Monthly Archives: October 2023

Last Day in Bordeaux

So sad! It is our last day in Bordeaux, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this lovely city. Tomorrow our friend Scott goes home, and we return to Paris for a week. But today, we had one great last day.

Marche des Capucins

In the morning I went to a market. Sophia, our walking tour guide, told us we were so lucky to be in Bordeaux on Sunday because we could visit the Marche des Capucins. Locals call it “farm to stomach” because the food comes right from the farm. It sounded great to me because I love going to markets. For a couple of hours I get to “live like a local”.

Paul and Scott did not want to go, so my ever-present umbrella and I set off to find this special market. My route took me through one of Bordeaux’s ancient arches.

I was so disappointed when I arrived and saw a few tented tables set up along the sidewalk. Perhaps I misunderstood what Sophia said about the market.

Then I looked left and realized the market was in a building encompassing the entire block. Bountiful displays of flowers, produce, meat, seafood, cheese and wine filled the luscious space.

One vendor sold only organic herbs.

On my way home I passed the Synagogue.

Passing the bell tower that was near our apartment, I knew I was almost home.

La Cite Du Vin

In the afternoon, we all went to La Cite du Vin, Bordeaux’s impressive wine museum.

We walked to the museum on the lovely Garonne River walk and stopped along the way for lunch.

The museum’s spectacular architecture creates a stunning landmark.

La Cite du Vin is a unique and innovative wine museum that uses immersive technology to teach the history, culture and science of wine.

The aroma exhibit was my favorite because it gave us a chance to practice identifying scents. Squeezing a little bulb released a fragrance through the brass funnel. A few moments later, a nearby screen displayed the name of the scent. More complex aroma exercises demonstrated how multiple aromas combined and how to identify them.

One very high-tech exhibit recreated the community feeling of gathering at a table for wine and a meal. Although we thought it was beautiful and interesting, we didn’t quite resonate with the experience.

The museum did an excellent job explaining the wine-making process and the grapes used.

After looking at the exhibits we went to the Belvedere Room for a complimentary glass of wine.

Located at the top of the museum, it provided panoramic views of the city. Being in the warm tasting room looking out at the misty city felt so cozy.


Based on a recommendation from Sophia, we went to Le Mirabelle. for dinner. We wanted a great last dinner in Bordeaux and we definitely got it. The restaurant was small and so French.

Sophia told me most Bordelais restaurants have one or two vegetarian meals on the menu. Le Mirabelle had only one, but it was the best vegetarian dish I have ever had.

Some people describe Bordeaux as “Little Paris.” After falling in love with this charming city, I must agree.

Bordeaux Wine

Wine is the first thing most people think of when they they think of Bordeaux and was the main reason we chose to come to this beautiful area. Thanks to Olala Wine Tours and Rene, our fabulous sommelier tour guide, we spent a wonderful day exploring wineries on both the right and left banks of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux’s Gironde Estuary divides it into three wine regions-Left Bank, Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers (literally the area between the seas, but it refers to the area between the river.) We visited three of the 10,000 wineries in the region.

Right Bank

Starting our tour on the Right Bank, we stopped at Saint-Emilion, a beautiful little town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Walking around the quaint town, we saw a former convent that had “returned to nature” as Rene described it.

Leaving the village of Saint-Emilion, we went to our first tasting at La Tonnel Winery in the Saint-Emilion region.

Audrey, our host, told us about some of the techniques the organic winery uses to maintain the health of their vines without the use of pesticides.

One of the most interesting was what she called sexual confusion. They attach a little device to the vines that sends out pheromones that make butterflies think there are no mating possibilities for them in the vineyards. The disappointed butterflies go somewhere else to find a mate and don’t create problems for the vines or themselves.

Each plant is precious because it takes one plant to make one bottle of wine.

The barrel cellar contained 36,000 bottles worth of wine aging in French oak barrels. This winery only uses a barrel three times because newer oak affects the finished wine more than older oak.

Left Bank

Leaving the Right Bank ,we traveled to Chateau Haut Breton in the Medoc region of the Left Bank. We tasted their wonderful wine and learned their approach to wine making.

Rene brought a picnic lunch and the seven people in our tour group gathered in one of the winery’s lovely rooms to share it. All of the food was locally sourced and prepared. And, of course, there was wine.

After lunch, Marie, our winery host, demonstrated how toasting the oak used for making barrels affects the bouquet and taste of the wine. We smelled oak at different levels of toasting. The scent of the medium toasted oak reminded me of being in a sauna.

After our Chateau Haut Breton visit, we stopped at the Chateau Margaux winery for a photo op. Considered by many to be the most famous wine estate in all of Bordeaux, it produces some of the most expensive wine in the world.

Our last winery of the day was Chateau Dauzav in the Margaux region. Another Audrey hosted our tour and tasting.

A very successful businessman recently purchased Chateau Dauzac, and we could see the effects of the resources he was devoting to the winery. They developed barrels with transparent panels that allowed the winemaker to visually monitor what was going on in the barrel.

Each year they display art in their barrel cellar. Huge paintings hung on the wall last year and this year they featured a mobile representing a wine branch.

At the end of the tour we visited the wine library where they keep their oldest and biggest bottles.

Dinner at Home

After visiting beautiful wineries and tasting wonderful wine, we had our own wine tasting dinner in our apartment. Scott chose a wine from the Left Bank and one from the Right Bank for us to compare.

Choosing the cheese for our dinner and talking with the cheese shop manager, all in French, was a peak moment for me. As we were leaving, he told me my French was very good. I am sure he was being kind, but it made me feel great.

After dinner, we all agreed it was another lovely day in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux-It’s More Than Just Wine

We came to Bordeaux to learn about the wonderful wine and will leave knowing there is so much more to love about this region.

A great private walking tour opened our eyes to the many delights of this special area. Sophia, our guide, shared her love of Bordeaux with us, and we are already thinking about coming back and staying longer.

Bordeaux, a city of about 250,000 people, is a beautiful port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. Renowned as the hub of the Bordeaux wine region, it is also rich in beautiful architecture, great museums , fabulous food and fascinating history.

The Cathedrale Saint-Andree in the heart of the old town is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Escaping the momentary downpour, we entered the cathedral and found a quiet spot in the back of the church. Sophia told us the story of Eleanor of Acquitaine. Serving at different times as Queen of France and Queen of England in the 12th century, she may have been one of France’s earliest feminists.

Many of the stops on Sophia’s tour reminded me why I love French culture and values. One of my favorites was the Mollat Bookstore. The entrance looks small, but the store stretches almost the entire block.

With fifteen subject sections, over 29,000 square feet and more than 300,000 titles. it is the largest bookstore in France. A French law that prohibits Amazon from selling any book written in French for less than the cost in bookstores helps keep independent bookstores vibrant.

In an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, the Bordeaux Courthouse is built adjacent to one of the remaining towers of the former walled city. The outside walls are clear glass to represent judicial transparency. Each of the coned-shaped structures is a courtroom.

Delightful Food

I love a city that has an official dessert and was so happy we got to sample it. Originally made sometime between the 15th and 18th centuries, canele is a little caramelized cake with a soft cream center.

Bordeaux not only has an official dessert, it has Dunes Blanches, a dessert that is so popular people order it by the dozens. A few people have ordered the beautiful little cream-puff-like confection by the thousands. Dunes Blanches is the name of both the pastry and the store that sells it.

For lunch we went to Le Michel’s, a restaurant Sophia recommended. It was so quaint and the food was amazing.

Knowing the French penchant for runny eggs on top of dishes, I hesitated to order the dish I wanted because eggs were part of it. Our wonderful server said they could cook the eggs a little bit for me. The ratatouille-like dish was so good I may be ready to try eggs on some of my vegetarian dishes at home.

Wet and Wonderful Day

Although we were quite wet by the end of our private walking tour, we loved every minute. Thank you to our friends who were here a few weeks earlier and told us about Sophia. I highly recommend this fabulous guide. Her private walking tours can be booked at She also publishes an on-line Bordeaux food guide at


We didn’t have a dinner reservation so we decided to walk around until we found something that appealed to us. Although that can be a risky process, we got lucky and found a cozy little bistro with great food and friendly staff.

Two Days in Paris

Once is never enough in Paris. So, for the two days we had in Paris with our friend Scott, we planned to relive some of our favorite experiences.


We started our day with a visit to Montmarte. The 176 steps out of the metro station made it feel like we had hiked there. Montmarte is one of the most visited places in Paris for many reasons. Being the highest point in Paris, it offers beautiful views of the city.

It has charming little bistrots and one of the best places in the city for soup a l’oignon (obviously, not called French onion soup in Paris.) We discovered the great soup at Le Consulat on one of our first trips to Paris and return almost every time we are here.

Much of Montmarte’s charm comes from its history as a home for artists such as Renoir, Degas, Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec. Today about 300 artists are licensed to work the area, and there is a ten-year waiting list for new artists.

My memory may be wrong, but it appeared that one of the main spaces for working artists had been replaced by a restaurant. La Place du Tertre, a small cobbled square on one of the highest points in Montmarte, used to be filled with artists and their easels. Now there is a restaurant in the center and fewer artists working on the perimeter of the covered space.


The last time we were in Paris we introduced Scott to our friend Moira. Everyone had such a great time, we all wanted to get together again. We spent a delightful evening in her home, enjoying great wine, cheese and conversation.

Day Two

In the late morning, we walked more than three miles to the Rodin Museum. It was a beautiful morning ,and the walk took us through new parts of Paris.

Rodin’s well-known sculpture “The Thinker” and the gold dome of Hotel des Invalides in the distance greeted us as we entered the museum.

I love that most of the sculptures are outside on the grounds of the museum. “The Thinker” may be Rodin’s most famous sculpture, but “The Burghers of Calais” is my favorite. It is one of the most emotional sculptures I have ever seen. It was commissioned by the city of Calais to honor the men who were willing to sacrificed their lives to save their city.

In 1346 English Kind Edward III laid seige to the French city of Calais. He demanded six of the town’s leading men (burghers) in exchange for sparing the city. The sculpture depicts the burghers in prison tunics with nooses around their necks. Rodin powerfully captures the pain and dignity of the men who volunteered to be sacrificed.

Beautiful Spaces

The grounds of the museum are beautiful and serene. The cool, misty day was perfect for strolling the area and viewing the sculptures.

The last time we were at the museum the back garden was closed. The House of Dior used the entire space to create a fantasy-garden stage for their Paris Fashion Week. show. This time we were able to enjoy the lovely garden.

Lunch and Memories

One of my favorite Paris memories is having lunch next to Francis McDormand and Joel Cohen. And to make the day even better, I had the absolute best salad of my life. We decided to go back there for lunch and see if it was still a magical place.

It ended up being a “You Can’t Go Home Again” experience. The best salad of my life was not on the menu and the little side room where we sat next to Francis McDormand was closed. When we left, I saw a different name on the awning and realized we were at the same spot, but it was a different restaurant now.

In spite of less magic, we had a great lunch. I appreciated that they had a beautiful vegetable plate on the menu.


Sometimes you can recreate magical experiences. Our friend Scott loves jazz and the last time we were all in Paris together we went to Chez Papa Jazz Club. Everything about that evening at the intimate jazz club was perfect-the food, the music, the service.

Tonight we went again, and it was another magical evening. We listened to wonderful jazz, ate great food, drank great wine and enjoyed charming service.

At the end of the evening, they gave us pens to add our names to the thousands on the wall.

One tiny hiccup almost marred our perfect evening. When we left to go home, our metro stop was closed. Lucky for us, a helpful young woman told us our line closed at ten but directed us two blocks farther to another line that was still open. Paul’s great metro app rerouted us and we got home only a bit later than planned.

A Rainy Day in Paris

The chilly, rainy forecast prompted us to plan an inside day. Armed with umbrellas, water-resistant jackets and warm clothes we left our apartment for a little walk to the Pompidou Centre, Europe’s largest modern art museum.

Looking forward to an afternoon seeing some wonderful special exhibits, we were surprised to find it closed. The first sign we saw said it was unexpectedly closed for a social movement. We had no idea what that meant. A group of people from Wales had purchased tickets the day before and were as surprised as we were to see it closed.

As we got closer to the museum, we saw signs on the door that clarified why the museum was closed.

An Unexpectedly-Long Lunch

Needing a dry place to develop a new plan for the rainy afternoon, we stopped in a little bistrot for a light lunch of grilled vegetables and wine.

The Australian couple sitting next to us asked if we were from Canada because the logo on my shirtsleeve was from a Canadian company. We had such a long and interesting conversation with them that we didn’t need a plan for the rest of the afternoon.

Ian is a knowledgeable wine lover and shared some great tips with us about both Australian and French wine. Megan is a world-class runner who had been selected for the Olympic running team. My endearingly candid husband shared our not-impressive time from our first (and only) marathon. Megan graciously complemented us for finishing.

Before we left, they shared their contact info and invited us to connect with them if we came to Australia.

By the time we left the cafe, the rain had become a mist, and we had a cozy day to explore the neighborhood.

Delightful Discoveries

One of the joys of wandering Paris streets is finding beauty, art or history on almost every block. The colorful Fontaine Stravinsky injected a beautiful burst of joy and whimsy into the gray day. Located near the Pompidou Centre, its sixteen moveable sculptures represent the works of Igor Stravinsky.

Carefully avoiding puddles, we almost missed seeing the Tour Saint-Jacques. The tower is the only remaining structure of a former 16th-century church that was demolished in 1797 during the French Revolution.

Discovering one of Gary Zuercher’s The Glow of Paris photographs displayed outside the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) was a total delight. He spent six years photographing and documenting the thirty-five bridges that cross the Seine in Paris. Rain drops accumulating on the poster could not diminish the spectacular luminosity of these beautiful pictures.


The last time we were in Paris Paul missed getting his much-anticipated boeuf bourguignon because the restaurant ran out before we arrived. Yesterday he researched where to get the best boeuf bourguignon in Paris and made a reservation at Bistrot Richelieu, one of the recommended places.

His meal was great and he was a happy man. Profiteroles for dessert were a perfect ending to a lovely day.

La Rentree

Welcome to Paris and our own little version of la rentree, the return. Much more than American “back-to-school” time, la rentree celebrates French people coming home from their gloriously-long August vacations and life returning to its normal rhythms.

We are in Paris a few weeks later than the traditional la rentree and vacationing, not returning home. But coming to Paris feels like la rentree to us-a return to our favorite restaurants, parks, museums and neighborhoods.

Great Paris Arrival

After the most drama-free and enjoyable flight in recent memory, we arrived at Charles DeGaulle Airport ahead of schedule.

In spite of getting only a few hours of sleep, I remembered how airport taxi scams worked. A very charming man greeted us before we got to the taxi stand and offered to lead us to the taxis. He told us his services were the same as the taxi queue.

When I asked him about the fare, he quoted a price $25 higher than what we knew to be the typical fare. We had checked the fare before we left the baggage claim to be sure we had enough euros. I mentioned the fare discrepancy and he abruptly walked away. We then went to the official queue, got a taxi right away and paid the going rate.

Arriving at our apartment before we could check in, we stowed our luggage in a locker and spent four leisurely hours exploring our neighborhood in the ninth arrondissement.

We enjoyed a crepe and cappuccino at l’imprevu, a lovely, little cafe close to our apartment.

After lingering over our cappucinnos and conversation (as the French do), we joined Parisiennes savoring the beautiful fall Sunday afternoon.

A young woman who sounded a bit like Adele sang in front of the Pompidou Centre.

Pink flowers exploded on top of a corner cafe.

I think we saw the French version of the Dollar Store. Maybe before inflation, it was C’est Un Euro.

And of course, being in Paris, we could not go far without encountering a stunning arch or beautiful architecture.

We discovered a wonderful little wine and cheese shop around the corner from our apartment. The friendly, knowledgeable proprietor helped us choose some great cheeses for our dinner. She also taught us about compte and goat cheese, two of our favorites.

We had an interesting discussion with her about why wine isn’t sold in grocery stores in some areas of three arrondissements after 5:00 PM. It has to do with public drunkeness in these areas.