Sorry about that. I do hate to leave you hanging, but that last post was getting a little bit long, and my darling and ever-practical engineer husband said, "Why don't you just break it into two separate posts?" After four hours of photo editing and writing, that had not once occurred to me. See, this is why he and I are married, and why we do it so well.
So after we left Le Cellier de St. Emilion, we piled back into the van and Brise drove us to Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret. Important note: a chateau in Bordeaux means something entirely different than in the Loire Valley. See, around here, a "chateau" means a big-ass castle. In the Bordeaux wine area, it simply means a wine-producing estate.
Here are some photos. As per normal, they don't do it justice. There were vineyards, vineyards everywhere. I could have stayed there forever, waking up to those vines under those blue skies. I also really want to try my hand at grape picking sometime, and maybe even grape stomping. It just sounds fun...for a little while, anyway.
At Ambe Tour Pourret, we were given a brief vineyard and winery tour, and then we had our second tasting of the day. This time we tried four wines paired with cheeses. This tasting wasn't as informative or impressive as about the one with Bruno back in St. Emilion, but then, have you ever seen either of us complain about a wine tasting? Exactly.
Here are the four wines we tasted. I did not like the first one at all, but I do not do rose. And I still can't figure out why these are sideways, too. They were perfectly upright on my phone and computer. Technology. Meh.
That concluded our wine tour. Brise drove us back to Bordeaux, and we had lunch at La Creperie d'Angele. This was one of those good/bad ideas. We split a bottle of wine and a side salad, we each ordered a savory galette, and we each got a dessert crepe. Needless to say, after that we had a pretty good nap.
For dinner, we found ourselves at Cajou Caffe, where we split an appetizer of escargots (do. not. knock. it. till. you've. tried. it.), B got salmon with amazing potato cakes, and I got risotto with shrimp. Oh yeah, and our dessert of a canelle split in half with caramel ice cream between the halves, nestled into a bed of hot fudge. After that, we needed another nap - like, the overnight kind.
We woke up to rain on our anniversary - but better on our anniversary than on our actual wedding day! We mostly spent Sunday exploring Bordeaux and seeing what we could find to do. First we went down to the river to see what we could see and to grab lunch.
The thing about Sundays in France is that most places are closed, especially shops, and some restaurants. Thankfully, with the help of TripAdvisor, we found a wine shop that hosted tastings, Wine Cellar & Co. For 15 euros, we were able to do the 5:00 p.m. tasting. We were the only people during our tasting, and Eric, the owner, spent quite a while with us, explaining the wines and giving us yet another overload of wine information. He lived in NYC for eight years, and has been around the world twice on the QE2. He has also earned his master sommelier and certified sommelier distinctions. Needless to say, it was an incredibly informative and pleasant hour in the tiny shop. We had three whites, three reds, one sweet wine, and a taste of Cognac, all paired with pate, cheese, and chocolate.
After that, we explored a little more. Although a storm was brewing, we were able to get some crazy pictures of Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux and the clouds.
It was fast and furious, but we couldn't have asked for a better weekend to celebrate our first year of marriage. Of course, three wine tastings had a lot to do with that, but still. It was neat to see how different Bordeaux was than Tours and how all the regions of France are so distinct, but still incredible. We feel so blessed to be able to see so many different places and see what life is like elsewhere, and also to share that with you. Thanks for following along!
E & B
First of all, wow. Y'all have once again amazed me. The number of people who have emailed me saying my previous post made them cry...it was a bit staggering. Now, granted, one of those people was my mother and one was B's mother, so they don't really count. You should have seen them crying last April 26th. But the goal of a writer is to evoke emotion in your readers, and while I do apologize for making you all cry, it's a high compliment to me that I did so. Make sense?
But there was no crying for us this weekend. This weekend was all about celebrating and wine and our first road trip since we moved to France. We had hoped to go somewhere a bit further afield (Italy, Germany, Belgium) for such a special occasion, but we just couldn't make it work with B's work schedule. Besides, who's complaining about going to wine country? Not this girl.
We took the TGV train down on Friday after B got off work. We were supposed to arrive in Bordeaux about 9:30 and meet our Airbnb host, Jean Claude, at 10:00, but our train was running about 15 minutes late. Then, the lovely but often malfunctioning Google Maps said our apartment was less than a mile from the train station. Google Maps lied. It was nearly a 45-minute walk. Bordeaux is much bigger with France. To give you an idea, Tours' U.S. sister cities are Springfield, MO, and Minneapolis, MN. Bordeaux's is Los Angeles.
We didn't wind up meeting with Jean Claude until 10:30. He was extremely gracious and didn't mind at all, and our pad in Bordeaux? SO cute. This was the first time we'd used Airbnb, and we were crazily, pleasantly surprised. The apartment was small and cozy, but it was exactly what we needed since we weren't there very much. Jean Claude had stocked it with a bottle each of red and white wine, two big bottles of water, milk, yogurt, fruit, coffee and tea. And since we'd mentioned in our "offer letter" to him that we were coming to Bordeaux to celebrate our first anniversary, he also left us a gift: a Christmas ornament of gold grapes. I thought that was such a sweet touch. If you ever find yourself in Bordeaux, definitely check out this place. And check out Airbnb in general. I'm kind of obsessed now.
After settling in, having fast-food "tacos" for dinner (which consisted of meat, sauce, cheese and French fries wrapped in a tortilla - unlike any taco I've ever had in my life) and a celebratory beer at a joint that offered free Wi-Fi, we went to bed early to get a good night's sleep before our 8:30 a.m. wine tour.
We met our group, which included another American couple from Napa Valley and three Germany women, by the tourism office. This was our view while we waited:
It was a bit rainy, but that didn't slow us down. We piled in a van, and our guide, Brise (we think that's what his name was) drove us to the town (technically, the commune) of St. Emilion. It's one of the major wine-producing regions of Bordeaux, and it typically produces Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It's the pink region on our map below:
The town itself is an adorable, hilly little village with red-roofed houses and cobblestones galore. Brise took us through the church, the cloisters, and a beautiful lookout over the town and the surrounding countryside, which was filled with vineyards. The view was stunning - it reminded me for the world of being in the little hilltop towns in Tuscany. Here are a few pictures of St. Emilion.
We then walked down through the curvy streets of the town on the way to a wine shop for our first tasting. We passed several gems along the way:
We finally arrived at our first wine tasting, at Le Cellier de St. Emilion. Bruno, who was in charge of our tasting, was freakishly knowledgeable about wine. He explained about the different grapes and soils around the area, how the wine was made, and the differences in the various years.
He was also very funny. He explained to us that the three components of a wine are its "history, taste, and poetry - but if you're from Australia or Texas, you call that last one bullshit. The rest of the world calls it poetry."
The gallery below has pictures of the labels of each wine we tried. We bought two bottles of the one on the top left, the Chateau Martet (partially because it was the only one we could afford!). You'll notice that three of the wines are from the same chateau (wine estate, not castle) but in different years. The 2005 was our favorite, followed by the 2001, and then the 2010.
*Please excuse the fact that they're all sideways. I don't know why they're like that, and I can't figure out how to change it.
I wish I could remember everything we were told - maybe I should start bringing a tape recorder to these things. Regardless, we really enjoyed the tasting and learning all about St. Emilion wines - and they're delicious! Below are some pics of our first stop...
After we left the wine tasting, we...
...stay tuned for Bordeaux, Part Deux!
E & B
Memory is a funny thing.
Last April 26th, our wedding day, I couldn't imagine remembering less than every single detail of the day. It was so vivid, so intense, that I thought every little bit would be ingrained forever. But even now, just a year later, I'm surprised by what remains.
I remember trying to take a nap with B before our rehearsal, because we knew the next couple of days would be crazy and sleep would be hard to come by - but neither of us slept.
I remember going to the Growler Station and having a beer together, on the house, before the rehearsal, a quiet moment just for us, and for Well's Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale (hey - don't knock it 'til you've tried it).
I remember being at our rehearsal dinner, anxious, scared for my brother who had food poisoning, and sad that my parents were missing it. I remember the relief when, during the first few moments of the slide show Mom came up behind me and gave me a huge hug, because they'd made it.
I remember everyone being so impressed that Mom and I not only stayed out at City Tavern with everyone until about 1 a.m., but that they kept buying us drinks and we kept drinking them. I remember my new "baby" cousin, who had just turned 21, insisting on buying me a shot.
I especially remember not going to sleep like a good girl on the night before my wedding, but instead staying up in the giant king bed at the Westin Poinsett and just talking to my mom for several hours. I also remember her insisting on taking a selfie to commemorate my last night as Emily Kathryn Payne.
I remember sitting in the room at the Westin Poinsett watching everyone else get their hair and makeup done, while I was last. I remember everyone had gone out to lunch, but my mom had dropped off a Pita Pit sandwich for me, and on my wedding day, I ate lunch alone, my hair all done, my bare feet propped up on a nearby chair (don't worry - I needed those quiet moments).
I remember being driven to the church by my father-in-law to be, who gave me a hug and told me he loved me before he sent me off to have my first look with his son.
I remember how blue the sky was and how green the trees, as I walked to meet B in front of the church. I remember him crying when he saw me, and how I felt like I should cry, but I couldn't because I was so unbelievably happy.
I remember the crazy old bats at the church "babysitting" the bridesmaids, photobombing all our shots, not allowing us to be announced as Mr. and Mrs. Brian Stevenson for fear of clapping, and generally making us feel unwelcome (of course, now it's just hilarious, but at the time - seriously?).
I remember that after B and I walked back down the aisle, one old bat sent us out the front doors of the church, but no one else came out that way. I remember being honked at by passing drivers on Church Street as we soaked in our first few minutes alone as husband and wife.
I remember waiting in Joel's Java, having our own "cocktail hour" before the reception, how good those caprese bites tasted, and how I kept stealing sips of B's beer because I was afraid to have a beverage of my own on an empty stomach.
I remember our first dance - unpracticed, unplanned, and SO awkward, but somehow the pictures wound up looking amazing.
I remember the reception being a blur of greeting and hanging out with all those we loved, of dancing, of color and lights and music.
I remember Amy and David taking us up to the top of the Westin Poinsett for pictures, and how good it felt up on top of the hotel with the breeze, and how lovely to get away for just a few moments.
I don't actually remember this moment, but since Amy and David memorialized it forever, I feel I need to share it. I do, however, remember how much I love champagne:
I remember our Daddy-Daughter dance to "House at Pooh Corner," by Kenny Loggins, one of our many favorite songs.
I remember my mom and dad celebrating their 34th anniversary on that day, and dancing to Alan Jackson's "Remember When." I also remember that I now cannot listen to that song without crying. Every damn time.
I remember my wine and champagne glasses kept disappearing, even when I put people in charge of holding on to them for me.
I remember our last dance to Don Henley's "Taking You Home," and how we did a little better with that one. Practice makes perfect.
I remember the sadness climbing into the horse-drawn carriage that our amazing wedding day was over, but the incredible relief at a few quiet minutes alone with my best friend.
But mostly I remember this: When we were standing on the front steps of Christ Church after our wedding, after the old bat had ushered us out, I remember telling B I loved him. I also told him I couldn't wait for a lifetime of adventures with him. I had no idea that this was in store.
If you had told me then that we'd be spending our anniversary in Bordeaux, instead of Savannah, Ga., as we'd initially planned, I'd have said, "Yeah, whatever." Then again, if you had told me that in less than a year we'd be living in France, I'd have thought you were seriously a few French fries short of a Happy Meal.
But here's the thing: it doesn't matter whether we live in South Carolina, or France, or Outer Mongolia. Brian John, I love you. Anywhere I am with you is where I want to be. Every day I'm grateful to be your wife and thankful for the many adventures we've had this year, both large and small. I'm always in awe of your sunny disposition, your silliness, your patience, your sense of direction and your ability to fix everything. You make me a better, happier, stronger, more caring person, and I can only hope I do the same for you. Year one is in the books, and I can't wait to see what year two has in store. Je t'aime, mon amour.
Whether you know it or not, or whether you've even identified it yet, you've got a travel MO: that thing you're most drawn to do when you find yourself in a new place. My grandmother really loves cemeteries (my mother complains that's all she saw during her childhood travels). My dad loves art museums and galleries, and good luck getting him out once he's gotten started looking. My mother likes to shop. And I - well, when I travel I love food and drink. I can't resist the siren call of a sidewalk cafe, specials written in chalk on slate, of a carafe of white wine collecting condensation in the afternoon sunshine.
My former colleagues called me a "foodie" with an air of derision, but that's such a joke. Being a foodie is awesome. And for better or worse, it's what I like to do and how I like to spend my time, especially in foreign countries. I think there's no better way to get to the true heart of a location than to: a) sit at a restaurant and observe the goings-on, and b) to try the local foods and drinks...fresh cevice in Costa Rica, crepes in France, homemade potato gnocci in Italy. You learn so much about a people and a place.
For instance, I've learned that lunch is tres important here. Dinner is typically at 8-9 at night, so it's a long time to wait if you have lunch at 1:00, especially for me. My mother and husband will tell you, I am not a fun person to be around when I'm hungry. Last Friday, I roasted an artichoke for lunch, and had a couple of cookies for dessert. That was it. Due to indecision and bad luck, by the time we received our food on Friday night, it was after 10:00 and I was in tears at the dinner table because I was so hungry and tired.
So yesterday I decided, instead of nibbling on bread and cheese, roasting an artichoke, or grabbing a sandwich from a boulangerie, I was going to have a proper lunch. Tartines and Co. came at the recommendation of a French coworker of my mother's at Wake Forest University, who takes a group of students to Tours each summer.
It was a little chilly and the outdoor tables were in the shade, so I decided to eat in the restaurant. It was smaller than I expected, and much more modern. I loved the turquoise walls and water glasses, and the little sparkly white pom-poms strung around the room. I also enjoyed watching the others that were eating there. Even though I couldn't understand their conversations, the two girls about my age to my right seemed to be having a serious, slightly venting discussion about something: irritating coworkers, a jackass boyfriend, who knows. The ladies to my left very much had the appearance of "ladies who lunch," both of them having a glass of wine with their meal and taking their time with it. And one of them had a huge diamond.
Me, well, I skipped the wine, and I decided on the "formule," a common thing here. It's a combination of appetizer, salad, entree, dessert and/or beverage for a set price. What's included varies depending on the restaurant, but this one featured the "tartine du moment" or the "Madras Burger," a dessert of choice, and a bottle of water for 10.50 euros.
I settled on the tartine du moment. It wasn't what I was expecting. I had pictured something like a fruit tart, with a kind of shortbread crust. I think maybe I had pictured a quiche. What I received was a long, narrow slice of toasted bread, topped with ham, cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a little cumin sprinkled on top. But it was more than just plain ham and cheese. The ham was jambon cru, which is a dried, salted ham, almost similar to "country ham" back home. The cheese was St. Marcellin, creamy and delicious, dropped on the long piece of bread in melty dollops. And of course the tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes.
The tartine came with a petite side salad, with what I believe were crushed, almost powdered, nuts on top, and a sprinkling of cumin to match the tartine. Delicious, and just the perfect amount of food. The tartine looked huge when I got started, but as I ate, it was perfectly satisfying without feeling stuffed and sick.
But the dessert was what got me. Every so often I venture out of my comfort zone and try something new, and it sparks one of my many "obsessions." Last fall it was Bloody Marys. At my sister-in-law's bachelorette party, after staying out until 3 a.m. partying in Nashville on Saturday night, I eschewed my traditional mimosa at Sunday brunch because it just didn't sound appetizing. Instead I ordered a Bloody Mary, which I'm not sure I'd ever had in my life, and Lord, I was hooked after just a sip. For the next few months, I kept inventing reasons to go to brunch on the weekends just so I could get a Bloody Mary. If you haven't figured this out already, my husband is a very patient man.
Anyway. At Tartines and Co., my two choices for dessert were this: fromage blanc or panna cotta. Since cheese does not qualify as a dessert in my book under any circumstance, I went with the panna cotta. I think I had had it before when I studied abroad in Italy, but my memory of it was fuzzy. I vaguely remember disliking it because it wasn't super-sweet and I would rather have had gelato or a pastry (FYI: not much has changed in 11 years).
But this time - oh. Either my taste buds have matured, or this was better panna cotta, because oh. good. lord. I could have eaten another couple of ramekins of the stuff. It was all I could do to keep from licking the dish.
Panna cotta translates loosely to "cooked cream," and it's a mixture of heavy cream, egg whites, and honey, baked on low heat. This had just the right texture. It was similar to creme brulee (minus the crunchy top part, of course), but firmer. It was just sweet enough without being too sickly and overbearing after the large, rich tartine. I was hooked. And now I'm going to drag my husband from restaurant to restaurant to see if there's panna cotta on the menu.
If you find yourself in Tours - well, first of all, if you find yourself in Tours in the next five and a half months, let me know so we can hang out. But if ever you find yourself in Tours, be sure to make a stop at Tartines and Co. And don't forget the panna cotta.
P.S. - My apologies for no pictures of my lunch. I didn't have my good camera with me, and I would've felt awkward whipping it out in a restaurant to take pictures of my food, anyway. So enjoy the pics of the exterior. Maybe it'll help you find the restaurant if ever you're searching for it.
I'm all for independence. I have no qualms about going anywhere I want, hopping on trains or wandering around the city by myself.
But Chambord presented a bit of a problem. It's a chateau I wanted to visit, one that came highly recommended both on a personal level and on various websites, but it's about 8-9 miles from the nearest train station. In addition to the train, I would have had to take a taxi (if I even could've found one). This chateau required a little help in the form of the husband and the car.
So yesterday, we set out on our adventure. This chateau is in the middle of BFE (or BFF, as the case may be). It took more than an hour to get there from Tours, but the drive was well worth it. We saw bits and pieces of the chateau over the treeline as we came down the long road to the parking area, but nothing can really prepare you for the sight of the full chateau and the grounds in their immensity.
Of the four Loire Valley chateaux I've visited, B and I decided that Chambord is our favorite. It earned that distinction based on three criteria:
1 // Size/appearance of the chateau: Each chateau has its own distinctive characteristics. Chenonceaux is actually built atop the River Cher and is easily recognizable by its arches over the river. Amboise is perched high about the River Loire and the town of Amboise, and the actual castle has a bit of Beauty and the Beast-like appearance. But Chambord makes your jaw drop. For starters, it's massive. To be fair, none of these chateaux could be classified as "small," but Chambord is huge. And because the grounds are relatively flat and open, it looks even larger. The chateau itself is intricate and ornate; the towers atop the chateau almost have a Russian or Middle Eastern look to them. I can't imagine the effort necessary to build this thing. All the chateaux have been fun to photograph, but this was my favorite.
2 // Contents of the chateau: There's no comparison here. The amount of furniture, household goods, clothing, paintings, sculpture, and general accoutrements is overwhelming. Every time B and I thought we were finished with a floor, we'd realized we'd missed a room...or two, or three. Nooks, crannies, passageways, walkways, large salons and tiny closets; all are crammed with stuff. You could spend days in there looking at everything. Chambord certainly gave us the most comprehensive view of its various owners and what their lifestyles might have been like. This collection is not to be missed.
3 // Overall estate size: Chenonceaux is a close second, but something about Chambord is just special. The long tree-lined road leading up to the chateau. The moat/river around it. The biking trails in the woods. It's just spectacular, and by far the largest. The only thing it's missing, in my opinion, is a garden. The other chateaux all have some pretty nice gardens. But the size definitely wins.
Below are some pictures we took. I've tried to restrain myself, but it's so hard. It's just so beautiful. We hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed exploring the chateau and taking them.
E & B
Some days the words just don't come. No matter how much you want to write something grand and magnificent, the only word that comes out is "Merp."
On those days, really the only thing to do is to turn to the camera, because it will give you a far better look into my day, and into my new city, than I will. Enjoy!
Today was my first day alone while B went to work. This isn't the problem that many people believe it is.
The last time we were here, B and I had only been dating for six months, and he had yet to learn all of my, ah, how to put this politely? My quirks and idiosyncrasies? He was a little concerned: "You know I'll have to work all day, right? I won't be able to hang out with you." Believe me, I understood, and it wasn't a problem. Hanging out with people constantly, even ones you love dearly, is far more draining.
Still, it was hard to let B go this morning. So much love and guilt, all mixed together. I feel horrible that he's the one going off to work and I get to play. I know how miserable and resentful I would be if I were in his shoes. A dear friend of mine, who recently became a stay-at-home mother to her three children, said, "I am not an earner anymore; I'm a consumer. I'm no better than the kids!" There is definitely a certain level of guilt to overcome, especially since our only "child" is furry, has four legs, and is currently in Pennsylvania with her grandparents.
It was almost like the city was lonely with me today. Many stores and restaurants are closed on Mondays. Some of them only open from 2-7 in the afternoon. Most of the market stalls were closed, much to my dismay.
To kill some time before lunch, I wandered down Rue Nationale, the main drag of Tours. It's a wide street with tons of shops, and I stopped in a few. At the first store, I was interested in some turquoise pants. I picked them up to try on, after the sales lady said something to me that I didn't understand, and I went into the fitting room, after the fitting room lady said something I didn't understand.
As I tried on the pants, I felt so helpless and miserable. The pants were way too big - I don't know what size I am here, and I don't know how to ask. I didn't have a clue what any of the sales ladies had said to me, despite desperately trying to glean some kind of meaning from their rapid-fire French. I sat down on the tiny bench in the dressing room, and I just wanted to go back to the apartment to take a nap. I was so tired.
It's incredibly exhausting to feel so lost on a daily basis. I have things I want to say or ask, and I want desperately to understand what others are saying to me. When you can't even understand that a sales lady is asking if you need help finding a size, you start to feel really stupid. You feel inferior. And you feel incredibly, incredibly frustrated. No wonder babies and toddlers have such meltdowns - they want to communicate things, but they just aren't able. I was close to melting down today myself.
And then, in that dressing room, it occurred to me. The answer wasn't to go back to the apartment and barricade myself. No, the only way to learn French and to learn to understand my new neighbors, restaurateurs, and shopkeepers is to keep on going out there and embarrassing the heck out of myself. I have to keep asking my questions in broken French and keep trying to decipher the replies, even if that means having to switch to English for a little while (something I HATE having to do). I have to not be humiliated by that blank look on my own face when someone says something to me and I didn't understand a word they said.
When I got back home after that excursion, I had received my Real Simple quote of the day email, and boy, it couldn't have been more timely:
So later this afternoon, as I went in search of a white wine to go with dinner, the proprietor of a wine store said something to me as I came in. I said, "Pardon?", in the hopes that he'd repeat it more slowly, but then he switched to English. "Can I help you find anything?" So I asked, in my pitiful French, "Je besoin un vin blanc pour diner au'jourdhui, avec pate primavera." He showed me several white wines, and I eventually wound up with a chardonnay. At the register, I asked him, "How do you say, 'I'm just looking,' in French?" He told me to say, "Je regarde" - "I'm looking."
Maybe I looked stupid for a minute there. But he was kind, and I learned a phrase I needed to know. And maybe that's all you can do in life, regardless of which language you speak - just keep making a fool of yourself, and keep on learning.
It was a busy/un-busy day here in good ol' Tours. We slept in - B until 10:15, then he went to go get me a croissant and he woke me up at 11:00. It was magnificent - it was the first time I've slept through the night since we've been here, and oh, it felt so good.
We then managed to make it to the market. Shopping at the markets is THE thing I was most excited about when I thought about moving to France. Today's market run did not disappoint. See, I had picked up a free magazine at Carrefour City (a grocery store) to try to practice my French. I mean, my French is terrible, but I figured even I could manage to semi-read a supermarket circular. What we found was a recipe for spring salmon with vegetables, so we went shopping for those ingredients.
We went to at least three grocers, the fishmonger, the fromagerie, and the epicerie (spice store) for salt and soy sauce. My husband is the only reason I did not buy ALL THE THINGS at the market, especially the cheeses and bread. He is also the reason I did not steal this lady's French bulldog in the market as well - yes, dogs are allowed in the market. And I wanted them all, especially that little Frenchie. I miss my Luna-bug.
Anyway, here is our market haul. I'll show you a pic of the finished recipe later, but I do enjoy doing things in chronological order :)
P.S. - That round thing is a circle of chevre (goat cheese) from a nearby chateau; it is not a moldy doughnut. But yes, we did eat the rind, mold and all.
After a lunch of salad with homemade dressing, a baguette, and cheese, we decided to take the car out and see what we could find. We were trying to find the Vouvray region, home of my favorite sparkling wine, but the GPS was a little off. So when we found ourselves only 13 kilometers from Amboise, home of my favorite chateau, it was an easy choice.
Again, I had been to this chateau before, but B had not. I love playing tour guide, so it's been fun to take him to these places I went by myself the last time. Here are some pictures of the chateau and surrounding town. It was absolutely breathtaking. This one is much different than Chenonceaux, but just as amazing!
After our journey to Amboise and back (including a stop at a local wine cave to pick up some white to go with dinner - more on those wine caves later!), we came back to cook. Our market purchases came together perfectly, and dinner was delicious. Our lemon tart with meringue on top for dessert was even better. And the wine was best.
The good news is that B has started using his phone as a "health tracker." We're not sure how accurate it is, but according to it, we've taken more than 13,000 steps today. And today was a pretty light day. I would love to know how many steps we took in the past few days as we were moving, exploring, etc. The French life is incredibly decadent but also healthy, and so far we're loving it. Thanks for keeping up with our adventures!
E & B
Today is my dad's birthday! I was going to write a post in his honor with a photo tour of everything I ate today, but so far it's been duds. Plus, tonight we are going out to dinner with one of Brian's new coworkers and his wife, and I feel like it would be exceedingly awkward to photograph everything I eat for dinner. So maybe I'll try the culinary photo tour of my day for you another time, Dad. Regardless, I love and miss you like crazy and I hope you're being spoiled on your special day!
We didn't do too much today. We began by grabbing chocolate croissants and a cafe au lait for me. Delicious!
After that, we took a field trip to IKEA to pick up some things we still needed around the apartment, such as clothes hangers, salt and pepper grinders, etc. It was my first time fully taking in the wonder that is IKEA. I am now in love. They have so many cute things! B has realized this may be a mistake.
We took our belongings back to our apartment and grabbed lunch, then we took a nap. The jet lag struggle is real, y'all. Between the jet lag and all the walking, I want a nap every 3-4 hours. I'm hoping that my body will acclimate soon, because it's getting really old.
Another thing my body is having to acclimate to is being outside so much, walking around, and being in the sun. I joke that, "I'm only outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios," but seriously. I'm an indoor girl. When I was working all the time, I didn't have much of a choice. But in just two full days here, I've managed to become sunburnt on my face. Seriously? We are on roughly the same latitude as Maine. How white am I?! I mean, seriously?
So this prompted a trip to Parashop, a store that specializes in skin and hair care and cosmetics (basically, my heaven). After another awkward (on my part), but incredibly polite and helpful exchange with a sales girl, I now have some fun Biotherm anti-aging face cream with SPF 50. If I am going to sit outside at sidewalk cafes and lounge around in the park reading, I'm going to have to do something.
I also picked up some Caudalie Divine Oil for my skin, since that's been another fun discovery: humidity is very low here. I haven't found a hair dryer yet so I've been letting my hair air-dry, and it hasn't been frizzy. This is incredibly exciting. Unfortunately, my skin, especially my hands and feet, feel like sandpaper. Plus, Divine Oil is so much cheaper here that I couldn't resist. All I need to do now is pick up some more L'Occitane hand cream and foot cream, and we'll be in business. The things you learn when you leave the southern U.S. Oh, and Sister, you will LOVE this store - B is going to regret ever letting me go in here!
We rounded out our afternoon with a nice walk around the city, getting the lay of the land. In the process, we made our way to Cathedrale St. Gatien. I didn't have a chance to go in it before because it was under construction/renovation inside, so we took a look around. The stained glass is stunning, but what really blows my mind is the outside - all the stone carving, the huge size of it - and all this become computers and cranes and modern technology. It's amazing the things folks managed to do back in the ages, and this church is a prime example. Pictures below.
Tonight we're going to go to dinner with one of B's coworkers and his wife. I'm not sure exactly where we're going, but he mentioned to B something about a "formule," a kind of pre-fixe menu thing with saucission, fromage, and vin. And he asked B if we liked cheese and wine. Do we like cheese and wine? What kind of question is that? Of course we do! We adore cheese and wine. So I am very excited to hang out with our new French friends and go to a place recommended by the locals. More details on that tomorrow, I'm sure.
E & B
So today wasn't as glamorous as yesterday. Whatevs. We're in France, it has to be more glamorous than Greenville, right?
We spent the morning retrieving and unpacking our trunks from B's company. This was not as easy as it sounds. Those things weigh a ton empty, much less full. And there's really nowhere close to our apartment to park, and the chances of us being able to lift the full trunks and carry them up four flights of narrow, spiral wooden stairs are about zero...maybe even in negative numbers. So we had to park a block or two away and unload the trunks into manageable suitcases/duffels/tote bags and carry THOSE up to our apartment and unpack. I'm sure the nice French people having lunch outside at the pasta restaurant on the corner had a nice laugh at us Americans. Oh, well.
After that, we were starving (YOU try taking 85 trips up and down those stairs with bags and see how hungry you are), so we grabbed sandwiches and tarts and had a little picnic by the Loire. This is a popular thing to do. Students from the nearby college/university all picnic there, so we had plenty of company. The weather was lovely, particularly in the sun. And my lemon tart...oh my. Apple tarts are nice and all, but lemon is where it's at. See some pictures of lunch and the Loire below.
As for the myth-busting, well, today, we passed a shop called Coffea, which sells coffee and tea. I wanted to buy some since I brought both my kettle and my French press coffeemaker. When we went into the shop, I asked (okay, tried to ask) which was the shopkeeper's favorite. It turned into an incredible experience. She asked if I liked coffee strong or not, and I said I did. Hello?! I am an honorary Gilmore Girl; of course I like my coffee strong. She showed me many varieties of strong coffee, including Italian, Sicilian, Ethiopian, and possibly something else.
What struck me was how kind and patient she was. The French get SUCH a bad rap for being snobby and/or hateful to Americans, but this woman could not have been more gracious. You would've thought someone delivered her straight from the American South. My French is bad. I can order a glass of wine and ask how much those shoes cost, but for any more complicated exchanges? Forget it. She threw in the few English words she knew, and I used the few French words I knew, and between us she steered me toward the Sicilian coffee, which has a flavor of nuts ("noix"). She also taught us the word for ground coffee (cafe moulue) and she ground my coffee for my French press. She was just SO patient with me/us. To the lady at Coffea, thank you for making me feel welcome in your country and your store. I remember your kindness and I WILL be back when I run out of coffee.
It's really humbling to be in a country and not speak the language. Even after a few days here, I do feel some sympathy for the many Hispanics in America. However -- on that note, I will say that a), B and I are here with legal visas, not illegally, and b), we are not a drain on their welfare system. That's as political as I'm going to get, but it has to be said. We're incredibly awkward with the language, but at least we're not draining taxpayers' money.
I bought macarons this afternoon at my favorite chocolaterie/patisserie off Rue Nationale, and again, the girl was incredibly sweet to us. I used my bumbling French to order my 5 macarons (pistachio - duh, salted caramel for B, key lime, raspberry and violet rose), and she was incredibly helpful. She urged us to taste some of the chocolates on display at the counter for free. But you're incredibly vulnerable when you don't know if she said, "Here are your macarons," "You chose stupid flavors of macarons," or if she said, "Shove the macarons up your..." well, you know.
All the waiters and shopkeepers we've had thus far have been SO nice. The myth that the French are rude has been busted, and I'm the one to do it.
But for now, what I'm going to do is make a salad. We bought some produce at Monoprix today. As best I can describe it, Monoprix is like a SuperTarget. It has women's and children's clothes, personal care products (shampoo, makeup, etc), and then a full grocery store in the back. It's not as good as Les Halles (the market), but that is only open until 12:30 each day, and we missed it today because of the Saga of the Trunks. So we bought our produce at Monoprix, and it looks pretty good to us! It was also really affordable: 1 euro for a bunch of radishes, 1 euro for a head of butter lettuce, 3 euros for one of our bottles of wine, and so on...#winning. Our salad makings are below.
Stay tuned, because tomorrow's blog post will be dedicated to a very special person to me!
E & B
P.S. - We got to FaceTime with our sweet chien noir and my mama-in-law tonight. We miss our Luna something fierce. I am gonna steal a cute French pup, 'cause I'm suffering from furry withdrawal.