A little Independence

by Chip (aka Mark) Graham on July 10, 2015

NotaroIndependence from Zephyr & Porkchop means leaving town so we went to NYC.  Friday night we had dinner at Notaro Ristorante at E 35th Street and 2nd Ave.  It is smaller restaurant with a few outside tables.  We were graciously greeted and offered a table just inside the door with a nice view out to the sidewalk., just in case it rained.  The servers were great and our food was quite nice.  They have a prix-fixe menu for $22.95 which changes every night and is a great deal.  It includes an appetizer, main course, dessert and coffee or tea.  They also have a very nice wine list featuring wines from around the world. I would go there again if we were in that part of town.

Something_Rotten We decided to see Something Rotten at the St. James Theater, which is quite good!  Hint: if you go and want cheap seats, the balcony is ok ONLY if you are in the first row!  We were so it was OK.  If you are in NY and you want to see something new and funny, this is it. You can also get drinks to take to your seats, which is kind of enh, but, we did! They went well with the theme of the show.  We had lunch before the show at Carmine’s  which is a great place if you are in a group and headed to the theater.  It is one of those ‘family style’ places where each dish feeds four easily, so a bit too much for two people. The food was OK, somewhat mass produced and they do expect to turn the tables pretty fast.  No complaints, just know before you go.

We stayed at the Hilton Manhattan East where we found a decent rate.  We have stayed here before so we were kind of familiar with it.  It is not a ‘great’ hotel, but it is OK.  The biggest change is they got rid of the restaurant and room service and replaced it withRoom Service 1 the Herb N’ Kitchen, the Midtown Manhattan hotel’s new concept restaurant, which is hardly a restaurant.  It is a little shop where you can buy pre-made sandwiches and soups (and pretty awful burgers) which you can take to your room or eat at a table in what used to be the restaurant.  If you want room service you call in your order and then you have go downstairs to pick it up…blah!  I expect more from a Hilton. We ate our burgers and watched the fireworks from our room window which was perfect – no crowds and we could see them fine. We had them on TV too just in case we missed something. I must say the New York does know how to do fireworks – they were awesome!



Pigeon Holes and Texas Tacos

by Chip (aka Mark) Graham on June 18, 2015

20150529_170112On Friday we went to see a new property Bayan has purchased which includes a tower famous for it’s homing pigeon lofts where war pigeons were used by the French army until after WWII. We did climb all the way up the old staircases and found some amazing rooms with stunning floors that just need some TLC to make into a wonderful home. Well, more than TLC- they really are a disaster, but the floors are nice! Add some plumbing, electricity and appliances and voila – you have a home!

20150529_16531020150529_165145 20150529_165002At the very top of the tower are two floors of pigeon lofts.  The pigeons have been gone for years, but their poop remains (yuck!).  These rooms are huge and there must be thousands of lofts. From there we headed up to the roof to get some pretty awesome views of the countryside and take goofy pictures.  Derek collected  a piece of French Oak for Piper while we were there.

20150529_205710Later that night Mary held a Texas BBQ / Taco Dinner at the house for all who were at the mas. It was quite fun and a new thing for many of the French visitors.  Of course we built our tacos and headed out to sit in the evening sun. Lots of wine and camaraderie brought a great time with friends and family to a close.

Tomorrow is a big event at the mas…and we must get our rest!


Family, Friends, Flamencos and French Cowboys

by Chip (aka Mark) Graham on May 30, 2015

20150530_205159Our last day at the mas was quite a big one.  The Longhorn Ranch, which is based on the mas, held their 10th anniversary rodeo and shindig over the weekend.  Saturday night was a huge party with a Flamenco band and dancers.  This was one of the highlights of our trip for many reasons, but most importantly is that we got to meet and mingle with so many new people.  We met tons of people, ate tons of food (fresh local mussels and awesome paella), and drank a lot of wine.  Funny how the French flows much easier out of my mouth the more wine I drink! On Sunday was the rodeo, and it was quite fun.  They had some roping, some wrangling and a small cattle drive of longhorns for the kids.  If you didn’t know there were cowboys and longhorns in France, well, you do now!  Check out their Facebook page for some fun videos from the party and the rodeo and their new babies!  We had to leave at noon on Sunday, but we were able to see some good rodeo activity and say goodbye to our new friends from the party, some of whom were participating as rodeo contestants. Au revoir nos amis de St Remy!




Dead Waters, Pizza, Wine, Family

by Chip (aka Mark) Graham on May 28, 2015

St RemyIt is always nice to spend time at the house at the  Mas de St. Remy.  It is one of the most peaceful settings surrounded by the vineyards and polo fields.  We are also surrounded by very dear friends who live on the mas, or very near it.  Mary’s house is the one of the far left at the edge of the picture.

Today was a very quiet day, after a relaxing slow start to the day we went to Aigues Mortes (Dead Waters) which is a fortified city on the coast, known for its still waters and the salt they manufacture. Aigues MortesIt is a beautiful town, but hugely touristy!  We had lunch on the main plaza which is full of restaurants.  We picked Les Capucins which was nice and had room for a party of 7.  Pizza and Pasta were good choices for this sunny day.  We lingered for a couple of hours and headed back to the house.    That night we headed to Le Grill in Lunel for a very relaxed dinner.  This is more of a local place and offers a variety of food.  Mary and Piper at Le GrillPizza is of course a specialty, but having had that for lunch we opted for the specials of the day.  They do offer great options for kids, like half sized meals of pretty much anything on the menu and that comes with a desert.  Happy kids makes for happy dining!

The servers were awesome and knowing just a little French went a long way in making sure everyone got what they wanted.  You may have noticed that so far every meal we have eaten in France has been outside!  The weather has been awesome on this trip and we have been able to take advantage of it.

After dinner we headed back to the house and Derek and I had a nice walk along the vineyard as evening set in.  Tomorrow Bayan and his girls arrive and the real fun begins!


Un autre beau jour de marche à pied, de manger et de détente

by Chip (aka Mark) Graham on May 27, 2015

Montpellier-DMAnother fine day of walking, eating and relaxing! Montpellier is a much smaller city than Toulouse (about 600K people) and is the home of the University of Montpellier, one of the oldest universities in the world, along with 2 other universities and seven smaller colleges, so there are tons of young people here. The city definitely has a youthful population and energy. There is always lots to do here: check out 15 good reasons to visit Montpellier in 2015! The city also has numerous pedestrian only streets which makes walking around very enjoyable. Today we enjoyed a nice breakfast and then wandered out and about, through the Polygone shopping mall near the hotel just for fun, and then down through a fairly modern housing area along a pedestrian mall that takes you through the Place Paul Bec, Place de Thessalie, Esplanade de l’Europe, and end20150527_130050s at Le Lez (the river that runs through town). From there we walked along the river on a very nice path and then headed back towards the Place du Comedie. I had to stop at Brice in the mall and buy a couple of shirts (I just had to have them!). We had a very nice lunch at La Cantine d’Adrien which is on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle right next to the Place du Comedie. Another stretch of pedestrian walkways lined with open air restaurants. After lunch we relaxed before heading out for dinner.  20150527_215240We wandered over to a place we found online, Marvelous, which is an interesting mix of restaurant, bar and comic book. The service was good, the food was good and it shares a very small quiet plaza with another restaurant along the pedestrian walkway in the old part of town.  A very pleasant spot for dinner. We shared a cheese plate for dessert, which was huge!  More leisurely walking and then back to the hotel to wind down our stay in Montpellier.  Tomorrow begins the family part of the trip!