This map covers yesterday's post in details and prepares us for the next two episodes. You can either stay on the secondary roads and discover more vineyards in Saint-Verand, Fuisse, Solutre, Pouilly and Lugny and avoid Macon altogether to get straight into Burgundy after staying the night in Tournus, and then go and visit the most famous names of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault for the whites, and then the reds from Beaune to Dijon Nuits-St-George and Gevrey-Chambertin
The Maconais wines and the Rock of Solutre
Roche de Solutre, made famous by President Francois Mitterand - a good way to wet your appetite!
This had become an annual pilgrimage for President Francois Mitterand, it was certainly a measure of his determination not to be deterred by the pleasures of life, even after he became very sick. His favourite wine was the Saint-Veran (from the ancient spelling of the village's name - Saint-Verand), and I personally enjoy one of its close relatives, the Macon-Lugny that is readily available in Australia at Vintage Cellars. It is an excellent and affordable example of Chardonnay "a la francaise"...
Technically, this region is part of Burgundy, but Maconais is an Appelation in its own right, and covers the South of Burgundy between Macon and Tournus. It produces mostly Chardonnay grapes, although the Pouilly-Fume is a Sauvignon, and Pouilly-Fuisse is a Chardonnay
Both cities are along the Saone river, both have interesting old buildings, narrow streets and amazing churches.
I think I prefer Tournus, as it has remained smaller. Besides it makes a more convenient stopover between Burgundy South and Burgundy North...
The hotel and restaurant Greuze seems to be shooting for (more than...) one star!
Restaurant Greuze - the famous "soufflé" if you are still hungry...
A recent review from TripAdvisor: “THIS is the ONE- Go there and never forget each moment, each mouthful, each detail.”
"This restaurant could teach many others what really matters to the customer which in my view is a many layered, subtler experience than just the taste of the food. As customers, we do far more than just sit at the table and eat. For the time that we are there, in the restaurant he table is our space. Everything and everyone that approaches it is going to be noticed. We felt so welcomed by the Maitre D' and this welcome continued through the service. Our special occasion was heightened by the way each item that was brought to the table was placed so carefully and mindfully without impatience. Each course was brought with a reverence that allowed a flourish also, a brilliant service style that I would describe as quietly confident. The food was astounding- truly delicious. On the one hand it was as it should be in terms of technical delivery - tenderness, temperature and combination of flavours but on the other hand each mouthful contained the element of surprise and fun and uniqueness. Their style of skillful classicism combined with individualism ran through everything that we noticed and our experience was as significant to us as the first time that we tasted Chef Yohann's cooking 2yrs previously. We plan to make the pilgrimage again next year, staying in greuze hotel also, despite the fact that we live within easy access of London and working within Property Development for the food industry. The reason being that if something comes from the heart it goes to the heart. This came across to us loud and clear. How hard this team must work (many if not all, were the same individuals from 2yrs ago) to create this standard of well mannered delivery of this artistic food. nous vous remercions infiniment to all at Greuze- until next time..."
Bon appetit and bonne nuit! See you tomorrow for a northern Burgundy adventure!
Beaujolais - A typical countryside view
It's not "nouveau" at all - in fact the region of Beaujolais was first cultivated by the Romans who planted the areas along its trading route up the Saône valley. The most noticeable Roman vineyard was Brulliacus located on the hillside of Mont Brouilly...
Listening to Billy Joel singing "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" where he highlights the vertues of white and red wine, I could not resist taking you further North of Lyon on our journey back to Paris.
Beaujolais is probably one of most famous names when it comes to French red wine, thanks - or not - to the popularity of the "Beaujolais Nouveau", a marketing ploy devised by the region in the 1980s.
But this young wine can be so bad most years that it actually backfired against the truly amazing Gamay based proper Beaujolais wines.
If i were to mention names like St Amour, Regnier or Chenas, chances are you are not going to identify them as Beaujolais. Et pourtant!!!
Other famous vineyards include Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly and Chiroubles, not to mention Beaujolais-Villages and Cru Beaujolais, a more recent Appelation created just to try to wipe out the bad reputation of Beaujolais Nouveau.
I have to admit that I am the first one to rush to Ultimo Wine Center every November to sample the newly released vintage, and to acknowledge that it is a bit of a Lottery as much as a tradition! Last November was actually quite good, but the previous two years had a lot to be desired. But go and get a good year from Julienas or Moulin-a-Vent , and you will be pleasantly surprised. It is a light red wine which goes well with white meat and fish. It is the best choice to wash down the cuisine of the "bouchons lyonnais", a rustic fare designed to satisfy the lunch appetite of the silk workers in Lyon at the time. Its roughness goes well with charcuterie and "machons" , the traditional "sandwiches" served in these traditional establishments.
Albeit all the recent controversies surrounding George Duboeuf - the most famous "negociant" in the region, you will probably find that they are actually a good choice if you don't know the region's producers well and I would have no reservation recommending any of the wines marketed under their label. After all they won the most recent "Bocuse d'Or" competition for many of their wines.
Lyon, the Rhone river and Fourviere in the background
The Tourism Office of Lyon reckons it will take you two days to fully appreciate all the facets of this historic and modern city. It is a cross road from Paris to Marseile but also from Geneva and the Alps to the Massif Central.
Lugdunum, as it was called by the Romans or Lugodunon by the Gauls andv means the Fort of Ligh, thas been there a long time and has transformed itself many a time. It was the capital of Gaul for centuries.
Silk weavers are (mostly...) gone and have been replaced by heavy and high tech industries alike.
The TGV and the new airport and industrial complex of Isle d'Abeau on the eastern outskirts of the city have revitalised Lyon which is the second biggest agglomeration of France with 1.5 million people generating over 60 billion euros. It is famous for its culture - Opera by Jean Nouvel - and cultural heritage - many historical monuments and churches - as well as its gastronomy with one of its most famous chefs being Paul Bocuse. Lyon is also very close to two wine regions, the Cotes-du-Rhone we have discussed on its South and the world-famous Beaujolais to the North. Burgundy is not that far away either. The Bresse region to the East is famous for producing the best chickens - see Les Saveurs du Palais film for details. Charolais to the North for its beef and obviously all the fruits and vegetables grown in the Rhone Valley and further afield in Provence.
Lyon - my well worn cooking bible
Lyon - My favourite restaurant La Tassee - Try the "Feuillete de boudin aux pommel - 17 euros of delight!
Lyon - La Tassee and its "Madeleines"
Paul Bocuse - L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges - 3 Michelin stars since 1965!!!
I have never had the pleasure to dine chez Paul Bocuse, but this blog being squarely focused on food and wine, I cannot not mention this world renowned institution. You will have to reserve months in advance and be prepared for spending at least 300 euros per person for the degustation menu and a decent bottle of wine!
Our own Tetsuya in Sydney charges only 210$ per person, so you should rush there and save on the flights...lol!
Lyon - Paul Bocuse - the engine room
Paul Bocuse - Soupe aux Truffes - invented in 1975 for the then French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing
And a recent review of it on TripAdvisor:
"I had been looking at the menu for months before going and had high expectations. From the moment we arrived until we pulled out of the parking lot, every expectation was exceeded! Bocuse provided the dining experience of a lifetime. It was like a seamless concerto with every aspect performed to perfection. If there was an error or a lapse somewhere I certainly couldn't detect it. The food, service and place were spectacular. A highlight among many was the 82 euro truffle soup that I could have continued to eat forever."
Lyon - Pierre Orsi
Well, I have been there with my wife and colleagues from HP, both of them ended up being the godfathers of my children! It is certainly in the same league as Bocuse and it is in the city centre and certainly more affordable.
We went there because a good friend, Christopher Koetke, has been doing some work experience there as a pastry Chef and ended up doing the sauces - the most difficult part in the kitchen symphony.
Pierre Orsi told us that Christopher would end up very famous and he did! He ended up in the best restaurant in his native Chicago, is now doing a TV cooking show called "Let's Dish" and is the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts Vice President there, the most famous school in the US! Christopher also finished third in the U.S. finals of the Bocuse d'Or culinary competition.
Pierre Orsi is my favourite gastronomic restaurant in Lyon and at 115 euros for the degustation menu, you certainly can plan that in your travel budget. The cellar contains about 20,000 bottles!
By the way, Pierre has a brother in Toulouse, Laurent, whose cuisine I tried during that same business trip.
He used to be the Chef at Les Jardins de l'Opera, and still runs his "Bouchon Lyonnais" there
Pierre Orsi and his elegant wife Genevieve
Lyon - Pierre Orsi - Salade de Homard en habit vert - servie tiede
Lyon - Pierre Orsi - The Dining Room
Christopher Kopetke trained with Pierre Orsi in LYon
Lyon - the "new' Opera by Jean Nouvel
Lyon - The Opera and its new addition by Jean Nouvel
Lyon - The Opera inside the addition by Jean Nouvel
Lyon - Tourist Office Video - 2 Days in Lyon
Well, I have given you my take on this fabulous city. The video below commissioned by the Tourist Office is a romantic take on what you can do during a week-end before attending a convention in Lyon. Enjoy!
Apart from its singing name, Annonay is famous for its leather and paper industries going back centuries ( the artists among you, dear readers, might have use the Canson paper for your aquarelles and drawings...) and for giving birth to the Montgolfier brothers who invented the Montgolfire, i-e the hot air balloon, no less!
However, today the town heavily relies on a bus factory who employs 2000 people for its wealth.
But in my mind, it was where my grandmother had a very good lady friend with whom she kept in touch throughout her life. Unfortunately, I cannot recall how they met - I believe she was a school friend who married somebody from Annonay and moved there as a result. Maybe he came and proposed in a Montgolfiere and she could not refuse!
Annonay - Montgolfiere first flight
Annonay - Every June, the city commemorates the fist Montgolfiere flight
Condrieu, Tupin-et-Semons, Ampuis
The birthplace of northern Cotes-du-Rhone with the all too familiar names of Condrieu, St Joseph,
Crozes -Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, the biggest plantings of Syrah in the World, and yes, you guessed properly the second biggest place is Australia!
Cote-Rotie is 80% shiraz and 20% Viognier which have to be fermented together (cofermentation) and St Joseph is 80% Shiraz and at least 10% of Marsanne or Roussane in the blend. I do prefer the St Joseph, one, because it is somehow more affordable and two, because of my father's first name (and, no he was not a saint!)
I may have had two or three bottles of Cote-Rotie in my entire life (your contributions are welcome...) but would probably consume at least one bottle a year of St Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage. Now you know!
My favourite winery, Vidal-Fleury, produces all of them:
Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, , Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage in the north and also
Gigondas, Cornas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Cairanne, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Rhône, Ventoux, and Pays d'Oc in the south of the Rhone valley, and these are just the reds. They also produce the rarer, but very interesting whites: Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape , Côtes du Rhône.
If Valence has Pic, Vienne had Fernand Point - who passed away in 1955 - and now La Pyramide and Patrick Henriroux, on the same spot! It is also a hotel and is part of the Relais et Chateaux franchise.
Fernant Point trained Paul Bocuse (see next post), the Trois-Gros brothers and many more iconic French michelin starred Chefs. Vienne is on the east side of the Rhone and only 70 kms south of Lyon
Vienne - neatly nested along the Rhone
Vienne - La Pyramide's restaurant, the legacy of Fernant Point
Let's finish the day by driving to Lyon and stay there overnight. There is so much to Lyon that I will dedicate one full post to it tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a nice photo.
Lyon, tradition and modernity at a crossroad on the Rhone and Saone rivers
Lyon - why not stay at Hotel Royal - because you are worth it!
From Uzes, you are about 20kms to the A6 freeway (although not free at all...) and if you are in a hurry, you can drive from Orange to Paris in about 6 hours and will cost you about 200$ in tolls and petrol, or take the TGV from Avignon, and 2h40 mn later you will be in the center of Paris for about the same price for two - less if you book in advance. B
But obviously, that would not be fun to tell you that story on this blog - although I love taking the TGV!
So, instead, I have patched up childhood or more recent memories of the places I like along the way, or have some historical connections with my family, or just plain fun, as visiting wineries and tasting my favourite wines!
And the first stop is just that:
Chateauneuf-du-Pape - the jewel of the southern Cotes-du-Rhone
Well, as the name indicates, the Pope mass wine has become the wine for the masses! And yes, John XXII was responsible for most of the planting and the improvement of the winemaking.
And according to Wikipedia:
The village and three other surrounding communes produce wine, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region. Unlike its northern Rhône neighbors, Châteauneuf-du-Pape permits thirteen different varieties of grape; the blend is usually predominantly Grenache. Other red grapes include Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Syrah, Terret noir, andVaccarèse. White grapes include Grenache blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picardan, Roussanne, and Picpoul. In recent years, the trend has been to include fewer (or even none) of the allowed white varieties and rely heavily (or solely) upon the Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. One may suspect that this is a response to international wine-market trends and the desire to have this sometimes-rustic wine appeal to a broader commercial audience. Below, some of my favourites, Vidal Fleury bien sur, Chateau de la Janasse, one of my dad's favourites and a few more worth your while...just looking at the labels will wet your appetite!
Somehow less known than Chateauneuf, it is an excellent southern Cotes-du-Rhone, its name means "great pleasure" in Latin and vines were planted for the enjoyement of the Roman troops stationed near by at the time!
Gigondas - Domaine Santa Duc - one of my favourite
Vineyards in Gigondas with the "Dentelles de Montmirail" in the background
Nyons - Another Roman bridge!
Nyons - famous for its fabulous olives
Roman bridge and ruins, medieval town, nearby Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux are just some of the attractions of this fab little village. Also great restaurants like "Le Grand Pre" Michelin starred or its more modest and affordable bistro. The French prefer "Le Jardin de Coralie" though...
Vaison Lsa Romaine - Le Jardin de Coralie for an outdoor lunch
Valreas - the "Enclave of the Popes"
The area around the town of Valréas is known as L'Enclave des Papes
. It is an enclave
of Vaucluse, surrounded by the department of the Drôme
. The foundation of the Enclave began in 1317 when Pope John XXII
bought Valreas for the papacy of Avignon
. The story goes that following a visit to Valreas, feeling unwell he was offered some wine from the area. Liking it he decided to purchase the town to ensure his wine supply. Over the next 150 years or so his successors added to the Enclave by the addition of the small towns of Visan
. The boundaries were defined by tall stone markers carrying the coat of Arms of the Popes. The present day boundaries are still delimited by some of these stones, one of which is outside the entrance to the Valreas Tourist office. When the departments of France were created after the Revolution
the people of the Enclave requested to remain as part of the department of Vaucluse. Hence the "Enclave des Papes".
Valreas - Chateau de Simiane near by
Montelimar - the nougat capital
Montelimar is no longer what it used to be. The town has grown to 35000 people and the nougat factories have closed one after the other as the nearby freeway is basically cutting the town out of its tourist trade. Although there are still some remains of the Roman occupation, you will probably be surprised to find three mosques catering for a growing muslim population from North Africa and Turkey.
Valence - The Gateway to Provence
Valence is considered as the northest city of Provence and its gateway. It is an elegant city on the eastern bank of the Rhone. And it is where you can find PIC, the Michelin restaurant starred for three generations!
You might want to get some cooler air after these adventures in the sunniest part of France. So, as my dad decided to do on a whim 50 years ago or so on our way back home (Tours at the time...), let's cross the Rhone and head up towards Ardeche and the cooler climate of Lamastre.
If you have some appetite left, you will have to have some morels, the most amazing mushrooms on the Planet,
and, I am afraid, they are even better when soaking into "creme fraiche"....And stay the night to recover!
Today, the Hotel du Midi" is no longer a hotel, just a restaurant, but "Quel restaurant!" See review below
"Un restaurant ? Un monument, sur la place centrale de son gros bourg."Une de ces hostelleries où l'on s'entend manger", affirmait Curnonsky de Barattero, qui détenait alors trois étoiles. Bernard Perrier (photo) continue, bravement, en "one man chaud", la tradition, oeuvre pour la beauté du geste, travaille seul en cuisine, à sauvegarder l'esprit du lieu. Il n'y a plus d'hôtel, mais une salle avec ses stucs au plafond, ses tables peu nombreuses mais soignées, son marbre au sol. L'on goûte avec ravissement la salade tiède de foie gras de canard poêlé aux champignons des bois, le pain d'écrevisses sauce cardinal, la poularde de Bresse en vessie avec sa salade parfumée à l'huile de noisette. On boit le grand Ardèche de Latour et le saint-joseph de chez Courbis, sans omettre de faire un sort aux fromages d'ici, picodon ou saint-félicien. In fine, le soufflé glacé aux châtaignes avec ses deux "sauces" divines (crème anglaise légèrement parfumée au rhum et coulis de framboises) est à tomber par terre."
Lamastre - Hotel du Midi - 3 star restaurant in the Michelin guide in the 60s, as I remember it and where I discovered the morels!
morilles - sans crème...
Poulet aux morilles et a la crème - un régal!
Uzes - Atzaa, our favourite shop, rue Jacques d'Uzes
Realising that I have not been too prolific in suggesting places of interest over my last few posts, I thought I would "bundle" up a few of our favourite hotels, restaurants and shops in the region
Some follow recommendations from TripAdvisor, most are places we have visited or experienced ourselves.
Arles - Hotel du Musee - courtyard
Ales - Hotel de l'Amphitheatre
Ales - Restaurant Le Cilantro - ranked #2 on TripAdvisor - Cilantro is mexican for coriander
Beaucaire - well you've got the name of the place: make sure you book a table outside to watch the boats and the beautiful people go by
Hotel du Cheval Blanc - Another renovation by Jean-Michel Wilmotte
Nimes - Restaurant Alexandre - 2 Michelin stars - Chef: Michel Kayser
Tarascon - Restaurant MEO - Good food and great terrace
Uzes - In the heart of the village, this apartment belongs to very good Australian friends. Click on the photo for bookings
Uzes - the most beautiful salads at 24 Place aux Herbes
Uzes - Le Vieux Café d'Aniathazze on boulevard Gambetta - great ice creams, meals and fabulous selection of wines
Uzes - near by Villa St Victor - Friends stayed there and had a ball. Particularly loved the Chef and his cuisine
Uzes - Villa Saint Victor
From Nimes to Pont du Gard
Let's take the "chemin des ecoliers" via the little roads and villages with the singing names of Rodilhan, Manduel, Meynes and Remoulins to end up to another vestige of the Roman Empire grip on the region, the famous three level aqueduc called Pont du Gard as it crosses this impetuous river across a fairly wide valley.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard in 2000 on film with Laetitia and Gregoire a lot younger!
Pont du Gard - Rainbow over the river
Uzes is fast becoming the alternative to St Remy de Provence, as the price of real estate is still accessible and properties are still not renovated, so there is a potential upside on the way.
It is a "circular" village, as the fortifications have long been replaced by a circular road planted with the traditional platanes (plane trees) and lined up with nice cafes and restaurants and an inordinate number of banks!
It is not as bad as Luxembourg, though, where banks alternate with pastry shops siphoning your money into tasteful delights and dreadful calories...
Uzes is also famous for their pots with two factories competing for your trade!
Uzes - Place du Marche
Uzes - typical passage
Uzes - Artist at work
Uzes - typical architecture
Uzes - old structure
Uzes - beautiful stone wall
Uzes - local entertainment
This is all about different adventures to be have in the region north of where the Rhone split into the Petit Rhone and the Grand Rhone to form the Camargue. It is also about human engineering and the changes in entertainement options since the Roman Empire to our modern days. The proof is in the pudding, as, if you are ready my prose, you have become a virtual traveller - with better tools than this famous 19th century writer, Jules Verne and his "Around the World in Eighty Days" adventure! Or maybe not...
The twin cities of Tarascon and Beaucaire sit on each side of the Rhone, one in Provence, the other one in Languedoc. And they both offer quite a number of attractions. Here are some.
Tarascon - The Castle of King Rene
Tarascon - St Martha Church viewed from the Castle
Tarascon - St Michel de Frigolet Abbey near by
Tarascon - Several bridges to cross the Rhone
Beaucaire is a quite different city, mainly because of the port at the beginning of the Canal from the Rhone to Sete, and another Castle. It is bustling with activity and there are lots of nice little restaurants around the harbour. It is where you can rent a house boat to go down to Sete and the Etang de THau via the Canal from the Rhone to Sete, a leisurely trip mainly at sea level, so no much fun to have going through locks, but still a nice way to cross some eerie landscape. You can also just go for a day return trip, just for a taste!
Beaucaire - the harbour
Beaucaire - The castle
Canal du Rhone a Sete
Beautiful skies in Languedoc
Nimes is a beautiful city, full of life and Roman heritage, specially the Arenes, used for events and "corridas", the bull fights which are still very much part of the local tradition, together with the yearly "toro" race in the streets of the old town - not to be missed, but I strongly recommend you stay behind the barricades...These young bulls are quite wild! - well, they are young bulls, after all...
Nimes - Les Arenes
Nimes - Maison Carree - The Square House
Nimes - Carre d'Art, a modern counterpoint to the Maison Carree
Nimes - Maison des Arts renovated by one of my favourite architects, Jean-Michel Wilmotte
Bull fighting in style and technicolor in Nimes
A beautiful property in Provence with a view to the Luberon
This week has gone and I have not been able to post anything. Brisbane on Tuesday, a visitor from Melbourne yesterday with the launch on an event my clients and my business are sponsoring and a concert at the Sydney Opera House later this evening have all been in the way of my writing, but it is all right!
I will try to make good over the week-end with double posting and we will have you back to Paris safely and virtually before May 27th, the official end of this challenge
Arles - A Roman City, very much alive today
From Salon to Arles is now a quick drive through the Crau, semi-desert of small pebbles that human determination and hard work have managed to transform into a n agricultural paradise, specielly south of the A51 freeway where irrigation has transformed this once arid place into rice fields and north of the freeway into orchards, but some of it is still unsuitable for cultivation.
Rice fields in Camargue
Arles is worth several days of your time, specially from May to Septembere when the city tranforms itself into a Centre for the Arts, including sculptures exhibitions - this year it is all about Rodin -, concerts and a world famous photographic exhibition. You can download the program (in French) for this year here:
Arles: The Roman Arena and Amphitheater
Arles is built of a local white stone which gives the city its character and sense of continuity between the Roman buildings and the more recent constructions. Don't forget to bring a real film camera with black & white films!
Nowadays obviously, you can fake the B&W film with any good digital camera, but that's not as much fun...
For the foodies out there, you have to be in Arles on a Saturday morning to attend the local market which is stretching for 2.5 kms alongside one of the busiest arteries and featuring some 450 stalls, including fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, spices, olive oil, pots and pans, clothes, etc...
Arles - The Market - Garlic only here!
Arles - The Market - Spices & Legumes
Arles - The Fish Market
Arles - The Ironmonger - Maybe I should buy the shop and retire there...
Arles - The Alyscamps promenade
Arles - Saint Honorat Church near the Alyscamps
Camargue - Delta between the Petit Rhone and the Grand Rhone
Arles and the Rhone river
Arles is the gateway to the Camargue, a wild area of wetlands, where humans, toros, wild horses, pink flamingos and rice fields compete with the water to survive and prosper. Its only city, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a traditional refuge for Gypsies who come from all over Europe on August 15th to celebrate the Virgin Mary. Not to be missed!
Camargue: A "gardian" herding wild horses during a traditional "manade"
Camargue: A manade of "toros"
Camargue: Pink Flamingos
Camargue - a typical "gardian" house
Camargue: aerial view of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Saintes-Maries - the fortified church
Saintes-Maries ; the gypsies pilgrimage