Everyday Champagne | Europe
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2017 Highlights and Prancers

We began and ended 2017 in a similar fashion: on a hiking/biking trip on the California coast. Are we in a rut? Maybe—but it’s cold in Minnesota at the beginning and ending of the year, and in California, it’s… Not.

 

Granted, the two trips were a bit different. 2017 started in Montecito, with more hiking and hills than biking and ocean. And, of course, the tiny prancing dogs that populate the streets of Montecito (with accompanying owners) are a bit more pretentious, with a tad more Botox.

 

2017 ended in Carmel, with more biking and ocean than hiking. The Carmel dogs are more laid back, relaxed, friendly and comfortable in their skin—eschewing the Botox and the covering of grays.

(Yes, it’s true that dogs do look like their owners.)

 

And then there was everything in between the prancer parades bookending the year:

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Basque: Spain and France

All about the Basque.

 

When it rains and you’re caught in the narrow streets of San Sebastián, Spain, should you buy an umbrella? Or should you simply go to the bar and drink Cava?

 

In case it was really a question to begin with, the answer became even more clear when a tiny white dog came prancing down the street on his owner’s leash, looked up at us huddled in a doorway, then proceeded to pee on the umbrella stand and walk into the bar’s entrance.  I think that’s clear enough.

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Montenegro

Our next trip was to Montenegro. Here’s a sample of responses we got when telling friends and family:

 

“I can’t even pretend to know where that is.”

“Oh, back to Africa?”

“Weren’t you just in Central America?”

“I hear Spain is nice and warm this time of year.”

“Oh. Sounds nice.” (Blank smile)

“Do you have to fly into Mexico City to get there?”

“Ummm, why?” (Our response: “Do you know where it is?”). “Ummm, no.”

“James Bond movie, right?”

 

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2016

So, apparently, social media believes 2016 sucked.

Well, I guess it’s all what you make of it.

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Portugal

For the Love of Cod

 

If you’re a codfish, keep Portugal off your bucket list.

 

If you don’t, you will inevitably end up as a terrine, a chip, in a soup, baked on a plate, even in a cheese dip with eggs.  The Portuguese love their cod.

 

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Sicily

It’s not that we didn’t want to go to Sicily.

 

We were supposed to go bicycling in the Dolomites. But, apparently we were the only idiots who wanted to bike ride in a mountain range to elevations of 11,000 feet, so they cancelled the trip for September and we had to re-direct our travel.

 

We hadn’t thought about Sicily, but it sounded great. It was historic, land-and-sea-focused, and had lots and lots of hills. (We must have been in our ill-fated, short-lived “We can ride mountains!” phase.) And it was still Italy.

 

Or was it?

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Paris

Some people love Paris. Some really love Paris. Others “tour” Paris.

 

The experience

The difference is in how you experience the city, or really how you experience anything. You can’t approach Paris as a bucket-list item, with a checklist to mark off items you can say you’ve seen. That’s touring Paris. That picture of the Eiffel Tower you get from just sightseeing when the tour bus stopped? You can download it from any computer and save the airfare. (Trying sketching that bad boy, then you’ll really see it).

 

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Turkey

Merhaba, Turkey

 

The boat was nearly still, anchored in the bay with a half-full moon hanging in the starry sky above. Diana Krall’s “Just the Way You Are” began playing over the central speaker system echoing into the warm night air. Our new friends from Michigan got up and began dancing across the boat’s wooden deck as we lounged, drinking our wine.

 

You can’t make this shit up.

 

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Not Playing Favorites

aka: Selective Memories 

 

When you travel as much as we do, you’re hit with inevitable questions:

 

“Aren’t you worried about your safety?”

 

“What do you pack?”

 

“What’s your favorite place?”

 

The first two usually get a smartass response from me, and the last one is somewhat audience-dependent.  But, the true answer is “If I have one favorite, I haven’t traveled enough.”

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Puglia

Getting to the Heel: Puglia

Puglia (Puh-lee-a) is the heel of the Italian boot.  The leather of this part of the boot isn’t as high end as in Milan, Rome or Florence, but it’s well-worn, confident and genuine.

 

What is Puglia?

Flat, olive trees, olive trees, old olive trees, older olive trees, olive trees.  Oh, and the dry stacked stone walls. Everywhere.  And, the Adriatic and all of its influence.READ MORE

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Florence

Heading to the Heel

A stop in Florence

On our way to Puglia, the heel of the boot in Italy, we decided to spend a few days in Florence.  We hadn’t been in a number of years, and we wanted a little contrast of city and eating and drinking prior to the trip. (We were anticipating serenity in Puglia’s seaside historic towns and beautiful Adriatic water.  Serenity is tough for us sometimes; we have to wear ourselves down enough to earn it.)READ MORE

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Rome

Rome doesn’t suck

 

I made peace with Rome at a small, off the beaten path restaurant. It was a combination of the sparkling wine (in a country of thick, dirty reds) and some fritto vegetariano.  Deep. Fried. Vegetables. 

 

On this tiny side street it finally felt smaller, less crowded, more accessible.  Almost charming.

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A Tale of Two Countries: Alsace

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From the oompah band to the Michelin two star dinner (side note, as we’re writing this, we’re drinking Wolfberger, sparkling rose, Cremant d’ Alsace. HIGHLY recommended while reading, writing, or just enjoying everyday happy hour).

 

Our quest for what’s new in everyday champagne led us to Alsace, home of Cremant D’Alsace and thousands of other, most notably, white wines.

 

Alsace is the border where France and Germany confusingly meet. Are we in Germany? Are we in France? Croissants or brotchen? Visiting the area doesn’t clear up the confusion. Language-wise, it was actually pretty easy for us. We cobbled together our “menu French” with my high school German.

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THE REST OF FRANCE: Provence

Is a book, not a blog entry. 

So let’s tackle in small doses.

If you’ve never been outside of Paris, go to Provence first over Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, Bordeaux, Normandy, Nice, and Marseille. Those are all unbelievable, but go to Provence. Period.READ MORE