Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Driving Through Switzerland On Our Way To Gruyere. Everything In This Stunning Country Is So Beautiful, Green, Perfect, Picturesque and Impeccably Manicured.


My Ticket into La Maison Gruyere.

The Cheese Cellar Inside La Maison Gruyere.


The Making of Gruyere Cheese!

The Cheese Masters Hard at Work.

Swiss Cow, Bell Included.


Traditional Swiss Menu.

Town of Gruyere, Detail.

Giger Sculpture

Giger Sculpture

H.R. Giger Museum Bar.

Giger Bar.

The Giger Bar.

Le Chalet, Our Lunch Spot. Fabulous!

Fall Colours, View from the Castle at Gruyere.

Snow Already!

The Drive Home, Looking Towards France.

Our visit to this cheesy destination in the Swiss Alps started off with a trip to La Maison du Gruyere (The House of Gruyere). Essentially a demonstration and exhibition center which takes you on a journey of the senses and allows you to discover all the secrets of Gruyere AOC cheese making. My favourite part was being able to watch the master cheese makers in action who each day produce up to 48 wheels of Gruyere AOC. The dairy is equipped with 4 x 4800 litre vats and a cellar where 7000 wheels can ripen. It takes 8000 litres of milk to make one 80kg wheel of Gruyere cheese, with the cheese being made 3-4 times a day.

Best known as the key ingrediant in classic fondue, Gruyere is one of the most famous cheeses made by the Swiss. A hearty, piquant, hard cow's milk cheese. On the outside, Gruyere has a natural brown (colour depends on age) wrinkled rind-like crust. Inside, Gruyere is pale gold in colour with little to no porsity. Gruyere is rich, nutty, salty and slightly sweet and fruity, with a flavour that varies widely with age. Our ticket to The House of Gruyere consisted of a package with three slices of Gruyere, all of different ages, 6 months, 8months, and 10 months. The 8 month old cheese was my favourite. I would describe it as creamy and nutty when young, becoming firmer in texture and more assertive, earthy and complex with age.

Just as a side note, France also makes a Gruyere and several Gruyere style cheese such as Comte and Beaufort. French Gruyere cheese must have holes according to French agricultural law, whereas holes are not usually present in Swiss Gruyere.

After learning everything there was to know about Gruyere cheese we decided to wonder through the town itself, which only has one street. We didn't get too far when I came across the absolute last thing I would ever expect to see in a quaint little Swiss cheese village – the H.R. Giger Museum. Who and What is this you may ask?

Giger is an acclaimed Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor, designer, interior architect and the creator of the terrifying life forms and their otherwordly environment in the film classic Alien, for which he recieved an Oscar in 1980. Flushed with success he took a shine to Gruyere, bought one of the old houses and has turned it into a showcase for his unique brand of gothic art, nightmarish cityscapes and sexualized surrealist visions of machine -like humanoids. Fundamental to the nature of Giger's work is his biomechanical aesthetic, a dialect between man and machine, representing a universe at once disturbing and sublime.

Giger certainly extended his artistic vision into all domains because right across the street from the museum was a Giger Bar – completely inspired by his designs! The interior of the otherworldly environment that is the H.R. Giger Museum Bar is a cavernous, skeletal structure covered by double arches of vertebrae that crisscross the vaulted ceiling of an ancient castle. The sensation of being in this extraordinary setting recalls being literally in the belly of a fossilized, prehistoric beast.

After experiencing the otherworldy and completely unexpected domaine of H.R. Giger, we decided to top off the day with a traditional Swiss lunch in a converted old traditional Swiss farmhouse. We filled our stomachs with salade, dried meats, wine and fondue (made with Gruyere cheese of course)! Other delicious regional dishes include raclette, chalet soup, high pasture macaroni, ham, meringues to die for and Gruyere cream – delicious as a dessert topped with a mountain raspberries!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second Time Around

Eiffel Tower, View from our Hotel (Duquenesque Eiffel)

Flower Market on Rue Cler

Scallops on Rue Cler

A Walk Along the Seine on a Perfect Sunny Day

Beautiful Sculptures Outside the Musee d'Orsay

O Chateau Wine Tasting

Les Invalides, Entrance to Napolean's Tomb

Musee Rodin

Musee Rodin

The Thinker, Rodin

Balzac, Rodin

Rodin Sculpture Garden, Musee Rodin

My deuxieme sojourn to the city of lights was nothing short of fabulous. I flew up to Paris at the beginning of October to meet my mom who was flying in from Canada to start her three week holiday in France. We spent three nights at the Duquesne Eiffel Hotel, definitely recommended, located in the heart of Paris just steps away from Les Invalides (5 minutes on foot) and a stone's throw from the Eiffel Tower.

We had the perfect itinerary complete with art, dining, shopping, churches, perfect walks and lots of wonderful mother-daughter bonding. We walked all over Paris and hit all the main sites (The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, etc) and even managed to squeeze in a few extra things that I didn't get to see the last time I was there with my brother. The highlights included :

Rue Cler – A picturesque cobblestone street lined with all the essential colourful shops – butcher, seafood, wine, cheese, chocolate, bread and flowers. If you wish to learn the fine art of living Parisian style, Rue Cler is an excellent classroom. And if you want to assemble the ultimate French picnic, there's no better place. My mom and I started our first morning in Paris on this street with savoury ham, cheese and egg crepes and a couple of cafe cremes. Make sure you start this street hungry!

The Musee d'Orsay – A former railway station and impressive Beaux-Arts edifice built between 1898 and 1900. It holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, and is probably best known for its extensive and highly impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by such painters as Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir, Degars, Seurat, and Gaugin.

Musee Rodin – (The Rodin Museum and Gardens) is located in an 18th century mansion where the artist once lived and worked, tucked behind a walled garden away from the hubbub of the city. The Museum is located next to les Invalides, the location of the tomb of Napolean Bonaparte. In all, the Museum owns over 6000 Rodin sculptures, including some of his most renowned works such as The Thinker, The Kiss and Balzac.

Wine Tasting at O Chateau – O Chateau's tastings take place in a beautiful 17th century cellar located near the Louvre. King Louis XV turned them into royal cellars and made it a storage place for the wines of the court of the King of France. Not a bad setting for a wine tasting. Wines Tasted:
1. Champagne
Alain Mercier et Fils
Brut Tradition
21 euros
Loving bubbles and mildly addictive!

2. Loire
Domaine de la Garenne
18 euro
Fresh, lively acidity, herbaceous and fruity! My favourite white out of the bunch.

3. Burgundy
Cote Chalonnaise
Domaine Venot
17 euro
A subtle and elegant interpretation of the Chardonnay grape. Aromas and flavours of stone fruit, peach, apricot, vanilla, mango and butter.

4. South West
Chateau Coutinel
19 euro
Delightful texture with charming berries, vanilla, cassis, spice, pepper, tobacco and black cherry.

5. Bordeaux
Haut Medoc
Chateau Lanessan
25 euro
Similar dark fruit aromas and flavours as wine #4 but with much more complexity, concentration and softness. This was my favourite red!

6. Rhone
Cotes du Rhone Village
Domaine du Grand Veneur
19 euro
Very volumtuous and full-bodied with gamey, meaty notes and aromas and flavours of blackberry, spice, vanilla and cigar box.

Monday, October 25, 2010


My sincerest apologies to all those readers, friends and family members who follow my blog for my brief hiatus, as it has been a very busy past couple of weeks. The flury of activity began around the 7th of October when I went to Paris to meet my mother who was flying in for a three week visit. We spent three nights in Paris, all of which was fabulous, and then flew back home to be greeted by Dennis who just got home from work in South Korea.

We had a few great days in the sunny southwest corner of France, hanging out with my love and showing my mother around our town – nice to be back on the coast and away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. A few days later my dad arrived, he flew into Bordeaux (my mom went up to meet him). They spent a few days touring the area and after they're first night back with us we were on the road again. This time to the Alps to visit Laura and Micheal and then on to Burgundy. I just got home last night after a very long and rainy day of driving. The posts to follow will fill you in on the highlights of the past few weeks. It's great to be back. Enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010


The Essentials: Pastis, Olives and Boules!

The game of boules, also known as petanque, is perhaps the sport that is closest to French hearts. Similar to British lawn bowling and Italian bocce, the French version is traditionally played with metallic balls in any open space in towns and villages on a dirt or gravel surface beneath trees, and always with a glass of pastis in hand.

Boules is an essentially simple game. A small wooden ball, the cochonnet (literally “piglet”), is tossed up the court. Each player has three boules, identified by different patterns etched into the metal. The aim of the game is to get your boules as close to the cochonnet as possible, or strike and drive the cochonnet toward your other balls and away from that of your opponent's. At the end of the round the closest to the cochonnet is the winner.

I often see the same group of elderly well fed frenchmen having an argumentative evening on the court while strolling by with Rypien on our evening walk. From my observations so far, there seems to be two basic types of throws: the low rolling delivery or the high trajectory drop shot. The precision of these guys is remarkable, I swear they could drop a boule on my foot from 20 feet away. And there are of course the lesser elements of style: the grunts and encouragements that help a throw along, and the shrugs and muttered oaths when it lands short or long.

There is a distinct slow rhythm to the game. A throw is made, and play stops while the next player strolls up for a closer look and tries to decide whether to bomb or attempt a low delivery. There are no hurried movements. Moistened fingers are held in the air to gauge the breeze. Anyone playing without a drink is disqualified. Disputes concerning the distance from the cochonnet are mandatory. And nobody's word is final.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quicksilver Pro France

Competition Site: Culs Nus Beach, Hossegor, France. Photo from Quicksilver Pro France website.

Jordy Smith from South Africa during his Heat. He is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.

Jordy Smith after winning his Heat.

Massive Waves. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Owen Wright calling for board number four. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Tom Whitaker from Australia heading out to start his heat.

Brett Simpson getting barrelled. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Kelly Slater in fine form. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Brett Simpson putting on a show for the crowd. Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Beautiful Afternoon and Waves

Water Taxis

Quite the Crowd

And the winner is... Mick Fanning from Australia!! Kelly Slater (left), Mick Fanning (center), Brett Simpson (right) and Adrian Buchan (far right). Photo courtesy of Quicksilver Pro France website.

Yesterday, was the finale of the week long Quicksilver Pro France. My first time attending a pro surfing event and it was nothing short of fantastic. Great surfing, video screenings (Pro surfer Julian Wilson's new video “Scratching the Surface”, interviews and parties (DC party and Muskova party).

There were several mammoth days of action in pumping barrels of 6-9 foot waves at Culs Nus Beach in Hossegor, the best were the last two days of competition. All the pros were out in fine form, Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning, Jordy Smith, Dane Reynolds and Tom Whitaker, just to name a few. Owen Wright from Australia broke three boards during his 30 minute heat against Dan Ross who also broke a board.

The final day of competition saw the best of the best battle it out in the quarters, semis and final. It was also by far the best day of the entire competition, culminating in dramatic fashion with a bevy of high scoring rides amidst the massive waves. The final duel saw Mick Fanning (reigning ASP World Champion) and Kelly Slater (former nine time ASP World Champion and current ASP No. 1) battle it out in the big barrels, with Fanning clinching his second consecutive Quicksilver Pro France win. Fanning said “Last year, the waves weren't really pumping. This year, it almost didn't feel like a surf contest, but rather a bunch of guys getting barrelled off their heads for a few days”. Congratulations Mick!

Check out the Quicksilver Pro France website for more photos, videos and results.