We'd had a great time in Dordogne, but were pretty tired and were happy to be back in Bordeaux. It all seemed familiar to us....we knew the drill, how to catch tram from the Gare Saint Jean. In fact, shades of Saint Jean de Luz, seeing us use the tram ticket machine...folks would ask us....in French how to us the quite easy ticket machine. It was so strange. If there was one person who really didn't look like they belonged, it would be me. Anyway, we ended up helping a couple of folks get their tickets..... We were staying at the same apartments, so getting settled in was a snap. As was getting back to our favorite little place in Bordeaux, Bar a Vin.
We got a simple cheese plate and a glass of wine each.
I had a glass of the 2008 Saint-Julien Chateau Langoa-Barton, Grand Cru......
It was lovely, rich, berry flavors, with not too much tannin.....
Bar a Vin 3 Cours du 30 Juillet Bordeaux, France
The Missus then decided that it was time for a walk, so this time we headed up along the Garonne River, passing some interesting sites on the way.....
The Chartrons neighborhood was once filled with the homes of rich merchants, but eventually fell into disrepair. A large renovation project has turned the Quay des Chatrons into a hip and gentrified neighborhood.....
And further north is Bassin a Flot, once lined with warehouses, dry docks, and other industrial businesses, the place turned into a wonderful urban renovation project....now lined with bars, restaurants, and hip shops.
It was time to decide what to do for dinner. The decision was quite easy. Our favorite meal in Bordeaux was having some cheese and baguette, with a bottle (or two of wine), and just relaxing.
We turned around and headed back to Marche des Grands Hommes and the Carrefour Market.
We picked up some wine and other items and headed out.
On the street on the other side of Marche des Grands Hommes, that lead to Allee de Tourny was a cheese shop that I wanted to check out named Fromagerie Beillevaire.
The guy working here was quite nice and the selection was nice.
It was hard picking just 2-3 cheeses....but in the end we basically just chose three.
Fromagerie Beillevaire 8 Rue Michel Montaigne Bordeaux, France
Looking back, I noticed we'd done quite a bit of walking on this day. No wonder we were pretty tired when we got back to the apartment. This time around, they put us in a huge 2 bedroom unit on the third floor, which was very comfortable.
The kitchen was well equipped.
And because we travel light, the washer/dryer was welcomed. As was the tub where the Missus could soak and relax......
I was really struck by the view out the round windows.......
Dinner was a simple, but satisfying affair.
With the Missus' favorite bottle of 4,9€ (about $5.40/US) bottle of white.
The folks that ran the apartment also left us a nice bottle of white as well.
A very nice gesture.
The Missus had a bath, I had my glass of wine and started a post while looking out onto the street below.
After all of the activities of the previous couple of days; it was nice to just sit back and relax.
After a wonderful stay in Sarlat, we were heading out the next morning. We loved staying in the wonderful B&B we had booked....well...except for a couple of the paintings......which strangely kind of spooked me in some strange way.
But, here we were ready to head out for the next leg of our trip in the in the "Le Gauche.....La Droite....Sortie....mobile"
If there was any doubt as to the beauty of this part of France, all you need to do is to take short pause at the Limeuil Bridge. On a day like this; with the sun shining, the water sparkling...can you see the folks fishing?
We drove along, our objective the hill town of Domme. I'd read that some of the best views of the Dordogne Valley were to be had here. Which I believe are true.
Most folks might be too young, but my Mom used to play this old album once in a while.....
"On a clear day Rise and look around you And you see who you are On a clear day How it will astound you"
Many of the canoe trips on the Dordogne River start here.
It's quite an amazing drive. We stopped at a little shop by the side of the road and bought some duck rillette and foie gras for Sammy....yes, for Sammy. And from the parking lot you had a dramatic view of Chateau de Castelnaud.
A few kilometers down the road from La Roque is the stunning and yet imposing village of Beynac-et-Cazenac.
Walking from the waters edge, up the charming narrow, winding, cobbled streets, it seems like you've just stepped onto a movie set.
You should park in the lots at the bottom of the hill, or you'll risk the fate of this automobile, manned by a British couple, who had gotten to the point of no return and seemed trapped on in of the narrow lanes. The poor guy seemed like he was going to have a coronary, while the woman was quite amused. They managed to get the attention of one of the locals, who kindly jumped into the car and maneuvered it down the street. I told her, "you've sure got a story to tell when you get home, don't you?" And the woman cracked up and nodded.
The rest of the walk uphill was uneventful and we just took in our surroundings. Near the top there are cafes and restaurants. You can visit the Chateau, and yes, there's even a parking lot....apparently there's an easy way up the hill.
We just walked to the look-out and took in the view. Yet another fantastic sight.
The best shots of the Chateau are taken from right above the cemetery.
The Chateau was once seized by Richard the Lionheart who used it as his base of operations in the area. You can read a nice history of the structure here.
Our destination for the day was Les Eyzies de Tayac so we passed through the village of Saint Cyprien and the road was closed. It was market day, so we decided to stop and enjoy.
There were many temptations.
But in the end, we just went with some fromage.....
And a strong double espresso.....
We got out of town via a round about way and actually got to Les Eyzies quite early........
There wasn't much going on so we decided to just head up north, to Perigueux, the Prefecture, administrative "capitol" of the area. We parked in one of the lots alongside the river of this old Roman town and paid a visit to the TI and picked up a walking tour map, which started at the Mataguerre Tower right across the street.
There were once 28 towers forming the walls that protected the district of Puy Saint Front. Built in the 15th Century, this is the last one standing.
The walking tour took us up and down winding alleyways, past historic buildings like the Maison des Dames de la Foi. The façade dates back to the 12th century. In the 17th century, the structure was turned into a convent.
We found the streets to be eerily quiet. I guess Sunday is a very slow day in Perigueux.
Round the corners you'd find little alleyways which seemed to be protected by a metal gate....which was open.
Exiting the alleyway, we found ourselves in a square....which was very peaceful and sedate.
We were getting a bit hungry, so we found one of the few shops open, a bakery, and got espresso, water, a croissant....
And had a bit of our cheese.......
Funny thing about France....I could just about live on croissants, baguettes, cheese, charcuterie, and wine.
We finished things up by visiting the rather imposing Cathedrale Saint Front (Perigueux Cathedral). A UNESCO World Heritage Site with quite a long history. This area has been used as a place of worship since the 6th century.
The interior space is quite large and one of the most noted features is the Baroque altarpiece carved from oak and walnut.
The Bell Tower soars 200 feet over Perigueux.
We were starting to get a bit tired. It was time to head back to Les Eyzies de Tayac to check-in and freshen up....and maybe meet a Cro-Magnon or two.....
Out hotel had kindly made reservation for dinner at 8pm. This meant we had some time to kill. We were given directions to our dinner destination and just headed off. First we found our dinner destination, then we decided to explore a bit.
Apparently there's a university nearby as there seemed to be some kind of street market going on and tons of students socializing and having a nice time.
There were also all kinds of knick-knacks and "stuffs" for sale, including some "interesting" items. I used the photo on the right in an earlier post, but thought it interesting enough to post it again.
I'm wondering if the "brownie magico" helped to explain why the sausage place and the waffle shop was so busy?
It was getting close to our reservation time so we headed back. The place I chose for dinner is called Bocanariz....yes, basically, "Mouth - Nose". One of Chile's most well known exports is its wine. In spite of not being oenophiles, I thought it would be a crime not to taste a few. We were lucky enough to be rather close to Bocanariz, which has a list of over 400 Chilean wines. Our nice gentleman who provided directions told me that Wine Spectator had given the "Best Wine List" award to this lovely little wine bar.
The place was almost full when we arrived, good thing I had requested reservations a couple of weeks in advance. We were greeted with smiles and were seated in the bustling bar area.
Our Sommelier was a young lady named "Amanda" who was just amazing. We decided to go with several rounds of "tastings" and Amanda provided information regarding terroir, comparative wines, tasting notes, and some really interesting anecdotes about each wine. We were blown away, both by this young lady's knowledge, but also her efficiency, and fantastic service. She worked all the tables in the bar area and spent a good amount of time with us.
Instead of going into crazy details about everything we had; I'm just going to give you the tasting notes from the menu.
I think the "Wild Wines" were my least favorite as they really lacked depth and character.
The Missus really enjoyed the Garcia-Schwaderer Grenache, which is well regarded. I'd gotten a taste for nice blends and the Tipaume Red Blend had a nice balance.
Both the Missus and I agreed that the Kalfu Sauvignon Blanc was our favorite wine of the evening. It had just enough fruit, acid, and body to make it interesting with the usual musty fragrance in the background. when we mentioned this to Amanda she laughed and said; "yes, it's very low in the usual wet cat pee fragrance in many Sauvignon Blancs." Wet cat pee? That was a new one for me.
Still rather full from lunch we just had bread and a decent cheese plate for dinner. Fairly non-descript, but fine. It did seem some of the portion sizes we saw were quite large and I think we made the right decision to basically go with this strategy.
It was great fun tasting the diversity in wine this way. I'm glad we did this. The 50ml pours were just right; allowing us to try a nice variety.
We finished up with a small pour of the Kalfu Sauvignon Blanc before calling it a night.
There are times when everything seems to fall in place and we receive a memorable experience. Being able to sample a wide range of wine and having someone wonderful like Amanda to guide us definitely made a difference. If we're ever back in Santiago proper, we'll be sure to return here.
Bocanariz José Victorino Lastarria 276 Santiago, Chile
Finishing up, we headed right back to our room. We'd have to wake early, our shuttle to the airport would be picking us up at 5am.
Hope you're having a great Saturday. I thought I'd share what our Saturday morning was like in Sarlat. It started with a huge breakfast at our B&B.
Man, there's no way we'd be able to have lunch after this!
We left the B&B and headed up Avenue Thiers, which, after crossing a pedestrian only stretch, became the main street of the town; Rue de la République. It was still a bit early at 8am; the vendors usually open at about 830. Still, it was a nice and relaxing stroll up the street.
The Missus actually bought a little wooden nut cracker in the shape of a mushroom. She loved the walnuts in Dordogne and would crack them one-by-one savoring each bite!
The market actually takes up the entire length of the street and then stretches into Place de la Liberte and up side streets.
I can see why this market is also popular with the local residents; you can get it all here.
By 9am, things had picked up significantly.
And the crowds kept on growing.
I took time to stop and smell the fromage!
Behind the huge doors of the former Church of Saint Marie resides another covered market and a panoramic elevator which wasn't in service yet when we arrived. Plus, there were too large a crowd here anyway.
We took our time, exploring the side streets and alleyways; which looked totally different from the previous day.
You could make out a literal buzz in the air! It was only 10am and we needed a break. So, using a technique we learned in Rome, we sought out the Cathedral of St Sacerdos also known as Sarlat Cathedral, to escape the crowds and noise.
The TI is steps away from the Cathedral, so we decided to take a look and grab a map.
This is where I really started getting an understanding of folks in, at least this area of France. We stood in line and the very pleasant young man got us a map. As we were turning to leave, I happened to ask the young man for a dinner recommendation; a place he enjoys. He smiled and opened another map and started going over his favorite spots in town, cheerfully pointing them out. I looked at the line forming behind me with some concern. He smiled at us and said; "do not worry, I take my time with you, and all our customers." I got it! We'd have this experience a couple of times more during our trip. Ask a question, and many times, the folks in France will want to give you the most perfect, complete answer. The young man actually called one of the places to make dinner reservations for us, but there was no answer. He then marked the way to the place so we could walk over at our leisure and make reservations. Coming back to the states, it seemed that we're in too much of a rush and when someone has a question we'll often give, not the best answer, but the easiest and the shortest.
By now, things were going full tilt.
Remember the bronze statue of a boy sitting named "Le Badaud", the Onlooker, that I mentioned in my previous post? I was wondering what he was looking at. Well, I'm pretty sure it's the crowds on market day (see above photo).
It was just past 11 now and we were feeling a bit peckish. We decided to grab some cheese, a baguette, and find the quiet place to eat.
There was one fromage stand that was doing great business, so I decided to get into the queue and pick up some cheese for us.
After getting our cheese and bread, we decided to walk on over to the restaurant the fellow in the TI recommended to us and make dinner reservations which was located in the tiny side streets west of Rue de la République. Things were a lot quieter here. As we left, I mentioned that there was a brewery nearby; located one street above République.
The place was quite easy to find; just follow the signs.
And you'll literally walk into; well; for lack of a better phrase, a medieval nano-brewery.
I was told that they make all of their beer on premises! No bright stainless steel kettles here.
What the heck; we bought a bottle of the Blonde. She got us a bottle without a label and charged us less.....
Bière Artisanale de Sarlat 2 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau Sarlat-la-Caneda, France
We skirted the crowds by heading south, around the market areas, finding the Jardin Public, above the busy parking lots, this was a nice, quiet little oasis.
We had our baguette and cheese; one a typical, light Cabécou, the other two, aged, one of them with a fine coat of ash and mold. Both were nice a creamy; though not too pungent. Quite easy to eat.
We wrapped what we had left and saved it for later.
We took a 'roundabout way back to the room. Taking time to enjoy the architecture.
And to meet some of "the locals".
We stopped by our room, freshened up and headed back out. It was time to pick up our car rental. Now things were going to get interesting.......
The sun rose early and brightly on our first full day in Bordeaux. Even though we had arrived mid-morning we had still put in quite a few kilometers before deciding to call it a day. We would end up putting in some mileage on this day as well.
I had a destination in mind and we decided to just meander our way to our objective; one of the benefits of independent travel. The sun was shining brightly on Place de la Bourse as we headed off into the district known as Saint-Pierre, considered the birthplace of the city. The narrow streets are lined with structures from the 18th century and lead, one way or another into a square. We quickly walked onto the cobblestone lined Place du Parlement, once the location of the Royal Market.
The centerpiece is a beautiful Neo-Rococo fountain.
Walking to Place Saint Pierre, one can't help but notice the haunting, Gothic styled, Eglise Saint-Pierre (Church of St. Peter), which dates back to the 14th and 15th century.
It really stands out as the square and street is lined with restaurants and cafes, the name of one of them made us laugh......everyone does need a "Plan B", right? Place du Plais leads right up to the Porte Cailhau.
According to what I later read; there was actually a palace located here, the Palais de l'Ombriere the residence of the Dukes of Aquitaine and later housed the Parliament of Bordeaux. I really loved the relief-map sculpture of Bordeaux located right behind the Porte Cailhau. I did a little research and found a blog post about François Didier who created this work.
Near the Porte Cailhau, I noticed this plaque, which started with a few questions before telling us the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Bordeaux claims (along with two other cities) to be the birthplace of Eleanor, who would become one of the most powerful women in the Europe and after getting her marriage to Louis VII annulled would marry the Duke of Normandy, eleven years her junior....Henry, the Duke of Normandy would become Henry II.
It took two centuries to build this Basilica; starting in 1350 and finishing sometime in the 16th century. Possibly even more impressive is the bell tower which, like Pey-Berland Tower which stands next to the Cathedral of Saint Andre, stands apart from the church. And in case you're wondering who has bragging rights; Fleche Saint Michel is the tallest tower in Sothern France, standing at 114 meters, Pey-Berland Tower is 50 meters tall. On this bright morning there was a lively flea market going on in the square next to the tower.
This used to be a Benedictine monastery and was built between the late 11th and 12th centuries.
One of the most well known features of this church is the Organ built by famous organ maker and Benedictine Monk, Dom Bédos de Celles, finished in 1748.
This was a major landmark for me, as I knew we had to take a left here and swing around to get to our destination, Marche des Capuchins.
I'd read much about this market before we arrived in Bordeaux, it seemed to be a favorite with locals, and you know how much we love visiting markets when we travel!
The market was established on October 2nd, 1749 at the urging of Marquis de Tourny. If you like to see some old photos and read (a translated) history of the market, you can do that here.
We had a gameplan of sorts, but all revolved around bread. I'd noticed a bakery right across the street from the market.
I could actually smell the wonderful scent of bread baking. I followed my nose and ended up at the back of the bakery. The bakers looked at us, smiled and waved us in.......so our first experience at Fournil des Capucins was walking past the ovens and bakers baking bread to the front of the shop.
This would end up being our favorite bakery......I later found out the place is open 24 hours a day! With a steady stream of fresh baguette. How could we not get a baguette and a couple of croissants?
The smell of good fresh baguette is intoxicating....we'd seen folks walking along carrying bread with a chunk off the end missing. Well, I guess it's instinctive, because as soon as we walked out of the bakery, the Missus just bit a chunk off the end of the bread! It is that good.....
Fournil des Capucins 62 Cours de la Marne Bordeaux, France
The smell of bread had overcome us....we needed something to eat and perhaps some espresso. Right across the back of the bakery, in front of the main entrance to the market is this stand.
Which made a decent cup of espresso that went nicely with our croissant.
Then we ducked back into the market and bought some cheese. We found the farmers and vendors in Marche des Capuchins quite friendly, even though we stood out from the usual crowd. They seemed to go out of their way to help us. We ended up at this cheese stand.
And got some cheese....
Marché des Capucins Place des Capucins Bordeaux, France
We had fully intended to do a nice picnic and headed back to the apartment after doing a bit of window shopping on Cours de l’Intendance. Where we saw the ultimate way of entertaining a pup while his "dad" did some shopping in the store.
Just get him some rope and cord to keep him occupied!
We cut through Rue Voltaire and stopped at the Carrefour Market in Place des Grand Hommes. The Missus, laden down with bread and cheese gave me a simple directive...."get us some white wine" which was simple enough. What I wasn't ready for was the whole wall of white wines! Like over 50 different bottles...vintages...blends....I went with something rather local, with some reservation since it was 4,9€ - five bucks and change. The Missus was cracking up when I got out of the market....she'd seen the look on my face when I got to the wine department....analysis paralysis.
We headed up to Jardin Public, the large public garden and green space that was two blocks from our apartment. It's quite a lush and welcoming park.
The park was founded in 1746 in style of a French Garden. Napoleon III turned it into more of an English style park during his reign. There's a nice large pond, the Natural History Museum is located here, and there's even a Puppet Theatre.
Nice, but it was getting a bit too hot for us...so we headed back to the apartment and had a really nice "indoor picnic"......with the A/C on.....doesn't get much better than that!
With our cheese, bread, strawberries, and of course the wine....which was excellent, crisp, light, with a touch of sweet, and a balanced acidity.....
In fact, the Missus would have me go back for this very bottle of wine a couple more times during our stay in Bordeaux.
It's not always about eating out when we're travelling......when in Bordeaux, it was the cheese and wine....oh, and don't forget that baguette!
It was a strange thing. We never got a great restaurant meal during our time in Bordeaux. But what we did get was, fabulous cheese, great wine, and a city with a wonderfully relaxed vibe....in some ways it was what I'd always thought France would be....folks polite and to the point, very honest, the wonderfully perfect posture of women, young and old riding bicycles, almost taken out of some movie set somewhere..... All wrapped up with the shopping and such.
There's a necropolis below the church which dates back to the Eleventh Century. The place is quite haunting.....
From here we decided to head back to Place des Quinconces. Along the way, there was a place I had marked for a lunch stop; Baud et Millet.
This little restaurant did basically one...make that two things; cheese and wine.
The décor is quite simple; a few tables on one side; crates of wine on the other. The menu is also simple various pairings, from the simple cheese and appetizer combinations; all the way up to all the cheese you want from the cellar for 32 Euros.
We took a simple combination of three cheese each paired with a glass of wine. The highlight of this was being able to go down into "la cave", the cheese room.
Where we got to see our cheese cut.....it did smell like they cut the cheese here.....
And yes, it smelt like we were lying at "the feet of angels......"
After this, lunch was sort of anti-climatic........though we did have some memorable cheeses.....
The Selles sur Cher; the cheese coated with ash on the left; was so distinctively nutty and creamy.....
The Pithiviers au Foin, a very creamy raw cow's milk cheese (which I believe is not legal in the US) coated with hay was so earthy with strong mushroom tones. Also, you'll never taste brie in the US (because it's made from unpasteurized milk is also illegal to import) like the real deal in France. Bummer for us. This was served with a huge basket of bread and a bowl of simply dressed greens.
The young lady who served us was very sweet.
It was a nice introduction to French cheeses and was a good, light lunch. I'm not sure I'd do it again; especially if I'm staying in Bordeaux for more than a day or two and have a fridge. We did enjoy it though....
Baud et Millet 19 rue Huguerie Bordeaux, France
Instead of continuing back to our apartment after lunch; the Missus decided to do some (thankfully only) window shopping on Cours de l’Intendance.
Right down the street, where the tram turns is the Cathedral of Saint Andre - Bordeaux Cathedral, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Right next to the Cathedral was something we found even more impressive - Pey-Berland Tower. There's an interesting story about this bell tower. It was built separate from the church (in the 15th century) so that the vibrations from the bells ringing would not harm or disturb the church. Unfortunately, after building such a grand tower, the church ran out of money....so no bells were installed in the tower....until 1851!
There are always mysterious statues in our travels. I often take statues photos without even knowing who the subject of the statue is....until I get home.
We walked onward toward the Garonne River, ending up at the Porte Cailhau, also known as the Palace Gate. From what I read, this used to be the main entrance to the city of Bordeaux.
As you can tell by the dates I've been throwing out; Bordeaux has been around since Roman times, when it was known as Burdigala....so there's more than a little history to go around. There are two other medieval gates in the city....which the Missus just had to see. Those will be in upcoming posts.
Right up the street is Place de la Bourse, commissioned by Louis XIV as the Royal Square, it might be the most well known landmark in Bordeaux. For us however, it's what is right across from the square that got our attention.
Miroir d'eau is the largest reflecting pool in the world and a wonderful place to people watch....the folks running across the shallow pool seem to running on the water instead of in it. People seem drawn to this place.
On this day, we watched a young man take his dog into the pool....the dog looked a bit terrified at first. But obediently followed his master. Soon enough, the young man was first pouring water on the pooch's legs, then splashing the dog....he was teaching the dog about water! It was a lovely sight.
In some ways, this was much more fun than checking out cathedrals......just hanging out on the river's edge......
Watching the joggers on the bridge......
Checking out all the historical sights, it's easy to forget that yes, real people live here and their daily life goes on....much like ours does back home.
By now the sun was slowly sinking in the West. We decided it was time to head back and just relax for the evening. But first, we decided to make one more stop. Back to Bar a Vins, for a glass of wine (or two). This time around, it was much more busy, with what looked like more of a local crowd. Folks relaxing and unwinding...socializing over a glass of wine.
We really loved this place....it was perhaps our favorite in Bordeaux.
In the end, I decided to go for the gusto and got a glass of the Saint Emillion Gran Cru, which was the most expensive wine on the list (6 Euros), it was lovely. If you'd like to read about the craziness of just classifications of Saint Emillion wine, read this.
Bar a Vin 3 Cours du 30 Juillet Bordeaux, France
It was a lovely day....with visits to Bar a Vin as bookends.
We arrived at the modest roadside factory/shop of Nicasio Valley Cheese a bit before they opened.
We were able to pass the fifteen minutes or so before the shop opened by wandering though the Pumpkin Patch......yes, it's that time of the year. Watching the kids take to the hay made us realize that this lifestyle is a million miles away from what we're used to.
When the shop opened we walked on over. The space is rather small, the staff enthusiastic, if not particularly well versed on the cheese. Nicasio makes cow milk cheeses. I had read that the style of cheese here is based on the traditional cheeses of the Lafranchi families Swiss heritage.
They so a nice job of lining the samples from the mildest to the semi-soft and flavored versions.
The Foggy Morning, was probably our favorite, very soft and mild, buttery, with a slight tang like a mellow sour cream. It also won first place in the Fromage Blanc, Fromage Frais, and Quark category in the American Cheese Society's Annual Competition. We could tell however, that this would not travel well.
Instead, we went with our second favorite. The wonderfully textured, mild salty-tangy flavored San Geronimo. The fragrance is rather strong, but the flavor is quite tame. A nice everyday cheese.
Folks are quite friendly, it's a nice little stop.
Nicasio Valley Cheese Company 5300 Nicasio Valley Rd Nicasio, CA 94946
A short drive away is a place that's much more of a destination; the Marin French Cheese Company. It's also the oldest continuously operating creamery in the United States; established in 1865.
They don't mess around with samples here....you open the top and slice your own.
The Missus enjoyed the shop....there's a stand selling sandwiches and coffee; the cooler is stocked with beverages; wine, sparkling wine, etc....
The young lady manning the counter was quite knowledgeable. We enjoyed a few of the samples , but thought they'd never make it back home in good shape. She told us that all the bries and camemberts will easily last 24 hours without refrigeration.
We ended buying a little insulated bag for cheese and picked up the truffle brie, not a big fan of flavored cheeses, but the Missus loves Her truffle. Plus, we were putting together a collection for Missus' work....She was going to do a cheese tasting upon returning. We both really took to the "Petit Breakfast", a wonderfully mild, but particularly creamy cheese. It's currently labeled as the "1865" in commemoration of Marin Cheese's 150th anniversary.
If you're in the area; this might be a nice stop for a short break or lunch.....
The Marin French Cheese Company 7510 Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd Petaluma, CA 94952
We, on the other hand, had to be off to our next stop, which was about 40 minutes away on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.
Down, off the beaten path outside Santa Rosa you'll find this sign alongside a single lane unpaved road. This is not one of those impulse stop kind of places you see while driving by. It was also our favorite stop on this day.......there's a real charm to this place which was founded by Joe and Mary Matos who relocated from the Azores in the 70's. Joe Matos is a fifth generation cheesemaker who brought his family's recipe with him.
At the end of the gravel road you basically come to a barn and what looks like the back of a house.....
As I parked in front of the "office" a young lady working in the barn area came over and opened the door to the office for us. Upon entering the wonderful fragrance of cheese met us.
Matos Cheese makes one cheese; a nice simple firm cheese called St George. It's much like everything you see around you; simple at first blush, but it rises above, a good, honest, everyday cheese, lighly milky, slightly acidic, not too sharp...that well; I'd eat everyday if I could.
The friendly young lady let me check out the drying room....I loved it! I asked about the cows we had passed...and yes, these were all of their cows. At peak they produce about 10-15 wheels in a day. The young lady said Joe Matos is happy with doing things this way. And really isn't interested in expanding or being famous.
And we got hang out with truly "happy cows".....
I wonder how many wheels, this not-so-little lady will put out?
Matos Cheese Factory 3669 Llano Rd Santa Rosa, CA 95407
I know I haven't mentioned this before....but the prices are quite inexpensive...like 40-60% less than what you'd pay for the same product here in San Diego.
So, we were in Santa Rosa and had two places on our list. Unfortunately, we went oh fer two. The first stop, a Chocolatier named Recherche Du Plaisir was closed for the day because they were at some fair. The second was the Russian River Brewing tasting room......but when we drove by, the line was all the way down the street....this was not going to do.
So we ended up going to the local Whole Foods, grabbing some salad, bread, and a beer and headed back to Petaluma. We ended up having a very nice lunch....that's the St George, which we almost polished off.
So if you're in the Marin - Sonoma area and want a break from your wine tasting....why not visit a couple of stops on the cheese trail. You can find up to date info here.
We had a blast.
It was now time for a nice afternoon nap...then off to dinner!
Our one full day in Marin - Sonoma County was going to be a rather busy. Instead of doing what most folks here would do (wineries), we went after some cheese.
But first, breakfast. We headed to Old Town Petaluma, which looked quite sleepy.....
And headed to a place our good friend Candice recommended for breakfast named Della Frattoria. Part bakery, coffee shop, and brunch stop, we enjoyed the atmosphere, and the folks here are quite friendly.
The coffee was decent and the brunch menu was nice, lots of bread (duh) based items. While there were many tempting options, the Missus and I aren't keen on huge breakfasts. Especially if we have a busy day ahead of us. I did see something I thought we'd both enjoy, which I hadn't seen since we were on Malta, a sandwich made with an Italian style flatbread called a piadina. The sandwich seemed like more than enough for the two of us and we were willing to pay the split plate charge of three bucks, but the really nice young man said, "why don't you just order the sandwich and I'll bring you an extra plate....it's already cut in half. that way you won't have to waste three bucks." Nice folks, eh?
It was all the great breakfast suspects plus the addition of arugula which balanced things out. It's that bread that really made this sandwich.....closer to a "fry bread", than a piadina, it was really nice and crisp, and really good. Just enough for the both of us.
Della Fattoria 141 Petaluma Blvd N Petaluma, CA 94952 Hours: Open Daily 7am - 3pm
We then headed off to our first stop for the day, over to Point Reyes Station, parking our car on the street. The town is very quaint and seemed like a favorite stop of bicycle folks, who were taking a carb break along the street.
On Saturday mornings, Toby's Feed Barn turns into the Point Reyes Farmer's Market.
It's a cute little Farmer's Market, with a quaint small town feel. I love the vibe.
The main reason we drove here was because one of our favorite domestic cheesemakers; Cowgirl Creamery is located here. We started at the booth at the Farmer's Market.......where the woman working seemed quite uninterested in talking about the cheese and just really wanted to give out samples. Perhaps she hadn't gotten her morning coffee yet.....
We did enjoy Toby's Feed Barn though....which actually is a feed barn.....
But these days also a really cool store and art gallery......
Point Reyes Farmer’s Market at Toby’s Feed Barn 11250 Hwy 1 Point Reyes Station, CA 94956 Hours: Saturday 9am - 1pm
Not having had great luck at the Farmer's Market, we headed down the street to Tomales Bay Food where Cowgirl Creamery's Shop is located.
Unfortunately, even though the sign said open (920 am Saturday morning)....no one wanted to acknowledge my existence......
Since I really didn't think I should have to hail the young lady standing behind the counter considering I was the only person in the place as well as standing in front of the cheese case a few feet from her....yes, I did have questions....and yes, I wanted to learn something about that Red Hawk we enjoy so much. But it was not to be.
Tomales Bay Foods 80 4th St Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Point Reyes Station is a cute little town and Cowgirl Creamery makes some of our favorite cheese.....however......well, I'll just leave that be. We were off to have more cheese.
I thought it quite a coincidence, Ed from Yuma told me he and Tina had just returned from Sonoma and had a post ready. I mentioned that we headed in that direction in just a couple weeks. Ed and Tina both enjoy nice wines, so a trip to Sonoma made perfect sense. So what were we after? Well, cheese of course! We'd been enjoying various Northern California Cheeses for a while and while doing a bit of research, I came across the Sonoma Cheese Trail and soon enough I was looking for flights and accommodations. In the end, we flew Virgin America, and really enjoyed the service....and ended up staying at an AirBnB in Petaluma. The drive up from SFO was nice, the Missus always gets a kick driving on the Golden Gate Bridge. Since we couldn't check in until later in the day, we headed straight away to Sonoma......man, it was pretty darn hot when we arrived.
Things went off the rails a bit when we found that the place we had planned on having lunch at; the Epicurean Connection had closed and we had to find a Plan B. Which turned out to be right on Sonoma Square named OSO. The name hit home since "Oso" in Spanish means "bear" and for some reason this brought me back to our recent trip to Madrid and El Oso y el Madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, Madrid's Coat of Arms.
The place had a very relaxed vibe, our Server, who asked us to forgive any small errors because she was in training was perfect. The menu featured some small plates, salads, a burger, salmon, and the like.
The Missus enjoyed Her Cucumber Gimlet, which was very clean tasting and refreshing. I had a Orange Mule, the ginger beer did the same for me.
We started with the Little Gem Salad ($8).
Simply dressed, very petite, the Missus loved the beets. I thought the pistachios were a nice touch.
Without a doubt, the best item we had were the Deviled Eggs ($10).
The filling was perfect, light, with just the right amount of curry to enhance and lift the flavor of the yolks. The paprika added a touch of smokiness....and the crown jewel was the sweet crab that topped the eggs. The Missus loves Her eggs....and She really enjoyed this.
The Mole Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos ($14), left something to be desired.
The mole negro was very bland and mild, something that a mole should not be. The pork was dry and the centers cold. The tortillas rapidly fell apart.
Overall, a decent start to our couple of days in the area. We enjoyed the vibe, casual, relaxed, and the friendly service.
OSO Sonoma 9 E Napa St Sonoma, CA 95476
Our next stop was right up the street. Tucked into a small shopping arcade. Blink and you might miss the sign.
Belgium really made the Missus into a chocolate lover, so this was a nice stop for us.
The place was doing some great business.
The Missus had a few tastes and made Her selections. I saw Her having one the other day and She told me they are quite enjoyable. I believe the chocolates are actually made in Glen Ellen.
Wine Country Chocolates 414 1st St E Sonoma, CA 95476
We headed away from Sonoma Plaza, a few blocks North and found the actual reason we decided to stop in Sonoma; Vella Cheese Company.
Located in the old Sonoma Brewing Company Building which was built in 1904. When prohibition hit, Gaetano Vella took over the building to make cheese in 1931.
Vella Cheese is known for their "dry jack" a Monterey Jack styled cheese that is aged for 7-10 months. We ended up having a nice round of tastings and decided that it was the Mezzo Secco that we enjoyed the best.
"Mezzo Secco" means "half dry" and this version of Jack cheese is aged from 4-7 months. It's nicely neutral with nicely balanced nutty-grassy-milky flavors. It tastes great solo. It's also fairly hardy and would make the trip back to San Diego with no problem.
Vella Cheese Company 315 2nd St E Sonoma, CA 95476
On the way back to the car we ran into this rather friendly guy....
In spite of the little "hiccup" at the beginning; things were turning out well. We were happy to get back to the car though.....the temp in the car read 97 and we were happy for some AC. Next up...we were off to Petaluma.
It was on our only full day in Bruges where we really got to enjoy the city a bit. Earlier in the morning, on a weekday, we took a walk around Market Square. Even in the drizzly mist we were able to appreciate the Belfort (Bell Tower) which has risen over the square and Bruges since the 14th Century. We wandered around the courtyard and down some side alleyways.
The buildings lining the square, housing various restaurants and tourist focused businesses are built in Neo-Gothic style. This square is considered the heart of Bruges and was once the economical center as there was a canal that came right up to the square.
It was Wednesday...usually market day, but there were bleachers set-up so we saw no market stalls. We did hear a bit of noise from the nearby Burg Square.
I guess the market had been moved here on this day to accommodate whatever event was happening in the Market Square.
It was still early; before 8 and the market didn't get going until 10am, so we just walked along the booths....
And vehicles.....we called this one the Cheese-mobile.....
I love the way this pooch manages to keep dry....under the table and in a box....
While checking out some of the cheese and charcuterie we had an idea.....
We'd ask the wonderful Caroline, who ran our little two room B&B if we could use the dining area and self cater lunch!
As we crossed over one of the canals, I saw a statue that looked familiar. It was Saint John of Nepomok! Remember him from my posts on Prague?
They call Bruges the "Venice of the North", so of course I had to include a couple of canal shots.
We headed back to the B&B and breakfast was served downstairs. It was quite a nice spread.
I'm not quite sure what it was...perhaps the sickly sweet smells that all the shops had; but I'd been avoiding waffles. I know heresy....you're in Belgium and no waffles? Until this morning. Caroline made us fresh waffles, her own secret family recipe and they were delicious.
Light, crisp and creamy, not too sweet.....just perfect. I loved them...and she made me another!
We had discussed having our own self catered lunch in the dining area with Caroline and got the green light. So we headed back out. On the way out, we passed this doorway. I stopped....this was the back entrance to the Old St John's Hospital. Which is now the Memling Museum. We hadn't visited any museums in Belgium and this one had artifacts and displays of medieval medicine as well as art. This is our kind of stuff. And we really enjoyed the Memling.
The painting is full of different vignettes of what patient care at St John's Hospital was like, from the Nuns that served as Nurses, to the fact that dogs were welcomed in the wards.
The ambulance? Well, it was a man powered sedan chair.....
Which I believe was this sedan chair.....
While checking out some of the displays, I heard the Missus go, "oh my....check this out. Those are some awesome stones" (it's not what you might think by what she said). Holy smokes! Check out those stones....kidney stones. My goodness, can you imagine the pain?
I'll not go into any great detail of how the stones were removed, but in case you're morbidly interested, here's an interesting link.
The main attraction of the museum is probably Hans Memling'sSt John Altarpiece. Dedicated to the Patron Saints of the hospital, this work was displayed on an altar situated at a height and distance so all beds in the ward could view this painting.
We then quickly returned to the market which was just starting to get into full swing.
We made our purchases, returned to the B&B, placed them in the fridge and headed off. It was still a bit too early for lunch, so we decided to grab....well...should I call it a "brunch beer"? At De Halve Maan Brewery.
You might recognize the names of the beer brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan....Staffe Hendrick and Zot. I went with the Staffe Hendrick Quad, the Missus a Brugse Zot.
I found the quad to have kind of a burnt sugar fragrance, though slightly boozy and mildly sweet. The 11% ABV sneaks up on you. Strangely, I recently had a SH Quad at Iron Pig and unlike my experiences with other Belgians it held up pretty good and tasted quite similar to what I had here.
They also have tours at this brewery but we decided not to take it.
De Halve Maan Brewery Walplein 26 Bruges, Belgium
After our liquid refreshment, we headed to a quite busy shop on the same street.
Dumon Chocolatier is quite popular.
So we decided to add to the collection of chocolates for my MIL.
Dumon Chocolatier Walstraat 6 Bruges, Belgium
We meandered a bit, then headed back to the B&B. Caroline had kindly set aside some plates and silverware for us and we had a nice light lunch.
After cleaning up, we headed upstairs for a nice afternoon nap.....