Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: wine

26 days in China, part 5 – Wenzhou

Getting closer and closer to my hometown in the far south of China, but not before I stop by another city in Zhejiang province…Wenzhou! Like every other stop on this long trip across China, Wenzhou is home to a couple of friends whom I wanted to visit. In fact, over the past years, I’ve met many people in Europe who came from Wenzhou, having heard so much about THEIR hometown. So this time, it was finally my turn to go and see the place where they grew up and lived before their adventures in Europe.

First visit: WY the wine lady! I met WY in Bordeaux when she was studying vineyard management, and she is currently very successful in the wine business in Wenzhou. If I remember correctly, it had been almost three and a half years since I last saw her in Bordeaux – too long! I brought her a little bottle of English mead (honey liquer) as a gift. Not sure if the taste beats any of her wine, but the bottle is certainly cute and delicate ^_^

Having dinner at WY’s place means we’re gonna have some good wine, guaranteed. In fact, WY’s flat turned out to be wine haven as she had racks and racks of wine of all sorts well laid out in her living room. What a way to live! People in the wine business truly amaze me because I can’t tell a good wine from a bad one to save my life. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a glass or two though, whether it’s red or white! Here’s dinner with my mom, YY (another friend), YX and MC (from Malaysian, whom we were with in Hangzhou and Huzhou), WY, and WY’s sister. Cheers, and let’s dig in to the hot pot!

After dinner, YY, my host in Wenzhou, welcomed me and my mom to her flat, where we stayed for two nights. I met YY in Glasgow but this was the first time I was meeting her two adorable sons, Jack and John. You certainly didn’t think she was the mother of two 8-year-old twin boys, huh! Anyway, even though I only spent two days with the boys, I felt like we could have become best buddies. They are so active and intelligent and just so quirky that it was pure fun being around them! My mom instantly fell in love with them as well, heh! I really felt bad that I had to leave them in the end 😦

Here’s John (or Jack?!) teaching me how to hold the violin properly. I had tried to learn to play the violin by myself years ago but failed miserably, so it was good to have a teacher! OK…I was so bad at it that he gave up teaching me and just decided to play me a song instead 😛

Day two in Wenzhou, and my host YY took me to a village in the nearby mountainous regions where the TV series “One family in Wenzhou” was filmed. I don’t know much about the series, but I liked the tranquility of the village surrounded by nature and fresh air, away from the big city. Without a true local as a companion, I would never have known such a place existed!

Hiking through woods and up and down hidden trails in the mountains, we encountered a series of waterfalls that dropped into pools with the clearest and most turquoise water I had ever seen. It was here that I wondered…are these the REAL Fairy Pools?! I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if the photos of the Fairy Pools on Skye were actually taken here…simply breathtaking! The bonus point was that this area is still quite unknown to the public, so we pretty much had it all to ourselves. As I was already sweating from the uphill hike, I had the urge to jump in for a swim! Oh, what a beautiful surprise. China, you never cease to amaze me.

Annie and YY finally take a photo together! I was so glad to have had her presence in Glasgow for a year and too happy to see her again in China, in her hometown. As with all of the other friends that I reunited with during this trip, I’m not sure when I’ll see YY again but I’m sure we’ll be in each other’s prayers 🙂

Before leaving Wenzhou for good, my mom and I had the opportunity to visit a local church for its Sunday morning service. I’ve heard many things about the expansion of Christianity in the Wenzhou area and was eager to join YY and her family for worship. First thing first – they weren’t kidding about the huge churches! One thing, though, was that I understood nothing from the sermon simply because it was delivered in Wenzhou dialect…oops. Still a great experience, especially the gigantic lunch feast that followed! If you hadn’t told me that it was a church meal, I would have thought that it was a wedding banquet. Rows after rows of round tables and at least 7 or 8 dishes prepared for each. And all that rice! There must have been hundreds at the gathering – I was really quite impressed!

As was the case in most of the posts in this series, I have to introduce the food. In Wenzhou, we were offered a much more home-styled taste compared to the other cities that I had visited. Top left: fresh steam crab prepared by WY. Top right: Wenzhou-style steamed fish prepared by WY. Middle: hot pot with a variety of small dishes prepared by WY. Bottom left: farm-style stir-fried tofu. I must say, if this wasn’t the best tofu I’ve had in my life, it came very close. I can’t imagine it being made in any complicated way – it must have been one of the simplest home-style dishes that the villagers made every day but somehow it smelled and tasted so wonderful. Bottom right: a type of root-like vegetable called “sheng di” in Chinese that has no direct translation. They look like creepy caterpillars but trust me, they were only vegetables. After having eaten at restaurants for so many days, it was great to finally have some taste of home!

As we left Wenzhou, I became more and more excited because I was about to board a flight to MY hometown, Guangzhou! Finally, after spending 10 days in various places near the Jiangnan area of China, I was able to say that the next destination was…home!

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Things I miss about France

There are days when I just miss France and Bordeaux. I had called the elegant Bordeaux “home” for three years, and everything that was so unfamiliar at first little by little became a part of my everyday life. From time to time (and now is one of those times) I think of the tidbits of my French life and begin to appreciate these beautiful things all over again!

Fête de la Musique

France is probably not the only country that has an annual music festival, where in every city and town, large and small, music comes to life all night on June 21, the summer solstice. I was fortunate to be part of the event in Bordeaux in 2011 and 2013, and all the way till way past midnight, music and dance in all forms invaded the streets. Alors, on danse! (Well, let’s dance!)

Gésiers, confit, and crème brulée

Ah, French food. If I were to piece together a perfect 3-course meal, it would begin with gésiers (duck gizzards) from Les Provinces (the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately) as an appetizer, confit de canard (duck confit) from La Table Bordelaise – they really have the best! – as the main course, and crème brulée from well…anywhere, as a dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about this…

Bonus: I also crave the beef (with the oh-so-delicious special sauce) and the unlimited French fries at L’Entrecôte from time to time. Even though the queue to get into the restaurant is always at least 30 minutes long, it’s never stopped me!

Wine

How can you say you’ve lived in BORDEAUX without mentioning its wine? Alright, while I admit that I’m no wine connoisseur and still can’t tell the difference between one wine and another, it’s become a social and cultural thing that I gladly immersed in. A good meal (the abovementioned, for example) is just not complete without an aromatic glass of wine. Santé!

Coffee shops

Some days I like to go to a local coffee shop with a friend or two and have a quiet, relaxing chat for a whole afternoon. Some days I like to go by myself with a notebook and a pen, writing as it rains outside. My favourite spot is a little place called Les Mots Bleus, but there are so many unique coffee shops around the city that it suffices to just drop by any one and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with maybe a slice of cake.

TGV

The TGV (train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train) makes travel so convenient within France and to nearby countries. Three hours from Bordeaux to Paris (3.5 to CDG airport) and only two hours from Bordeaux to Toulouse – and the rides are always smooth and comfortable! Oh, being young with the youth discounts is an awesome deal in France – make sure you go before you turn 26 (28 in some cases)!

Life in France was once only a dream but one that came true and left behind its traces in the form of these things that I miss dearly. Oh France, what a beautiful country you are!

The 12 months of Saint-Émilion

With the visit to Saint-Émilion in October, I have checked yet another item off my bucket list: to visit Saint-Émilion in every month.

Saint-Émilion really is a lovely place that I never get tired of visiting. Whether it’s bringing friends from out of province to see its medieval beauty, or just getting away from the city for a few hours by myself, I can always enjoy the little town’s exquisite atmosphere in every season. The surrounding vineyards never cease to amaze me, and there seems to be a never-ending maze of narrow streets through which I can leisurely navigate without turning back.

With the help of a simple collage creator (no need to mess with tables 😉 ), I compiled some of the pictures that I took during each trip to Saint-Émilion in hopes of capturing its essence in every shot. There were some disappointments (no snow this year!) but oh, how it mesmerizes me, even today!

January (Jan. 20, 2013)

I went with the intention of capturing Saint-Émilion by night. In January, it was usually “dark” by 6:30, which was when some of these photos were taken, but not dark enough. Unfortunately I had to catch the train back to Bordeaux (the one after would be two hours later!) and so this was as close to “night” as I could get. The streets were almost isolated without a soul to be seen, but I loved how the calmness contrasted with the tourist-filled atmosphere of the summer seasons.

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Saint-Émilion in late November

One day not long ago, I spontaneously added an item to my bucket list: to visit Saint-Émilion at least once in every month. I’m not sure why I decided to do that, but I thought it could be a challenge to make life more interesting for my remaining year (at least) in Europe. Also, I want to see how a town changes from month to month, from season to season, and what better place to go than charming little Saint-Émilion?

So far I’ve done April, May, June, July and now, November. If I plan out my mobility well, the rest of the months are well doable 😉 To add to the challenge, I have different company every time. So far only one person has gone with me twice, and that would be MM. In April 2011 I went for the first time with Chahat, a university friend studying in the UK at that time. In May 2012 it was with my Canadian crew Sharon and Cindy. In June 2011 the trip was spent with the Yihua family, MM, and Wan Zhe. In July 2011 there was Helene, Mengran, Xinning, SB, and MM again.

Before November was over, I decided to make my fifth trip to Saint-Émilion with a colleague. It was also the first time I brought Mr.Nikon with me, hurray! We caught the last weekend before it got too cold, and really, it might have been my favourite visit so far, thanks to so many things.

What makes Saint-Émilion such a charming and irresistible place that I go back again and again? You’ll see. (Click for full album.)

Mr.Colleague wondered whether there were still grapes on the vines in November. Well, who knew? Unless we found out, of course 😉 I remember in June last year, there were green grapes on the vines, but in November, even if there were any left, they couldn’t possibly be green or even purple anymore, right? Alas, we saw some dark blue grapes still stubbornly hanging onto their branches, though these were few. I kinda wanted to swipe a bunch, because they looked oh-so-sweet-and-delicious 😀

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Couldn’t get enough of Saint-Émilion

I just realized that I’ve been to St. Émilion 4 times within the past year, and I’ve only written about it once! Well the 4th time happened last Sunday, right after Sarlat. It is interesting to note that each time I went to St. Emilion, it was with different people (except MM, who was there the second and third time). Also, last year I went in the months of April, June, and July, and this year, it was May. A fifth time will probably happen when my sister comes to France later this year in August. I should keep this a record and try to visit a full 12 times, once in every month!

Named after a monk who was once a resident of the town, St. Émilion is one of the most famous wine-making regions in France and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the monolithic church to the numerous châteaux in the surrounding area, it offers the best of architecture, history, and nature, all in one bundle. No visit to Bordeaux is complete without dropping by St. Émilion!

So, for this most recent trip, I went with my two Canadian ladies, Sharon and Cindy. A bit hesitant at first because I’ve already been there 3 times, I decided to go again for the experience with a whole different group of friends. I discover something new about St. Émilion with every visit, and the varying companionship definitely adds amusement each time 😉

“THIS IS SAINT-ÉMILION!” says Sharon. After a 40-minute train ride from Bordeaux, we arrived at our destination. There can be no mistake; there was only one path from the train station to the town and with a gigantic sign marking its entrance, it couldn’t be missed!

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