Shannon’s Super Sexy Blog. Music. Travel. Randomness. And a Lot of Wine.

Archive for September, 2007

Battle of the Monkeys

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I can’t believe I haven’t written about Top Chef at all, during their third season. Last night was part one of the finale and next week, it’ll be over until season four.

Believe me, I still watch it every week. But for some reason it is not the same.

Season three has been watchable enough, but just not, well, newsworthy. Everyone gets along, almost all of the chefs had their one or two days in the sun. It’s all a bit bland though. I miss the crazy peeps on season one like Stephen and Dave. I even miss Mikey from season two.

Anyhow, even with the boringness of the third season, where I don’t really even care WHO wins, I still watch and in the long run I guess I want Dave Levitsky to win. Or Hung, or Casey. Any of them. I am totally rooting for the winner, whoever it is!

I am continually blown away by the bloggers at Amuse Biatch. Faced with a blank screen, they come up with brilliance. Brava.

OK then, I’ll shut up. Now check this out.

A Pont in Every Storm

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

It is about seven in the evening on our last night in Normandy; I’m drinking red wine and Colleen is drinking cider – her first and last. The past two days we covered a lot of ground, and I have fallen in love with Normandy.

Colleen summed it up this morning when I was searching for the right word to compare Normandy to the Loire Valley. Normandy is more dramatic. It seems like a different France here and I am completely enthralled. If I were to pick three words for Paris they would be: worldly, hip, exotic. For the Loire: restful, green, majestic. My three words for Normandy: raw, rugged, swarthy. But I can’t stop at just three words so let me just add stark white, deep blue, storybook pretty, war damage ugly, drunken, sated, and sad, all at the same time.

Yesterday we drove south on the coast, playing connect the towns until we reached the D-Day beaches. Yeah, that is one word I forgot above – HISTORY. Sitting on a bunker on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, eating cheese and drinking wine, it was impossible for me to imagine June 6, 1944 when 14,000 Americans died there – and this was only the first day. I simply could not make it happen in my mind, and I am usually pretty good at imagining horrible things. It is just TOO horrible to think about and this was only one of the beaches… we also went to the American cemetary, a quiet, manicured place on the cliffs overlooking the beach, with row after row of evenly spaced crosses, all in perfect symmetry.

And every French town seems to have it’s memorial to those it lost in both the Great War and World War II. So sad.

So after the beaches we went to Bayeux to see the Bayeux tapestry – a thousand year old strip of cloth telling the tale, through embroidery comic book style, of William the Conquerer’s journey to England where he was crowned king of England. The Normans kicked some ass back in the day, let me tell you.

Today we drove in the opposite direction, north to the seaside towns of Fecamp and Etratat. The cliffs are straight up and down there, and the beaches have plum sized, smooth rocks there, not sand. We went to where they make Benedictine and had a crappy lunch.

I guess if there is one place we have not been very successful in Normandy is the food; but we have been in some pretty touristy towns. The best thing we ate was last night when we got take out from a kebab place here in Honfleur and brought it back to the cottage to eat with a bottle of Cab Franc I picked up in Chinon. Oh well – next time.

And there WILL be a next time. I want to come back here in the winter, when the season is over, when the waves are crashing and storms are coming in off the North Sea, when everything, from the cliffs to the beach stones to the sky and sea, is gray. Someday I will walk that boardwalk at Etratat with no sight of any other person. It’s that kind of place, where you want it to yourself. Paris is not like this. Not to me anyway.

Tomorrow we will be in Senlis, Saturday Paris, for the Techno Parade. Sunday I will be home.

In the Town of a Thousand Cameras

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Things I have learned on this vacation in France:

1) There is no way I will ever be able to pronounce French words correctly. Example:

Colleen and I are in the tourist office in Montrichard, and I am trying to ask the simple question about the “Fete du Pain,” a bread festival we read about.

Me: do you know of the Fete du Pain?
Tourist office girl (with blank stare, some time elapses): you want a bread and breakfast?
Me: Uh, no, FETE DU PAIN.
TOG: (another blank stare, more time elapses): Fast food?

Finally I wrote it down and TOG was like, Ahhhhh, Fete du Pain! Which she did not have any info on, but we found it anyway, more on that later.

2) French people are very nice, even in Paris. Certainly we ran across a few cranky people; but for the most part everyone has been super cool.

3) It is possible to have a bad meal in France. Up until now, we thought it was perhaps impossible. But now we are in Honfleur on the Norman Coast and we have are 0/2. There was grit in my crepe, Tom Colicchio would have a FIT.

4) Roundabouts, especially the 450th, suck. What is the purpose, anyway?

5) I miss Paris terribly, am so happy I get to go back for one more day.

As for now, we got here yesterday after four great days in the Loire Valley. We had a great little cottage, toured around all day and then went back in the evenings for dinner. We saw many castles and cool little towns, vineyards and cornfields. The Fete du Pain day was the one really hot day, and that was one hoppin fete. They had a big band; two drummers, electric guitar, horns, four singers; all the musicians of different ages; there were dancers and 80 cent glasses of wine, and of course, many breads. Our last day, we went to another fete, this time the Fete of the Oeuf (egg) but this one was not so great; it was like a big garage sale, though I did have a tasty omelette and another eighty cent glass of wine.

After the fete we drove to the medieval wine village of Chinon. I loved this town. On the hill, there is a castle, the Plantagenets lived there; I walked in the same steps as Richard the Lionheart. In the village we went to two wonderful wine bars. At the first, for lunch, my fabulous French served me once again; when I asked for the assiette charcuterie, the waiter replied, in a strong German accent, ” you want a big plate of MEAT.” Indeed, it was one tasty plate of meat.
After hiking up to, and around, the castle, we went to another wine bar owned by a very nice guy. I’ll post the name of the place later. It was a lovely day and I definitely want to go back and spend more time around there.

So, it took us a good part of yesterday to get here to Honfleur. It really is a beautiful, atmospheric place. It is also very touristy, and there are many people here, mostly Brits. We had a bit of a rough start – we were tired from the long drive, and then finally got to our cottage here, which we are not too thrilled with. I think it started when we were trying to figure out who would sleep where, and I saw a massive spider on the bottom floor, where one of the beds is. It was like an Arnold Schwarzaneggar spider. Or maybe, an Edith Piaf tarantula. Whatever. Suffice to say, neither of us are willing to sleep next to that thing. So, I am sleeping on the couch in the middle floor, it is comfortable enough, but we are still not too thrilled and I had nightmares about bug bites.

Then we went onto a wine bar, it was OK and then a truly bad dinner; new rule – do not eat somewhere just because it looks cute.

We did end up in a really nice bar that had an excellent jazz band, and it was especially great until some British tourists came to the table next to us and the girl kept her cigarette next to Colleen’s face. Finally I blew it back at her and she sniffed a sorry. The waiter, a very cool guy, came up to me at one point and amusingly, asked if I had any REGRET coming there. No, I said, and it was true, it was the best part of the day, even with the lameass table next to us.

Today we are wandering; we wandered all through town, the tourist part and the part where it seems the real people live, we wandered to the sucky creperie, and now we have wandered to the internet bar, very close to our cottage, the one with the mammoth spider in it. The sun is out, and I and not such a stranger here, in this town of tourists.

Sorry for the weird writing – I am having a hard time getting the hang of these keyboards. I will definitely be posting more soon…

A bientot!

From the Land of Kings

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

It is a bright and sunny Saturday here in the Loire Valley. I have to be quick – there is only one computer for rent in this whole town… we are in Montrichard; there is a castle on the hill, and our farmhouse is about five minutes away. We are staying in a very quiet place surrounded by forests and cornfields, a big change from Paris.

So far we have visited three chateaux – as in castle not wine estate; Chenonceau, Chambord, and Chaumont. It is pretty trippy to walk up the same steps as Catherine di Medici… today we are going to try to find a festival of bread; and we are going to Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last few years.

Yesterday, at the biweekly farmers market here in Montrichard, we bought enough food to eat in every night; a roast chicken and some potatoes that cooked under the chicken, sausages, mushrooms from the mushroom lady, onions from the onion guy, pork rillettes, figs, melon… I wish our farmers market was like this. I think I could live on those roasted chickens.

So, two more days here and then up to Normandy where I hope to find a regular internet place.

A bientot!

Tales from a Great City

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

I don’t think I’ve slept so well in years, as I’ve slept these last three nights in Paris. I don’t know if it is the running around we’ve been doing or what, but it is awesome. Gets me ready for the next day, that’s for sure.

Yesterday we took the metro out to a ginormous market in the 18th arrondisement at Porte Clignancourt. There were hundreds of stalls with the usual – T-shirts with Che Guevara on them, incense, bongs and hookahs, cheap scarfs, the smell of Beadies and maybe, weed… and literally thousands of people jamming the streets. Mostly young Parisians of every imaginable race, and only a few tourists – until we got to the quieter antique market part where the window shoppers were mostly Americans. The antique part kind of bored me. I think I am more into markets like the one at the Mauerpark in Berlin where you have to dig through piles of junk where you might find something cool. That’s the garage sale junkie in me I guess.

I did buy a really awesome handmade purse in the regular market, sort of an olive green with brown accents – what is it with me and olive green, anyway?

Ate pizza for lunch. Yum.

After that it was a bit late to go to the Pierre et Gilles thing at Jeu de Paume so Colleen and I will do that Wednesday. Instead we went to the Place de Madeleine to look at some shops and to go to the wine shop/bar Lavinia. Lots of people there too, but gone was the county fair on crack atmosphere, and present was the Union Square but with way better cafes and pastries atmosphere. It seemed like every street I looked down, there was some remarkable building at the end of it.

We ordered a somewhat pricey (for France) bottle of white wine at Lavinia – a white Saumer from the Loire. I didn’t like it. But the shop was very cool. Since I have a wine shop right across the street, why buy wine and lug it around?

We walked back to the Pont Neuf at the sunset hour and the light here was fantastic. All the buildings, fountains, bridges, glowed. As we walked on that little quay by the Seine I said “it’s like a magical kingdom” to which Colleen said “don’t say THAT” alluding to my dislike of anyone calling any place Disneyland (well, except Disneyland.) But it’s not my friggen fault Walt Disney was born. Last night, Paris DID look like a magical kingdom. We passed a couple of woman with a full on picnic – complete with wine glasses. We MUST do this before we leave.

Before we decided to stay in the 5th, I had heard that it was “touristy” and I do remember that from when I stayed here in 1999. Where our apartment is, it is not touristy at all – it is a real neighborhood, one that I really love. But on our way home last night we walked through some streets with ever imaginable sort of restaurant, all of them packed, and the streets packed with people. Saturday night, and everyone is out. We came back here though, and ate cheese, a salami made with Beajolais, figs, pork rillettes, a roast chicken, and Greek salad. Oh, and a really great bottle of St. Emilion that I bought across the street for 12 Euro. Awesome!

Today we are meeting some slowtrav peeps and also my friend Thomas who moved here a few years ago. And I want to go to the Cluny museum and the Bastille market.

There is so much to see and do here, I wish I had a month. Or a year.