Adventures in France: Day Trois & Quatre

Our third day in France (Monday) and we were loving the countryside. The morning was sunny and gorgeous, and we enjoyed our freshly made coffee, fried eggs, delicious cheese, and gorgeous country views. Breakfast in France has got to be the best way to start the day.

Mike felt a bit under the vineyard after our wine extravaganza on Day Deux of our France adventure so stayed behind to sleep while Dusty, Holly and I headed out from the house onto a trail system within the Parc du Pilat.

The trail hooked up directly above the bed and breakfast, which was incredibly convenient.  Kieran and Kristie headed into Malleval, a thirteen hundred old French town they lived in in 2005, when working for Pierre Gaillard in his vineyard.

Our hike took us through the hills and valleys of the French countryside, into the town of Roisey where stone farm houses and windy trails carried us along. At times, the trail went pretty straight up the hills, and we definetely were able to work off some cheese and bread. We clocked 5.82 miles, a brisk but leisurely stroll where we really felt like we saw the country.

Trail markers were everywhere and only a few times did we get turned around. Not having internet while in Europe is really lovely, as you can truly shut off. Not having google maps however can get you in a pickle! Strava worked, so we used that as our guiding point.

Back at the house the gang showered and regrouped for some espresso and cake made by our hosts. Quite the afternoon pick me up. Kristy and Kieran were actually wrapping up their afternoon as well so came and scooped us up to take us to Malleval, the gorgeous town they lived in back in 2005.

The village took us all back to the 11th century, with winding, narrow cobblestone streets, gorgeous cottages with ornate wooden shutters, and a beautiful church at the top of the village.

We wandered down a grassy trail that followed a river and we all imagined out loud what it must have been like to live here. It was a glorious town!

Driving back, we stopped to buy some wine from Pierre had ‘just a taste’ then went home to cook a dinner in, as we would leave early in the morning for Chamonix!

The next morning, we awoke and all chatted about stopping in Vienne on the way out to explore. But first our last delicious breakfast in our enchanted Bed and Breakfast.  Our bags were packed, we loaded the new van and were off. First stop….chocolate croissants! OMG, the best I’ve ever had!

In Vienne, we sat and drank espresso, then wandered around teh town, hiking up to a cathedral that overlooked the whole of the town.

Below, they were doing work on the amphitheater, which apparently had large concerts. France’s own Red Rocks!

From the Cathedral, we strolled down to the Roman Ruins, through quaint side streets and picturesque cafes. Vienne was lovely, and the pizza spot we chose for lunch hit the spot. Wine & fromage!

Back in the van for tow hours, we all (except the driver!) took a nap, took a quick rest stop, then arrived in our glorious Chamonix! Our AirBnB house was down quite a narrow street, but the van nudged itself through and the location was perfect!

Unpacking, rooms selected, we were anxious to check out our new digs so headed out. The weather was beautiful and Mont Blanc could be seen clearly.

It was breathtaking in this valley, with steep mountains all around us. Absolutely stunning.

Our first beers were at an open-air bar, that looked like the hot spot for apres. We toasted to the next leg of the journey, the mountains hugging us in.

The next day we would ski Le Brevent and two more friends would join our France adventure, so we decided to shop at a local grocery to have dinner in. We ate, drank wine and glowed with the realization that we soon would be skiing the French Alps! Bon Vivant!

Adventures in France: Day Deux

After a not so great night of sleep (Mike couldn’t contain his excitement so had a bit too much to drink and snored a lot!) we awoke at eight a.m., fell back asleep till 10 a.m. and got woken by our friends who had already been awake, had a hike and had wonderful crepes. How embarrassed was I to have slept so late! Day one had been a long day though, so guess one late morning was ok!  After amazing coffee made by our host Katherine, the best fried egg I’ve ever had, and some French cheese, baguette, and homemade jam, we quickly changed and formulated a plan.

Unfortunately our vans gear shift had massive problems and was actually leaking, so it had to be towed from our bed and breakfast near Malleval so Kieran and Kristie had to take a taxi back into Lyon to get a new one. What a pain! Our hosts were kind enough to let us use their vehicle, so Dusty, Holly Mike and I headed into Pelussin to explore the market and small town.

The small town of Pelussin provided gorgeous French scenery and proved to be the quintessential European spot. Every Sunday they had a small market in the center, which we were able to catch the tail end of. Fresh flowers, produce, farm stand items were on display. It was a lovely concept to wander amongst the local goods, converse with your neighbors, be outside on a gorgeous French day. At the west end of the square was a small church we were able to peek into.

The four of us meandered around the quaint town for the whole afternoon, ducking down avenues lined with old stone buildings. We wandered into a French cemetery where the old tombstones held the names of family members dating back to the 1800’s. Raised tombs overlooking Mont Blanche was not a bad resting place. The views were breathtaking!

We followed the narrow streets down to a park, where we saw cute French pups playing in the courtyard. Dusty even threw a stick for the bigger pup. Our strolling had left us hungry, so we walked the steep streets back to the city center. The pizza place we had tried to eat in the previous night was open and the al fresco seating was delicious, with the warm French sun beating down on us. It was phenomenal!

Holly and I saved seats while the boys went inside to order. Or so we thought! They came out with beers, letting us know they had told the waitress “dealers choice” because all the pizzas looked amazing! Don’t think the translation was there, because 10 minutes later the actual chef came out to take our actual order….and dealers choice wasn’t on the menu!

After what may have been the best, cheesiest pizza ever, we headed back to the house to get ready for our wine tasting. But first, we drove to a foot bridge we saw from a distance and walked across to see how the village looked hundreds of years earlier. The view from the top was spectacular and we immediately realized we could have gotten there from walking through the town earlier. She la vie! Now, back to the house to meet the Robinsons to head to their wine makers dinner.

Kieran and Kristie had lived in the Rhone Valley in 2015 for almost a year, where Kieran interned with Pierre Gaillard learning the ins and outs of Syrah. For Kieran’s 40th, he wanted to go back and revisit the valley. And what an absolutely unforgettable night!

We pulled in to the property and parked in the vineyards production area, where they had equipment, hoses, machinery. We walked up the stairs into the tasting room, didn’t see Pierre, so walked across the street to their home, which was a converted barn. Pierre and his wife Pascal were in the quaint kitchen, which had a back patio that overlooked the vineyards. Kisses on both cheeks were given, as the wine maker and apprentice reunited after over thirteen years.

Pierre then led the group into the vineyards, where he pointed out each variatle. The steep hills undulated and we walked deeper into the vineyard.

As we walked, Pierre answered our many questions. He explained the history of his start. One of the first wine makers in the region after the First World War, due to the rough, hilly, landscape, he planted himself in the Rhone Valley in the beginning of the 80s and some of his vines were more than 50 years old.

When Piere first got here, he had to excavate the wild growth of the Appalachia, one of the first tasks was to create paths to take the grapes into the village, carving ways up and out of the hill. When asked about the steepness, he explained you can’t plant vines steeper than a 70 pitch and they plant on the side of the hill to protect the grapes from the north wind.

He went on, passionately describing that Syrah was born here, the parents of two grapes born at the beginning of the 17th centuRy. They trim at the end of July and the strong winds are why they tie the vines together. When we asked about the water setup, he told us there’s a rule that if you have a vineyard in Appalachia’s you’re not allowed to have irrigation, you must rely on the weather.

The tour took us down a steep hillside, where views of Malleval took our breath away. The small vineyard below Piere belong to Gerard DePardue, a famous actor apparently.

Slowly, as the sun sank a bit lower, we walked up to the house where there were 100 year old vines once plowed by horse. Pierre’s vineyard produces 500,000 bottles a year, such an impressive operation. And to get a private tour from the owner himself was unforgettable.

The vineyard tour was over, so we headed into the tasting room, where a four hour wine tasting commenced. The first several bottles were of the white variety, the very first being a Chardonnay, made in the Roman style (grape stomping, no suffer, just pure fruit) followed by a roussane made in neutral oak (meaning it’s a used barrel) followed by several viogniers.

The fifth taste was a dessert wine made from the same grape, just a later harvest. So interesting how such a variety of tastes can come from the same fruit!

When asked what was his favorite, he smiled and said, “I like them all. I started making these not because my parents or grandparents but because I have a passion for them. I love them.” What a role model for us all; do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

The wine flowed upstairs until it was time to desend into the barrel room, where Pierre siphoned wine into our glasses. Barrel after barrel, we tasted the mans delicious wine, the most elaborate tasting I had ever been to by far.

Some of his distributors joined halfway through, a French lot who knew the business. We tasted and spit into the drains in the floor, tasted and spit, and often swallowed because it was delicious!

Finally, after four hours, we finished our tasting and headed into the house portion for a homemade dinner made by Pascal. More wine was open, we helped set the table, and the eleven of us sat to dine. Gorgeous salads with grapefruit and avocado was served, followed by a dinner of baked truffle mashed potatoes and roast. While I skipped on the meat, the bread, potatoes, salad, and atmosphere was phenomenal.

The experience was one I’ll never forget…Generosity and passion were lessons I took away from the day. Share what you love with the people around you and you will have a good life!

Bon Vivon!

Adventures in France: Planes, Trains & Vans

Several months ago, our friends Kieran and Kristie threw out an invite to celebrate Kieran turning 40 in France. Being able to ski the French Alps and drink wine? Yes please! So, we invited our good Colorado friends, Dusty and Holly to join and the trip was planned.

The day finally came and after getting Dusty’s partner to drive us to the airport, we paid an arm and a leg for our baggage ($287 for our skis!) flew through security, had a bite and a beer to wish ourselves a Bon voyage and we were off!

This would be Dusty’s first international adventure & longest flight….needless to say I was excited for him!

Lufthansa is an amazing airline (minus the oversized baggage fees) so we settled into our seats, watched some movies, slept a bit, had some pasta….and woke in Munich. The nine hour flight left us a bit groggy, but strolling through customs, back through security and then to our gate got us in the European spirit. Our second flight to Geneva was only 45 minutes, although it got delayed a bit, so a quick cat nap and we landed!

Crossing our fingers for the bags and skis arriving safely, we navigated our way to baggage claim. THEY MADE IT!!!!

All bags in tow, we grabbed our free train fare into the city center (I had researched this prior to the trip and it was pretty nice that they provided free tickets!) had a nice Frenchmen tell us where to catch the train, and hopped on.

The public transportation in France is tres magnifice – clean and quiet! Arriving in town center after only 6 minutes, we grabbed our extremely heavy baggage and unloaded to catch our next train. We had about 40 minutes, so instead of lugging our baggage up and down stairs, Dusty and Mike went down into the station to see about tickets for Lyon. The track area was lovely, a bit chilly, but surprisingly clean. A drunken French bum came by as Holly and I sat waiting, explaining he had a sick baby at home while concealing a beer behind his back. We didn’t give him any Euros.

Fifteen minutes later, the boys came back to fetch us and we headed to track seven, where we’d go to Bellegaurd, then transfer to Lyon. The boys had taken so long picking out six beers at one of the train shops, a variety of Belgian and pilsners, even a double IPA! Having bought first class tickets (they didn’t have any other seats left!) we felt extremely fancy drinking our European beers on a beautiful train bound for France. The transfer was smooth enough, although the train was delayed about 30 minutes. So, I laid down on our ski bag and took a rest. The station was very French, with quaint buildings lining the tracks and old steel beams. When the train finally came, we climbed on eagerly and settled in for a two and a half hour ride.

We chatted and had snacks (Wisconsin cheese and rice crackers Holly brought) and sipped on delicious beer while watching the French countryside whiz by. Marveling at how quiet and efficient the train was, we all wished for a train as such to whisk us to our Colorado mountains!

When we finally arrived, we gathered our belongings and went searching for Kieran and Kristie. They had arrived an hour or so prior and rented a van. Mike had to use the toilet, so went searching for one in the busy train station, only to find one that he had to give a Euro for. I had brought a bag of what I thought to be Euro…only to discover they were actually Turkish Lira. Whoops! Mike wasn’t happy about it, so grabbed his wallet, where he had actual Euros (he had picked them up at the train station back in Geneva). A European public restroom experience!

Dusty had gotten an international plan and we were able to let Kier & Kristie know we had landed and they let us know where they had parked the van. We headed away from the main entrance and found them, shoved our stuff into the van and were off to Malleval, where a gorgeous bed and breakfast awaited. Kieran and Kristie had gotten the recommendation from Pierre Gaillard, the vintner Kieran had interned for in 2005. After about an hour of driving in the dark, we arrived at the gorgeous house, Le Grand Noe.

The owners weren’t there, but we were welcomed in by another guest so came in and picked our bedrooms. The three rooms were in different areas of the house, Mike and I choose the basement room, which was rather chilly, but lovelywith it’s very own bathroom. After dropping our bags, we decided to head into Pelussin to grab a bite to eat before the restaurants closed, as they do in small towns. Oh, too late!

The pizza shop had served its last customers of the evening, so we headed to the market across the street, in the small town center, to grab some wine, frozen pizzas, baguettes, cheese, and chocolate. Back at the house, we fixed a very French spread, with decadent cheeses and enjoyed our first night in France.