All of them have traditional gardens, of course, but Chaumont sur Loire has a beautiful set of small gardens with modern art installations in them. The first below is by Dale Chihuly, who did the sculpture in the symphony hall in Salt Lake.
The tea garden might have been trying a little too hard.
The best was probably the Valley of the Mist.
Another highlight of the Loire Valley weekend was visiting the little town of Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine for its annual goat-cheese festival.
There we met the Royal Order of the Cheese (really, that's what they called themselves)
and met the wine maker who provided the wine with our cheese tasting. His Cab Franc-based wine (Chinon appellation) was terrific, and when he announced the price to be 5.50 Euros per bottle, J and I made a beeline for his booth. Colin, our intrepid handler from CEA, the company that handled everything beautifully for my class in Paris (and made my life much easier), agreed Domaine D'Etilly's wines were good, and Colin knows everything about wine.**
** editor's official disclaimer: no University of Utah or CEA alcohol policies were violated in the making of this blog. I played it straight folks -- I like my job. Also notice that the cardboard box in the earlier photo with the goat is closed ...
You couldn't beat the prevailing price for a glass of wine at the fair, either.
I think it’s fair to say that Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine doesn’t get a ton of American school groups and tourists — this is judging by our police escort out of town, anyway.
As much as I love this medieval carving above a door and that tucked-away lily pond, our thirst for Paris walking tours diminished a bit during our last week, especially as we tried to get some work done. Then, over our last weekend, Tiffany and Mark from England visited us, which is a guaranteed good time. Who knew Paris was known for its pisco sours? And, of course, we had to visit out favorite haunts, Hoppy Corner and Frenchie, once (or twice) more.
Plus, it turns out the best pizza in Paris was about 100 meters from our apartment.
Tiffany discovered a very cool multimedia presentation of Klimt and the secessionists. Basically one walked into a giant auditorium where 150 projectors worked their magic.
One of our last nights, Colin took me out to a wine bar owned by his friend in one of the Passages (the very cool old covered shopping alleys that dot Paris).
Needless to say, a wine bar sans Americans at which we enjoyed self-pouring privileges was Parisian perfection. As mentioned. Colin knows everything about wine. After a Cinsault from the Gard (around the city of Nîmes), and a Morgon (Beaujolais) by Rémi Dufaîtr, we sampled a white from the Jura region -- an appellation I had just discovered. According to Colin, "we had a 'Vin Jaune' or a 'vin de paille' from Jura, a very prized wine made with a specific process of gradually adding more wine to the barrel to compensate the loss of liquid due to fermentation." I know what you are all thinking now ... as if Hoff needs something more to be snobbish about. I’m actually not sure about the Jura whites, but I think I liked them more than Tiffany and J.
As much as loved our time in Paris, we were sort of right on the fence of wanting to go versus wanting to stay. Sort of like this stained-glass king, I think ... "Should I get out of the throne and spread Christianity?" "Naah ..."
Not having a real shower for a month was a bit too much. The crowds were also dispiriting, to say nothing of the bad cappuccinos (and this picture doesn't even capture Tiffany's debacle of a cappuccino near the Bourse. Don't ask her about that one.)
And really, we had some amazing food, so take this ultimate-first-world lament with a grain of salt folks, but the fries are better at Proper Burger Company than in France, and, if you aren’t careful, you can pay $40 for a seriously small serving of fish that arrived looking like it had already been eaten
or for an underwhelming steak (Dad tried to warn me about the entrecote, but I don’t think it’s that bad)
We did try to eat as many pastries the last few days as we could cram in our expanding stomachs
And I even did it: I sat (with Mark) outside at a café, with our backs to the café and next to each other, Parisian-style, and stared out at the street, cigarette smoke and 8-ounce “double espresso” be damned.
It's a good thing this entry is nearing the end, because I could go on and on with pictures of Paris's apartment buildings, and especially their rounded and decorative corners. I can't get enough of them.