Tuesday, September 30, 2014

France: Searching for Mary Magdalene in Vezelay

Vezelay is a city on a rock that rises from the valley below. It is one of the four cities from which the route to Santiago de Compostela begins in France. It was from Vezelay that St Bernard called for the Second Crusade and it was in Vezelay that Richard the Lionhearted and King Philippe Auguste met to go on the Third Crusade. But the main claim to fame of Vezelay is the Basilica of St Madeleine.

We being the stellar citizens that we are parked at the bottom of the hill as requested by the signs. We then proceeded to follow the pilgrim's route up the steep streets leading to the Basilica. In January most of the stores lining the streets were closed but I can imagine what it must be like in the summer. Then as we finally arrived at the Basilica we were greeted by the parking lot in front of it. They got us again. We could have driven right up. 

The original religious foundation at this location began in the 9th century. It has undergone many changes and much destruction over the centuries. The Huguenots in the 16th century and then the Revolution had brought the building almost to the point of collapse. Violet le Luc finally took responsibility for its rebuilding in the mid 19th century. Today, it is a lovely church that will take your breath away with its beauty and its location.


Must-sees here include the relics that claim to be St Mary Magdalene. They are what made this Basilica famous in the Middle Ages and still do so today. The relics are in a golden box behind a grill.

You also must check out the capitals. They are fantastic and we spent a good amount of time trying to locate the different ones we found in our guidebook. There is a beautiful one of Adam and Eve with the tree and serpent and another one of Noah building the ark. Almost 100 bible stories are represented and the guidebook documents each one. Finding them is the fun.

Adoration was going on in a small chapel and we joined the nun who was there for prayer. A new monastic community has taken charge of the spiritual life of the Basilica.

An honor box is offered to pay for the guidebooks but no gift shop is located in the Basilica. A small gift store is offered right across the street and we made a short stop there. Take your time to enjoy the view from here, it is wonderful.

Monday, September 29, 2014

France: Casino Cafeteria Aquarelle- Dijon

When we stayed at the Holiday Inn at the Toison D'Or Shopping Center we ate our first nights dinner at the hotel. While it was okay, it was nothing special and like most hotel restaurants was a little pricey. Since we had arrived a little late and totally exhausted from having been lost and trying to find our way here, we were glad not to have to worry about food. 

The second night, we ventured into the mall to see what they had to offer and we discover the cafeteria. One thing I have to say, cafeterias in France are quite common, well priced and have amazingly good food. 

Like most cafeterias you grab your tray and head for the salad and appetizers. It is sold by weight so be careful about what you put on your plate. Be warned, when we were here, no one spoke English so you need to at least know how to read French to order your meal. The meat will be cooked to order if it is a steak or fish etc.

I ordered the choucroute which is an Alsatian dish of ham, sauerkraut, sausage and potatoes. it was good enough that I ordered it again the second night.

They have lots of dessert choices and an ice cream bar. You will be surprised just how economical it is to eat here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Picturesque Fontenay Abbey

On October 29th 1118, 13 monks from Clairvaux led by St. Bernard himself, founded Fontenay Abbey. It was not until 12 years later that they settled on the site where the Abbey now stands. Their order was Cistercian and their goal was to found a monastery that would be totally self-sufficient and autonomous from other Cistercian monasteries. Much of Fontenay owes its existence to English money ironically, brought first by Ebrand of Arundel and later by a grant from King Edward III of England. Religious life continued here for 672 years. In 1792, the Directoire of Semur,  took possession and a paper mill was created on the property.

Luckily for Fontenay,  it came into the possession of Marc Seguin a 19th century engineer. He kept Fontenay from being destroyed by being a sympathetic landlord. He used the property without destroying its original beauty. He leased it to his son-in-law, one of the Montgolfier brothers. It finally ended up in the possession of Raymond Montgolfier's son in law Edward Aynard. It was he who began the restoration of Fontenay to its former splendor. Its restoration has now involved 5 generations of the Aynard family.

You enter through the gift shop which isn't such a bad idea. This was the only place we went where they wanted us to pay in Francs if we had them. We did. We picked up our guide books first to help us as well walked through the site.

The first building we visited was the church. As you enter you are greeted by Gregorian chant, very effective I thought. The building is simplicity itself, no stone steeple, no soaring roof, the interior in the shape of the Latin cross but it is imposing nevertheless. At the far end stands the beautiful statue of Our Lady Of Fontenay which dates from the 13th century. There are also the tombs of 2 of the abbey's benefactors Seigneur de Mello and his wife from the same period.

We walked around the courtyard in the cloister much as the monks must have once walked and visited the warming room, the Chapter House, the Scriptorium and the Calefactory. All of it beautifully restored.

You must also take the time to visit the Forge which has been restored. From there you can visit the pool which has some very large fish and also the beautiful fountain and the flue.

In warmer weather, there are also gardens that may be visited.

We finished up back in the gift shop where I got myself a silver medal with Our Lady Of Fontenay on it and we visited their small cafeteria which is really just a few machines. It was a rainy, cold day and the hot chocolate was very welcome.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Photo Friday- North Carolina Transportation Museum

We had a great visit at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. A visit here includes an excursion train ride but there is also a great car museum with some excellent vehicles to enjoy. 
Inside the excursion train

The exterior of one of the museum buildings

The excursion train

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flashback Thursday Dufferin Terrace -Terrasse Dufferin

The Dufferin Terrance (Terrasse Dufferin) is one of the landmarks of Quebec City. In a city which has buildings that are almost 400 years old, this is a relatively new addition. The first cornerstone was laid by Lord Dufferin who was the third Governor General of Canada in 1878. It was one of the last things he did before returning to Britain to become Ambassador to Russia. We have more than just this to thank him for, he protected the walls of the old city from being torn down for development and for that we must all be grateful. 

Dufferin Terrace runs for about half a mile right on the edge of the escarpment. The Chateau Frontenac towers above the boardwalk that is anchored by the statue of the founder of Quebec City, Samuel de Champlain.
View of the Chateau Frontenac from the Dufferin Terrace
In the summer this is a great place to enjoy the views of the St. Lawrence River and the entertainment that is bound to pop up at any moment. In the winter, this is the location of a bobsled run.  At the eastern corner is the entrance to the funicular and at the western end are the stairs that lead to the Governors Promenade and the Plains of Abraham.    
View west from the Dufferin Terrace

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Vintage Atlantic Wine Region

Uncorking the New Vintage Atlantic Wine Region  

Wilmington, Del – A collaborative group of destination marketing organizations, wineries and wine trails launched the newly-developed Vintage Atlantic Wine Region, a collection of the first East Coast multi-state wine region encompassing Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The Vintage Atlantic Wine Region collaboration started in August 2013.  Its mission is to create a Wine Region that links existing wine trails and wineries in four states, ignoring state borders, that have common geography, climate and growing conditions, for the collective benefit of promoting those trails, together with the Region's other historical and tourism assets within and beyond this Region.  This Region encompasses the area around the Delaware Bay and lower Delaware River, up to and including the Philadelphia Metro Area. 
Scott Donnini of Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery explains “What a region needs to become a Wine Region are serious, quality wines and a critical mass of wineries making them.  We already knew that there were great wines being made in this area.  Then when you look at the map in a new way, you suddenly see over 50 wineries, all within easy driving distance of one another, and lots to do in between – in short – a destination.”

According to Chuck Nunan of Harvest Ridge Winery, “The Vintage Atlantic Wine Region will show the region, the country and the world, what excellent grapes and wines can be produced in our region.  It is an exciting time for all the wineries to pull together and promote with a single voice.”

Visit Southern Jersey Executive Director, Jake Buganski, sums it up best, “For the most part, visitors exploring an area don’t pay attention to county lines or even state lines. If there are attractions nearby that are of interest to them, they want to know about them. The Vintage Atlantic Wine Region effort ensures that visitors are aware of all the winery offerings available here and also helps get them to places they can eat, shop and stay along the way.”

For more information, visit www.vintageatlanticwine.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

France: The Citadel Besancon

Vauban, Louis XIV's architect, is responsible for most of the building of the Citadel in Besancon. It rises 100 meters above the old city and reminds me very much of the citadel in Quebec City. Once in Quebec, we walked up the wooden stairs from the rue de Champlain below and I vowed never to do it again, little did I know that I would do something even harder.

As you enter Besancon, you are warned not to park in the city so we grabbed the first parking lot we found, right below the citadel. We started the walk up; it wasn't too bad if you're a mountain goat, and it got progressively worse. The stairs are very steep, in poor repair, and have no handrails. We all made it up alive, but I was shot for about an hour.

Be warned, the restaurants are closed in the cold weather so you won't be getting any restorative tea or coffee.  There is an information booth as you enter the compound and by the way, a very large parking lot, so don't make the same mistake we did, drive up.

You can spend the better part of a day visiting all the museums here. There is a permanent exhibit on Vauban and his work on the Citadel. There is the Franche Comte Museum which is a history and cultural museum. But what you really don't want to miss is The Museum of the Resistance and the Deportation. This is not a display for young children, however. It is graphic and extremely violent, as the times warranted. It details the French Resistance fighters and the violent end that many of them met. It also covers the Deportation of both Jews and Christians to the Concentration Camps of Eastern Europe. Very graphic and very touching.

For the children, though, there is a zoo, an aquarium, a Noctarium and an Insectarium. Certainly, plenty to keep them occupied.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Carrefour La Toison D'Or Dijon

Carrefour- La Toison D'Or Mall-  This is one of the cornerstone stores of this Mall. It is a sort of combination Sears-Sports Authority-Super Walmart. They have everything from ski equipment, to appliances (stoves, washers, etc.), fresh fruits, vegetables and a huge fish department. 

Need wine? They have it. Want to buy a leather jacket?  This is your store. Talk about one stop shopping. I even bought mustard flavored potato chips here. You can get a fresh roasted chicken or a cold sandwich. Toothpaste or shampoo, I had a ball here and got some great mustard, vanilla bath scrub, hippo shaped cookie cutters and if we could have figured out how to carry them in the car,  we would have picked up some really inexpensive downhill skis. 

One peculiar thing though, I got in one line and tried to pay cash, nope not that line, card only, you also bag your own purchases, hey for these prices who cares. This was definitely the place to go to get the best deals on any gifts you want to purchase to take home.

I was so busy shopping, that I never took any pictures but you get the idea.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

France: Les Grandes Ducs Cafe Dijon

We stopped for lunch at Le Grands Ducs after our morning at the Beaux Arts Museum. It is usual in France for museums to close for lunch, and this cafe was just across the street from the entrance to the museum courtyard. It was packed with local office people also out on their lunch breaks. A word of warning -- this whole restaurant was smokey, I would assume today the rules on smoking are different. We stayed because we were cold, tired, and hungry.
The decor was unexceptional, wooden tables, paperplace mats, and napkins. Our table was tucked into a back corner, but there were no others available, so we were happy to get it.

I started with vegetable soup; everyone else ordered the onion. The onion soup was excellent, redolent with onion and a hint of wine, topped with thick bread and cheese. The vegetable, on the other hand, was Knorr, or I'll eat my beret, not even good Knorr. It certainly had me wondering why I hadn't ordered the onion.

Al was the brave one in the group; he ordered the Jambon Bourgeonneis, which was ham in a green aspic with cornichons (little pickles). It looked really gross to me, but Al said it tasted good. It's supposed to be a local specialty. It was served with bread and frites.

I opted for a Croque Monsieur, which is a grilled cheese sandwich with the cheese on the outside. It was served with a salad with a creamy Dijon dressing. It was very good.

The service here was spotty. We got our drinks pretty quickly, but after that, nothing ever seemed to go quite right. Now, in all fairness, it was busy so I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

The food was not worth coming here for; it was very ordinary, but the location is excellent. Sometimes we sacrifice the exceptional dining experience in favor of a short walk, especially on long days. The reviews of the restaurant pretty much share the experience that we had so don't expect much except convenience.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

France: St Michel Church Dijon

In Dijon, we visited St Michel Church which has a remarkable Renaissance front, it looks totally out of place in Dijon except it has the usual Burgundian triple entrances. It is obviously a favorite meeting spot because there were lots of young people hanging around the front and sitting on every available space. 

Inside, we spent quite a bit of time praying, actually. They have a local saint in the making Blessed Elisabeth Catez, and they have a whole area set aside to tell her story and for people to learn about her devotion to the Blessed Trinity. She died young (26), and her casket can be seen through a grill in the wall of the church.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Photo Friday- Cleveland Art Museum

If you don't think of the Cleveland Art Museum when you think of some of the best art museums in the United States then you are missing out. I am going to just give you a little taste of what you are missing. 
Magnificent Tiffany Window

Welcome to the Cleveland Art Museum
Painting of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale

Jacques Louis David portrait of a young woman

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flashback Thurdays Charming Quebec City

Walk through the old city and spent some time shopping for Native American art, maple candy or wonderful local pastel drawings on the Rue de Tresor. There are many artist who catch the flavor of Quebec on paper and canvas or if you would rather have your picture drawn, this is also the place to do it. You will have a hard time choosing among the many artists who line the streets even at 10 p.m.at night.
Martelo Tower in Battlefield Park, Quebec City
Quebec has been designated a historic heritage site by UNESCO and deservedly so. Visit the Musee de la Civilisation and Battlefield Park for history. It will help you to understand why the French Canadians cling so fiercely to their heritage and their language. Enjoy  the only fortified city in North America. Make sure you walk through one of the remaining gates in the wall.  You can walk atop the 2.5 mile wall or take a caleche (horse drawn carriage) ride through the narrow streets.

Stroll along Dufferin Terrace, have coffee at the Chateau Frontenac, be entertained by the buskers who abound and just relax as you watch the ships travel up the St Lawrence.

Take the funicular from the upper to lower city. It gives a unique perspective of the relation between the two areas of the city and the house where it ends in the lower city is historic in itself. It is the Louis Joliet House, he of Marquette and Joliet fame. While he is not my ancestor, he is the brother of my ancestress.
Visit Notre Dame des Victoires Church (Our Lady of the Victories), in the lower city and the antique stores along the Rue St Paul. While you are down here, visit the Farmers Market to get a taste of farm fresh delights and local wine. Take your time and absorb Quebec’s unique blend of old and new world charm.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oktoberfest in Maine

19th Acadia's Oktoberfest

Friday will feature the 5th Annual Wine & Cheese Tasting, 
accompanied by music. Saturday marks our 19th Annual 
Oktoberfest Beer Tasting, with food and Maine-made
 artisans selling their arts and crafts. 
More details will soon be available!
10/10/14 — 10/11/14
PO Box 1143 Southwest Harbor, ME US 04679
207 2449264, 207 2449264 

Friday's Wine & Cheese Festival is from 4pm to 7pm; 

Saturday's Beerfest is from Noon to 6pm

Wine & Cheese Tasting Friday, October 10, 4-7 PM
$15 per individual / $27 per couple
includes program & wine tasting glass

Beerfest Saturday, October 11, 12-6 PM
$30.00 full admission
INCLUDES souvenir beer glass &10 drink tickets
Please have current ID ready to show at entrance gate.
Must be 21 or older to enter Beer Tent.
$10.00 limited admission (excludes beer glass & drink tickets)