This weekend I went to Andernos on the western coast of France, where I got to see the other side of the Atlantic ocean. That may not seem like a big deal, but it was to me, after spending my entire childhood in New England.

No road trip would be complete without enough food to feed six people. Even though there were only two of us.

The rest stops, like the rest of France, have vineyards behind them.

Ironically, the region of Bordeaux and especially the quaint towns of the coast look very much like the French-version of New England. Or the New England version of France. I can’t decide which.

Andernos is located in a part of the west coast known as Le Basin d’Arcachon. Because of the enclosed bay, when the tide goes out of the basin, it really goes out. Boats are left resting lopsided in the sand for the water to come back in.

We found a coffee shop that served real, good coffee, and blueberry muffins. It was clearly based on an American café, but as I often miss my coffee shop hang outs, it was a welcome sight. After my run in the morning, the husband and I spent time reading and writing there.

There was a zoo not far away, where the husband and I visited to get a look at the lions. He said as we were getting into the car “Get a photo for Pistou, so he can see what a real lion is like.” I did.

One also roared for us, which was very impressive. If you’ve never heard a lion roar up close, it is as thunderous as the descriptions say. I’d have run if there wasn’t a cage separating us.

We also sampled the local pastry. Cannelé. Don’t get this confused with canoli as I do every 15 seconds. A firm pastry, consisting of cream, egg, flour, sugar and surprisingly, rum. When cooked properly – which is hard to find outside the Bordeaux region – they are moist and spongy, almost like a flan. I’d had them in a pastry shop in Toulon over a year ago and was disappointed. I am now, after having fresh made ones, a convert. There’s something satisfying about the bounce to the cooked dough and the pure, but not over powering sweetness.

The whole purpose of this trip was a wedding. Which involved lots of food, lots of wine and lots more food and wine.

Here I am at the vin d’honor, an aperitif that took place after the ceremony. Oysters (which are famous in the western border of France and which I can’t eat) and little petits-fours were served, but the wine and champagne were the main attraction. And the bride and groom of course.

This is my second glass of wine. A pinot-something that was old enough to have an aroma and taste of a white port. Fabulous. As a side note: I have to thank my wonderful student AB who lent me the dress.

After another glass of champagne we made our way to the reception, where dinner was awaiting us:

 

Pig roasted on a spit. No wait, not one pig – three pigs.

 

Here is my reaction captured on film. It is a cross between “What the —?” and “Oh my god, I get to try pig roasted over a spit.” I kind of wanted to change into my medieval garb, but then remembered I didn’t bring it with me.

Pig roasted over a spit, cooked by two men in berets.

This required another glass of champagne.

Here is what my pig on a spit looked like when it was served. Pretty harmless until I saw the heads sitting in the cold storage the next day. (Photo not included) In the end it was very moist, very flavorful, very tender, almost as if it had been soaked in milk before hand. (not a kosher evening). The men in berets knew what they were doing, despite sipping red wine throughout the preparation.

We tried to make the next day more moderate, but on our first night in Andernos, the husband’s family had found an amazing ice cream place by the port. So we had an ice cream dinner – which is not at all moderate. My flavors were peanut and straticella which is a simple cream flavor with chocolate bits inside. Topped with whipped cream and salted caramel. I don’t know who invented salted caramel, but they deserve a medal.

No beach-front vacation ends without a beautiful sunset. So here’s your portion. Notice the tide is back.

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