24hrs in Limoges, France

Recently, I travelled to Limoges in the foothills of the northern Aquitaine region of France. Traditionally known as a butcher (breeding of sheep and cows) and manufacture town, Limoges has sustained its graceful position from the late 18th Century as a capital of “fire arts” – enamel, porcelain, and oak barrels made for Cognac and Bordeaux. It continues to attract visitors and luxury brands alike with its know-how and natural resources. And it was designated “City of Arts and History” by the French Ministry of Culture in 2008.

Never had I imagined visiting this city! Speaking with friends and meeting locals, I decided to take 24hrs to explore, despite the rain. Here are my favorite discoveries:

Musée national Adrien Dubouché – Cité de la Céramique: The video presentation on the ground floor of this circular museum – that boasts the largest permanent collection of Limoges porcelain in the world – is of incredible beauty. It provides an educational and visual understanding of the craft and its passionate artisans. A curated exhibit from Antiquity artifacts to contemporary creations takes you on a fascinating journey through French and world heritage. A must and perfect introduction to the next place…

Bernardaud: Fine homes in all parts of the world are proud to design or display their Bernardaud or Haviland tableware. I only made it to the first maison, and what a pleasure to find that the decoration is still in the hands of skilled artists located in the ateliers dating back to 1863 at the center of town. A walking tour offers a behind the scenes view on this fine art.

I really enjoyed feeling the raw materials and watching our host mould a teapot handle, as she introduced the Bernardaud family history and savoir-faire. The tour ends with a gallery of limited editions by world-renowned artists and exhibition of contemporary artists’ showcasing their modern interpretation of ceramics.

Gare des Bénédictins (train station), built in 1929: the rain didn’t stop me from rushing in and out of this registered historic monument to capture the look and feel.

Quartier Boucherie (Butcher’s quarter):  A traditional freshly-fried beignet in hand from the nearby central market Les Halles, and off you go exploring this charming area of timbered buildings that remind me of a combination of Bayonne in the Basque country and Normandie. Independent shops, antiques, bookstore, bars and restaurants… await.

Epicerie des Halles: This is what I truly love about travelling – spots recommended by locals. I discovered this small shop thanks to a conversation I had with a lady who owned a nearby boutique. In this foodie hideaway, steps from Les Halles, one can find niche produce made by former urbanites, whilst a friend of the owner cooks up a simple menu daily in the back, and locals exhibit their photos in the hall. Love it!

Tom & Lulu concept store: I spent an hour chatting with Lulu inside her store (26, rue Adrien Dubouché). We spoke of actors she’d met in Limoges, the arts scene, local eateries, plus what she enjoys locally – while her adolescent son lingered around, late for his hair appointment. Walk-in and find off the beaten path gifts, bio teas, home products, fashion, children’s toys,  cushions, and her own line of porcelain and ceramics! Creative haven.

Bonus: Lulu mentioned that her favorite place to seek modern porcelain – aside from her own atelier – is at the outlet store of Sylvie Coquet, 20 mn out of town (18 Avenue de Limoges, 87400 Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat). Coquet is apparently the only woman at the head of a porcelain manufacture locally. Her creativity sounds inspiring and she likes to take up challenges from great chefs.

Philippe Redon & La Fabrique du Café: Street food is fabulous at times to soak up the local atmosphere and people watch, sitting on a bench. And that is just what I wanted once I spotted the take out window facing the restaurant of Philippe Redon (14, rue A. Dubouché). His take on a salmon sandwich, and fromage blanc with apple crumble, was original – now time for a coffee. And the owner of L’Epicerie des Halles had told me about La Fabrique du Café. If you want to talk at a bar with a world-travelled barista, over a freshly brewed Columbian coffee, this is the place. The back room is half lounge – half vintage. Once I mentioned my coffee spots in Paris, he offered me several business cards of where to sip the best coffees in Bordeaux! Love it.

The St. Michel des Lions church: Gothic style, high vaulted ceilings, sculpted plaster and the 15th century stainglass inside the majestic monument at the heart of the shopping district.

And last but not least, Le Huit-Sept Limoges: I include this gallery – concept store based on locals’ recommendations, though it was closed (sacré lunch time!) when I dropped by. A mix of exhibits for emerging artists, talks, design, accessories and vintage. Right up my alley for next time.

Bye bye Limoges… I just may be back one day!

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

www.limoges-tourisme.com

Facebook page

 

 

Posted in Arts & Culture, Eat & Drink, Home & Interior, Peace & Quiet, Play, Shopping, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saint-Mich’, Bordeaux – France

Last weekend I laced up my all-star, grabbed my camera and hit town with no specific agenda other than to capture the mood in Bordeaux. I was encouraged to visit Saint-Michel and Saint-Pierre, two neighborhoods on the move since a few years.

When I arrived, my first urge was to visit the CAPC (Museum of Modern Art) – sadly it was mostly closed for a new exhibit in the making. Regardless, I enjoyed the space, the rooftop terrace and two permanent artworks by Richard Long (white rocks) and Keith Haring (Untitled – a wall painting visible only from inside the glass elevator and which elongates over the three floors). As with most museums, the shop is worth a browse.

I then walked to the impressive Place des Quinquonces – the largest esplanade in France built in the early 19th century, named after the way the trees are planted, and renowned for its basin and column. It is also a central stop for trams. The fair was on (as per twice a year since 1854). One day, I will get the courage to go up that wheel to see the city from above! The C train took me to Saint-Michel.

With neither map nor addresses to go by, I leaped off and started to walk. It took me a while to feel like I was in the right place. Surprise, once I spotted the Marché de Capucinsmy gut reassured me. This market has a unique vibe. I don’t know what it is. The light, the display of produce, the mix of people, the food counters… It is the central point to “Saint-Mich”, as locals call it. The area was once a village to myriad craftsmen.

From there, I let my camera guide me through street life, wine bars, monuments… And I discovered a new home design store specializing in goods from Morocco which just opened three months ago. Editions Vétiver (27, rue Gaspard Philippe). It fit right in.

Just another day in laid-back Bordeaux! I walked back to my car via the Saint-Pierre area which was buzzing with small boutiques, cafés, and students.

If you like this atmosphere, you may like this other area for Sunday Brunch: Magasin Général, Bordeaux – France

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

Posted in Arts & Culture, Eat & Drink, Home & Interior, Play, Shopping, Uncategorized, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Port de Biganos, Bassin d’Arcachon – France

Récemment, nous avons conduit ce qui me semblait d’interminables kilomètres au départ d’Arcachon pour arriver à Biganos – dont je n’avais vu que les cabanes de bois colorées, en lisant un blog local.

La route le long du Bassin n’était franchement pas enthousiasmante de beauté ni de curiosités. Je me demandais si cette traversée zigzagante valait la peine après le charme des villas de la Ville d’Hiver, et l’énergie de Mouleau, Pyla et La C(o)rniche.

Et nous arrivons sur un lieu en pleine forêt, au cœur de la commune du Parc Naturel Régional des Landes de Gascogne. Le plaisir et la curiosité se réveillent. Nous sommes à la croisée des chemins du Nord et du Sud Bassin, du Bassin et des Landes. A 20 kilomètres d’Arcachon et 45 de Bordeaux.

D’après l’office du tourisme Cœur du Bassin : «Il semble que ce port existait déjà au temps des Romains, à 3,50 m au dessous du niveau actuel. Il était alors installé sur l’estuaire de la Leyre. Lieu de quiétude au milieu de grands chênes, il invite les peintres à installer leur chevalet pour croquer les cabanes colorées des pêcheurs, sur fond de rivière et de verdoyante nature, et ceux qui ont soif d’aventure à embarquer sur des canoës ou kayaks pour d’étonnantes balades à travers la forêt-galerie ou bien entre les roseaux en direction du Bassin. Il peut accueillir de 160 bateaux. »

En se promenant, j’imagine incontestablement vivre l’aventure avec des amis ou en famille. Yourte, cabane dans les arbres, randonnée en forêt, barbecue, marshmallows grillés, barque ou kayak, découverte de petits ports en pinasse ou chaloupe jusqu’au Bassin, chaise longue… La magie et la douceur opèrent.

Toujours d’après l’office du tourisme Cœur du Bassin : « La Leyre, véritable lien entre la forêt des Landes de Gascogne et la mer, se jette dans le bassin d’Arcachon après avoir parcouru 135 km. Marais boisés, prairies humides, sont les paysages qui accompagnent la “Petit Amazone” dans le delta. Le port de Biganos et le port des Tuiles sont ancrés sur un des bras de la rivière et peuvent être le départ d’excursions vers lacs, étangs, plans d’eau, marais, sources… ».

Here’s a colourful little harbor which I recently drove out to in the middle of the picturesque Bassin d’Arcachon, after reading a post on a local blog. Biganos is located at the heart of a National Park, and a place to indulge in ecotourism and nature adventures with friends or family.

The 20km route getting there, after the ornate villas of Arcachon and amazing views at La C(o)rniche felt discouraging, until we reached the forest. Feeling peaceful, cheery, immersed in greenery and to the sounds of birds, I instantly imagined navigating on the water, biking, walking, or simply chilling with grilled marshmallows to the sounds of mellow music.

According to the Coeur du Bassin tourism board, «It appears that this port existed in Roman times, 3,5m below its current sea level. It was nested on the Leyre estuary. This quiet hideaway amid tall chestnut trees attracts painters who enjoy its colorful cabanas, rivers and nature – as well as those seeking the adventure of a canoe ride, hike through the forest or reefs leading to the Bassin. The port can welcome up to 160 boats. »

Cœur du Bassin Tourism Board continues « The Leyre, link between the Landes de Gascogne forest and the sea flows into the bassin d’Arcachon after 135 km, bypassing marshes and prairies. The ports of Biganos and Tuiles are apparently a good place to start your excursions.

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

tourisme-coeurdubassin.com

 

Posted in Peace & Quiet, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chateau du Tertre, Margaux-France

On a recent September morning, I drove along the picturesque and rolling Route des Châteaux from Pauillac to Margaux in the Bordeaux wine country, to reach Château du Tertre.

This estate of 52 unbroken hectares of vine has since 1997 belonged to a Dutch businessman, who has turned the 1855 classified winery into his personal home and noble B&B. “Tertre” in French apparently refers to the hillock where it is nested. With a history dating back to 1143, du Tertre is one of the oldest properties in the Left Bank of Bordeaux.

I drove up a long path bordered by vines and through a tall gate, to park in a cobbled-stone courtyard. My host Mark opened my car door to greet me before I had realized he was in sight. La vie de château!

The moment he led the way through the breakfast room, my curiosity was sparked with delight. Tuscan meets Flemish country style. A lady standing behind the tall counter by the window smiled and welcomed us while Mark introduced the breakfast ritual. As I browsed the decor in detail and listened, I fully imagined myself sharing talks of life at the guest table in the morning, over fresh breads and tea.

In the next room, as he greeted his colleague in Dutch, I spotted the sheep sculpture and terracotta tiles. Mark then led me through the technical facilities and cellars, pointing out the three types of vats (oak, concrete, cement) – the cement egg is supposed to add minerality to the wine.

In the tasting room, I first noticed on the marble table a series of jars filled with raw ingredients such as rose, leather, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, wood. The library stood out with its historic pharmaceutical shelves that line the walls, and its leather club chairs.

The large living room for groups evokes again a private home. Tall ceilings, fireplace, welcoming sofas, large coffee table, and a long dining table with chairs. It looks unto the back terrace plus vineyard – the visible owner’s helicopter confirmed that he was home. I immediately had the urge to settle in the comfortable sofas with a book and enjoy a talk over a glass of wine.

We then headed to the garden. The “orangerie” and atmosphere reminded me of a Hampton home from the US – one could easily imagine the spirit and elegance. The alley of trees to the left recalled the Palais Royal gardens of Paris. In the middle stood a beautiful tall sculpture of a couple, work of an artist who lives in Monaco.

And the best part of it all, after a day of tasting the local art of living, one can stay a night or more amid this setting!

This curated home felt inviting and true to the local laid back culture – much like the Ormes de Pez winery in Saint-Estèphe. The five rooms with a stone chimney, Provence style furnishings, wood floors, and views of the vineyard stretching afar were charming, combining understated elegance, authenticity and simplicity.

Thank you Mark for this great visit!

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

www.chateaudutertre.fr

 

Posted in Eat & Drink, Peace & Quiet, Sleep / Hotels, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac – France

Earlier this week, I visited Château Lafite Rothschild, in Pauillac, one of Bordeaux’s haute wineries (1st Classified Growth).

IMG_6441

The number of times that I had imagined its interiors, as I peddled through the hillside and sprawling vineyard, or stopped to capture the moment, are countless.

As I feasted my eyes on the scenery, the magic began…

IMG_7778 IMG_7745

In the late 1700s, a Frankfurt-based Rothschild banker established a banking business that became international through his five sons living in Europe (arrows symbolizing the five dynasties established by the sons). In 1868, the head of the French branch of the family purchased the Pauillac estate.

The name Lafite comes from “la hite”, meaning hillock in Gascon. It is imagined that vineyards were already apparent in the 17th Century on the property.

IMG_7761

The interior tour started with the definition of the landscape. My first time seeing the soil types by way of a tall glass sculpture. Getting a sense of the terroir.

IMG_7666 IMG_7678

We then descended into the cellar. The first of the three vat types was decorative – traditional wood. The family colors instill a personal touch.

The 2015 vintage is currently ageing in French oak barrels (manufactured onsite), in a room of whitewash walls, wood beam ceiling, concrete floor and chilling humidity. Artisanal and authentic.

IMG_7716 IMG_7721

The stone staircase (a.k.a. “Stairway to Heaven“) that led us to the house cellar – home to a 1797 vintage – is nearly a monument. The myth was at work. Iron gates and chandeliers. Dim lighting. The wine took over the space.

IMG_7735 IMG_7728

And the chateau visit was crowned by a candlelight tasting. Entering the rounded ageing cellar, designed by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, I imagined the gastronomic feasts that have perpetuated through conversations.

As I took my first sip of the 2007 vintage at 10AM (best time of the day to taste), at last, I understood how a golfer friend could on occasion prefer a good glass of Bordeaux and steak for breakfast, to baguette with coffee!

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

www.lafite.com

Additional special discoveries in the Medoc include, the annual September marathon, quaterly photo and art exhibits at Château Palmer (Margaux),  strolling the grounds of Château Beychevelle (Saint-Julien), markets or lazing by the water elsewhere.

 

Posted in Arts & Culture, Peace & Quiet, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Le loup, éditions Auzou

le-loup-qui-ne-voulait-plus-marcher-288x300

copyright @ Auzou

Notre fils vient de souffler ses quatre bougies et je découvre qu’il adore la collection “Le loup” aux éditions Auzou.

Les dessins sont très mignons et les histoires amusantes à raconter. J’adore autant ces moments pour transmettre des valeurs avec tendresse. En lui offrant cinq grands formats, j’ai quelques secondes hésité …

Et voici comment l’histoire du soir s’est transformée en trois ou quatre. Merci Le loup!

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sexy Fish – London, UK

Last week, I tried an Art Deco meets Brasserie sort of restaurant in the Mayfair area of London.

IMG_3208

Think GQ-style doormen, voluptuous hostesses with fitted sea-green dresses and heels, loud music, a loveboat line up of barmen shaking exotic cocktails below the Frank Ghery sparkling fish, a Damien Hirst mermaid sculpture on the wall, mobile phones vibrating from “checked-in” likes by each table setting, and a heteroclite crowd – somewhat underdressed for the setting…

IMG_3320

Sexy Fish opened in October and has guests longing for that confirmation of seating, weeks during. We got in with a little help from our concierge and having a two Michelin star chef in our party seemed to speed up the foretold wait. The open kitchen in the back is where the smokin’, grillin’, bakin’, bbq-in’ happens – best seats in the house – and all dishes are meant for sharing, as urbanites do.

IMG_3255

From the pan-Asian menu, we shared the Sexy Fish roll, Octopus Carpaccio, Beef ribs and Chilean sea bass. I remember the spicy marinades that dominated the well-cooked produce.

IMG_3268.jpg

Service was friendly, and included a tour by the French sommelier of the downstairs private dining room.

IMG_3325

The room boasts a bar, lavish table wear, and two massive fish tanks – a perfect diversion to cut big deals.

 

And as the grand finale, I had to dodge a young maiden taking selfies alone in the powder room. All the way down to the hardware, the concept was mastered. Ahhh, life in the big city.

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

Sexy Fish
Berkeley Square House
Berkeley Square, London W1
(+44) 020 3764 2000
sexyfish.com

 

Posted in Eat & Drink, Visit / Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment