Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 2011
Summer is fleeting. This year is so mixed up ! We had an awful November and December(cold, very cold). Then suddenly, the weather was not half bad for the months of January and February. Two winter months that were slightly warmer than usual… than spring came- that was March, a rather warm March. We had summer for the months of April and May, beautiful warm days and lots of sunshine. Our months of June and July have been more autumnal. We had had a few nice days, but those have been far and few between. I begged for rain, and now it will not stop. Although it was cloudy and cool, most of the rain was light or even misty, not a lot of water (until this last week).  Is one ever satisfied with the weather? I wonder.

The vendage or grape harvest had been scheduled a month earlier than normal; the vignerons were all saying the harvest would be the end of August. But now with the rainy cool weather, it is anyone’s guess.  They just shrug their shoulders when I ask and say maybe, or maybe later!  For a good harvest we need some warm sunny days. On verra ( one will see). Come on SUN.

This morning I awoke to a cloudless sky (july 27). The sun came up and promised a great day. Now at 10am, the dark clouds have mounted an attack on the horizon!  ZUT!

Tons of things to report this month and I will probably bore you with all the information. Hey, I took lots of photos too, so if bored, just skim all that I wrote and just look at the photos and breeze down to the recipe.
On July 2nd my history group had a tour of an old fortified farm that is in ruins. There is an association now that is working on the restoration of the site. Have to toss in a little history.
Leuzeu has a history very rich. Neither a working farm nor castle,it was more like a large mansion, or a hunting lodge,but also possessing the outbuildings (or “trappings”) of a farm –some of which are still standing. The ruins bear witness to the rich past of this building,now lost in the woods. The ground floor had ceilings that were all done with vaults, while top floors had ceilings with beams that were painted. The first written records of Lauzeu come from the thirteenth century, but the building now in ruins was built around 1659 by Jean de Gastebois. Several legends exist: in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, it is thought that this was a hunting lodge, serving even for a trysts now and then; or that Marguerite de Bourgogne went there with her lovers.However, nothing can be validated.
What it had been

Ruins at Lauzeu-what it is today
Restored room.
Then the next weekend we toured the top of Vergy. Here are the ruins of a Chateau and an Abbey. This hill top is packed with history and dates and… but I will be brief.
The reputedly impregnable château de Vergy was sited on a rocky spur near Reulle Vergy . The first fort on the site dates to the Roman period. The medieval castle was razed in 1609 and only small traces remain.
With the other Burgundian possessions, Vergy was merged into the royal domains in 1477, on the death of Charles the Bold. The castle was immediately ceded to William IV de Vergy-Autrey by Louis XI. In 1609, following the participation Charles of Lorraine (governor of Burgundy) in the Catholic League from 1589 onwards, Henri IV completely razed the castle. Except for the church of Saint-Saturnin, the burg of Vergy has now entirely disappeared.
It has been written that Jeanne de Vergy inherited the Shroud of Turin (1418). (more info page 8)
The Abbey of St. Vivant rests on the hilltop too. The abbey was founded about 900. The year 1,000 the Abey of St.Vivant was turned over to the abbot of St Bénigne in Dijon. The abbot was from Cluny. At that time there were 30 monks. By the end of the century, the abbey is subjest totally to Cluny.
All that is left of the old resevoir

Quarry where the stone came from...on the hill
View from top of Vergy... I had to go out on the edge to take this photo!!
St. Vivant..2 lower levels. There were 3 more stories above!

St Vivant restoration in progress
How they form those arches (now and then)

Carved in the stone ceiling -picture above

Old window restored

Eglise Saint-Saturnin-.St Barbara

Eglise Saint-Saturnin  XI century
I did not include the photo of the relics...St Saturnin's bones!

Keith and I squeezed in a little time together before the rest of the month took off. We decided on a picnic. I made my picnic sandwich, packed in some fruit too and cookies and cheese. We picked our destination and put everything in the car. As Keith started the car, a few rain drops fell. Oh no!! I asked to carry on, and we could see black clouds north (our destination) and lighter south. OK, so we go south west. We went up to St Jean de Boeuf, up in the Haute-Côte. It sits on a hill top, we had a wonderful view, and no rain. What a great afternoon.
Scenic view from St-Jean-de-Boeuf
Chris, our friend from London came for her annual visit. She drove over so she could pack her car with lots of wine to take back to England. Since she was driving I suggested that we could meet in the Loire Valley. I took the train to Tours and she met me there with her car.  It was almost 3pm when we finally left the parking lot of the train station. For our first visit, I had picked Chateau de Villandry, known for its gardens. We took the garden only tour because of the time. What an absolutely beautiful place. Garden after garden, all immaculate ( not like mine), even the vegetables are in perfect line, all the exact same size.

Gardens looking toward the church

chateau and garden

Chateau view from upper gardens

After our garden visit, we were in for a surprise. Most restaurants are closed Saturday and Sunday (this was Sunday). This is tourist season in a high tourist area, and restaurants are closed ( and note that here in France, all stores are closed on Sundays, so no grocer to run to either). We were staying in Montbazon, and I had asked at our hotel and she had no suggestions. So we stopped for a glass of wine at the local bar, and asked again. One man offered us dinner at his house…joke, proposition, or a real invitation? At my age I prefer to think it was a proposition ( one must hold on to some illusions).

 Anyway, we were told to go North a few miles back towards Tours, and we should find something. And we did indeed, a very nice place with great food. We had a lovely evening.
Montbazon-bridge (opening photo is other side of bridge)

Montbazon and ruins of Donjon

On Monday morning we headed to Chenonceau, one of the famous chateaux. It was built in 1518, and Henry II gave it to Diane de Poitier in 1547 after the death of Francois I. One must remember that he was married to Catherine de Medici. So when Henry died, Catherine kicked Diane right out of the Chateau ( of course Diane had another chateau at Anet and I think another on the Loire…poor lady ). This chateau was extended across the river Cher under Diane.

Gallery room that extends across the Cher

Vaulted ceiling

Ahh...the view of the Chateau over the river. Nice place!

We had a little lunch at Chenonceaux ( the village) and off to another adventure in the afternoon. A shop keeper at Chenonceaux had told us to go to Montrichard for a visit, so we did. Beautiful little village.
Stairs to the Donjon and church- Montrichard

Oold Roman bridge -Montrichard

In the afternoon we went to Cheverny, another noted chateau. This was built on the ruins (foundations?) of the old fortified chateau at the beginning of the 1600’s (they are not sure where the old chateau was, so it is presumed this was built in the same location).
View from the front

Nice dining room

And get a load of that CEILING! Wow

View from the back

We were dodging rain, and had done a fairly good job. It was raining as we drove to Blois where we would spend the night. Since the reservations said that we were 8 minutes from the center, I thought it meant walking. But no, it was by car. We kept looking the the GPS that said we had arrived at our destination!! What?? We were not in the city, but out in the industrial section!! We checked and rechecked!! Yes, this was the correct address, and yes this is where the hotel was located. It was behind one of the storage buildings…and there was a small little road into the parking. The hotel was fine, no problems there, just not where we expected. We decided to take a taxi in for dinner. We wanted to see the center of Blois, even though it was pouring rain. Chris wanted dinner with wine, and did not really want to drive her English car( after drinking) in the middle of the city. Taxi it was.
Our driver gave us a verbal tour as he headed into Blois. Since it was raining, I did not take any photos. There is a chateau here too ( oh surprise) built on the hillside.  Funny thing, here it was Monday evening, and we found restaurants closed… near the center there were 2 that were open!

On to Tuesday morning. It was pouring! Six guests at the hotel were on a bike tour. There they were, setting up their bikes with covers on everything,  pulling on rain gear over their biking clothes. Not a day I would go for a bike ride!! 
We ran to the car, and still got very wet! Our itinerary for the day included a tour of the Chateau Chambord and then head in the direction of Gevrey. We arrived at Chambord, and what a surprise, we actually had a decent parking place, even at 10am. Maybe it was the rain? It was still pouring. We pulled out our rain coats and umbrellas, and decided “why not”, it was not going to get any better. The external architecture is very interesting!  As the guidebook says “truly extravagant Château in every way and masterpiece of the French Renaissance”.
 It was started in 1519 under Francois I, and some think that Leonardo da Vince worked on the architecture ( note Francois I again, he built Chenonceau too- how many chateaux does one need? -oh yes, this was the hunting cabin!). Too bad it was raining so hard, because the grounds and woods are supposed to be interesting too. Maybe next time.
look at that roof!!

Closer look at one of the towers from roof terrace
Another from roof terrace- it was raining!!

After a stop for wine at Sancerre ( a little off the path to Gevrey), we arrived in Gevrey at about 8pm.
View of Sancerre (from car) in the pouring I could do

On Wednesday morning I had scheduled a wine tasting at Domaine Ambroise. Wendy also joined us for a wonderful tasting. A little different to do a wine tasting at 10:30am, but why not! Actually, many professionals prefer to taste in the morning. We had lunch in a small restaurant in Nuits St. Georges, and then on to a second tasting in Fixin.
I will not put the name of the Domaine, they have some excellent wines. However, I have never experienced a tasting that was so unfriendly! It was like the ice age in the tasting room!! I mentioned people we knew in common, asked questions, nothing, nada, rien!! "Yes", "No" responses, and ice cold stares..brrrrr! I think the Domaine should think about client service just a little ...?  And so it goes.
Thursday, more wine tasting. We drove down to Buxy. Chris wanted some every day red wine and liked the Pinot Noir rouge from Buxy ( and the price is good too). Marie Therese went with us, and we had her wine and Cremant, mine and Chris’s too. The station wagon was loaded down.
 On the way back we pass by the village of Rully. Of course one must stop and say hello to Jean-Claude and Anna at Domaine Breliere. There was a mixed crowd tasting when we arrived, but they were almost finished. Jean-Claude gave us a taste of some white while he finished the groups’ orders and packed their car. Then we talked to Jean-Claude and Anna for a good hour (or more). Always such a pleasure to stop there. 
This year’s crop in Rully has been severely damage by hail. Some lost almost 100%, Jean-Claude thinks he lost about 50%. So if you like Rully, buy some now, because there will be very little of 2011.
Marie Therese had prepared a “little” dinner for us. How wonderful, and it was not that little either. As always, a nice evening shared with friends, food and wine. I had to drive back to Gevrey, so I had to limit the wine!!
It is now Friday, and we had Beaune on our schedule, and a late afternoon tasting at Domaine Parigot at Savigny les Beaune.  Marie Therese joined us again for the afternoon.  Chris had a few things on her list to buy in Beaune, and after that we went to the wine Expo in Beaune. They had set up large glass containers of different scents st up to acquaint ones nose with the scents found in wines. By each one they had a description  of the scent and which wines you would find these scents. Here in France one can even buy kits for children/adults that have different scents to identify. Interesting Expo and Chris thoroughly enjoyed it.
Just for info, Marie Therese wrote about this in her Blog this month (how is your french):
Next on to Domaine Parigot. They make only sparkling wine, Crémant and sparkling Burgundy ( or Rouge). Some very good Crémants, very close to Champagne and half the price. Like the red too, it is a good wine for a summer barbeque.
On returning to Messanges, I sat and watched the Tour de France with Christian. We were just in time for the end. Chris was amazed at how involved everyone is here in France with the Tour. Christian and I were cheering on Rolland. What a great end to the stage.
Saturday was a lazy day (Chris had hurt her back lifting a wine box). We took a stroll around Gevrey ( before it rained) and had a salad at a little café in Gevrey. Keith was going to be home for dinner too. Had not seen him in over a week.
Chris left Sunday morning. I sat and did nothing the rest of the day! Oh yes, did watch the last day of the Tour de France.

Keith had returned from guiding a tour in the Alsace. He had only 2 clients, and enjoyed the Tour. It had been set up last year, but they never had anyone sign up for the tour. He had wanted to do this tour and see how it would work in practice. And how he loves Alsacian food (sauerkraut and sausages…). He had a good week, but was tired too. On Friday after the guests left, he had to drive from Alsace to Orange, about 7 hours. He arrived late in Orange, and stayed overnight. He returned to Gevrey by train on Saturday.
Other than that, Keith has spent time in the garage with his old bikes that he is repairing. He is working on two right now. One is near 100 years old. Keeps the boy busy. He has also been slowly ( as weather and time permits) sanding the shutters and revarnishing.
It is “vacance” here in France.  July and August, almost everyone is on vacation. Our baker is closed for a month ( zut alors, one month), and the highways and byways are jammed with cars. My pottery is done until September, and all club activity ( photo and history) is done too. That does not mean that I have not continued to take photos however.
On Saturday, the 30th I went for a walk with Marie Therese. We set out for Chevannes so I could take a few photos. We met up with some friends and ended up walking near 9km. Since I had not hiked much in the last 2 months, I was a little tired. But it was a beautiful day and I took some nice photos (this is for the history club).

And today as I finish this journal, it is another gorgeous day ( so why am I sitting here!). I hope that ending on such a good note, that it will bring in a beautiful August.

This month I have had an email war with Expedia!! I scheduled Keith to fly to Denver to see his parents. I wanted the trip via Minneapolis. I picked that flight and ended up with a lousy flight through Atlanta with a long layover!! I tried to explain that I had not picked this flight and wanted to know how it got changed. After about 15 emails stating I could not change, I had another 5 or 6, still resulting in we do not think we made an error, it must have been you!!!  I DID NOT PICK THAT FLIGHT! But they do not care, plus the Customer Service is lousy (they did not even read my note the first 18 emails), ...I lost I guess. Still mad about it...had to add this note, boycott Expedia.

Recipe of the Month
Easy recipe to make and so good.  You probably can buy the grilled summer squash. You can substitute zucchini if you want… I had made a picnic sandwich  the day before and had leftover grilled  zucchini  so I made up this tart for a hot summer night….try it.

Summer Tart

  • 2            tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1            pound small yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1            large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2            tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 12-15    Fresh basil leaves cut in thin slices
  • 5            ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
  • 1            puff pastry, pre-prepared ( I buy the pastry made for a tart, already rolled out)
  • 1            large tomato, very thinly sliced
  • 10          small pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

  1. 1.       Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. 2.      
  3. Grill the onion and the yellow squash …or sauté in skillet ,about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a paper towel
  4. 3.       Prick the pastry all over with a fork and plce it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. 4.       Put in the oven for about 10 minutes…prick with a fork if bubbles rise up.
  6. 5.       Thinly slice the tomato and place slices on paper towel
  7. 6.       In a small bowl, blend the pesto with the goat cheese. Add cut leaves and stir
  8. 7.       Remove pastry from oven
  9. 8.        Spread the goat cheese all over the pastry.
  10. 9.       Arrange top with the squash mixture and tomato slices and sprinkle with salt and white pepper
  11. 10.    Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the edges are golden and the bottom is completely cooked through.