Monthly Archives: May 2015

Wrapping It Up in Istanbul

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Flying through Istanbul to get to and from Bordeaux was a bit backward BUT Turkish Airlines was terrific!  After I booked our tickets and included a 24 hr. layover enroute home, up popped a screen telling me we could take a free tour of Istanbul complete with meals, all compliments of Turkish Airlines.

The first challenge was to find the meeting place, and I plan to write a review on TripAdvisor specifying exactly how to find this corner of the massive Istanbul airport. After traversing the halls, asking a dozen people where to find this meeting place, I was nearly shattered.  C’mon people, how can you work there and not  know where STARBUCKS is!!  I didn’t think it would be too becoming to have a total meltdown at my age, but I came close, I admit!

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About a dozen of us boarded the bus for our 6 hour adventure.  In her excellent English our guide “Jenna” started right in telling the history and geography of Istanbul, using a map at the front of the bus.  Shortly we arrived at the breakfast restaurant and were treated to a traditional Turkish breakfast.

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Our driver took us close to the downtown historical area, a distance of about 45 minutes from the airport.  Traffic was intense and a distinct difference from the pastoral areas of France.  We were grateful we weren’t driving!

Jenna kept us moving, telling us all the while stories about sultans, minarets, and customs.  We entered the Blue Mosque.

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You really can’t even begin to take in the beauty and enormity of this mosque.  The tile work is exquisite.  Shoes are not allowed and women must have their head, arms, and as much skin as possible covered.  The Blue Mosque is an actual working mosque, not a museum.  Jenna gave us a basic lesson in Islam including the five calls to prayer, the separation of men and women during worship, and the significance of Ramadan.

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The sultan who built the Blue Mosque was only 20 years old when building began.  He actually became the sultan when he was 14 and only lived to be 24.  Anyhow, he wanted to show his power so decreed that the minarets should be gold.  However, the older and wiser builder knew that this would be a great expense.  Now the word for “gold” and “six” in Turkish is very similar, so he built the mosque with 6 minarets and then said, “Oops, I thought you meant SIX, not GOLD.  I’m so sorry!”  I believe the story continues when the builder then built a similar mosque with 6 minarets in Saudi Arabia in honor of this sultan, thus saving his hide!

A brisk walk took us to Topkapi Palace.  With just a little less than an hour to explore, we quickly took some selfies and then explored the various chambers and just a few rooms. . .the circumcision room and the turban room in particular.

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Honestly, the rooms were so magnificent there’s simply no way to capture them on an iPhone camera!

We spent some time in the chambers dedicated to original antiquities and no photos were allowed.  We saw the staff of Moses, the sword of David, a lock of Mohammed’s beard, a mold of his footstep, and a large variety of swords, turbans, and kaftans worn by prophets.

Our lunch break took us to an eatery buzzing with locals all seeming to eat the same thing.  Meatballs.  These weren’t your usual round balls; they were flat and rectangular, made of lamb and spices and mouth-wateringly delicious.  Apparently this was a well-known family-owned restaurant with all three floors filled with hungry folks.

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Our tour came to an end and we boarded the bus for our return trip to the airport.  I sure wished I’d had time to shop and explore.  Istanbul is a fascinating and ancient city, with layers and layers of interest and intrigue.  WHEN I return, I want to spend an entire day at the Grand Bazaar and another day exploring the Hagia Sophia.

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A few hours later we settled into our seats on Turkish Airlines for our trip home.  We enjoyed the same hospitality and good food that has earned Turkish Airlines the designation as the #1 airline in Europe.

So, this is the end of this saga.  The trip was a good one.  There were moments when I swore I would not plan another trip for us, and there were moments when I understood why people go on bus trips.  But those moments paled in comparison to the laughs we shared, the excitement of discovering back streets and tiny places barely seen on maps.  We’ll continue our brand of “slow travel” as long as we can and in places where we feel secure in our skills.   Au revoir until the next chapter of Wheresweinberger!

A Little Game We Play

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Usually near the end of a trip we play the Alphabet Game.  I can’t remember if we played this with Ben and Marty when they were boys or if this is an invention of our trying to fix in our memories the highlights of our travels.  We take turns naming an event, place, or memory of the trip.  We used to compete and keep score.  Now it takes two of us to simply get through the alphabet.  You might say it’s taken us all these years to learn to cooperate!

Here are our ABC’s of France, with a nod to Istanbul:

A–Aubais. . .a town that made our mouths happy at a restaurant called Matje.

B–Bordeaux

C–Congenies, Canelés, (La) Couvertoirade

D–Duras

E–Eymet

F–Ferry (Bac du Sauvage)

G–Gaillac (wine region yet to be visited but wine tasted)

H–Haut Tropchaud 2010–Linda’s favorite

I–Issegiac (bastide town with an amazing antiquities shop)

J–Jean Saulas (street with free parking in Bordeaux)

K–Kebabs (eaten in Istanbul at 10 pm)

L–(Chateau des) Laudes–where we inadvertently crashed a private wine tour

M–Millau Bridge

N–Nimes

O–Oeuf (egg dishes consumed)

P–Pont du Gard/Puits (la Maison du)

Q–Quissac/Maison du Quaker/ St. Quentin

R–Rue St. Luce (street of our Bordeaux apartment)

S–Stephane (Medoc wine guide)

T–Theodorit (Uzes cathedral)

U–Uzes

V–Vincent (St. Emilion wine guy)

W–Monogram rarely found in France

X–indicator of plural on the end of chateauX

Y–Yves St. Laurent

Z–as in E-Z. . .how easy it was to deal with Turkish Airlines

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“You Made Me Love You. . .”

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“I didn’t want to do it. . . 

No, I didn’t want to do it.”

  
I love Italy.  She’s in my heart and soul.  I continually work at learning her language, i listen to her music, and I feel incomplete if I can’t visit some part of her frequently.

A few days after Don arrived I told him  I liked France, but my heart belonged to Italy.  It still does, but. . .

Two weeks later I find I REALLY  like France.  You quietly wormed your way into my affections, Monsieur France.  

It took me a while, but I soon identified some distinctions. It happened while we were in Congenies, and I woke up one morning with this recognition of the serenity of France as compared to the passion of Italy.  The energy in France is cool; in Italy it’s hot.  France is quiet; Italy is vibrant and sometimes downright noisy.  France is cheaper; Italy is pricier.  Driving is courteous in France and adventurous in Italy.  Food and wine are to die for in both places.  

I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, ” Parenthood.”  The wise grandmother talked about  Life and described it as a merry- go-round or a roller coaster.  One goes round and round, one gives you thrills and excitement.

I like to think of France as the elegantly carved, beautifully created carousel, with its music, charm, and magnetic spell.  Who isn’t drawn to the carousels we’ve seen here in parks, evoking memories of happy, carefree times.

Italy remains my roller coaster. . . Up, down, sometimes scary, yet masterfully engineered, magnificently and outrageously conceived.  Breathless and slightly sick when you finish the ride, but always wanting to go again.  That’s my Italy!

But sometimes I’ll long for the elegant carousel that’s become my France.

“Goodbye, Farewell, Au Revoir, and Goodnight. . .”

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It was another day of rain-slicked streets and hair- frizzing mist all day.  We browsed the wonderful shops, walking past structures built in the 1700’s.  Our “local”cathedral is St. Seurin, where we left some of Nana Weinberger’s ashes under a rose bush and lit a candle with a prayer for restored health for my brother Chuck.

   

 Once again we had not made a very early  start, so before we knew it, the lunch hour was upon us.  The rain started in earnest  and we chose the Café Opéra in the Grand Theater for a very enjoyable respite of 2 hours.   

 

By 3 pm we actually decided to head home and figure out our packing situation.  Honestly, we were just tired.  I’ve been away from home for over 3 weeks and Don for 2 weeks.  He’s been hauling our butts all over France in our cute little FIAT 500.  We needed some down time.
BTW, our accommodations are a great Air BnB find.

  
What the photo doesn’t show is a galley kitchen and a clever storage unit.  Wait, I’ll take a photo right now.

  
Behind each door are all necessary kitchen accoutrements.

Anyhow, we re-packed and re-charged our individual batteries, Don with a nap and me with a cuppa tea and blog-writing.  The rain and mist continued, but we ventured out with umbrellas and a desire to see Bordeaux at night.

  
The misters by the river gave an eerie feeling to an already grey evening.  We waited until 9:30 for the lights to come on illuminating the Palace.

   
   

Farewell to a truly beautiful and memorable city and country. We’ll drink your wine and eat your canelés, and we’ll carry your memories in our hearts!

Le Canelés

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I’m obsessed.  I first tasted these little morsels with Donna in the market at St. Foy.  From that moment to this, the texture and taste has lingered in my memory.   

     

At the local boulangerie  I tasted the best one ever. . . Crisp and carmelized (not charcoaled) on the outside, moist and not too sweet on the inside.  I dreamed of making these to serve with a morning cappucino, an afternoon glass of wine or tea, or as a special dessert.  I read at least 10 recipes online.  I started to feel like Julie in the movie ” Julie and Julia.”  Yes, I would master these, and according to my online research, even the mistakes can be edible.

I debated the merits of copper versus silicone molds.   I checked Amazon for prices.   I discussed the merits of each type of mold with the lady at the local boulangerie.  I asked where to buy copper molds. She drew us a map.

We discovered canelé heaven, complete with my all-time favorite bear.  Yes, I’d come to the right place. 

   

 Now it was time to commit.  Would I actually make use of the  investment in copper molds?  And if so, what size. . . Petite, medium, or large?  It only took Don to say, “Well, when we have  dinner parties there are usually six of us,” and the die was cast.  Or was it,” the mold was set”!?

 
Six large molds are tucked safely in my suitcase.  I reasoned, too, that large molds would be easier to work with initially, although I suspect the three-day  process of batter-preparing will yield more than 6 canelés.  Perhaps I’ll get a petite silicone mold from Amazon after all for the overflow.

Watch out, kitchen of 1270.  Do I have a surprise for you!

  

May 1=Bordeaux Closed

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It’s Labor Day and that means all public buildings, transportation, banks, and tourist venues are closed.  Workers often take to the streets with flags flying in parades to make their sentiments known regarding pay,hours, etc.  We witnessed this in Turin a few years back and didn’t need to see it again in Bordeaux. 

BUT, back at the beginning of my trip I discovered that St. Emilion has three days of open chateaux visits.  May 1-2-3. We had a slow start to the morning, and the grey, misty rain didn’t help.  But after breakfast, a short walk to the local boulangerie which WAS open, and a light lunch, we set off, map in hand.

I think it is probably easiest to simply list where we went and give a brief synopsis.

  
Our friend in St. emilion who makes the wonderful “maison hamburger/duck” suggested this chateau when i asked his advice a few weeks ago.  He said it was one of the most beautiful and interesting caveaux in St. Emilion.  Hedidn’t  exaggerate!  A consort of 10 artists display their works amongst the bottles and barrels. Take a look: 

   
   

   
 

I loves this painting and thought it looked like our lovely guide.

Of course, at the end we tastes the wine, ans even though we said we would ahare a glass, we were not allowed.  ” Oh no, you must each have your own.”  We learned quickly to taste only, then discard the remainder.  After two or three tastings our guide said, “i would like you to try something very special.  Our owner, Paul, has a very small plot in Fronsac.  He works the fields by himself with a horse and does all tasks by hand.  He produces small batchesof fine wine. This should be kept in your cellar for many years. ”

  
Yes, it will be kept in our cellar.  We bought a bottle.

Chateaux Number  2:

  
This was another chateau with very interesting caves. The limestone in the area keeps the temperatures constant at about 12-14 C. With about 80% humidity.  These caves, like the first ones  at Villemaurine were natural.  We were later to see aome that were modern and dug.

   
 

The wife of the owner kindly gave us a special tour in English. The owner told us that much land in the area had been bought by Russians and Chinese but he was able to keep a few hectacres and now produces ” the finest wine in the region.”  Of course he’d say that!

Chateau number 3:  by this point we were already giving up on trying to follow the map of open chateaux.  Special signs posted on the road offered some help directing  cars to open chateaux.  We spied one that looked very new so gave it a try.

   
Honestly, it was a charming story about the family and the old woman who gave her name to the chateaux, but the wine was terrible.  Moving onward :
Chateaux number 4:  we spied this one close by.  

  
Again, a special tour in English.  We chuckled because as soon as we got out of our car the owner scurried to find his daughter who spoke English.  Don commented that it must be a requirement for these young guides to be beautiful.  

Again, a family winery with much pride, but wine was not to our liking. There was no barrel aging. “We prefer to keep the taste of the fruit intact” which seemed to say, ” Barrel aging is too expensive.”  

The tanks were some of th most colorful we’ve seen! 

Chateaux number 5:

  
We hit the jackpot.  As we entered the room we heard English and saw this man, the owner apparently, proudly explaining his wines.

  
We soon realized that we had stumbled onto a private tour, arranged by a Bordeaux group.  For the next 45 minutes we learned so much about his wines, vintages, how to taste, how and when to decant, what type of glass to use.  We tasted another 4-5 wines. 

 

We bought a bottle of the 2010.  My carrier for 6 wines was now full.  

At this point our palates were shot, it was raining, but I felt incomplete.  I wanted to return to Vincent, my new BFF wine guy, and order more of the 2010 haut Troupchard.  We wound our way through the slick, wet cobblestone streets, and did just that.  I had to taste it again to be sure it was as good as my palate remembered. 

   

I had to compromise with Don and we ended up with three bottles of my choice and three of his.  So the NC weinbergers will be receiving two shipments, one of which we will share with them and a shipment of our 6 bottles.

   
Our first shipment is ready to go (box on bottom right).   Other cartons are going to Allentown, Pa ( Vincent is going to try to put us in touch with that guy who has a business address to ship to ) and Singapore.
This was our third and final trip to St. emilion.  What a day of wine and fun!  

May 1= Lilies of the Valley

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Roadside stands sprung up and greengrocers had bunches of these for sale today, May 1, Labor Day in Europe.  I asked a few people why this particular flower, and no one could say definitively.  And so to my trusty source, Wikipedia:

King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days.
Gotta love a country that keeps a tradition going from the 1500’s!  We’re not even that old in the US!