Wine Tasting in Bordeaux

As part of our holiday in Bordeaux I had pre-booked a wine tasting tour to Saint-Émilion. If you haven’t heard of the place before, next time you’re in the supermarket check out the wine in the French section – I guarantee there will be wine from Saint-Émilion there.

We were picked up outside the tourist office at 1.30pm and our tour guide was Juliette, a tall, leggy French woman. Also on our trip were 2 Germans, 2 Spanish, 1 French, 1 Argentinian and of course, 2 Scots. So we pretty much had a good area and grape mix Reisling, Rioja, Bordeaux, Malbec and, of course, erm…. whisky on the coach trip.

We travelled out of Bordeaux through boring, flat countryside (no hills just lots of sky) until we reached Château Soutard. There we were guided through the wine making process. Apparently there are almost 7000 Châteaux in Bordeaux. Being able to use the term Château means they have to make their wine in the same place they grow the grapes. It’s not just because they have a fancy castle in the vicinity – yes I thought that before too. If you don’t make your wine in the same area you can’t call it château anything instead it would be Domaine, Vin de pays etc.

2016-03-24 14.58.30At Château Soutard we saw enormous oak barrels used to process and help add flavour to the first harvest of grapes but only for a determined amount of time before being moved into the smaller French oak barrels. Stainless steel or concrete vats are also used during the fermentation process. 2016-03-24 14.56.40We also learned that blending grape varieties is important to get the right taste. You need the Merlot grape to give you the rich, fruity flavours and then some Cabernet Savingnon, which is more acidic, to give balance.  Yes – before I thought 100% one grape was better – not any more. The barrel makers and the amount of times they are used are also important as the wood of the barrel makes a real difference to each year’s wine. Incidentally you will never get 2 years of wine tasting the same due to ‘terroir’, a French word that means everything that has an impact on the wine – soil, weather, grape, skin marks, age, barrel, time of year  etc.

We were then taught how to taste wine by first of all checking the colour and seeing how clear it was. Red and clear equals young whereas brown with deposits means it will be older and have more depth. We then had to swirl it and inhale over the glass before then sticking our noses right in. We weren’t to sniff but to breathe it in. Fruity, peppery, tobaccoay (maybe not a real word but you know what I mean),  leathery, woody? We had to search our memory banks for the smells.

We tried a 2014 and a 2003. The differences were obvious. Incidentally, for no apparent reason, every 5 years they have a good year in Bordeaux so next time you’re choosing a bottle of French red try to get a year ending in a 0 or a 5.

2016-03-24 16.29.48We then headed to Saint-Émilion and wandered around the cobbled streets of the quaint village hearing all about the Robin Hoodesque Saint who settled there that could change bread to wood. (He was caught stealing bread but when confronted showed he had only wood under his coat). It was great to visit a place I had only ever seen in sketches on bottles before 😉

We then drove to Château Siaurac where we were taken out into the vineyard and told about the strict rules that were in place to ensure the vines were a certain height, there were only so many of them and each vine only had as much as 12 bunches of grapes on it. The way in which they were then hand picked to ensure that each grape was perfect and had no sign of any fungal infection was illuminating to say the least. Honestly, I didn’t realise the rigorous and stringent processes in place which the wine producers in France have to adhere to just to produce one bottle of wine with their Château’s name on it.

After a second tasting and 2 more different wines – of course we were all professionals by now and could tell the difference between the young one and the peppery one – we headed back to Bordeaux. The bus was a lot quieter on the way back – can’t think why. Of course being the Scots on board the culture bus we had to buy a carry out…..

Château Siaurac 2010, which was very nice indeed.

  2016-03-24 20.00.31

Advertisements

Cut and Blow in Bordeaux

Today I managed to tick off another item on my bucket list. It’s not as impressive as learning to fly a plane but (as far as I’m concerned) an achievement nonetheless.

I got my hair done in a foreign country!

To let you understand – when I was 16 and working in my first ever job, the woman who gave me a run to work every day went on holiday to Portugal. Now at that time holidaying in Portugal was pretty impressive on its own but she came back with the most fantastic hair cut ever, which she got when she was out there.  I was in awe! Therefore, ever since, I have wanted to get my hair done somewhere abroad and as I’m in Bordeaux and badly in need of a trim, today was the day.

I googled nearby salons and made my decision based on their websites, tariffs and location. Then OH and I headed off to Rue du Loup to find Saco Hair Salon.

Thankfully, it was easy to find so I plucked up my courage and went in. “Bonjour,” called practically everyone in the salon as soon as I opened the door.  After a smiley bonjour back I did my usual, “Parlez vous Anglais?” They all looked at one another and then a young woman with extremely short hair and huge glasses stepped forward in a denim jumpsuit. “Oui, how can I help you?”

After establishing I wanted a cut and blow dry (Bain relaxant, Coupe personnalisée,  Brushing ou coiffage) she booked me in to see Sebastian at 3.30 that afternoon.

OH and I then headed off into the sun to waste some time (aka drink wine and eat crepes).

Soon it was time to head back and see what could be done with my mop.

Again, everyone called Bonjour. This time though, denim girl showed me into a cupboard where I could take my coat off and hang it up myself (yes I know – where was the junior?) When I came out I was pointed towards a chair. Soon Sebastian appeared to play with my hair, pooh-pooh the pic I showed him (your herr iz not thick enuff) and then shrugged in a typically French way when I said, “Do whatever you think will look best.”

I then met the junior who was going to wash my hair. He was young, heavily tattooed, perforated more than a teabag with a multitude of metal bits and bobs and had turquoise, peacock blue and blonde hair. He also had a nice smile, spoke excellent English and was great at washing hair.

Before long (no Indian head massage :() I was back with Sebastian who told me he was going to dry my hair before cutting it. Hair brushed, dried and straightened then the real work began. I could tell Seb worked geometrically – sectioning my hair, measuring down in thirds and angling my head just so. He then asked me to stand up with my hands on the back of the chair. With one hand behind his back his scissors became a blur as he snipped away. Saying that, one blade didn’t move at all, it was stock still as the other done all the work. I have to admit I was watching (with a bowed head through hair) a master at work. Even Edward Scissorhands would have been impressed.

When he was finished he showed me the results in the mirror, doing that backward mirror into mirror thing. Yup, it looked great. My hair had went from being akin to Cousin It’s to now having layers, more movement and a fringe!

I paid the bill and left the salon – totally worth it.

Ladies, if you want to know how much the bill was DM me 😉

Lost in Bordeaux

OH and I decided to have a wee break in Bordeaux just to get away from it all. Prior to leaving I did my research and, as we like a wee bit of culture now and again, I booked tickets to see Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine at The Grand Theatre for the Sunday morning (or so I thought!).

The Saturday night before we did our homework and found the Grand Theatre without any trouble at all so our plan was a long lie, croissants and coffee for breakfast and then a leisurely walk to the theatre so we could sit back and enjoy the orchestra. What do they say about best laid plans?

After finishing Saturday night off with a very fine Bordeaux we woke late.
OK I thought, we can still buy something from a bakers en route. Eh no. All the shops were shut.
OK I thought, there will be a cafe in the theatre. Eh no. The theatre was shut!

We went into the restaurant next door to ask where the booking office was. A small Chinese man spoke rapidly in French. I heard the word shut. I did my best quizzical look and he gestured us outside. He then pointed down a side street and with his hands brushed us away.

After about 100 yards we came across “L’entree des artistes”. Through the window we saw an older gentleman – I held up my booking form like a white flag to gain entrance and he beckoned us in. He knew no English and I know very little French but I droaet a chance to use my favourite phrase ‘je ne comprendes pas’. Between us we discovered the concert wasn’t in The Grand Theatre at all but another building a distance away. He gave us directions by pointing in arches and going deda deda deda to describe the blocks we had to cover. In amongst the hawheehaws I heard Place du Gambetta, droite, gauche, auditorium and with his hands he demonstrated a large impressive building.  We headed off on a march already knowing we were going to be late.

We did the deda deda deda and found Place du Gambetta and then it went all wrong. I obviously went droite instead of gauche so when we saw an impressive building we headed for it. Turned out it was a museum. OH spotted a woman standing outside enjoying a cigarette with a radio strapped to her belt.
Museum attendants are always helpful and tend to know English. Eh no.
I showed her my now crumpled piece of paper. More hawheehaws Opera, Bordeaux, colleague, moment. She disappeared. When she returned she shrugged and called over to a pretty young girl about to light up. Hawheehaw, parle Anglais, hawheehaw, Opera, Bordeaux. The pretty girl laughed and said, ‘Non’.
Then a young lad suddenly turned up and wanted to light pretty girl’s cigarette.
I couldn’t make it all out but I like to think what followed was –

‘Hey Albert do you speak English?’
‘Yes. Yes I do. I did it at school.’ (Trying to show off to pretty girl)
‘Good, can you give these poor, lost tourists directions to the Bordeaux Opera House please’
‘Eh no. Sorry. I thought you were joking. I can’t speak any English.’

He went a bit red when he stopped doing the hawheehaw thing. Then arrived our knight in shining armour. Well, duffle coat.
When he arrived there was only a short hawheehaw and he said, in damn perfect English, ‘Hi, how are you. You are looking for the Auditorium. If you go up this street to Place du Gambetta and then down Cours de L’intendance.’ I asked him to repeat the street name at this point. He did and added it’s a big luxury street you can’t miss it.
Who knew knights were blonde with hipster beards and striped scarves?

So off we headed retracing our steps. It was a grey morning with a dampness in the air but I could feel the sweat trickling down my back as I checked my watch. 10 minutes to the hour.
We found Gambetta again but disagreed about the luxury street –  mainly because we had already walked along it earlier! I saw a street vendor so went to ask him for directions but just before I got there he started serving someone so I asked an Inspector Clouseau lookalike instead. Again no English but lots of hawheehaws and pointing – back towards the Grand Theatre.
‘Eh non!’ His very sophisticated good looking wife interrupted him. I heard – concert, now, orchestra – then she motioned right across the road at a modern building.

‘Really?’
‘Oui! Go!’
‘Merci beaucoup!!!!!!’

We ran across the road

With 2 minutes to go we found our seats.

The orchestra was fantastic and the helpful people of Bordeaux even better!

image

A Nice Journey. Not.

As mum (I’m so tempted to call her Maxi-Me but she’d go daft) and I are off to Amsterdam on Monday OH and I aren’t dining out this weekend. However, I’ve recently realised that I wrote a blog post about the awful start to our holiday in Nice earlier this year, which I didn’t post so I thought I’d share it now. Just in case you need your weekly dose of Dear Lorraine…

So anyway as I said….It was a disastrous start to our holiday. Part of the initial problem was due to the fact that we had downed 3 bottles of wine at my mum’s before going to bed too late for our 4.30 am alarm call. When OH got up he was still half asleep and unhappy at the prospect of driving. I was just unhappy because I always get stressed before holidays. I am never happy until I am sitting down in the apartment/hotel room/rented house. And just so you know, this time it was a rented apartment booked through AirBnB, the website that gives you the option of renting a room, shared house or whole house. 2015-06-15 17.07.03We had booked a whole house in Nice on the French Riviera and that was where we were heading – leaving an unusually bright and sunny Scotland behind.

I was trying to remain chilled and OH was bumbling about in the house packing last minute bits and pieces so, being totally ready and prepared, I made myself a coffee and poured it into a travel mug for the car journey.

I then picked up my suitcase and took it out to the car. This was the first bit of bad luck as the handle on my suitcase gave way. Arghhhhh. It ripped right from the fabric and was completely unrepairable, even if I had the time. I’m trying to look on the bright side and think at least it didn’t come round on an airport carousel burst or I’d have had to complain, try to claim compensation and been really annoyed at someone else instead of being able to totally blame myself.

I went back into the house to grumble loudly to OH who was less than sympathetic. He lugged his own bag out and got into the car leaving me to lock up. Second mini disaster. I got my travel mug and keys, set the alarm and left the house only to find something was stopping me getting my key in. As I bent to see his keys blocking the lock I managed to pour coffee down my light blue trousers and shoe. I was not amused. Of course I now couldn’t go back into the house because I had set the alarm so I marched back to the car to blame OH for the whole sorry mess. I thrust my travel mug into the car, muttered angrily and returned to the house to try and lock the door again.

Eventually back in the car we drove away from our house.  I attempted to drink my coffee but of course it was dripping all down the mug and over me. Tissues were flung at me and we travelled to the airport in silence. Well, we did until we got stuck in traffic approximately a mile before the airport. That mile took as 20 minutes and started us bickering again. It also made us late parking in the long stay car park. There is nothing worse that standing at a (shuttle) bus stop waiting for someone else to pick you up. We both tried to judge if we would be able to walk to the airport faster than the bus would take. Thankfully, before we decided, the bus turned up and ferried us the relatively short distance to the airport. We rushed inside and into security where it was like a cattle market. Prime bits of meat being penned, prodded and pushed along in perfectly formed queues. Stripped of all our personal belongings and made to walk through metal detectors we eventually managed to scurry to the departure gate and straight on to our flight as it was last call to Nice. We had just made it!

By the time I sat on the plane I was shattered. The red wine, lack of breakfast and general rushing about had taken its toll so I decided to get some shut eye. Sleeping on public transport is not my forte but I was going to give it a good go. 5 minutes into my nap and OH woke me up to ask if I wanted coffee. Eh, no! Of course that was me. I’d had 5 minutes so there was no getting back to sleep so it was the in-flight travel magazine from cover to cover to pass the time as, obviously, my kindle was stored safely in the overhead locker and I was in the middle seat  .

Thankfully, we managed to get out of the airport pretty smoothly in Nice – a slight difficulty in finding the bus ticket office but a quick stop at the information desk solved that and before long we were on the bus hurtling towards our well-earned break. I knew it was only a couple of stops so I didn’t mind that the bus was packed and I couldn’t get a seat. I wanted to be in prime position for getting off of the bus.

I saw our stop, picked up my bag, pressed the bell and watched the bus stop tearing past. I saw the next 3 stops go past too as I frantically pressed the button. Nope. The bus wasn’t for stopping – it was like something out of Speed. 3 kilometres down the road and eventually another passenger went up to the bus driver and demanded that she stopped. Half a dozen people alighted alongside us.

It was easily 25 degrees in the midday sun as we lugged our suitcases back up towards our apartment. There were very little words between us as we sweated our way along the coast.

The house numbers started at 67 and we had to walk up to 303. Needless to say my feet started to blister and my face was the colour and shape of a tomato. I was a pretty sight. When we got to number 303 there was a push button entry system and no obvious signs for what button I had to push. I started pushing them all. No-one answered. OH was pissed off, I was pissed off and, I swear, it was the sunniest day of the year. My t-shirt was sticking to me, as was my hair. You could have planted rice on my back it was that wet. I pressed every button again. I sent a text to the apartment owner. I tried to piggyback on to someone’s Wi-Fi to see if I could get in contact with someone that could help. All to no avail.  OH insisted we went somewhere to sit down for a drink. We ended up in a crumby pizzeria sharing a pizza. It was then that I received a message asking if I was at the door number 233 on a completely different street as I had been given. Eh? It turned out there was 2 entrances and her buzzer was on the back door not the front. Arghhh.

2015-06-15 20.28.10

The problem pipe

We finished up our pizza and, not even stopping for the toilet, made our way to the back door and (thankfully) were invited inside. When we got to the apartment door we could see there were men drilling. Plumes of dust filled the air. Pierre, our landlord, apologised profusely for the mess and explained they’d had a broken pipe the day before. The whole apartment (and the one below) had been flooded. Therefore, they had the workmen in doing an emergency repair job and as there was no water, could we come back later?

I felt like Mary and Joseph when there was no room at the inn. Desperately we asked, “Can we just come in for a short while please?”

“Oui, oui. Would you like a bierre?”

Would I?  Without hesitation. “Oh yes please!”

Well long story short. He only had one bierre but he had a large bottle of ‘cidre’, which had my name all over it. I drank the majority of it before I realised there we no water and therefore no toilet!

I must have taken on the shape and form of a camel at that point as it was approximately another hour before I got to relieve myself. It cost me the price of a diet coke in a French café but it was worth every penny.

When we returned to the apartment Pierre was still there as the work men were just finishing up. He proffered us a bottle of Champagne as way of an apology. I swear it didn’t hit the sides.

So that was the start of our holiday. Thankfully, the champagne was the start of it getting better.2015-06-15 20.49.27

Le Bistro Beaumartin, Glasgow

Just for something different to do OH and I decided to head to Glasgow for a visit.

As the choice of restaurants can be pretty overwhelming we narrowed our choices by deciding to go French. I did a search through 5pm.co.uk to see what it had to offer and it threw up Le Bistro Beaumartin in Hope Street. Their offer was a 3 course meal for 2 with a bottle of wine for £45, which sounded right up our street.

When we arrived we wondered if the restaurant was actually open as it looked a bit dark. We ventured in and was met by a very friendly waiter. He offered us a seat in the window, which we gladly accepted. It would also have helped the restaurant look busier than it was – there was only one other table that was occupied. Not a great sign.

We were given the set menu and asked if we wanted red or white wine with our meal.2015-10-10 13.35.18 Red, obviously. The menu offered 4 starters but all I could see was French Onion soup. However, OH noticed there were other options and went for the Champignons au Roquefort  – Ragout of mushrooms in a roquefort cream.

When my soup arrived I have to admit I was disappointed. 2015-10-10 13.41.29The last time I had French onion soup was in Nice and I had to prize apart the roasted cheese on the top to get to the soup. In this case the cheese was in a little tin dish next to the soup along with some croutons. I emptied the dishes into the soup and waited for the cheese to melt. 2015-10-10 13.41.21The soup itself was okay but nothing special. OH’s starter looked like whole cup mushrooms covered in a dark cream sauce. He said he would have preferred the mushrooms to have been wild or at least mixed. He enjoyed it though and liked the roquefort sauce, which wasn’t too over powering.

For my main meal I had Escalope saumon en papillote – fillet of salmon baked in grease-proof 2015-10-10 14.01.12paper, steamed rice, ratatouille, herb oil. It arrived still in the grease-proof paper and foil and looked fantastic. The rice was cooked to perfection, the salmon was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

OH surprised me by deciding not to have a steak! Instead he went for Supreme de Poulet au 2015-10-10 14.00.49citron – braised chicken supreme in lemon, sun-dried tomato and coriander with steamed couscous. I thought his chicken looked a little pale and he did say it was a bit tasteless. It was still on the bone and he felt it had been plumped up with water as if it was supermarket bought rather than from a reputable butcher. The taste of lemon was slight and not detergenty tasting, which I often think can happen with lemon chicken. He liked the couscous but felt he could have handled more than one sun-dried tomato.

2015-10-10 14.26.02For dessert I chose 2 different sorbets. Pink champagne and raspberry. I could also have chosen lemon but I was glad I hadn’t as the raspberry and pink champagne went well together and was a good finish to my meal. OH had Flamusse aux pommes – warm apple flan, 2015-10-10 14.25.55finished with rum, raisin and creme anglais. He loved it and says it was the best part of his meal.

OH and I have been at a number of French restaurants in Scotland and we’ve often felt like we’ve been whisked away to France for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, neither of us had that feeling when we left Le Bistro Beaumartin. The food was ok but nothing spectacular. The competition for diners is fierce in Glasgow and if they want to stay in the race they’re going to have to up their game.

3 courses for 2 and a bottle of wine £45.

Chez Acchiardo, Nice, France

On holiday on the Côte d’Azur, OH and I had been wandering around Nice taking in the sights and smells of the old town, which are dramatically better than some old towns in Scotland. It was too early for us to eat but I happened to look through the window of a restaurant and decided straight away that was where we were going to dine that night. The interior just looked like a good French restaurant – lots of dark wooden tables, white walls, stone arches and bottles of wine everywhere.2015-06-18 19.16.05

It didn’t open until 7pm and when we returned I was surprised to see there was a queue to get in. Fortunately, they could  squeeze us in – when I checked Tripadvisor later every reviewer stated that you had to book so we were lucky, not only to have happened upon it but also to get a seat.

Service was fantastic with good looking waiters and waitresses eager to please and with better English than most tourists. However, that didn’t stop me practicing my French and they very patiently tried to interpret all the French nouns I attempted. The policeman from ‘Ello ‘Ello comes to mind.

We passed on starters today and went straight for the mains. OH had a steak with basil butter (I won’t try to show off with writing everything in French just trust my translation). There was a choice of accompanying side dishes – salad, green beans, chips or a chickpea thing. 2015-06-18 19.25.542015-06-18 19.25.41OH decided on the green beans and I had chips with my duck and fig sauce. I tried some of OH’s rare steak and it did indeed melt in the mouth as he promised. I’m not a big fan of steak but I enjoyed the bite I had. My duck was delicious and the sauce was rich and glossy and didn’t over power the tender meat. The chips were incredible but I passed on OH’s green beans because I hate when they squeak against your teeth. He assures me they were great though. 2015-06-18 19.16.16We washed it all down with a bottle of red and when offered the dessert menu we couldn’t resist. OH had 2015-06-18 20.21.50chocolate mouse with cream and I had vanilla, meringue and hazelnut ice cream, which was bliss. OH finished off his meal with a coffee as I of course, finished the wine.

It was a lovely dining experience – very French, very friendly and very affordable.

2 mains, 2 desserts, a bottle of wine and a coffee came to a very reasonable €65.

Chez Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite , 06300 Nice , France.  33 4 93 85 51 16

Toulouse – Lasting impressions

So OH and I have been in Toulouse for 9 days now and everyday has been different. I was worried that I had been a bit over zealous when I booked the 11 day break in a city as I was anxious I would become bored quickly with the same sites. Thankfully I have been proven wrong and the reverse has been true. The longer you stay the more fun you have.

Bizarrely the same streets and bars look completely different during the day compared to at night and there really is enough to do to keep you occupied during a lengthier stay. I know the streets well now and could easily give a stranger directions. However, although I now have a feel for the city, we are only acquaintances and my French would have to be far better to claim anything more.

So my top 10 tips for a trip to Toulouse are

1. Pack bold (not the washing detergent!)  Everyone is stylish and you will want to be too

2. If you’re a man embrace facial hair and trim it to perfection

3. Unless you’re a model don’t expect 2nd glances – everyone is gorgeous in Toulouse

4. Prepare to sit down at 8pm to eat and still to be sat there after 10pm – eating is something you do all evening

5. Bring plenty indigestion tablets – see above

6. Be prepared for discomfort as there is no such thing as a comfy chair in Toulouse – outdoor garden furniture is the norm

7. Don’t try to give up smoking whilst you are in Toulouse – you won’t manage. In fact, if you’ve already given up you will probably start again!

8. At some point take a bottle of wine down to the river, relax and people watch

9. Bring your art materials – you will want to  paints or draw or write

10. Book for longer than 3 days!

The main sites to see if you are visiting Toulouse are

IMAG3023Le Capitole: Right in the very heart of the city is Place du Capitole. All roads lead to the square and it’s extremely impressive building. The square is always busy whether there is a market on or not. It’s the place to be seen and the restaurants that surround the square are pricIMAG3358ey although it is worth paying that little extra to sit and people watch (my favourite pastime – especially with a glass of wine to hand).

You can go into the Le Capitole and wander around (for free). There is a room full of Henri Martins – an impressionist painter I hadn’t heard of before I arrived in Toulouse but his paintings of the banks of the Garonne are worth of seeing (if only to see how much the trees have grown along the side of the river!)

When you enter Salle des Illustres you take a sharp intake of breath as the paintings and colour overwhelm you. This room is now used for weddings and offiicial receptions and, although it’s no Sistine Chapel, it is impressive.

Unfortunately, you can’t get out on to the balcony but if you could you would be able to look down on to the 18m wide Languedoc cross outside, which is set into the square. Each point has one of the signs of the zodiac.

 

basilica Saint Sernin: This basilica was built in honour of a martyred saint, Saturnin. He died after being dragged through the streets by a sacrificial bull – what a way to go! Apparently in the 3rd century they didn’t sleep at night as they were too busy thinking up gruesome ways to kill people.

The other important thing about this building is that it’s part of the El camino de Santiago pilgrimage – if you have no idea what I’m talking about a good and light hearted way of finding out about it is to watch the film The Way. Oh and there’s crypts below you have to pay to go in and see but it’s only 2€.IMAG3186

At the weekends there is also a flea market around the building, which is worth a wander around too.

 

Église des Jacobins:

The Jacobins were another new research item for me (thank goodness for wikipedia!) The building is amazing and huge palm trees hold the roof up (I’m not kidding!) There is even a huge mirror surrounding one of the upright columns to save you straining your neck and looking up at it.

The cloisters were tranquil, even although during our visit a fantastic musician played the piano. My guess was that he was practicing for the Piano aux Jacobins, a yearly festival during the month of September held in the church.IMAG3416-EFFECTS

At night the gothic bell tower lights up and is more reminiscent of something seen in Blackpool during the illuminations than something you would expect from a church (Im not sure why either)

Marche couvert Victor Hugo:  This covered food market is a must see – all the food looks exceptional. They have however,managed to hide it under a multi-storey car park so look out for it. IMAG3287

Musee des Augustins: This is a beautiful building full of fantastic sculptures and paintings. It’s 4€ to get in and worth every cent. If you are the least bit arty, the artwork on display here will make you feel inadequate. The sculptures look like they could turn and speak to you and just yearn to be stroked (obviously you’re not allowed). The paintings are immense and tell painful stories in seconds that leave you queering the injustice.

IMAG3444

Jardin Japonais: It’s a bit of a walk to get to from the city centre but worth the effort (you could also get the metro). The Japanese garden is only one part of these extensive gardens but my favourite part.  The bridge, very like the famous one in Monet’s garden, is just screaming out to be photographed. IMAG3107If you work in the north east of Toulouse it seems it’s compulsory to eat your lunch here as every bench was occupied with workers with plastic forks and Tupperware boxes (told you they were stylish- no washed out plastic ice creams containers here!).  From the gardens we headed to the Canal du Brienne and followed it back into the centre. The Canal du Midi is another canal in the area popular with joggers, walkers and cyclists.IMAG3508

 

 

Pont Neuf: IT’S JUST A BRIDGE over the River Garonne – it’s there and you will see it but the the best thing about it is Le Filochard which is at the city centre side. Read about that here —-> Le Filochard

IMAG3323

Le Filochard, Toulouse

IMAG3222

Start of the night – looking totally unassuming

Wandering the streets of Toulouse one warm evening OH and I couldn’t help but notice a bar that was spilling out on to the streets. Boho chic and young at heart seemed to be the dress code. Dreds, bare feet, colourful stripey low slung trousers (or should I say pantaloons?) and bare brown shoulders were in. Me with my boring attire and sensible walking shoes were out. Or so I thought until we happened to be going past it again the following evening. It was a lot quieter then and we were able to get a seat at the bar. I watched on as the bar man made up a couple of mojitos for 2 guys sitting in the corner. They looked so good that when it was my time to order I couldn’t help myself. “Deux mojitos, s’il vous plait”. The barman said something about 4 and I nodded blankly. He explained in English that it was happy hour and 2 for 1. Woohoo!IMAG3224

A sudden clang beside me made me turn and watch as 6 empty kegs were rolled out from under a nearby bench. Then a large hinged piece of wood appeared. Before my eyes a stage was being built and just as suddenly a band started to set up and the bar started to fill. IMAG3237

The heady mix of the bar, the cocktails, the friendly staff and chic clientele added in with our unique Scottishness made OH and feel very special and welcome. Before long we were chatting to lots of different and interesting people – they were buying us drink, we were buying them drink, the band played, strangers asked me to dance, I whirled, I drank and I spun from partner to partner. It was a great night.

You know those evenings when you think you’re just having a quiet night but end up having the best night ever – well that’s what happened the night OH and I visited Le Filochard.

IMAG3240

End of the night – no longer quiet at all!

I entered the bar feeling like an outsider but left it feeling younger, a bit boho and a lot sozzled.

Le Point D’Ogre, Toulouse

OH and I had looked up some restaurants before we left for Toulouse and one of the ones that stood out was Le Point D’Ogre, which is located on an easy to miss street off Rue de Metz in Toulouse.

The restaurant, like the majority of French restaurants, doesn’t open until 8pm and we arrived shortly after it opened. Probably because it was a Tuesday night it wasn’t busy and they were happy to seat us without a reservation. The first thing we noticed was the ‘Ogre’ in front of his stone oven ready to grill whatever we ordered. He smiled unfiercely.

The menu wasn’t extensive but did offer duck, beef, salmon and pork and it was explained to us that there was no choice for the starter. I decided on the duck confit and OH just had to have the steak.

As we sat we could see the Ogre take out a huge fillet of beef and cut it into 3 sizable steaks.

2014-09-02 20.38.15-1When our starter arrived we were amazed. The waitresses proceeded to place in front of us a beautiful basket with a red and white checked towel in it. On top of that was fresh cauliflower, carrots, radishes and 3 types of sausage. There was also cold carrot and orange soup, bread, some cured ham, ailoli, onion marmalade and tapenade. We also got our own chopping board and sharp knife.2014-09-02 20.39.27 (2) Everything tasted fresh and it all went well together. OH and I crunched and dipped and sliced and spread to our hearts content but I was also wary of eating too much in case I couldn’t manage my main meal and I’d have hated that!

2014-09-02 21.00.48 (2)Starter over, I watched on as the Ogre cooked OHs steak on the charcoal grill. It was obvious he was proud of his work and when the large slab of beef had rested to perfection he presented it to OH with a flourish, bowing proudly at his work. We both applauded. 2014-09-02 21.03.38The steak looked magnificent and covered the majority of the plate leaving only a little room for a roasted garlic clove. In a separate plate was an orange and olive salad (OH didn’t want potatoes as he is watching his figure ;p). My duck confit, which ordinarily would have looked fantastic, paled into insignificance next to the mighty piece of beef. It was however excellent and I was glad of my choice, not being a big meat fan. The duck melted in the mouth and was delicious.  2014-09-02 21.03.54 (2)

Evidently no longer watching his figure, OH decided to have a dessert and when he queried the profiteroles the waitress disappeared and returned with something that didn’t resemble anything we would recognise as a profiterole but looked eminently better.She then demonstrated it being cut open and filled with cream. OH was sold.2014-09-02 21.33.00 (2)

The meal was amazing, the staff were very friendly and the decor was perfect. It was a little pricey compared to our normal budget (the steak was 36€) but considering OH had the best steak of his life I am glad we went that little further and gained the experience and fantastic evening we did.

If you are ever in Toulouse and love steak then make sure you pay Le Point D’Ogre. C’est formidable!

 

Toulouse – first impressions

OH and I arrived in Toulouse on a bright, sunshiney day and I already knew I had packed wrongly. Not just for the weather but for style – not that I could have packed all that differently considering my wardrobe. Looking around in the airport I already felt dowdy and very British. How come we can’t look as good as the French? They just ooze style and class whereas we just ooze – especially in this heat!

Anyway, the trip from the airport on the shuttle bus to the centre of Toulouse was completely hassle free and a bargain for 10 . Particularly because the bus driver called to us and alerted us to our stop – homme charmant!

We found our apartment with ease and the  owner was there to meet us and show us around the one bedroom flat – approximately a 2 minute walk from Le Capitole – talk about central! This would be the equivalent of getting a holiday home on Oxford Street in London.

2014-08-31 14.25.30

Our Toulouse pad

 

2014-08-31 14.50.49

Le Capitole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It didn’t take us long to be out and wandering the streets of Toulouse. It really is a beautiful place. Toulouse is in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France (bottom left hand corner if you’re looking at a map) and its situated on the banks of the  River Garonne.

2014-08-31 15.36.57

2014-08-31 16.25.33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously walking is thirsty business so our first port of call was the picturesque Cafe des Artistes where we sat and watched the world go by and drank in the sun and some local wine, our first of many no doubt!2014-08-31 15.55.17

 To be continued…