First Day in Damanhur

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Milan and boarded mini-vans for a two-hour drive to Vidracco, home of the first city and historical center of Damanhur.

Vidracco will also be our home for the week. Our group of fourteen is staying in apartments in three different buildings in the town. I am sharing an apartment with two other women. Although we each have our own bedroom, we share one bathroom. The back of our apartment overlooks a lovely view of cows and a little stream.

The Damanhur Crea Center

The largest building in Vidracco used to be an Olivetti typewriter factory. Today it houses the Damanhur Crea (a market and cafe), research center, and art shops.

Selet, the showroom for Selfica products crafted at Damanhur is a beautiful shop in the Damanhur Crea Center. Selfica,discovered and developed at Damanhur, is an advanced energy technology for healing and awakening. Some of the selfica items include jewelry, pens, and necklaces.

Exploring Damjl

After a healthy fresh-salad buffet, we traveled to Damjl, the capital of Damanhur. Crotalo and Tigrilla, our guides for the week, led a walking tour of the Open Temple. They also explained the significance of what we saw and gave us an overview of some of the major Damanhurian guiding principles.

Basically, Damanhur is a laboratory for applying spiritual principles to develop a new way to live in peace and harmony. Crotalo explained that Damanhur is not a religion but rather a spiritual philosophy.

The first stop on our walk was the Earth Altar, one of five altars in Damanhur dedicated to the five elements.

Spirals are an important image in Damanhur because they amplify feelings, sensations, and communication with other dimensions. We saw numerous spirals on our walk.

Damanhurians create art everywhere. Murals adorn many of the buildings.

Columns, statues and tile work, all with special meaning, filled the grounds.

After an exciting first day, I realized a week here will introduce me to only small part of what makes Damanhur a special place. People spend years, sometimes a lifetime, learning all the mysteries of Damanhur.

Damanhur, Italy

About a year ago a friend told me about her experiences in Damanhur, a magical place in northern Italy. “I want to go there” I immediately said after hearing her stories. “I think we can make that happen” she immediately responded. Luckily for me, she is a person who makes things happen.

And she makes things happen in a big way. Thanks to the talents and efforts of my amazing friend Bev, fourteen people from the Sarasota, area are traveling together for a special, week-long program in Damanhur.

The Federation of Damanhur is a commune, ecovillage, and spiritual community in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Located about 50 kilometers north of the city of Turino (Turin), Damanhur is an active, multi-lingual community.

History of Damanhur

Italian artist, researcher and healer Falco Tarassaco (1950-2013) founded Damanhur in 1975 as a social and spiritual experiment. Based on solidarity, sharing, love and respect for the environment, Damanhur is both a federation of communities and a worldwide movement that inspires people who want to make a positive mark in the world.

Why Visit Damanhur

The Temples of Humankind are the most famous part of Damanhur. A travel show host called them the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

These beautiful temples, which are entirely dug by hand into the heart of a mountain, are decorated with mosaics, stained glass, sculptures, wall paintings and other works of art.

Of course, I am excited to see the beautiful temples, but I am more excited to live in and learn from a community of people who are dedicated to living in harmony with the earth and all humanity. At a time when peace feels elusive and the future scary, Damanhur feels like the perfect place to visit.

Introducing Damanhur

The more I talked with family and friends about Damanhur, the more I realized how little I knew about this special place. So I was happy to find a short YouTube that gives a nice introduction to Damanhur.

When I was in college, I fantasized about living in a commune. Unfortunately (or maybe not), my sense of responsibility and my parents’ expectations for how I would use my college degree kept me from exploring that fantasy.

Now, more than fifty years later, here I am about to live in a commune for a week. Although I don’t know what my lodging will be like or exactly what I will be doing each day, I know I will love it. Let the adventure begin!

Farewell, Paris

We spent our last few days in Paris enjoying as much of this beautiful city as we could.

After strolling the busy Champs Elysees, we stopped at a little bistro. Looking out the window we noticed a number of young women dressed up and posing for pictures on the corner. One woman dangerously posed in the middle of the intersection.

We could not figure out why people wanted their pictures taken on a busy intersection. Our server told us the Eiffel Tower was visible at the end of the street around the corner. Not quite getting the appeal of that particular spot, we still had to take a picture when we left.

Visiting Our Old Neighborhood

Ten years ago we did our first long-term stay in Paris. We rented an apartment in a lovely residential area in the 16th arrondissement for a month. It was the first time we had ever stayed in one place for so long. I still remember Paul asking me if I would get bored. Silly man. We loved it and weren’t quite ready to come home when it was time to leave.

So, we decided to visit the neighborhood we enjoyed so much. Since it was Sunday, most of the businesses were closed, but we found Le Village d’Auteuil, a lovely bistro right off the square for lunch.

Escaping the cool, rainy day, we sat in the cozy bistro, reminiscing about the wonderful times we had there. Before we left, the sun emerged and we enjoyed a beautiful walk to Place du Trocadero.

Place du Trocadero

Situated across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, Place du Trocadero is a popular spot for a picture-perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.

It also provides a stunning view of the Paris skyline.

I have always seen at least one bride at Place du Trocadero and today was no exception.

However, it is not as picture-perfect as it has been in past years. Place du Trocadero is one of more than seventy construction projects going on in Paris in preparation for the 2024 Olympics.

A bit unsightly now, it will be beautiful when it is completed. Budgeted to cost over 72 million euros, the renovation includes gardens that will stretch from Place du Trocadero across the river to the Eiffel Tower.

Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso

We took a lovely walk through the Luxembourg Gardens to get to the “Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, The Invention of Language” exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum.

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Picasso’s death, the museum organized an exhibit on the story of the extraordinary friendship between the two icons of the 20th century.

Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, is known as one of the co-founders of the cubist movement.

Perhaps best know for her famous quotation, “A rose is a rose is a rose”, Gertrude Stein was an American writer. Her early support of Picasso is considered critical to his success. Living in France from 1903 til she died in 1946, Stein influenced many artists of the time. Many of these artists’ works were displayed.

Although it was an interesting exhibit, we were expecting more Picasso and less Stein. There were just a few Picasso paintings displayed.

There was an interesting display of Andy Warhohl’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century. Gertrude Stein is the second picture from the left on the top row.

Last Meals in Paris

On our last day in Paris we wanted our meals to be special. For lunch, we discovered the charming La Crepe Rit du Clown not far from the Luxembourg Museum.

We ate galettes, a type of savory crepe made with buckwheat flour.

After lunch we returned to the museum and had luscious pastries at Mademoiselle Angelina’s Tea Room. Every pastry is a work of art. We almost hated to take a bite of the cubist pastry created by Angelina’s head pastry chef in honor of the Picasso exhibit.

And for dinner, we had-pizza! But not just any pizza. Casa di Peppe, located just 30m from our apartment, is the European champion of Neapolitan pizza. We had tried for days to get a reservation.

We started with a luscious broccoli veloute with tiny pan-fried carrots. Google Translate did not give us a definition for veloute. We expected sauteed vegetables and got a creamy broccoli soup. It was delicious, and now I know what veloute is.

The pizza was good, but the end of the evening was the best part. As we were leaving, I asked the owner if I could take a picture of his huge pizza oven. He took my phone, escorted us to the kitchen and gave me one of the paddles. The cooks gathered round and he took our picture. They were all laughing and having so much fun. I think it must be a wonderful place to work.

It was a perfect ending to our last evening in Paris.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Like I feel at the end of all great trips, I am both sad to leave and happy to be going home. I am going home with wonderful memories of great food, incredible wine, beautiful art and architecture, friendly people (yes, most Parisiennes are friendly) and gracious lifestyles.

And, unlike I feel at the end of other trips, I know I will return. Paris, a bientot!

French Food

We love walking tours and we love food, so a walking food tour sounded perfect for us.

The food tour we selected focused on Le Marais, one of the two districts in Paris to escape the 19th century urban renewal orchestrated by Napoleon III in the 19th century. The Latin Quarter, where we are staying, is the other district.

Because it was overlooked in the 19th century modernization efforts, Le Marais is one of the few Paris neighborhoods to retain its original medieval streets and architecture.

We met Toma, our guide, in a small park in Le Marais to begin our day exploring the hidden gems of small family-run food businesses.

Bread

Toma first took us to Poilane, a third-generation bakery that makes traditional bread. Unlike in most other French bakeries there was not a baguette in sight. We tried croissant, pain au chocolat, and shortbread cookies.

I learned that a bakery must bake on-site to use the words “boulangerie” or “patisserie” on their sign. Poilane can not use either designation because it bakes off-site in a big wood-fired oven.

Toma explained why there was a large, somewhat strange-looking box in the tasting room. One of the Poilane sons was friends with Salvador Dali who inspired him to make furniture out of bread. The bread armoire we saw will last about three months and then be replaced with a different bread-dough creation..

Market

Leaving the bakery we walked a short distance to Marche des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in Paris. Established in 1628, the name (Market of the Red Children) refers to the site of an orphanage that was near the market. The children in the orphanage were clothed in red, the sign of charity.

Other than a few exotic fruits, every product in the beautiful market is made in France.

Because there is a large Moroccan influence in Paris, the Moroccan stand was larger than most of the others. We had Moroccan green mint tea, poured the traditional way in a long stream above the cup. Drinking the wonderful tea took me right back to my time in Morocco.

We also tried a Moroccan crepe, a delicious fusion of French and Moroccan cuisine.

Chocolate

My favorite stop of the day was Jean-Paul Hevin Chocolatier, winner of the best French chocolatier award for 2023-24.

We sampled a milk chocolate, a dark chocolate and a French macaron. I didn’t love macarons until I tried Jean-Paul’s. It was heavenly. Perhaps because a macaron is only good for three days and I’m pretty sure previous ones I had were older than that.

Jewish Quarter

From the chocolate shop we walked to the Jewish Quarter in Le Marais.

After Israel and the US, Le Marais is home to the third largest population of Jewish people. Quaint shops and restaurants line the narrow streets.

We ate bourekas, a little handheld Jewish pie that looked like an empanada. Paul loved it and wanted to return later for another one.

Lunch

As we walked to our lunch place, we noticed the neighborhood looked familiar. We were surprised to find our food tour stop was where we randomly stopped for lunch the day before. Little did we know that we had previously eaten at such a noteworthy restaurant.

We did not notice the double awning when we were there the day before. Although I didn’t quite understand Toma’s explanation, it is because there are two of chef Xavier Denamur’ five restaurants together on the same corner.

Our delightful server from the day before remembered us and came over to give us a high-five. And surprise, surprise, we had more soup a l’oignon. We loved it the day before, so eating it again was fine with us.

Dessert

Paris is a wonderfully diverse city whose food culture has been influenced by many ethnic groups. Aleph, where we went after lunch, is a perfect example of this beneficial fusion.

The owner is a Syrian pastry chef who combines elements of Syrian and French pastry traditions to create unique little desserts. We tried an amazing angel-hair filo dough nest with a little dollop of cream on top. Mine was lemon and bergamot.

Hard to believe we had more food to sample, but we did and our next stop was at Lauren Dubois Fromagerie, an amazing cheese shop.

Toma chose three cheeses: compte, brie, and goat cheese with an ash rind.

We then walked to our final stop, a wine shop, to enjoy cheese and wine. In a cozy little room above the wine shop, Toma consulted with the owner and chose a white and a red wine.

Taking bread and cheese from her little red bag, she created a lovely tasting board for us.

We spent almost four hours tasting our way around Le Marais, learning about the wonderful French cuisine.

Baguette Baking Class

I make bread. I make pretty good bread. But I do not make a good baguette. We decided to take a baguette baking class and see if we could recreate the wonderful bread we love here.

We didn’t plan to take the bread class the same day as our food walking tour, but a few days before the class we got an email asking if we could come a day early. Since we had a few hours between the tour and the class, we explored more of Le Marais and enjoyed a cappuccino at a little cafe.

Expecting a large group since we thought we had been added to another group, we were surprised to find we were the only people in the class. And we had two, not one, Parisienne bakers to teach us.

It was a good thing we had one-on-one instruction because working with the dough was trickier than I thought it would be. A big no-no , which I often did, is adding more flour when the dough feels too sticky.

Transferring the baguette on to the linen baking cloth is a delicate process and the only time you don’t need to worry about using too much flour.

Taking the baguette class definitely increased our bread-making confidence. Hopefully our results at home will come close to our class results.

After walking more than eight miles, we returned to our apartment, a little tired and very full. Since we had pretty much been eating non-stop all day, we skipped dinner and instead savored the memory of the wonderful French foods we had eaten .

Notre-Dame de Paris

After our aborted trip to Notre-Dame de Paris yesterday, today we went to visit the iconic cathedral.

Notre-Dame represents the heart of Paris for me. I remember being so moved by the holiness inside the cathedral the first time we visited Paris in 1993 that I returned for a second visit a couple of days later.

Like so many people around the world, I was devastated to see the fires that damaged so much of the cathedral on April 15, 2019. I was anxious to see what had been done to restore Notre-Dame.

As we got closer to the cathedral, I kept looking around each corner for my first glimpse of Notre-Dame. Finally, we turned down a street leading to the cathedral and I saw scaffolding and a giant crane.

The closer we came to Notre-Dame,the more scaffolding and equipment we saw.

Until I saw it, I could not imagine the enormity of the restoration project.

An impressively detailed timeline of the the scope and progress of the restoration project lines the sidewalk by Notre-Dame.

I felt sad about the damage to the cathedral but inspired by the supporters and talented craftspeople who were working together to restore Notre-Dame. Estimates for the restoration cost range from 860 million to over one billion euros. The wealthy French families behind LVMH and Kering pledged 200 million euros and 100 million euros respectively. LVMH owns brands Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.

The crowd visiting Notre-Dame seemed more subdued than in past years. An accordion player by the cathedral added a sweet touch to the day.

Lunch in the Marais

Leaving Notre-Dame we walked to the Marais district for lunch. We found an interesting bistro that promoted food transparency and organic food. I had soupe √† l’oignon that was both tasty and healthier than any I had ever eaten.

The busy servers were personable and friendly.

More Adventures with French

After amusing the servers with my French the night before, I was happy to have a more successful communication experience today. Paul wanted to visit some wine shops and see about shipping wine home. I think I asked the right questions and understood the answers, all in French!

I was a little humbled when went to get cheese for dinner, however. Communicating what we wanted was no problem, but I did not communicate very well when it came to how much we wanted. No matter what I said, the fromager seemed to be telling us he couldn’t give us a larger amount. It was definitely a “lost in translation” moment. In spite of my French challenges in the cheese shop, we went home with enough cheese for a lovely dinner.

Pantheon

Once again, being flexible saved the day. We started the day walking to Notre Dame de Paris to see the cathedral restoration progress. About ten minutes into our walk, the rain started, the wind blew and the temperature dropped.

Just as we were questioning if we wanted to spend the day outside, we passed the Pantheon. An intriguing art exhibit poster outside the building caught our eye and we decided to change our plans.

After joining the queue to enter the Pantheon, we looked around and saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The Pantheon (temple to all gods) has an interesting history. Louis XV originally intended it to be a church honoring St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.

However, before it was finished the French Revolution had started, and the Pantheon was transformed into a mausoleum for distinguished French citizens.

Entering the beautiful 18th century building, we immediately noticed the beautiful dome in the middle.

A pendulum hangs from the highest point of the dome. It is a copy of the one used by Leon Foucault at the Pantheon in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.

La Convention Nationale, the Pantheon’s major sculpture is at the far end. It features soldiers on the right and the National Convention on the left. It was this National Convention who ordered the executions of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette in 1793.

After touring the main level, we carefully walked down a steep, narrow spiral staircase to the crypt below.

Interment in the Pantheon’s crypt requires a parliamentary act for “National Heroes.” Currently the remains of seventy-five men and six women are interred there. The most famous are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and Marie and Pierre Curie.

Special Art Exhibit at the Pantheon

Since a number of the great names honored by the Pantheon shared a commitment to abolishing slavery, the National Monuments Center organized a two-part exhibition focused on the fight against slavery.

We Could Be Heroes, the first part, is currently on display. Raphael Barontini’s colorful and monumental installation creates an “imaginary pantheon.”

I loved the special art exhibit and felt it added an unexpected delight to our Pantheon visit.

Lovely Afternoon

By the time we left the Pantheon, the rain had mostly stopped and we found a place to have a light lunch. Because the few inside tables were full, we sat outside. My dear husband, whose comfort range for outside dining is about five degrees, almost happily stepped out of his comfort zone and ate in the fifty-five degree weather . I think he is becoming more French.

After lunch we strolled around the Marais district and discovered another little outdoor market.

We ended our day with a lovely dinner at Madamador. Although it doesn’t happen as frequently as before, both the hostess and the server greeted my French with an amused smile. They were kind and I honestly think the French appreciate my humble attempts with their language.

Back to Paris

After a two-hour ride on the TGV high-speed train from Bordeaux to Paris followed by a thirty-minute walk, we arrived at our Paris home for the next week. Our apartment is in the Latin Quarter,close to the Sorbonne, a prominent university started in 1257.

The Pierre and Marie Curie Research Center is located off the same courtyard as our apartment. Marie Curie was the first woman to join the Sorbonne faculty in 1891. She and her husband Pierre are considered the founders of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Because we are in a university area, we get to enjoy the energy from all the students on the streets and in the cafes.

Our Neighborhood

We were delighted to discover our apartment is in an incredibly diverse area. Five different ethnic restaurants-Italian, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Indian are less than one hundred feet away. In addition to the many small restaurants, a general market, produce vendor, boulangerie and pharmacy are also on our block. I think I could survive the entire week here without leaving the block.

Surprisingly a Netflix filming location is around the block from us. When Paul was routing our walk, the site of Emily’s apartment in the series Emily in Paris appeared on the map. The show is about a young marketing executive from Chicago who is hired to give an American perspective at a marketing firm in Paris.

Interestingly, Emily’s apartment rated the same map notification as Notre-Dame de Paris.

Approaching the square, we knew we were at the right place because a number of young women were posing for pictures in front of the apartment.

Luxembourg Gardens

The sun came out in the afternoon and so did the Parisiennnes. Walking through the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, we saw people everywhere; sitting on the Luxembourg Garden chairs, playing chess and strolling the lovely paths.

In the middle of the garden, children squealed in delight as they pushed vintage toy sailboats around the Grand Bassin duck pond. The boats have been part of the gardens for a long time. In 1927 Clement Paudeau decided to rent toy sailboats to children in Luxembourg Gardens for two sous (about ten cents.) They became an instant hit. Today the same antique boats are rented for 3.50 euros for thirty minutes.

Dinner at an Old Favorite

The last time we were in Paris we discovered a Greek restaurant that we loved. Hoping it was as good as we remembered, we made a reservation for dinner.

Evi Evane was better than we remembered. They change the menu twice a year, but luckily the Greek salad we loved was available.

I had a great vegetarian meal of eggplant with vegetables, baked Greek cheeses and a wonderful feta sauce.

As we were getting ready to leave, we had a wonderful conversation with Brahim, the manager. Talking with this bright, warm young man was the highlight of the evening. Educated as a computer engineer, he moved from his home country of Tunisia to Paris in hopes of finding greater opportunity. He spoke so beautifully about his country that I have added Tunisia to my travel-possibility list.

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.

Dinner

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 thebordelais.com. She also publishes an on-line Bordeaux food guide at foodtourclub.com.

Dinner

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.