Oingt, oingt, oingt…all the way home

To the cutest village I ever laid eyes on, including some pretty tidy towns in Ireland.

  
Oingt, pronounced “wheh” as in this little piggy nursery rhyme, was on the way to our Beaujolais winery on Friday. I can’t even describe how cute it was, here in land of Pays D’Or (golden stones), so let me show you instead…

 
   
 

   

   
    
    
    
   
   
    
   
And eventually I’ll use this more, but here’s a watercolor from today…

  

As seen on TV

  
Three or four years ago, before we even knew we were coming to France, we watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”. Bourdain was raised in France and staged there for Marco Pierre White and basically knows where all the bodies are buried. In this particular episode he shows up at Chez Robert and Louise in the 3rd, behind the Hotel de Ville (city hall).

  
The joint has 1o seats at the bar, and ten communal tables. As you can tell, everyone can see everything. Max capacity, 50, tops. Two waiters, 3 cooks/prep/utility peeps. And Robert, sitting at the bar, watching everything. We didn’t see Louise.  

They do steak. That’s it. You get a choice of steak, but as we found out, you don’t get a choice for cooked or not. They just let you think you do.

It pretty much comes rare. There’s no sending it back, you are too afraid.

And it’s cooked on an iron flat top, over a wood fire. Hypnotic.dont try this at home.

You also get some green leaf and potatoes, and there’s wine of course. It is France after all.  

   
But it’s a huge portion for short money, and it is delicious. These are the places to find. A blackboard for a menu, fresh ingredients depending on the season. Waiters don’t try to be your best friend. It’s all good…very, very good!

On the road again..

Thursday morning we shoved our ever increasing in weight suitcases outside the hotel room door at 6:15 am (yawn) and hit the dining room for some caffeine.   

 At 8ish, we started out for Lyon from Gare Lyon on Tres Grand Vitesse, the high speed train that moves at about 180 mph.
  

  They place pianos in the station, so anyone can play…   
Before you could say “Platform 9 3/4” we were in Lyon and seeing our ship, the Amadagio for the first time!

  
We had lunch in the Place Bellecour, a beautiful sun filled public space, did a little people watching and got to the ship about 3:45. We unpacked and settled into the lounge with a drink and watched the sunset.

   
 
We got acclimated with Dejan, the cruise manager, had dinner and rallied long enough to fall into our crib. Nite nite…

I don’t even know where to start…

On Wednesday morning at the civilized hour of 11 am, the Hubs and I meT a charming young woman named Eugenie (pronounced U Shen ee) at the Anvers Metro stop under the Basilica due Sacre Cour in the Montmatre section of Paris. Three hours later,we were stuffed full of chocolate, pastries, cheese, charcuteries, bread, cheese,crepes, cheese and wine. Did I mention cheese? 

Eugenie was holding a small orange parasol (parapluie) and was our guide from Secret Food Tours. Singularly one of the most outstanding culinary experiences of my young life, evah!

Eugenie led four of us, the Hubs and I and two other women, friends since childhood, on a backstreet tour on the backstreets of Montmatre.

Once you tour all the shoppes, you settle in to the back room of a wine shop for a great picnic! Here’s what we had…

   
 

Macarons… I sampled passion fruit tarragon and salted caramel (q’uelle surprise)  

 
Boulangerie selection

   
Jars of house made salted caramel…I think I got choked up

 
Patisserie   

  Fruit stand

Butter at the fromagerie  
Last course, butter and sugar crepe. Now I am stupid full…    
   Cheese and bred..just add wine. 
  

I was told these were persimmons, I’m fact checking. Stay tuned.  
 

Really, blue feet make it that expensive?
 

Tripe ( cross that off the bucket list)  
  

Did I mention cheese?  

Fresh yogurt  

Triple cream with figs…  

Pork terrine  

Medals won by animal, not butcher  
  The most beautiful meat case  in creation

Crepe stand on hot corner.. 

Afterwards, once we snapped out of the food coma, we took a funicular ride up to Sacre Cour for some great views!

  

  

We took the funicular down also, to avoid a tragedy on these stairs!
  

Tiny, little bubbles…

   

We pretty much spent Tuesday drinking champagne, looking at champagne and learning about champagne. Time well spent, if you get my drift..

We had a lovely drive from Paris to Rheims, and then on to Epernay (which I always confuse with the heroine in Les Miz, Epinine….)

Anyway, learned a few new things, like the fact that modern champenoise methode, freezes the sediment in the neck of the bottle and then pops it out.

Also learned that the vats have progressed from wood to large ceramic lockers lined with tiles to the current stainless steel.

  
    
    
We started at G.H.Mumm, pronounced Moom, not Mum.               After a tour of the Cathedral, and a lovely lunch of salad on the square behind said cathedral, we headed down the road to Epernay and the cellars of Mercier.

  
The difference of one cellar to another is like an SAT question… Mumm is to ________ like Mercier is to Disneyland. The answer is …Mount Rushmore. Interesting, but not truly interactive.

   
   
This guy Mercier had it going on…He wanted to mass produce champagne and sell it to the masses. He didn’t think of it as an elitist drink. He introduced it at the same international exposition as the Eiffel Tower and he introduced it with a free ballon ride with a souvenir glass, the cost of both covered by the margin on the champagne.

He treated his workers well and even decorated the umpteen miles of caves with plaster bas relief to make the caves lighter and more enjoyable!  For visitors, there’s a tram ride!

  We had a nice tasting and bought and lugged a couple of bottles for consumption later along with a poster, then went for a short walk in the vineyard before heading back to Paris!  
 

A lot to pray for in the Middle Ages….

A lot was going on in the 13th century. There was war, and famine and don’t forget plague. So the cathedral was the answer. The bigger, the better! If we make it magnificent enough, the Blessed Mother will intercede on our behalf. Let’s make the vaulted ceiling taller than that place in Paris…and later on Marc Chagall will paint a stained glass window for us. We can earn a tiny amount of money, labor intensive to cut stone, or carve wood. We can hide here from our enemies, and the good priests will feed us when they can, and the holy sisters will nurse us and my family can pray for my soul here. The cathedral will take care of our needs…

  
In between visits to the champagne cellars on Tuesday, we spent some time at the cathedral in Rheims. Heavily damaged in WWI, almost 100 years ago, the cathedral is still undergoing restorations.

    
    
    
  

    
  A view  down the nave, definitely not enough light!

   I wondered to myself, who sits in these tiny chairs? Then I realized they were not chairs, but the kneelers! And only the front row gets them, so in the other rows, it’s the stone floor for your knees!

But then there are the windows…for teaching, and prayer, and inspiration, and reflection…

    
    
   

Love, Julia

  
Monday afternoon, after a lovely lunch on the square outside Comedie Francaise theatre, we wandered over to the store where apochryphally, Julia Child bought her kitchen ware.

  
It is the dustiest, darkest, 5,000 sq ft. I have ever witnessed. It is also totally anachronistic in that:

There are no prices, you have to go to the end of the aisle and look up the code in a book, then one guy writes it up, another one cashes you out, a third person then wraps everything, including putting a cork on the knife tip. This is not your Williams Sonoma!

 
I did, however treat myself to a new carbon steel blade French knife, size 15 which is easier for me to hold. A carbon blade holds an edge much better than stainless. A few other treats found their way into my bag, but you’ll have wait until I use them at home before you see them!

On top of the hill..

In Dorchester was St. Margaret’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Home. It was where my mother worked with mothers and babies from when she was a graduate nurse in 1955 to her retirement in 1996. 

  
The Daughters of Charity, championed by St. Catherine Laboure who was a member herself, started the hospital on Jones Hill. 

What does this have to do with Paris you ask? Well, I’ll tell you…

   
 
The Daughters of Charity still nurse and care for the indigent and needy in a corner of Paris and around the globe. Their motherhouse is still on the Rue de Bac, and encompasses a chapel and visitor center celebrating the apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Laboure. During two appearances, Our Lady shows Catherine a medal that commemorates Mary and her devotion to her son and hi sacrifice.

   
    
    
 
Catherine has the medal struck and the miraculous medal is born. Catherine Laboure was canonized and her uncorrupted remains lie in a glass coffin on the side alter of the chapel to this day. 

  

“A breath of air”

  
I did some research around dinner choices before we left the states. Ok, to be truthful I was obsessed. I read “the fork” and Trip Advisor.  We watched episodes of Rick Steves (meh) and Anthony Bourdain ( that’s more like it). I drove the Hubs to distraction…” How does this one sound?” “Read this review”, etc.

But Monday nite my research paid off! A Bout de Soufflé, in the 14th, was expecting us at 8!

In the bottom right of the above photo are three words that define the experience…sauce foie gras (inset sounds of angels singing).

  
The chef sent along a little amuse bouche which was a  lobster and avocado gazpacho. It made me think about getting an aerator so I can foam lobster broth at home…

Anyway, we both had the foie gras starter. Terrine de foie gras, toasted apricot and sunflower seed bread, banana and mango chutney…

  
Perfection…

The Hubs had an entrecôte of beef with, as he put it,”the best potatoes ever”

  
For me, it was duck breast en brochette. Wow.

Wow.

Ok now I think I can talk about it..

Duck breast roasted on skewers with figs (bliss) and foie gras sauce (more bliss)

And then they surprise you with the little, teeny flakes of candied fruit.

Oh.

My.

  
We ordered the Tain l’Hermitage because we are visiting this area on our cruise! Outstanding wine.

  

And if that wasn’t enough…there was brioche perdu with salted caramel and vanilla bean ice cream…

We needed a breath of air when this was done, let me tell you, so we walked back to the hotel. Highly recommended!