Amiens France: Somme, Mimolette Cheese, Jules Verne, Cathedral and Pilfered Bordeaux

Wayward Wine leaves Lille for Amiens.  This is industrial Northern France, where your le Creuset pots come from.  Soon our public transport crawl will reach Champagne. But for today we explore this snow-bound spot.

EU Map New York To Amiens Day 183Our bus slaloms to our house-stay at the edge of town. Our young hosts provide a cozy, clean, petite place to stay. The highlight includes a rabbit, well, more like a warm fluff ball:

Tracy Amiens BunnyAfter a warm night, we layer our travel-tired clothes to crunch through Amiens. Aside from the stolid train station, the town fills with quaint, very French apartments and this fabulously unnecessary clock:19th Century Clock AmiensThe town is asleep, everything is closed, so we cross the river Somme (yes, that Somme, of the infamous battle), with the Cathedral looming over all.

Amiens CathedralWe discover battlements with a hospital built into them. Wild rabbits shuffle in and out of snowy hovels.  I steal a bottle of Bordeaux left in a parking lot.

Climbing back into town we find an outstanding indoor market: Halles du Beffroi. We find a long line at the end of the hall. We stand in it, cold, famished and wait a half hour…for Julian Planchon’s fantastic cheese.

Julien Planchon Cheese AmiensWe go local and get their native cheese: mimolette. Magic orange rondles with various ages glow in the cool box. Chunked off with a credit card into a baguette, this nutty, hard cheese is salty magic.  Madness, the US banned it because it is made with mites. Whatever, mimolette is delicious.

We check out an abandoned medieval monastery atrium…

Monestary Atrium Amiens

Finally, Amiens Cathedral is open:

Amiens Cathedral GateIt is the tallest (138 feet inside) and most spacious (260,000 cubic yards) in France. It also served as a hospital for those wounded at the Battle of the Somme. We planned to visit the battlefield, but snow halted buses.  Inside, WWI memorials litter the Cathedral, giving it a strangely secular, warlike tone.  More impressive are the deep reliefs depicting St John the Baptist:

St John Baptist Narrative AmiensEven more fantastic is the Labyrinth, meant for on the knees penance for those incapable of pilgrimage.
Amiens Cathedral LabyrinthOutside, an ebuliant Mary and child look out:

Mary Child Amiens CathedralEnough of the past. Let us visit the future… of the past.

Back a mere 86 days into our trip, yes 100 days ago, we visited Nantes: birthplace of Jules Verne (reread here). So, let us visit his last home:

Jules Verne House AmiensInside are many small rooms recreating Verne’s worlds (a ship captain’s room?), inspiration, and the media rebirth (many, many board games, movie reals, and posters), along with personal effects.

Snow dumps all night. We share our pilfered Bordeaux with our guests. I pet the cats. Allergic wife pets the rabbit.

We wake to buses still shuttered. Our kindly guests drive us to the train station in their BMW. We then spend hours waiting for the only train. We freeze outside, hugging to pillars to avoid wind chill.  But this train is taking us to Reims, Champagne.




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This being Thanksgiving, you probably are hiding from family right now and dawdling online. Well, here is 2015’s Beaujolais Nouveau from iconic producer Georges DuBoeuf.image

Just in time for turkey day: Beaujolais Nouveau!

Appearance: clear, but medium plus purple with crimson highlights and a narrow rim.

Aroma: clean, mild granite, dried oregano, tomato leaf, oh, and raspberry, cherry skin.

Palate: It dry, tart, with mildly dusty tannins, adequate alcohol (13%), making for a medium bodied, fine grain textured red.

Flavors: medium, easy bright cranberry, cherry skin, noted mineral dust, tomato leaf, light vanilla. Medium length.

Conclusions: 2015 was clearly warm and kind to Georges DuBoeuf. This Nouveau has more alcoholic warmth than I have seen in years. Just enough to get into trouble. Mineral and herb fladies and snappy acidity keep this serious enough. Good (3 of 5) and entirely serviceable for today’s turkey.






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The Hardest Thanksgiving Wine Pairing #MWWC21

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Return to France: Lille: Home of Flanders Beer and Foie Gras Macarons?

This Thanksgiving we are thankful for France. So, at last, let us cross the border.

183 days have passed. 13 countries have been conquered.  Beer has dominated our EU Austerity Drinking Tour for months. Sure, Belgian and Dutch beer shocked us into appreciation of how fine beer can be. But finally, we step foot back into France: home of wine. Champagne, that fizzy light at the end of this trip’s tunnel is in sight.EU Map New York To LilleWe start in Lille.

Lille SquareMagnificent, crenelated buildings, color, and life abound in this frigid town. WWI and II cut gaps out of churches and city blocks.  But this is fabulous France. The Theater looms grand at the city’s heart.

Lille TheaterAbove town square, along ancient alleys, shop windows like cats’ eyes glow and tempt us with endless cheeses:

Philippe Olivier Cheese Shop LillePhilip Olivier’s cheeses and staff are perfect. Hops hang from the ceiling hinting at local beer to come.

But to remind you that THIS IS NOT BELGIUM, THIS IS FRANCE, Lille goes laughably cliché on us with Macarons…. Foie Gras Macarons:

Foie Gras Macarons FranceDetective Clouseau’s arch accent now infects our speech. Not to zee ootdun, Quick, la France’s answear to Mac Donalds’ provisions us wis zee Fois Gras Bouger:

Quick Fois Gras Burger(I adore the health advisory that recommends at least five fruits and vegetables a day: yes, this bouger will kill you).

You also know this is France, when an atrium honoring scientists includes Chaptal: Napoleon’s scientist/politician who institutionalized the process of adding sugar to raise a wine’s alcohol: known as Chaptalization (he also coined the term nitrogen).

Lille Chaptal HonoraryAlthough in France, very little wine gets made this far North. Now, I know I promised wine. But Lille is the core of French Flanders. Our grocery store proudly puts local beer at their aisle’s head. We will never have it so fresh. So, once more unto the breach:

This being France, beer comes in 750 ml bottles, sorry Belgium.  Moulins d’Ascq, Hellemus Blonde des Flandre, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. Bio, unfiltered. €2.70 75cl

Hellemus Blond Flanders BeerAPPEARANCE: looks a hazy, medium amber gold, with white fizz film. AROMAS: smell moderately intense of pinto beans, dried peas, honey. PALATE: feels off dry, pretty darn tart, mildly bitter, but warm and 8% abv, with a medium body. FLAVORS: taste more powerfully of candied grapefruit, lychee, beans, and coconut milk of medium plus length. Hellemus’ Blonde des Flandres is frothy, complex, and wild. Very good (4 of 5).

Gayant Brewery makes another Flanders Blonde called, La Goudale, Biére Blonde à l’Ancienne, Douai Cedex, France. €2.74 75cl

La Goudale Beer FranceAPPEARANCE: looks clear but also amber gold and again a very small fizz, white film. AROMAS: smell of ripe, pronounced pineapple, whisky barrel, bark, and honeycomb: fantastically complex. PALATE: feels drier, medium in acidity, with medium plus alcohol (7.2%), and a fuller, medium plus body. FLAVORS: taste pretty richly of roasted mixed nuts, malted bread, honeycomb, orange peel, coriander, and soft herbal hops that last forever. Gayant’s La Goudale is outstanding (5 of 5) beer. Well done!

No French reentry (Frenchentry) would be complete with a visit to the art museum:

Lille Art museumMuch of the work is French and of the last five hundred years. One of David’s early works, impresses us with its drama and pathos:

David Beggar TracyThe later 19th century room ups the verism, amid Monet, with Alfred Agache’s extremely fierce old lady:

Alfred Agache Fierce Lady LilleSculptures parade in stillness downstairs, while a bronze Napoleon spawns French industry from his fingertips:

napoleon lilleAlone now, in the pitch black basement we open a door to a dark room the size of a city block. Glass cubes glow eerily quiet. Louis XIVth commissioned 1/600th models of each of France’s border towns, probably for war planning, with obsessive detail (every home, fence, and turret, is included):

Lille Museum MapWe bundle up alongside boisterous school children and return to the cold.

Tracy Freezes LilleOh, how we missed France. Its relentless drive to make anything and everything beautiful, spontaneous, and new. Even a war map must include hand-painted house shingles. A Macaron is lovely, but why not add Fois Gras? Beer is nice, but it should taste of coriander, whisky, and pineapple!

The clouds break a sunset on a Deco spaceship of brick. Our heels hurt so we head back to our hostel.

Clocktower LilleNext Monday’s post: Amiens and ever closer to Champagne!



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Recycling and Regret 5: Beaujolais, Hugel, Freemark Abbey

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