Monday, October 5, 2015

 La Voile en Douceur + Un Coup Droit
(smooth sailing)                         (a straight shot)

Unbelievably it was a straight shot and smooth sailing from Céret to Carcassonne ( to read more click here) no wrong turns, detours, road blocks and miracle of miracles we found a parking spot right in front of our hotel!
We dropped our stuff and headed up to Cité de Carcassonne, our last Cathar stop, just up the hill.
It was spectacular, except for the marauding bunches of foreign students, and all the trinket and torture shops!

 Pont Vieux which crosses the Aude River
is a unique link between the two parts of Carcassonne, Le Cité and La Ville Basse "Bastide Saint Louis"
Pont Vieux is 210 metres long, and dates from 1359

The next day we went to the lower village, visited the outdoor marché

and discovered Fromagerie La Ferme, a veritable treasure trove of all things food, drink and french kitchen.
Laden with Hediard coffee, Opinel oyster knives, chocolate, and a special knife with a grape wood handle for cutting grape vines (Niki's gift to her husband Kevin to use on Refugio Ranch, their Santa Ynez vineyard)
we packed up
and hit the road again, without rain or mishaps, back to Biarritz
The next morning it was off to the races again, fog, rain and mist were back....
Our wonderful adventure filled voyage together over, I drove Niki to the airport in Irun Spain
il était un jeu d'enfants (A BREEZE!)
bid her adieu, fingers crossed her plane would take off in the fog,
turned around, 
promptly took the mauvaise route, which in fact turned out to be a short cut.....(yah!)
headed back to the airport in Biarritz, sans incident, dropped off Petit
Nathalie picked me up and we drove back to Spain
on our way to a weekend birthday party at Caro's family house in Suances
It was a lot of driving
past Irun, San Sebastián, Guernica and Bilbao, Santander, and a few hours later
we finally arrived in Suances
where we met up with the other party people, reconned for birthday gifts

and fare for aperitivos
and for dinner ate fried fresh anchovies
calamar, y gambas at Restaurant El Rincon de Ernesto, near the beach  
the following morning we headed to the medieval town of Santillana del Mar 
perfectly preserved with bright cobbled streets and tanned stone and brick buildings.
 People still live here, passing their jewel-like houses down from generation to generation.

we wandered the centuries old streets
made friends and had lunch

Santillana is part of the northern pilgrimage route "Camino de Santiago"
you know you're on the right track when you see a Coquille St Jacques
and then to El Capricho de Gaudí in Comillas
El Capricho (1883-1885) also known as Villa Quijano, is a small palace covered in sunflower tiles, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, and built for Máximo Díaz de Quijano (1838-1885) a young lawyer.
a truly fantastic house and to think that Gaudí was only 30 years old when he finished it
 that night we fêted the birthday girl
 our final day we drove to Bilbao
(where we promptly got lost, then couldn't find parking.....)
to the Guggenheim
to see

Niki de Saint Phalle (click here for more info)
Painter, sculptress, Dior model +

and par for the course..... on leaving the museum
Nat and I couldn't find the parking lot, then the car, then we lost the parking ticket.... 
(eventually we managed)
and drove back in the rain to Biarritz
It was great fun

Caro's favorite fishmonger filleting our merluza
Dinner Party in Suances 

Merlu et courgettes en Beurre Rose
purée de pomme de terre
petits gâteaux sucré
baked hake and zucchini in beurre rose sauce
mashed potatoes
small sweet pastries

COPIOUS amounts of wine 

Beurre Rose
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely finely chopped shallots (or lots more)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 sticks (1 cup butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces and chilled

In a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan, boil the wine, vinegar, and shallot over moderate heat until the liquid is syrupy and reduced to 2 to 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes
add cream, salt, and white pepper and boil 1 minute
reduce heat to moderately low and add a few tablespoons butter, whisking constantly
Add butter a few pieces at a time, keep whisking and adding new pieces before previous ones have completely liquefied 
(the sauce should have the consistency of hollandaise), 
lifting pan from heat occasionally to cool mixture
remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper 
pour sauce through a medium-mesh sieve into a sauce boat
 pressing on and then discarding shallot (or not and keep the shallots)
Serve over the baked fish and zucchini

smooth sailing in your mouth

next up my last stops: La Maison Schlitenea in Ainhice-Mongelos, near St-Jean-Pied-de-Port 
and finalement PARIS....whew!