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French National Radio Interview

Even here - the paparazzi find me!

French National Radio Interview

After trying to duck (le cannard) him for weeks, the well known talk show host Pierre Dans L'Important finally caught up with me to do an interview on the French National Radio show "Nous Vous Savons".
My staff have translated the interview below:

Pierre: Well, Monsieur Charls - you have now been in France for over 10 days. Where have you been and what are your first impressions?
Me: Thanks for having me Pierre. We think it's pretty damn nice here so far. We have been to Bordeaux, Beynac, Bergerac, Biron and la Boisserie. So we were worried that everything here started with the letter "B". We decided we had better move into the "C" places so we went to Carcassonne and Colliure on our way to Chateaneuf du Pape. Then it struck us that we missed the "A" places so we have now stopped at Avignon. Obviously, we still have a lot to see.

Pierre: that's an interesting way to travel, but then again, you Americans do things differently.
Me: that's the whole point....tomato - tomahto, potato - patahto, you know all the same, but different.

Pierre: Ca va (OK). What have been the best things about France so far?
Me: Well, where do I start? The first thing that come to my brain is my stomach. The food!! The food!!! You French really know how to whip up some fabulous food! Also, the way it is presented is divine! The food is regional, fresh and interesting. We have had duck several times prepared in different ways and it was more like beef filet than chicken. Since we have been in the Mediterranean, fresh seafood has been abundant. Everything seems lovingly cooked to perfection and the wait staff always seem proud to serve it. However, there seem to be two things that you do better than anyone. Sauces and desserts. The sauces marry with the food so well, and the desserts....(is this a PG or G show?) as the best word to describe them starts with an "O".

Pierre: Yes, we know good gastronomics. What other things do you like about France?
Me: The scenery is pretty outrageous too. You are wandering through the back roads and you look up on a hill and there is a Chateau that makes the Vanderbilt's mansion look like a shack. The really amazing thing is they are all over and while it seems the French appreciate them, they take them in stride - and seem amused as our jaws drop to the ground in amazement.

Pierre: You Americans do seem to over-react.
Me: That was George Bush, we are better now. Anyway, give me a break, it is pretty amazing and incredibly beautiful.

Pierre: Ca va, d'accord (agreed). What about the people? We hear that Americans think the French are snooty. What do you think?
Me: Those Americans are probably fat people from Florida. Our experience has been the opposite. I find myself saying "Vous etes tres gentil" (you are very kind) several times each day - mostly because it's true, but also because it's my very best French phrase that I can actually remember and say. Actually, it's true - virtually all of our interactions with our French hosts have been sincere, kind and understanding. I think some Americans confuse snootiness with pride. The French are very proud of their heritage, culture and traditions. We have seen a few Americans that think the US is the center of the universe and I can understand how other cultures could resent that. If you come here and say/think "Why don't they speak English and eat hamburgers?" - you probably won't ever find the beauty in this country.

Pierre: So are there things you dislike about France?
Me: Well, if you promise not to tell....there are some things. The damn toll roads for one. I'll bet we have spent 100 euros on tolls Although they are super nice roads. Also, the pizza is nothing to write home about. I've actually grown to appreciate the traffic circles after the millionth one (Corvallis explodes in shock). Once you get the hang of them - they do help traffic flow - even if they also raise blood pressure.

Pierre: What about the language?
Me: I'm hanging my head in shame. Despite two classes at LBCC, several private lessons and daily online practice for 6 months with two language apps (Duolingo and Rosetta), I seem almost back to square one with my French. When I left, I probably knew a couple hundred words and was working on learning the correct ways of putting them together. Unfortunately, after 5 weeks in Spain, my 64 year-old wine fried brain just balks when spoken to in French. I was hoping to do better. Perhaps by the time we get to Paris in two weeks, things will improve.

Pierre: Lastly, what about the wine in France?
Me: Well Pierre, we have been to Bordeaux, St. Emilion, as well as the smaller wine regions surrounding Bergerac, Cahors and the very south around Colliure. We have found many wonderful bottles of both vin blanc and vin rouge. Tonight, in fact we are drinking a Cotes de Provence - actually a pink rose wine - which the Monsieur who owned the magasin de vin (wine shop) here in Avignon said is all many of the French drink between April and September. It is very clear the French love their wine. In fact, we were amused to see that in many of the larger traffic circles, you have planted wine grapes! All that said, there is no doubt in my mind that over the next two weeks - both here in the Southern Rhone and the following week in Burgundy, we will experience my favorite and most anticipated wines. In the next week we will visit wineries in Chateaneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras and areas between.

Pierre: Merci beaucoup Monsieur Charls. Bon Voyage!
Me: Da rien, Bon Appetite, Viva la France! (Pardon, ou est le magasin de vin?)

Posted by Catnchas 04:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

Avignon and the Battle of the Popes

A left, a right, an uppercut, a jab.....

The Battle of the Popes:
In the late 1300's, believe it or not, there was not just one Pope! Due to some series family battles worthy of their own realty TV show, Pope Boniface in Rome and Pope Clement in France (Avignon - to accurately tie it into our journey) duked it out ala the Kardashian's for 72 years (Bruce Jenner's age!). Can you imagine what that would have actually been like today?. How about an MMA boxing match with Don King as referee and Simon Cowell as a judge?
"In the left corner, the challenger - hailing from Avignon, France - in the white trunks we have Pope Clement weighing in at 96 pounds."
"In the right corner, the champion - hailing from the Vatican, Rome. In the red trunks, the round mound of Popedom at 325 lbs - stepping in the ring is Pope Boniface. What's this!?! They are making threats at each other! "'Oui, oui Boniface. I'm gunna messa up you faci Bonafaci'" and "You're in for some inclement weather Clement!" They jeered back and forth, before they had to stop and do Mass. Simon follows with "That's the worse Mass I have ever heard! Your Latin was terrible, you sang the Kyrie out of tune and your hat nearly fell off during the Benedictus! Awful, just awful!"
I'm not sayin' they shoulda done this...but it woulda had some great ratings.
On a more historical and factual note, readers may ask the question...why then is the small village 15 miles north of Avignon known as Chateauneuf du Pape (Chatesux of the Pope) when Avignon was the actual location? Apparently, Avignon was hot and crowded in the summer and Pope Clement needed a cooler and quieter summer home. More importantly, it gives the local winemakers something to talk about during the winter months.
Pics show the Papal Palace, our apartment (careful not to confuse the two, ūüėä, sights and restaurants in and around Avignon, an open air market and another incredible patisserie, as well as the famous bridge that inspired the nursery song:
Sur le Pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le Pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond

Posted by Catnchas 12:44 Comments (0)

The Hill Towns and fields of Provence

A sunny Sunday drive

sunny 20 °F

The Hill Towns and fields of Provence:
Our schedule gets a bit tighter now as we get closer to the end of our journey. However, yesterday we had a free day and we wanted to get a glimpse of Provence and the Luberon Valley just about 40 miles east of Avignon.
We drove through L'Isle Sur la Sorgue, then headed up towards the higher foothills to the very cute town of Gordes - which despite all the Mercedes still keeps its charm. After the daily indulgence du patisserie and a walk through the village, we left towards Roussillon which was even more picturesque sans the Mercedes. Roussillon is famous for the color ochre - a deep orange that dominates the clay as well as all the building that were built with it. The color was created here and used in paintings by many of the great artists of the 18th and 19th century. You can see the color of the clay in a few of the pics. After Roussillon, we headed lower and passed several lavender fields - obviously not in bloom at this time of year. We thought often of our Corvallis neighbor Paul as we shared the road with dozens of road bicyclists as they zoomed through the hills enjoying the sunny spring weather. Heading towards the town of Apt on the way home, we had an endless bantering of how we were "Apt" to be late, or "Apt" to get lost or even "Apt" to miss Apt. We have hit a spell of great weather - sunny, clear and 78 degrees. A very good day.D5F416CEAF0E12CE37EC91A00E46C2E9.jpgD5F5308FB550AF94EEE95B1D75D6B2A5.jpg180_D5F6147F09D5842DC3BAEBF6459C7C48.jpgD5F765ACFC3A5DC6A7D87FB8DCF7B829.jpgD5F8B75DE50FC65B3CBD08B0385C6036.jpgD5F96ABF0DF23FDBAE8BDCE8AF793D7E.jpg90_D5FA5E8606D503E0AD9494B259B480C5.jpgD5FC1561EAAF6E26E75B4A0E5A26B027.jpgD5FD940BBBF72C93BA7B41E55A5175B0.jpgD5FEB175BCB3155A345CE3CA0F1710CB.jpg180_D5FF6A7AA075FDC2653845A44AC42261.jpg It was a good day.

Posted by Catnchas 21:09 Archived in France Comments (1)

The Holy Grail

Visits to the wine caves and Chateaux of Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Domaine Pegau and the town of Chateauneuf du Pape

The Holy Grail
Visits to the wine caves and Chateaux of Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Domaine Pegau and the town of Chateauneuf du Pape

OK, if you are not a wine geek, stop reading and go count your money. You will have more than me after this week and this blog will bore you and make your eyes roll. If you are a wine geek, open your best bottle, light a candle and I'll teleport you to wine heaven. Also, if you are a wine geek, skip the next two paragraphs as you already know this preamble.
There are several areas in the world that wine lovers worship. Napa, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone are probably at the top of most geeks list. Yes, Oregon is special and rising, but it just does not have the history, tradition and winemaking experience that the other great regions have earned through centuries of single family ownership. Since I can't afford the great first growth Bordeaux wines and I have yet to truly experience Burgundy (later this week), that leaves Napa and the Southern Rhone as my wines of choice. Of the wines of the Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP) is my ultimate love.
The town of CdP is small - maybe 4-5k population. There are 85 wineries and over 300 different vineyards. The CdP wine is a blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. The area produces other wines including more inexpensive Cotes du Rhones, but CdP is the king of wines in the Southern Rhone.
Cathy does not know this but if I had to pick one reason for coming to France, the last two days were it. I set up tasting and touring appointments at my three favorite CdP wineries - Beaucastel, Telegraphe and Pegau (the French pronounce it "Pih-goo"). In addition, I wandered around town stopping at several tasting rooms and especially enjoyed Chateau de Gardine, Oliver Hillario, and Clos du Papes tastings. There were also some cozy restaurants serving fine French cuisine, so I was a pretty happy guy in my own version of bliss.
My first visit was to The estate of Chateau Beaucastel - owned by the Perrin family. Raphael greeted me and immediately took us outside to see the soil and the vines - which were in their 3rd day of bud break. The pictures of the large stones tell all. I shared the tasting and tour with David - a young Israeli wine affectionado who was pretty much there for the same reasons I was. Raphael walked us around the outside of Chateau, told us about the family history and then took us into the caves to see (and smell) the large barrels. After a thorough tour of several barrel rooms, we went into the bottle storage cellars (lots of older, large format bottles, unlabeled, but separated into different rooms with a simple handwritten sign in each area. Raphael must have liked us. When we arrived at the tasting area - which consisted of 4 bottles and 3 glasses sitting unpretentiously on a single barrel - he excused himself and a few moments later came back with two more bottles - a '98 and a '01 CdP. He started by pouring a 2013 white that was 80% Roussanne. It blew my mind! I could have sat down with some cheese and crackers and drank the bottle right there. Then after a tasty Cote du Rhone, he started with the CdP's from youngest ('12', '10, '01 &'98). He poured large pours and tasted along with us. I followed his lead of spitting until I got to the '98 which I was not going to part with. At the end of the tour, we shook hands and parted - no sales room pitches - just a simple thank you for coming and sharing.
2013 Beaucastel Blanc - rich, spicy, full mouth flavor, Honeysucle noted with very long finish. Superb quality! Loved this!
2012 CdP - Big wine, firm tannins, but plenty of fruit, nutty, a little gravely with a hint of orange peel.
2010 CdP - concentrated flavors of black cherry, powerful but very drinkable now.
2001 CdP - very soft, flavor hints of lavender, mushrooms and sweet cherries. Wonderful, open and lush.
1998 CdP - Full funk upon opening, flavors of pink bubblegum! Earthy and mature. One bottle would always be too small.

After a sandwich, a pastry and a short snooze back in the town of CdP, I headed south to Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe. Owned by the Brunier family, the winery is not in a rural setting as the town grew around it. I was greeted by Frederick who seemed like a jack of all trades around the winery. It was just the two of us and he warmed up immensely once I showed the pictures of both my cellar and my collection of older Telegraphe wines. We tasted both the Telegraphe "La Crau" CdP's as well as several other wines from wineries that Domaine Telegraphe had bought over the last several decades. They also produce a Telegramme a CdP wine that is made up of grapes from their younger vines. My notes are only for the 2012 & 2001 Telegraphe CdP.
2012 CdP - very easy to drink now, but this great vintage is built for 2020 and beyond. Berries and herbs
2001 CdP - A little pepper in strawberry jam with some browning on the edges, no funk yet. Perfect with Duck L'Orange.

The following day was my appointment was at Domaine du Pegau - owned by the Feraud family since the 17th century. Their production is quite small for such an iconic Chateau - only 6200 cases total - divided into 3 reds and 1 very small production white. The 3 reds are a Reservee, Laurence and Cuvée de Capo. I was greeted at the door by Didier. We shared a few "Enchante's" and then I again tastelessly pulled out my iPad and showed him my 12 bottle collection of Pegau wines from 2000-2012. Cutting to the chase, my wine buds will all want to know if there was a Cuvée de Capo on the tasting table.....For my friends in Corvallis - there is a bottle of the Pegau Cuvée de Capo in the locked glass case at Market of Choice. At $600+, it will be my first purchase - after I win the lottery! I was lucky enough to be standing outside with Didier when a Mercedes passed by the house and stooped. Out jumped Laurence Ferraud, who along with her father Paul is the co-owner and decision maker for many of the business decisions of the winery. She also has her name on the higher end Pegau "Laurence" CdP. We talked about Oregon wines and the CdP terroir. I was brash enough to ask Didier to take our picture together.
After she drove off, Didier took me to the caves and showed me the Pegau winemaking process. I was surprised to learn that Pegau never de-stems and also never uses new oak - often buying discarded 3-4 year old French oak barrels from other winemakers. After going upstairs, we tasted wines from their newer winery Chateau Pegau - which are mostly Cotes du Rhone as the vineyards are outside the legal boundaries of the official CdP territory. We also tasted an '08 and '12 Pegau CdP Reservee. I have both of these wines in my cellar, but was happy to preview both of them as I have not opened one yet. The '08 was lighter than many Pegau's I have enjoyed. It was very drinking easily with hints of strawberry. I won't cellar mine much longer as it seems just about at it's peak.
The '12 was the other end of the spectrum with huge tannins, long finish of beefy complex herbs. I hope I'm still alive when this one hits its stride.
Pics show screens around town, the tasting experiences and the terroir of this incredible area. Cross another off the bucket list.


Posted by Catnchas 14:01 Archived in France Tagged and town wines cdp Comments (0)

On the Slow Road to Paris

Overnight in Orange, fabulous lunch in Lyon and three days in Beaune.

On the Slow Road to Paris
Stops in Orange, Lyon and 3 days in Beaune
I had wanted to visit the wine towns of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, but as our schedule tightens towards spending a full week in Paris, choices had to be made.
We opted to spend one night in Orange before making the 4 hr drive to Beaune where we had pre-booked a hotel in the center of the old city and continue with tasting appointments in Beaune
Orange was a very pleasant surprise. There is a major monument there - in fact the oldest one we have seen so far. It is a 1st century(!) Roman amphitheater that is still in use and hosts a major summer opera festival every year. See below for pics of the huge wall as well as Internet pics of the empty and full amphitheater and pics from a lovely walk around town at dusk. The Roman ruins are directly next to the theatre and are quite spectacular.
Based on the urging of our friends Sharon and Paul Goodmonson, we planned on a stop in Lyon for lunch on our drive the next day from Orange to Beaune. I scourged the Trip Advisor reviews and selected the restaurant Le Canut et Les Gones (lecanutetlesgones.com) Check out the pics. Lyon has a reputation as the gastronomic capital of France. If this restaurant is typical, then we are probably moving here. Anyway, it was fabulous, not expensive and a great lunch stop. Perhaps the best food on the entire trip! Merci beaucoup Paul and Sharon!
Beaune is the heart of Burgundy (Bourgogne) We arrived in Beaune around 4PM, checked into our hotel and walked around the old city. It reminded me of St. Emilion, only cuter, larger and the tourists that are here are mostly French. With the sloped Alpine style roofs, pastel shutters, cobblestone streets and colorful sidewalk cafes, this seems the most "French" of anything we have yet experienced. We will spend the next two days here. I have a tasting and tour scheduled with both Bouchard Pere & Fils and Joseph Drouhin (the French patriarch to the Oregon Domaine Drouhin in Dundee). We should again be in wine heaven as there are probably 50 wine shops who offer Burgundy tasting within 100 yards of our hotel.
As the French say "Pour votre sante!" - To your health!

Posted by Catnchas 06:34 Comments (0)


It's more than mustard!

It's more than mustard!
We arrived in Dijon on Friday afternoon. While I am a newly converted French food addict, the richness does reach a point of overindulgence.
We solved that temporarily by finding a good Thai restaurant that night and loving the change of flavor.
Saturday morning is market day and Dijon has a fantastic one. No more pontification. Just enjoy the pics.

Posted by Catnchas 13:03 Comments (1)


Day 1

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Lovely train ride from Dijon to Gare de Lyon in Paris. Taxi to hotel with mouths agape at the monuments and bustling street life. Room at Westin Vendome on Rue de Rivoli (across from Tuileries Gardens) not ready yet, so we walk through the gardens, over to the Place de Concord where we can see the Eiffel Tower and the incredibly large open boulevards and up the Champs √Člys√©es. After check in, we decide to buy the 3 day open bus tour (double decker with open top) and start seeing Paris. The weather is 74 degrees (sun forecast all week!). Great happiness and wonderment tempered by sensory overload. Pics show our hotel, the gardens, scenes from the bus tour and our evening walk. Much more tomorrow.

Posted by Catnchas 01:09 Archived in France Comments (1)

Paris Day 2

Paris - The city of light (Wallets)

Paris Day 2
Big day....
I have a health app on on my phone that keeps tack of my daily walking steps.
I got up early on Monday determined to set a new walking record. After a cup of Joe (that would be "tasse de Joe" in French), I crossed the street into the Tuileries Gardens and huffed it to the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre. I was 30 minutes early and still about the 150th in line. By the time they opened, I'm guessing there was well over a thousand people waiting. My plan was to do the Sully wing which is mainly sculptures (including the Venus de Milo), medieval life and smaller 19th century French paintings and drawings, but also wander into the other wings to see some of the larger French and Italian paintings (Mona Lisa included). It all worked, but after 3 hours of visual stimulation, jostling huge crowds as well as the unbelievable size of the Louvre, I was Louvred out and needed a beer and a chair. Voila! Paris has cafes! Up Avenue de L'Opera with a cafe stop, over to the Place de Madeleine and back to meet Cathy at the Westin Vendome where we are staying. After 15 minutes, we are off again. Up the Champs √Člys√©es all the way up to the Arc de Triomph - with a brief sandwich stop at the lovely park lining this huge boulevard. We then hoped on the bus to the Eiffel Tower - which is waaay bigger than I imagined, took some selfies, hopped back on the bus to Notre Dame, walked all around Notre Dame (long, disheartening lines kept us outside), crossed the Sienne over to the St. Germaine area, wandered all around, bought an ice cream, got back on the bus to the Place de La Bastille, got off, thought we were in the La Marias district, but actually went the wrong way up to Boulevard Voltaire and the St. Ambroise Cathedral. Had another coffee, walked back towards the Picasso Museum into the real la Marias area, found a lovely restaurant (note the salmon and the steak tartar) and then walked all the way back up Rue de Rivoli to the Place Vendome, our hotel and an ice bucket for our feet at 10:30pm. The "health" app on my phone said 25,253 steps which is over 12.5 miles. The health app in my body said "sleep". Tomorrow we are sleeping in and taking a taxi wherever we go. Great day!


Posted by Catnchas 10:03 Archived in France Tagged paris Comments (1)

Paris - Days 3&4

"We are not in Kansas anymore Toto"

Paris Days 3&4
Tried to make it a slower rest day, but there is just so much to see and do. We went to Angelina's - a Paris landmark right next door to our hotel. Angelina's is famous for breakfast, pastries and hot chocolate that is almost too thick to pour. After that, and a stop (again) at la distributeur (ATM) we bussed/walked to the BHV store which is a large Paris department store. The best part of that is that it was next to the unbelievable Hotel de Ville (see pics). Then (after coffee) back into the Marias district to wander aimlessly towards Montmartre, jumped on a bus again, walked up the hill, took some pics of Moulan Rouge where we discussed Cathy getting a part-time job, wandered around Montmartre, had a beer and bistro lunch, then caught the bus home where we finally just hung out and did not go out to dinner. 13,500 (almost 7 miles)on the walking app.
This morning I wanted to do the Musee d'Orsay and Cathy wanted to shop, so through the Tuileries Gardens, across the Sienne and for three hours immersed in the world of Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Delacroix, Courbet, Gauguin and many, many others - which in some ways is overwhelming and inspiring at the same time. After three hours, I needed a major pastry hunt and was richly rewarded.

We booked an additional night in Paris and now the final plan is leave Paris Sunday afternoon, take the fast Thally's train to Amsterdam, smoke some weed (just kidding), spend two nights in Amsterdam center and the final night at an airport hotel. That said...there is French food waiting somewhere with our name on it.


Posted by Catnchas 12:50 Comments (1)


Those dudes had some cash to blow!

Those dudes had some cash to blow!
Yesterday, at the suggestion of our ex travel agent and (current) Corvallis friend Allison, we did a bike tour of Versailles. Versailles is about a 30 minute train ride from Paris and was the hunting lodge of King Henri and his son King Louis 13th, turned into the Grand Palace by the next two kings and was finally the historic site of the capture of King Louis the 15th and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.
Our bike tour started with a stop at the Versailles town farmer's market where we bought lunch for a picnic, a ride through the town of Versailles, continuing to and around the Gran Canal, forests and Royal Gardens. After a picnic on the lawn near the canal, we visited four places - the inside of Marie Antoinette’s private domain- the Grand & Petit Trianons, the Austrian farming village that Marie Antoinette created to remind her of her home and finally - the visit to the Chateau itself and its famous Hall of Mirrors. The gardens of Versailles are huge - over 2000 acres. It is an amazing place. When we finally got to the actual Chateau, you could not help but understand the origins of the French Revolution - as the opulence of the palace is nearly unimaginable.
Another killer day for our feet as we logged over 13 walking miles again - bringing our Paris on foot totals to over 40 miles. Today is a rest day for sure!

Posted by Catnchas 06:23 Archived in France Comments (0)

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