Lisboa, Portugal

Colourful, proud, inventive, romantic, upbeat, traditional whilst pushing into modernism, the Lusitanian capital of seven hills is a must-see place.

Four-day itinerary (M-F) in Europe’s new destination for entrepreneurs with a fluent English-speaking population.

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Day 1: Sintra / Alfama

Bem vindo. The trip started with a drive from the airport to Sintra, a.k.a “the glorious Eden” to Lord Byron in the early 1800s. Sintra was home to the royal family and court, and attracted writers and poets of the times. It is transformed into a heritage site with a patchwork of Paláçios, romantic gardens, and a great national park emerging into the Atlantic.

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The Quinta da Regaleira mansion, 1km outside of the historic centre, caught my eye. Its succession of mystical gardens and maze of trees including sequoia, magnolia, camellia and cypress, amid grottos and tricking fountains is a haven for nature lovers. I wish I had taken more time to savour it. cultursintra.pt

Late afternoon began my Lisbon story. After an hour’s crisscrossing from rua to avenida, I parked at the Santa Apolnia terminal. It didn’t take long for me to spot the docks along the Cais da Pedra and DeliDeluxa gourmet hot spot in the renovated warehouse – the new generation Lisboa. My first glass of Douro paired with Portuguese cheeses on English crackers overlooking the Tage was bliss.

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I hitched a taxi to nearby Memmo Alfama. The design boutique hotel tucked in a pàtio with sublime views of this cultural neighborhood made my home of choice. The hilly Alfama quarter with a soul has preserved the labyrinth medina structure of its past populations. Picture bright stucco, massive churches, hanging laundry, steep stairs, tiny alleys, azulejos facades, iron balconies, religious icons, sun-splashed terraces, and retired locals reading the paper as they take in the vistas. Here or there, find street art, kitsch decorations, fit joggers, cafés and independent shops. Luckily, the Jameson 28e tram stops near the hotel and serves the main sites of the city.

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N2S: in warmer climate, Noobai terrace is where to soak up Alfama al fresco.

At night fado goers and hipsters headed for the Lux club linger. I strolled the mosaic pavement and flat grid like streets of Baixa to get a sense of place. Franchise shops open past 10 pm and waiters calling out their dishes in three languages chased me away. I found comfort again entering the red and white Santini ice cream parlor in Chiado. And was charmed by the fuchsia colored Trindade Theater and Casa do Ferreira das Tubuletas, by the artist of the same name.

Day 2: Alfama / Chiado / Barrio Alto

A climb up to the medieval vestiges of Castelo de São Jorge lined with parasol trees offers a rare panorama of Lisbon. On the walk down, I spotted Miradouro de Santa Luzia where locals chat over coffee at the Quiosque Portas do Sol. I regret that the Museu de Artes Decorativas in a XVIII century home was closed on Tuesdays.

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Behind the Catedral Sé Patriarcal are shops proudly promoting handcrafts on Rua do Barao (A Võo Adorinha, 28), Rua Augusto Rosa (A Arte da Terra, 40; Chi-Coraçao, 22; Ponto LX, 23). The bohemian and austrian Pois Café on rua de São João da Praça is where I discovered local illustrator Martina Manya. Print in hand, I made my way to the Conserveira de Lisboa – family business of conserves since the 1930s.

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Across the Praça do Comérico where ministries stand, and uphill towards Theatro Carlos and Faculdade Belas Artes, I dwelled over a handful of eye-catching boutiques, high-end barbers, multiple bookshops, and Art Déco storefronts in the Chiado shopping district.

While Rua Garrett may house historic boutiques, the Fabrica Features gallery on the top floor of Benetton is HQ to the hip set seeking funky accessories. Bonus: aerial view of Lg. Do Chiado.

In the neighborhood…

  • A Vida Portuguesa (rua Ivens, 2) opened by a journalist turned shopkeeper, sells tableware, soaps, linens, coverlets, stationary and more – fabricado em Portugal. A more recent Intendente address too. avidaportuguesa.pt
  • Teresa Alecrim (rua Nova do Almada, 76) for fine linens plus embroidered – or not – tea towels. teresaalecrim.com
  • Cutipol (rua do Alecrim, 113-115) sleek cutlery and home designs. cutipol.pt
  • Cork & Co (rua das Slagadeira, 10). Did you know that over half the world’s cork is cut from the bark of Portugal’s oaks? Aside from the wine industry, the material has found its way to the shoes, accessories and design circles. corkandcompany.pt

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  • Chocolataria Equador (Rua da Misericórdia, 72). The scent and the distinctive packaging are the first two things I noticed in this small Eldorado for chocolate addicts. Portugal seemingly also has a love affair with handmade chocolate. Unmatched paper design and flavors. The macaroons are to be tried says a local, and a counter with bar stools at the back invites you to do just that. chocolatariaequador.com
  • Claus Porto (Rua da Misericórdia, 135). A unique heritage behind a bar of soap with hand drawn artwork labels, originating in Porto with two German gentlemen in 1887, and since 2012 extended into a range of products. clausporto.com
  • Café Lisboa for a contemporary style of lisboeta dishes, bistronomy style, inside the Teatro Carlos or outside on the terrace. An intimate locale, à deux or more. It is one of seven restaurants and other successes by local chef José Almirez joseavillez.pt – cafelisboa.pt

Time for a quick lunch at Cervejaria O Trevo, on the corner of Lg do Chiado and rua da Miséricorda. Homely soups, tartines, steak sandwiches, codfish prego …

Workmen in paint-splashed pants mingle with grandmas, fashionistas or businessmen. Grab a place at a table (using your Portuguese lingo) or stand at the counter. Authentic flavor.

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Shopped out I headed South for a flavor of Cais de Sodre. A look beyond the estuary views at the casual feel and spot for cool kids: the kiosque. At night, this area rivals with trendy Bairro Alto. Sorry to have missed the Pink Street!

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A stretch due West is the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the largest museum in Portugal. Getting there, I ventured in the food court Ribeira Market – open at any time of day-, and lofttype boutiques dotting the Santos Design District.

Inaugurated in 1884, MNAA is tucked on the dwellings of the Palácio das Janelas Verdes. It is considered the most beautiful collection of classic art in the country, including European, Oriental and Portuguese masterworks.

A belvedere with garden is on the lower level.

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Pre or post visit, Le Chat likewise captures the industrial view with cranes over the docks and Ponte 25 de Abril.

img_2687-1My stroll through the romantic Jardim da Estrela (plaça da Estrela) facing the basilica in the São Bento and Estrela neighborhood reminded me of Parisian parks. Artists and antique dealers live around this area.

Happily, the tram28e passes here. I indulged till the terminal, steps from A Vida Portuguesa in the Graça neighborhood. This mixed quarter was until recently risky business.

It is on the renewal since the opening of the flagship store. Proof, the recent opening of 1908 Lisboa hotel and its Infame restaurant (Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, 23) – already popular with locals.

Dishes by a Portuguese chef. Design interior. And, vinho verde for my first! Across the piazza, push the tall green doors, and head upstairs to a real bohemian bar with a gravel terrace.

Two nearby lookouts were recommended by a local: Miradouro de Graça and da Senhora do Monte.

By the end of day 2, I started to wonder what it would be like to move to Lisboa…

img_1871 Day 3: Cascais / Belem

Wednesday drive along the scenic Avenida Marginal to Cascais, passing Estoril (childhood memories of my father watching the Grand Prix F1). Cascais Market opens Wed. and Sat. mornings only.

For seasoned surfers and nature lovers, the Praia da Guincho in the Sintra national park is the hot spot. I carved out a space to admire the view from the stretch of sand.

I continued with my Fiat 500 wheels along the coast to Cabo do Roca (western most point in Europe). A taste of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa and Etretat in France. Optionally, rent bicycles in Cascais and ride the trails along the coast to Guincho.

Heading back, I checked Boca do Inferna – amid a flock of tourists delighting vendors and food trucks. In the middle of this picture spot is Mar do Inferno for views and top seafood (recommended by a true lisboete). It was closed that day.

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Lunch at the Marina in Cascais. Nirvana hit at Farol Hotel lounging by the water with coffee and dessert. One of the best views yet! I took the A5 back to Lisboa to make time for the Torre de Belem.

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Dinner at Sea Me (rua do Loreto, 21) in the Barrio Alto area. A modern style and lively fishery sought by the trendy and expat crowd. First taste of Percebes – delicious!

Day 4: Oceonaria / Belem

On the train to Parque das Naçoes, arriving at the impressive Gare do Oriente, designed by Santiago Calatrava for the Expo’98. West along the river is the Oceonaria to explore the underwater world.

Walking back along the palm-lined stretch toward Torre Vasco da Gama, the longest bridge in Europe is on the horizon.

In the afternoon, back to Belem for the Manuelin cloister Mosteiro do Jerónimos, and a pastéis de nata at the Confeitaria de Belém.

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Museo dos Coches was near. I opted for Junqueira and 1 de Maio heading for the docks, and LX FactoryBrooklyn on a tiny street.

The final highlight was Miradouro de Santa Catarina Adeus Lisboa, I will be back!

For next time:
E@t: Le Decadente, Cantina LX, Pharmacia, Sinal Vermelho
Drink: Pavilhão Chinês, Insolito
See: Fondaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, MAAT,  Igreja de Santa Catarina
Shop: Principe Real

Here’s a local address book spotted: lisbonlux.com

Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.

VF : pour découvrir cette capitale si chaleureuse, surprenante de créativité et attachante, le temps d’un court séjour… Suivre les mots en gras, les liens, et le guide Hachette “Un grand weekend LISBONNE”, édition 2017. Le dernier numéro du magazine anglais Monocle a consacré une trentaine de pages aux différentes facettes et personnalités qui marquent le Lisbonne d’aujourd’hui. Un vrai bonheur.

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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

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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.

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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

 

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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

 

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Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac – France

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Le loup, éditions Auzou

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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!

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