Hello again….France is fantastic and we are seeing and learning many things about this wonderful country!
Saturday, Jan 31 – Annecy, France
Annecy greeted us with a big snow display today. It was our first real snow experience so we thought it is quite beautiful!
We had an Apartment/Hotel in Annecy that was very central to everything. The apartment was quite perfect with sliding fabric walls, a day bed, small kitchen and a cute little dishwasher. This is our second France apartment that has the ‘bathroom’ on one side and the toilet on the other side of the kitchen. Seemed odd to separate the two but we got used to a bidet in Spain so we expect the unexpected!
We walked through part of the historic area and were sidetracked by a glimpse of the lake. What a beautiful sight! The snow made it even more picturesque. The city has boat filled canals throughout; creating little isles. Little Venice, yes indeed! How wonderful it must be in the summer when the boats are slowly rowing down the canals.
The hotel clerk was from Montreal; nice to chat with a Canadian! He recommended a restaurant for dinner, that we were not disappointed in. ‘Chez Mamie Lisa’ serves Savoy regional and traditional cuisine. We had the best (French) Onion Soup we have ever had. That says a lot coming from us because Joe’s FOS is some what of a family legend and we have been trying to find a comparable for decades. We are still talking about that soup. Anyway, other diners in the restaurant were enjoying fondues and several tables had little raclettes and they were grilling their own potatoes on top and melting cheese inside and pouring the gooey goodness all over their food. We struggle enough with understanding the menus; by Paris we look forward to experiencing some of these French food traditions.
Sunday, Feb 1
As we strolled around the quiet deserted streets today; it was apparent the shops and most restaurants were closed on Sunday’s. Then we went around a corner only to discover an open air market in full swing. Oh, the produce, meats and cheeses looked and smelled fantastic! The streets were suddenly crowed and we loved to be immersed in this surprise local treasure.
We ventured up to the highest point in the neighborhood and walked through some lovely residential areas. You can sure see the Swiss influence here.
It was still pretty chilly out and snowing off and on.
Monday, Feb 2 – Geneva, Switzerland
We took a one hour bus ride into Geneva this morning. We were almost pinching ourselves that we are able to do this. Any of this whole trip really, but some things just seem so surreal. We cannot believe how fortunate we are.
Geneva was not what I imagined. I guess I half expected Heidi to come yodelling out of a chalet down the hill, past a cow with a bell. Nope. Not like that at all. Actually I had to really search for building fronts that looked ‘Swiss’. Busy city, many, many banks, watch stores, chocolate shops and high end stores.
We came to Geneva for lunch and while there were many restaurants, the entrées started at 30-40 francs. Yikes! A little much for us! But they were packed with business people. Spies and meetings with bankers to discuss evading taxes, my vivid imagination convinced me. We did find a wonderful restaurant with a reasonable ‘meal of the day’ that we thoroughly enjoyed. Soup was incredible, veal stew and pototoes, divine.
We bought a small bag of Swiss chocolate pieces and shared it as we roamed the streets.
We discovered a park and decided to walk out on the pier for a better view of the famous Geneva fountain.
We were shocked as we noticed a man in his 80’s coming out of the lake in his bathing suit! OMG! It was almost a blizzard when we arrived here and pretty sure the temperature was hovering around 0.
Then, a woman in her 80’s walked past us in a bathing suit and walked a long ways to the end of the pier and climbed into a surely freezing Lake Geneva and started swimming! We were amazed!!
Everyone seemed to speak English in Geneva and the local book store had a good selection of English books which made for one happy, book deprived, Joe.
We ended our visit in Geneva with a cocktail near the water. We then found ourselves momentarily in the red light district where one scantily clad girl must have been freezing while the rest of her co-workers stood behind the glass, for those spies and tax evaders wanting to do some window shopping. A final Espresso in a warm Cafe and then we were on our way back to Annecy. We were very happy we stayed in Annecy and visited Geneva, and not reverse.
Tuesday, Feb 3 – Annecy
The sun shone a little today in Annecy so we walked further around the lake. So beautiful… It reminds us a little of Kelowna!
We saw a directional sign for Albertville and recalled this 1992 Winter Olympic city. It is only 32 KM’s away!
Had another regional dinner at a nice restaurant tonight.
We will miss Annecy!
Our 90 days in the Schenagan region will be up after our one month stay in Paris; so March 8. Today we booked a flight into Istanbul and then beginning March 10 we leave on a 13 day, escorted tour of Turkey! Can’t believe we found this reasonably priced, English speaking adventure! We visited Turkey in 2010 for a day and knew we had to go back. However, it is one country we are more comfortable having someone guide us through. We are looking forward to this adventure!
Wednesday, Feb 4 – Annecy to Dijon
We hopped a train back into Lyon and just barely made our connection to Dijon. The hotel I booked is in the middle of nowhere (but cheap!!). We made our way around easily on the tram during our stay.
Thompson Travel Trivia: Dijon mustard originated in 1856, when Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic “green” juice of unripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe. Most mustards from Dijon today contain white wine rather than verjuice. “Dijon mustard” is not a protected food name; and most Dijon mustard (brands such as Amora or Maille) are produced industrially and over 90% of mustard seed used in local production is imported, get this…..from Canada!
Sure took a double take when we saw this!
Thursday, Feb 5
The Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon is a Roman Catholic Church in the preserved old centre and is considerd a masterpiece of 13th-century Gothic architecture.
There are 51 gargoyles, in four rows, jutting out from the front of the church. They are considered ‘dummies’ because they are decorative, rather than drain spouts. Wow, quite the sight to look up and have them all leering back at you!
We walked around for as long as we could on this very windy, cold day.
Friday, Feb 6 – Burgundy Wine Tour!
Dijon is the capital city of Burgundy, a world famous wine growing region. The city is also well known for its crème de cassis, or blackcurrant liqueur, used in the drink known as “Kir”, named after former mayor of Dijon canon Félix Kir.
Booked a tour of the Burgundy wine making area today. Tried for an afternoon trip only but was offered a full day trip for the same price … so naturally being the astute shopper I am …took the full day, plus got free pick up at the hotel.
Toured several wine making areas, 2 different wineries and had 10 wine tastings. Our tour guide Ivan was incredible, spoke very good English and was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about wines.
Two new things we also learned: they prune the vines anywhere from Nov to April depending on the growers’ preference and burn the prunings in barrels right in the field…the ashes becoming fertilizer.
Also they use a Custom tractor that is high and narrow to go “over” the vines because of the narrow rows. This tractor can also plow the troughs between the vines and also with a drill attached can dig out dead vines to be replaced.
Found out quickly…how little we knew about French wine. Ivan explained the complexity of the wine labels and how you identify not only the area where the grapes are from, but the the exact ‘field” they were grown in. Great wines…some in the $25€ range and some in the $170€ range.
Quite interesting to be in the wine makers cellar to do the tastings, it sure added to the ambience. Tried several Burguny Pinot Noirs as well as Chardonnays…I even liked the whites and Paula actually enjoyed Chardonnay… This is unheard of.
Ivan, and his basket of our samples:
Our tour buddies; two Aussie law grads:
Spent an interesting couple of hours in the old town of Beaune having lunch and exploring before continuing the tour.
Drove through several of the very high end “Grand Cru” vineyards which were just immaculate.
Interesting sidebar…very difficult to buy wineries or land in France…usually need to marry into a family OR the estate is divided and split up to the children on death of the parents(owners). Therefore, the vineyards get smaller and smaller over the years as the number of owners goes up. That is one reason that you can identify the exact vineyard field on the wine labels in France.
Another side note…the rare sale of an old established vineyard (1365) took place last year when the prestige brand fashion label Louis Vuitton purchased the Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru winery for 110 Million Euros. This is a small 8 Hectare winery that only produces 30,000 bottles a year…though they sell at an average of $160 per, with some of the top end at $4300 US for a case.
Stopped at an exclusive members only wine club for some cheese and last 8 tastings which were also excellent, before heading home.
All in all an excellent day…every day should start with a glass of nice wine before 11 am.
Saturday, Feb 7 – Dijon
Went back to the market, had really bad service at a restaurant for lunch and just had a laid back kind of day today.
Very fresh poultry with heads and feet intact! (Chicken, chicken, goose, quail)
Blue Cheese for my Dad!
We are near a football stadium and watched from the behind the fence for a few minutes – lots of cheering:
We are excited to be arriving in Paris tomorrow!! Enjoy your Family Day long weekend!
Paula and Joe