Bordeaux Cruise Pt.3 with the Globe and Mail

Our anniversary was terrific as I told you in my previous blog Bordeaux River Cruise Pt.2, and now I shall tell you about the rest of our journey. I had decided that I would not re-visit the Monolithic Church in St. Emilion. I am not keen about underground structures no matter how old, and I had seen it years before. Once was interesting and enough for me. I decided instead to just go walking and shopping In St. Emilion, and Liz thought she would do the same. Turned out to be a rainy day with opening and closing our umbrellas constantly, but the walking and dashing into stores was fun, and we got a chance to do a girl’s visit with each other. Liz bought a dress and we both managed a tasting of fois gras in a tiny store, and an old favourite, Pineau des Charantes, in white and red. It was fun chatting up the young shop keeper and we certainly enjoyed our little drink. Naturally we made purchases. Then tired from all this excitement we stopped at an outdoor cafe and bar and had some bubbly. An older woman who is on the cruise came by in quite a panic as she had lost her husband’s cell phone in the area, and after checking with the restaurant and other establishments, still couldn’t find it. I got her phone number and called her phone, a number in Ottawa, but thought it might be answered somewhere, and we could find it. It did ring and after much chatter by myself in French with the person on the other end of the line discovered it was in the bar where we were sitting. I went in, got it and all was well. We laughed because I just couldn’t understand the name of the bar, and there we were under its awning with the name spelled out. By this time Charles and Wouter had joined us, and we sat enjoying the view and our bubbly. We eventually headed back to the ship for an another delicious dinner. This time with new friends, Pamela and Henry; great food and conversation.
negotiating the cobblestone streets of St. Emilion
a happy shopper
view of roof tops
charming hotel
always time for an aperitif

The next morning there was a particularly interesting session with the Globe Publisher, Phillip Crawley, about a front page headline referring to the new LIV golf tour. I took part naturally because I have been following the drama of this new Saudi sponsored tour. I also spent a bit of time talking about the arts coverage of the paper and was happy to hear that in September there would be a separate section on the arts in the Saturday Globe. Yes!

Phillip Crawley holding court

We headed off to another tasting this time at Chateau Clinet a Pomerol, and a distinguished one at that. The wine guide was very knowledgeable. She explained things clearly and concisely. It was an enjoyable tour. Lunch followed back at the ship and I noticed that my clothes seemed to be shrinking, and I hadn’t even had them laundered. Hmm. We had a wonderful dinner aboard with excellent wines; gravlax salmon, tuna tataki, soup with quail egg, beef short ribs and carrot mash, and a mousse for dessert as well as petits fours. Champagne, Sauterne, Saint Julien etc. I could feel my clothes continuing to get smaller. Mon Dieu!

wine tour guide
starting the tasting

The following day there was a scheduled excursion to Bordeaux, as well as a cycling tour, and a food trip. Before the voyage we had an opportunity to choose our tours etc., but I thought if it were possible we could meet up for lunch in Bordeaux with a very old friend whom we had not seen for years. Anne-Marie Dauriac was an owner at one time of a fabulous St. Emilion, Chateau Destieux, and a Pomerol,Clemence. After her divorce I am not sure of her involvement, but she also was an accredited pathologist, although I figured she would be retired by now. I had even sung at the wedding of her daughter in a beautiful St. Emilion church many years ago. Anne-Marie was delighted to meet with us for lunch and the date was set. That morning Charles and I went on a 2 hour walk in Bordeaux, assuming we would easily find our meeting place the Maison des Vins. Turns out it wasn’t easy although the building was giant and extremely modern and curvy. We arrived late, which is rare for us, but Anne-Marie and her new husband were very gracious and we spent a few hours over lunch, speaking French, as Jean-Louis’ English was non-existent, and drinking some delightful wines. But mostly we caught up with each others lives, children, grand children, the usual topics. We ate wonderful fish, and eventually bid them farewell. We took a taxi and they were on a motorcycle, which they explained was really the only way to travel in Bordeaux. There they were with matching helmets, two 70 something year olds, very happily driving in the traffic and waving to us. In fact I have never seen Anne-Marie so full of joy.

house of wine
dear French friends
after delicious lunch
all dressed up and on their way
there they go!

Charles and I headed back to the ship for a cognac tasting by the representative of Hine cognac, and I really didn’t want to miss that. It was fun trying many different vintages, and then we were offered the glasses that we drank from. We washed them and wrapped them carefully to transport them, a nice memory every time we use them in Toronto. Our final night dinner followed this tasting, and we shared our table with Liz and Wouter, eating lobster and talking about all the other guests, and marvelling what a wonderful time we all had.

the rep from Hine
and the glasses

We were pretty well packed before dinner so the morning was not stressful. We had chosen not to do an add on from the cruise itinerary which included a visit to Smith Haute Lafite, a well respected winery at a resort called Les Sources de Caudalie. Many years before we had stayed at this charming and elegant location , and I looked into and thought it would be fun to book it for a night as we were flying to Paris the next day. When I was booking our room, I noted that they held cooking classes with a chef from the 2 Michelin Star restaurant, La Grand Vigne that was on the property. I thought, ‘why not?’ We love cooking classes. So I signed us up. We had to be at the hotel at 10:00am to start the course which included lunch afterwards in the famed restaurant. We arrived early and did the check in, although our room was not ready. I also booked their casual restaurant for dinner that evening. Ha! Little did I know then.

famous rabbit at Les Sources de Caudalie
sylvan Caudalie
wine country of course

The cooking school was housed in the hotel and had a very modern up-to-date kitchen with the latest appliances. There were ten of us and the chef. We all sat down to get the background of the dishes we would cook, and to meet the chef. Now I omitted to notice one thing when I booked; the class was entirely in French. Now we can get along pretty well in conversation, but this was way beyond our comprehension. Actually I got quite a lot, but Charles between struggling with his hearing aids to even hear the chef who had a soft voice, and understand many of the words and sentences, gave me a long look of ‘what are we doing here?’ I was sure I was doing quite well until I thought the chef was talking about preparation of food on an airplane (l’avion), but in fact he was talking about meat (la viande). The good news was that this talk didn’t last all that long and we were soon in aprons, cutting and dicing in the kitchen. One of the dishes had tiny langoustine that were raw and we were going to marinate and make into a sort of ceviche or tartare with citrus. We also made a sabayon which I thought was always a dessert sauce, was used for the white asparagus that we blanched and then lightly cooked. There was the fish, a merlu or hake, that we wrapped in the flower of a courgette. Well you get the picture. This was not an easy throw together meal , but detailed and intensely laborious. The fish was first steamed and later baked in the high tech oven. My brain was tired, but we did what we were told, and were relieved when the class was finished and we went for a tour of the kitchen in the restaurant, and met the highly acclaimed chef, Nicolas Masse, who greeted us warmly and showed us around his busy enterprise.

the class
Charles at work
The kitchen of the class

Then into the restaurant for our lunch. We didn’t eat what we had created I am sure for obvious reasons as this was after all a 2 Michelin Star establishment, but our dishes were cooked by their chefs and served to us along with much wonderful wine from their winery, Smith Haute Lafite. The tables emphasized the vine theme, the name of the restaurant being La Vigne, and many of the incredible appetizers were served on twigs; little oysters, raviolis, artichoke branches, sorbet made from honey crisp apples and onward. We finished eating at 4:30, and I immediately cancelled our reservation for dinner. We took an extended nap, I woke to go for a swim in the indoor pool, and we went for a long walk. We had a plane to catch the next morning so I pre-ordered breakfast for our room, as the restaurant was not open early early.

famous chef Masse
apps on a vine
artichoke with swiss chard
chocolate truffles
fish wrapped in courgette flower and asparagus
langoustine tartare
the cutlery represents vines, dessert yummy and other offerings above
after lunch walk
casual restaurant
setting up breakfast in the room

This breakfast was included in the price and was terrific. A young woman arrived with a pannier filled with little glass bottles of freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs in another glass container that had spinach and smoked salmon on the bottom, amazing croissants and for Charles, cappuccino. We then headed to the airport in Bordeaux to catch our flight to Paris on Air France where there was not a mask mandate, and where the man in front of us was coughing vigorously. I said in a loud theatrical voice, ‘can you imagine he is not wearing a mask?’ Amazingly he put one on quickly. Yes! We had booked a barge cruise three years before Covid, and we were finally taking it even though we had just spent time on a river cruise. We decided it would all be good. The plan was to meet the barge people in Paris at a small hotel. We found the meeting place, were early as we often are, walked around the corner to have a light lunch at a Paris Bistro outside, and watched the crowds walk by, and basked in the beautiful Paris sunshine.

Paris cafe
final memory from the trip
Yvonne, cruise director extraordinaire, doing a special French lesson as Mme Pee Pee… had us all in stitches.

In my next blog I will tell you about this barge trip in Champagne. We went from being with 140 Canadians who read the same paper, to a group of 7 of us, where we were the only Canadians, and a crew of 6. All of us had different backgrounds. It was an adventure.

Till next time,