Our Memories

We would like to share with you some of our sweet memories of France. Yes, we love France. It is a very beautiful country. We love every corner of it – Normandie, Alsace, Champagne, Armagnac, Provence, island of Corsica and the rest of it. We love people, tranditions and products. Probably everything.

So we enjoyed 2 lengthy summer stays in France and put some notes on paper.


Alsace

AlsaceWe normally start from Alsace, a region on the boarder with Germany, to see the town of Verdun, for its history (many battles from medieval times to WWI and WWII were held there, some forests are still dangerous to walk though, wondering off the path due to walking mines that has not been neutralised), and try the famous Mirabelle - its a small very sweet yellow plum, and it was the only place where we tried tartes aux Mirabelles (open pie with the mentioned plum) – delicious. 
Wines of Alsace are worth mentioning. My personal favorite is Gewürztraminer vandage tardive – it means the grapes were collected later then usual and due to some natural process the wine is sweeter than the normal Gewürztraminer, which is a wine on a sweeter side, as is Pinot Gris. For those who prefer dry wines - Riesling and Pinot Noir. The grapes that these wines are made of are best in Alsace, due to its varied soils, that are due to some geological fault. The vineyards are concentrated at altitudes of 175-420 m, which provide a good balance between temperature, drainage and sun exposure.

Champagne
champagneThis region is amongst the most beautiful regions in France and probably in Europe. Vineyards, small french-style houses with flowers, hilly roads. We have visited our friends – champagne producers Autreau de Champillon, enjoyed their products and nearby views. This champagne house dates back to 1670, to even before champagne was appreciated in France. Autreau de Champillon make an exquisite product, that made us want to share it here in Riga with our friends.
This region is the one snails are very popular in, it made us try and appreciate them.




 

 

Normandy

On our way through France we stopped at Mont St. Michel - an abbey dating back to VIII century.
It's a rocky islet just off the coast of Normandy with very picturesque views and cobbled streets. Vehicles are not allowed in the town, but there is a nice sized parking nearby.
While there it's worth to try Camembert (soft goat cheese) and maybe to visit a farm that produces it.

Calvados comes from Normandy and some nearby regions. Its more commonly known as apple brandy. Very aromatic and good for cooking. Also Cider is worth mentioning, we found it to be very refreshing, pleasant and with sparcles.  

Loire
We continued to Valle de la Loire, for the castles Chateau d'Amboise place of residence for French Kings in 15-16 centuries and also a resting place (tomb) of Leonardo Da Vinci, who was French kings tutor when he died.
http://www.chateau-amboise.com/en/

Chateau de Chenonceau which is interesting, because King Henry II has offered this castle to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, who has commiter to the castle, building it over the river and making a garden, however after the king's death his famous and stron willed widow Catherine de Medici has forced Diane to exchange Chennonceau for Chateau Chaumont.
http://www.chenonceau.com/
Wiki Château_de_Chaumont.

Catherine de Medici has also made this castle her favorite residence and added a garden.
Chateau de Chambord , allegedly built by Leonardo da Vinci with gorgeous double helix stairecase. Probably the most famous castle of the Loire Valley.

Chateau de Blois, that served as a residence of 7 kings and 10 queens of France. It was also the first castle that was restored to a museum.

Bordeaux
Arcachon a lovely place, on the Atlantic shore of France. The town itsef is rather busy, with some nice shopping and eating options. The Beach is wide and sandy, but sometimes rather windy. The important thing is to remember about the tides, they are huge there, well I mean shallow, but rather long distance, which makes possible finding some nice shells. The best beach is Le Moulleau, the beach is also sandy but much less crowded.

We loved Baillardan - their canele are exceptional and a very unique dessert. Not far from Arcachon, in Bordeux we fount the best Macarons ever: http://www.jaimelesmacarons.co.nz/
(We tried loads of them, including those from Maison du chocolat).

Bordeaux wines
As I mentioned before I prefer sweet wines, so I love Sauternes we drove through, getting to tour friends wedding, and stopped just across the road from Chateau d’Yquem – the most renound wine maker in the world. We were lucky enough to visit their sellers and try Chateau d'Yquem, and I have to say that nothing could ever compare to it!
In the city we tried some other sweet Sauternes and went to a shop in the center of the village where all the Sauternes were represented.
My Husband has very much enjoyed the reds - Pommerol, St. Emilion.


Carcasson
Carcasson - a unique fortified town. People still live in it, probably strictly for "touristic" purposes. The site became strategical in 100 BC. The views are outstanding, the streets are cobbled, you can see some knights, Castle (Chateau de Carcasson, inside the Medieval town of Carcasson) and
Torture museum with original chastity belts and "instruments" used by French inquisition.
http://www.carcassonne-tourisme.com/carcassonne_EN.nsf/vuetitre/docpgeIntroVisiter

Armagnac
We stayed in this region for a week. Visited Plaimont – the biggest wine producer in the region and enjoyed their Madiran wine, sweet Saint Silvestre, dry Colombelle, armagnac and other products. We were so impressed with their quality, that we simply had to add them to our store's carte.
The region is unique, because it is the one that 250 years old vineyards are still functioning. There is a Chateau or an old Abbey on nearly every turn, even the one D'Artagnan lived in.


Cote d'Azure
Oh, my personal best place in the world, well definitely one of the very best!

Nice - believed to be among the earliest human settlements in Europe, which explains its wonderful weather conditions. Well the whole of Cote d'Azure, actually. Last year we witnessed a lot of hurricanes in France, but none of them happened on Cote d'Azure. It is situated in some
unique weather area, that is due to the Mountains in the north of it and sea on the south.  The city is a mixture of architectures. The Carre d’Or that includes Negresco, has most of the buildings of the same style of the Belle Epoque, the Baroque influenced houses and marisions on the
hills of Mont Boron. Fabulous creations have been realized in the floral gardens and parks of the hills of the Chateau, the Chambrun park or the Espace Masséna.
Oh, the beach consists of large pebbles.


Most of the picturesque villages are worth seeing, but probably the most attractive ones are St. Tropez, everyone knows it, Port Grimaud http://www.informationfrance.com/port-grimaud.php
- it really looks like little Venice, with canals, small houses, little bridges and yachts all over the canals. They have 3 private beaches there, in case you want to sunbathe.


Vichy - http://vichy.allier-nation.com/cure.php we pass through every time we go to France, it is a very nice town but our main attraction is Le Source, it’s a spring with thermal water, that
is extremely beneficial for everybody health. When we have a chance we’ll go there to enjoy the thermal spa treatments, but while out children travel with us we content our self with filling a few bottles with water from the source Celestins available in the centre of Vichy.

Best wishes,

Katherina Verdena

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