Friday, March 28, 2008

End of March

March 28, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night in Gevrey Chambertin. Actually, more like a dark and stormy month. This month we have had violent winds (two street lamps came down one night in our little neighborhood), lots of rainy days and then, to top it off, over Easter weekend, SNOW. All right, I will admit that it did not stay on the ground past 11:00 am, but it was snow nonetheless. The cherry and apples trees are in bloom, and it snows. It does not appear that the snow did a lot of damage, so maybe there still will be black cherries in June (one can hope).

Spring arrives earlier here than it ever did in Minnesota, and I do like that. But once spring arrives, I also would like it to stay. These somewhat freezing temperatures are for the birds. And then speaking of birds….

We have birdseed in the feeder out back, and the birds arrived in droves. The feeders were empty in a few hours. I had to keep filling them, and on Monday, still a holiday here, I had to find a store that was open to buy more seed. Most stores are closed on Sundays and holidays. Easter Monday is a holiday. What birds do we have you ask: European gold finches, mesanges (chickadees), pinson de arbre and pinson de nord (chaffinch and brambling), merles[1] (thrush) which are the European blackbird, European Serin, rouge gorge (british robin), green finches, and other assorted brown birds.

Enough of the weather.

Other activities of the month? At the start of the month my Photo Club had its annual photo exhibit on Saturday and Sunday. I worked on setting-up the exhibit, and this was on Friday afternoon. I packed my bag with what I thought may be necessary for the afternoon and went up to the Espace Chambertin. Our exhibit was down in the grand cave. As each problem with set up arrived, I reached into my bag and brought out pliers, tape, scissors, measuring tape, calculator…and thus was dubbed Madame McGyver for the afternoon.

We had to unpack all the photos, label them all, and attach chain and hang (and even make some hooks). To spruce up the exhibit there were to be flowers, however the flowers had been forgotten. So Saturday morning I bought some pansies at the local store and went back to the exhibit before it was to open. Eight little pots of colored pansies for only 4.50 euros, good deal (and now I have to plant them in the yard). Put some colored paper around each pot, and VIOLA. Someone else provided some primroses. So all was ready when the mayor arrived for a glass of wine and to open the show.

On Saturday night, those from the club that wanted, gathered in the cave for a pizza party. It was a nice evening, spouses and significant others invited.

The exhibit went well. Over the weekend over 300 people passed through to see it. You can see some of the photos and the 2 winning photos here at my club website : Reflets et Echos

The weekend before Easter, Marie Therese received a nice order for a wedding (remember she sells wine). The wedding however was Easter weekend. In addition to the wine, they asked if she could get 6 bottles of good champagne. We (Keith and I) offered to drive up to Buxeuil for the Champagne. This is a small village about 2 hours north of us, just within the boundaries of Champagne. We like to go to Champagne Moutard. We even get a discount for being good customers. Our friend Chris had wanted some champagne back, Wendy and Robert needed some champagne and had asked when and if we were going to Buxeuil, we wanted some too, and now Marie Therese needed some champagne. Sounds like a road trip to me. The day was misty and not a day to be out riding a bike or taking a hike anyway. We drove up, through the small villages and enjoyed the scenery, of course had a small taste of champagne while there (I more than Keith since he was driving). Then we loaded the car down with everyones Champagne and returned by a different route. I had stopped raining and was a pretty route back. A bottle of good champagne costs about 17.00 euros, and I will not tell you what we pay with the discount!

That was Monday. On Tuesday I agreed to go with Marie Therese to Volnay, Buxy and St Aubin to pick up some of the rest of the wine needed (we had just done this same trip the week before). Tuesday was a gorgeous day. Off we went and stopped at Buxy (the most southern place from here) and she bought some wine there. Then we stopped at St. Aubin for a few boxes there. They usually leave the wine in the garage/warehouse, but Marie Therese said the door was locked. We waited 30 minutes to see if Vincent would arrive. He did not. This is a small village, with tight winding streets. We did finally find a telephone booth to our surprise, but Marie Therese ‘s telephone card was expired (there are no coin operated booths, you need to have a card that allows you to talk so many minutes). So now we had the booth, but no card (if you haven’t guessed yet, neither of us has a cell phone). Ah we found a tabac (a tabac sells tobacco and also phone cards). The tabac was out of phone cards. And by the way, this tabac was located in the Poste or post office, small village as I stated earlier, but strange even for a small village I should think. No wine, no cell phone, no phone cards....zut!!!

With no other alternatives, we headed north to Volnay without the wine from St Aubin. We arrived at Volnay and the wine was ready. Marie Therese mentioned that she did not get her order from St Aubin and the proprietress told her to use their phone. Vincent did indeed answer the phone, but he was in the south of France in Toulouse! He gave his brothers number and Marie Therese contacted him. He would meet us there, back in St. Aubin. Maire Therese loaded the trunk with wine from Volnay and demi-tour (U-turn) back south to St. Aubin. When we arrived, the young man was waiting for us and told Marie Therese that the door was never locked, just stuck. Sometimes you have to pull extra hard he said (this door is about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide and made of wood, heavy in the best of circumstances). But as the old bard said, all is well that ends well. We now put this wine in the trunk too (which was getting full of wine boxes by this time) and headed north once again, towards home. Sure do hope the wedding was grand.

Chris (our friend from London) arrived on Thursday. This is when the weather started to change. Friday it was pouring rain and I needed to run into the market in Dijon. We were going to be tasting white wine on Friday night and I wanted (needed) some things from the market to make sumptuous hors-d’oeuvres. Chris and I went into Dijon for the market. Inside the market it was cold, not much difference from the outside! We found everything we needed and left there as soon as possible. Still had to make a few more stops on the way home and it was noon when we arrived, wet and cold. I had bought a nice pate en croute at the market and made some potato soup. Warm house, warm food, a little wine and good conversation made up for the trip to Dijon. It actually cleared up towards the end of the afternoon. It was still chilly though.

That evening we tasted 5 different bottles of white wine (7 people). All the wine was from Burgundy and all was Chardonnay, but the difference in taste was really extreme. Two were exceptional: a Rully (from Domaine Breliere and the St Aubin from Domaine H. Prudhon). We spent the whole evening talking and eating with friends and tasting wine. What started as a wine tasting with apertifs, ended up to be a full evening with our friends. Chris speaks some french so the conversation ebbed and flowed between french and english. It was all so pleasant.

On Saturday, Keith always prefers to go to Bligny and work on the trains. Around 10am, off he went with the car. Gevrey now has better train service (started in December) and I suggested we go down to Beaune by train, have lunch, shop and taste wine (Chris likes to buy wine here because it is about ½ the price of what she pays for the same wine in England, so when she comes over we do taste a lot of wine).

The train is not too far from the house, but the day was cold. There were still flakes in the air, although it was not snowing hard. The train only takes about 15 minutes to get to Beaune, that part is easy, but after that we had to walk about 6 blocks into the wind and the snow was coming down once again. Heads down we trudged forward. We found a nice restaurant and had lunch (salad and omelets for me, Croque Monsieur for Chris). The weather kept changing from rain, snow , sleet to clear. We just kept ducking in and out during the bad parts. We shopped for a while and then found the wine place I had wanted to try. You pay for the privilege of tasting, but then there is no obligation to buy wine. There were 15 wines to taste, 3 whites and 12 reds. And I was not driving for once, so I tasted all 15 of the wines. There were signs all over that you could fill your tasting cup (tastevins) only once, in 3 languages. The last wine was Corton Grand Cru. It was sublime. But at 39 euros a bottle, I passed on it. Chris found a wedding present (cork screw) for her friends and bought some wine too. We thought that we had finished a cold ugly day on a nice note, so off to the train and back to Gevrey for the evening. Also I found a good place for wine tasting.

Easter Sunday I had made reservations at a restaurant for noon. It is in the country and there was still snow on the ground when we arrived at the restaurant. It is up in the hills (Haute Cote). We had a nice lunch, but not anything to write home about, so I won’t.

Marie Therese had invited us over for dessert, so off we went to Messagnes. She and Christian and her father and Andrea were just having dessert. For dessert we had cherry tart (tarte de cerise) or compote de peche ou pomme (peach sauce or apple sauce), or a bit of all three. Also wine and Cremant was served (Cremant is sparkling wine). After talking and eating our dessert, she thought Chris should meet Ohtar[2] (the horse) and see the new barns (see Decembers journal on the American Barn). After looking at the barn and petting Ohtar, we went into what is now called the “club house”…a basement room with a wood burning stove. The room is walk in level with the house above. Christophe has set up his office area on the right, a table in the center and a couch over on the left wall. Marie Therese had brought some Cremant and Christophe had some gateau (cake). As we sat talking, others arrived and soon the room was full. Along with everyone, more Cremant arrived too. So we spent a couple hours talking, inside away from the cold snowy outside. This time the conversation was only in french.

Have to mention here that Angelique, a young woman boards her horse there too. She had come in from riding her horse, which is an Icelandic horse. She said Icelandic horses are the 4x4 of the horse world, although they are small. I will try to post a photo in the future, they are really mignon (cute).

Chris stayed until Wed morning, the 6:30 train to Lille. Monday and Tuesday were rather uneventful. Monday Chris and I walked into Gevrey and around the vineyards in cold blowing snow. We did need to get out and get some exercise, so although the day was not ideal, off we went. We had a good 2 hour hike, and once we were not walking into the wind, it was much nicer. My hardy Minnesotan upbringing does come in handy now and then, I was not as cold as Chris.

Tuesday night Chris took us out to dinner. We went to a place (Clos de Napoleon) we have always like, simple Burgundian food, but good food. They hired a new chef last September and said it was under new ownership (we think it is the son of the former owner). We sat next to the fire and the food was very good, and the servings more elegant. We had a very enjoyable evening.

The weather is starting to return to normal.

The trees in Gevrey on the Place de Marronier were pruned this last week. When they prune here, they really do a complete job! Had to take a photo to show you.

That is all for now, until April. I have written enough to probably bore you all.

RECIPE for March

Easy Bruschetta


  • Good bread (Italian bread or French) sliced (10 slices)
  • Mozzarella Bufalo (sliced in ¼ inch slices) 2 balls
  • Grilled red pepper (cut in thin strips) 1 pepper
  • Basil
  • Lettuce (small mixed leaves preferred) large hand full
  • Vinaigrette
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Dijon mustard


Slice bread and toast top side and then rub with a garlic clove cut in half.

Pick basil leaves and mix with equal amount of small salad leaves. Add Vinaigrette (see below).

Toss salad lightly.

Place a small amount of tossed salad on each toast.

Place one or two (depends on size of toast) slices of Mozzerella on top of the salad.

Lay some of the strips of grilled pepper on top.

Dribble some olive oil over the top.


  • 3 TBS Olive oil.
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard.
  • 1 TBS vinegar.
  • Beat with a fork until it is all incorporated into a smooth vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper.

    It is that easy.

    Bon appetite

    [1] Merles have a wonderful song and now I understand “4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie, when the pie was opened the birds began to sing” [2] By the way Ohtar went through his first proves at an event – 2 separate jumping sessions without faults.

    Sunday, March 2, 2008


    March 1, 2008

    I am woefully behind. Never did write anything during Feb of this year.

    I left off at the end of January. Not a month with a great ending. We both got bad colds which included ear infections and bronchitis . Went to the doctor (22 euros a visit- total bill. The copay is 1 euro) and came away with the traditional french shopping sack of drugs. So Keith and I just sat around; I watched some movies, he played on the computer. It is nice not to have to work when you do not fell up to it!

    We did have to get ready for the trip though. We both spent minimal time packing, but we had more than enough cloths. Did forget the tour guide book though!

    We also just happened to squeeze in a wine tasting with Marie Therese. She has a new blog site too at: where she mentions our wine tasting visit. It is in French however. We have another wine tasting with her this coming week.

    I did want to mention that Keith did finish a glass lampshade (Tiffany style). It is wonderful.

    Desk Lamp by Keith [better photo next time]

    Then my photo club has an exhibit this next weekend. I have a couple of photos in the exhibit, of course.

    Black and White

    Grand Canyon

    If interested, here is another link; Sue's 2008 photo calendar

    View Photo CALENDAR

    Then there is an actual calendar. I am experimenting with the use of this calendar. Not sure how well it works and if I will keep it up, but for now here is the address. Sue's Actual Calendar

    Now on to the vacation.

    SYRACUSE (or Siracusa )

    (photos at

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. We were still very tired from our colds, and Keith brought along a gastro virus. Kind as he is, he shared it with me. It was not that bad, but we stayed and explored the island of Ortygia, rather than some long voyages by bus into the mountains. It was a little cold too. Wore a coat the whole time. In spite of minor problems, we had a wonderful time.

    It is hard to recount this trip without tossing in some facts of history. I hope it is not too boring!

    To start our voyage, we took a train from Gevrey to Lyon on Friday and spent the afternoon touring Lyon. That night we stayed at a hotel near the airport.

    On Saturday we flew from Lyon to Milan, then Milan to Catania, Sicily (about 65km north of Syracuse). We arrived at the apartment at about 6pm and the proprietor (Massimo) was there to greet us, explain everything and hand us the keys.

    We stayed in a part of Syracuse known as Ortygia. We had rented a small apartment for our two week stay. Ortygia is an island and is part of the city of Syracuse. [Ancient Syracuse, includes the nucleus of the city’s foundation as Ortygia by Greeks from Corinth in the 8th century B.C. The site of the city, which Cicero described as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all”]


    Our apartment was small, an open room that was living room, dining room and kitchen. The bed was above, loft style. It was unusually cold when we arrived, and the place was heated by a plug in radiator. I am sure it had been turned on just before our arrival!

    After Massimo left, we had to go out and find someplace to buy some food, Massimo had stated that stores would be closed on Sunday. There are several small grocers on Ortygia. The stores are probably about 30 feet by 40 feet and packed with an amazing amount of essentials. So we quickly bought supplies, deposited them back to the apartment and went in search of a restaurant for dinner.

    We found a pizza place not far from the Piazza Archimede It was like our experience in Naples. All the workers shouting back and forth to each other, the place seems to be in chaos, but everything arrives at the table hot and delicious. A young American couple were at the table next to us and were in cultural shock. She asked if we spoke English and then asked about the “chaos”. The place was turning away people about ½ hour after we arrived.

    There is a different rhythm to life in the south. We found out early Monday morning that work starts at 7am! The road outside of the apartment was under construction. A jack hammer outside the window has a tendency to wake one up. The street workers worked straight through to 2pm and then were gone for the day. An attached apartment in back of us was also under construction, so we had noise from both sides. So much for sleeping in.

    Stores close during the afternoon (often from 1pm to 5pm) and reopen in the late afternoon and stay open until 8pm.

    Massimo had told us that there was an outdoor market daily on the island, and we went almost every day. The vegetables were fresh and wonderful, even the tomatoes (tomatoes and mozzarella buffalo). It is also orange season, and there were oranges everywhere for sale. Prices were low too, oranges were 0.50 euros a kilo, and all the vegetables were cheap too. We could not believe how low our daily costs were. Going to the market in the morning after breakfast became part of our routine. We bought some of the local goodies (marinated onions, marinated peppers, olives, mozzarella, other cheeses, sausage…. ) from Mario. He would give us a tasted of something, and of course we would buy it.

    The island of Ortygia is a warren of small very ancient streets. Many of the streets are very narrow and turn at right angles. Motorcycles can still navigate these streets however, and suddenly there would be one behind us. And as for the streets without right angle turns, small cars came down these (they have no choice) and we had to stand in a doorway to let them pass. We spent lots of time exploring the little streets of Ortygia.

    On the island is the Cathedral (Duomo). It was thought that first it was a local worship place, then the Romans built a Temple to Athena over it in the year 480 BC. In the 7th century it was bricked up and converted into a catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After a major earthquake in 1693, it was redone with the Baroque façade. In 1927, restorations were done to show off the ancient roots (pillars) of this building.

    We also visited the archeology museum in the main part of Syracuse. It was about ½ hour walk from the apartment. It is very interesting museum, laid out by the inhabitants chronologically. The time frame of things there is incredible; objects from the 10th century BC.

    Also in Syracuse is the Greek theater. “With a diameter of 138m/453ft and 61 rows of seats hewn out of the rock and providing places for some 15,000 spectators, it is one of the largest theaters in the whole of the ancient Greek Empire. 470 BC” It was changed a few times, and the romans did some major alterations. However, to sit there in the theater that is about 2,500 years old and think of the plays that were performed. Greek plays are still performed during the summer months.

    Archimedes was a native son of Ortygia. Due to his fame, one finds things all over named after him; even a pizza restaurant. He had been buried in Syracuse, but the grave was robbed centuries ago. “Wikipedia : Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) was a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astromomer. Archimedes is considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.”

    We found the island of Ortygia interesting and enjoyed exploring it. There is renovation everywhere, practically down every street. On the other hand, the actual city of Syracuse is not all that pretty. It is mostly older buildings (not ancient) that look their age. There are lots of concrete apartment buildings. Also some construction going on, a major street was being paved with stones and the park was under complete renovation. Still the city overall has a tossed together feel to it.

    We rented a car for two days. Day one we went south, all the way to the most southern tip of Sicily. We had a lunch on the patio overlooking the ocean at Porto Paulo. Heading back north a little we found the Vendicari Nature Reserve (quiet by accident). It is a wonderful stretch of beach with migratory birds. They have a few “duck blinds” where you can watch the birds. We heard lots of noise and wondered what was around the corner. As we turned the corner there was another duck blind. We went inside and low and behold, flamingos; hundreds of flamingos! Unfortunately the blind is not the close and the sun was behind the birds. So my photos are not spectacular. However, I personally was very excited, such a marvelous site. It was a mostly sunny day, and we could also see Etna. Etna is about 70km north of Syracuse. It is rare that one can see the top of Etna.

    The second day with the car we went somewhat north to see the ruins of Magara Hyblaea. It was a Greek settlement that was founded around 700BC. Megara Hyblaea is famed as the birthplace of the comic poet Epicharmos (about 550-460 B.C.). This area is full of oil refineries; so in the midst of refineries and oil tankers lies this archaeological ruins of a Greek city. It was not easy to find, but we did find it. The caretaker of this park let us in free, we were the only ones there that day.

    After our archaeological tour, Keith headed west. Sue had a slight melt down at one point. We entered the mountainous region. Keith took the road, not a big road that got smaller and smaller and higher and higher. Around it went with sheer drop offs on my side. Finally we reached the village, and I swear that the car was at 70 degree angle! There was no place to park and the road through town was one lane. Keith wondered if we should park and walk around. Park where, on the side of the cliff!! So Keith found the road out of town. The road down actually was wider (two full car widths) and soon met up with a real road, so it was not bad at all. The countryside was indeed beautiful, unfortunately there was not place to stop and both of my hands were grasped tightly on the “oh god” handles!! The hillsides were green and terraced.

    We tried another noted village, not quiet as high. However again there was a parking problem. Have to go someday by train or bus.

    Keith went by train to Ragusa one day (I did not feel real well). He took the train up and the had intended to take the bus back. When we bought bus tickets (city bus tickets) the woman had explained that the train ride although slow, was beautiful. And indeed Keith said it was. He was glad that I had not gone because the train had to stop at Modica due to some track work. There was a bus that continued to Ragusa. In typical Sicily fashion, the bus driver drove while talking to his friends, gesticulating with his hands, only to take the wheel at the last moment to turn the corners. It was some trip up. Happily the track was open for his return trip. As a train buff he was very happy with his train trip into the mountains. He also said that Ragusa is a very pretty city. Have to see it next time.

    That about sums up our wonderful trip. We wanted the chance to see what it would be like to live in Italy, and it was a great experience. Our trip to Sicily 7 years ago was a fast tour by car of the island, only six days. By being on the move constantly, one does not get the sense of the country. This time we did and found it enjoyable.

    The same sequence, only reverse for our journey home. We flew from Catania to Milan, and then Milan to Lyon. Took the train from Lyon to Gevrey (we have more train stops in Gevrey now). It was 12 hours from door to door.

    Ah the recipe of the month. I combined some of the Sicily experience and made this rice dish up this last week.

    Lemon Rice


  • 2 ripe lemons -1/4 cup max ;see NOTE BELOW

  • 1 leek

  • 1 cup basmati rice

  • 2 TBS olive oil

  • Cut the leek in to circles or half circles. Put the oil in the pan and sauté the leek. When transparent,add 1 cup of rice to the pan and lemon as follows.

    Add the zest of one lemon(optional). Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into a measuring cup and then fill with water to the 2 cup level(directions on my rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups water).

    Stir all together and cook the rice per package instructions.

    This rice has a nice lemon tang, and should go well with chicken or fish.

    NOTE: I made it the first time with 2 lemons. Second time one large, but it was too strong. It may depend on the ripeness of the lemon, but be careful not to put too much.