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Learning to Love Burgundy’s Complexities – One Step at a Time

Learning to Love Burgundy’s Complexities – One Step at a Time

Over the last decade or so, I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp of the wine growing regions of France and Italy. I can stare at the wine labels at a wine shop reminiscing about meeting wine-makers and walking among the vines – then leave the shop with an old familiar friend.  And though we’ve visited Burgundy vineyards before, I’m not familiar enough with this complex region to even explain it to a third grader. So we’re back in Burgundy again today, staying in Beaune and visiting all the major villages in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune sub-region. It’s not too hard to do in one day because the farthest one away, Santenay, is only 10 miles south of Beaune. In addition to improving our knowledge and appreciation for the wines of Burgundy, we also had our eyes open to the beauty of daily life on a January day in the country.First stop was actually a little to the north of Beaune. The obsolete moat bed still surrounds one of the castles in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The owner’s collection of fighter jets is a bit of a shocker.

Peaceful morning among the endless miles of vines. It’s the time of year for trimming all of the fall’s post-harvest growth back to just the trunk and in some cases, just a single whip for next fall’s clusters to grow on. Some of the vineyards were dotted with workers pruning and burning the extraneous branches.
Mobile bottler comes to the barn door, fills empty bottles with wine pumped from the vats, IMG_9977 (video)  corks them and delivers pallets full of unlabeled bottles back to the winemaker. All the winemaker has to do is label and box them for delivery to the wine shops. Could you pick up six full bottles at a time?

The near constant mist and cloudiness turns the tops of the 1,000 year old stone walls into an ecosystem for all sorts of mosses and succulents.This Meursault wine retailer lists on his window, the names of the individual winemakers from the sub-region that are available in his shop. I’d would take quite a while to get acquainted with the 80+ producers just in this shop.Some of the best architecture was in Meursault.Backyard of Meursault’s City Château. Could have been a watchtower on a now disappeared wall; now just another outbuilding.Another architectural feature along Meursault’s old city wall.Finally, we compared four of France’s finest whites – Montrachet from the tiny village of Chassagne-Montrachet. Each the same vintage -2017 – from a different parcel within yards of the tasting room. Each was distinctly different. We liked the second bottle from the right the most. Fresh with bright minerality.The first bottle on the right, the Champs Gan, was from this plot-maybe 10 acres total.Last stop, the southernmost village, Santenay. This sign points to the farms and producers (called Climats here but terroirs elsewhere) that can use the name Santenay on their labels.On the way home we passed through Volnay, happy to have moved the needle a bit on the dial of our understanding of the people and place that produce this prized wine.

In Love with the Amalfi Coast!

In Love with the Amalfi Coast!

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

What do we love about the Amalfi Coast? Well, there are the VIEWS – always astounding, always drawing oohs and aahs, whether we’re relaxing by the pool at our favorite Capri hotel, approaching iconic Positano from the water, gazing up at the majestic Duomo of Amalfi, posing before the Faraglioni rocks of Capri, watching Vesuvius fade into the distanceas we speed across the bay, pulling into Capri’s colorful Marina Grande before spiraling high above to Anacapri, or enjoying the vista from the Belvedere of Infinity in Ravello. We’ve taken in these views for nearly twenty years, and they still make us gasp anew each time!
Then there’s the food….a fritto misto fresh from the surrounding waters, a caprese salad created on the island for which it’s named,
pizza in the land of its birth, a lemon granita (a slushy) from our favorite cart up the hill in Positano,
fresh fish from the sea below us in Ravello, and that marvelous lemon-tinged lunch we learned how to make with our guests at Villa Maria Agriturismo, under the lemon groves above Minori, before enjoying it with yet another fabulous view.
We also love the history that surrounds us – that 13th century Moorish style cloister and loggia of the Duomo in Amalfi,the peaceful Villa San Michele, constructed in Anacapri for a Swedish doctor at the turn of the 19th century, incorporating relics from the ruins of a villa of Emperor Tiberius on which it was built,
the gardens and cloister of Villa Cimbrone, dating from the 11th century, and the mysterious 13th century passageways  in Atrani and Amalfi, even more enticing after dark.
Is it any surprise that we chose this fabulous part of Italy to premier our Wonder Tours last spring?!
We’ll be back in April 2020  – why not join us and experience these wonders for yourself?

England’s Smallest City

England’s Smallest City

One of our favorite day trips from Bath during our November Mozartfest tour is delightful little Wells, “England’s smallest city”.Wells is named from three wells dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle, one in the market place and two within the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace and cathedral.
Although the population recorded in the 2011 census was only 10,536, Wells has had city status since medieval times, because of the presence of Wells Cathedral, hence its label of England’s smallest city.
We always plan our visit for a Sunday, in order to enjoy the afternoon Evensong at 3:00.
The Crown, right in the market square beside the cathedral, is just the place for a traditional Sunday Roast. William Penn stayed in Wells shortly before leaving for America in 1682, spending a night at this very inn. He was briefly arrested for addressing a large crowd in the market place, but released on the intervention of the Bishop of Bath and Wells – I hope he got to appreciate a Sunday Roast before he left! We certainly enjoyed ours – Yorkshire Pudding and all. Walking through the vaulted passageway into the Cathedral Close, we pass the moat, swans peacefully paddling in the calm water,then enter the awesome Cathedral.
On this Sunday, rather than the usual boys choir, sweet young voices of girls sing the psalms and hymns as we sit with them in the beautifully carved choir, intricate tapestries and needlework adorning the seats.Built in Early English Gothic style between the 11 and 1400s, the Cathedral is filled with awe-inspiring craftsmanship, such as the massive and unique scissor arches stabilizing the center after an earthquake left it weakened. Although this video is too dark – by the time Evensong is over at 4 the short winter day is dimming – I think you’ll enjoy the organ resounding in this splendid space.
The Chapter House, up a well-worn stairway, is another don’t-miss part of this ancient beauty.Built in 1306, this meeting place for church affairs would have been an inspiring place to conduct business, with its delicate tracery and vaults rippling across the ceiling, supported by a central pillar that’s been likened to a giant palm tree, spreading its foliage above.Like many of the places we visit on this Bath Mozartfest Tour, Wells transports us back hundreds of years with its ancient beauty and the peaceful generation-spanning quiet of Evensong.

Friends and Family in Aix en Provence

Friends and Family in Aix en Provence

Thanksgiving Week, 2017
Aix en Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

What’s first on the Aix to-do list when we arrive? Flowers, of course! And what a glorious morning we have for our first market foray! The usual produce, flowers, clothes and textiles fill stalls, and the annual Santon Fair is set up beyond the grand Rotonde fountain at the end of Cours Mirabeau – every imaginable figure for your creche scene.Most of the week we’re walking around familiar lanes, but for a couple of days we rent a car to see friends further afield. After a near-freezing morning, we’re off to La Ciotat, where we’re surprised to see hardy souls braving the water – from stand-up paddlers beyond the waves, to swimmers and sunbathers. Our friends Jean-Marc and Kristin (author of one of our favorite blogs, French Word a Day) have recently moved here from a few miles away, and after that chilly start to the day, it’s turned out to be perfect for a garden lunch. Kirk channels Van Gogh in one of Kristin’s hats, and we while away the hours together in the sunshine.After stopping for some big box store supplies outside of Aix while we have the car, we take a side road home and pull off to take in a glorious sunset.One more day with a car, and we’ve invited new friends Jim and Brenda to see more of the area – the lush and varied Luberon north of Aix calls us today, beginning with ochre-toned Roussillon, always a favorite.Rewinding south towards Bonnieux, we pause at Pont Julien, a hearty Roman relic that survived when new bridges perished in floods over the centuries.
Just down the road is bonnie Bonnieux, where we pause for a look across the rooftops and the lower church – to the valley beyond. A few elegant doorways from centuries ago attest to the former wealth of the village, popular again since Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Pulling away towards Lourmarin, we’re grabbed with the sight of the village tumbling down its hill, framed in glorious autumn colors – wow!Between Bonnieux and Lourmarin we stop for a half kilometer hike down a path beside an old mill trace to a stone bridge built by the pre-Luther Protestants called Vaudois. They left Italy where they were known as Waldensians and where they developed considerable skill as stone masons. This low, short bridge over the insignificant Aigue Brun stream has as an anchor on the right, a stone concave fan. Those Vaudois cut and laid those stones with such skill that the bridge still stands after about 500 years.
Last stop, chic Lourmarin, with its eye-catching chateau. The guys pause for a coffee while Brenda and I peek in the shops.
Mt. St. Victoire greets us in the sunset as we approach Aix, where a surprise awaits us. Our friend Xavier told us to call him when we got back since he had something to bring us. He’s a collector of contemporary art, but has saved for us a piece from his parent’s estate that he gave to them years ago – of a place he knows we enjoy. Venice! We’ve been looking for something for this corner – how nice to have a piece with a personal connection!
Friends and family make life so delightful….the family arrives tomorrow!

 

 

 

An Amsterdam Weekend

An Amsterdam Weekend

September 16-17, 2017
Amsterdam

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

As we often do, we fit in a couple of days in Amsterdam before continuing to France for our Bordeaux/Dordogne tour in September, and stayed in a different part of town than we usually do. Still canal-side, as we love, right on the picturesque Brouwersgracht. Arriving early in the morning from our transatlantic flight, we dropped our luggage and went right to a nearby market on a sunshiney Saturday morning. What better way to begin our day than with our favorite Apple Cake and koffie verkeerd (literally wrong coffee – the best café au lait ever!) at Winkel, right by the Noordermarkt? Saturday’s market is an Organic Famer’s Market – excellent cheeses galore, of course! with a little flea market on the side.
In between hitting my favorite shops on Kalverstraat and finding a few birthday presents, we just stroll and take in this city that we love – charming storefronts in the Nine Streets, an antique haven on Prinsengracht,welcoming windows overflowing with blooms.Bite-sized pastries from Petit Gateau on Haarlemmerstraat hit the spot – that jolt of sugar keeps us walking along the canals, fighting off any jetlag for a bit longer. Dinner and another canalside stroll (can’t miss those  twinkly bridges at night!) and we’re off to bed.
Kirk has a few hours of work to finish off – nice view, isn’t it?! Then we enjoy our Sunday – what great weather we’re blessed with!
Isn’t this a lovely facade – cream, vines and blooms? A floating lunch is just the right goodbye to this canal-laced beauty – we’ll be back soon!

Festival Time in Edinburgh

Festival Time in Edinburgh

Friday, August 4, 2017, continued
Edinburgh, Scotland

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

We’re not in the peaceful countryside anymore! Today’s the first day of the 70th Annual Edinburgh Festival – and oh, has the party begun – here’s what the Royal Mile looked like as we walked through Old Town this afternoon. Every few feet there’s another street act – everything from a tightrope- walking bare-chested fiddler, to a chorus from “Communism, The Musical”, to a magician or a juggler or a stand-up comedian…the entertainment’s non-stop!
Look beyond the ruckus and you can see what makes this Royal Mile such a draw in any season – history in bucketfuls, from Edinburgh Castle at the top, then down hill to such sites as Deacon Brody’s Tavern, whose 1700s proprietor was Edinburgh’s own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Then there’s the wonderful free Writer’s Museum, highlighting the city’s hallowed trinity of writers, and at the bottom of the Mile Holyrood Castle, where the royal family stays when in residence.
The Writers Museum is just off the Royal Mile – follow Lady Stair’s Close (one of the very narrow lanes off of the Mile) to a small courtyard, a welcome respite from the crowds. And it’s well- worth a visit, to learn more about Robby Burns (in the Burns room you can hear his poetry read aloud as you look around), Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson along with getting a glimpse of a typical home of the 1600s. A tenement house of many narrow stories (mind your head!), it’s filled with manuscripts and personal objects belonging to these three greats.
All this sight-seeing makes one thirsty – it’s time to sample some of Scotland’s best at  Whiski! Add water a droplet at a time ’til it’s just right. Descending to Prince’s Garden from Old Town, we stroll down to New Town, begun in the 1700s to relieve overcrowding.
Prince’s Street is the main drag here, and Jenner’s Department Store, Edinburgh’s own, with its intricately carved great hall, still holds pride of place, as it has since 1838.
From flower-laden pubs to charming shops – have you ever seen such a cute opticians? to super views of Castle Hill, New Town’s got a lot to take in.
We end the day with a delicious pub dinner at The Guilford Arms, enjoying our first official Edinburgh Fringe event, a dixieland jazz combo, along with a traditional finish to our meal, Crannachan. Layers of berries and whiski-ed whipped cream with a few crunchy oats make up this Scottish treat – yum!