Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today we headed east from Montpellier toward the Rhone and a small appelation on the west side of that River called  Costiere de Nimes where Anne and Francois Collard make whites, roses and red wines, all redolent of the countryside.We're just a few miles north or Arles, which is one of my favoriate cities in France and one where Van Gogh did some of his most memorable work. We arrived in the morning so before tasting the products of their labors we took a 2 hour guided hike with Anne into the surrounding countryside, which besides grapes includes  orchards of peaches, apricots, cherries, many olive groves and wonderful brush covered hillsides that were unbelieivably fragrant. We were experiencing the terroir in the very best sense, by walking though it it. Called the Garrigue it looks like scrub plants on stony soil, streaked with red for the iron it contains with patches for gray clay. As we climbed a gentle grade to some of the oldest vineyards on the property, with. Grenache grapes planted 30 years ago by Collard's father. Other grape growers then thought he was out of his mind becasue in that time the emphasis was on quantity, not quality. But thinking changed after the new apellation was carved out in 1986 and the elder Collard was instead a pioneer.
The aromas of the surrounding vegetation called out to us of wild thyme and rosemary, wild roses,fennel,garlic,   mint and a beautiful yellow  blooming bush some of us thought was gorse and others called broom But it turned out to be called Genet , at least in French, and some of us thought it smelled like vanilla.
On our walk we were  accompanied by a pair of border collies who obviously knew the way. When we got to talking and failed to turn where we should they reminded us, as any sheepherding dog worth its salt  would do.
By the time we retruned to the chateau for our tasting, our senses had been educated to the aromas we would find in the wines.

It was an extraordinary exprience and one that anyone can repeat. Although we preferred to walk to work off the calories awaiting us on this food an wine trip, others can choose to take the same excursion by bicycle or horse and carriage.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

AirFrance plane with 538 passengers

The size of the A380 is apparent by looking for the baggage handler slightly to the right of center and seeing how his size compares to the fuselage. Bags are in containers aboard this AirFrance flight, possibly organized by final destination, but I havent confirmed that. But total weight of carryon bags must be 12 kg. or less so even tho my bag was regulation carryon  size, my electronics put me over and I had to check it.  

I first realized it was a mighty big plane when I watched the crew file aboard as I waited for my flight to Paris at Dulles Airport in Wash DC.

I counted 22 uniformed flight attendants boarding AirFrance 039.

If it's not the biggest plane in the air is the biggest one Ive flown. It had two levels and carried 538 passengers. Its an Airbus 380 and it's 72 meters (78 yards) long and with a 79 meter (260 feet) wingspan.
From my coach seat near the rear on the starboard side of the A380 the wing seemed to go on forever. This was shot as the plane was preparing to land at Dulles. To me the muddy river indicated there had been recent rain storms in the area. 

My metric conversion gene is not a strong one, but as I sat in my window seat and looked out on the wing it seemed to go on forever. We had 538 passengers on board, according to my flight attendant, but I understand that the aircraft can be configured to carry more than 800 passengers - to me an almost impossible number to imagine traveling at jet speed across the vast Atlantic.

After a flight of about 7-some hours, I arrived in Paris at 6 a.m. local time (midnight at home) and tried to keep my wits about me to find my connecting flight to Montpellier. It was a very long walk to my gate in Terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle International and I arrived with only a few minutes to spare before boarding a much smaller aircraft for the hour-plus flight south. At that point I was wishing I'd taken the train since the highspeed TGV boards from the airport's lower level and the ride takes about 3 hours...plenty of time for a nap.

Montpellier is near the Mediterranean in the south of France and I am joining a group of wine and travel writers who will be shown around the unique terroir that helps to produce some very nice wines. Our trip through Languedoc begins tomorrow so stand by and if wi-fi and time is available I'll be telling you about it. Resources: and

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Monday, May 14, 2012

New Zealand, world's end and Disney cruise

Soak in New Zealand's hot springs, experience whimsical elegance aboard Disney's new Fantasy, sail  to meet the world's end among the Maya of Mexico, explore the Mayan influence of Playa del Carmen, and traipse among the tulips in Holland. Our May 13 travel section has been a labor of love designed to fuel dreams or start you off on the planning for your own adventures in this great big wonderful world. I've enjoyed putting it all together and now am embarked on a section for June, which will introduce you to some great golfing getaways. If you didn't see Sunday's paper live and in person you can view the stories online. Find them and comment, either here or on the stories themselves, to let me know what you liked and how we can do better.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wine tasting in gardens

Bouquets, the exquisite wine tasting amid Holden Arboretum's gardens, sells out almost as soon as it's announced to members each year. To keep the event intimate,  the arboretum limits the number of tickets sold,  first offering them to members before they're made available to the public. In other years the tasting took place in the exquisite rhododendron collection with tasting venues and food served beneath canopies scattered throughout the area, which also had small tables and benches.  Work is now being done on that part of the arboretum and this year the tasting will take place amid the lilacs, some of which should still be in bloom on June 2, the Saturday for Bouquets this year.
I've taken heat from readers  in other years for not mentioning Bouquets in my regular Food column, which is why I'm blogging about the wine tasting. It really is one of the most wonderful events of the entire summer to enjoy and readers were disappointed to have missed out. But it's sold out again, so there will be no mention in my column.
The best strategy for those who don't want to miss out again next year is to join the Arboretum. It's just $40 person (or $50 for two if one is 60 or older). Membership yields advance notice of  Bouquets (and lots of other things) and bestows a discounted ticket price of $35 for the tasting. Admission to the arboretum is always free for members, who get  fishing and library privileges along with a host of other benefits.
The 3,500-acre  Holden Arboretum spans the borders of Lake and Geauga counties and has its visitor center at 9500 Sperry Road in Kirtland. Go online at or pay an in-person visit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Heading to France again

I've begun doing my homework for a France wine and food trip I'll be taking in a few weeks. We'll be in Languedoc, the area in the southeast part of France where one of my favorite wines comes from. It's called Picpoul de Pinet and it's an inexpensive white that is our summertime house wine. To celebrate being invited on this trip I bought a bottle of it to drink this weekend.
The wine region is quite large, stretching from Montpellier which Ill fly to from Paris, to Narbonne, which we will visit on the trip's fourth day. It takes in more than 120 villages and the vineyards which surround them.
The majority of wines produced in this rather large region - the appellation called Coteaux de Languedoc - are red and rose wines. Many are now being imported to the United States and they are quite reasonably priced. I very much look forward to exploring in depth what the French call terroir at the wine chateaux I'll be visiting. Terroir is about soil, but its also about the kind of stones that make up the soil, the incline the grapes are grown on, the amount of sunlight they receive and a  number of other elements that give the wine its characteristic taste. In this country we usually call terroir a micro climate, but that word tends to understate its importance as far as the French are concerned.
I know I'm going to have to learn to spit - something I'm self conscious about - but something those who taste a lot of different wines must do on a regular basis. If I swallowed the wine in every glass of wine I'll be offered there's no way that I would be able to take coherent notes or remember much about it for my story.
The fact is, I'll be taking this trip for the purpose of developing a series of stories about the region and that's not something I could do while tipsy.
So if you and I should cross paths  in the next several weeks at a wine tasting,  please don't be offended to see me spitting my mouthful of wine into a container after I've tasted it
 It's all a part of my job, you see.

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