A Day in Pauillac, Médoc, France

Earlier this month we spent a rainy Saturday with some friends in the beautiful, quiet town of Pauillac. Pauillac is in the Médoc region of France, about a two and a half hour drive north from Biarritz – although because of the rain and all the August-weekend-traffic, it took us nearly 4 hours to get there (sigh). Our main reason for heading to Médoc was because our friend Daniele had scored Sunday lunch reservations at Mimi Thorisson’s pop-up restaurant (a post dedicated to that amazing experience coming soon), and we decided to head up a day early to explore Médoc a bit, since none of us had ever been there. Because we booked just days in advance we didn’t have many hotel options, but we were luckily able to find two available rooms at Logis Hotel de France et d’Angleterre in Pauillac, which is how we ended up in this quiet little town.

As soon as we pulled into the center of town, we quickly realized Pauillac is not a huge tourist destination – no shops were open on a Saturday afternoon in August, and there were only a few restaurants along the main strip in the center of town (I think everyone must have been in Biarritz). It took stopping at three different places to find somewhere that would serve us lunch at three in the afternoon, and when we finally found a place still serving food they said ‘Seulement charcuterie, du fromage et des huîtres’ (Only meat, cheese and oysters) – but luckily, accompanied by a glass of rosé, that sounded perfect to us!

Dejeuner | Pauillac, France

After lunch, despite the drizzling rain, we wandered a few streets in the center of town. The homes in Pauillac were old and gorgeous – muted colors, weathered shutters on the windows, textured walls, and my favorite detail – the hand door-knockers hanging on almost every door in town. Now I’m determined to find one at a brocante and attach it to the door to our apartment – I wonder if our landlord would be ok with that? Ha! Even though the town was empty and quiet, it was still fun exploring the rustic streets. So much history and so much charm.

For dinner we had reservations, thanks again to Daniele, the master reservation-maker, at Café Lavinal, located just oustide of town at Château Lynch Bages, which Mimi had recommended, so of course we wanted to try it! Despite the rain, we decided to be adventurous and walk. It ended up being about a 20 minute walk, which led us through some beautiful vineyards. Despite seeming quiet and deserted outside, inside was a warm, bustling brasserie, with simple, delicious food – I had a salad and Brent got his usual plain burger, so he was happy.

Walking to dinner in Pauillac, France

Sunday morning it was still raining and we had some time to kill before heading over to Mimi’s for lunch, so I woke up and went for a run around town (despite the rain), up and down every street – taking in all the details. My favorite way to really get to know the layout of a town is to run through it, especially when traveling. There was a nice wooden boardwalk that bordered the edge of town along the river that I did a few laps on. The photo below was taken from the boardwalk, looking back across the street at our hotel.

Pauillac, France

I wouldn’t say Pauillac makes it to the top of our list of recommended destinations, but if you happen to be exploring Médoc and enjoy quiet, rustic charm, with no tourist distractions, Pauillac would be a great place to stop and have lunch, as long as you make it during serving hours.

Exploring Pauillac, France

Our friends Daniele and Michael, who we spent the weekend with, also recently made the move from California to Biarritz. Daniele also writes a great blog about their travel adventures and new life here in France that you should definitely check out : L’Expat. She did a great post about this weekend spent in Médoc, too!


August in Biarritz / Août à Biarritz

August in Biarritz has been pretty dreamy. Brent and I have both been very busy with work this month so we’ve been staying local and enjoying lazy weekends at Château Grettenberger. Late Sunday morning breakfasts on the balcony, surfing and lounging at the beach, beachcombing, morning runs, exploring flea markets, and just taking in every bit of summer.

August 15th is a national holiday in France, L’Assomption de Marie, or The Assumption of Mary. Biarritz celebrates this holiday with a spectacular fireworks show just after sunset on the Grande Plage. Last year we watched from the beach with Brent’s parents, who were in town visiting, but this year we didn’t want to deal with the crowds so we enjoyed it over a glass of champagne (ok, maybe a few glasses) from our balcony. We had such a great view!

The downside to the month of August in Biarritz are ALL THE TOURISTS. I don’t blame them, obviously Biarritz is the place to be in the summertime (we’re so lucky!), but I’m pretty sure most of France, and a lot of Europe, is here this month. Some days I’ve walked down to the beach to lay out and it’s been so crowded that I’ve turned around and walked right back home. The grocery store is crowded, the market is crowded, the ATMs are out of cash, the roads are busy and it takes twice as long to get to work. Our cars have both been hit multiple times this month by tourists who don’t know how to drive or park on our tiny streets, and we spend way too much time looking for parking, when 9 months out of the year we normally get front row parking right in front of our house. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a great month and I definitely don’t want summer to come to an end, but we’re really looking forward to August being over and all these tourists going home so we can get back to normal life, and not have to park 2 miles away from our house.

Only in Biarritz would you see a surfboard inside a Boulangerie!

My vintage finds from the Ahetze brocante, including a set of copper pots, a spritzer bottle, old road maps of France, cognac glasses, and this gorgeous embroidered dreamy woodland scene. Brent and I both loved it – we had to have it!

View from the Lighthouse | Biarritz, France

Here’s to hoping we can make the most of the rest of summer, and that the sun stays around just a little longer this year!



A Visit From The Shivelys

A few weekends ago we were excited to have my cousin Kevin and his wife Shannon in town to spend three days with us at Château Grettenberger. It was the first official visit from someone on my side of the family and we were excited to have some fellow wine lovers to spend the weekend with. They arrived Friday afternoon (bearing gifts in the form of a delicious bottle of 2003 Viña Tondonia Reserva that we can’t wait to enjoy) – I did my best to help them find a parking spot for their huge rental car on the minature streets of Biarritz, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking rosé and catching up about life. Unfortunately it got super windy and rainy Friday night so we didn’t get to enjoy a nice sunset on the beach, but we took a windy walk through town, enjoyed a late dinner, followed by some Port. Also fun to have people in town who enjoy drinking Port! (see Brent’s previous post about Porto, Portugal).

Petite Dejeuner | Biarritz, France

Before they arrived Brent and I were trying to guess how they would want to spend their time here, brainstorming things we could do, but just weren’t sure what they would enjoy, so I was super excited when they asked if any local flea markets were going on over the weekend. It was perfect timing because one of my favorite markets, Les Puces des Quintaou in Anglet, was happening. So Saturday morning, after a breakfast of fresh croissants from our favorite bakery, we set off to explore and do some shopping. As usual I came home with a pile of amazing finds – including a beautiful old platter (my latest obsession : collecting platters, plates, and servingware in an attempt to Anthropolgie-ize my kitchen), an old book filled with maps of the Provence region, an amazing vintage dress from Paris with blue and white stripes that remind me of the parasols on the beach, and a few other knick knacks. Shannon found a few treasures to bring home, too, including some beautiful napkins that match the dishses she has at home and a vintage perfume bottle. We scored!

Flea Markets Finds | Anglet, France

After the Anglet flea market we drove to the town of Bayonne for a Basque lunch by the river, so they could check out another local spot. Bayonne feels so different from Biarritz so we love bringing visitors from home there to see the beautiful architecture and tall, skinny, colorful buildings smashed together along the river. Kevin was brave and ate the boeuf tartare and Shannon tried the chipirons, grilled squid – one of my favorite local dishes. Also while we were in Bayonne we saw the coolest dog ever! He was totally chill while his owner put dog goggles on him and then he hopped up on the scooter and they zoomed away – it was amazing.

After lunch we headed back to crowded Biarritz – attempted to do a scenic walk around town, checking out La Grande Plage and making it all the way up to the lighthouse for a scenic view. But there were just too many people, Biarritz is so packed with tourists these days, so we gave up trying to navigate through the crowds and came back to enjoy the peaceful city views and beach breeze we get from the balcony at Château Grettenberger. I gave my best attempt to cook Coq au Vin for everyone for dinner and we enjoyed more good wine and conversation.

Sunday morning we woke up early and Kevin, Shannon and I sleepily headed to the local fresh food market, Les Halles, to check it out and stock up on some snacks for the day. Brent cooked us a delicious breakfast of French Toast (I always get excited when we eat French toast in France!) and then we packed up Brent’s mini surf mobile and headed to Hendaye for a beach day. Hendaye is the most southern town on the west coast of France, just before you get to Spain, and it’s the perfect local beach for learning to surf, with small, slow rolling baby waves. We brought the soft tops and Brent and I attempted to give Kevin a surf lesson – he did good! We surfed, swam, enjoyed a picnic on the beach with a few bottles of rosé. It was a perfect beach day, minus all the traffic.

Hendaye Plage

Sunday night – their last night in Biarritz, we cruised the other half of Biarritz, took them to our favorite ice cream shop so Shannon could try my favorite flavor – Violet! Followed by dinner at our favorite restaurant which isn’t French or Basque, but a local pizzeria that has been our go-to spot since we moved here. We always feel like we want to show visitors local French and Basque food when they come to town, but we always end up going to eat at our favorite Italian spot, it’s just too good! It was a great weekend. Thanks so much Kevin and Shannon for coming to visit and spending time with us in Biarritz! We hope you enjoyed your time here!

Les Halles | Biarritz, France


Fêtes de Bayonne 2015

Thursday night we celebrated our second official Fêtes de Bayonne since living in France! The Fêtes de Bayonne is the largest festival in all of France and happens every year, for five days, starting on the Wednesday before the first Sunday in August. All the festival-goers wear all white with red bandanas around their neck and red sashes around their waist. It’s not to be confused with San Fermin, the festival with the running of the bulls in Pamplona, where everyone also wears red and white. The Fêtes de Bayonne was actually originally inspired by San Fermin, but no bulls are really involved, it’s basically just the locals’ excuse to have a huge party.

We took the bus to Bayonne from the main station in the center of Biarritz, right by our house, with our friends Ashlee and Daniele. It was only about a 15 minute bus ride to the center of Bayonne, filled with passengers all dressed in white and red. The streets of Bayonne were packed with people, everyone wearing white and red, colorful bunting flags strung across the narrow streets, the roads completely covered in colorful confetti, and little pop-up bars selling beer, wine, sangria, in the classic plastic festival cups that you buy for 1€ and then have re-filled all night. There are also snack bars setup around town selling my favorite thing, meat cones! For just 3€ you get a cone filled with Jambon de Bayonne, or you can get a jambon sandwhich, a plate of jambon, pretty much jambon in any form you can think. That’s the local version of ‘bar food’, and it’s awesome!

I also came across a stand selling red berets, white tshirts, Fêtes de Bayonne memorabilia, and randomly a big pile of Basque Taz’!!! If you knew me when I was little then you know about my world’s-largest (yep, largest!) Taz collection – any material item you can possibly think of, I own it with Taz on it. I stopped collecting when I was about 14 or 15, and now my collection is packed away somewhere in my dad’s garage, but I will admit that still to this day, when I see something with Taz on it, a little light in me goes on and I think about buying it and adding it to the collection. So how random to be at the Fêtes de Bayonne in Basque Country, and see a stuffed Taz holding a Basque flag! No other Looney Tunes characters, just a random pile of Taz’. Am I crazy for wanting one? I didn’t buy one, but if I ever see them again…

Thursday night was the hosted Quiksilver party in Bayonne for all the employees. Even though I don’t work at Quik anymore I go with Brent and crash it since most of our Biarritz friends are there, and it pretty much takes place in the street, with thousands of other people, so it’s not that hard to crash. Quiksilver has a Peña on one of the streets in the center of Bayonne, which is basically a big empty room that kinda looks like a garage, with only a bar and a dj in it. They have endless kegs of beer and champagne flowing, bowls of bread and plates of jambon on the bar, and everyone just drinks and drinks and drinks and dances. We hung out with old freinds, new friends, got to practice our French, and bonded with Brent’s co-workers, it was a realy good time!

Quiksilver Peña | Fêtes de Bayonne