So I may have lied about getting better at posting! Turns out blog posts are pretty easy to forget about when you’re doing amazing things like gastronomy trips to Bordeaux! (Nice segue)
A couple weekends ago my "Gastronomie Française" class took a whirlwind tour of the southwest of France. There are a lot of other stories to cover from the past month, so check out my “everything else from October post” once you’re done with this one! But back to Gastronomy! Our first stop was a goat farm with the purpose of showing us how goat cheese is made. Unfortunately (or very fortunately), the farmer giving us the tour made the mistake of showing us the animals first—thus ensued an hour of running about petting goats! There were six hundred goats packed into long pens recessed into the ground. The pens also had superficial fences but those didn’t stop the small goats from squeezing through and moving about the barn at large. However, if any goats were caught by the farmer outside of their pen, they would be sent to the timeout corral. I thought it was hilarious that the naughty goats were given timeouts separate from their friends! But much like the goats, the American students were finally corralled and the technical part of the tour began. We saw the milking facilities and some of the machines used in separating out the cheesy bits of the milk. The last stage of the tour was a cheese tasting. I don’t really like goat cheese, so I didn’t take seconds; however, I made an effort to try the different varieties offered for the sake of gastronomy! Fun fact, cheese varieties in France (and maybe elsewhere too, but I’m not sure) function similarly to the naming conventions for wine. Here’s how it works: the names of the different cheeses are taken from the regions in which they’re produced. Each region has its special recipes but the geographical location takes precedence over the actual cheese making process. So, for the farmer we visited, his farm isn’t in a proper goat cheese making region and, therefore, he cannot call his cheeses anything special despite being the same kinds of cheese as the big name areas. It’s a weird system. Methinks it’s marketing more than anything.
From the goat farm we went to the city of Bordeaux, where we would spend the night. Our first gastronomic experience in the city was a tasting of canelés, which are tiny cakes made with rum and vanilla. Maybe we had a bad batch, but the canelés were nothing special. If anything, there wasn’t a whole lot of flavor and the texture was a little too gummy. After that, we checked into the hotel before being let loose to roam the city a bit. Fun side note: we stayed at a “budget” hotel--which was surprisingly nice--except for the bunkbeds which we had to make ourselves! A few friends and I then walked around town half shopping, half sightseeing. At a home decor store, I bought a map of the wine producing regions in France printed onto a towel. Now I can study to be a sommelier while drying my hands! To finish off our first day, we had dinner as a class in a nice (but not too fancy) restaurant. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, except for the professor. Admittedly, he’s a food snob and he found the meal to be correct but nothing special. The French really like to use the word “correct” with a slight hint of condescension!
The next day started with the trip’s main attraction, Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin (“Wine City”). The Cité is a weird mix of wine cellar, gift shop, museum, library, restaurant, and meeting center all focused on the production and appreciation of wine! The museum part was very cool, offering visitors the complete wine experience using sounds, smells, and, if you went to the observation deck/wine bar, taste as well! I particularly liked the movie featuring historical figures (Louis XIV, Churchill, and Tzar Peter II, just to name a few) all with absolutely atrocious accents! For the more sensual visitor, there was also a room displaying lewd paintings accompanied by erotic poetry. It really was an experience! The only disappointing part of the visit was the gift shop ran out of corkscrews with handles made of grapevine, which had been my chief souvenir goal of the trip! To drown my sorrows (it really wasn’t that bad!) I went to the wine bar to try Gewurtztraminer, a wine from the Alsace region of France. To be honest, it was not my favorite, but I thought it would be my only chance to taste the wine of my francogermanic forebears! Alas, the romantic moment was cut short by our professor telling us that we would try more Alsacien wine the following Tuesday.
The final stop on our southwestern tour was the Château Otard in Cognac, which unsurprisingly makes cognac. We toured the castle, pausing to admire the room-sized stills and barrels. Our tour guide said that, while the barrels are mostly impermeable, some of the alcoholic vapor does sneak out. While this isn’t anything a human would notice, the spiders in the dark cellars are in an almost constant state of drunkenness because of the free-floating alcohol! Their webs, thus, look like a drunk spider made them! And then there was the tasting. I am not a huge alcohol drinker so I was not expecting to like the cognac-and-tonic or the straight cognac that we tried. But, what do you know? It was pretty good! So if you’re keeping a tally on pretentious remarks, you can add “enjoys cognac” to “gastronomy class” and “wine examination”. To add to the over-the-top-ness of the experience, their onsite store featured a bottle of “Strong and Faithful” (I’ve translated from Latin here!), a laser engraved decanter containing a mix of today’s cognac and cognac that has been waiting in their cellar for nearly two hundred years! Did I mention that the thing also costs 4,000 euros?! Needless to say we didn’t take that home as a souvenir!
Those are the highlights from Bordeaux! Expect a catch-all post for the rest of October, while I try to improve my timely posting skills!
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<p>At my school, Lawrence University, we use the word "multi-interested" to describe students who enjoy too many subjects to decide on a single major. Although I finally landed upon an English major coupled with secondary education teacher certification, I cannot think of a better word to describe myself! I have always been curious, and I love to explore topics, whether it is creative writing or mathematics or music or foreign languages. I cannot wait to experience everything Nantes, France, and Europe offer and to share it with you!</p>