Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

     A Newsletter by Carolyn Grote and the rest of the staff
Fall 2015
In This Issue:
We are written up in
The New York Times!

Read Stephanie Bloom's five tips on how to get your own exclusive villa. She recommends Ville et Village in tip #3!!! How To rent a European Villa (and Not Go Broke)
Nouveau Beaujolais
Release date: November 19, 2015
Wine Spectator

Why are French Le Puy Lentils so valued?

David Leibowitz explains
If you go:
Reservations are required for The Lightning Field and can be taken starting March 1, 2016. Costs vary from $100 to $250/night including accommodation and 2 meals. There is a maximum of 6 persons per night in a cabin with 3 bedrooms/2 baths. Open from May – October.
Dia Art Foundation
If you go:
Dates for 2016 Palio in Siena

June 29, 30, July 1(preparation). July 2: The Race

August 13, 14, 15(preparation). August 16: The Race

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A Wine with its Own Special Day: Nouveau Beaujolais by Dayva

There is only one kind of wine that has its own special day: Nouveau Beaujolais. The French (and wine lovers the world around) celebrate the third Thursday of November when they welcome the newest vintage of Beaujolais wine with banners, flags, decorations and special meals. What is this wine and why all the excitement about its arrival?

The nouveau Beaujolais (or Beaujolais Nouveau as it is called in France) was originally created as a means of celebrating the annual grape harvest. After the grapes are picked, they are fermented for only 6 weeks, producing a simple wine with a characteristic bright cherry-red color and a fruity, fresh taste. It is so crisp, that although it is a red wine, it is best served chilled. Unlike most wines, it doesn’t get better with age.

Each year, the delivery of the wine follows a very exacting ritual, and therein lies the excitement. Tradition holds that only at 12:01am on the third Thursday of November will the new vintage be released, and the wine raced to Paris. Nowadays the tradition continues, but the wine is already waiting in cafés and restaurants, ready to be poured at the magic time. It is one of the most anticipated wines in the world.

A true Beaujolais Nouveau can only come from the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages in the province of Beaujolais. While these special wines are called “Nouveau” they are technically a primeur which is a wine that is made shortly after harvest and meant to be drunk before the end of the following spring. To be considered a true Beaujolais, Nouveau Beaujolais the Gamay variety grapes used for this type of wine must be harvested by hand. In France, it is the only type of wine besides Champagne with this unique distinction. Oenophiles also note that the quality of a particular year’s Beaujolais Nouveau can be indicative of the quality of other Beaujolais wines for the coming year.

How did this tradition begin? It was, in fact, a clever marketing idea. In 1970, Georges Duboeuf, a Beaujolais vintner, conceived of a “race to Paris” for the new production of the young wine, and the idea took off. Each year, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf has a new attractive label on the year’s vintage, which is another tradition oenophiles enjoy.

So mark your calendars. If you’ll be in France, be sure to stop into a bar or restaurant and join the celebration. Here in the US many cafes offer special menus to accompany this delightful wine. And of course, you can plan your own Beaujolais Nouveau tasting and invite your friends and family. Read on for a recipe to complement your wine. Photo courtesy of Marco on Flickr.

Recipe: Lentil Soup with Sausages

Here is a hearty dish, which is ideal served with the Nouveau Beaujolais and crusty bread: lentil soup with sausages. It is easy to make and makes a terrific meal in one dish for a party.

Cafe-de-Flore Lentils are a much loved specialty in France. I have a favorite Paris bistro where as soon as I’m seated, the waiter brings a pot of marinated lentils, and I’m invited to scoop some out and enjoy with my glass of wine and crusty bread—as a sort of appetizer. When I’ve had my fill, the pot is passed on to the next arrivals. How very French.

The best French lentils come from Le Puy en Velay, (a charming town where the famous GR65 hiking trail –the Chemin de Compostelle starts). Here in Berkeley, I can purchase those very lentils or fine Italian ones in my grocery. The French and Italian lentils have a great flavor and retain their firm shape and texture when cooked without getting mushy. That said, if you can’t find them, any lentils will do.

  • 4 oz bacon coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek rinsed and finely minced
  • 1 carrot, finely minced
  • 1 onion finely minced
  • 1 celery rib, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 pound lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 or more sausages of your choice
In a large stockpot, sauté the bacon until lightly browned. Add the minced vegetables, the cumin and cloves and sauté until nicely browned. Add the lentils, bay leaves, salt, pepper and 2 ½ quarts of water. Simmer until lentils are cooked through 30-40 minutes.

Separately, cook the sausages as you would normally and then slice into rounds.

To serve, put several slices of sausage into each bowl and cover with the lentil soup. Serve with crusty bread and Nouveau Beaujolais wine. Serves 6. The recipe is from my favorite book: Bistro Cooking, by Patricia Wells.

Two Parisians Visit the US to see Our Art: A Trip to the Lightning

When it comes to foreign trips to see art, it is typically we Americans who go to Paris to see the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Picasso Museum, etc. etc. Whereas the French do visit the US, it is usually to tour our impressive geography, our vibrant cities or even Las Vegas. Well, this summer I actually met a Parisian who came to the US to visit our art-- specifically to tour “land art” in the Southwest! What a surprise.

Lightning Field In August, I visited The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria, a “land art” installation in northern New Mexico, put on by the Dia Foundation. The Lightening Field is a display of 400 polished stainless steel poles set in a rectangular grid one kilometer by one mile. Poles are set 200 feet apart and average 20 ft. in height with pointed tips that form a horizontal plane. The sculpture is located in a remote flat area of the high desert with no other homes or human structures visible and only the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance. It is a sculpture to be walked in as well as viewed. The objective is to observe the poles and how the light affects them over a 24-hour period. Participants are driven to the site, housed in a comfortable but simple log cabin, and then left to enjoy the experience, to be picked up the next day. Only 6 persons can view the installation at a time. Isolation is one of the elements of the experience.

As my friends and I were a party of 4, we wondered who the other two persons might be. And what a treat to discover, it was a young Parisian couple, an art curator and a graphic designer! In fact, they had planned a 2 week trip to the US specifically to tour land art. The Lightning Field, because it required a reservation in advance, was the focus of their trip.

Once we were all driven to the sculpture, we settled in. In the quiet and heat of the New Mexico landscape, we sat on the porch and gazed at the view, trying to understand the scope of this remarkable sculpture. We tentatively walked into the field, hearing the buzz of the insects, feeling the heat of the sun, seeing the different patterns made by the poles. We noticed how our little cabin seemed to disappear in the distance as we explored further. We felt encompassed by the poles and were timid at first, exploring just parts of the display and returned to the cabin to watch from afar. As the sun dropped and it got cooler, we all became more adventuresome and set off, each of us, at our pace, following our interest, exploring wherever we wanted. As sunset approached, my group of 4, offered apéros on the little porch, a typical French event…pre-dinner light drinks and snacks, which our two French companions appreciated. Dinner was a convivial meal, southwest enchiladas which we were to heat ourselves and flan for dessert.

Then off to bed. Some of us were up at dawn to see the sun’s effect on the poles, then some of us walked in the morning coolness and others sat on the porch and just observed the poles as their appearance changed with the rising sun. All along we shared the experience, by sitting and watching, by discussing our impressions, by enjoying the quiet camaraderie of strangers united by an appreciation of a common event, by being privileged to enjoy this beautiful remote artistic experience…strangers no more.

Plan Your 2016 Tuscany Trip to Coincide with the Palio in Siena

If you’re hoping to visit Tuscany next year, consider going during the world famous Palio. Perhaps you’ve heard the name, but don’t know anything about it? Or even if you have, maybe you have no idea when it is, or how you might observe it?

Palio The Palio is an historic horse race that takes place in Siena twice each year: July 2 and August 16. That said, it is actually a 4-day event with preparations taking place the first three days. So if you were able to visit Siena during any of those days, you’d be fortunate to enjoy a truly spectacular event.

So what is it? It’s a horse race that has been conducted since 1656, that takes place right in the center of beautiful Siena. The main plaza, the lovely, circular Piazza del Campo, is transformed from a venue with cafes and al fresco seating, into a race track festooned with medieval decorations. And this is not a re-enactment. There is serious rivalry between the contestants who are representatives from the 17 different neighborhoods or contrade in Siena.

A circular track is laid around the perimeter of the plaza. Spectators can stand in the central area (protected by a short wall) or purchase tickets for bandstand seats which are constructed between the buildings and the track. Thus the race is observed from the inside of the track or the outside.

Palio Because the track is narrow, although there are 17 contrade, only 10 are allowed to compete. Seven of these are the ones who did not get to compete in the previous year. The remaining 3 are chosen by lottery. To make things more challenging, the contrade don’t get to choose their own horses. One hundred horses are selected by local veterinarians of which only 32 are presented to the contrade. Then the captains from each contrada choose 10 horses which will compete, but they don’t get to pick their own horse. It is the mayor who randomly assigns a horse to each rider. From that day-- day one-- until the race on day four, the horses are closely guarded day and night to prevent any treachery that could affect the outcome.

During the preparatory days, when you stroll through the streets of Siena, you’ll see banners hung as you enter each neighborhood, each one decorated with the contrada’s identifying symbol: the eagle, ram, giraffe, porcupine, dragon, etc. etc. You might come upon men dressed in costume, artistically spinning and twirling their flags on poles in preparation for the race day parade. It is very colorful and enticing.

Palio The day of the race is filled with excitement. Activities take place all day, but the major events take place in early evening. A parade of men from each contrada, all dressed in costume, elegantly twirling their banners, winds through the streets eventually entering the campo with great fanfare.

After all the pomp and ceremony of the preparation, the race itself is brief with riders and horses circling the track 3 times. A typical race only lasts a few minutes. The race is actually quite dangerous for jockeys and horses. Not only is there a crush of riders and horses circling at high speed, but jockeys ride bareback and can use their ox whips to urge on their stead as well as to prevent a rival from winning! Accidents are not infrequent and the winning contrada is the one whose horse crosses the finish line first—with or without the jockey!

Many years ago my family and I were unexpectedly in Siena during one of the preparation days and we were delighted to see all the activity. Realizing our good fortune to be in the area, we decided to return on race day and brave the crowds. As it was last minute and there were no apparent tickets to buy for seats in the stands, we chose to stay in the central arena. This is not a decision for the faint of heart. One needs to enter before the gates are closed and then be prepared to stay there, holding your “place” as close to the wall as possible, standing through sun and heat with no refreshments to purchase and no toilets until the parade and the race is finished. And of course, once the race starts, everyone rushes to the wall to see and so things can get a bit crushed. We even had our daughter along who was 8 at the time. And I can say that people were very sweet to her even encouraging her to stand directly at the wall so she could see. It was a memorable day. We loved it and I know you would, too.

So for 2016, if you make plans to be in Tuscany in the summer, try to arrange your dates so you can see the World Famous Palio.

Tips for Spending Christmas/New Year’s in Paris

Going to Paris for Christmas or New Years is a very popular choice for our clients. If you want to do so, here’s some advice::

    Paris Christmas
  • Make your rental reservations now. Rentals( and even hotels) book up early. Now is the best time to make your reservation.

  • Try to spend an entire week. Many owners will only rent a full week during this important holiday time. Expect prices may be higher than usual as it is a popular time.

  • If you intend to eat out Christmas or New Year’s, make dinner reservations a month or so in advance.

  • If you will cook “at home”, be sure to shop a few days in advance: food stores, chocolatiers and fromageries will be packed. Expect dark, cold, cloudy and even rainy weather: sunrise will be around 8:45am and sunset at 5:00pm in December! So bring warm clothing and good walking shoes. And organize your days with outdoor touring during shorter daylight hours.

  • Take advantage of the wonderful holiday decorations by walking by some of the following special streets like the Champs Elysée or the Boulevard Haussman. Paris ChristmasParis department stores also have lovely window displays like the Printemps or Galeries Lafayette. And be sure to see the Eiffel Tower when it’s illuminated at night.

  • Visit the holiday markets to enjoy all the fun gifts you can purchase: Saint Sulpice (6th), Saint Germain des Prés (6th), Place des Abesses (18th), Gare de l’Est (10th), Trocadero (6th).

  • Attend a mass at a Paris church: Notre Dame (English and French), Sacré Coeur (organ concert before midnight mass).

  • Attend Christmas concerts at churches, e.g. La Saint Chappell on Ile de la Cité.

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