Frankly My Dear Sarlat…

I went with Hokie and Wildcat on a road trip to Bordeaux.  I’d always dreamed of going to the Dordogne region of France so we made a couple of stops there too.  We heard that Sarlat-la-Canéda (commonly referred to as Sarlat) is considered one of the five prettiest towns in France.  While we have, perhaps, overdosed on cute French towns (Saint-Rémy de Provence, EguisheimSt. Paul-de-Vence, Vence, Les Baux-de-ProvenceEze, Avignon, Kayersburg, Colmar, how could we not give this one a go?

It has a traffic-free old town with cobblestone lanes and renaissance buildings with elaborate stonework.  Sarlat lives in its streets.  Cafes abounded. With wonderful weather and backdrops why wouldn’t you want to sit outside?  Walking Sarlat’s streets we saw mimes “warming up,”  artists working “en plein air,” and countless street vendors.  This mime’s warmup looked surprisingly like the warmups we did in my belly dancing class.   I wish I’d gotten it on video for you.

Foodies will be happy to learn that Sarlat is located in the Perigord area of Dordogne, an area almost 50% of the French believe has the best food in France.  Sarlat is known for its foie gras, while not my thing, they clearly do a big business it.  There are shops everywhere, a statute of geese next to the church and souvenir shops that sell goose themed paraphernalia.  Foie Gras (goose liver pate) is controversial.  We saw a flock of geese while in Dordogne on a farm.   In this area it is an age-old tradition called la garage.  The only thing we ate there was gelato.

Sarlat has such nice buildings because it was loyal.  Huh?   What does loyalty have to do with pretty stone buildings?

During the Hundred Years’ War, Sarlat remained loyal to the French.  The French king rewarded its loyalty with money to rebuild the damaged town in luxurious stone.  Beautiful, long-lasting and fire-resistant…  Oh la la.  

We enjoyed strolling its streets and people watching.  It might be a bit touristy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a really interesting place to spend an afternoon.   I’m sure it’s even more beautiful in the evening when tourists like me have left for the day.

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What The Heck Is A Tastevin?

Until we met Jean-Michel on our wine tour of Burgundy, we had never seen or even heard of a tastevin.*  It’s a small, shallow silver cup traditionally used by wine makers, sommeliers and wine merchants to judge the maturity, quality and taste of a wine.  Jean-Michel showed us a wall of them at the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot on the wine tour.
The wine is poured in the tastevin over the shiny silver, allowing them to accurately judge the color in the faint light in a wine cellar.  They are made of silver because it doesn’t taint wine’s taste or character.
 
A tastevin’s surfaces aren’t flat, they are convex and concave to allow the maximum possible light to be reflected. The stripes and circles reflect the light differently.  As a result, wine sellers traditionally had stripes/flutings on theirs because it made the wine seem to have a deeper hue, indicating a higher quality wine.  Wine buyers had concave circles which made the wine appear more ruby in color.  This indicated a less mature, and therefore less expensive, wine.  Some cups have both.
  
Now (with the advent of electric lighting in wine cellars), they are novelties, nods to tradition or just plain old good souvenirs.  They make a great souvenir and our visitor, The Sweetest Girl in the World, bought some for her family.  If you can’t make it over here to buy one, you can order one from the J. Peterman catalog!
If you are enough of a wine enthusiast, you can join the Burgundian Wine Society, La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.  They wear these bad boys around their necks, have big dinners with amazing food and drink a bottle or two.

Beaune-ified

Detroit is a car town.  Houston is an oil town.  Beaune is a wine town.  Although I think it has some tourist attractions.  We didn’t see any of them.  After a long day of wine-tasting with Jean-Michel, we strolled its charming streets.  If you need a movie location that screams cute French town, look no further than Beaune.
They filmed the movie Chocolat in a town not far from Beaune.

We stumbled (not literally) into a student organization holding a wine and cheese soiree to raise money.  It was 12 Euros ($16) for all you can eat and drink.  His favorite part was the local honey.  We all loved the Dijon (a nearby town) mustard.  I liked the stinky cheeses.
This town is adorable.  It’s Beaune-ified.