Showing posts with label Arcachon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arcachon. Show all posts

Saturday, June 21, 2014

End of the Holiday: Star Meal on Ferry - Drive Tips - Sunny Arrival

End of the Holiday: Drive Tips - Star Meal on Ferry - Arrival
Right: Scallops four ways and, bottom, crab

Our Arcachon adventure came to a very pleasant end this weekend. Left the town on Friday morning and it was sunshine all the way until we arrived in Cobh on Saturday morning.

Highlight was undoubtedly the meal in Le Flora on Brittany Ferries. We don't usually do it on the return but we were glad we did this time. Beside the great food we had a great view outside the window as the sun set to the west.

Filet (beef), Mixed Fruit, and Clafoutis!

The drive up went very well. The Rocade In Bordeaux was quite busy but there was no major build-up of traffic and it went well for us. Much the same in Nantes and Rennes. These are smaller ring roads but can be trickier, especially on the way home. For instance, there is a place a few kilometers from Rennes (towards Brest) where you exit right and stay left. Sounds contrary as the Sat-Nav shouts it but there is an immediate choice to be made once you do exit. On your guard, then!

Quite a few Irish people travel the stretch between Nantes and Bordeaux and vice versa. The toll is one payment of €28.50. It is a very well equipped road with some great stops. On the way north and just out of Bordeaux you’ll find all you want at Saugon and later at the revamped Aire Poitou Charente Sud.

Just into the harbour this morning, from the deck of Pont Aven
 If you’re on the way home and have forgotten to buy presents for your foodie friends, then don't worry. Aire de Vendee is the place to stop at. There is a separate area behind the front shop that includes an outlet selling really excellent local produce. Of course, you have all the usual food and drink facilities  

By the way, the petrol pumps here are credit card operated, like more and more in France. It is easy enough to operate as there is an English language option (though it doesn't always work). It is, in any case, easy enough to follow. You put in your card, validate it and have an euro amount (usually much more than you’ll need) approved. Then pick up the pump head and fill away.

Overall, this is one of best return trips we've ever had. The ferry even left Roscoff ahead of schedule! And wasn't it great to come back to the harbour and see all that sunshine. Happy traveling!

Cobh and its cathedral this morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Winding Down in Arcachon.

Naughty and nice!
Winding Down in Arcachon
Thurs 19th June

The square where the daily Arcachon market takes place.
I have enjoyed all the wine trips on this holiday but it looks as if I’ll have one disappointment. Just can’t get my hands on a couple of bottles of the Listrac (Medoc) white by Saransot-Dupre. Tried another three wine shops in the centre of town today. All told me it was a very good wine but none had it in stock. One guy had the red and says he sometimes has the white but that was as close as it got.

The trip to the town centre, a short one, was otherwise worthwhile and some last minute shopping was done. So no Saransot-Dupre. But it could have been much worse as I had to strongarm Clare out of the path of a motorist who failed to stop at a pedestrian crossing. Indeed, he or she did slow down but then seemed to hit the wrong pedal and shot forward, missing us by inches (as we jumped backwards) and shooting into the middle of the adjacent roundabout. Phew!

Earlier, it had all been much calmer as we took a final turn on our favourite walk here, that around the outer road of the marina. Midweek, but action galore on the water. It never seems to stop.

Our base for the past few weeks.

One of the purchases in the town was a few local craft beers, a different selection to that previously enjoyed. They are all nicely cool now for the evening’s dinner. Again, this is coming from our nearest traiteur, the main course being a Mexican Chicken dish.

Oh, by the way, we broke out this morning and made our first visit to a patisserie and dessert will be a Mille Feuille and a Citron cake. Nice!

After that, will check on England vs Uruguay and then to bed as we’ll have to be up a bit earlier than usual to finish off the packing and hit the long road to Roscoff. Looking forward now to getting home and seeing Roche’s Point in the sunshine. A bientot!

Fisherman and his dog coming back to Arcachon this morning.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweet End Sauternes. Good Value Lunch There Too.

Sweet End Sauternes. Good Value Lunch There Too.

Wed 18th June 2014
This extended three week wine tasting in Bordeaux just had to end in Sauternes. And that little village was indeed our destination today, the last of our wine journeys this trip. We enjoyed it, the wine that is, and had  a very agreeable surprise in a local restaurant, Auberge des Vignes, when we had a three course Menu du Jour, that also included wine and coffee, all for just sixteen euro per head.

Our first call though was to Maison de Sauternes, a non profit establishment right in the middle of the village that represents dozens of growers and sells the golden liquid (the older, the more golden generally) that they produce at chateau prices.

Luckily, we met a man with quite good English who guided us through the wines and the tasting. We started off with a very promising Sauterne for just under 12 euro and then moved up in price and age. We didn't want to buy too much dessert wine as simply we don't drink that much of it. We had settled on three bottles but our friend was also a good salesman and we left with four and also some very good advice about their care and travel.

One of those tasted today
Then we strolled around looking for food but a Michelin recommended restaurant was expecting a large number in and we two could end up at the back of the queue so we thanked the young lady and moved on down the road where a few metres later we came across the Auberge des Vignes and its friendly staff.

Couldn't believe the Menu du Jour. Aside from the good price, including unusually wine and coffee, there were also some decent choices, three starters and three desserts for instance. My starter was the Rillettes de Thon (tuna) a la coriander while CL picked the Soupe de Melon a la menthe (mint) fraiche. The third starter was Tomates Mozzarella. Don’t know about the third but ours were excellent.

Neither of us wanted to chance the Faux-filet grillé (we had seen a customer struggling to cut through it) so both picked the Andouillette (chitterlings)  grillé, grilled in the fire inside (we were eating outside on a lovely day). They were served with green beans, onions and bits of bacon, a brilliant combination of flavours and textures.

Enjoyed the tasting here today!
Cheese was one of the dessert options, Rice with Milk another. We picked the Panna Cotta, Poire (pear) roti, caramel, Passion (passionfruit, I presume!). We hadn't been expecting much but this was by far and away the best Panna Cotta I’ve ever had.

Back in Arcachon, I had a walk along the Boulevard Deganne (we are based just off it). It is a lovely street, trees galore, one of the best small town streets that I’ve come across. I came back along the Boulevard de la Plage, on the lookout for wineshops. I found just one and asked him if he stocked a Listrac-Medoc that I’m looking for, a Saransot-Dupre. He told me instantly that he didn't know the wine. I was amazed at that, considering its produced about an hour away.

No point in eating out this evening after our big lunch so, before going back to the house, I picked up a tempting looking Salad Nicoise from the local traiteur. A boiled egg or two is being added and all will be ready soon.

No tasting here today. Nor with a while me thinks!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Life's A Beach in Arcachon

Life's A Beach in Arcachon
Visited one or two of the local beaches today. Spent some time here
at Plage Pereire, west of Arcachon and facing Cap Ferret.
Great facilities here, including ample car parking.
no shortage of bicycle lanes and lanes too for
walkers and some well maintained green areas for picnicers.
After a few hours in the sun, we walked down
though the next beach, Plage des Abatilles, to
Moulleau and it's beach. Back then to the car and took
the short trip to Pyla before heading "home".
No inclination to head out to dinner this evening - temperatures
are touching the 30 mark at 6.00pm - so we've called to the
nearby traiteur and picked up a few tempting pieces
including a pork curry as main course. Bon Appétit!

Hang gliders visible on the magnificent Dune du Pyla.
Picture taken from the pier in Moulleau
Notre Dame in Moulleau.

Monday, June 16, 2014

On Top of St Emilion

On Top of St Emilion
Mon 16th June 2014

St Emilion chateau, from the tower
Finally made it to St Emilion and too did tout le monde. The season has started here for sure and the tourists, including this Irish pair, are out in force. And the wine-shops are ready, ready to deal in dollars or yen, en premiere and any wine investment you fancy.

Not for me. First priority was to find a parking space and this we did, within yards of the local Maison du Vin. They have a big selection here but no tastings. Not very well up on St Emilion so I stuck to 2009 and 2010. Had some notion that Chateau Haut Rocher was a good one and got some, though the most expensive purchase was the 2010 Chateau Haut La Grace Dieu. Also picked up a few cheaper ones from Lussac.
St Emilion vineyard
With the tourists in, prices are up. For instance, an espresso here costs €2.50 as against €1.50 in Arcachon. Don't think it cost me that to get to the top of St Emilion. Had a lovely chat with the young man in charge of the entrance to the tower - he is coming to Cork as he loves the Irish women. It was a fantastic climb to the top of the Bell Tower of the Monolithic Church (I kid you not!) with some great views out over the Cote Pavie slope and more.
St Emilion
Much of St Emilion is classed as Cultural Landscape by UNESCO since 1999. Has France stolen a march with these UNESCO bods or has Ireland been slow off the mark?

Back down then for a visit to the ancient church and its intact cloisters, also a stroll round that part of the town, some slippery shiny paving stones there in the narrow streets (bring decent footwear), and a quick look at an art Expo before heading for “home”.
Passed through Entre Deux Mers today
 Earlier, in Podensac, we had renewed acquaintance with our friendly server in the Graves Maison du Vin. We loved our initial haul here and that drew us back. One of the stars this time is the Rochemorin blanc 2010. We bought a few bottles for just €11.95, knowing that the same bottle cost us fifty euro in a local Arcachon restaurant (Le Patio). As we left with our haul, our friendly server, another who now wants to come to Cork, gave me a “Daddy Day” pressie, some Graves drop stops. Merci beaucoup!

Graves vineyards, near Podensac
As we approached Arcachon, we were getting a little worried about dinner as many restaurants and shops close on Monday. But our traiteur friend in Chez la mere Catherine came to the rescue with his plat du jour, Axoa de veau (€10.12 for two), a Basque dish that we regularly enjoyed during a stay two years back in Hendaye. He also supplied dessert: Fondant a L’Orange (€5.60 again for two). Sipping a superb refreshing Chateau Bauduc rosé (by Gavin Quinney) as I anticipate dinner and maybe a World Cup match (must check what’s on!).

A bientôt!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Easy on a Sunday. Man who Walked Above Water.

Easy on a Sunday. Man who Walked Above Water.
Sun 15th June 2014
While taking a walk around the outer road (Quai Goslar) of the Arcachon marina this morning, something caught my eye out in the water. Not a boat - there were quite a few. But this looked like a man above the water without any visible means of staying up. It was a bit far for the camera but the lens picked him up and showed the secret. He had me fooled for a while! See the pictures
It was an interesting walk in the sun, though this day wouldn't prove quite as warm as the previous few, with exceptions such as our front garden, down in a dip and quite a sun trap. I’ve mentioned the amount of boats in Arcachon quite often since coming here and today I saw something unusual. In one big yard in the marina area, there were two huge “shelves”, three boats high, all ready for sale I presume or else a way of docking them as the marina is almost constantly full.
Look closely at the photos and you'll see a tube under the man, probably clearest in the bottom shot.
This is connected to a boat and provides the propulsion.
Continued our walk to the very end where this outer road meets the exit neck of the marina. The traffic there, inwards and outwards, was amazing, all kinds of boats, engine and sail driven, work boats yes but mainly pleasure craft today, some very small, some quite large, all in all quite a spectacle that kept us entertained for a spell.

Off the shelf. Boats to go!
To our rear, and sharing this slightly elevated viewpoint, stands a large monument, dedicated to those who have perished at sea.. Apparently, the local fishermen say a prayer as they sail out. On this good day and in the sheltered bassin, the pleasure boat people didn't seem to be visibly worried at all and only a few children wore life jackets.
Comings and goings
All this walking - we would go to the beach in the afternoon - makes one think of food and we called to out traiteur and picked up some Veal in Rice for dinner. By the way, just to return to yesterdays Rabbit with Prunes. We got a good chunk for €12.90 at the market and had enough left over to serve as lunch today and it was just as delicious cold.

The monument.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lazy Saturday. In Beer, Banish the Bland!

Lazy Saturday. In Beer, Banish the Bland!
Sat 14th June 2014

When in France, we tend to take it easy at the weekends, avoiding the crowds in the popular areas and the traffic on the major roads. Today followed that pattern. A late rise was followed by a leisurely visit to the local market where Stuffed Tomatoes were bought for lunch and Roast Rabbit for dinner.

On the way home, we called to a local speciality shop and bought a few presents and also a few bottles of local craft beer by Aquitaine brewery E2B. Enjoying one of those now, the red beer, as I type. The earlier one was compared to a Pale Ale. Both so far are excellent but different. The Red Beer, for instance, contains black grape juice and cane sugar, so you get different flavours. But that is par for the course and one of the attractions of craft beer. In English or in French, the message is the same. Banish the big and the bland!
With the aromas of the Roast Rabbit rising from the kitchen below, I don't want to go on too long with this post. Just a line or two to say we spent the afternoon on the beach and in the waters of the Bassin. Surprisingly windy but that gave a welcome cooling and the waters are warm.

The amount of boats in the marina here is staggering and even more staggering is the traffic on the Bassin. In daylight hours, between fishermen’s boats, excursion boats, ferries, yachts, even jet-skis, there is never a dull moment on the water.

Bye for now. That rabbit is proving irresistible!

Friday, June 13, 2014

In the Medoc today. €1439.80 wine. €14.00 lunch.

In the Medoc today. €1439.80 wine. €14.00 lunch.

Fri 13th June 2014

Cherry Cake
I have neglected talking to you about the Menu du Jour in French cafés. You’ll have no choice but you’ll have a very satisfying meal for somewhere between ten and fourteen euro.

Our latest example came today in the Medoc wine village of Listrac. They had a board outside offering the Plat du Jour for €7.50. We had already bought some local wine there, from the small Listrac and Moulis appellations, before sitting down for lunch in Le Relais de Listrac. The Menu du Jour offered the first two courses for €11.00 euro, the dessert for just three.

The opening salad was promising. The main part was a tasty duck terrine and the salad leaves were fresh and every well dressed and the gherkins added to both the textures and the flavours.
The main, Sautée de Veau, was a little gem. The perfectly cooked veal was accompanied by some excellent Medoc mushrooms (full of flavour) and a spoon or two of mash, all in a lovely sauce.

We were offered desserts off the other menus but I had a feeling that the one cooked for today would be good and so it proved. It was a cherry cake, according to the friendly waitress. In fairness it is packed with cherries and served with a cold custard. I think we met everyone in the house, including the chef who shook hands with the two of us as we left.
Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere
By the way, not too much white in the Medoc but do look out for the Chateau Saransot Dupre 2012. This is a quote from the chateau website: The Château produces an excellent dry white wine from old Sémillion, Sauvignon and Muscadelle vines. The harvest is vinified and aged in oak barrels. This wine, which enjoys a great popularity among connoisseurs recalls the fine white wines that Listrac produced in the second half of the 19th century, wines that were almost as famous as the commune's reds. Well worth a try. If the proprietor of the Relais had produced it earlier we might have bought it but by then our reds were safe in the car.

The roads in the Medoc were quiet, just as they had been last Monday and you wonder what kind of landscape you'd see here if there wasn't a wine industry. We headed for the village of Margaux, one of the capitals of that industry, and for Maison du Vin in particular.
On the wine route
The tourist office is also incorporated in this fine building and they sell a large range of the local wine. But they don't do tastings here. We worked our way through the display. By the way, the bottles are empty. I checked the Chateau Margaux Premier Grande Cru Classé 2005!

We reckoned Margaux could do without our custom but we did buy a selection across the range, including a Chateau Kirwan 2010. We Irish have to stick together!

Got a few photos around the town and, with the temperatures again up around the 30s, headed “home” to Arcachon, buying a kilo of mussels (€4.95) on the way. That should keep us going through the World Cup. A bientot!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sun, Sand and Steps

Sun, Sand and Steps
Arcachon. Thursday 12th June
From the top of the Cap Ferret Lighthouse, a view of the "neck" of the Arcachon Bassin Bassin d'Arcachon Tourisme On the far side, you see Arcachon itself; on the near side are boats just lifted off the mud by the incoming tide at Cap Ferret. On the right, in the middle band, you can just make out some oysters beds.

The mighty old sun is still hanging around these parts. The sand is always here. And the steps are the 258 it took me to get to the top of the 174 foot high Phare du Cap Ferret. Tough enough going up but the views from the lighthouse were fantastic, in over the Bassin itself, then towards Arcachon and the magnificent Dune du Pyla and finally out over the Atlantic. The Cap Ferret peninsula, a thin strip of sandy land, shelters the Bassin from the worst of the ocean weather.

We had the option (still have!) of going across by ferry from Arcachon but thought the car might be handy for the lighthouse (it was), so we made the trip around the Bassin, avoiding the major roads and taking it nice and handy. Those fantastic views, both from the beach below and from the tower above, made it all worthwhile.
Another view towards Arcachon (above). The white sands of the
Dune of Pyla stand out (below)

The tide was out when we first arrived. So we carried the gear out towards the edge, passing little and big pools left behind by the tide, with kids and adults paddling and walking in them. Then we went in for a dip but we were hardly in when our gear were threatened by the incoming tide. So we had to beat a hasty  retreat as did many more. 

Their boats may have been stranded but still some fishermen were working, bringing bags of oysters by tractor to their boats for distribution on the Bassin once the water was high enough.

Back  to base then and the first beer of the holiday,  Kronenbourg blonde. She’s cool and that’s what’s needed right now, the street gauges showing the temperatures at 30 degrees (the main reason why we didn't go to Bordeaux today).
Starter and Dessert

This evening’s food comes from the local traituer, Mickael Levacher (Charcuterie Rotisserie du Port). He operates on Boulevard de la Plage, opposite Le Patio (last night’s restaurant). For starters we have a lovely savoury tart, including tomato, onion and cheese and with the anchovy on top;Veal with olives provides the main plate, while dessert is a promising Apricot Tart. Looking forward to that!

Superb Le Patio Dinner. But how does a 12 euro wine become a 50 euro one?

Superb Le Patio Dinner.
But how does a 12 euro wine become a 50 euro one?
Day 10 in Arcachon
Le Patio Restaurant, a couple of hundred yards from our base in Arcachon, comes highly recommended. Even Mr Michelin is a fan. We strolled down there in the evening sunshine yesterday (had made a reservation with Maitre D’ Sebastien on the morning) and now we are big fans of the food and the friendly service.
This is the midweek menu (€35.00pp)
Les Huîtres d’Olivier Laban : Les 9 Huîtres du Bassin
Tomate, Mozzarella, Basilic : Pain rôti au Beurre salé, Profiteroles de Tomates, Pignons de Pin et Ail croustillant
Cabillaud : Le dos rôti, Caviar d’Aubergine et Sorbet Fenouil, Jus à l’Absinthe
Boeuf : Tartare de Bœuf et Foie Gras cru,
Arrosé d’un Bouillon chaud au Kafir et Artichaut Breton
Pressé de Chèvre au Concombre confit
Sélection de Fromages (Rénald Fromager affineur)
Cerises : soufflé chaud Pistache et Cerise
Poire : Pochée, Crémeux Nougat et Chocolat, Glace Vanille-Whisky Petites Friandises
I started with the oysters while CL enjoyed her Tomato and Mozzarella (especially the surprise of the presentation). More presentation surprises and more fine dining came with our main course. We each choose the Cod (Cabillaud). It was superb overall. The fennel sorbet added an unusual yet complementary element and I enjoyed the Absinthe sauce!

Again, we each choose the Selection of Cheeses, all famous French names, including Reblochon, Chevre, Tomme de Savoie, Livarot, Bleu de Gex (maybe), and more. Desserts were also fabulous. CL was surprised by the size of her Cherry and Pistachio souffle but that didn't hinder her as she polished it off while I enjoyed the combination of chocolate with my poached pear.

Overall, we thought the food was very good value. The drinks though raised an eyebrow or two. Two gorgeous Kirs cost €18.00. But the big eyebrow raiser was the wine. The Chateau de Rochemorin was fifty euro and one of the less expensive on the list. It is from the Pessac Leognan AOC and was absolutely delightful. But the delight changed a bit when we got back to the house and, while browsing through some literature, saw that the same 2010 bottle of white was on sale at Maison des Vins de Graves for €11.95! How does 11.95 become 50.00?

Before all that, we had been out enjoying the sunshine and indeed, for a change, spent some real time on the beach. Around midday, we headed south to Biscarrosse-Plage, half-intending to visit a nearby Seaplane Museum if the weather stayed dull. But the sun came out and so to the lively beach. Lots of waves rolling in from the Atlantic, great for the surfers but not so good for swimming. Actually, I don't think I saw anyone swimming. Lots of people in the water but just walking and jumping around.
Later in the afternoon, we went inland to the town of Biscarrosse itself which is situated at the northerly end of a large lake, a beautiful one. Here we lingered a while, relaxing in the sun and watching some of the activity on the water.