10th anniversary of the Bordeaux Wine Festival - they have  several special pavilions for other cities connected to the wine festival.  This year there are pavilions for Hong Kong, Quebec and a stand for the network of the Great Wine Capitals of the world.  All have a wealth of information to share.
 Of course the Office of Tourism has their own stand with special merchandise for the festival.  
 The Belem is also in Bordeaux for the festival and can be toured for 5 euros/person.  This beautiful 3 masked tall sailing ship serves as a training yacht for sailors.  It's' been wonderfully restored and is a jewel sitting along the quais.  
The Festival is laid out along the Quais of Bordeaux in 3 villages.  Village 1 - sits between the Pont de Pierre & the Place de la Bourse and includes a few wine regions along with the stands of the quest cities and the Office of Tourism - just to name a few.
As one heads down the quais toward Village 2 - there is this colorful display of Bordeaux Wine posters each pairing wine with an activity.  Some very clever combinations - Music & wine, Beach & Wine - Seeing the Stars and wine...Well done!  (My middle daughter - decided to photo bomb my photos - so she proudly shares her favorites!)

On to Village 2 - where Bordeaux Wine school has set up a beautiful display and holds workshops educating people of tasting, smelling and understanding more about wine.  The pass includes one of these workshops which are provided each day during the festival.
Village 2 - of course houses more stands for different wine regions, but also introduces us to surrounding regions like - Limousin & Poitou-Charentes.  These departments are now part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine or - The New Aquitaine Region. These departments offer some wonderful products including delicious beef and Cognac.
By afternoon, the Medoc & Graves stand was starting to get busy.  Again one can find some delicious wines from Medoc, Haut Medoc and Pessac Leognan appellations & not just the wine properties from the 1855 Classification - There is so much to discover!!
Moving further along the quais are artist blocks commissioned by the Cultural Institute of Bernard Magrez.  This is a festival tradition where artists are invited from all over the world to paint or design a panel that is themed for the Wine Festival.  Each day different artists will come and work on their block.  On Sunday afternoon there will be a full display of all the completed works.
As you head further North on the Quais toward the Chartrons section of Bordeaux - you enter the final village - Village 3.  Again here one finds more wine stands plus a wonderful assortment of regional specialties including bread, Oysters, beef, and cheeses just to name a few.

 I love the following photo as the festival is dwarfed by the gigantic cruise ship Europa 2 which is in port for a few days.  
After our hot but breezy walk along the Key side, my daughter and I were hungry for lunch and chose to eat at La Ferrere - along the Quai des Chartron next to the Bourse Maritime.  This adorable little bistro/brassiere serves a fresh menu which changes daily depending on the chef.  I enjoyed a lovely buttina (frais mozzarella cheese) served with peppers and citrus.
My entree was then followed by a deliciously fresh and hearty salad of arugula, avocados, watermelon, strawberries served with a delicious piece of toast with coppa & cheese drizzled with a delicious pesto sauce.  A fresh and satisfying lunch.
 So I hope you enjoy the Bordeaux Fete le Vin - Bordeaux Wine Festival - it's definitely a festival to experience and one that is not easily forgotten,  This is the 3rd festival that I have experienced and each time I learn more and marvel in what a beautiful and wonderful region we have!

If you are interested in visiting Bordeaux and you love wine - this is one festival not to be missed.  The next one will be in 2018.  If you are curious about the 2014 festival - you can read more about it here - Bordeaux Fete le Vin - 2014.

Come and enjoy the 2 Km of Wine events, tastings and good times here in Bordeaux and of course, the new Cite du Vin - The famed International Wine Interpretation Center has just opened it's doors this month -and it's amazing!!  Just another reason to come visit!  Bon weekend everyone!!!  Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Springtime in Bordeaux & the Gironde - Everything is blooming!

It's April in the Gironde
Yes - it's amazing how when Spring arrives, everything comes back to life again.  This region definitely has it's seasons - the cloudy, rainy, gray Winter gave way to sunny, bright and warmer Spring days.  The blossoms are coming out on the trees and the blue skies are gorgeous!!

I hope you can appreciate the feeling of Spring in these photos - it's just rejuvenating!! We are not without a few Spring rain showers from time to time - but overall, it's truly Spring here as the flowers come bloom!
The other day, I had to go pick up something on the ship where I work, so my middle daughter got a mini tour of "the office".  She loved the view from the top deck and thought the passengers were really lucky to get to sail up and down the river for a week!
I just loved this view taken from on top of the steps of the Courthouse - looking toward the Cathedral.  The sunshine and the blue sky...just lovely!
Even outside the city, plants and trees are coming back to life after the Winter.  We've enjoyed walking around the Citadelle de Blaye and also the Portes Ouvertes weekend in the Medoc.  Below is Chateau LaMothe Bergeron.  A beautiful place and property which dates back to 1773.  Excellent wine too!!

We are presently enjoying our 2 week Spring break.  It's been nice to relax - stay home and do a little Spring cleaning and just enjoying the local area.  As long as the weather cooperates, we are off to get some Ocean air this weekend.  Looking forward to that too.  Hope everyone is enjoying this Spring too!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bordeaux - La Foire aux Plaisirs & International Francophonie Day!

The City's Fun Fair - La Foire aux Plaisirs
Having lived now in Bordeaux for over 4 years, I have grown accustom to many annual French traditions.  For Bordeaux, one of these traditions is La Foire aux Plaisirs or The Fun Fair.  This carnival sets up twice a year in Bordeaux - once in October and again in March. They take over the large open space in the Quinconnces Square mixing colorful rides within the historical monuments. Yes - it's a carnival similar to ones I've seen in the States but it's the tradition and today being that it's International Francophonie Day - I thought it would be fun to share the "French" version of a Carnival or Fair, along with some new vocabulary words.  A special promotion is found at the bottom of this post.
This event is something that my kids look forward to and believe me always ask to go!  As with most carnival rides, this event can certainly empty one's wallet very quickly with rides ranging from 2 euros to 5 euros each round.  Multiply this times 3 kids and yes, one can spend a pretty penny!! I still remember the first time we went - getting use to all the carnival terms - the names of the rides - of course were different in French - and  it was so much fun to learn!!  My favorite - La Grand Roue - or the Ferris Wheel!!  Doesn't it sound cool in French?
Here's the Swings or Pousse Pousse - as they call it in French.  The fun thing about this ride is that the kids have to "push" or pousse their swing to try to grab a stuffed animal prize.  
My youngest daughter enjoyed her share of the swings, the fun house and some other games.  Of course, no fair/carnival is complete without cotton candy or as the French call it - Barbe de Papa (Papa's beard).  Candy Apples or Pomme d'Amour (Apples of Love) are also a very popular snack. I love the mix of the old Bordeaux monuments flanking the carnival at each end.

Here's my daughter making her way through the jungle fun house.  What was neat about this set up was she - along with the group she was following, ended up wandering around the inside about 3 times.  This made for a lengthy fun time - although - she was laughing by the time she realized she was walking the same platform for the 4th time - no fear - they all found the exit eventually- (I think the leader of the pack was an employee who was purposely wandering them around and around for the fun of it) - It is called a fun house isn't it?
I love the bright colors of the carnival or La Foire - a real feast for the eyes.  It's always nice to see people having fun and enjoying themselves.  My youngest at 8 years old likes the tamer rides - she's not like her daredevil older sister who certainly enjoys all the topsy-turvy fun that can be had.

So if you ever visit Bordeaux during La Foire aux Plaisirs.  It's certainly a local event that brings out most Bordelais families - so if you want to act like the locals, here's the place to be!!  It's definitely something that we enjoy every season it arrives!  It's also a great way to increase your French vocabulary!  

In honor of International Francophonie Day - I'm offering a special promotion to learn French or increase your vocabulary check out - a one MONTH FREE TRAIL with Frantastique - It's a wonderful way to customize your learning and become a Francophone!!  Why not use this international day of celebration as a great way to kick start your desire to learn - Just click on one of the banners below to learn more!!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tips for Traveling with Pre-Teens/Teenagers - Our Trip to Rome

My daughter in St. Peter's Square
Having fun traveling with your pre-teen/teenager
Recently, I took a trip to Rome with my mother and my almost 12 year old daughter.  This is a new tradition that we started a year ago.  Having three girls covering a 6.5 year age span, it's not always easy (or inexpensive) to travel with all of them.  So a year ago, my mother who comes over to visit us in France once a year suggested that we bring one of them along on our yearly mother/daughter long weekend trip.  (This is a trip that she and I have been during since I moved to France - it's a great way to see another city in Europe and take advantage of reasonable European travel rates.)  But what is a good age to start this kind of traveling?
A selfie at the Coliseum
Last year we took my oldest (then almost 14) to Marrakesh, Morocco.  (That experience will be for another post) This year it was my middle daughter's turn.  She was just a few weeks shy of turning 12. She is my daughter who is quieter, calmer and more pensive.  She also often prefers to stay home or be low-key.  Yes, the lure of modern technology smartphones, ipods etc... have hooked her too - but at the same time she's always been this kind of low-energy, slower moving kid.  Honestly, having traveled alone with her and her sisters, I have had moments of frustration as none of us are having a good time.

Sometimes this happens due to different personalities.  M mother & I love traveling, exploring and filling our days with historic sites, museums, cafes and just strolling around the place we are visiting.  As travel buddies, our styles complement each other and our expectations of the trip are similar.  Our days are often pretty full but at the same time since my mother is in her 70's, (yes, she's probably reading this, so I won't reveal her real age - she's an active woman for her age!)  we have built in times of rest (a long lunch) and coffee/snack breaks for a reboots of energy.  So how does one travel with these varying personalities? How does one plan an itinerary to  meet the needs of a preteen or teenager?
With her nana at the base of the Spanish Steps
Typical teen with smartphone - at the Monument to the Fatherland - Victor Emmanuel

I'm not an expert here - but I certainly can share my experiences and things that I have learned about traveling with Pre-teens & Teens. Every child is different and we have certainly had our hard moments during our trips.  But I have found by thinking about these following tips - our trips have been a bit smoother and less frustrating for everyone.  Keep in mind, we learn by doing.

1- Have them help with planning the daily Itinerary.  - What interests them?
Now this tips sounds a lot easier than it really is to execute in reality.  I tried sitting down with my daughter before the trip to share pictures of Rome, I had looked at Trip Advisor and looked at the top 10 attractions - trying to get her reaction. I had created a Pinterest board so everything was easy to access and quick to find - full of photos.   I thought - photos, videos, etc might lure her interest so she could tell me " Yes" or "No".  Instead after about 5 minutes - I got the classic line - "Mom, are we almost done?".
Long and short -at the end, she told me "She didn't care" - I should just pick things myself. 

At the Trevi Fountain
The Forum

2- When planning days - keep in mind Preteens & Teens need some quiet alone time/down time.
Yes - this tip is a hard one to digest for those of us who love to travel and see everything that there is to see in one go....but I had experienced a little of this with my oldest in Morocco - times she just wanted to stay in the guest house, as my mother and I went out to do final shopping for a couple hours. In Rome, this was not possible as our apartment was located in Vatican City and other than a quick trip to the super-market a block away - I was not leaving my 12 year alone in the apartment for a whole afternoon or evening.  I still believed that we were all there to see Rome and it's attractions.
Crowds at St. Peter's Square
Outside the Panthéon

My compromise was to not rush out every morning.  She was not eager to get up at 7 or 8am for an early departure.  As she said, She was on vacation.  So on most mornings - we took our time and often didn't begin our day until around 11 am.  Yes - this could be seen as "costing" us an hour or so - but in the long run - I had a more cooperative and happy teen when we were out and about.  Only one day when we had a pre-booked Tour of the Vatican Museum did we have an early start as our tour started at 10am and we needed about 40 minutes to bus, walk and arrive 15 minutes early.  She accepted this day as the other mornings were not rushed.

Another tip around planning - nice lunch breaks & coffee/snack breaks help provide some rest and of course, for the "modern high tech" teen often some free wifi! Additionally, she was very much a part of choosing the restaurant.  Yes, my daughter ate pizza the whole week - but she was pleased with being about to have it!  Our joke was that she could tell us who made the best Pizza Marguerite at the end of the trip.  In these days and times where the teenage smartphone is also their camera and lifeline....My rule was she could use it at a restaurant up until food arrived and then all electronics were put away, so we could talk.  That gave her some time at the beginning to play around and feel connected but it was limited also.
Yes - a group selfie at a restaurant

We would also try to return back to the apartment by around 5-6pm - so we had some "rest" or quiet time before dinner.  In Italy - restaurants didn't open until 7pm and most people didnt' begin arriving until around 8 pm so we had some time.  This provided her some needed quiet/down time.  She seemed to appreciate this.  There was only one day that we couldn't return back before our evening meal but that was because were were doing a cooking class and it started earlier.  
Pizza, pizza!!
Tip number 3 - Plan a unique activity that interests the pre-teen.
I have found that when traveling with my girls - I try to find something more kid-friendly. This has often taking the form of bike tours around cities.  We have done this in Amsterdam and also in Brugge, Belgium.  Both of those times, all my girls enjoyed the activity and found it a fun way to see and explore the city. Boy times our guides were fun and amusing and the couple hours passed quietly (They learned some neat things too!).  I wasn't sure my mother was going to like a bike tour but when in Rome....mmm...there is just some about the food that is so much a part of the Italian culture.  So when I saw Cooking classes advertised, I asked my daughter which sounded more interesting to her - learning to make homemade pasta or a bike tour.  Hands down, her quick response was a cooking class.  She was definitely more interested at that point in our trip and asked what they would be making....score one for mom!! We all feel now that the cooking class was a highlight of the trip.

Making Ravioli
Cutting Fettucine
Enjoying our delicious meal!
With Chef Laura after our delicous meal & class

Tip number 4 - Keep your expectations in check.  What seems really interesting to an adult, might not have the same appeal to a preteen.
Even though we had a few moments of "Why are going here or doing this" or the classic "I'm ready to head back..".  The reality is that preteen/teenagers for the most part don't know what they will think until they are there and  to see or experience it.  So go, explore and then process afterwards. I know with my daughter, in the moment, she wouldn't say much - she was often quiet - so it was hard to tell if she appreciated it or not.   I would always ask my daughter at the end of the day - what she liked/what she didn't like.  Often with the phrasing - "Favorite attraction - today?"  "Least favorite thing we did?".  I was often surprised what she really liked and what she found okay....In Rome, The Vatican museum impressed her (here we had a super funny guide - which she enjoyed) along with the Saint Peters' Square,  Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, The Forum, and the Coliseum. She was less impressed with the quiet picturesque neighborhoods of Travestere & the various Piazzas around the city.

Tip number 5 - Plan some time to go Shopping
Now, this tip might be more interesting for girls - but I'm sure boys might have some kind of souvenir or something else in mind that they would want to find (Sport jersey or unique item to that area).  Again, I know, especially with girls - it's always been nice to give them a couple hours or so to peruse stores or shops to find that special souvenir or item. Every trip I've taken with my girls, this is a must!!  Benefit - they are happier afterwards and they felt like you did something they really wanted to do!!  (PS - it's often not about spending lots of money - it's more about them choosing how they spend their time!).

Overall, we had a great time visiting to Rome.  I am looking forward to returning sometime soon.  Even 2 months afterwards-my daughter still mentions certain experiences as she comes across her photos and videos now and again.  She will be studying Ancient Rome soon in school and I hope her experiences will make history come more alive for her, as she can truly imagine some of it now.
Having fun at the Forum!
Traveling with kids is definitely a different experience than traveling by yourself or with other adults but it's rewarding in its own way.  These are just a few pointers that I have learned and I hope they are helpful to other parents. I am by no means an expert and I would love to hear from other parents who have found other tricks.   Go and explore - I know as a child of parents who traveled - I still have fond memories of many great places and I hope to give this similar experience to my daughters too!
Selfie at the Monument to the Fatherland - Overall fun trip!

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