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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Couple of weeks ago, I loaded my backpack and left for a two days hike in Valais. My destination : Leukerbad.

I have a special connection with that place, being the first one where I ever spent – as a child – some “mountain” vacations. Reaching that location is quite impressive ; from Leuk, the bus takes you in a short 20min up to the last village of the valley. No possible escape apart from climbing up the great walls that surround the thermal city. Did I say thermal ? Yes  ! and this is another great reason for booking a couple of days in this wonderful resort.

Last time I stopped by was on February this year, after crossing a bit of the Alps in a wonderful snowshoes tour from Kandersteg. This time, no more snow down in the village, but it was still early in the warm season – so a lot of residual snow patches were visible and some of the cable cars not fully operational. Finding the village still sleepy and on its preparation for the high touristic season to come is a great luck : thermal facilities, hotels and restaurants are empty and the locals pretty accessible and chatty. On top special offers – like a 18 chf card/day that allows entrance to any of the thermal baths – give you a good compensation in case the weather forbids the hikes or if you aren’t keen on hiking gives you a great alternative.

A great stay in a wonderful hotel (and the most amazing and helpful staff), the pleasure of some not very frequented hikes, the blossoming nature, delicious food and nice warm baths for recovery made out of these 2 days the most enjoyable improvised vacations I could have.

So why don’t you try it too ?

 

links :

Hotel

http://www.leukerbad-hotel-alex.ch/fr/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g198859-d632695-Reviews-Wellness_Hotel_Alex-Leukerbad_Valais_Swiss_Alps.html

Hikes

http://www.leukerbad.ch/en/index.php

Thermal Facilities

http://www.leukerbad.ch/leisurefacilities/index.php

Restaurant

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g198859-d5982391-Reviews-Lounge_1411_alt-Leukerbad_Valais_Swiss_Alps.html

 

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Sometimes you are being sent some footage and it is to you to put it all together.

When you haven’t shot the images, you can truly add a new perspective to the story.

And very often less is truly good !

Enjoy this artist and his great music !

 

May and June are known for being the best months of the year. Why would you ask me ? Well because they do excel in growing bank holidays !

And when talking about excellence in growing, it gave us the idea to go for a 4 days trip nearby on the other side of the Jura : Burgundy and its landscapes, wines and other delicacies at 2 hours from our home.

Packing the car with just what was needed, all passenger on-board and there we are on our way to the lovely little village of Cuisery, located a 45km South-West of Beaune. Actually as we were 5 people travelling together, it became a better solution to find a house to rent rather than a Hotel for all the group, as prices are quite high in the region. It is as well a choice to spend a more reasonable amount of money in a rental, so when it is about visiting, tasting, drinking and eating, you can feel free and allow yourself some well deserved treats.

A good thing about staying away from the most touristic place is to get a feel of locals every days, by going to the same bakeries or  supermarkets. Cuisery is a village having its roots back to the XIII century. It used to be an important stronghold but after two large fires, lost of its strategic interest. Nevertheless in recent history , it got the visit of the Général de Gaulle, and is now officially Cuisery, the town of books. A lot of animations are based around books all year long.

http://www.cuisery.fr/

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Nearby stands the city of Tournus, famous for its abbey Saint-Philibert  from the XI century, as well as its Hotel-DIeu (hospital) from the XVII century. What strikes you in this little 6000 people town, is the beauty of the center, the peaceful river shore – we are next to the Saone – and the smiles of its population. We arrived on a bank holiday and late in the day. Too late for some restaurants to feed us – if you arrive after 3 pm it is just after the end of the service – but not for them to indicate us where some tasteful snacks were available. On a great advice we moved towards the abbey and found a local little snack bar /  groceries store where our hunger could be satisfied : La Maison de Marion. And what a great place ! The owner prepares you a limited choice of dishes, but uses all herbs, oils, jams and other products from the store.  The products are from a well known old fashioned style groceries branded “Le Comptoir de Mathilde”. The products are originally from south of France but in such a sunny day, I must say that Burgundy was a lot of south.

http://www.tournus.fr/

http://www.lecomptoirdemathilde.com/

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Of course we couldn’t help buying some products. Was it because of this delicious mustard and olive oil we had with our croque-monsieurs ? Or maybe the lavender and apricots jam in that minute maid pancake ? Well we all left the place with a little bag, a couple of jars and a little orange jam on top as a gift from the owner. Time to visit a bit the city and go back to our car. The city is definitely worth a tour. On top it won’t take you a lot of time unless…unless your gaze is stopped by an amazing store called La Banque. A wine and liquor store where the owner shows not only his taste and generosity by the displays but also by opening more than 10 bottles of rum if you are a lover and connoisseur.

http://www.labanquedesgrandscrus.com/

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In the evening, our tour and again hunger lead us – and by chance – to what has been so far the greatest restaurant experience of the year. In Tournus you really have a large choice of Restaurants and of Michelin stars since a couple of years : 4 restaurants have at least one star. For us, it had been the Meulien. What can I say ? Service, smiles, quality of the place, of the food, of the wines, decoration and even price make out it what you could expect from a top restaurant. The owners are both chef and in charge of the dining room. Three hours of pure and fine pleasure.

http://www.meulien.com/#actualites

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Did I tell you about another advantage of renting a house ? It is about the home made breakfast and the home made cooking. Of course you need to like it, which in my case is beyond the passion. So over 3 days we had the pleasure of having special menus for the breakfast, with all type of cheese, meat and foie gras. Yes foie gras for breakfast ! After all we said it is vacations !

And for one evening, as being in the Burgundy, we couldn’t escape from tasting the local Charolaise meat, tender and tasty. Was it a diet day ? Mmmh sort of as we ate only salads with…

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The region is obviously not only famous for the cows, but of course for the wine. In our case we were in Beaune in less than 50 minutes , and in 1h20 in Dijon. Knowing that the vineyards start in Chalon and finish around Dijon, it takes only one hour to cross it. But to try and taste, I would say it takes years. Having much less time we decided to visit five spots :

  • Beaune and its Hospices, as well as the greatest cellars of Burgundy at Patriarche
  • Meursault and its castle for the white wines
  • Pommard and its castle for the red wines
  • Nuits-Saint-Georges and its stores for one producer
  • Vosne-Romanée and its famous crop for the pilgrimage picture

Beaune – Meursault – Pommard

On average you can count 18€ to 21€ for the visits, where you will try from 5 to 14 wines. Every house has its own concept, from non guided tours and self wine pouring to private small group guided tours; a little advice is to go early morning and as a group to be held with more care. In both Beaune and Pommard we stopped for a quick diner. If the first was in a very nice bar, where you can buy glasses of wines, the perfect thing to try many ones (what we did as a group), the second was another Michelin star at the Chateau de Pommard. Actually the Restaurant doesn’t belong to the Chateau but they closely collaborate, so that when our diner was over the Maitre d’Hotel went to the front desk to make sure our guide was ready. Another great moment of french cuisine in a marvellous location.

http://www.tripadvisor.fr/Restaurant_Review-g187109-d1747393-Reviews-Le_Bistrot_Bourguignon-Beaune_Cote_d_Or_Burgundy.html

http://www.meursault.com/

http://www.chateaudepommard.com/fr/

http://www.christophe-queant.fr/restaurant-chateau-pommard.php

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Nuits-Saint_georges

We stopped in the village to have a walk and to discover the little stores of the center. We stopped by the Aegerter shop where the manager welcomed us with a great smile and a lot of interesting stories. We could try one of the Aegerter’s wines – very nice and subtle Fixin – and is it really a surprise that we left with some bottles ? Again you feel more than welcomed to the store and the quality if the wines speaks for itself, which isn’t always the case as some vinemakers or producers are sadly only interested in making profit. We had the bad luck to enter some vinemaker’s yard where oversized road signs brought us. Two extra large luxury SUV’s and a luxury Porsche were parked in the yard, but no customer in his small boutique : “I don’t make free tasting and don’t want now” was all of his language when seeing us. Good we didn’t try the wines as they probably are as bitter as the man who makes them.

http://www.aegerter.fr/boutiques/boutique-de-nuits-saint-georges/

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Vosne-Romanée

Time to reach the final place of our trip, and to take a picture of what is the most expensive wine crop in the world. You can park the car in the center of the village and then walk a 400m uphill towards the lonely but famous cross of the Romanée-Conti. 1500 years of history of the most desired plot in the history of wine in France. Every bottle costs a minimum 11.000 $ but the pictures are for free ! If you are a wine addicted it is a must be visited once, if not the landscape will convince you.

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So what to say ? Well over a long weekend it is definitely a nice destination with a lot of things to do. If you are a wine and food lover don’t hesitate and do it once…or twice …or as many times as you like. It is true you need some good savings to stay in the area as all seems up-priced. You will hear a lot of how much the hail made the winemakers suffer and how much the little production makes the prices high. But the secret lies in that : take the time to try from the bottom of the production to the top finest once. The plots are so close from each other and the new generation of winemakers is so deeply involved into raising up the standards and acquiring new knowledge that there is no need to target only the top wines to have a great pleasure. Our visits were focused on some iconic plots which was the best to give a hint of Burgundy to our South American guests.  But again tasting some Grands Crus helps you in knowing the geography of the different “clos” and once back home you can always study and then  find the “producer next-crop” and its half price wines. On the food side there is so many offers that you can change every day your diet and budget. We decided to rent a house and to cook as well to have the opportunity to cook with the great local ingredients.

Overall a great experience and a lot of fun ! So what are you waiting for ?