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More French Food and Wine

La Redorte, France

I feel like we should be getting up earlier based on our bedtime, but I think the sleep isn't as good since the mattresses are hard and pieces of the bed that were pushed together keep moving. Also, the bed is too short for people our size. So we're spending way more than 8 hours in bed, but still waking up a bit tired and sore.
Still, we were up and moving before a lot of the other boats that were parked at Le Somail. Once we got through the town, I made a simple breakfast that we ate up top. I had cheese, bread, and the honey we picked up in the town by the abbey and my guys had scrambled eggs with veg and cheese and then some fresh veg and meat. Also the white wine we picked up yesterday, because we're on vacation and wine is totally legit for breakfast.
Breakfast

Breakfast


I got showered and dressed inside as he drove for a while, then popped back out to take some pictures.
Canal Town

Canal Town


At the first lock, we switched and I drove. It's so soporific. The engine provides a white noise hum. The canal water laps a bit in a slow, calm manner. The scenery moves slowly, but doesn't really change. Vineyards roll by on one side as trees roll by the other. There are very few flowers to add any other color to the scenery and so far, in all 3 days of driving, I have seen 1 squirrel and only a handful of birds. There is nothing to break the monotony until you get to a town or bridge, which are few and far between.
Bridge

Bridge


We passed through 3 of the 4 sets of locks before noon, but the 4th was closed for their lunch break when we arrived. We parked and took our own lunch break. I made the ravioli we bought at the Roquefort caves, but I couldn't really taste the blueness of the cheese.
Triple Lock

Triple Lock


Chicken at the lock house

Chicken at the lock house


After a short nap, we passed through the lock and headed back towards the Le Boat Homps base. We were out of water and needed to stop in to fill up. It was easy, although it took much longer than expected. We suspect that we didn't start with a full water tank as it seemed that we were filling up way more than we could have used. It didn't matter too much because the fill up was free, but we got lucky that we ran out doing dishes and not showering.
View

View


Since we had already seen what was to the east, we headed west. It was more of the same. We stopped just short of the first lock because we were finally going to get of the boat for more than 10 minutes and we needed to be on the Homps side of the lock. The boat is due tomorrow at 9am, but the locks don't open until 9.
Vineyards

Vineyards


We hiked along the canal through the vineyards. I was surprised at the number of grapes still on the vines this late in the year. The ones that remained were mostly low down and half smushed, but the one I sampled was plump, soft, juicy and delicious.
grapes

grapes


Occasionally, a small forest broke up the vinyards. I noticed a lot of fig trees in them, although none had any fruit on them. At one point, a forest blocked the path and we had to turn inward. We'd seen a lot of people biking and hiking the paths as we boated by, so we had assumed that the old towpaths just continued on infinitely. They don't.
Aqueduct

Aqueduct


But we found the town anyway. The entire area smelled like grapes fermenting. We saw the processing plant where they were squishing grapes from the nearby farms, which was part of the source of the smell. But it pervaded throughout the town, far from the factory walls.
Grape Processing

Grape Processing


The town was cute, although like most of the other towns we visited, there wasn't a whole lot to do. I suspect that these towns would be crawling with tourists in summer, but this is the off season, and they're pretty sleepy.
We saw a boulangerie/patisserie, so my guy decided he was hungry. He picked out a croque monsieur and I got some chocolate-looking thing. He wanted it heated though. And my method of trying multiple languages didn't work. There was only one person working there, and she was very apologetic about not knowing any of our languages. I do happen to know what the word for hot in French is- chaud. But I only know it in written form. I have no ability to correlate letters on paper with the sounds that come out of French speakers' mouths. My best attempt at pronunciation was butchering the word so badly she questioned me with a very puzzled look as she pronounced it properly in French. Enthusiastically, I said yes (about the only French word I don't completely mangle), glad to be understood and get him a hot sandwich.
I can't speak for the sandwich, but my own dessert was good enough I want to try to replicate it at home. It seems simple enough- make a swirly meringue cookie, coat it in chocolate whipped cream, and sprinkle chocolate shavings on top. The taste belied the simplicity. It was divine.
The only other shop that seemed to be open this afternoon was the grocery store. We didn't really need anything, but we went in to check it out. At the deli counter, they had samples out for customers to try. Not really of meat though, they were "future food." Now I get that it's much better for the environment to eat insects than mammals, fish, or birds. But come on, at least grind them into burgers or something. The deli just had dried whole bugs on the counter. I was pretty grossed out, but my guy not only tasted them, but decided to buy a tin for later. The only thing I got was mustard, as I had leftovers from yesterday and saw a second chance to make it better.
Took the short way back to the boat and arrived in time to flip its direction and cook in the light. For my guy that meant I had to translate some directions on the back of a package. But I just had to reheat my leftover celeriac potato cheese dish. It was much better with mustard!
Since tonight is our last night on the boat, we got organized for tomorrow. The boat is due back at 9am, so we have to get up early in order to get everything done by then. We still had time for one more game of Carcassonne though, which I'm excited to see in person tomorrow.

Posted by spsadventures 07:31 Archived in France Comments (0)

French Wine is Fabulous

Paraza, France

So I was up in the middle of the night and I don't know why. Maybe I'm not used to the nature sounds. I can hear the wind blowing. There is something that sounds like a plastic bottle being thumped against the side of the boat periodically. (It's probably one of the bumpers.) Maybe the moon is really bright and it reflects off the water, so it's not quite dark. Maybe I didn't move about enough yesterday to be tired. For whatever reason, my body doesn't think it's sleepytime, so as soon as I fall asleep (my super power), I wake up again.
Now that I'm up and on my phone, it's telling me that there's a meteor shower that's supposed to be happening now, per what I put in my calendar. Maybe I somehow remembered that and my body really wanted to see it?
I'm sitting outside on the back of the boat. It's dark enough that I can't see what kind of animal just made that big splash in the water, but bright enough that I can see the outline of the trees and the moonlight reflecting off the water. It's not very cloudy, so I can see tons of stars, but no meteor shower. Although it's interesting that the stars all seem to be flickering and wobbling. I'm assuming that's some sort of effect due to the boat bobbing gently + what clouds there are, but maybe I'm just seeing things.

I was ultimately able to get back to sleep.
When I awoke, we checked at the lock house and saw that it didn't open until 9am. So we had plenty of time to get organized. Fortunately, it had been cold at night and the food still seemed ok, although it won't be by the end of the day if we don't do something.
For breakfast I threw some butter in a pan, added sliced leeks, and then some boxed bechamel sauce after the leeks had cooked. Finally, I threw in some eggs. I didn't have good temperature control, so it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted, but when they were done, I plated them and threw a chunk of stinky French cheese on top to melt in. It was heavenly. I usually cook much bolder food, but the ingredients here are so good that even subtle food is delicious. My guy even commented that he didn't think we would have been able to get something this good any anything short of a super-fancy restaurant.
Lock Filling

Lock Filling


After breakfast, he showered as I got everything organized for the day. By the time he was done, the lock was open and we went through. It was only a few minutes to the next town, Argens-Minervois, which was where we had tried to get to last night. But it was just enough time for me to take a quick shower and hop out to tie the boat up.
Argens-Minervois

Argens-Minervois


We popped in to the little grocery market, hoping to buy bread and ice, but they were all out of ice. We got some frozen potatoes to help keep our fridge-turned-into-a-cooler cold temporarily. I called Le Boat and they said they'd send a technician to fix it, but it would be about an hour.
We took advantage of that hour to wander through the town. There's not a whole lot to see- an abandoned castle, a tall church, and some wine tasting place that was closed when we arrived. It is pretty though.
abandoned castle

abandoned castle


We rested on the boat a bit as we waited for the technician to show up. When he was a half hour late, I called Le Boat, but didn't get an answer. At an hour late and leaving 2 messages, we took off. The lock was reopened after the lunch break and we wanted to get through it so that we could keep going.
This time, the lock keeper had us fit into the lock with 2 other boats. It was a bit cramped, but he managed. One of the other boats was "normal" and one was super interesting. It wasn't a mass-manufactured boat at all, but more of a house built on a floating platform. The house even had plastic roof tiles that imitated the red corrugated ceramics that are typical on Mediterranean roofs.
Left is the house-style boat

Left is the house-style boat


We passed Roubia for now, but may stop there if there's time on the way back. We did stop at Paraza though. This cute town has a very fancy docking area. Small cafes and restaurants line the "promenade" for the docking area, and one had some customers. They sat outside drinking and singing.
Canal Town

Canal Town


We hiked up the hill to the winery, Chateau de Paraza. We didn't really find the entrance, but we went in through the factory side. I enjoyed seeing the machinery they used to transport the grapes, the big fermentation vats, and the industrial equipment.
Wine Machinery

Wine Machinery


I also enjoyed the wine tasting. It was free and they were generous. But most importantly, the wine was GOOD. I've had wines before that people insist are good because they're expensive. And I am usually unimpressed. I don't like wines where you can taste the alcohol strongly like they just mixed grape juice with rubbing alcohol. The wine we bought the other day (Languedoc region) and the wines here aren't like that at all. They've certainly got alcohol in them, but you can't taste it. You just get various grape flavors, although not necessarily sweet like grape juice. We both really enjoyed the white. I enjoyed both reds we tasted, although my Guy only appreciated one of them. I find reds too spicy to just drink though. They're much better for adding a lot of flavor to cooking, in my opinion. In comparison, the rose was just ok, even though it was better than 99% of the wines I've ever had.
We got a bottle of white to bring back to the boat.
Around this time, Le Boat called to apologize that the technician was running late and ask where he should meet us. I get that he has other things to do and am not at all upset at the timing of his arrival, but they should have called hours ago to say that he'd be late. We met him at the boat, he went in to check the fridge, and boom. It worked. Apparently, pressing the on button (which we tried) wouldn't turn it on, but holding it a long time would. (We did try holding, but I guess not long enough.) I knew it was something stupid like that, but it's just sad it took us so long to figure it out.
View

View


We moved on from Paraza, past Ventenac-en-Minervois, which seemed to also have a winery as the main thing to do in town, and on to le Somail.
The scenery here is dominated by vineyards. I'm hoping that we can hike through some tomorrow. I'm anxious to sit on my butt less and get off the boat more. While there's a great view from the top of the boat, driving it is a bit boring. The scenery is nice, but repetitive. And I want to be in it and touch it and experience it rather than just float through it.
Le Somail is a bigger town that was much busier than the others. We struggled a bit to find boat parking as the spots were already taken by dozens of boats.
Store-on-a-boat

Store-on-a-boat


After parking, we went into town to visit the boat grocery store I had heard about. It's really just that- a store that is on a boat. It's small, but had a surprising selection, including vegemite. We just got a baguette.
We had pre-dinner dessert at an ice cream shop. I got a crepe that was decent and my guy got 3 scoops of ice cream. The caramel butter salt flavor was really good, but the pistachio and nougat weren't particularly impressive.
We also stopped at a huge bookstore. It seemed bigger than some of the towns we passed. If only I could fully understand written French, I would have picked something up. Still, I enjoyed looking at the wide variety of books in the shop. They had antiques under glass, an entire Agatha Christie section, and modern cookbooks.
Book store

Book store


As we left town, we heard the church bells toll. It was as if they were saying, "go home, your day is done now."
Since we need to turn around tomorrow, we changed the direction of the boat, although in a somewhat unconventional way. We didn't really steer it, we just kind of used the ropes and push pole to manually turn it. It's probably not what they'd recommend, but it worked since our boat is so small.
For dinner, I continued enjoying my French ingredients. I had picked up a pomela-sized celeriac root. My original intention was to do something au gratin style with some potatoes, but we don't really have an oven pan. Also, the knives here suck. I wish they had published a list of what the kitchen contains and then offered some sort of "chef package" we could rent that contained proper cooking knifes, a peeler, a grater, an oven pan, a whisk, and other cooking utensils that might help someone who likes to cook. I would have paid extra for that since I'm really just here for the food. Peeling and cutting a huge celeriac root with an unsharpened paring knife was not an easy task. I have the blister to prove it. Still, I eventually got it and the potatoes and onions chopped, got them cooked in a pot with some deglazing wine, the rest of the boxed bechamel sauce and some cheese. It was good, although had I had just a bit of salt or mustard to add, it could have been great.
After dinner, we chilled on the boat. We played Carcassonne, which is fitting as we're headed there in a couple of days.

Posted by spsadventures 05:16 Archived in France Comments (0)

Cheese and more French food

Roquefort, France

We woke up with no alarm. Yay! Vacation!
After packing up, we made a quick grocery stop for breakfast at a Lidl. At the cash register, one of the people there apologized for the other workers, saying "Sorry. We only speak French and Arabic." I did happen to notice that a lot of the ladies shopping at the store had head coverings, but it hadn't quite occurred to me that we might be in a part of town with a heavily middle-eastern population.
surprise turns in little towns

surprise turns in little towns


Today, we had decided to head to Roquefort, where they make Roquefort cheese. The drive had completely different scenery than yesterday. The mountains we drove through were craggy and rocky, as if pushed up haphazardly as opposed to worn down and smooth like the rock surfaces yesterday. The coloration was also different as they were darker and not tan.
View by Roquefort

View by Roquefort


At some point during the drive, we had almost whiteout conditions due to mist and fog. It made driving along the roads that twisted and turned through the hills and forests somewhat challenging and I had to drive much slower.
Eventually, we reached Roquefort. I think that there are several different companies that do cave tours, but we ended up at the one near where we saw parking- Societie.
The tour is in French, although they gave us papers in English to explain each room to us. First, we saw a short video that explained how the caves were formed geologically due to some volcanic activity breaking up mountains and depositing rocks a bit haphazardly. As a result, there are long, narrow passages where the air continuously flows through the mountains. The "cheese masters" can block off or open these passages in order to control the air flow, which controls the temperature and conditions in the caves. There is no artificial air conditioning needed. We got to look up and down some of the air shafts.
We then visited an area where they explained a bit about the mold used. Roquefort uses a penicillin mold that they grow on bread and scrape off in order to dump into the (sheep) milk. It's fully mixed in so that it can be more evenly veined, as opposed to some other cheeses that just inject veins of mold into the already shaped cheese.
Cheese Cave

Cheese Cave


Since this is not the season they take milk from the ewes, we didn't get to see that process, just the room they do it in. But we did get to see the process of aging in the next area. They salt the cheese and wooden shelving and let the wheels all stand on their ends as they age in a big aging room. Since they have 3 different molds they use, it sounded like they had 3 aging rooms, although we only saw one.
Finally, the tasting! We were given 3 different products to try- one extremely creamy, one saltier, and one sweeter. Even though they were made with the same milk in the same facility, they were so different from each other.
As the car told us it was low on gas just before Roquefort, we headed off to get gas at the nearest open gas station (according to Google maps). It was 15 km away, requiring us to pass through a couple of surprisingly gas-station-less small towns.
St. Africa

St. Africa


We ended up in St. Africa, which appeared to be a cute little town, so we parked and took a look. The town was small, and the roads that wound through it were pretty narrow, as we have been getting accustomed to in all the small towns here. Roads seem to pop up out of nowhere between two buildings. And there is rarely any "yard" or curb or ground space between the wall of the building and where the car is supposed to be on such roads.
We seemed to have arrived during their lunch time as not a single shop was open except for the restaurants. We tried to get a table at one, but they said that they were not seating anymore as they were about to close for the afternoon. We tried another and got the same result, so we ended up eating from our stock in the car.
In searching for a grocery store between us and Homps, our next stop, I noticed that some of them weren't open- probably also on lunch break/afternoon nap. But, we did find a full-size store to stock up on food for the boat.
In Homps, we easily found the Le Boat docking area and got all checked in. Our boat is a tiny housebarge, but I'm finding that it's plenty big for what we need. We moved all of our stuff to the boat, got some explanations from one of their staff, and then went out on our practice run. We experienced steering, turning, and parking before he let us go off on our own.
Good luck to us!
Canal Du Midi

Canal Du Midi


The day is rather windy, so the boat drifts a bit, but for the most part, it's not that difficult to steer. The real challenge comes when trying to fit into the locks. The openings are pretty narrow and you have to be lined up well ahead of the lock. At one lock, we had to move to the side in order to let someone out from the opposite direction. I think the lock master took pity on us, as he started yelling commands at my guy, telling him how to turn in order to get lined up so I could tie us up.
Lock

Lock


Going down the locks is a feat of 18th century engineering, but since everything is electronic these days, it seems pretty simple. The lock master just presses a button and the doors close. He presses a button and the water starts draining. He presses a button and the doors open. Done. We're on our way.
We made it through 2 locks, knowing that there were 3 between Homps and a long stretch of the canal without locks. We had been told that the lock houses were manned until 8 pm or something like that. Despite being earlier, nobody was at the 3rd lock. So, we parked in front of it for the night. We tied ourselves up to some posts at the side of the canal, and settled in.
Lock House

Lock House


It's so quiet out here because we're not at one of the towns, so there are no people. Occasionally, we can hear a car pass by on the road, but even that's not regular.
The light started to fade as we set up for dinner, so we used the lights inside the ship to see. They aren't very bright, so we regularly found ourselves using our phones as flashlights. The kitchen comes equipped with dishes and basic cooking implements, although the knives aren't so great.
I was able to chop onions well enough though. Tonight, I made some not-quite-caramelized onions and threw in some blue cheese. It was delicious scraped up with chunks of bread. I also had salad. My guy made some sort of wine-glazed sausage. And we had fig jam with a cheese that looked like and had the texture of brie, but tasted nothing like it (much blander) for dessert. We were trying to use up anything that wouldn't hold well overnight as our fridge doesn't seem to be working. We're using it as a cooler, but we don't have ice yet, so it's just keeping in the cold of the food already have. We're hoping to get ice at the town in the morning, once we're past the lock, and also take advantage of the cold outside air at night.

Posted by spsadventures 04:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

First Taste of French Food

Avignon, France

We arrived in Marseilles and made it quickly through the airport, getting a SIM on the way out. We got to the car rental place (Hertz/Dollar) and tried to get our car. We were 45 minutes earlier than what the reservation was for, so they wouldn't give it to us and told us to come back later. Another family had the same problem. I find that so ridiculous as the cars were clearly ready. Meanwhile, you have customers sitting grumpily in your business, getting angrier and angrier, as their vacation gets off to a less-than-pleasant start. The others even had a bunch of disruptive kids who weren't making things pleasant for the other customers.
We finally got our car and took off, only to get stuck in rush hour traffic. It would have been much nicer to have been able to beat some of it and not sit for 10 minutes on the same 1km on-ramp, but I wasn't driving at this point, so I didn't mind as much as I otherwise might have.
We passed the port of Marseilles, filled with mega cruise ships, cargo ships, and dockyards. Cranes waited, ready to lift cargo onto trains. We also saw a few sailboats and big yachts, although they were in the minority.
We passed through a bunch of tunnels and managed to get far enough away from the major traffic jams, even though we were still in the city. We took the opportunity to stop for food.
Cheese

Cheese


We got super lucky and were able to find everything we were looking for on the same block.
First, we stopped at the fromagerie and used my standard question: what's your favorite cheese? We got the cheese recommended by the lady behind the counter, a comte (since I liked it so much last time I was in France), and a smoked ball, as well as some meat she recommended.
Bread

Bread


Next, we popped into a boulangerie where they sold bread by weight. We picked out some kind of olive loaf, which they sliced for us right there, and some other kind of bread. But for both, we didn't have to get a whole huge loaf, we just told her where to cut and got just enough for the day.
Last, we found a small supermarket where we stocked up on veggies, drinks, jam, and paper goods. We were set!
Anxiously awaiting our picnic, we drove to Calanques National Park. The road through the park twisted and turned, and only had enough room for one car at a time most of the way. We fortunately didn't have anybody coming at us in a car in the other direction or somebody would have had to back up and find a spot to let the other pass. Even passing a bicyclist going the same way as us was a bit treacherous and wasn't always possible.
We found a parking lot near the end of the long road and spotted a spot on some rocks with a nice view of the mountains. Hungrily, we unpacked our picnic, and sat down to eat.
Calanques

Calanques


The cheese the lady at the fromagerie selected was so French! It was soft and even runny a bit inside, with a buttery texture. But the flavor was strong like stinky feet. However, there was no aftertaste that interfered with everything else. I wish I had gotten the name of it from her! The comte was less sharp and tasted a bit more of Swiss than the last ones I got in Paris, but it went perfectly with the olive bread. The other bread was crispy crunchy on the outside but fluffy chewy on the inside. It went perfectly with this eggplant-in-a-jar we had, as well as the fig jam. (Although the jam itself was less figgy and more sugary than I would have liked.)
Pleased with our picnic, we sat a bit to digest and absorb the serenity. Even though we had a view of the parking lot, we really weren't exposed to a lot of noise. Only one car arrived the whole time we ate. And we only saw 4 people total- 2 sets of mountain climbers that quietly organized their gear for whatever facet they were planning on taking on.
The mountains looked like they were huge rocks that had been eroded away over time and then started sprouting typical shrubby Mediterranean flora. They looked perfect for rock climbing.
With full bellies, we wandered into the little town.
Town in Calanques

Town in Calanques


The town seemed to be seasonal. Small boats filled the little bay, probably in because tourist season is over. There seemed to be a few restaurants and guest houses, but they were also closed. A few people sat in their front porches or watered their gardens, but we saw no other obvious tourists as we walked down the super-narrow streets. The quietness added to the quaintness.
We continued on our way, driving through some beautiful scenery. The rolling hills were dotted with farms, and forests added to the greenery. It was a great day for such a beautiful drive.
As we made our way towards Senanque Abbey (our goal) we saw an amazing fortress/castle town sticking right out the side of a hill, almost as if it was carved from the hill itself. It looked interesting, so we stopped to see what it was.
The town of Gordes is dominated by a castle, but has plenty of cobblestone streets and other cute old buildings to see. We didn't go in the castle since it's not really a museum about the area. (They did have some modern art display, but it didn't look too interesting.) We wandered the town a bit and headed back to the parking lot. On the way, I told my guy that I was proud of him for not buying the fancy soaps at the souvenir shop. He stopped in his tracks.
"What soaps?" He asked.
Oops. I had thought he saw them as he spent several minutes looking at the jars of local honey that were on the same table, 3 inches from the soaps.
We turned back to go to the souvenir shop.
As he smelled all the soaps, some lady came up and asked her husband if he wanted to get some. He declined. I jokingly offered her to trade guys, but she declined, so I was stuck at the souvenir shop as my guy spent an agonizingly long time deciding what scents to get. The one thing I was happy to get was a small jar of local honey. They came in a wide range of colors, from almost white to almost black and I'm excited to see how it tastes. (Update from later: it tastes like honey, but maybe extra floral.)
Senanque Abbey was only a few minutes away, but when we got there, the first thing my guy wanted to do was check out the souvenir shop. Again, they had soaps, but fortunately only lavender as that is what the abbey is famous for growing. They also had lavender perfume, tea, ointment, lip balm, and who knows what else.
Senanque Abbey

Senanque Abbey


We walked around the outside and some parts of the building that were generally open, but didn't end up taking the tour of the rooms. It was expensive, in French, and we would have had to wait 30 mins before it started. I think it was probably interesting, just not enough to be worth the time and price at this point. The outside of the abbey was pretty though.
Our next stop was Avignon. We took a very scenic route to get there and found convenient parking right by the pope's palace.
I love the Vatican and was super-excited to see this pope's palace. From the outside, it looks more like a fort or stone castle than a palace, reflecting the needs when it was built. It sits within city walls that look to be from a similar era.
We got a discount to enter because some rooms were closed, but we didn't realize that almost half of them were closed! (And the discount was certainly not half.)
In each room that we were able to see, we entered and pressed the appropriate button on our "histopad," a 1-app tablet. The tablet would tell us a bit about the room via audio, and we could scan around the room on the screen to see what it would have been like when the popes lived here. The issue was that the rooms were numbered on the room, but not on the pad, and it was sometimes hard to tell which was the right room to choose.
It didn't help that it required a LOT of imagination to see what was shown on the pad. This palace has been stripped. It's completely bare of all of the tapestries and paintings and furniture and everything. It's mostly bare stone walls, with the occasional faded mural remnants. Even the windows didn't quite align always with what the pad showed.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but I felt this palace left a lot to be desired. It's not even half as good as some of the German castles we went to earlier this year.
Avignon

Avignon


We walked the main street near the palace a bit and stumbled upon a free museum that was some other palace. This other "palace" was much more modern and had some interesting decorations. It wasn't as old and historic as the pope's palace, but it was more worth the price.
Since most of the restaurants seemed a bit touristy, we decided to get out of town for dinner and eat closer to our hotel.
While my phone had cell service, I didn't have internet for some reason, so we just blindly picked a place listed as open on my offline google map. It was in a little town just off the highway that had 3 restaurants. Two didn't have a single vegetarian item on the menu. The third was pizza.
It was some of the worst pizza I've ever had. The sauce was completely tasteless. The cheese was tasteless. The crust was some sort of weird crackery crust that had a texture close to stale bread. The only thing of value were the toppings- artichokes, eggplants, and some other veggies that at least added some flavor. This was not what I expected of France.
The other thing I'm finding here that's unexpected is a bit pleasant. The stereotype is that French people won't speak English, even if they know it. I'm finding that not entirely true. We always start by asking English. In the event someone says no, I ask for Spanish, and then Hebrew in the off chance that the person speaks one of those. Then, the person typically finds someone else who works there who speaks some English and we do get some customer service in English. I wonder if it's because they're more tolerant of people who speak multiple languages, understanding that you can't speak everything, or if we would have gotten the English speaker even if they thought we were stereotypically "dumb Americans" who only spoke one. Regardless, we've been doing ok with the language thing so far and almost always got service in English.

Posted by spsadventures 04:22 Archived in France Comments (0)

Ladew Gardens

Maryland, USA

Topiary.
Almost at fun as shrubbery.
We went on a day trip to Ladew Gardens to see what was supposed to be an amazing topiary garden. We weren't impressed specifically with the topiaries.
Butterfly

Butterfly


The gardens were ok in the sense that there were some flowers, lots and lots of butterflies, a bunch of quiet hidey-hole areas, and it was pretty. But there weren't so many or so many kinds of flowers that we were impressed by the flowers. There was no sense of quiet serenity as the gardeners were using some loud machines in various places that disturbed the silence. The topiaries were mostly boring geometric shapes. There were some swans, one display called "the hunt," a buddha, and a pirate ship that at least were somewhat interesting, but not so much more. There wasn't some amazing view. Really, the best part was all of the butterflies. Maybe in some other season it's better.
Buddha

Buddha


The people who run it are well-organized though. The map guided us right around to all of the different areas, which we all well-marked. The bathrooms were clean. The lady at the counter told us it would be about an hour to walk around the gardens, and that was pretty accurate.
What I liked better than the gardens though, was the house tour. It's also a bit disappointing in that the house isn't really that old, and the guy who lived there didn't die so long ago. The tour guide could have known him personally, for all I know. But, the guide was knowledgeable and did a good job explaining the family history, why he decorated the whole place in the theme of "the hunt," and how he used each of the rooms in the house.

Overall, I'd say it's way overpriced for an hour of walking around mediocre gardens and an hour-long house tour that doesn't feature anything super-significant. But, if you have free tickets or something, it would be worth a couple of hours to stop by and see.
Butterfly

Butterfly

Posted by spsadventures 09:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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