Vacation Scrapbook: Part Two

One of the best things about my recent trip was having my best friend join me. It was her first time being in France and it was fun to take her to some of my favorite spots, many of which I hadn’t been back to myself in years. One of the places I was most excited to visit again was the beautiful little town of Saint Émilion. One of the things I have always wanted to do was have lunch at the Hostellerie de Plaisance. The hotel is ideally situated in the middle of town and the outdoor dining terrace offers a great vantage point to see the streets below as well as the surrounding area.

Our very decadent lunch included many of our favorite things: escargot, chilled oysters, Charente melon & prosciutto, foie gras and champagne.

The view from the hotel terrace looking down at the center of town.

The new discovery on this trip was Île de Ré, a gorgeous island where family friends were renting a house for the week. We drove up and spent the day with them and explored the island a bit. These handsome, bloomer wearing donkeys are now a tourist attraction for kids (or best friends) to ride but they once played a role in the farming of the island. They say the bloomers help keep the flies and mosquitos at bay.

We stumbled on the most gorgeous food market while antique hunting in Bordeaux. Bought more than we could carry of all sorts of veggies, fresh fruits, handmade cheeses, cakes, and breads. We ate like kings for days.

The vast assortment of cheeses was overwhelming, so we bought one of everything to try!

The last few days of our vacation we packed up and bid France farewell and headed south to Spain. The only two things we had on our list was to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and to eat dinner at a place a good friend had said was not to miss. We ended up in San Sebastián and immediately fell madly in love with the city. This picture was taken on the way to dinner; the sun was setting when a fast moving storm rolled in creating one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Our last day was spent in a little fishing town called Getaria, which is about 20 minutes from San Sebastián and happens to be the birthplace of Cristóbal Balenciaga. We loved it so much we’re plotting our next visit already.

Every restaurant in town (there were only a handful) had these amazing outdoor grills.

And finally, if your vacation is about to be over and you have one last meal to eat, this is THE place: Elkano. The only recommendation my friend (who has lived in Spain and now owns a delicious tapas restaurant in NYC) made was to eat here. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was one of the best meals of my life. The staff made you feel like you were dining in their home; the seafood was caught fresh that day and prepared so exquisitely that it made you want to cry at how delicious it tasted. C’est tout!

Vacation Scrapbook…Part One

It had been two years since I’d been in France and it was great to be back, especially to be there in the middle of summer when the fields around the house were vibrant with sunflowers. We did go to a couple of brocantes, though I didn’t purchase a single thing, my best friend who joined me on this trip came back with several suitcases filled with her finds. This vacation was really all about eating and drinking well (when is it not I suppose), with long hours spent lounging poolside reading and doing little else. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip. Wish I were back there now!

Fields and fields of sunflowers greeted us everywhere we went.

The hedgerows were overflowing with all types of wild plums and berries. This is a wild Mirabelle plum tree, my favorite. Sadly they were not yet ripe so we weren’t able to pick and put up jam this trip–though there was a promise for some to be made for me to retrieve next visit!

Always curious to find out what they are catching in their nets. These little huts dot the coastline.

We visited one of our favorite little towns in the area: Talmont-sur-Gironde.

Loved this giant, old clamshell that held holy water in a tiny coastal church.

Found a whole entryway to a house framed with one of my favorites, the passion flower vine. We’re planting them along the kitchen garden wall!

First visit to Chateau de Beaulon and I am completely smitten with their delicious pineau (a speciality of the region) and cognacs. Came back with as much as my suitcase could carry.

The other thing Chateau de Beaulon is known for are the “Les Fontaines Bleues” which you can tour on the estate grounds. Their color is unlike anything I have ever seen. That’s it for today. More to come next week.

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