Saturday, September 23, 2017

Meals on wheels: Biarritz

If you need another reason why Bordeaux is the most beautiful city in the world, then just remember that Biarritz is only a 2 hour train ride from Bordeaux!

The thing with Biarritz and the Atlantic coast is they never fail to deliver, they never disappoint you!

With much more time to explore than last time I was there, I discovered some more gems, like the petit café bar Kostaldea which is actually in Anglet, but only about a 20 minute walk from the casino in Biarritz. They serve maybe not the world's best breakfast, but definitely the world's best view to go with an absolutely fine breakfast!

Every wednesday during summer, there is an evening market in the center of Biarritz where you can try all sorts of street food. I opted for the Talo, a typical basque corn flour based flat bread that was filled with either cheese and lomo or basquella (yes, that's the basque version of nutella). Let's put it this way: it was quite ok, but not comparable to the 2-euro-per-piece-you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-foie-gras-tapas that erm, yes, sort of become my staple food for dinner... after I had already enjoyed an opéra from the newly opened Thierry Bamas Patisserie in Biarritz in the afternoons... Mon Dieu, les francais, ils savent vraiment jouir!

Sometimes, I decide not to take out my camera and rather take everything in with my eyes only – such was the case when I visited the Friday market in Saint Jean de Luz which must be the most incredible market in the entire world. I broke my commitment to not take any photos that day however when I bumped into this amazing tuna in the fish monger's market hall there. So amazing, right? 

Other than eat and lie around at the beach I also took some photos of sunsets, and then some more photos of sunsets, and so on and so forth... See what I meant when I said that Biarritz never fails to deliver what you wanted from a vacation?

copyright of all photos j.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Meals on wheels: Bordeaux, or the most beautiful city in the world!

Two weeks in Bordeaux and Biarritz just passed and now I'm more certain than ever, that Bordeaux is the most beautiful city in the world! It will take any other city A LOT of effort to convince me of the opposite...

The best way to start your day in Bordeaux is by walking to the Place Meynard and buy a chocolatine and whatever else you want (because choosing one is for losers) at La Boulangarie, a bakery so good it needs no extra name. There might be many boulangeries, but there is only one la boulangerie! Next to it is the lovely bar café "chat noir chat vert" that serves delicious mint tea that you can have while munching on your pastries. This breakfast mixes peferctly the flavors of France and the many influences from the quartier's migrant population from the Maghreb.  

I especially recommend this breakfast site on the weekends, because Saturday is the big weekly produce market followed by the flea market on Sundays where I have repeatedly bought awesome stuff!

Sometimes, I'm glad that I don't go to Bordeaux by car, because then I would have definitely bought this garden table and chair set at the flea market, even though I neither need it nor have room for it...

Last time in Bordeaux, I had lunch at Potato Head restaurant, but they unfortunately closed their doors for good only weeks before I returned to Bordeaux this summer. August is generally a bad month to eat out in France because most restaurants close for the summer. This means you have to try a little harder to find a nice place, but with so many restaurants, it shouldn't really be a problem (and a first world problem after all). 
Going out for lunch instead of dinner is generally a great idea if you are on a budget, because in most cases, you can have a kick-ass three course menue for between 18-24 Euros!
This time, I opted for Pastel restaurant, both because it had received good reviews online, but also because it was situated in a nice area, a little off the busteling city center and right at the quais of the Garonne. As chance had it, they closed for their summer vacation the day after I went there!

For starters, I chose the cold, Northern Spanish vegetable soup, then, had a divine filet of codfish with courgette purée and citron confit (OMG, so good), followed by a mousse au chocolat with caramel which to be honest, I liked the least of all three courses (but I'm certain my Dad would have loved). 

All this cost 18 euros, which is just ridiculous, right? I recommend taking a walk afterwards along the Garonne to return to the city center via the Place de la Bourse with its famous mirror fountain.

On Sunday, like last time, I had to go the market at the Quai des Chartrons (of course after having been at the before mentioned flea market...). There I had two courgette fritters for lunch, one topped with goat cheese, honey and figs, and one topped with blood sausage and apple. Happy and full, I then followed the Garonne outside of town (well at least in the direction), to visit the Cité du Vin, a museum, or so I thought, on the history of wine, opened a year or two ago. It was so, so disappointing! The audioguide is a pain in the ass, there is virtually (haha) nothing you can do without the audioguide, there are no real artefacts, hardly anything to read (without the audioguide) and the biggest joke is that if person A is standing in front of a screen and listens to the text via their audioguide, person B has to wait until it's their turn - it's impossible to listen to the text with your audioguide while another person does so, as in really?!? All this for 21 Euros (which includes a sip of wine at the top of the building, you've got to be kidding me! For me it was more whining than wine... In any case: skip this stupid center, and rather invest your money in either a good bottle of wine or a tour to one of the vinyards around Bordeaux.

A place I had been to before but not the last time in Bordeaux is the Base Sous-Marines, a huge harbor building which the Germans made Spanish prisoners of wars built during the second world war for the German submarines. It's about a 20 minute walk (through boring harbor areas) from the cité du vin or a cab ride from the city center (very few buses go there).

The megalomaniac building itself is worth a visit and a reminder that war is never ever ever a good idea.
Today, it houses art exhibitions and while I was there, there was a whale sound installation by Daniel Firman as well as a (real?) life-size stuffed elephant that was hanging from the ceiling in a dark room and slowly turning. Might not sound like much, but it was actually really really impressive. 

One thing no one should be missing out in Bordeaux is taking an apéritif every single evening in one of the many Brasseries. My favorite place to do so is at Place Camille Jullian. And the French make even your non-alcohol choice (here: sparkling mineral water with cassis siroup) look like a real cocktail!!

Evening skies were just as impressive as the rest of the city and hinted at the nice sunsets to see in Biarritz, the next stop of my vacation. 

After three days in Bordeaux (never enough time...), I packed my belongings (and all the stuff I had bought, oops) and headed to the station where this beautiful and huge mural helps you pass the time until you need to board your train! See you next in Biarritz!

copyright of all photos j. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Schloss Restaurant Schwante

While I do like to travel far, something I also really really like is go and explore the Speckgürtel of Berlin. Thus, I took the car to Schloss Restaurant Schwante in, guess where? Schwante!

Above you can see the entrance to the kitchen and below the entrance to the restaurant. On a beautiful summer day, it's just as nice to walk around the castle though as you want to sit outside in the courtyard anyway.

The courtyard is decorated really nicely, I mean, a real chandelier outside? That's my kind of thing. The only thing I don't get are the palm trees which seem very odd in Brandenburg, but then I don't have to understand everything, right?

The restaurant serves a small, but nicely curated menu inlcuding locally sourced pulled pork, chanterelles, Schnitzel and locally made cheese. I opted for their interpretation of Ceasar salad which came with lots and lots of lettuce and pulled chicken. The dressing was a delight and the portion so generous that I almost wasn't hungry for dinner that day.

I never claimed I was normal which is why it is totally ok that I took photos of the lady's bathroom because the tiles! The flowers! The window! I wish I was the princess to go with the castle...

After lunch, I strolled around a bit, though there were too many mosquitoes for me to sit down in the deck chairs waiting for guests at the little pond.

Schloss Restaurant Schwante is just North of Berlin and open Fridays to Sundays from 11 am to midnight. Make sure to check their homepage just in case they are closed for a special event the day you plan to visit.