Monday, July 30, 2007

Bordeaux Wine

A bottle of wine is probably the best that France has to offer to the world.

At the time, the bottle and I had something in commun. We were both born the same year. After a difficult face to face, I think I manage to end the dicussion, and won the debate. As you can see, sometimes it is not the one who wait the longest who wins, sometime you need to take action to finish a debate.

Can't wait to have some follow-up meetings with the bottle's family.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Corrida La Madeleine

It was the number 7, the lucky one some might say, but it was not supposed to be on the spotlight and it turns out to be the best of the late, hot and sunny afternoon.

The crowd buoyed the two ones before asking the presidency to change the bull, but they stayed put and did not recognize the week temper of the main actors. It was true that after few picks, none entered into the cape straight, refusing the fight and falling on their knees.

It was true that the El Vellosino cast was considered by certain not as strong as it used to be, especially after few unfaithful appearances in various arenas in the south of the border. But after all we were only at the second Corrida of the Temporada and we all hope that we could witness a bigger than life story, one you want to tell your friend and family at the fire place when the winter become thinker and colder than ever.

The 6 Toros were going to be partnered with one of the most solid crew that the stadium was able to have this summer. The 3 companions (Curro Díaz, El Juli and J.M. Manzanares) entered under the sun of this Monday 23rd of July with the same bravura that any torero have when risking his life is his way of making a living. I am now almost sure that they kept the last one for the young prodigy and wanted to spare it for the end.

This is what happened. After a quick tour under the sun, the number 6 was replaced almost instantly by the number 7, from another cast and region. It color and strength was totally different from the other ones we saw so far. The best was raw, strong, and courageous. It took some time for the crow to calm down and stop murmuring before El Juli start welcoming the Toro by few left and right passes, semi-knee and half Veronique.

It sounded promising. The Toro was big and heavy from the torso, almost like in comic book but without the chance to read the story tomorrow. After 2 minutes of understanding and judging how to kill the best, El Juli went back to see his Peones and asked some confirmation about it reaction under the stress of the competition.

It was at that precise time that number 7 decided to jump over the fence and ran into the corridor. Staff, Peones, photographs and other civilians jumped inside the sanding round box to avoid a deadly face to face with the new ambassador of the animal kingdom. Screams, laughs and movements helped me to realized the danger of dancing dressed like a woman with a Toro in the middle of the afternoon in front of thousand people who whish that nothing will happen but keep looking at it.

Number 7 finally find its way back in the middle of the place, where it deserved to be, and was welcomed for the second time with a round of applause. The picks and banderillas did not do too much to weaken its strength, but amplified the mission of our representative in the middle of the day.

The magic happen then.

El Juli started to dance with number 7 in a duo that would have left anyone in the audience more convince that death and life are one unique thing. He moved number 7 in the middle of the circle and forced it to dance around him. Here is a left, and here is a right. Two feet grounded, the red cape flying above the black beast, our new blond hero was encouraged each time by some ole. The crowd was content and pleased to see that a human being, one of the best and strongest of its kind, was there defying death with honor, bravura and dignity. The clamor went bigger and could barely surpass the band that started playing to illustrate the famous paseo.

It was time to salute for a last time number 7 and give it what it came for in the first place. The place was anxious to see if El Juli the magnifico could give it the supreme sentence in one shot, forcing the presidency to allow him to go out the door al hombre with two hears in one hand, and the tail in the other.

But he failed, at the last second number 7 understood and moved it head back at the afternoon dancer, and refuse it final destination. That was it. The rest is just a line in history book.

El Juli killed number 7 at his 3 attempts and did not get the triumph he deserved that particular day, but I still remember his look facing the Toro. Both of the 2 actors where as close as they could get to me, and I could see in his look that it was or him or number 7, the death was between the two, and it could have been a different line in the history book.

Life in a Corrida is very simple, it always get down to how you look at the bull before killing it.

I could never raise my eyes at a bull, I am too scared.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pays Basque

If you want to explore the Basque region, I recommend doing it first by car, then by train and finally by boat.

The first stop and starting point is San Sebastian, a stone through away from Bilbao the ugly even with the new museum, much better pace to stay. The cultural capital of the Spanish Basque region is lodged in a half mooned bay, protected by a rock from heavy rain and big waves.

The plaza central, home of one of the oldest hotel in town, give a perfect strategic position to explore the area by foot.

The Cathedral is hidden at the end of the old barrio, where narrow street unrelieved bit by bit the famous work of the ancient artist.

At the end of the promenade, the small street open up suddenly in the wildest city beach in the region, where people sun-bath, volley ball and hand fishing.

Time to lunch is just an excuse to enjoy the national sport in San Sebastian: Tapas. Line up of food in front of you, and just for few euros you eat a lot of sea food, and other thing you never thought about. Piballes is one of my favorites there

Leave you car, take the train.

The one you have an arm away from your camp base is La Rhune Train. This wooden small train, transport you in 35 minutes up to the tallest mountain in the region at 905 meters. Since 1924, the local train transports at 8 km/h thousand tourists per day.

And when we reached the top, here what we saw!

I never had a chance in my entire life to have a clean view from top of the hill, maybe one day, I will be lucky and see the best view the region can offer you around.

Basque houses are still a cliche and the best ones could seen at Anoah.

At night, the nice and small village of Saint-Jean-de-Luz gives you a peaceful evening at the Place Louis the XIV.

Local bands palying while you eat a sea food platter or licking your ice cream, although you want to try the Maccaron, local cake.

The final destination is the queen of the sea coast.

Biarritz and her Casino lands on the beautiful, surfing spot of the region.

Old ladies are dandling in the morning on the promenade, leaving the place empty for the yound kids at night to show their tan to each other.

Life is good under the sun of Biarritz.

Secret beach (Plage des Oursons) is still secret, and deserve a quick look when you reach your way to your ice cream place.

.... but Biarritz will always be Biarritz !

Rich and Famous

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Chambord - Loire Valley

Few days before we visited Chenonceau and Amboise on the run,
but this time we visited Chambord on the fly.

It was one of these days everything you plan would not happen. You have to come up with open eye and large portable flexibility (portable flexibility is now being sold in can).

We had to go from Paris to Bordeaux with our life ever long lasting suitcase by train yet we had to drop the rented car at the airport near Paris just before starting. We drove instead to Bordeaux and dropped the car to the nearest airport close to Bordeaux instead. When you looked at the trunk full of our luggage, we had no other way than driving South, instead of moving our lives across Paris in a cab.

So around 10 in the morning, 5 suitcases and some other backpacks in the trunk of the car, we drove with music middle blast to the nearest highway France could offer us. After some round about and few lights we end up in a queue to South. Lunch was done like all the French tourists do, on the side of car between car breaks and refueling tanks. Journey was pleasant amount other wheels, blue sky and early summer smells.

It was 3:46 PM when we saw Chambord on the next exit sign. Why not, after all? That was the only one that we missed few days earlier and we desperately wanted on our list of thing done in France. It was supposed to be the best of all the Chateaux in France, and we were only few kilometers away from it… when would be the next time we would have the chance to see it again?

Signal turned, slowed down, gear lowered and up the way to the smallest road we used to like. Turned left, turned right, straight down the road, followed the 4 buses, parked and up we are in the fabulous Chateaux of all. It was there in front if us, we had 1 hour to see it all, but we wanted to do it. Rain started, but who cares inside should be fine… still running to the entrance. We had 48 minutes left to see the greatest…

And there, what did we have?

The longest queue ever seen in France since the major strike in 1981 after Mitterrand election. We were stuck in the line with two ladies to handle 4.5 millions visitors at 4:12 PM… what is wrong with these people … do they all had the same idea as us? Why do they want to visit the greatest Chateaux at 4:13PM?

But we were smart, to shorter the queue time when in team, split! So we did!
J. had a group of 25 young kids who try to have a global discount without showing their student card… and I had a retiree couple in front of me who try to have a retiree discount without showing their retiree card. Bottom line, 15 minutes wasted in line.

We only had 35 minutes left to visit the biggest Chateaux in the Loire Valley, but we did worse and we were ready for the challenge. Camera on one hand, and map on the other, we were like these Japanese tourist stuck to their camera lenses, hoping to have a good shot that you can see back home.

Not time to waste … here is the dark tree alley, here is the big stairway, here is the second wife room, here is first wife bedroom, here is the black widow room, here is ... I don't know, take a picture we will see later.

"Sorry we are late!"
"Excuse me, we are late!"

That was great!

We came back to the car around 5 PM, before closing time, enough time to drive safely back to Bordeaux. One thing that I know for sure now: it would have been nice to actually see the Chateaux of Chambord now that we flew over.

Maybe next time

Friday, July 06, 2007

Loire Valley adress

In 3 hours total, you can not be a good tip adviser to the region, but one restaurant was namely approved by the crowd at the time


  • Le Castelet
    40, rue St-Lubin, Blois. Tel 02 54 74 66 09

    The menu was good and consitant. Be aware that you will have a local cuisine with some local wine, and local advice. The wine list was as good as the advice we receive from the owner. A safe stop by if time at Blois.