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I Went to France and Thanks to Fodors I Know Why Europe Is So Expensive or Indytravel Went to Bordeaux. :-)

I Went to France and Thanks to Fodors I Know Why Europe Is So Expensive or Indytravel Went to Bordeaux. :-)

Dec 15th, 2004, 11:31 AM
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I think the joy in the details of the trip and you captured it. I must say I did get a bit envious, but again an excellent journal.
Dec 15th, 2004, 11:49 AM
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Keep talking about the food! I LOVE the way you talk!
aj is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 12:39 PM
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I love your report - can't wait for the rest. I had to laugh at your wandering around in the rain looking for the hotel. The same thing happened to me in Strasbourg in October - I think I wandered in circles for an hour, and seemed to always come right back to the same place! Until finally, voila, l'hotel!
Sue4 is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 02:22 PM
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Oh DaVid, I picked the wrong time to read your report! It's suppertime and I'm starving and I know I don't have anything as good as rabbit confit and foie gras downstairs in my kitchen.

Welcome back to the cold Midwest!
Dec 15th, 2004, 06:00 PM
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Thanks Christina. Sadly I did not make it to Futuroscope. I really didn't have much of an interest in it until the TGV stopped for 4 or 5 minutes. I could see several of the very interesting buildings. Now it's someplace else in France I want to go. As if my list needed to get longer!

I'm glad you're stuck with the Peewee image too SeaUrchin. I figure if I had to suffer with it while dining in France others need to suffer too.

Nice to hear from you again famousuncleart. Any home exchanges coming up soon?

Sue4 Strasbourg was my first taste of France back in the 90's. I drove the old town for almost an hour looking for my hotel. After that I gave up, parked and walked for another 30 minutes before finding it. Then I had to follow the hotel staff's directions to get to the hotel. I'm sure you feel as I do though. Strasbourg is worth it. I still regret not buying the "Alsacienne sans Culottes" six pack of beer I saw in a shop window...
indytravel is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 07:53 PM
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Yes, I am going to Paris on Sunday, Dec 19th and will return after the New Year. It is the city of romance and light...so I can get lit and maybe fall in love in a tragic affair. I want to be able to say "Remember, we'll always have Paris."
I will post my journal here when I can get around to writing it since I will be spending time with mon amour.
All the best
Dec 16th, 2004, 06:48 AM
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Enjoying your report, David. Welcome back and I'm glad to read that you had a good trip.
Statia is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 08:00 AM
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Sorry Davis you thought my recommendations were pricey but I did give you a petit menu with prices for Maitre Kanter. We had the fabulous oysters and liked it better than Le Poitvin. Did you go to the Parc de Blossac? Zoologique and fleurissement.
This parc was given to Poitiers by our friends great grandpa. Your report ., as always, is fun and thorough. I look forward to downing a "few" with you.
cigalechanta is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 08:17 AM
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Hey Mimi,

I'm actually teasing about the price of France. I was going to save explaining that part for last. It's also my fault I keep ordering some of the most expensive items on the menu.

Even at 1.33 I was getting some incredibly good deals for meals in France. A bottle of very nice sauvignon blanc for 15euros or 20USD? C'mon, I can't find a restaurant in the US that has a $20 bottle of wine worth drinking.

I can't even find foie gras on a menu in Indiana (though I haven't tried the Glass Chimney in Carmel.)

I think I planned too little time in Poitiers. I didn't make it out to the botanical/zoo park.

I'm looking forward to my trip to Boston too.

indytravel is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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David, your report is by turns funny & fascinating - I'm loving it!!
Beatchick is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 07:32 AM
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I arrived at Gare Angoulême Sunday morning. Last year I'd liked the looks of the town perched on its hill as I passed through going from Cognac to Paris. I don't usually have one night stays but a round trip train ticket from Saintes to Angoulême for a day trip would have been a backtracking expense as I had to go through it to get to Saintes.

I've always wanted to stay at one of the ubiquitous Ibis hotels in France since Accor is based in France. So far it's not worked out. I decided to try the Etap which is a step lower than the Ibis in the Accor Hotels chain. The Angoulême Etap city center was conveniently located between the train station and city center.

The front desk has limited hours. If you arrive late you use an ATM style machine to plug in your credit card and get the code to your room. It's not a key. It's a 6 digit code. The room had a double bed with a narrow bunk bed cross ways over the head of the bed. Phone, TV, one trashcan, adequate lighting it was decent.

They should have not used textured wallpaper in the bathroom. The tiny divots in the wallpaper over the shower had mildew stained badly due to all the moisture. I was less than impressed with the bed. It was a 4 inch foam rubber mattress on a sheet of wood. It was not friendly to my back which can normally take about anything. For 36 euro it was cheap. I did get what I paid for. I'd use them again but only in a pinch. I still want to stay at an Ibis.

Umbrella in hand I stepped boldly out into the rain to discover what the 10th Annual Gastronomade Festival was all about. I arrived at the plaza near the town hall. There were tents set up the length of it. The first tents I walked past held the Gastronomade Farm: geese, ducks, horses, donkeys, cows and the cutest Limousin pig.

Next up was a tent devoted to the Sugar Adventure complete with mini-cotton candy samples at the end. There was a dairy tent. There were tents filled with wine merchants, cheese merchants, sausage merchants, bread merchants, just about any kind of food merchant you could imagine. They were all giving away samples of their wares. Whoa! I sampled my way from one end of the plaza to the other. This was way better than Saturday morning Kroger samples in the chip aisle!

Lunch was at Chez Paul. I had the 18euro menu with a 6 euro pichet of white wine. There was a lighter-than-light ham & egg quiche to start, parmesan cheese encrusted chicken breast strips over pasta with an alfredo sauce for a main and warm apple tart with a brown sugar crumble topping for dessert. It was delicious and huge. I only finished half my main dish.

I circled the ramparts heading towards the covered market. The market has the classic Belle Époque steel and glass look to it. Lots of stalls were filled with wonderful goods. Going out the opposite side I'd entered I came across another tent for the festival. This one had more cheeses, wines and gourmet breads. There was a cooking class going on in the back. First class truffles (the fungus not the candy) were being sold for 400euro/kg. I took those mushroom wanna-bees right off my list at that price. OK, I really wasn't going to buy them anyway.

Angoulême is interesting. There are several buildings that have a huge mural painted on an outside wall. I think I only saw one stop light in the entire old town. I didn't see a single stop sign. It functions completely with roundabouts and the right turning vehicle has priority concept. There was a street that had thousands of white silk roses hanging from strings for a few hundred feet. I'm not sure if it was permanent or part of the Christmas decorations going up.

I ran across a little old lady dressed to the nines who appeared to be well past 75. She must have escaped her companions and was trying to bum a cigarette outside one of the tents. When I said I didn't smoke in French she must not have understood me. She started pantomiming holding a cigarette and puffing merrily away with her bright, bright lipstick red lips. It was a little weird as it made me think of the salt sucking monster from the original Star Trek series.

I had a warm brick baked bread puff slathered with Nutella. The man taking the baked bread puffs from the oven to the finishing table was drinking a 1664 beer. Nothing like the safety of working around a hot, wood fired oven while sipping a beer.

I stopped by the mayor's office. Inside was a tent for performances. I listened to a duet of accordion and guitar.

Next up was the cathedral. Here I ran into another huge tent for the festival. This one had steak tartar samples heaped on toast points, more sausages, cheeses and wines to taste. There was chocolate carving in progress. A group of 3 candy chefs was sculpting hard sugar candy into impossible looking shapes and figures. They would spray paint them beautiful colors and set them out on display. It looked like a crystal fairy land.

Positively bloated by now I was also flushed with wine. The tent was getting warm. I stepped out into the drizzle to enter the cool stone cathedral. As I walked around the corner of the tent I saw a man with that all-too-familiar posture. To his left was a restaurant, to his right several feet away was the festival tent, to the front was the wide open spaces of the cathedral plaza as he made no attempt to hide his peeing. Good Lord. Was now the time for a pee-pee story? Mais oui. I skirted around him and his puddle to make it into the cathedral.

Having cooled off exploring the cathedral I headed on down the pedestrian street towards a museum that was not open. Lo and behold a 4th tent and the biggest yet filled another plaza. While this one did have some food it was more condiments and equipment. I sampled custom honeys and mustards on bits of bread. I looked at cutting, slicing and dicing gadgets. Super expensive knives and cutlery were on sale. So were cutting boards, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, just about anything to stock a kitchen.

Interestingly enough I did not see a single festival booth dedicated to Diet Coke, margarine, Olestra, iceberg lettuce, fat-free or carb-free anything.

After slogging in the rain all day my leather shoes were soaked. I wanted a newspaper to use an old soccer mom's trick. That's how I discovered that the tabacs were all closed. I had to go clear to the train station to buy one at a Relay.

At the room I stuffed my shoes with newspaper. I do mean stuff as in 4 big sheets per shoe. Every 20 minutes you pull out the paper which soaks up a lot of water and replace it with dry paper. You do this 3 or 4 times until the paper comes out pretty much dry. If you have shoe trees you put those in last. If not leave the last papers in overnight. Your shoes will be dry and ready to go the next morning.

I can't believe what sheer, dumb luck I had. I knew the festival was in Angoulême but to have the foul weather hit that day was a wonderful coincidence. All I had to do was dash from plaza to plaza in order to resume my grazing. No surprise it turned out to be my cheapest food day that trip. Probably the cheapest food day I've ever had in Europe. If I'd have known just how many food tents there were I wouldn't have bought lunch.

If you aren't a foodie I wouldn't bother with Angoulême during the yearly Gastronomade Festival. The whole town was shut down so the festival could run. Few stores, bars and restaurants were open. Even tabacs were shut down. A couple of small museums weren't open though it might have been due to the off season. The covered market did run Sunday morning.
indytravel is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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I just had a brief look and it is quite funny and very well written. I have to print the whole story to read it carefully over the week-end.

I can imagine the people in Poitiers do not see many American tourists on a regular basis.

Mr Indytravel apparently enjoys (French) wine!!!! LOL
Joelle is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 08:17 AM
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You bet I love my wine Joelle! OK, let's not be too picky. I really like my alcohol.

At the end I'll reveal just how much I spent on it.

I find alcohol and public transportation mixes quite nicely in Europe, one more reason for me to go.
indytravel is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 09:40 AM
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I hope there's more, David. A very enjoyable read.

"mushroom wannabes"
Beatchick is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 09:49 AM
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Like your report, Indy

>...I sampled my way from one end of the plaza to the other....Lunch was at Chez Paul. <

Good Lord!
ira is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 10:45 AM
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OK, I made it past the Peewee Herman references and restrained myself from commenting. But the salt-sucking monster! I remember it well. And by now we all know you collect images of men marking their territory like cats. So I'm thinking that you'd better have some good pictures of the food tents to erase those visuals.

Did you know about the Gastronomade festival when you planned your stop in Angouleme? Sounds like three stars to me, worth the trip.
Nikki is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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Indy, just one quick question. Just exactly how many pounds did you gain while on this fantastic trip? Good grief, I thought I like to eat but I have been sitting here thinking Indy's appetite is awesome!

I feel like I have gained weight just reading about all this fantastic food.
Very interesting and enjoyable report by the way. Sounds like a fantastic trip. And I remember my Dad doing the newspaper in the wet shoes trick. Had forgotten about that.
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 09:07 AM
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greats stories and great suggestions for an older sophisicated gentleman with a weak bladder...look, without gravity i couldn't pee.
The story is peppered with excellent observations and humor. Well Done and Rare at times but do not become Medium.
Dec 18th, 2004, 09:27 AM
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Your reports are quite amusing, Indytravel - I love the way you write.
And you DO like to eat! Sounds like you lucked out with Angouleme on that trip.
I might be spending one night in Angouleme next May (training in from Paris on my way to the Dordogne). Don't think I'll stay at that hotel, though!
I know you didn't drive, but does Angouleme look like a feasible town to pick up a car at the train station, and drive right out of town? I don't know why I always worry so about picking up my rental car. Think I should stick to trains like you do. Looking forward to the rest of your report.
Sue4 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 01:30 PM
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Great read so far. Looking forward to your report on Bordeaux - we were there for two weeks in October (to attend the language school in mornings and sight see in the afternoons) and we really enjoyed it.

And we ate REALLY well! Can't wait to hear your restaurant reviews for Bordeaux!
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