Choosing A Bottle of Rose 2 Choosing The Perfect Bottle of Rose

(Domaine Saint Mitre, Chateau La Galiniere Cuvee Le Cengle, Commanderie de la Bargemone)

When it’s really hot outside, and I feel too lazy to make a cocktail, all I want is a bottle of rosé.  From May through September, there is always at least one bottle in the fridge, waiting for me.  Sitting in the front yard with a pretty pink bottle on ice, chatting with my neighbors as they take the evening (or afternoon) walks… well, there’s nothing better.

I want rosé to be simple, and unassuming.  I don’t want to taste too much of it, it should be pretty quiet.  While I don’t necessarily have a favorite vineyard, or a favorite bottle (ah, there are so many out there!), I do have two simple rules when I head to my favorite wine shop.

 

1. It should be from Provence, France.  Now, I’m sure there are other places that make a pretty good bottle of wine, but Provence has never let me down and other areas seem to be a little more hit and miss.  Mostly, too sweet for my taste.

2. It should be the lightest, faintest, just-a-hint-of-color pink.   That middle bottle up there, that’s almost too dark, but it’s delicious, so I let it slide.  Anything darker and it just misses the mark for me.

 

The hardest part about rosé is that I haven’t found a grocery store bottle that works, so you do have to make an extra stop at a wine shop or liquor store.  But, I promise it will be worth it!

And one other favorites… Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes.

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yaaah!  It’s been a while since we did a Flipping Pages feature, but Jess has been hard at work flipping through so many pages to pick only the best for recommendations!   And there are a LOT of them this time around.  I just finished California myself and absolutely loved it!  Perfect for the last bit of summer!
Summer Travel Reading 0001 Flipping Pages: Traveling Without Leaving Home
Hey, There! It’s been ages! I’m transitioning into a semi-new job and was lucky enough to have the summer (well, July) off. Though I yearned to travel, I thought it better to stay home and get myself organized and rested after a really busy spring. But without realizing it, I actually traveled the world this summer and I’ve put together a list of my favorite spots (and the books that transported me there this summer), just for you! xoxo, Jessica
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Post-Apocalyptic USA
California by Eden Lepucki and The Stand by Stephen King.
I’m crazy about both of these books. California got a ton of press, mainly because Colbert recommended it on his show and it’s next in my book club’s lineup. So, I was basically forced to read it. But I’m so glad I did. Lepucki paints a very realistic (and terrifying) portrait of America after a series of ecological and financial disasters and one couple who tries to survive in the wilderness, in complete isolation. The story, and the various characters’ secrets, unfolds slowly, but steadily, with bits of information cleverly and gradually imparted to the reader. I could not stop reading and read it over two sittings. Yay, vacation!
The Stand is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up after discovering King’s later work. I used to turn my nose up at him. It’s true. But I’m trying not to be a jerk and have to admit he’s a top-notch storyteller. The best, really. And The Stand is one long (1,200-pages!), adventurous ride across America as a military-engineered virus kills most of the population. It’s so much fun. Plus, one of the survivors is from Ogunquit, Maine, one of my favorite small towns!
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Post-Apocalyptic London and the Surrounding Countryside
I didn’t know a whole lot about this book going in and I’m so glad. (I joked that M.R. Carey is actually Mariah Carey, but no such luck.) Since I don’t want to ruin the surprise, I won’t say a whole lot about this book, except that it’s about a little girl who is locked in prison. At first, we’re not sure why, or why she’s treated with as much caution as Hannibal Lecter. Finding out was a real treat, and this is my favorite novel within the genre…and I don’t even want to say which genre it belongs in!
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New York and Florida
This is sort of a memoir about Schwalbe and his mother and their informal “book club”, after his mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They use the last years of her life to discuss books they’re reading (often at the same time). Their discussions about books turn into deeper conversations, allowing them to also talk about their lives in general. It’s just the sweetest thing…to see how much literature has meant to Schwalbe’s family and how they make connections to their lives through certain books. His mother is also incredibly inspiring.
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New Hampshire
The Last Policeman by Ben Winters.
How could I not read a mystery novel (the first in a trilogy) SET IN MY HOME STATE?! Aside that I had to believe a murder could take place in Concord, NH, TLP also takes place in the months before an asteroid will collide with Earth. I mean, that’s a lot of crazy, but Winters somehow grounds the novel and the characters in reality and I ate it up. I’m looking forward to reading the next two installments…before the world ends.
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Vermont
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.
Oh, Vermont, I just love you. And I ate up this book, about a scholarship co-ed (Mabel…even her name says “I’m poor”) who is invited to spend the summer at her uber-wealthy roommate’s family summer compound. The family has a lot of secrets. I mean, so many. And our gal Mabel wants to know all of them. So did I. And boy, were those secrets juicy. This was such a great summer read.
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1980’s London
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe.
This is a collection of Stibbe’s letters to her sister while she was a nanny for a family in London in the 80’s. In the letters, she describes her life and conversations with the family and I found myself laughing through the whole thing.
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Tokyo, London, New York, Cape Town
The Three by Sarah Lotz.
This book creeped me out. Majorly. (I have a soft spot for genuinely creepy thrillers. They’re hard to find.) There are a series of plane crashes on the same day, and three children are the sole survivors from three of the crashes. But when they return home, the children aren’t the same as they used to be. And I cannot sleep anymore.
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Ontario/Muskoka Lakes District
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
A sweet starting-to-come-of-age tale about a little girl whose family spends every summer at their lake house. She has a Summertime BFF and her parents fight a lot. She likes horror movies, which she probably shouldn’t be allowed to watch. It’s just darling. The Tamaki sisters perfectly capture that awkward slice of time right when childhood ends, but the teenage years have yet to begin.
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Brooklyn
This graphic novel by the famed New Yorker cartoonist is just perfect. With a dose of depressing. But not really. It’s about her aging parents and their last years of decline. Does that sound depressing? No! It’s really funny and touching and even thought-provoking. I particularly love Chast’s drawings and descriptions of her parents’ Brooklyn apartment, which they lived in for something like 50 years.
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Mallorca
The Vacationers by Emma Straub.
This is the perfect summer vacation book…about a summer vacation. It’s not too heavy, not too serious, just the right amount of mystery and humor. You’ll finish it by the pool and feel accomplished, but you’ll find you’d much rather be by the pool in Mallorca. Can’t have it all.
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Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and beyond
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.
This is the fluffiest, guiltiest thing I read all summer and it hit the spot. Though it’s long, you’ll sail through it. A NYU professor’s boyfriend invites her to visit his family in Singapore…and when she arrives, she finds out he’s from one of the richest families on…the planet? And his family is not pleased to meet her. Scandal! It made me want to fly to Singapore and gorge myself on the famously delicious street food, which apparently you don’t have to be a Crazy Rich Asian to afford. Score.
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It’s really summertime, and for me, that means lots of fruit and lots of cocktails.  But I really can’t stand drinks that are too sweet.  So, all of our requirements are met here, without too much sweet and not too much sugar.  All around, delicious.
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Watermelon Whiskey Cocktails

Ingredients

2 oz rye whiskey

2 oz watermelon juice

1 oz Chambord

.5 oz lemon juice

3 sprigs of rosemary (2 for shaking, 1 for garnish)

Instructions

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and then strain into a glass.  Garnish with the last sprig of rosemary.  Enjoy!

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It is July.  And it is HOT.  Valley Hot.  Sitting at my desk, while the sun burns through the windows, has been a little bit miserable. Happy to be so busy, miserable to be so hot in my bright white office.  So, popsicles.

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Cold, and satisfying and super healthy, because it’s just juice!   My lovely friend Megan posted a juice recipe a while back that is so perfect.  It’s sweet and so full of flavor, and I always sneak in a little bit when I’m juicing the kale and other boring healthy greens.  I juiced a bit and then added some solids to the blender so they wouldn’t freeze too hard (although, I guess if you like a solid hard-as-a-rock popsicle, you could skip the solids and just freeze the juice.) So delicious, so perfect to get through that 5:00 hour when I really want to quit, because the sun is burning through my retinas, but I must keep going.  Enjoy!

Pineapple Apple Mint Popsicles

4 large green apples

2/3 pineapple

4 sprigs of mint, leaves removed from 2 sprigs

Put the apples, 1/3of the pineapple and 2 sprigs of mint into the juicer and juice.  Transfer the juice to a blender, adding the remaining 1/3 of pineapple and the leaves from 2 sprigs of mint.  Blend.  Pour mixture into popsicle molds and put in the freezer until frozen.  Enjoy!

Honestly, I think you could switch up this recipe any way which way you wanted… more pineapple, more apple or more mint.  It seems to work really well in whichever combination you desire!

If you wanted a more delicious adult snack, I bet a little bit of vodka would be just perfect.  Will try that one out sooner rather than later icon smile Pineapple Apple Mint Popsicles

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When we bought our house, the entire backyard was covered in concrete.  It was so sad back there!  One Thanksgiving, we ripped it all out and started the long and arduous process of planting every square foot.  It took a really long time, a lot of plants died and I learned what might work best for our backyard.  I decided that everything we planted though would need to have a purpose… either it should create shade where we needed shade, or it should produce something that we could eat.  The apple tree was one of the very last additions to the yard, but I’m so happy I decided to plant it!  I guess it’s been there for about three years now, and it has grown so well!  A few times a year, my husband takes a chainsaw to it, under the guise of pruning.  It looks absolutely ridiculous because Chris pays no attention to aesthetics.  But, I guess it’s worked pretty well because it’s producing buckets and buckets of apples now.

So, with all these apples (really, so many apples) I’ve got to do something with them.  So far, pies & tarts.  But, I figure that since I planted the tree, cared for the tree  and harvested the apples, anything I cook with them is calorie free.  Bring on the tarts!

First up, Dorie Greenspans Crispy, Crackly Almond-Apple Tart.  It’s simple, it’s delicious and an absolutely perfect way to end a meal!  Enjoy!

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Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart

For the Almond Cream

1 1/4 cups almond flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

5 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Tart

8 sheets filo dough (each 9×14 inches)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

About 1 tablespoon sugar

3 medium sweet apples, such as gala (she suggest peeling them, I didn’t and it’s delicious)

For the Glaze

2 teaspoons water

About 1/2 cup apple jelly or strained apricot jam

 

To make the almond cream:  Whisk the almond flour and sugar together in a bowl.  In another bowl, beat the egg, vanilla and salt together.  Whisk in half of the almond flour mixture, and when it’s well combined, whisk in the heavy cream.  Finish by whisking in the remaining almond mixture.  Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the almond cream and chill for at least 3 hours.  (The almond cream can be refrigerated for up to three days)

When you’re ready to construct and bake the tart, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Place one piece of filo dough on the lined baking sheet (keep the remaining pieces of filo covered with plastic wrap), brush it with melted butter, and sprinkle it with sugar.  Cover with another sheet of dough, then butter and sugar the sheet.  Continue until you’ve stacked, buttered and sugared all 8 sheets. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently spread the almond cream over the top of the filo: you can leave a slim border of uncovered dough on all sides – it will curl in the oven and that’s rather nice – or you can spread the almond topping all the way to the edges.  Work slowly and be gentle, since filo is extremely delicate – if it tears (and it probably will), patch it with almond cream.  Cover the tart lightly with plastic wrap while you cut the apples.

Slice each apple in half from top to bottom and remove the core.  Cut each half lengthwise into very thin slices, keeping the slices together – you should get about 14 slices per half – then use the palm of your hand to flatten and fan them.  Arrange the fanned -out apples on top of the almond cream, placing them in 3 long rows down the length of the tart or in as many short crosswise rows as you can fit.  Keep the rows fairly close together, but allow a little almond cream to peek out between them.

Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife and the almond cream is set.  Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

Stir the water into the apple jelly or apricot jam and bring it to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave oven.  Gently brush the glaze over the entire tart.  Using a cookie sheet or two large metal spatulas or pancake turners, transfer the tart to a serving platter or cutting board.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

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View From Montmarte 1024x681 Wandering Through... A Print Shop!

 

Traveling is my favorite.  And photography runs a close second.  So, when we’re on vacation, I take a lot of photos.  Chris Hazel would say it was too many.  But I think stopping, breathing it all in, documenting it for those times I’m jut itching to get on a plane and go somewhere… I think it’s good.  I think it’s necessary.

But getting those photos off my computer and on to my walls proves difficult.  It’s always the project that gets moved to the back of the line for me.  That thing I always mean to do, but then never really get around to doing.  I’ve done some recently and just love them so much, I wanted to share.  So there now exists a Wandering Through Print Shop!  Head over, take a look and maybe get a little bit of European pretty for your own walls.  These little snaps make me so happy, hope they do the same for you!

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February 24, 2014 Julias’ Cheese Souffle

 

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On occasion, my dear friend Jessica comes over and we cook together.  We cocktail and catch up while making lunch and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.   Last week she stopped by, and still on a French high, we made Soufflé Au Fromage.  Surprisingly easy, super delicious and really pretty icon smile Julias Cheese Souffle

Well, it was pretty.  Until it fell.  They were tall and mighty, until I took them out of the oven and they crashed.  Turns out, still delicious and totally worth it!   We whipped up a quick side salad with parmesan, pepper, raisins and a light olive oil dressing, sipped a lemony cocktail and it was absolutely perfect.

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Souffle 0003 Julias Cheese Souffle

 

Soufflé Au Fromage (From Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia Child)

…Ingredients

1 tsp (for buttering mold), 3 Tb butter

1 Tb grated Swiss or Parmesan Cheese

3 Tb Flour

1 cup boiling milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of nutmeg

4 egg yolks

5 egg whites

3/4 to 1 cup coarsely grated Swiss and/or Parmesan

 

…What You’ll Need

Soufflé Mold, 1 6-cup mold, or 6 individual molds

2.5 quart saucepan

wooden spatula or spoon

wire whip

 

… Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Butter inside of soufflé mold and sprinkle with 1 Tb of grated cheese

Melt 3 Tb butter in the sauce pan.  Stir in the flour with a wooden spatula or spoon and cook over moderate heat until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without browning.  Remove from heat: when mixture has stopped bubbling, pour in all the boiling milk at once.  Beat vigorously with a wire whip until blended.  Beat in the seasonings.  Return over moderately high heat and boil, stirring with the wire whip for 1 minute.  Sauce will be very thick.

Remove from heat.  Immediately start to separate the eggs.  Drop the white in the egg white bowl, and the yolk into the center of the hot sauce. Beat the yolk into the sauce with the wire whip.  Continue in the same manner with the rest of the eggs.  Correct Seasoning.  *May be prepared ahead to this point.  Dot top of sauce with butter.  heat to tepid before continuing.

Add an extra egg white to the ones in the bowl and beat with a pinch of salt until stiff. *Add a pinch of Cream of Tartar to stiffen them.  Stir in a spoonful (about one quarter of the egg whites) into the sauce.  Stir in all but a tablespoon of the cheese.  Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Be careful not to overfold.

Turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold, which should be almost three quarters full.   Tap bottom of mold lightly on the table, and smooth the surface of the soufflé with the flat of a knife.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Set on a rack in the middle of the preheated 400-degree oven and immediately turn heat down to 375.  Do not open oven door for 20 minutes.  In 25 to 30 minutes the soufflé will have puffed about 2 inches over the rim of the mold, and the top will be nicely browned.  Bake 4 to 5 minutes more to firm it up, then serve at once.

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Years ago I bought a 35mm Nikon FG-20 for $30 at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.  It’s tiny, but hefty, and was the perfect antidote to my giant, obtrusive and somewhat unwieldy digital Nikon D700.  On days when my shoulders just couldn’t take the weight of the digital, I’d pull out the little 35 mm and roam the streets of Paris a little lighter, my shoulders a lot happier.  It’s manual focus, so it takes forever and a day to frame everything up the way I want it, and I’m a little pickier in what I shoot because it’s so much more limited, but the results are just fantastic.

In our six weeks abroad, I managed to shoot 1.5 rolls of film.  I took a bag full of film, but I only actually used 1.5 icon sad Wandering Through Paris, 35 mm Film  While I’m sad I didn’t think to shoot more, I’m so happy with what I did.   Thanks for the developing & scanning Richard Photo Lab!

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The reason we went to Europe for so long was to see Paris.  The side trips were all happy extras!  But I really wanted to get to know Paris, to feel a little bit like we lived there.  To feel comfortable, to have favorite places and to make some friends.  Our first two weeks were a little difficult in finding that balance… finding a way to be more than tourists, when essentially, that’s just what we are.  It was so lovely to slow down, to not rush, to spend an entire day doing nothing and not feeling super guilty about it.  It’s funny, until I look through the pictures, I feel like we didn’t do anything.  The days kind of merge into each other and I feel like we didn’t really take advantage.  Then I flip through all of the images and realize we were everywhere.  That we saw a lot of things.  That I felt comfortable in the city, that we have favorite places and that we made some great friends.  I realize that you can’t do all of Paris in one week, but for some reason I thought you could in six weeks.  Turns out you cant, that it’s OK, and that I might potentially be able to get Chris to go back in the next five to twenty years.

So, a rundown of a few of my favorites…

…Food…

Au Petit Fer Á Cheval – My aunt took me here in 2012 and I loved how small and old-school it was, the wine list was fantastic and the duck confit was to die for.  Chris and I went six times.  SIX.  I think we only had the confit five times though, and I regret letting the opportunity for that sixth pass me by.  It’s in The Marais and is usually slammed, but if you can snag the bar stools to the right of the horseshoe shaped bar, it will be a fantastic experience.

Burgers – I know, what?!  France.Makes.Incredible.Burgers.  Generally I steer clear of anything non-French on menus when I’m there, but being there for so long, you need to stretch your legs a bit.  There expensive, like 20euro expensive, but are generally made with the same beef that goes in to beef tartare.  My favorite was at Cafe Charlot, The Madame, with a runny egg.  It was heaven.

Crepes – We tried the crepes at both Breizh Cafe and Aux Ducs de Bourgogne.  Breizh is famous for their crepes… you’ll wait in line, but the crepes are good and the restaurant is adorable (all of the staff wear Breton shirts). Aux Ducs de Bourgogne was recommended by a friend and the crepes were fantastic!  The owner will chat with you, the restaurant is super traditional and I’m sad we weren’t able to make it back for a second round.  We definitely will on the next trip!

Le Bistro Paul Bert – for super traditional food in a super traditional bistro.  I think that you have to make it to at least one of the old classics.  Chez Georges, Brasserie Lipp or Josephine Chez Dumonet would probably be just as lovely!

…Sweets…

Le Grande Epicerie de Paris – it’s a grocery store, if Whole Foods was chic & fancy, it would be Le Grande Epicerie de Paris.  It’s in Saint-Germain, across the street from Le Bon Marche (It’s actually the original food counter for Le Bon Marche).  The grocery store is beautiful, and definitely worth a walk through.  But the pastry counter is something special.  Eat all of the pastries.

Ice Cream – Berthillion.  It’s in all the books and recommended on all the sites.  It’s because it’s fantastic.  On the Île Saint-Louis… makes for a nice little walk around the Seine.

Creme Puffs – they’re having a moment right now.  The offerings at Odette and Popelini were fantastic!

Eclairs – I have a long standing adoration of eclairs.  For how delicious they are, and for how freaking difficult they are to make.  L’Èclair de Gènie is making them in the most amazing and unique flavors.  There’s usually a line, but it’s worth it!

…Shopping…

Merci – For super adorable clothing, home goods, stationary… home of all things super adorable.  It’s attached to a coffee shop in a used book store and there’s a tiny vintage Mini Cooper next to the front door.  Super adorable.

Le Marche des Enfants Rouge – It’s the oldest covered market in Paris, on the grounds that once housed an orphanage.  There’s a great photo store, a florist with flowers I didn’t see any where else in the city, delicious food and fresh vegetables.  It’s small, so a good quick walk through is lovely.  There’s some great shopping up and down the street as well (Popelini is just around the corner and Cafe Charlot is across the street!)

The Raspail Organic Market – Every Sunday morning in Saint-Germain, it’s a lovely entirely organic market.  The food is a bit more expensive, but it’s fantastic and the market was a fun way to start the morning.  The markets generally work a bit differently, people line up to the side of each booth and wait to be helped as opposed to just walking in and gathering up what they need.

Librairies Chantelivre – It’s a beautiful book shop specializing in childrens’ books in Saint-Germain.  There were adult books as well, and a large collection of classics, but they seem to excel with the childrens’ section.  Childrens’ books in French are absolutely gorgeous and I bought some for myself as well as for gifts.

La Vaissellerie – there are quite a few locations around the city, but the one in Saint-Germain was tiny, packed with people, and overflowing with all the Lagioule a girl could ever want.  Any serve ware you need, you could likely find here.  I bought half the store for myself, and then went back to buy the other half for gifts.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy more.

Conran – This shop has everything, some of it upscale Urban Outfitters, but some of it just really beautiful kitchen wares, amazing soaps/lotions/bath supplies, beautiful furniture.  It’s a huge store and a great way to kill some time in the rain.

Le Grand Comptoir – I stumbled in to this shop, and I’m so happy I did.  It’s set a bit back from the street, but it’s full of textiles, some clothes, home decor . Really beautiful!

Maille – I’m not usually a fan of mustard.  But the pistachio & orange mustard from Maille is my favorite condiment in the world.  The store is tiny, it’s packed with people, and you’ll wait a bit in line, but it’s totally worth it.

… Parks…

Jardin des Plantes – it’s a beautiful park, with some old houses, greenhouses, a zoo.  Was a beautiful walk!

Arènes de Lutèce – Chris read about this little park somewhere, it’s an old Roman amphitheater from the 1st century and is really beautiful.  But now, little French kids play soccer or practice magic tricks.  We sat on a bench and watched for a bit and it was adorable.

Bois de Boulogne – It’s a huge, beautiful park on the west side of Paris.  There’s a lake, woods, fields and a lot more to explore.  Chris helped rescue a little girl from a runaway pony, and it was a super adventurous day! It’s not easy to get there via metro, but we took the bus and it was super simple.

…Museums…

Musee Jacquemart-Andre – I realized that I’m not big on big museums… I don’t have the energy for them.  But I do love small musuems that I can get through in an hour or two.  This one is the private collection of a very rich man and his artist wife.  The art is lovely, but the museum was once their home and it’s been kept exactly as they left it 100 years ago.  The architecture and the furniture was so interesting.  There’s a tea room in the front of the house where we had coffee and pastries, very nice.

… Tips…

Six weeks is definitely not living in another country, but it’s not a vacation either.  A few things would have made our lives a little bit easier!

NaviGo – get one!  It’s a pre-paid monthly/weekly pass for the metro and the buses.  If you dont’ have one, you buy tiny paper tickets every time you want to use the metro.  It’s more a pain than anything else.  The NaviGo saved us time and energy as we could just run through the turnstiles.  To get one, take a picture in one of the little photobooths outside any metro station.  The picture will be awful, but that’s OK, no one will ever see it.  Then, go up to one of the counters and ask for either the monthly pass.  They are calendar months, so if you buy it on Dec 28, you can’t use it until January 1, and then it will expire on January 31.

Pre-Paid Chip Cards – We didn’t do this, so I don’t know the ins-and-outs, but it would probably be worth it!  Europe uses a different credit card system that we do in the States… it’s a chip in the card instead of a magnetic strip on the back.  In the smaller towns in France, waiters and shop clerks didn’t know how to use our cards and the metro kiosks don’t accept them at all.  I saw some advertisements for pre-paid chip cards, and it probably would have saved us some hassle!

Apartments – we used Paris Address and were super happy with the service.  I do wish I’d thought more about how we would use the apartment and what would be important, because I got it completely wrong.  We decided to spend less on the apartment, as we really wanted to be out in the city for the most part.  But you don’t really think about how difficult it is to spend 15 hours a day out in the city.   I wish we’d spent more to get a view, more light or an apartment with more of a French aesthetic.  At the end of the day, our apartment was comfortable and in a fantastic location in Saint-Germain, with easy access to the metro, the markets and restaurants.
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We’ve been back home for about a week now, and the very first thing that people ask when I see them is “How was your trip!?”  It’s such a tough question, because it was such an incredible trip, full of really amazing things, and some really tough things.  It was six weeks full of super high highs and some slightly lower lows.  So to sum it all up in to a few words seems like I’m not doing it justice.  But then people will ask “What was the best part of your trip?”  And that’s a little easier, because it’s so clear in my mind that the absolute best thing we did was a one day tour of the Rhone Valley with Paul from Rhone Wine Tours.

I love wine, and I’ve been a big fan of the Rhone Valley wines since my Aunt introduced me to a Crozes Hermitage.  I’ve wanted to visit the beautiful hills that produced this wine for a few years now and it was the perfect way to round up such an amazing trip!  I found Paul through a Google search and he was absolutely amazing!  Wine tasting in France is much different than in Napa or Sonoma; it’s no where near as commercialized as it is here.  The vineyards and their productions are fairly small, and the wine growers will be the ones to show you around and pour their wines.  Whereas Napa feels like Disneyland, this feels like real life.

Paul set up appointments at three of his favorite vineyards: Domaine de Gouye, St Jean de Muzols in St. Joseph, Domaine Betton, La Roche de Glun in Crozes Hermitage and Domaine Alain Verset in Cornas.  At our first stop in St. Joseph, everything was done super traditionally… vines staked to posts with straw and fields ploughed by a horse named Ramses.  The winemakers Philippe & Sylvie gave us a two hour tour of their farm, showed us how they plowed the fields by horse and then shared their incredible wines with us. It was nothing short of amazing.   Our second stop was a much larger vineyard in Crozes Hermitage, and Christelle, the winemaker at Domaine Betton was so much fun!  A larger operation, it was more modern.  We were just a few miles away, but it was amazing to see the differences between two areas.  We ended up at Domaine Alain Verset, a super small vineyard in Cornas.  This was one of the most interesting stops because we were able to taste the exact same wines over the course of six vintages.  Each one was so different… a 2008 that was absolutely incredible, next to a 2009 that will need to age in the bottle for another five years, next to a 2010 that is pretty fantastic to drink right now.

I’m not sure how you could do a trip like this on your own, because it’s really all about the relationships that Paul has built over the years of working in this area.  Paul is British, but speaks French fluently, so he was able to tell us about each vineyard before we arrived and then translate for us while we were there.  He picked us up, drove us around, selected a fantastic restaurant for lunch and then dropped us back at the train station.  Each vineyard was so different and we learned so much about wine in general and specifically about this region.  It was a full day and, hands down, one of the best experiences we had in all of Europe.

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