Meatneck Goes To Munich

Last weekend I was fortunate to travel for work to Munich, for the Ispo tradeshow. The plan was to check out products, materials and new innovations that could be applied to future boardshort seasons. I was shocked at how large the convention center was as I often got lost in the 12 Costco-sized hubs full of brands and vendors. But let’s skip the boring stuff and talk about Munich.

Tom (my boss) and his wife have really good friends in Munich, and they were able to give us a nice tour in the short time we stayed in Munich. The picture below shows Marienplatz, which I later learned is where Hitler delivered his “Beer Hall Putsch” speech, and attempted to take over the government. His speech was so “impressive” that he had a ‘hokus pokus’ effect on the crowd which lead to a fight killing 4 policeman and 16 Nazis. Apparently he failed at overtaking the government and served 9 months in prison. Hitler was released and soon after became known as the famous…Hitler. Alright enough of the history.

Munich-Square

Close to the Marienplatz was bar and restaurant called Weisses Brauhaus. I was told this place served traditional Bavarian food and that is something Munich is proud of and embraces, compared to a city like Berlin, where big beers and sausages aren’t as common. I was told I either had to have the Pork Knuckle or the Suckling Pork Roast. I picked the suckling pork roast because I was afraid of what a pork knuckle would look like. Tom picked the pork knuckle and I had “orderers regret”.  You can see the yummy, crispy skin and weird potato, that Tom let me try, in the photo below. The potato had a weird gnocchi texture to it, so I soaked it up in the beer gravy, and chased it with more wheat beer.

These Bavarians know how to live! I don’t know where my roots come from but I’ll pick Bavaria simply because beer and sausage are awesome. I like to think it’s in my blood. Weisses Brauhaus only serves wheat beer, but for some reason the Munich Germans don’t call it Hefeweizen, they call them Weissbiers and after doing a little research Weissbier means white beer. Before the invention of pale ales and pale lagers, Weissbiers were the only light beers and all other beers where mostly dark… Ohh snap! That was a beer fact. I drank many Weissbiers and I had to order a full stein (1 liter) you know… because Germany. No joke I even saw John McCain at this place because they had a G7 defense convention going on in Munich. Our local Munich friend noticed and pointed out John McCain and said all the American politicians looked like they came from Netflix’s “House of Cards” and I couldn’t have agreed more with him.

We came back on Sunday for a proper sausage breakfast. We were too late for the sausage, but they did have plenty of beer. So like a traditional German, I sat and drank beer and listened to these awesome men play traditional bavarian music in traditional bavarian clothing. Apparently some people come every Sunday. This one old local had a seat in the corner with a sign that read ‘since 1973′. Every freaking Sunday this old bastard would sit in his corner table (with a surely depressed wife at home) since 1973. It’s so awesome but also so sad at the same time. If he missed a Sunday, his sign would have to be taken down and he would have to start the family tradition all over again. Some families even have Stein lockers at the restaurant where they store their family Stein and drink from it every Sunday. Could you imagine if you had a beer stein/glass locker?

Initially I wasn’t so in love with Munich… I still don’t know if I am, but it was awesome to see the Bavarian culture and drink good beer and eat awesome sausages/bratwurst. Have I mentioned I love beer and sausages yet? I didn’t have lot of time to see the city because I actually had to work…. you know, the reason why I came to Munich in the first place. But I am glad I got to explore and see a little bit of Munich and someday might try and make it back for Oktoberfest…. to drink more beer and eat sausages!

Munich-Panorama

Pamplona : Our First Trip To Spain

Back in early May 2014, Brent had another long holiday weekend so we decided to take our first trip (since living in France) down to Spain. Living in Biarritz, we are only about 20 minutes from the Spanish border, so it makes cruising to another country for a weekend adventure pretty easy (cool, huh?). Not to mention Brent is fluent in Spanish, so while we were still struggling to learn French, it was like a sigh of relief when we would cross the border into Spain, because it became so much easier to communicate and understand what was going on. It really felt like being on vacation, especially for me, who was finally off the hook for having to do all the talking.

We had a four-day weekend, so we planned a roadtrip to a few different places, starting with a night and two days in Pamplona. Pamplona is the Spanish Basque city that is so famous for the San Fermin Festival, better know to most as the running of the bulls. It’s only about an hour and a half drive from Biarritz, and the scenic road getting there is gorgeous : you drive through Spain’s Basque country which is full of lush, green hills and mountains (thanks to all the rain we get here). It was not at all what I expected driving into Spain, it’s gorgeous!! And because of all the mountains, you drive through tons of really long tunnels on the freeway. It’s only a few miles away but feels so different from driving the roads up here in France.

Pamplona-Buildings

I was in love with Pamplona as soon as we got there – the architecture was like nothing I had seen before and everything was so colorful! The buildings and houses were like candy, I couldn’t get enough! We spent a lot of time exploring the old center of town : you can follow the path the bulls run through the center, so even though the festival wasn’t happening when we were there, we tried to imagine what it must be like to see so many people and bulls running through the tiny, colorful streets. I stumbled on lots of great little shops while I was there, too. It was the first time I really did any shopping since making the move, and I was extremely excited to discover that Zara, among other brands, is on average 10 euro cheaper (per item) than in France. Score!

We were lucky to be there on a Thursday night, which turns out is a great night for ‘happy hour’ – a tapa and a glass of Rioja for just TWO euros, which you could get at almost any bar in the old center of town. Spanish Tapas are worth making a trip down to Spain alone! We enjoyed tasting so many different types of tapas, drinking Rioja, and just cruised around town and people watched. It was so fun to see the city come alive with locals who just chill in the streets for hours, snacking on tapas, talking with friends, a glass of wine in their hands… we could definitely get used to this lifestyle (and pretty much have, by now).

Our last morning in Pamplona, before we headed off to our next Spanish adventure in the Rioja wine region, I hit up a few more shops, explored a few new streets, and we enjoyed a breakfast of famous Spanish churros and thick hot chocolate, a la taza, to dip the churros in. I love this chocolate so much because it isn’t too sweet, it’s bolder and earthier, and when combined with a bite of sugar-coated churro, it’s the perfect combination. Luckily we did lots of walking exploring the city, to burn off our nutritious breakfast.

Pamplona-Corner

I loved Pamplona and it was the perfect city to explore for our first weekend adventure in Spain!

Saint-Émilion : Our first weekend getaway

When we moved to Biarritz last March, there was so much to do to get settled when we arrived (open bank accounts, get cell phones, buy new cars, look for an apartment, Brent get settled in at his new office), that even though we (I, specifically) wanted to run off and explore France, we had to take care of business before leaving town. Five weeks into our life here, which felt like an eternity at the time (without our ‘stuff’, without our ‘friends, without our normal routines), Brent got a Monday off, and had a three day Easter weekend. We finally felt settled enough in Biarritz that we were ready to leave town for a long weekend adventure, so we picked Saint-Émilion, a little medieval wine country town in Bordeaux, about a two and a half hour drive from Biarritz.

I’m not sure if it’s because Saint-Émilion was the first place we visited, or because of it’s history, or the springtime, or maybe all the wine, but for me it was one of the most magical places we’ve visited. Our first view of this little medieval town was looking down on it from above, to all the small cobblestone streets winding through medieval stone buildings, the small hillside town surrounded by a valley of French Châteaus and vineyards, I couldn’t wait to explore!

The first thing we did was sign up for a tour via the tourist office in the center of town, which took us into the old monolithic church that was carved into a giant rock in the side of a hill. After our history lesson, the next stop of course was some tasting rooms where we were able to try the famous Saint-Émilion wine, and purchased a couple nice bottles to bring home with us.

AubergeDeLaCommanderie

We stayed in the cutest hotel, Auberge de la Commanderie, right int he center of town, where we could open our shutters and look down a small cobble stone street and see the steeple of the church. In the morning we were woken up by the church bells ringing. It was the perfect location to walk everywhere in this picturesque little town.

On Easter Sunday we rented bikes from the tourist office in the center of town. They were pretty relaxed about it all, and just handed us the bikes and a map with some routes mapped out through the local vineyards and countryside to follow, and said ‘have fun!’. It was SO EPIC!

The roads were very quiet, probably because it was Easter, so we had them all to ourselves. We set off on our bikes and rode through rolling vineyards, past Châteaus, through tiny wine villages…  it seriously felt like it was straight out of a movie. We rode around exploring the roads of  Saint-Émilion wine country for most of the day, until it started to rain on us around 4pm. This bike ride definitely makes the list of top five favorite things we’ve done since moving to France.

The town itself got quite busy with tourists during the day, so the two mornings we were there I would wake up really early and walk around and explore the tiny streets while everything was quiet. I took a million pictures of textured walls, rock work, flower pots in picture-perfect windows, it was hard just choosing a few photos to share in this post!

I love Saint-Émilion and wish everyone I know could experience this magical little town. The cobblestone streets, the textures of the old buildings, bike rides through the vineyards, the wine! One of my favorite places I’ve been, and definitely a great pick for our first French adventure as ‘locals’.