Tag Archives: vacation

Vacation Playlist

We weren’t really prepared for the amount of time we spent in the rental car going from town to town.  I. had burned a couple discs and figured we’d pick up some blank CD-R’s in Europe–but blank CD-R’s were elusive in the small towns were we were most of the time.  As a result, we listened to these three albums over and over again, which in and of itself was an strange (occasionally tiring) experience (save for our time in Guethary–the house playlist there was CSN demos mostly, but Le Madrid had an amazing and very diverse rotation).  Here they are:

1.  Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca

All I really knew of Dirty Projectors was “Stillness is the Move.” I’d listened to the album a little, but had by no means gotten hooked.  After three weeks of constant listening, I LOVE this album.  It’s just totally insane.  Half the time it sounds like they’re making up the lyrics on the spot (Longstreth at least) but what they are playing and saying is so good I just don’t care.  Lines about living in the basement and washing the dishes?  Led Zeppelin references mixed with out of this world female diva sopranos?  It’s just too much fun.  Winding through the tiny country roads of the Luberon, this sounded like the perfect vacation record.

DP_packshot

2.  Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

OK, brace yourselves.  I’m about to make a seriously unpopular statement.  There are about three tracks on this album that are really fun, but the rest of it is completely unlistenable.  Actually, there was a bit of arguing in the car every time we got past the first couple of tracks.  I’d start making fun of the lyrics, “So sentimental, not sentimental no!”  And the title of this album?  Yeah, I get it, it’s “ironic.”  When is irony going to go out of style?  It’s so tired.  Yes, fun, but fleeting.  Nothing I can listen to for three weeks straight.

wolfgang-amadeus-phoenix-album-cover

3.  Wilco Wilco (the album)

Again a potentially unpopular statement, I’m not the biggest Wilco fan.  I like them.  I think they make good music.  I’ve listened to their albums quite a bit, but they aren’t really “me.”  I’m not their audience.  But this most recent album is possibly my favorite ever.  There is a great stylistic range to the songs, which is essential to any album you plan on listening to everyday for three weeks.  While Bitte Orca was an instant favorite, and Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” goes down saccharine-sweet the first time, Wilco (the album) is more of a creeper.  I love the rock and the ballads.  And with a track featuring Feist I couldn’t resist.

wilco

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Roussillon

Roussillon was my favorite neighboring town to Lourmarin when I was a child.  It was the most far-out place, and when you went there you inevitably got dirty.  Although I was pretty prissy as a child, the type of dirty you got in Roussillon was all right with me–it wasn’t muddy blasé brown, it was bright orange.  That was a kind of dirty I could get down with.

new cliff

town new

As if the bright orange and red cliffs aren’t enough, all of the buildings in Roussillon are built with the pigmented clay that surrounds the village.  The naturally occurring ochre in the hillsides was mined until the 1930’s.  Mining has since been banned in order to protect the site from destruction.

Being in Provence inspired an obsession with crumbling old walls with plants growing out of them.  Roussillon’s reddish ones are particularly high on my list because of the red/green contrast (these pictures are so much more vibrant in original–the upload to WordPress just ruins the color).

wall

And my favorite door, from 1678.  Well, I’m not sure about the door, but the doorway is from 1678.

roussillon door

If you walk to the highest point in town you find a ceramic-topped circular map of the region, with Roussillon at its center.  You’ll find similar maps in many of the neighboring towns.

new map

close map new

Right before you reach the map at the top of the hill you’ll find the 16th century church surrounded by lavender.

new church

The exterior is fairly simple, but there is intricateness to be found inside.  One of my favorites is the altar.

altar

altar detail

Wheat and grapes have been the primary crops of Provence since the middle ages.

baptismal font

The baptismal font was added in the 17th century.

God

I love the intricate high relief on the ceiling.  Very dramatic.

lighting candles

After the church we walked back through town to the cemetary, which is quite beautiful.

cemetary

masoleum

egyptian jacques

I like calling this guy “Eqyptian Jacques.”

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Bonnieux: Le Fornil

I know it’s a lot on Bonnieux, but I really think Bonnieux is worth it.

Le Fournil is one of the restaurants featured in Gilles Pudlowski’s guide to Provence and the Cote d’Azur.  This place is an absolute pleasure.  It fits in perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere and beauty of Bonnieux.  The food is refined yet unpretentious.  The service is friendly and on the lively side, which gives the place a bit of a younger vibe–totally welcome after a week at Mas de Guille (“Relais du Silence”) where we were the youngest people by twenty years.  And judging by the stares I got when I was taking pictures, this place is equally appreciated by tourist and locals alike, which lends credence to the chef’s work.

fournil sign

fournil1

Le Fournil at 7:30pm

We’re early eaters at home, it’s no secret.  But I swear we were eating at 9 and later in Guethary!  But during that first week away in Provence, we were still adjusting.  Add to that the heat and our minimum of five miles of walking per day (assessed by pedometer no less) and we ended up really needing that first reservation of the night.  Plus it made for good pictures right?

fournil menu

Le Fournil’s menu

fournil amuse

Fish paté amuse bouche

I’m a little bit of a wuss when it comes to something like fish paté (and I. even more so) but this was absolutely delectable.  I never expected such a texture to work–but Le Fournil made it so.

fournil salad 1

Petits farcis provençaux servis tíèdes

I have no translation for “petits…” but based on the little I know about Provençal cuisine, stuffed crudité appears to be somewhat of a tradition.  We had several incarnations of this dish at different restaurants and this was indubitably the best.  The stuffing is bread crumbs, herbs, and other fabulous Provencal things.  Sorry I can’t be more specific, but aren’t the colors great?

fournil salad2

Bouquet de haricots vert et cocos frais, ris d’agneau poêlés vinaigrette d’herbes

If only this could be recreated.  I’m not sure what the cut of lamb was, but it was so tender.  Perfect with vegetables and some aged balsalmico.

fournil beouf

Contrefilet de beouf poêlé, chutney de cerises, blettes au jus

The pièce de résistance: contrefilet.  Although my favorite steak of the trip was at Le Madrid (Cote de Beouf with Bearnaise) due to its total simplicity and melt-in-your-mouth qualities, this contrefilet is a very, very close second.  The cherry confit had the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the meat.  Every bite was a pleasure.

As we left everyone was still enjoying.

fournil scene

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Lunch at Le Madrid, Guéthary

You might start to notice that I’m working backwards now, which is slightly awkward, but I’ll make do.  I’m finding it less awkward than starting from the day I stopped blogging and working forward.  I hope you’ll stick with me on this strange anti-chronological journey.

Le Madrid was the unofficial (official?) hang of our stay in Guéthary.  Our first two days in Guéthary it was closed for two days before officially opening for the summer season, but Le Madrid was all I heard about for those two days from our Parisian friends and hosts.  It was so inflated as a “spot” that it hardly occured to me that the food would be any good.  When I ate dinner there for the first time on the night of the 8th I was absolutely blown away (some of you might remember a tweet of mine about the Cote de Beouf melting in my mouth).  Those kind of dinners aren’t for stopping every few minutes to photograph.  We were among friends, telling love stories, and sharing wine and Cote de Beouf (with Bearnaise of course), and since the best parts of the ephemeral meal were only captured in memory, I pledged to return in a more alert state so that I might record some of my meal for ARL.

Of course, the real way to do Le Madrid is this: aperitifs at home (our aperitifs of choice on this trip were foie gras (forgive me), radishes, and wine).  Savor all this from approximately 7pm-9pm, then make your way to Le Madrid for the real meal.  Oh, and having Manzana Verde post-Cote is the digestif de riguer.  The few images I have from Le Madrid at night:

le madrid 9

Customers entering Le Madrid behind lovely Martine at approximately 9pm

sunset

The view from outside Le Madrid at approximately 9pm

So, that said, on to lunch.

le madrid day

The view from the terrace

le madrid menu

The menus

It is worth explaining that I. and I fell in love with the menus as pieces of art in and of themselves.  We loved the fonts, the illustrations, and the color.  When we mentioned this to our friends they explained that the menus are designed by Martine, one of the owners, who was a graphic designer before she was a restaurateur.

lunch menu

The lunch menu

rose

The essential rosé

le madrid signage

Looking back towards the restaurant from the terrace

club

My companion’s club sandwich (I had a bite–absolutely delectable)

maigre

Maigre a la Plancha, pate fraiche & herbes

The perfect lunch.  The oil for drizzling has parsley and tarragon, the cherry tomatoes are roasted, and the pasta has a crisp piece of bacon artfully arranged at an angle atop.  And, how is it that the French know how to salt meat so perfectly?  You can see the small crystals of sel de mer on the maigre here.  Delicious.

Now that we’re in Spain it seems impossible, but I am actually missing Le Madrid.  If you are in the area go, sit for a few hours.  People watch, imbibe, and go back a few times to sample a variety of what’s on the menu.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you are as in love with Le Madrid as I am, you can click here to see the dinner menu: Continue reading

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Martha’s Vineyard, Day Two

Sun came out today.  It was nice.  Went for a walk on the beach.

beach

The fog was still so thick you couldn’t see 100 yards down the beach, even with the sun out at 4pm.  The tiny dot in the distance is the Gay Head lighthouse.

starfish

There were lots of starfish on the beach.  I threw a bunch back in the water.

wampum

We collected wampum.

redrock

It got overcast on the way back.  The cliffs above the beach are streaked with deep red clay.  Access is restricted to tribal members by federal law.

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Martha’s Vineyard, Day One

69˚ and cloudy, but great clam chowder

house

the house

Since I’m a bit flu-ish and the weather is bad I didn’t make it more than about thirty yards from the house, but I discovered some interesting things nonetheless.

viney trunk

The visual effect of the vine along this trunk is beautiful, but the vine itself looks to be parasitic–I can’t imagine an oak tree being very happy to have vines wrapped around it, but maybe I’m wrong.

viney trunk2

more vines

wild ferns

wild ferns

waterlily

water lily on the pond

view

the view

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Next Stop: Old Faithful

One of the several faithful geysers of our great country is in Calistoga, California.  It was my first geyser experience!  Very fun to watch, and frankly an amazing spectacle.  It truly engaged my sense of wonder around geology.  Can you believe that there is that much pressure just constantly ebbing and flowing beneath our feet?  Makes you feel a little insignificant–in a good way.  Plus they had fainting goats and llamas.  Not sure what the connection is.  

oldfaithful

Threatening steam

oldfaithful2

and spouting!

vernors

Refreshment

A major perk of the visit was that the gift shop carried Vernors–my favorite ginger soda!!  Particularly exciting was finding it in the bottle.  A first. 

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