Was working away at my desk this morning, feeling rather stressed as have a mile-long list of things to do before we leave for Italy on Thursday (feels very strange to be just hopping in the car to drive to Tuscany, rather than packing colouring books, crayons, etc. for long trans-atlantic flight), when Franck walzed back into the office after driving the girls to school with four long-stemmed red roses. I had completely forgotten that it was even Valentine’s day up until then – but what a nice suprise. Now we’re both back to staring at our computer screens once more, but it’s nice to feel a bit swept off one’s feet for a brief moment in the midst of the chaos of everyday life.
Oh, yeah. Italy. Tuscany, actually, a place I have been lusting to go to for many years now. We’re swapping vacation rental houses with a realtor and his wife from Victoria who own a place about an hour from Florence. I’ll be out of email / computer contact while I’m there, but I’ll be sure to post when I return.
But speaking of hopping in the car…one thing that I love about Europe, and especially Burgundy (which is just so central) is that you can drive in any direction for an hour and find yourself in a new place with a completely different landscape, local cuisine, house style, etc.
We did this last weeknd, when we hopped in the car with our great friends Martial and Isabelle and went to the Jura for the day. This is the region just slightly South-East of us here near Beaune. Within an hour we had stopped in the alpine village of Pontigny and were admiring an incredible landscape of frosted trees and deep ravines.
We meandered our way through the snowy pine forests to an amazing restaurant that Martial had found in his work (he sells enameled street signs, and in France when you are in sales you generally know all the good restaurants). The restaurant, called Les Louvieres, is on top of a mountain and so isolated that all you can here is the sound of frost crackling on the tree branches.
To get there you have to negotiate a steep and narrow road, only wide enough for one car to pass. I asked Martial what would happen if a car came down at the same time we were going up.
“Well, I guess one of us would have to practise our driving in reverse,” he answered, nonplussed as usual.
The restaurant was created (including all of the work on the building) by a Franco-Canadian couple. Although I didn’t meet the french half, Phillippe, who was very busy in the kitchen, but the Canadian half, from Manitoba, no less, welcomed us with warm Canadian hositality. Us two Canucks almost cried with relief to be able to “tutoyer” a total stanger.
Les Louvieres was a total revelation. The decor was simple, warm, and inviting, and the food was original and delicious, and NOT something you would expect to find on a mountaintop in the Jura. Just to give you an idea, our starter was foie gras sushi dipped in a maple syrup vinigrette.
Continuing in this vein, we had an amazing meal and lots of laughs and then finished up with a lovely espresso and chocolate (I love places who serve you a little square of perfect dark chocolate with your coffee) in front of the roaring fireplace. This galvanized us for a walk through the forest where snowshoes had obviously passed not long before. We’re already planning on coming back in the summer, when Martial says we can eat outside under great big tree.
We hopped back in the car and made it down the mountain in one piece. After that we went around to check out the ski hills nearby, which would be perfect for a ski holiday with our kiddies, and lastly we went to Morbier to buy several hunks of freshly made cheese to stink up the car on the way home.
When we got back home I felt as though we had just visited a foreign country rather than the neighbouring departement.