Monday, July 21, 2008

France - Les Bourdas

If you want a truly relaxing, delicious, picturesque and entirely French vacation Les Bourdas is the perfect destination. Majestically situated overlooking a bucolic valley, this charming house with a very well-appointed guest house, is the product of many years of renovation and good taste by our friend Alison Bridger. After 3 days of planes, trains and automobiles, (not to mention a taxi and a funiculaire), we arrived in the dark, exhausted at Les Bourdas around midnight. We were delighted with the house, but too tired to really absorb anything. The four of us, my wife and our two boys collapsed into bed for 12 hours of sleep. At noon the next day, I woke up, swung my legs out of bed and opened the windows and the shutters to gaze out at this scene.The accomodation at Les Bourdas was lovely. Beautifully modernized, yet retaining an antique and rustic charm it was really the perfect home for our time in this region of France. We spent two fabulous weeks of exploring the Southwest of France. Les Bourdas is situated in the northern reaches of the Haute Pyrennees region. CLose to the mounains and only and hour and a half to Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, it was a great spot for day trips. I think we most enjoyed taking the short journeys to the local villages for market day.
At the market we would be the local cheese, perhaps a fabulous chevre, a pheasant and cognac sausage, a pain de campagne. Anyway the food was unbelievably good. It is amazing the difference between the industrial approach to foof production that we favour in North America versus the artisanal approach in France. If you are interested contact:

TERRACARTA, Landscape Design
Alison Bridger, 604 294 4864

Sunday, July 20, 2008

France - The Sud-Ouest

I have just returned from 3 weeks in France with my family. This was my first trip to France and only my 2nd visit ever to Europe. The last time being in 1971! It was our first major overseas family vacation. Our journey began with a flight from Vancouver to Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris and an overnight stay in the Montparnassse district of that great city. This part of the trip was a bit of a blur since we spent only a few hours in Paris the afternoon of our arrival before tucking in for the night into our tiny but clean and well-appointed Hotel Mercure on Boulevard Raspail. The next morning we walked to the Gare Montparnasse to take the TGV (the French bullet train)to Pau, the capital of the Haute Pyrenee region we would be exploring. From Pau we rented a car and drove 45 minutes to the northeast to our destination, Les Bourdas in the village of Vidouze. We spent the first 2 weeks in a beautiful home in the Southwest of France. Les Bourdas is owned by our friend and neighbour here in Burnaby, Alison Bridger. Alison and her family have spent the last 4 or 5 years renovating an old country house with an accompanying guest house (called a Gite in France). She has done a wonderful job, creating a sense of tradition with style and all the mod-cons. More on that later. This region in which it is situated is bordering several areas comprised of the Midi-Pyreneees, the Haute Pyrenees, the Pyrenees Atlantique, and the Gers. It is a marvelous tapestry of rolling hills and valleys, turning into the snow-capped Pyrennes to the south, the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz to the west and the Armagnac region to the north and more rollimg hills to the east. It is very rural, in fact what struck me about France is what a great agricultural nation it is. From Paris south, there is vast agricultural development. What we found most outstanding about the Southwest was the food. The cuisine of this region is simple and the secret is quality. We went to many of the small incredibly picteresque towns near Les Bourdas on market day to buy cheese, sausage, produce and duck directly from the producers. Of course as throughout France, the Boulangerie and Patisseries create deicious bread and pastry. Our days focused around finding food, preparing food and eating food. And the food was fantastic.