Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wine & Olives in the Bandol Region

If you missed our stop in Sansary-su-mer, check it out here: Oui Mademoiselle


After the charm of the fishing village, we boarded our vans and headed to Domaine de Souviou, a wine and olive estate in the Bandol region of Provence. 


Here's a snippet about the estate: Founded many centuries ago, Domaine de Souviou (which appeared on the Beausset land register in 1588) is a concentrated representation of the Proven├žal culture and landscape. The vineyards cover 25 hectares and are cultivated using traditional methods and the greatest possible Care for the environment. They produce a Bandol wine in three colours that has acquired a strong reputation for quality. The olive groves contain 5000 trees, some ofwhich are over 1000 years old. 


1,000 year old trees. Can you imagine? ME EITHER! I mean, our lil ole country is all of 200+ years old. That's a baby in olive-tree years! 


Here's mom & I at the estate: 




















Here's one of the ancient olive trees.



















Some things I learned about olive trees: 
--very hardy species: drought-, disease- and fire-resistant
--the root system is very robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. (hence why a tree can survive for 1000 years!)
--The older an olive tree is, the broader and more gnarled its trunk appears. (uhm, yeah. that explains it!)
--the olives are harvested in the fall (September), and often by hand as the olives themselves are easily damaged
--olive oil is yummy


Ok, you caught me. I didn't learn that last one on the trip - I already knew it!


The olive trees were just budding when we visited: 




















The olive grove:



















We enjoyed a tasting of the wine and olive oil from the estate.



















While the wine was quite good, it was the olive oil that stole the show! Rich, yet light. I could have dipped the bread and used a whole bottle of it!

After a brief tasting, we returned outside to enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of the estate.



























Antique grape press (antique sounds better than old, right??)

There were flowers EVERYWHERE. So very  beautiful.





















































































This was the first time I'd seen poppies, and how I loved them!!!


























And one last view of the estate before we headed off to Cassis.


















Useless trivia: the owner told us that The Bachelor would be filming at the estate the week after our visit.  Cool!!!

Our next stop was Cassis - a resort town on the Mediterranean. Here's a sneak peek:


















Enjoy your new day!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oui Mademoiselle!

Our next port was Toulon, France, in the Provence region. Well that's what they told us anyway. Our amazing tour guide for the day told us we were actually ported in La Seyne-sur-mer.

We began our day at an amazing local market in the town of Sansary-sur-mer. Warning - if you haven't eaten yet, I'd advise you to go ahead and grab some breakfast before you continue on. Because these pictures? They will ruin food for you.

The produce vendor.


























Yep, my jaw hit the ground too. When I gathered myself together, I continued to take pics, and got these, some of my favorite shots of the entire trip:



















And the strawberries? Scrum-did-lee-ishous! Sweetest I've ever had.

They paled in comparison to the cherries though.


















There were the raspberries too

















Then there was the charcuterie

















Sausage anyone?

























But perhaps my favorite of all: the spices! !!


























By the way, the vendor will ship internationally if you'd like to splurge:
www.cockais-du-midi.com

Sansary-su-mer is a small fishing village on the sea. I was completely enchanted by the boats, the color of the buildings, and the nuns. Yes, I said the nuns. We don't often see nuns in full habits in the US.


















I loved the cobblestone alleys that wind through the town.


























We saw this lovely church (I imagine these ladies had just finished morning mass)


























and this carousel which was being cleaned before opening for the day.


















But the boats - oh my, the boats! Small sail boats, all of them. The visual was so beautiful


















All of these images build to a picture of typical mornings in the fishing village.
Go to mass.
Go to the market.
Check out the fresh fish.
Pick up your daily baguettes.

Seriously? When can I move??

Our next stop was the lovely Domaine de Souviou in the Bandol region of France.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adios Barcelona!

If you've missed the previous Barcelona posts, you can check them out here:

Barcelona: The Pink Hotel
Barcelona: Park Guell
Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona - And the Rest

It was time to say goodbye to Barcelona and board Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas for our cruise. Little did we know, our balcony would offer an amazing view of Barcelona.



















And one of my favorite parts of the city that we DIDN'T get to see except as we breezed by on the way into the city from the airport: Mont Juric itself. It's a gigantic Jewish cemetery, and is the other side of the hill that the Olympic Stadium, MNAC and St Peter's Arena are on.



















You may want to click on that photo to enlarge it. The many, many squares are resting places.

here's a wide angle view:













This is my mom & I on our balcony (isn't she CUTE??)



































I continued our picture taking with a few shots of our cabin & balcony. If you're curious, we stayed in a Junior Suite, which offers significantly more room than regular balcony cabins. And don't get me wrong, most cabins on ships aren't especially spacious. Don't get me started on the bathrooms...

Looking from the door to the balcony



















And from the balcony to the door



















The door on the right is our presto-chango closet (yes, a small walk in, which makes for dreamy storage!). The bathroom is opposite of the closet. Those are our two mini-twin beds (small but comfy!)

We headed up to catch up with the rest of our group. No surprise we found them at the Pool Bar



















We had a beverage, then some lunch, and before we knew it, it was time for muster drill (mustard drill).

We were treated to our own private muster drill given by expert travel agent, Pammy Schleif.






















Then we were setting sail. Adios Barcelona!!

The pilot boat escorts us to sea























Up next: Provence, France.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Barcelona - And the Rest!

If you've missed the previous Barcelona posts, you can check them out here:

Barcelona: The Pink Hotel
Barcelona: Park Guell
Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia

Following our visit to La Sagrada Familia, we set off for the Museum of National Art of Catalonia (MNAC).


























It is at the top of a hill, overlooking Barcelona



















This used to be a bullfighting arena, but now it's a shopping mall. They kept the facade and repurposed the interior.


















Bullfighting is more popular in the south of Spain, near Madrid, vs. Barcelona. (but it slowly declining, thank goodness!)

MNAC sits on Montjuric, home of the 1929 World's Fair, and rehabilitated for the 1992 Summer Olympics. At MNAC, we visited the Oval Room which today is used for many events (receptions, weddings, etc). I thought the pipe organ was incredible.






















This view shows more of the ornate details in the Hall. The columns, the iron railing, the painted ceiling - WOW!



























Even the lighting at MNAC was beautiful:


























From MNAC we went up the hill to St. Peter's Arena












and Olympic Stadium

















I gotta say, the stadium is much smaller than I expected.



















Maybe because I live in the land of Jerry Jones' palace?

Fantastic poster for the Olympic Museum






And another beautiful view of Barcelona. Can you see La Sagrada Familia in this shot??

















From Montjuric, our tour headed down to the port, or tried to.

We went to Columbus Circle (that's him on the left, pointing west towards the new world)


where we were caught in "collapsing traffic"






















Due to this protest



















Or "political party meeting" - depending on who you asked.

And apparently collapsing traffic will sort itself out better if the cops are not present.

















Due to the traffic, we didn't make it to the port.


We passed Casa Batllo (another Gaudi work) on the way back to our hotel








































Following our half day city tour, we headed back to the hotel to crash (we had been up 24+ hours at this point). We napped, then had dinner at a little place in the old part of the city near the hotel.

We certainly did NOT have enough time in Barcelona. it's an amazing city.

One last view of Las Ramblas in front of our (pink) hotel.


















Next up: Embarkation day & Sailing from Barcelona.

Enjoy YOUR new day!