The last picture of my previous blog, Part 1 of the Bordeaux Cruise sums up how happy we were to arrive at the ship, and how happy we are in general. I love that picture! We settled in our cabin on the Scenic Diamond. If any of you have ever been on a River Cruise will know, it is a challenge to fit all your belongings in the space provided. And you have to share that space with your husband or travel partner. Actually it is fun though to be creative and put everything where it can be found. The cabin is streamlined and the little balcony facing the river is charming.
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. Champagne before hand with Liz and Wouter and another delightful couple, Jerry and Susan joined us at our table. The food was scrumptious; yummy lamb done perfectly. I may have mentioned in the last blog that Tara O’Brady, the young, brilliant food writer for the Globe, was on board. She had previously met with the head chef of Scenic, and designed the menus on board as well as the menus we had on our tours. They were all excellent.
If you have been on a cruise then you will know that before you go, you choose those tours that appeal. We chose wine tastings and all were excellent, and I will tell you about them. We had a great sleep our first night and then the ship departed from Bordeaux. What made this cruise unique were not the meals, the tours, or the lovely ship, but the insiders breakfasts every morning, and the Globe Forums every late afternoon. In the morning, the paper was printed with many articles of interest, world affairs, business and some arts. We got a chance to read them, or at least to scan them, and then the ‘breakfast’ was hosted by David Walmsley, the Editor- in- Chief, for the first part of the cruise, and by Phillip Crawley, the Publisher, for the second.
These highly intelligent, informed, erudite men would lead a lively discussion about that day’s news, and they were accompanied by a writer from the paper. The first morning it was the brilliant business columnist, Rita Trichur. After they introduced topics, those of us listening could ask questions and further discussions ensued. I just loved this format and I relished the stimulation and the learning process. I sat up front and concentrated, just as I had for many years in elementary and high school and later in university. I wanted no distractions. It was called the Insiders breakfast, but in fact at 8:15 we went to the dining room for a full breakfast. I looked forward to these news gatherings every day, and they made this cruise unique.
After breakfast we all headed off on our various tours. Our first was a Sauterne and food pairing with Tara O’Brady at Chateau Guiraud. Sauterne is perhaps not as fashionable now as it once was, but the tasting made this semi sweet wine live again for me. We had an excellent guide, Sarah, who prepped us for our tour of the cave, and then we were served three different vintages accompanied by the most delicious and unusual canapés. We ate outside and kept marvelling at the uniqueness of each. What a variety of tiny perfect gems , some filled with caviar, custards, baby shrimp. The most famous of all Sauternes is Chateau d’yquem. But nowadays it seems these brilliant sweeter wines have lost popularity. Our tasting, which was simply exquisite, even though D’yquem was not one we sampled, awakened an interest in Sauternes.
Then back to the ship for our 4:30 Forum with Rita Trichur. Many sat and listened while sipping champagne, but I was enthralled with the talk and saved my drinking for later. When we returned to our cabin there was an invite from the Editor-in -Chief, David Walmsley to join his table for dinner. More good conversation and delicious food; salmon with caviar, oyster, spinach and chateaubriand perfectly cooked, opera cake, and wines to match. After a cognac to settle the stomach, well that sounds good, we went to bed. The next day we were headed to Blaye.
The second morning the brilliant international correspondent, Mark MacKinnon, spoke at our news update. I have read his articles and it was great to see and hear him in person. Although this is where I started to feel my advanced age, as he looked like a youngster, a youngster with experience and knowledge. Turns out he is about 48, but he looks so young. Hmm. After breakfast we headed off to Blaye, a small charming town and walked to the Cave of a fascinating wine producer and importer, Leslie Kellen. His lovely wife, Clarissa, walked with us. She spoke fluent English, although German born, and was simply delightful. And La Petite Cave was filled with wines, posters, personality, but nothing like the personality of our host, Leslie. The visit to the wine cellar was fascinating, but we also went walking along the street with glass in hand, and visited a garage sort of structure with a collection of his vehicles, a small garden, just so many fun and interesting things to see and experience. We bought a case of wines including different vintages, and had it sent to Florida because if you are a Canadian reading this you will know how impossible and costly it is to send wines from Europe here. So we will wait until the fall to drink them after we migrate south. Their Echalon Rouge, or Red Horse is one to anticipate.
After that visit we went to the Fort Medoc in the town and wandered there, hoping to get enough exercise to start eating again and feel somewhat virtuous. We arrived back at the ship to have a light lunch, a nap and get ready for some serious eating later at Chateau Giscours, home of a famous Margaux, but first a reception at Chateau du Tertre, with Pol Roger champagne and tiny hors d’oeuvres and live chamber music serenading us. Gorgeous setting, but far more impressive was the great hall at Chateau Giscours with its infinity pool outside, and the glorious summer evening. We were seated at round tables and served exquisitely. First white asparagus with Iberian ham and sauce Hollandaise. Then a lamb confit with carrots and condiments, rhubarb vacherin with ice cream. It is far more impressive in French and I should mention that everywhere there were beautifully printed menus. We were served a Chateau Dutil Haut-Médoc 2014, a Giscours Margaux 2015 and then Chateau Giscours 2010. Yes. Best of all we were sitting with Chris Waters, the wine expert from the Globe, and his charming wife, Melanie. We returned to the ship exhausted and fell into bed. Again, my advanced age fights with my vanity. I wore high wedge heels and my feet were swollen, from the wine you might say. Ha ha. But I love dressing up and it was all worth it, even the pain and my pants seemed to be getting tighter.
We were up early for the Insiders breakfast at 7:30 the morning of June 7, and it turns out that day was our 35th anniversary! Yahoo. Eric Reguly was the special guest. The European Bureau chief not only had a good sense of humour, he also had a keen understanding of the Ukraine war and the Afghan situation. That early morning chat was very stimulating. He also spoke at the afternoon one.
Originally we had booked Chateau Margaux for our tasting that special day, but I changed it so we could have lunch and celebrate. Margaux didn’t offer that, but Lynch-Bages did. We were lucky to switch and it turned out to be very special indeed. After a thorough wine tasting and discussion with the knowledgable guide, we walked across the way to the Café Lavinal, owned by the winery, and were seated at one of the two long tables. The lunch was exquisite with wild salmon gravlax, celery root and fish and caviar, then dessert, a strawberry basil brunoise. The wines were appropriately chosen from the winery. All good, and Tara toasted us and we felt very special indeed.
We went back to the ship to a big surprise. We opened the door to our cabin to see silver hearts strewn all over our bed, big cutouts of hearts and balls, and two gifts. These turned out to be t-shirts with one of our wedding pictures printed on it, and a silver engraved plaque of the same picture. We were totally ecstatic as this was from Liz and Wouter, who had carried everything in their suitcases from Canada, in order to surprise us. There was also an orchid from my sister and champagne from the captain. We donned the t-shirts and went to the 4:30 forum. Turns out Liz and Wouter also wore theirs. Lots and lots of laughs all around, and people asking why they were wearing a t-shirt with Farrah Fawcett’s picture on it. I guess I sort of looked like her in 1987. We had dinner with them, then dancing in the lounge. A very fine anniversary celebration indeed!
This seems like a good place to stop. I have more to tell you about the last few days of the cruise, our visit with old friends in Bordeaux and Paris, a cooking class and then a trip on a barge in Champagne.
Dinner here calls. I plan to make seared scallops and corn on the cob. I do seem to be a bit of a food addict, but I love the stuff, and I love sharing my travels and experiences with you.