Saturday, May 10, 2014

France: Versailles Revisited, Beer Tour in Flanders, Belgium and Pizza Frittata

     Dear Daughter suggested it and when she mentions any type of travel, we listen.  She is at that age where we think she would rather hang out at home, or with friends or with her tethered electronic device rather than travel all over Europe.  When she mentioned that she wanted to go back to Versailles, specifically to have a picnic on the grounds, we quickly selected two weekends.  Why two?  Because this time of year, the weather is "iffy" in Belgium (actually, I think it is "iffy" most times of the year) and since this was an outdoor event, we had to be reasonably guaranteed that good weather would prevail.
     To that end, I made reservations for two consecutive Saturday nights at a hotel in Versailles.  It was a different one from the first trip but the price point was good, as was the location.  We were washed out the first weekend but last weekend promised outstanding weather.  Given the short 2 1/2 hour drive, we did not have to leave at the crack of dawn.  We were on the road by 9:30 am and made it to Versailles by 12:00 noon, having successfully navigated the ring around Paris.  Our hotel was in a wonderful location---within a five minute walk to the Chateau and directly behind the incredible weekly farmer's market.  By 1:00 pm, we were comfortably seated on our picnic blanket, sipping wine and enjoying smoked salmon and other treats.  While it was incredibly crowded, our portion of the grounds was peaceful and we lingered for over an hour.  We were sitting along the "canal", built specifically to mimic the canals of Venice.    The skies were blue and the temperature was relatively warm.  The immense Chateau was our distant view and provided the perfect backdrop.
     Following lunch, the afternoon's entertainment consisted of viewing the musical water displays that are held each afternoon.  For nearly three hours, we rambled from one water display to the next; each one more impressive than the previous one.  By 5pm, we were strolling down the streets of Versailles and I watched as Dear Daughter closely examined every clothing store that we passed.  "It would be cool to do some shopping here," she hinted.  Later that evening, we dined at a comfortable, but not a fancy brasserie and commented that we have to leave Belgium in order to eat dinner in a restaurant.  We have found that food prices here can be a bit expensive so we save our dimes for  ventures outside the country.  On Sunday, we spent several hours drooling at one of our favorite food markets. After getting hopelessly lost on the drive home, we managed to arrive back in our town by early afternoon.  Not a bad weekend adventure.

     I had noticed on some of the store windows notices about being closed on May 1 and May 8.  I knew that May 1 was Labor Day in most parts of Europe but I was unaware of the May 8th holiday in France.  Belgium did not have this holiday, nor did Germany.  Several days later, Dear Husband mentioned that France celebrated V-E Day.  In an email dialogue with his father, we learned that on May 8, 1945, Doc was enroute to Paris for a bit of R&R.  He never made it that far.  The train stopped in Liege, Belgium (only 90 minutes from here) and it was there that he learned that the war in Europe was over.  He told us that he participated in the longest "snake" dance in history as everyone danced through the streets in celebration.  Neat memory...

     Several weeks ago, we went on a beer tour of Flanders.  I had read about the tour which consisted of visiting four breweries and we spent a Sunday afternoon exploring and driving all over the countryside.  What we did not realize was the type of beer we would be tasting.  All of the beers were aged in huge oak barrels for several years and the facilities were really impressive.  We have really become fans of Belgian beers and we typically enjoy the opportunity to taste new varieties.  It is said that beer is to a Belgian as wine is to a Frenchman.  It is taken that seriously.  I am not sure what kind of beer we were sampling but it was obviously very popular based on the crowds at each location we visited.  And...I have to tell you...we never finished a single sample.  We thought it was terrible!  So we enjoyed the adventure, but hated the beer.  Oh well...

     The weather today is quite "yucky"...rainy, cold and windy...more like Fall than Spring.  I do not think that any of us want to venture outside but I think we may go a bit stir crazy in the house...especially, if this continues tomorrow.  I think my Mother's Day picnic at a local Chateau will end up being replaced with brunch at home.  I am cooking a few things today...a big pot of black beans for burrito bowls later in the week.  Earlier, I toasted up old pieces of baguettes and made homemade bread crumbs.  The house smells yummy.  We harvested our first batch of radishes yesterday and they made the perfect Friday night appetizer.  

     Recipe today is Pizza Frittata.  Super easy and great for those trying to limit carbs.  While Dear Daughter just says it was "ok", she did manage to polish off two servings at dinner a few nights ago.


Pizza Frittata

Pizza Frittata
(Super easy and you could use all sorts of vegetables)


8 ounces of bulk Italian sausage
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
10 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup pizza sauce
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Whisk eggs with parmesan cheese.

Cook the sausage and remove from pan.  Sauté onions, red pepper and garlic.  Return the sausage to the pan.  Add the eggs and place pan in the oven for 15 minutes.  

Take out of the oven and spread pizza sauce over the top.  Cover with mozzarella cheese and return to oven.  Bake until cheese has melted.

Wait about 3-5 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

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