Monday, July 22, 2019

Lavender Fields Forever

Nestled in the middle of our beautiful wine country a purple field puts a break on the green of the growing vines. That is, until the lavender is being harvested which usually happens by the middle of July. This year the harvest happened a little bit later and I got lucky to see the lavender gardens at Matanzas Creek Winery in full bloom.

The first view coming down from the parking lot is stunning, and if you want you can actually stop here and take it all in. Wouldn't it be wonderful to just hang out in these chairs, perhaps with a glass of wine?

But it's the lavender that I want to see and so I follow its call down into the gardens.

The lavender gardens have been here since 1991. Originally, a two acre lawn occupied this area - but dry California and lawn doesn't really go together. Lawns are a water sucker, and water is something we don't have in abundance where we live. When you make wine you need the water for that process, but when that water is not available, something has to go - in this case the lawn. Instead, drought tolerant lavender went in and it has become a beautiful and wonderfully scented magnet; plus its harvest fits perfectly into the wine making cycle since lavender is harvested long before the busy grape harvest starts. These two seem to be made for each other.

The lavender is hand-cut at full bloom for use in culinary, bath, body and home products. Can't you just smell it by looking at these stems?

Of the many varieties, only Provence and Grosso Lavender are grown here. Provence Lavender is stronger scented and has a deeper color whereas the Grosso Lavender is for culinary purposes. You can see the two different kinds here - the darker, purple one being the Provence Lavender and the lighter, bluer one the Grosso Lavender.

As you can see they grow more Provence Lavender than Grosso. And there's a lot here that reminds me of Provence. This house for example, that sits above the winery:

These two images certainly remind me of Provence a lot:

Did you know that lavender has been used for over 2000 years? The Egyptians used it in their mummification process and they also perfumed their skin with it. The Romans used it for cooking and added it to the water used for bathing (ah, those Roman baths!). Growing Lavender commercially started in the Victorian area with Queen Victoria's interest and passion for lavender, that was quickly followed suit by English ladies who scented themselves and anything else possible. There was a constant demand for lavender and this demand started the history of the English Lavender, that is botanically called Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis.

I love this combination of the Hot Poker's orange and the lavender's purple

In modern times, lavender was re-discovered by René Gatefosse, a French chemist who was one of the founders of aromatherapy. He accidentally burned himself in his lab and immediately immersed his arm into the sweet essential oil of lavender and noted the quick healing.  The oil was also used in World War I as a wound dressing for injured soldiers.

Next to the gardens is this interesting fountain that was highly attractive to the birds. Just watch these tiny hummingbirds, they are having a blast.

Last year I missed the lavender bloom because I was in Turkey and Ireland around that time. I'm very happy that I was able to enjoy it this summer.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - Sur la Table

When I think of Paris and France I often (and foremost) think of the food and drink. In Germany, the saying "eating like God in France" originated and it reminds of the excellent food you can get in our neighboring country. France also is the home of champagne and delicious wine. Eating in France is not only to satisfy hunger - there is a true food culture that starts with a good table, nice dishes and decent flatware. Eating takes time and a good dinner can last for two hours or longer. I am very fortunate to have experienced a decent amount of unforgettable dinners with French friends that weren't only delicious in regards to food, but there was also lots of laughter and lively conversation.

Almost everywhere there are street cafés that invite to sit and watch people. Just order a café au lait or a glass of kir (my choice).

A chocolat chaud is a delicious choice as well - and it's served with style.

Usually tables in a restaurant are nicely set, and you can find a set table with silverware and napkins even in the outdoor area of the smallest restaurants. After all, the art of eating is for the eyes as well. I always enjoy entering a restaurant that is inviting and welcoming.

Wouldn't you like to eat a three course meal here in the arcades of the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris?

Post no. 4 for Tamara's blog event Paris in July over at Thyme for Tea.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - La Fête Nationale, Le Quatorze Juillet

July 14th is what is called "Bastille Day" in English speaking countries. The French wouldn't even dream of calling it this way - here it is la Fête nationale or le quatorze juillet. In Germany we just call it "französischer Nationalfeiertag" which comes close to the French original.

On July 14, 1789 the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison that not only held a huge cache of ammunition and gunpowder but also political prisoners whose writings were regarded unfavorable by the royal government. Thus the Bastille was a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy (there were only seven inmates at the time of the attack). This attack became a turning point in the French Revolution which profoundly altered the course of modern history, replacing absolute monarchies with republics and liberal democracies. The French Revolution is regarded as one of the most important events in human history.

(The photos of this post are featuring the fountain in front of the Comédie Française in Paris)

This is my third post for Tamara's Paris in July blog event over on Thyme for Tea


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Paris in July 2019: Le Marché aux Fleurs

One of the places I wanted to see in Paris that I had never visited before (why not? I wonder) is the Marché aux Fleurs, the Flower Market. It's located in the heart of Paris on the Île de la Cité, in the vicinity of Notre-Dame. A lot of the market is covered - indeed, it is mainly formed by pavilions from the 1900s. Looking up offered my favorite part of them.

Birds like it up here, too.

There are tons of flowers and plants for sale, fresh cut or in containers, seasonal or more exotic, whatever your heart desires. Even Kaefer was fascinated.

Little decorative items were available as well, perfect for the many tourists to fit in their luggage.

Or maybe a garden gnome is something people really want - there is a big selection to choose from.

Of course there is a huge selection of seeds. I was so tempted to buy a few little packets and try them out in my garden, but I was pretty sure that customs would take them away from me. Sadly, no flowers from Paris in my garden.

The market wouldn't be complete if you couldn't get the one plant and its little scented flowers that I always associate with France - lavender. Just take your pick.

This is my second post for Tamara's Paris in July blog event over on Thyme for Tea.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

An Image and Its Story - June 2019

No, this is not a photo for a wine ad!

Summer for me is the time to drink rosé wine. It is something I already did in Germany for many years and then had to stop when we moved to the US because there wasn't any decent rosé wine available. Everything you got was too sweet or didn't taste at all.

But this has changed over the recent years, and especially the rosé wine produced here in Sonoma County is excellent - dry and flavorful. Many of them are made from Pinot Noir grapes or Sangiovese; there is also quite a selection of Zinfandel grapes (which is my favorite red wine). I also still love many French rosés as well as the organic ones from Germany. We are lucky to have an excellent wine shop in town that has a huge selection of rosé wines.

I bought several bottles to try the different wines. I unloaded them on my kitchen table and thought how beautiful these bottles looked. I grabbed my phone (yes, not the big camera), brought the bottles outside, arranged them, poured myself a glass and took several pictures. And then I got to work. I have a new phone with a great camera (it's a Pixel phone and I love it) that has several modes for taking pictures and also some very cool processing modes. This one with just the gray and the pop of the rosé color appealed to me. I processed it further in Lightroom until I was happy with the image. It was easy to pick it as my June image.

Cheers! (or "Prost!" as we say in Germany)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Paris in July 2019: City of Lights

This month I'm participating in the Paris in July blog festival and I hope that I can share with you my love for the French capital.

I have a "thing" for street lights, and in Paris there are so many beautiful ones, old and modern, elaborate and simple. Come with me while we walk the streets of this beautiful city.

Let's first stop at the Louvre.

Then we'll cross over the Pont Neuf (despite its name it's the oldest bridge in Paris) to the Île de la Cité.

Pont Neuf

Marché aux Fleurs

Near Notre-Dame

Of course we have to visit the Quartier Latin - this has been one of my favorite parts of the city since I came to Paris for the very first time in 1975.

What about we climb up to Montmartre?

The view from Sacré-Cœur


Yes, you can spend a lot of time up here. Maybe we should go back down and stroll along the Champs-Elysées toward Étoile (Place Charles de Gaulle).

View of Tour Eiffel from Étoile 

Oh of course, how could we cover Paris without going to Tour Eiffel? Not possible!

View from Pont Alexandre III

The light in the image above tells you where we're heading next - Pont Alexandre III. Without doubt the most beautiful bridge across the Seine in Paris.

The last street lights I want to show you can be found in three different locations in Paris.

Place Georges Pompidou

Place des Vosges (a favorite!)

At l'Opéra

I apologize that this is such a photo heavy post. Believe me, I have way more pictures of Paris street lights... Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed our little tour through the City of Lights.

You can find more Paris links on Tamara's blog here.