Château d’Auvers and other cultural events

Last weekend I got a visit from my sister and we decided to take a little trip to a castle outside of Paris. We were debating on Friday evening and we finally picked the Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise which is 1h30 from Paris. Since we are both interested in castles, we saw this visit as a great opportunity to have a walk in someone’s chambers and admire the interior design of the XVII century.

Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise

We arrived at the castle which was rather small. We were thinking of spending at least the same amount of time as our journey to this place. I was still an optimist and suggested a walk in the park that was advertised on the website. My first disappointment was when they told us that the whole place is renovated and there are some art installations showing us works from the Impressionism. If I wanted to watch a documentary, I would have stayed home. My sister was in a good mood and cheered me up but I still have more or less negative feelings about the castle.

The art installations were mostly big screens that displayed the above-mentioned docu movie. It was somewhat interesting but looking and pictures of the painting are not nearly as satisfying as seeing the real deal. I was impressed by 2 of the 8 rooms. One of them was a recreation of an artist atelier. I was preoccupied with taking pictures so I’m not sure whose atelier they recreated but I think it was Monet. Anyway, the impressionists preferred painting in nature, so this room was not that important.

The next room was also arranged in an interesting way. In comparison to the other rooms with simple flat screens, this one was more 3D and every small screen was painted in different colors which made the whole ambiance more interesting.

We then went to the garden which was as small as the castle. It was somewhat our fault that we made a poor choice. In the summer, one can enjoy the maze which is not a lot of fun during the winter when you can see through the branches.

The Brassens market

On Sunday we started the day with a book market. The Brassens market was originally a place where they butchered animals before selling the meat. Nowadays you can browse through some second-hand books and maybe find a treasure. I have lived in Nice and the market there was incredible. Every day of the week it had a different theme and books were one of them. This one was not so impressive although it’s named the most famous market for old books in Paris. It’s in the 15th arrondissements aka in the southwest of the city. To go there, one needs to ride the line 13 of the subway. I was unease the whole time because I have heard some bad things about it. It turned out not so criminal but I wouldn’t recommend this place if you like to display your gold jewelry and other expensive accessories.

Carnival de Paris

The 23rd of February was also the Carnival de Paris. It’s an annual event dating from the XVI century. People disguise and put masks on before starting a procession from the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The procession ended at Place de la Republique where everyone gathered and started celebrating the Carnival. Music and dancing in the streets is something that has always fascinated me and we walked next to the processions for some time so that we can check out all the participants.

Centre Pompidou

We ended our very cultural weekend in one of the museums with the longest working hours. Centre Pompidou is famous for its unusual modern architecture. The whole façade of the building is made out of pipes. The construction is very geometrical and pleasing for people who like Sheldon don’t like chaos.

The view of this building is breathtaking. There is a cute restaurant worth visiting especially during the summer. One can see all the important buildings from up here – the Eifel Tower, Sacre-Coeur, Notre-Dame. The pipes that can be seen on the façade are actually the escalators that take visitors up to the last floor.

The temporary collection was a mystic experience. I was happy that we did it after dark. It was like walking into a cemetery. Some rooms were full of black and white pictures of people from the beginning of the last century. One room was covered with white sheets that gave the illusion that ghosts were floating through it. In another one could observe rectangular objects covered with black sheets so it looked like coffins. Some light bulbs were hanging from the ceiling and those that were directly over a “coffin” were turned off. The whole exposition was accompanied by a quiet heartbeat as the music background.

Wine and love on Valentine’s day

Different traditions for Valentine’s day that are more attractive than just candies and flowers

Valentine’s day is usually described as a curse nowadays. The gestures of love are never enough, the attention to detail is never satisfying, the singles have never been so lonely. The sad thing is that this day should inspire love and happiness, not become a competition of whose boyfriend bought the biggest bouquet. That’s why I’ll present you another holiday that is celebrated on the 14th of February.

In Bulgaria, we’re celebrating a lot of American or Catholic holidays that we often watch in the movies and then imitate. Lucky for us, we’re not going crazy about St. Valentine’s because we have a much better alternative. We’re celebrating the day of all wine-grower and winemakers. The 14th of February is the day when the first cutting off the wine branches. This tradition is performed only by men because it is said that the vines should “give birth” to a new vintage. In the meantime, the women of the village are preparing bread with the shape of a wine leaf. After this, the men make crowns from the branches and dance traditional Bulgarian dances around the vineyard.

With a group of friends, we visited a city in the South of Bulgaria that is famous for its viticulture. The small city is called Melnik and has preserved his spirit throughout the centuries. You can sense it while walking the main (and only) street in the smallest city in Bulgaria. The architecture is the same as it was during the Bulgarian Renaissance (18th century). The good thing is that it’s forbidden to build something that will ruin that little piece of history.

We were invited by one of the biggest wineries and got to celebrate the holiday with them. We started the day with a coffee, unlike most of the visitors who had already full glass of wine at 11. We walked into the vineyard and participated in the cutting of the vines. To respect the old traditions, the men were cutting and the women were filming. We even received small branches that we could plant so that we could make our own little vineyard someday.

We then participated in the wine tour. As I had worked in France in a château, I knew a little bit about the technique and could compare the differences. This winery had a small production, but it was more of a boutique winery only designated for connoisseurs. We were invited to the tunnels under the winery, where the wine was aging in barrels. It was like entering the crypt of a haunted castle with a much better smell in the air. The best part was, of course, the wine tasting. After the stories about the process, we could taste the different sorts of wine that they were making. It goes without saying, that we bought a whole box.

One of the wines is called “Hailstorm”. I was fascinated with the story that is surrounding this wine. One year there was a big hailstorm in Melnik and most of the grapes were destroyed. The production was very small this year, but the wine was better than ever. The secret is that the grapes that survived the natural disaster were stronger and richer in flavors and that made the wine different than the others.

We also had a walk in the town center. We went to one of the three monasteries overlooking the city. We climbed some 300 steps, but don’t be fooled by the number – these steps were so uneven that even the iWatch considered it as good training. The view was incredible. On the one side there was the city, on the other side there were the Earth Pyramids. They are a geological phenomenon made of sand and with different shapes.