09.06.2013 - 09.06.2013
I received very sad news yesterday that my grandmother passed away suddenly... Derek and I spent today doing things that she loved - we went for a bike ride, had a glass of wine at our amazing lunch in Givry, had apple pie with cheese (she always said 'apple pie/muffin without the cheese, is like a hug without the squeeze!) and visited a local garden as she was an amazing gardener. It's been a very sad couple of days but I know she is with the love of her life, my grandfather. I wish I could be in London with mom and Tracy but I know I had the best gift of spending a year and a half with her while we lived in London...
I still want to update everyone with my blog as grandma would want me to!
So. Last I left off, we were in Lucca. This was a highlight for us. Lucca used to be the capital of Italy and is a small walled city with the walls towering at over 20 feet. It's incredible, the top of the wall is paved with benches on either side like a circular park! It's 4km long and you can walk, run, bike, rollerblade, etc. we even walked by a firefighter fundraiser held on one section. Definitely worth looking up for the pictures! Inside the walls there are about 10,000 people and about 90,000 outside the walls so 100,000 in the whole province. Our apartment was beautiful with a kitchen and right beside the back wall. It's an adorable city and we ended up walking the wall twice! Also the very center of the walled city is a circular section of buildings that house apartments up top and cafes and stores down below. Just gorgeous.
I don't think I mentioned but we have been carrying around a market bag of groceries... Haha. But really, it's so great to rent spots with kitchens - we love to cook and holy smokes we are saving so much money. When you're traveling long periods of time in a place like Europe, you have to treat it like you're at home. We sure don't eat out 3 times a day! We are trying to keep eating out to once/week if possible. Our grocery bag has all the essentials - tea, coffee, cereal, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic... You know. Normal things people travel with.
We stayed in Lucca for 3 nights and then had a long 9 hour day of train travel north to Torino for the night. We arrived and took the metro to the area of our hostel, found it and got settled. We grabbed dinner across the street at this great restaurant! Owned by an adorable couple, we had a set menu with amazing homemade pasta! Such a great way to end our time in Italy.
The next day we were up early for an even longer travel day than the day before. We took the train to the Italian border where we had to wait for an hour for a bus to take us to the French side (thank goodness we made it when we did because the bus only runs at noon and once in the evening!). We didn't have such a rough time though... The mountains in the background were enough to distract us. At the train station in Modane, we waited another hour with our new French pal who now lives in Thailand (think older creepy French guy) and were on the train for another 4 hours with a couple transfers until we arrived at Chalon Sur Saone. The woman that we were staying with picked us up at the train station to drive us to her house about 20 minutes away in this adorable town, Buxy (pronounced like 'Booksy'). It's a town of about 2000 people with only 1 restaurant and most businesses are closed certain hours. It's historic and beautiful and right in the middle of the Burgundy wine region. Tranquility now!
Our hostess, Laurence, is a teacher in Buxy and just an amazing woman. So nice and hospitable. The first day we were here, we walked around Buxy, grabbed a Croque Monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich) and wine from the region at this little pub. So good. So cheap! Then we walked to the grocery store for dinner supplies and stopped in at the tourist information center to find about more spots to check out. After making a fajita feast, we hung out with Laurence and headed to bed for our next day of adventures!
Laurence was heading to Lyon for the weekend so dropped us off in Cluney (pronounced 'Clooney' as in George) for the afternoon. It's about 40 minutes from Buxy and yet again, a beautiful town. We were walking around and noticed tons of horses at an arena, turns out the national female championships for a sport called 'horse ball' were happening. Have never in my life heard of this sport but it gets solid props. Holy jeez those girls and their horses are intense. Imagine basketball on horses but you don't bounce the ball. After watching for a while we had to get out of the 30+ degree heat (I have a great sunglasses tan to prove it) and went to a restaurant for a drink and cheese plate. Or so we thought. They don't serve food mid afternoon here like I mentioned, with the exception of ham and cheese sandwiches of course! We found a spot mid afternoon and the owner told us they are only serving cheese crepes at this time. Derek asked if it was possible to just get a cheese plate and wine and so the man goes seems to confirm this... 20 minutes later he comes out with a plate containing a massive cheese crepe with salad and says he'll be back with the second crepe... Ah! Poor guy, totally misunderstood. Anyway, the crepe was delicious and filled with a mozzarella type cheese in half and goat cheese in the other half. All in all, delicious mistake! I think I can almost see where the crepe went... Building up that spare tire! Haha. We ended up catching a bus later to come back to Buxy and made hamburgers with unidentified ground meat that Derek didn't ask what it was at the store. Just pointed. Almost like ground pork sausage... Not very good and note to self - BBQ'ing on a charcoal grill sucks.
The next day we walked to the next town, Montagny, to do a walking wine tour. This town is even smaller than Buxy with no stores or restaurants, just houses and several vineyards. The walk there was incredible... Walking through the countryside literally through acres and acres of vineyards. Sigh. We found this winery and started talking to the owner, this woman who is the daughter of a famous wine maker in France. We did a wine tasting in the cellar of a very old building and learned all about wine making. She even made us a reservation at her friend's restaurant in Chivry (where we were going the next day). We bought some wine and walked home. Our legs were killing us, total of 8km walked! When I got home, we found out my grandma passed away so stayed in for the night so I could talk to family and friends.
That brings me to this morning. We got up and wanted to honor grandma in a special way. We biked 10km on their 'green trails' (like rails to trails) to another close town through farms, under bridges, to Chivry, and went to the restaurant. Oh. My. It was one of the best dining experiences I've ever had. The chef/owner is such an amazing woman. The restaurant is small but so full of character and the cellar was built in the 8th century. France = love! We ordered wine from Chivry, chose the set menu which was start to finish - amazing. Appetizers were terrin du chef (meat pâté with salad) and oeufs de meurette (poached eggs in a red wine sauce with kidney beans and onions), then our main was pork tenderloin wrapped in a slightly doughy pastry with a cream sauce, mashed potatoes in a tiny mason jar and vegetables. Dessert was apple pie with raisin ice cream (mine!) and Derek got a cheese plate with three different cheeses from the region. The other chef came out in the middle of the meal which was neat! At the end, the owner came around with some brandy for us (Derek had mine, too strong!). All in all, amazing. We don't have those experiences often!
We walked around Chivry, checked out a gRden/park area and jumped back on our bikes to start back to Buxy. Lots if photos later we made it back here and are now just relaxing before we leave for Lyon in the morning!