The Bordeaux Wine Festival takes place this weekend (June 28-August 1). It was created eight years ago and takes place every two years. Its popularity has been growing and in 2010 it attracted half a million visitors from France and around the world. Each year a city is honored and this year Hong Kong is the guest of honor. Thanks to a tasting pass, visitors can enjoy samples of a host of different wines at the festival. Some 80 regional appellations are represented giving an opportunity for both connoisseurs, amateurs and people just learning about wine to sample and discover. New in 2012 is the Grand Cru Passport, enabling pass holders to taste prestigious vintages selected by the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés in 1855.
With 113,000 hectares the Bordeaux wine producing area is the largest producer of fine wines in the world. It produces mainly red wine (80%) but also a fair amount of dry white (17%) and " sweet " desert wines (3%) and even some sparkling.
The Bordeaux wine region is traversed by the rivers Garonne and Gironde . On the left bank of the Gironde the soil tends to be gravelly which is propice to growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Here you find the sub regions of the Medoc, Pessac Leognam, Graves, Barsac and Sauternes.
The soil in the right right bank tend to be clay and favored by Merlot and Cabernet franc grape varieties. Here you find the sub regions of Bourg and Blaye, St. Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and Entre-Deux Mers.
In the center of this fertile wine growing region is Bordeaux, a city rich in history with an elegant 18th century architectural ensemble that has been classified as Unesco World Heritage site. Three other sites in Bordeaux figure on the list of Unesco Cultural Heritage --St. Andre cathedral, St. Michel Basilica and St. Sernin Basilica - all three religious stops on the Pilgrimage road to St. James de Compotella.
Place des Quinconques (largest square in Europe), the newly renovated Promenade along the Garonne and the lovely Grand Theatre (Opera House) make Bordeaux a "must" destination complete with an array of restaurants, wine bars, and shopping galore with prices more advantageous than in Paris.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
|Jean Jacques Rousseau|
Following in the footsteps of Rousseau, our first stop is Annecy where in 1728 the future writer met Madame de Warens. Her mission was to help protestants convert to Catholicism. Upon meeting young Rousseau, Madame de Warens sent him to Turin where he abjured his protestant faith and was baptized on 24 of April 1728. A year later, he will return to Annecy to enter the service of Madame de Warens, a 30-year-old noblewoman. He found at first in Madame de Warens a substitute mother (he had lost his mother at birth) and called her "Maman". She also encouraged him in pursuing his readings, poetry writings and music compositions. At 20 years of age, Rousseau entertained a "liaison amoureuse" with his protectress whom he considered the greatest love of his life.
When Madame de Warens moved to Chambery in 1731, then the capital of Savoy, Rousseau followed her after a brief stay in Paris. He pursued his passion for musical composition and gave music lessons to the young ladies of the Chambery gentry. A statue of the philosopher stands in the garden "du clos des Savoiroux " attesting to the time he spent in the Savoyard city.
In 1741, Jean-Jacques Rousseau leaves les Charmettes to take a a position in Lyon as a tutor to well-to-do young boys. It lasted six months but during this time he reflected on education and child rearing. Later in the novel Emile he wrote : " The noblest work in education is to make a reasoning man, we expect to train a yound child by making him reason! This is beginning at the end; this making an instrument of a result. If children understood how to reason they would not need to be educations" he also said "What is the goal of education of a young man but to making him happy". Concepts that resonates well today.
Rousseau travelled extensively throughout his life --including Paris, Venice, Geneva, Bienne, Basel and even London. He wrote about politics, philosophy, education, botany, musical treatises and composed operas. His ideas were considered instrumental in the cause of the French Revolution. He died in 1778 (two month after Voltaire!) and was interred 16 years later at the Pantheon in Paris as a National hero. In his Confessions (considered to be the first major modern autobiographical work), Jean Jacques Rousseau narrates the events of his life and how his experiences shaped his philosophy. Happy Birthday Monsieur Rousseau!!
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
|Chateau de Versailles|
Here are some critical dates marking the architectural evolution of the Palace of Versailles:
- 1624-1630 -Versailles is used by Louis XIII as a hunting lodge. The king who lives in Paris at the Tuileries likes to escape the rigors of the court and comes hunting in the dense forests the hamlet of Versailles.
- 1664-1668 -Louis XIV, is a young men who visits often Versailles for the hunting and to conducts parties or "fetes". He asks, architect Louis Le Vau to build a castle to accommodate his many guests.
|Vase du Soleil -Chateau de Versailles|
- 1669-1672-Louis XIV now married to Marie Therese of Spain asks the architect Le Vau to construct an extension at the northern end for the King and an extension at the southern end for the Queen the two sides being connected by a large terrace overlooking the gardens. Each semetrical extension was fitted with an enfilade of 7 rooms sumptuously appointed -- King and Queen Grand Apartments -
- 1675- after the completion of the new facade, Louis XIV called on the landscape architect Le Notre to design the gardens. They consisted in a central parterre in front of the new facade, a series of ornamental ponds surrounded by strip of lawn and flower beds, intimate bosquets, fanciful grottos and a variety of sculptures in groups and single figures which took all together 20 years to complete.
- 1682 - Louis XIV installs the royal permanent residence and seat of government in Versailles. More enlargement of the palace took place to house the growing royal family and some 4000 courtiers.
- 1678-1684-the construction of the Hall of Mirrors by architect Hardouin Mansard takes place to replace the terrace that linked the Queen and King Grand apartments which was leaking. The Grand Gallery as it was called in the 17th century, served daily as a passageway and a waiting and meeting place, frequented by courtiers and the visiting public. It measures 73 meters long and was outfitted with 357 mirrors. It also was used to receive diplomatic dignitaries, stage ceremonial balls and on the occasion of princely weddings like that of Marie Antoinette to the Dauphin, future Louis XVI in 1770. Later it was on 18 January of 1871 that the German Empire was created in the same Hall of Mirrors after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and in 1919, the Hall of Mirrors was the setting for the signature of the Treaty of Versailles between Germany and the Allies that ended WWI.
- 1687 -1688 Louis XIV commissioned Jules Hardouin-Mansard to build a castle for his own personal use at the northern end of grand canal--The Grand Trianon.
- 1710 saw the completion of the King's Chapel by Hardouin-Mansart, the last grand project under Louis XIV. The monarch died in Versailles in 1715.
|Petit Trianon-Christian Millet|
Chateau de Versailles
- 1722 - Young Louis XV, successor of the Sun King, and his court returned to Versailles after a seven year absence. Under his reign he commissioned the creation of small apartments for private use by the royal family that were sumptuously furnished and decorated.
- 1760 -the Petit Trianon was built by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel for the King as his pleasure retreat and where he installed his mistress Madame de Pompadour. It was later favored by the Queen Marie Antoinette as her own personal refuge.
- 1770 -Inauguration of the Royal Opera by Ange-Jacques Gabriel to be the setting for theatrical performances. It is here that was held the wedding of the Dauphin and Marie Antoinette in 1770.
- 1771-1775 saw the reconstruction of the Gabriel Wing intended to harmonize the facades of the Palace facing the town. It was partially completed.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
|Sainte Mere l'Eglise|
It started at the wee hours of the morning of June 6 when the paratroopers units of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions dropped in the little town of Sainte Mere l'Eglise under heavy German anti-aircraft fire. One brave US soldier, John Steele found himself, stuck with his parachute dangling from the church steeple for hours faking death to save his life.
|Pointe du Hoc|
Other D-Day memorial sites include Arromanches 's Mulberry Harbour –an artificial harbour—that was used to discharge on French soil massive number of materials, vehicles and troops necessary for the fighting and Gold and Juno Beach where British and Australian troops landed respectively on that June 6, 1944 to successfully liberate Arromanches on that day.