Welcome to Ghent, Belgium. Oh wait…your not here…we are. Well, that sucks for you because this place is great. It was pretty uneventful getting here other than just a really long travel day – San Francisco to Frankfurt to Brussels and then a train to Ghent. Most of the Belgians speak English but they do like to mess with us by not putting many signs in English so we were pretty sure we were on the right train to get here but didn’t get confirmation until we were way the hell out of Brussels.
It seems silly writing an entire post about Paris. We are likely the last people we know to come here so most of what is in here is probably just a recap of what others have already done and seen but what the hell. This is as much for us when we get old and forgetful (and those of you who would argue that we’re already there, bite me!). We got to Paris uneventfully because we got out of Belgium 18 hours before the terrorist incidents in Brussels. We were met by our friend Christian Selosse. We’ve known Christian’s family for close to 30 years and his girls all came to spend time with my parents to help learn English. Paris is a beautiful city (no real news there) but having a local’s perspective on it was fantastic.
Karen and I have each heard innumerable stories from family and friends about Belgium and Paris but Bordeaux was new to us, our family and friends so we didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, the tragic bombings in Belgium the day after we left it cast a pall over Europe but we were amazed by the resiliency of the European people. It brings to mind how the US recovered from the 911 attacks 15 years ago. Clearly, we hadn’t expected to see these types of events but it gave us a different perspective on the region and its people. It was a view we’d rather not have seen but we’ll remember the news, the looks on the faces and the mood of our friends, both new and old, for the rest of our lives. But enough with the philosophical thoughts..
Damn it! Last day of the cruise. This sucks. The weather echoed my mood because it was rainy and cold. Most of the cruise guests were doing walking trips in the town of Bordeaux but Chef Todd and Winemaker Anna had managed to finagle tastings at two of the classified wineries in Medoc, Chateau Kirwan and Chateau Lynch-Bage. The classification system of wineries goes back to 1855 where the well known wineries were rated into five different classes.
We arrived at our next destination, Libourne on Tuesday midmorning for our first day in the region and the 2nd appellation that I was really anticipating, St. Emilion, the land where Merlot rules as opposed to Medoc where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. Merlot thrives in the alluvial clay and silty soils of St. Emilion creating wines that a more restrained due to Merlot’s softer structure. If there is a more beautiful medieval city on earth than that the village of St. Emilion, we haven’t seen it yet.
Blaye is not as known for its wine but it is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its centuries old fortress. Like much of old Europe, it’s built upon layers of history. The 17th century fortress was built upon a 14th century fortress that was partially destroyed during the 100 years war with England. It in turn, was built upon a fortress and basilica dating from before Charlemagne, sometime in the late 7th to early 8th century. Before that, it was a Roman town.