Day 5: Back to Menton

We had a 12:3o reservation at Mirazur, which has 2 Michelin stars. That’s not typically our MO, and the rare times we have done the “stars,” I usually find out after choosing the restaurant – and sometimes not until after the visit! This was on the top of our list because several good friends recommended it – and we deserved a splurge on our last day of vacation.

We were a bit early, so we decided to walk to Italy. That’s me standing under the Italy sign while Tom takes the pic from France. I know, we’re so original!

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I didn’t like that I had to choose which menu we were going to order beforehand. I figured since I went for the least expensive one, they might seat us in Siberia, but that was not to be the case. Here’s the views from our table: the first one looking towards Menton and the 2nd to Italy. (Wow, the wifi at the Nice airport is a gazillion times faster than the cottage, so I just might finish this before we board our first flight to Paris.)

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The next pictures are of lunch, and I’m posting them all with no edits since Tom took some great shots. The first are amuse-bouches of tiny fried fish, beet root stuffed with goat cheese, and macarons with boudin noir. Tasty little bites with interesting presentation. The second course was a fish mousse with mixed herbs and tapioca pearls which popped in your mouth. So delicate. The bread, served with lemon-infused olive oil, was fantastic.

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Then the most wonderful tomato salad (with melon sorbet) and our main course of hake served with salsify and fennel with rosemary cream. The fish was cooked perfectly, to the 1/100th of a second.

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Next was the dessert of mango and oranges with a light meringue (but better!) It reminded me of the sun and sea foam I was viewing out the window. The mignardises (after-dessert extras) were macarons, and apples and grapes from the chef’s garden, served au naturel.

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Oops, almost forgot the cocktails before lunch: Day 21 of bubbles for me, and Tom had a citron au Menton (pastis & lemon.)

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It was a spectacular lunch with perfect service. Interestingly enough, I said “I couldn’t eat like this every day, though,” which is precisely what I said about some of the heavier, homier cooking we had in Burgundy. So I guess that means my food tastes run pretty average!

We were not feeling up for a museum, so we blew it off and wandered around Menton! We picked up some art for a souvenir before heading back to the cottage to pack up.

Here’s Menton again walking from the restaurant.

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And us on the cottage’s sun-dappled terrace.

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Thanks to all for coming along on our trip! It was truly wonderful, and all I could hope for.

I’ll try to post some final thoughts tomorrow – right now, we need to board a plane!

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Day 4: Nice

We giggled a bit every time the GPS voice said “nice,” not Nice. Come to think of it, she butchered French much more than we do. We took a different route this time, via towns named La Turbie and Peille. Narrower roads (if you can believe it!) but we did not come across any oncoming traffic (just bikes) which was nice. There were a lot of little tunnels like this:

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And spectacular views of the mountains and eventually, sea side villages:

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We had a bit of an adventure with parking. We booked a discounted parking spot on a website only to learn that the website sent us to a private garage! We actually got in because someone else was coming out, and had to explain all this to the gardien (building manager) after asking an office worker who we should talk to about the parking garage (which I’m guessing he thought was odd since most of them were reserved spots) after ascending from 4 levels underground. The property manager had never heard of the website, kept saying “c’est bizarre!” and was likely (rightly) concerned about security in his building. In the meantime, we called the number on the parking confirmation email only to get voicemail! While we were explaining to the gardien (and hoping not to get in trouble for trespassing) the parking company called us back, apologizing and saying the site shouldn’t have allowed us to book this spot, and offered to find us another spot. No thanks – just give us our money back and we’ll find our own parking. The manager had to let us out of the garage, and directed us to public parking – and we did all this in French – not bad! But it did take a hunk of time to get all this settled.

Both Tom and I had been to Nice, but not together – and it had been awhile. We reconfirmed that we like it a lot and need to spend more time there. I like that it’s a bit gritty, but I like that in a city. It’s also very much a seaside city, but that’s stating the obvious, I guess.

All I wanted to do was stroll on the new Promenade Paillon.

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And all Tom wanted to do was stroll along the Promenade des Anglais (threatening rain by then, but it never actually did.) We were going to stop into the Negresco for a drink, but their sign limiting access to hotel guests only turned us off – even though I’m sure we could have gone to the bar, riffraff that we are.

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We went to Chez Pipo for socca, a traditional Niçoise dish – essentially a chickpea pancake. Sounds simple – and it is – but it was so good.

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When we see something we don’t recognize on a menu, we like to order it. But sometimes it gets a guy a girly drink. (He was unsuccessful trying to get me to swap, btw :-))

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The narrow streets of the Old Town, and some other shots of Nice.

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We stopped for a coffee before the drive back at Mori’s near the Place Messéna, a favorite spot of Gus & Becky.

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We had an uneventful drive back on the same route, and were rewarded with this view of our village.

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Dinner consisted of leftovers (cheese, fruit, veggies, bread) along with wine from the very first winery we visited in Burgundy (this is for you, Teresa.)

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That brings us to our last day!! 😪 All we have planned is our last, splurgy lunch in Menton, and the Cocteau Museum. I may not get a chance to post again today, but will try from the airport tomorrow or from home on Sunday. 😭

I just took this out the window – this is the beuautiful day awaiting us, so bye for now.

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Day 3: Sainte-Agnès

We’d been talking about having a real “R & R” day since all that running around in Burgundy and yesterday, we did just that. Friends from Chicago (fellow bloggers and France lovers) who are staying in Nice this week came up to Sainte-Agnès today for a visit to see the town, have lunch, and check out the cottage (they’re vacation home renters, too.)

In the morning, we walked around town, picked up a couple things from the one grocery store in town and checked out which of the 3 restaurants would be open for lunch since we had some conflicting info. Here’s the view, looking down at the coast and the A8 highway:

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Before you know it, it was time to meet our new friends at the bus stop. We walked over to the Le Logis Sarrasin and had a nice lunch of pizza, calzones and pasta. Here I am (with company) along with my lunch. It was maybe my first experience with a “doggie bag” in France, but I would imagine that’s fairly common at pizza joints.

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Selfie with Gus & Becky on the cottage terrace. A nice visit with very nice folks! I have a feeling our paths will cross again in France. 🙂

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And then we found ourselves with a chunk of the afternoon free in Sainte- Agnès so we checked out the Fort. These next few pics are for anyone out there sick of flowers, food & views.

I would not recommend this to anyone even mildly claustrophobic. I got a little creeped out after awhile. The last pic is of a 135mn howitzer – one of six big guns in the Fort. (And Tom had to dictate that last sentence to me because I have no clue what I’m talking about.)

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It was very interesting. The self-guided English language tour came with a warning that the translation was directly off the internet! Needless to say, parts of it were quite amusing.

We then followed the signs we’d seen to the chateau ruins. How far can it be? Well, as it turned out, about 300 feet straight up! What a workout!

Here are the rooftops of Sainte-Agnès – that’s right, the rooftops – along with the chateau ruins, literally in the clouds.

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After that impromptu hike, we deserved a pre-dinner snack (Pecorino Toscano that we bought in Italy) – and I’m proud to say, Day 19 of bubbles:

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Dinner was cèpes and herb-cheese ravioli with a champagne-leek sauce (gorgeous leeks from the market) & roasted green beans, served with the wine we picked up in Italy.

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After dinner, we took our glasses of wine to the window. It had finally cleared up!

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Day 2: Italy

First time to dip my toes in the Mediterranean from Italian soil!

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But first…the market in Menton where we decided to do shopping for the week (very un-Frenchlike, but it’s a bit of a project getting up & down the mountain – more on that later.) Decisions…decisions…

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We picked up some fish, fruit, veggies, bread and pasta. Most of the produce was sourced from Italy, which seemed appropriate since we were headed there next.

Since we had the car, we decided to go a bit further than the first border town of Ventimiglia, but here it is as we zipped by. Not a bad car shot!

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We stopped in Bordighera to walk along the beach and find a place for lunch. It was a breezy day, as you can see by the flags, (and we’re still scratching our heads over the upside-down Greek one.)

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Lots of tourists, but I can’t even imagine what it was like a few weeks ago. We decided on a place called Chica Loca, which didn’t have outdoor seating, but the tables inside were literally over the water.

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Perfectly cooked pasta with an assortment of fish and shellfish, and a cheap Italian red to wash it down. Life is good.

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Next up: Seborga, a self-declared “principality.” I found this Huffington Post article more interesting than the Wiki.

Here’s one shot of the view looking behind us, as we crept up the mountain – and a view of the town itself:

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We wandered around the very charming streets and alleys.

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Back down the mountain to the sea, and hang a right to get back to France. Just a note about the driving, which Tom has been expertly doing (thankfully!) If you could humor me and plug in Sainte-Agnès, France into Google maps, and then Menton in the “directions from” part, you’ll get a good idea of the hairpin twists and turns. This is probably the scariest section: a wall of rock on one side, and a cliff on the other with a tiny wall – and not quite enough room for two cars. Oh, and there are plenty of bikers.

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We rented a little Nissan Pulsar, a diesel – and it’s a good thing we got the insurance because we are beating the hell out of this thing.

Day 1 in the Alpes-Maritime: Menton

After two trains, a taxi, and a car rental, about 12 hours had passed and we were utterly exhausted by the time we got to Sainte-Agnès on Sunday night, our home for the last leg of the trip. The cottage was exactly as portrayed and is comfy, cosy and quiet. What a nice mix we’ve had on this trip: the Big City, small villages of Burgundy, and now in the middle of nowhere in the mountains overlooking the sea.

Dinner Sunday night was the welcome package provided by our host for stays exceeding 3 days: bread, wine & cheese – and some Speculoos cookies that we had picked up from the Monoprix in Paris just in case we found ourselves needing an extra snack along the way.

On Monday morning, we went down to Menton, the closest “big city.” What a lovely place. We knew we’d like it and basically just wandered around its ancient streets. Here are some scenes from Menton:

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Since we missed the morning market and had such a light lunch, we thought it’d be a good night to check out one of Sainte-Agnès’s three restaurants – and the only one open on Monday night, Le Saint-Yves. This is simple country cooking at affordable prices. The food was fine, but the experience more than made up for any shortcomings: the older French waiter shuffling along in what sounded like slippers, the grand terrace with the wonderful view, the people-watching, locals and tourists alike, and the resident restaurant cat.

Here’s Tom looking very content.

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And the view:

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My 20€ menu came with 2 apps, a main and dessert, while Tom’s 22€ menu came with 3 apps! This was just one: the tourte maison, kind of like a quiche. You know it’s not a fancy place when they serve the food with the fork stuck in it, lol.

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My rabbit and Tom’s boar stew shared the same tasty fried potatoes. See that lone carrot on the plate in the foreground? I had to beg Tom for it since they were the sole veggies to be found – he had the 2nd carrot slice.

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A strong gust of wind sent the only other occupied table outside back inside, so we had the terrace all to ourselves for dessert and coffee. After dinner, we walked through the medieval streets back to our cottage. Isn’t the town lovely?

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Some final images of Burgundy

before I turn my attention more southerly.

Standing on the terroir where Vosne Romanée Conti is made.
Standing on the terroir where Vosne Romanée Conti is made.
Perfect
Perfect
But they all can't make the cut...
But they all can’t make the cut…
Today's vessel might be made of plastic, but the task has been the same for centuries.
Today’s vessel might be made of plastic, but the task has been the same for centuries.
Which one of these things is not like the other?
Which one of these things is not like the other?
Beaune
Beaune 
Just outside Beaune
Just outside Beaune
Meursault
Meursault
Just outside Meursault
Just outside Meursault
In Auxey Duresses
In Auxey Duresses

Burgundy Restaurant Round-up

I’ll aim for one photo per restaurant (but no promises!) which should give you a good idea of the style. We really had a nice variety over our 5 nights.

Our one included dinner was at Au Clos Napoléon in Fixin. We had traditional Burgundian dishes of oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in red wine sauce,) escargots Bourgiugnon, jarret de porc (basically a ham hock, but with the fat crisped up like a cracklin) with cheese sauce and fried potatoes (!) cheese and dessert. It was good, but way too much food and way too much fat – even for vacation.

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Night two was on our own, and after being shut out of my first choice because Wednesday was the sole night of the week they were closed, I chose the  Clos Prieur in the Chateau de Gilly. We walked over a moat to get inside! The room was spectacular and the food was quite good. This was probably our favorite dish: a seared rare tuna with a bit of an Asian flare – very light and fresh tasting. Service was somewhat off, but did not really interfere much with our enjoyment.

image imageDinner 3 was my birthday dinner, and perhaps our favorite of the bunch. Tom chose well with 21 Boulevard in Beaune. This was more refined, lighter cooking with casual and friendly service. Our favorite dish was sea bass served over assorted veggies with a light broth seasoned with saffron and basil. Dessert was nice, too.

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The next night in Meursault has a story…or 2 or 3…to go with it. With all the researching and lists of potential places, I sometimes forget who and/or why a restaurant was recommended. The minute I saw the terrace and the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vines, I knew this was a “view” place, better suited to lunch when you can actually see! Oh well, for the first five minutes, it was lovely. 🙂 I could never actually open the website, not on a PC nor the iPad or iPhone, so it was a bit of a mystery as to what we were getting.

The 2nd story was getting there. Google called it 1.7 km (a little over a mile) and it wasn’t until we were walking there, that I realized Google stopped long before the actual address. Weird. So it was more like 2 miles and we were late. With all the cars whizzing by us, we decided it would be wise to take a taxi back to the hotel.

So now for the restaurant. It was run by two, hard-working feisty yet friendly women. One of them, who was shorter than me, would wheel out this massive, ancient, unwieldy cheese cart which would squeak the whole time. She did this as every table was ready for their cheese course – and there were probably about 10 tables of all sizes. We heard no English here! There was a mix of locals and tourists, but the tourists were Eastern European as best as we could tell. The food was traditional, but not quite as heavy and with smaller portions. Very enjoyable experience. This was the casolette of escargots.

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We asked Madame to call for a taxi. She said it wouldn’t be a problem, but then came back with “il n’ya pas de taxis à Meursault,” i.e. there are no taxis in this town! And then she said one of the restaurant staff would take us back to the hotel. ! I’m pretty sure this would never happen at home. So the waitress who was probably a Formula 1 cheese cart driver, took us back to our hotel, apologizing profusely for her daughter’s small car and chit-chatting along the way. We thanked her over and over again – so very nice.

And as I mentioned, we ate with our tour group on the last night and our guide chose a place called La Goutte d’Or.  It was very good. We shared starters of tomato tart and pumpkin soup, and mains of tagliatelle with lobster sauce, and sea bass with risotto. Our guide, being in the wine business, chose some excellent wines to accompany our meal.

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We walked back to the hotel with no rain and I did my final dance among the vines.

Burgundy Tour

I’m writing from the TGV (high-speed train) to Nice and should have plenty of time to play catch up on Burgundy.

We really enjoyed the walking tour, and our only minor quibble would be that we wish we had more time to explore the individual towns. Most days were go go go. On Day 3, we did have the morning free in Beaune and in the afternoon, we walked from Beaune to Meursault, where we would spend the next two nights, and where we had one late afternoon winery visit. Here are some shots of Beaune, which was extremely touristy and commercialized to the point of being a bit of a turnoff – for me, anyway. And everyone spoke English, which is not why we come to France! It’s still charming, though, as you can see from the pictures.

Or not! I’ve been trying to upload pictures for nearly an hour and it just won’t work with the weak connection I have, so I’ll have to wait on the pics until we get settled on the Riviera.

I should mention that the weather was absolutely perfect until the last day of walking. The mornings would start off cool, but reach the mid-70s with loads of sun. On our last day, the morning started out just fine, and we walked to Auxey-Duresses where we would have one of our favorite vineyard visits with a gentleman whose father invented some of the winery equipment, which was absolutely fascinating. And the wines! Really lovely, and we picked up our last two here (we limited ourselves to a total of six since we have to haul them down South.)

The rain was threatening so we had today’s picnic in the winery tasting room. All of the picnics were catered by the same company, which provided just enough variety to keep things interesting. It was all good: cheeses, patés, meats, salads, bread, fruit and desserts – and, of course, plenty of wine.

It started to rain, so our guide offered us the chance to opt out of the afternoon walk, but we came prepared with waterproof jackets and shoes, so we trudged on. It was supposed to be an hour walk, but ended up being two – so we got utterly soaked! We made it to the last winery in the world-renowned Puligny-Montrachet where we had a well-deserved tasting.

The other thing I liked about this tour was the freedom it provided. Only the first night’s dinner was included (and all but one lunch) but the tour guide would make a reservation on the free nights for those who wanted to join her. We opted to go out on our own (had recommendations from friends and did plenty of research) for 3 of the 4 free nights and joined the group for the final dinner, which was lots of fun. I’ll do a separate post on restaurants, but suffice it to say we ate well, but I am looking forward to cooking at “home” in our cottage in Sainte-Agnès.

 

Days 1 & 2 in Burgundy

Well, our tour is keeping us quite busy, so apologies for falling behind on the blog.

I almost put “awesome” in the title, but it’s so overused and I just can’t find the words to describe what it’s been like being here. First I need to mention that we are here during the harvest! Now, this is not a good thing for the tour company, and in fact, their aim is to time it just before the harvest. Why? Because the wine producers are much too busy to deal with visitors! But this is wine, and the grapes decide when they’re ready.

Luckily, we’ve been able to keep our appointments as one producer will not be ready until next week, while another had just finished her harvest the day before. For me, it has been absolutely thrilling to see the workers in the vines, the traffic on these small roads, the duct-taped plastic on the seats of minivans carrying the workers covered in grape juice & must, the excitement – and passion – visible in everyone’s faces. Wow, just wow.

So the first day, we walked from Vougeot to Morey-St-Denis to Gevrey-Chambertin, and visited two producers: one small and one large. The second day we walked to the Clos de Vougeot to Vosne Romanée to Nuits St Georges and again, visited two producers, one small and one very large, which exports to the states. It was nice to see the similarities and contrasts.

We had picnics amongst the vines both days, and our tour guide and Tom conspired to make sure I had bubbles on my birthday. It was so very nice, as were the well wishes from the rest of the group.

I only have time to post 1 photo (hard to choose, but I have tasked Tom with that) which epitomizes the past 2 days, but I’ll post more when I can.

Bon weekend à tous!

Ok, two photos!

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