Feature Article #1

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Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE (more…)

| January 27th, 2017 | Continued

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French Romantic Chateau – Part One

French Loire Chateaus. Amboise. Angers. Azay.Blois. Brissac.Chambord. Chinon.Chenonceau.Cheverny.Fontainebleau. Langeais. Villandry.

No shortage of French Chateaus on the Loire. Mainly because it was the playground of French Kings. Who knew a good thing when they saw it.

While all of the Loire River Chateaus have their particular and, dare I say, “individual” contributions to French History and Culture, there is one French Chateau that, for me, stands head and shoulders above the rest.

This one:

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It’s not the oldest.The Biggest. Or the most Historic. But what puts it at the top of my French Loire Chateau hit parade, is it’s combination of Classic French Chateau and English Country Garden.

And with the “river ” that runs through it – (actually a small canal) the Chateau l’islette is well named.

It was here, during the “on” period of their “on again – off again” romance that the dynamic duo of 19th century sculpture – Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel parked their marble and chisels.

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The expansive greenery of this French Loire Chateau ,bisected by the waterway (which you can rent canoes to paddle on) give the Chateau l’islette a laid back, family vibe. In contrast to it’s uptight cousin, Azay le Rideau, two kms. down the road ,where eating on the grounds is a “no – no” – Chateau Rodin/Camille is “picnic friendly” – to the extent of having a dedicated picnic area alongside the water. Complete with benches and cosy chairs.

Legend has it (and if you can’t trust “legend”, who can you trust?) that Camille created one of her most celebrated works in this tranquil atmosphere – “le petite Chatelaine” –  modelled after the grandaughter of the chateau’s owner.

 

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Naturally, there’s the obligatory gift shop/snack bar/coffee shop perfectly placed between the Chateau and the waterway, where you can munch and sip while gasping at the wonders on either side.

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As you may remember from this post, to say the end of the romantic road was a rocky one for Camille, is the height of understatement.

But this French Loire Chateau hideaway, reflects, and draws us into a gentler, happier time. Where time passes slowly. Carrying us contentedly along. (And isn’t that the best way?)

THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!

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Exceptional French Accomodation

 

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French Travel Finds. Exceptional French Places To StayFrench Country Travel Life Guide. French Country Travel Life Expert. French Travel life Advisor. French Travel Life Tipster. French words and phrases that all relate to? Yes, clever you, yours unruly, the Bicycle Gourmet

While I have been called almost all of the above (and other names that are not re-printable in a journal as sensitive and discreet as this one) the “odd man out” here is  obviously: French Travel Finds.

Those three words describe perfectly what I’ve been sharing with y’all for countless scribbles, photos and videos. But those same Exceptional French Places to Stay that often gave birth to the memorable meetings with incredible people stories, photos and videos, have, until now, remained in DA BG’s personal rolodex.

But – no more! The rolodex of rave resorts, French Chateaus, French Small Hotels, French B n’ b’s, French Gites – has been opened! And it’s contents lovingly poured into my soon-to-be-in-your-hands forthcoming tome – Bicycle Gourmet’s French Travel Finds – Exceptional French Places to stay.

In French Travel Finds by the Bicycle Gourmet you will discover more than forty destinations, brimming over with authentic slices of French Country Travel Life hospitality. And genuine French Culture, bien sur.

You will also, notice, and I hope appreciate, those Exceptional French Places to Stay are described  in the unedited  prose of their owners. With their own unedited images.

But wait – just because French Travel Finds is a marvy French Travel Guidebook doesn’t mean for an instant that I will not be continuing to regale, amuse and(hopefully) delight you with more of my up close n’ personal collisions with French Country Life. NoSir/M’am!

Bicycle Gourmet’s “More Than a Year in Provence” series will continue. With Book Two arriving sooner than you could possibly imagine.

So if you be a dyed-in-da-wine Francophile (like you know who) now is the time to add Bicycle Gourmet’s French Travel Finds –Exceptional French Places to Stay – to your “to do” list.

Throw Me a Bone Here, People!

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A Wine Offer You Can’t Refuse

 

The Godfather of Corsican Wine – Betcha never thought there was one didya? Well DA BG is sayin’ there is. Only this Godfather is only legally French. But, emotionally and patriotically, He’s Corsican. ( Remember that little isalnd off the coast of France with a Strong Italian heritage?  Strong with a capital “S.”)

Eric Asimov of the New York Times has the full monty on the Godfather of Corsican Wine.

“PATRIMONIO, France — Antoine Arena was a promising law student in Paris in 1975 when the Corsican independence movement took a violent turn.

Hearing of armed battles between France and secessionists, Mr. Arena decided to quit law school. In protest, he would return to this small village in the northeast of Corsica, where his family had lived for generations. He would grow grapes and make wine.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Mr. Arena recalled as we walked along the steep slope of his Carco Vineyard last month. To the south in the distance, snowcapped mountains loomed. To the west, the cool blue Mediterranean beckoned. The sinuous Corsican coastline is among the most beautiful in the world, but almost no place on the island is immune from the baleful stare of the mountains.

“After I quit law studies, my father didn’t talk to me for a month,” Mr. Arena continued. “Nobody believed in viticulture. The only ones who stayed in viticulture were the ones who couldn’t succeed anywhere else.”

From that unpromising beginning, Mr. Arena went on to become a godfather of Corsican wine. Along with a few other influential pioneers, like Christian Imbert of Domaine de Torraccia and Jean-Charles Abbatucci of Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Mr. Arena has helped make Corsica one of the most exciting and distinctive wine regions in the world.

What makes Corsican wine so unusual? For one thing, the island culture shapes both the personality of the wine and the character of the winemakers. Corsica offers a melting pot of soils: limestone and clay primarily in the north, granite mostly in the south, sandstone and volcanic soils in the center. The climate is both maritime and continental, heavily influenced by the mountains. Winds are constant, including the famous Mistral from the northwest and the hot Sirocco from the south, countering the dampening effect of frequent sudden rains. And the people? Proud, fierce and independent barely begins to describe them.

“Corsica is very complicated,” said Yves Canarelli of Clos Canarelli, who makes pure precise wines from Figari and Bonifacio in the south. “It is French, but it is not. First we are Corsican, then we are French. When you’re an island, you think differently than the continent.”

This tension plays out endlessly on the island, where road signs are written in French and Corsican, but the French is habitually spray-painted over. And it’s evident in Corsica’s host of indigenous grapes, which bear a close genetic resemblance to mainland Italian and French grapes yet offer completely different expressions.

Niellucciu, the leading red grape in the north, is genetically identical to sangiovese, but Mr. Arena’s Morta Maio Patrimonio Rouge, 100 percent niellucciu, tastes like no Chianti. It’s a complex aromatic feast of red fruit and earth, pure, energetic and graceful, with streaks of flowers, herbs and minerals and a touch of funk.

In the south, the leading red grape is sciaccarellu, a facsimile of mammolo, a grape generally used for blending in central Italy. On Corsica, though, it is known for its elegance and complexity — “Corsican pinot noir,” in the words of Sébastien Poly of Domaine U Stiliccionu, who farms about 17 acres outside of Ajaccio in the south. His 2012 Damianu, made entirely of sciaccarellu, is simply beautiful, a savory mouthful of red fruit flavors you don’t want to stop drinking.

All over Corsica, the major white grape is vermentinu, which, of course, is Corsican for vermentino (known also as rolle in southern France). Corsican vermentinu tastes nothing like mainland versions. The 2010 Granit Blanc from Domaine de Vaccelli, not far from U Stiliccionu, is a precise, lip-smacking, stony mouthful, while the 2009 Blanc from Clos Venturi, in the interior of the island near Corte, is voluminous and rich, yet with a lovely mineral tang. From the north, on a granite-and-clay plateau overlooking Calvi, Camille-Anaïs Raoust of Domaine Maestracci makes a fresh, lightly smoky, deliciously austere vermentinu called E Prove Blanc.”

Read more HERE.

THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!

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