Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A few weeks ago, Anne posted about some of the crazy wine names popping up in the US. After a trip to the local liquor store last night, I saw all of those and more. I don't know about you guys, but these names almost turn me off.  Who wants to drink Fat Bastard wine??

Can you imagine bringing this one to a dinner party?  You'd leave the hostess wondering about your post-party intentions....
And don't even get me started on these bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau that were selling for a whopping $16.49 per bottle!
Lastly, this one isn't wine-related, but we went out to eat the other night, and I was sad to see that my favorite childhood drink now contains 0% juice.  That is crazy!  And so sad.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Girls Gone Wild??

In honor of such a lucky day (11/11/11) and in my attempt to win Keith's weekly Girls Gone Wild Award, I bring to you my meeting with Gwan last week.

Now we all know What Happens in Tours Stays in Tours, so unfortunately the only photographic evidence I can show you of the night is this picture, taken on my way back to the hotel:Now if that doesn't look like something taken at the end of wild night, I don't know what does.

PS. Bonus points for anyone who can guess what exactly I was attempting to take a picture of....


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I've been gone quite a bit for work again these past few weeks, but one of the things that has helped make up for it is the beautiful scenery I've seen along the way. Coming from MN, where we have a fabulous fall season, I have mostly been unimpressed with what I've seen each autumn in France. This year however has been fantastic. I'm not sure if it's due to the Indian Summer we've been having or what, but I am loving it!These vines produce some of my favorite Loire Valley wines:Trees lining my customer's driveway:
This scene brought out my inner child and made me want to stop the car and run around kicking leaves:Keep it coming France!

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another thing I really enjoyed about my trip were the Italians themselves. Everywhere I went, they were so smiley and friendly. No one looked down on me for being a foreigner and they were so encouraging when I tried to speak the little Italian I know. I'm sure this isn't the case everywhere in Italy, but I had the same experience last time I was there as well and it's always a much-appreciated contrast to France.

Anyways, here are a few more shots of my trip.

Flying in over the mountains:I had about an hour in Torino before my train took me back to France. I had a rather large suitcase with me, so I couldn't really stray too far from the station, but I did take a quick spin around the block and luckily stumbled across a Grom shop:I also peeked through several courtyards and came across cute little images like this:
Another thing I have always loved is the colors - Bretagne was full of varying shades of gray (houses and sky alike), and Paris is also a fairly neutral-toned city, so I absolutely love the jewel tones you can find in the south of France and around Italy:Another nice surprise were the random flowers blooming everywhere throughout the countryside. All this nice weather has the plants confused and many are going into a second bloom....though this also includes a lot of the fruit trees, so who knows what kind of season they'll have next year...I'll end here with a random thing I came across with:
I saw this out of the corner of my eye when going up the mountain and was so curious that I actually backed that damn semi-automatic car back down a ways so I could take a closer look. At first, I was like WTF?? And then I noticed the little tufts of hair stuck to the tree and the light bulb kicked on. Duh.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

So in my last post, we left off with me feeling relief at seeing lights up ahead. But that would make things too easy on me, right?? Once I got to the village, I was faced with this - a village of vacant, poorly-lit streets:
See, the hotel didn't actually have a street number - its address was just "Via Castello", or Castello Street. Meaning my hotel was one of those dark and sign-less buildings above. But which one??

The lone passer-by took pity on me. As he neared me, my first thoughts after so many years in France were "Sh*t, is he going to mug me? There will be no witnesses! Or is he just going to ask for a cigarette??". Instead he just spoke to me in some rapid-fire Italian, and between hand gestures and my pitiful Italian, I managed to convey that I was looking for a hotel. He brought me over to it, but it was closed (obviously) and there was a sign on the door with a phone number saying what I'm assuming was "Call when you arrive".

After some trouble dialing the phone number, I finally got a hold of them, and they came to let me in. As I was the only one staying in the hotel, it was fairly dark and slightly creepy. Here was the entrance into my hallway:Which we got to after crossing this beautiful but eerie salle de fête:And then the owner took me out to a small bar where I had what was quite possibly the most disgusting plate of pasta ever. Seriously. It was over-cooked spiral pasta with some tomato paste plopped on top.

Luckily it was made up for the following night, when I ate at the hotel and had this plate of perfectly-cooked gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce, basil-infused olive oil and parmesan shavings. It was heaven on a plate and I did not want the meal to end:Unfortunately it was about the only decent meal I had in Italy, which was a far cry from when I taught English there several years back and stayed in a horrible little hotel whose only saving grace was the master chef who went out of his way to produce five-star food for my three daily meals. That food was the only highlight of my trip - the job was terrible and I remember being depressed because there was no internet in the village, which severely limited my communications with Fab (no one spoke English, so every time he tried to call the hotel, they ended up hanging up on him). I'd always wanted to go back though....France and I have come to terms with one another, but something about Italy has always spoken to me. And now I'm more determined than ever to go back and do some more exploring. (But next time, with a true automatic car - I have never been as happy to give a car back as I was that day!!)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Okay, enough of the wedding talk. Instead, I'll regale you all with tales of my harrowing work trip last week. Now you all now I travel a lot for work, but most of the time it's within France's borders. Every once in a while though, I get to travel to another country, and this time it was Italy.

I very quickly made all the travel arrangements and luckily managed to find an automatic car available at the Torino airport. Or at least what I thought was an automatic car....

Once my plane landed, I made my way over to the rental car counter and picked up my keys for my smart car. Yep, you read that right, I was to be rolling (literally) around Italy in a car the size of an Altoids tin. But the surprises didn't end there - once I got in the car, I discovered that it was a faux automatic. As in the only thing automatic about it was that there was no clutch. The rest of the car was 100% manual and required shifting. Now most of the cars I rent are what they call "semi-automatics", in that you can either have the car do the shifting or you can do it yourself. But not this one. I let a few swear words fly and then decided to get on with it - it was the only "automatic" car on site, and I was already running late.

So I haltingly make my way out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. Things were cruising on fairly nicely until I had to exit and just about killed the motor. Luckily it was late at night, so I didn't cause an accident or hurt anyone. And then the REAL adventure began.

See, I had been hoping that this customer would be in a nice, flat valley. But I hoped wrong. Instead they were located on top of one very large mountain. We (the car and I) kept creeping up the side of the mountain as fast as its little motor could go, with me making half-ass attempts to shift up and down as we went through all of those sharp turns.

At one point though, I missed a turn and I thought "Oh, no biggie - the GPS will just recalculate". Haha, famous last words!

The GPS did indeed recalculate, but it recalculated to a teeny, tiny dirt road that was practical vertical. I started off on it thinking "surely this can't be right, it must just be a shortcut." But then it continued. On and up we went, with that poor little car huffing and puffing the whole way, and me being jostled around like a rag doll.

I consider turning around at several points along the way, but how? It was pitch black (as mountain trails aren't exactly riddled with street lamps), and even though my car was small, I wasn't really comfortable attempting a 3-point turn when I couldn't really see how big the drop-off was...or even where it started!

This is what the road looked like in broad daylight:

So I decide to keep on going. And going. It was starting to feel like the beginning to a scary movie. Ie the dumb blond girl takes the wrong road and then breaks down in the middle of the woods.

Finally though, I see what looks like a real road ahead. I get to the lip of the road and I am at such a steep incline that the damn Smart car can't make it over and I am stuck revving the engine, right at the edge of safety!! The minute I let up on the gas, the car starts to slide backwards. So I sit there in limbo a bit, debating my options.

At that point, I was ready to get out and push the damn thing up the hill myself, but instead, I just let it slide back a bit more and then I gun it and just barely make it over on to the real road.

I have never been so happy to see a paved road in my life.

And then a bit further up the road, I see this and breath a sigh of relief.
Whew! I am almost there.....

Or am I? Stayed tuned to find out more! ;)

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