Friday, May 29, 2009

Bordeaux Bound

During the last week of August, having just arrived in France, the Corbaux family most generously decided to take me on a little holiday with them as they went to visit their relatives in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux, as you can in the map above, is a region in the south of France. It, in addition to being a city, is also a region where one of the most famous varieties of French wines is produced. For those lacking in wine wisdom, wines in France (if not elsewhere as well) are generally named after the province where the grapes are grown and the wine is made. There are then regions called "appellations" within these provinces which describe usually a land formation where the wine was produced such as a valley or on a certain side of a river. a From there, the wine is labeled after the vineyard or "Château" which produced it. The large provinces can be seen on the map below.
Within the wine province of Bordeaux there are 37 appellations, all of which produce a distinct variety of wines. Apparently experienced wine connoisseurs can name the both the province and the appellation from just the taste of the wine, sometimes even the year. A map of all 37 appellations can be found below.Wine aside, I had a wonderful time. Even the long drive was interesting! Every so often we would drive by an interesting house, castle or crumbling ruin. It's quite a change from driving in Canada where when driving between cities, at most you can expect to pass by a gas station or two. Midway between Caen and Bordeaux, we stopped for the evening at a hotel to rest up for the day ahead of us tomorrow. I shared a room with Hippolyte and enjoyed a relaxing night watching television and talking with Hippolyte. I say watching and talking in a figurative sense as I was at that time still very new to French. Luckily for me, Eric Corbaux can speak English very well and lends me a hand when I need assistance (Which is embarrassingly often). Luckily I had enough sense to bring my French-English Dictionary with me on this trip. I imagine my little blue Larousse dictionary will be in tatters by the time I return back to Edmonton if I keep using it at the rate I did during this little vacation. I really do rely on it when Eric is absent and use it often in the middle of conversations. Fortunately, everyone is very understanding, patient and they do not mind repeating things or waiting for comprehension to dawn upon me in exchange, of course, for a little information about Canada!

Madam Delphey
In the late afternoon of the second day of this voyage, we arrived at the home of Nathalie's parents. We stayed with them for the duration of the stay in Bordeaux. Monsieur and Madam Delphey were very kind. Mr. Delphey apparently built the house that he and his wife live in. He also has an immense back vegetable garden. He also grows black berries which we could sample straight off the vine. They tasted delicious. Monsieur and Madam Delphey also have a large chestnut tree in their garden. When we ate supper with Nathalie's parents, someone (usually accompanied by an eager Canadian) would collect a bucketful to eat either during the Apertif or after Dessert. They, like the black berries, tasted incredible. To make this South French Eden complete, a swimming pool also exists in the back garden which was a treat to swim in on hot days with the family.

The Pool - Mr. Delphey can be seen on the left. I'm in the centre.

Later on in the evening, we went to a dinner party at M. Corbaux's brother's home. A number of relatives and friends were in attendance. This soirée was one of two that would occur for the occasion of the birthday of Eric's brother. The first was a sort of barbecue dinner for those who had arrived the same day in preparation for the actual party which was to take place the night afterward. It was a very enjoyable set of evenings. I particularly enjoyed speaking to an old Italian gentleman who spoke just about as much French as I did and we had fun trying to communicate with each other, and singing songs that we both knew such as "That's Amoré" and "C'est Sera sera." It was at this party, where I received my first taste of that fabled wine, Bordeaux.

Me sampling Bordeauxian culture.

Later on that week, I got to see Nathalie's family as well. They had a large, picnic style family reuinion in a park not far from the city of Bordeaux. There were many other people there enjoying the nice weather and eating outdoors as we were. Through the centre of this park, runs a river which delivered many members of Nathalie's family to the picnic! Many family members over the course of two hours arrived in small canoes and kayaks! I with two other girls and a little boy made up the welcoming committee. I daresay we made a splash!

Fun in the sun in the river getting wet!

It as later on while I was drying off and the last of the water savvy relatives were trickling in that I met French Julie. Nathalie's sister is an absolute dead ringer for a friend I have back in Edmonton, Julie Gellner right from her bright eyes, sunny smile and enthusiastic disposition. They say everyone has a doppleganger. I'm sorry to say I did not have my camera with my and the images you see on this post are from Eric Corbaux's camera. At this little picnic, I tried eating both a raw oister and a raw clam to the greater amusement of some of the older relatives in attendance. I must admit I did not enjoy them much. You actually eat the oyster while it's alive and sometimes you can see it moving and breathing! Ugh! I thereafter busied myself with the task of opening the wine bottles. I learned the "proper" way to do it from M. Delphey which entails cutting off the foil encompassing the cork and bottle neatly with the point of the corkscrew and make sure not to go too deep lest a few pieces of cork fall into the wine. As a reward for my labours, I was given a taste of a very distinctive Bordeauxian white wine called Sauternes. It is very sweet and is usually served with dessert. I really rather liked it along with the chilled Rosé which was very refreshing on such a warm day.

Opening the Rosé

Until next time, Bon Appitite!

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