Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Les Chartrons, Bordeaux

I stayed in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux – a lovely area that has become one of the trendiest parts of Bordeaux.

Wine used to be stored in the warehouses lining the quays before being shipped out on the Garonne River to the Atlantic.

 Nowadays, the area is home to the Cité du Vin, a multisensory museum exploring the history of wine with a fabulous area on the top floor where you get a 360-degree view of the city while sipping a complimentary glass of wine. I also took in a wine tasting with 3 Bordeaux wines – a white, a red, and a claret. (The English were a key market for Bordeaux wines and they used to refer to Bordeaux’s red wines as “claret.” In 1995, the Bordelais reintroduced a claret, which is lighter than a red wine but darker than a rosé.)

You can walk for miles along the banks of the Garonne, taking in everything from Chartrons’ Sunday market to retail discount outlets.

The whole neighbourhood is full of lovely old buildings, bakeries, stores, and restaurants. Bordeaux’s public gardens are nearby, and the electric tram takes you quickly and comfortably to all parts of the city.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 19, 2018

Yikes! It’s a very short edition of Flavourful Saskatoon this week. Stay warm and I’ll be back next Monday.

Contact Prairie Challah & Pastries to order sufganiyot donuts (jelly, chocolate, butterscotch, custard, and more) for Chanukah.

Watermelon Ham 
As if bleeding vegan burgers wasn’t bad enough, we now have brined, smoked watermelon ham! I eat meat substitutes occasionally as a quick meal, but I honestly wonder why so many vegetarians and vegans crave fake meat. There are wonderful vegetarian/vegan recipes that taste delicious without needing to imitate carnivore cuisine.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bordeaux's Public Garden

Bordeaux’s public garden is a green, tranquil spot in the middle of a large city.

Created in 1746 in the formal French style, it was reorganized in 1858 in the British style with tree-lined alleys, a large pond, green lawns, and a children’s playground.

There are lots of ducks and geese, some magnificent old trees (a pecan tree, 38 metres high is the largest tree in the park), and a very impressive fountain.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in one of the houses backing on to the park?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Au Pétrin Moissagais, Bordeaux

Bakeries abound in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. But one of them is very special. For over 250 years, the bakers Au Pétrin Moissagais have been making bread and baking it in a wood oven built in 1765 during the reign of King Louis XV.

The recipe remains unchanged as well. Following a Gascon tradition (Moissagais refers to residents of Moissac in Tarn et Garonne) of only buying bread every two weeks, the bread is made with a thick crust to keep it from drying out. They use their own yeast culture, adding no preservatives.

The stone-walled bakery is filled to the brim with loaves of every shape and size (walnuts, stone-ground grain, baguettes, large and small rounds). This is bread with flavour and body to savour on its own or with cheese and other toppings.

But it doesn’t end there. The bakery also sells croissants, cakes, and pastries of every possible variety. At the back of the bakery is the oven, which is still used to bake three-quarters of their products.

If you’re in Bordeaux, be sure to visit Au Pétrin Moissagais, 72 Cours de la Martinique. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sunday Market on the Banks of the Garonne

My first full day back in France was a Sunday and there was a huge outdoor market just a few blocks down the street from where I was staying in Chartrons, Bordeaux. I spent several happy hours there (in the sunshine!) exploring all the different offerings and wishing I could buy bags and bags of lovely products. The Chartrons market isn’t a farmers’ market, so I spent some time deciphering why I rated it so highly.

First of all, there were a significant number of local producers. I was very impressed to be able to buy wine (not the one pictured above) from Château Grand Brun in the Haut-Médoc (an area better known for large wineries with a rich, international audience). The grapes are picked by hand and the wine is sold at several local markets as well as online. It’s a lovely wine and they emphasized that they grow it, produce it, and sell it. The wine is classified as a Grand Cru Artisan and has won a number of awards.

Another vendor was selling fresh goat (and some cow) cheese as well as aged varieties. I was blown away by the variety (well over 30 different kinds) and by the artistic finish on each and every one of the cheeses. Given the nature of fresh goat cheese, it has to be a local producer.

Those of you who aren’t goat cheese fanatics will have to forgive the number of photographs, but they truly are works of art.

A good market also has to be a place where local residents can pick up a good portion of their weekly groceries. The market had 70 vendors – from fish, meat, and cheese to bread, pastries, fruit, and vegetables. People were loading up their bags and bicycle baskets. There was a tram stop across the street and I saw people taking their groceries home by tram.

Good markets are a communal gathering place and form the basis of community as people return and meet week after week. The Quays Market is situated on the banks of the Garonne river where cycle and walking paths, skateboard park, playground, and discount fashion outlets ensure there is something for everyone within a 30-minute walk. In addition, many of the vendors had set up outdoor tables and chairs where people were gathering to slurp oysters, paella, or fried chicken.

There is variety at a quality market and that was certainly the case here with books and paintings for sale alongside “cider pressed in the city of wine,” fresh fruit juices, dried fruit, and olives.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only tourist enjoying the market, but we weren’t the primary audience. This was a local market for local people. And thank goodness for that!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 12, 2018

Caturdays, Nov. 17 & 24, Dec. 1 
Enjoy tea in a cat-themed, cat-friendly art gallery at 1 pm, Nov. 17 and 24 and Dec. 1 at BAM Art Gallery. All the cats will be adoptable from Street Cat Rescue.

Local Indigenous Food, Nov. 29 
Enjoy supper and a presentation on local Indigenous foods at Station 20 West on Nov. 29. Register in advance with Janet at CHEP (306-655-4575 or janet@chep.org).

Marshmallows by Sarah, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 
Sarah Galvin, FoodCraft by Sarah, is an excellent cook and baker who puts time and quality ingredients into all her products. She’ll be selling handcrafted marshmallows at Wilson’s 17th Annual Christmas Craft and Trade Show from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Marshmallow flavours include Crème Brulée and Rocky Road with Peace by Chocolate Chunks.

Deluxe marshmallows - photo credit Sarah Galvin

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit 
Make your own raw chocolate with a kit from Harmonic Arts - now available at Dad’s Organic Market.

From Fruit to Burger
If you like to make fresh fruit juice but hate the waste, here’s a recipe using the pulp to make a veggie burger.

A Little Tea Book
Enjoy the illustrations and learn about the different kinds of tea in a  review of A Little Tea Book: All the Essentials from Leaf to Cup by Sebastian Beckwith and Caroline Paul.

Tomatoes in all the colours of the rainbow from Grandora Gardens

Chocolate History
Researchers have discovered that cocoa trees were domesticated in the upper Amazon over 5,300 years ago. “For hundreds of years, the people of the Amazon have been portrayed as these very simple people, intellectually but also in their social formation — living in small tribes, moving from place to place, barely eking out a living, always on the brink of death,” Zarrillo says. “And what’s been emerging is that, no, these people had very sophisticated culture. They weren’t just barely surviving in the Amazon; they’d actually transformed the Amazon into their living garden.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

European Travel Tips

I’ve spent the past 4 winters in Europe, travelling frequently between different housesitting destinations by train and coach, and I’ve learned a lot. Here are a few tips that will save you time and money.

Rome2Rio is an amazing resource. Plug in two cities and the site lists all your different travel options. I use it extensively to see how difficult it will be to get somewhere and identify the best route and train company. I don’t know how I’d manage without it.

I don’t usually book tickets on Rome2Rio, but last winter I was stumped. The European train sites wanted me to book using Canadian information, but the Canadian options would only work if I was still in Canada. Fortunately, I was able to book through Rome2Rio without a hitch.

Not all train stations are as beautiful as this one in Valencia, Spain
Trains in the UK and Europe are awesome compared to our hopeless Canadian options. But there are some tricks:
  • Check how often you’ll have to change trains before booking a trip. And check how long it will take. Some trains stop at every little town; others are more direct. 
  • Book your train tickets in advance online for approximately half the price of a ticket purchased on the day. You can book your seat too, and there are reduced rates for seniors. 
  • Hold on to all the parts of your ticket in the UK. I didn’t wait for all the pieces of my ticket to emerge from the machine one day and ended up without a return ticket. 
  • In France you need to get your ticket punched in a machine before boarding – although this doesn’t apply if you’ve booked online. 
  • A city may have more than one train station so be sure you know which one to use. Ghent has train stations in the centre of town and in a couple of suburbs. Valence has a regular train station and a high-speed train station – and they’re miles apart – fortunately there’s a shuttle bus between the two. 
  • If it’s really windy, trains may be delayed or cancelled. That’s when you check all the notice boards to try and work out an alternate route where the trains are still running. Don’t rely on train personnel to do it for you. 
  • Be prepared for flights of stairs as you change platforms as well as lots of chilly outdoor platforms. 
  • Don’t let A and B platforms confuse you. It’s the same platform, but A is at the front and B is at the rear. 
  • Sometimes only half the train goes to the final destination. Some carriages will only go partway or may go somewhere else altogether. Make sure you’re in the right carriage or you could end up in Geneva instead of Grenoble (yeah, another true story!). 

Coaches are often a good alternative to trains in the UK as you can avoid the long journey into and out of London and the hassle of changing train stations. National Express coaches often go via Heathrow, so it provides a central hub for travelling between two centres.
  • Book your coach travel in advance too. 
  • There is a wide array of cheap long-distance coach options. I haven’t tried them out, but if you need to travel as cheaply as possible, this may be the way to go. 

Public Transit is for Everyone 
Don’t hesitate to take the train or a coach in Europe for both day trips and long-distance travel. Everyone travels that way – from guys heading to a football match to teenagers going on a camping trip. The locals may complain about expensive fares and delays, but they haven’t experienced the 36-hour delays and exorbitant prices if you take Via Rail in Western Canada.

One last piece of advice. Don’t hesitate to travel in Europe. Yes, there have been terrorist attacks. Yes, it’s scary to see soldiers with machine guns patrolling the train stations. But you’re far more likely to be in a car accident in Canada than a terrorist attack in Europe. And you’ll see and learn and do so much! I can’t wait to be on the road again.