Sip Trips #137: Exploring Europe (Part 2)

Lyon, France was the second stop on our European expedition. Upon arriving, our group of six (seven if you count Baby Sip… and you better!) settled into our Airbnb, before heading out to explore the city. As we wandered through the Old Town area, we stopped at Les Banana’s for some French cuisine. I went with a Napolitaine Crepe, which was very good and hit the spot, washing the meal down with a pair of Stella pints.

Our next stop was one of my favourites from the entire vacation: Les Fleurs du Malt. This bar, specializing in craft beer from around the world, had an amazing happy hour concept, where if you correctly guessed the flip of a coin, you got your choice of beer for half price. I guessed correctly twice (always opting for tails!) for my orders of Piggy Brewing Paradise Peppers and Coursendonk Rousse. The location had really funky art throughout and I really enjoyed our experience there.

Heads or Tails.jpg

The next day, our crew travelled to the Beaujolais wine region via a private tour provided by Tasty Lyon. The trek stopped at Chateau de Corcelles and Domaine de la Madone, where we sampled a total of about 10 wines. At our second stop, we bought bottles of Viogner and Domaine du Niagara, which we enjoyed at a park along the Rhone River later that afternoon.

Our dinner that evening was a McDonald’s feast of burgers, fries and chicken nuggets. To make the meal a little more French, I drank some of the craft beers I had picked up the day prior, including Licorne Blonde Bio and Ninkasi (the French company) Tripel and French IPA.

McNuggets Feast.jpg

On our last day, we returned to the old town for a long walk. We stopped at La Mouss’tache for lunch, where we just got our orders into the kitchen before their afternoon break. My Bacon Burger was quite good, paired with a pint of Paulaner Salvator Ambree. This place was neat, with beer taps at each table, but we never figured out how the system worked. We returned later that day to watch the FA Cup Final and enjoy 5-Euro per pint happy hour, where I drank servings of Paulaner Weissbier and La Chouffe.

That wrapped our stay in Lyon and next up we were off to Portugal. Our time there started in Porto and ended in Lisbon, but there was much fun to be had as we journeyed through the country for the first time.

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France – Between the Sheets

Sensational Skyline

The Eiffel Tower is an iconic symbol, regularly associated with not only Paris, but the entire country of France. The structure can be found in numerous forms of media representing the country and celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this year. Let’s take a closer look at this mammoth structure:

The Eiffel Tower was opened to the public on March 31, 1889, taking two years, two months and five days to build by 300 workers. It was erected to serve as the entrance to the 1889 World Fair (or Exposition Universelle, since the French always have to put their own twist on titles). While it is an icon of the country today, its construction was protested by French artists and writers, who called it a “hateful column of bolted sheet metal!”

Frances-Thong

Writer Guy de Maupassant was one of the most vocal haters of the Eiffel Tower, yet was discovered eating lunch inside the setting on a daily basis. He claimed that it was because it was the only place in Paris that he didn’t have to look at the building. Other residents of the city initially viewed the construction as an eyesore.

Although the tower is named in honour of engineer Gustave Eiffel, he wasn’t initially interested in the project. Designed by his company’s engineers Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, Eiffel only really came on board when the design was tweaked by his head of architecture, Stephen Sauvestre. Then, Eiffel purchased the patent rights for the structure.

A symbol of modern science, for 41 years, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made object (standing at 1,063 feet) in the world, but that reign came to an end in 1930 with the completion of New York’s Chrysler Building. I bet the French regretted giving New York the Statue of Liberty after they were trumped. The tower is comprised of 18,038 pieces linked by 2.5 million rivets.

Tower or Battleship

Today, the Eiffel isn’t even the tallest structure in France anymore. It has been surpassed by the Millau Viaduct, a cable-stayed bridge that connects parts of Millau-Creissels, France over the River Tarn. While it does provide a nice photo-op (if you’re into bridges and such), the Eiffel Tower is still the place tourists flock for their Parisian moment.

The tower was treated with 60 tons of paint to protect from the weather and has been repainted numerous times (about every seven years) since its original covering. It is painted lighter at the bottom of the structure and becomes gradually darker at the top so it looks like one uniform colour, despite atmospheric pressure. On warms days, the Eiffel tower can grow up to six inches, thanks to thermal expansion… does this mean that Mrs. Sip is also thermal expansion!?

The tower’s elevators weren’t running until almost two months after the building opened. Visitors could still enter the structure, but had to climb 1,710 steps to reach the summit. Still, more than 30,000 people were willing to traverse the many flights to get a view of the city. Mrs. Sip and I have talked about doing the stair thing sometime, but I think my laziness will always prevail.

Eiffel Lightning

The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be taken apart after 20 years, but it was later used as a radio communications tower, transitioning into telecommunications with the change in technology. The city chose to keep the structure after its permit expired in 1909. A post office, theatre, newspaper, science labs, and even an annual ice rink have also set up shop at the structure.

In the 1920s, con man Victor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower twice for scrap metal. With forged government documents, Lustig invited six scrap metal dealers to a meeting where they discussed dismantling the run down and expensive-to-upkeep landmark. When the scam worked once without Lustig ending up in jail, he returned to try it again, but this time authorities were summoned. Lustig did get away this time, but eventually found himself in jail, where he died in 1947. His death certificate listed his occupation as ‘apprentice salesman!’

Eiffel For You

The tower sure is sturdy, surviving wars, fires, and countless visitors. One time when Mrs. Sip and I were visiting the landmark, we even saw some dude relieving himself against the iconic iron! Today, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited pay monument in the world, with over seven millions visitors annually, 75% of which are foreigners.

It may not be the copycat Eiffel Tower located at The Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, but Joe King, an engineering professor from California, constructed a toothpick replica of the famous structure in 1988, using 110,000 sticks. The tower stood 23 feet high. Other imitations include: Tokyo Tower in Japan, Torre del Reformador in Guatemala, Petřín Lookout Tower in the Czech Republic, AWA Tower in Australian, and many more.

France: Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets Cocktail

  • 1 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz Light Rum
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

Every time Mrs. Sip and I have been at the Eiffel Tower (with the intent of going up), the weather has been inclement. The first time we ever scaled the monument, the weather was near freezing and windy and even snowed a little. Other times, we have passed on going up because we know it isn’t as enjoyable when it’s wet and cold. On one visit, the weather was gorgeous as we were winding our way through the Louvre line-up early in the day. That afternoon was supposed to be Eiffel Tower time, but as we made our way to the attraction, the clouds burst open and we were thwarted once again. C’est la vie is all you can really say!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Despite three ounces of alcohol, this drink was pretty damn good. I was worried about how harsh it might be, so instead of using plain Light Rum, I subbed in Torched Cherry Rum and the flavour went very well with the Triple Sec. Both tasted very nice with Cognac as part of the mix and while still potent, the drink was delicious.

France – French 75

Champagne Showers

While I’ve chosen cognac as the spirit of choice while visiting France, that doesn’t mean we can’t devote some time to another well-associated libation for the country: champagne. I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff, but Mrs. Sip loves her bubbles and therefore, this article is dedicated to her and her taste in finer things… like the Sip Advisor!

Champagne was discovered accidentally and through a process that makers in the region are still trying to correct. When the cold weather hits this northern area, the fermentation procedure is interrupted and only continues when warm temperatures return while the wine is already bottled. This creates the carbonation and pressure that champagne is known for.

champagne-christopher-walken

Dom Perignon is often credited with inventing champagne in 1662, but he had some serious help from a British scientist named Christopher Merret, who broke down the process for creating the libation. Also, British bottles were stronger than the French ones and helped eliminate the likelihood of bottles bursting from the intense pressure of the drink.

In fact, the real Dom Perignon (a Benedictine monk) was one of the many who worked hard to prevent the second fermentation that creates champagne. What Perignon can be recognized for is giving champagne its classic colour. Champagne used to have a pale pink hue before Perignon started the process of blending grapes before pressing them, which caused red grapes to produce a white wine.

In 1813, Madame Clicquot Ponsardin created the riddling machine, which greatly improved champagne production and the quality of the product being released. These machines allowed for bottles to be turned upside down in order to have sediment (dead yeast) removed, refining the second fermentation process. The Veuve Clicquot champagne house still exists today.

Dom Perignon

Only the bottles produced in France’s Champagne region can be classified as champagne. It is known around the world by such other names as bubbly, Prosecco, brut, and sparkling wine. Today there are over 15,000 grape growers in Champagne, working with pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes.

Although Double-O-7, James Bond, is best associated with the shaken, not stirred martini, in the films, he is most often seen downing champagne. In fact, the secret agent seems to like his bubbles so much, he has consumed close to 40 glasses. Perhaps Bond, the perpetual sex machine, was drawn to the classic champagne glass, which was designed from a wax mold of Marie Antoinette’s breast.

There are about 49 million bubbles in a typical bottle of champagne. Those suds can cause immense pressure in the bottle (90 pounds per square inch), which can launch a cork at 40 miles per hour. The world record for cork flight is 177 feet. Those same bubbles can cause a headache for drinkers, if consumed too quickly, as they cause the alcohol to enter your bloodstream quickly. Take your time with champagne and enjoy the taste of the wine and the cascade of the fizz.

Popped a Cap

Need more than a normal sized champagne bottle? How about a lot more? The Melchizedek serving provides 30 liters of the good stuff. That’s equivalent to 40 typical bottles. Despite the massive serving, these bottles pale in comparison to the price attached to some selections. The Shipwrecked 1907 Heidseick will set you back $275,000 per bottle. 200 bottles of the champagne were discovered in 1997, after sitting at the bottom of the ocean for 90 years, presumed to have fallen off the ship carrying it.

Champagne can be used for many other purposes. In the 1800s, English nobles used the drink to polish their boots. Many moons later, Marilyn Monroe is reported to have bathed in a tub filled with 350 bottles of champagne. Had they re-bottled the used bath water, they could have made millions. Instead, today we have a Marilyn Monroe-themed strawberries and cream vodka from Three Olives. I think some companies really missed the boat on this one.

France: French 75

French 75 Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Cognac
  • Top with Champagne
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Pinch of Sugar
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

Although I don’t love champagne, it is perfect in helping celebrate milestones, triumphs, and even the passing of another day where you made it through alive. Drink up, my little sippers!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
Much like Italy, there are a number of liquor options available for France. I went with Cognac because it seemed like a nice way to change things up with this project. This is the Cognac version of the popular Gin-based cocktail that I found in my Mixology App. It tasted alright, but I’m still not a huge fan of Champagne in general.

December 14 – Christmas Kiss

Tonight, We Feast

While most of us are accustomed to a Christmas feast of turkey or ham and all the fixings, around the world, the story may not be the same. Here are some of the most unique Christmas dinners in the universe!

KFC – Japan

While the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices are famous around the world, only in Japan is fried chicken such an enormously popular Christmas dinner. This was a case where false advertising worked out pretty well. The company stated through ads in 1974 that KFC was the meal of choice in North America and Japanese folks looking to get onboard with western culture followed along. The “Kentucky For Christmas” campaign was so successful that people pre-order their buckets en masse two months ahead of time for their celebrations.

Kentucky-Christmas

Fish Soup – Serbia

I won’t knock it, since I haven’t tried it, but not being much of a soup fan, I feel like I wouldn’t enjoy Christmas in Serbia very much. Unless the fish soup was some sort of lobster bisque or something like that. The Serbs also bake bread called Cesnica, which includes a silver coin inside, bringing good luck to the one who finds it. This has disaster written all over it though, ranging from a choking hazard to extreme dental work if someone bites down on the cash too hard.

Foie Gras – France

If anyone needs lessons on how to live decadently, the French have the knowledge, but they’re too busy sipping wine to help out and teach the rest of the world. For a French Christmas meal, one might find themselves indulging in foie gras, oysters, smoked salmon, and crepes. For dessert? Not one snack, but 13. Called ‘13 Desserts’ and meant to symbolize Jesus and the 12 Apostles, the treats are set out on Christmas Eve and left out to entice for the next three days.

Weisswurst – Germany

Germany’s Christmas dinner seems more like a barbecue gathering and I mean that in a good way. Items include sausages and potato salad and you better believe there will be beer served at this holly jolly feast. For dessert, the Germans destroy a gingerbread house that is meant to emulate the one from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. I bet you even get to chow down on some festively plump children, as part of the whole exercise!

German Stollen

Curry Goat – Jamaica

Washed down with Red Stripe beer (or at least I hope), curry goat just doesn’t seem very appetizing. I’m a fan of curry, specifically of the Indian variety, but I usually have the spicy sauce atop chicken dishes. This brings a whole new meaning to those ads that want you to send a goat to an impoverished village in Africa. Not saying Jamaica is an impoverished African village (that would simply be foolish), but it gets the ol’ brain thinking and that’s never a good thing.

12-Dish Supper – Lithuania

Once again, representing the 12 Apostles (Jesus gets left out here), Lithuanians are served 12 separate dishes on Christmas Eve and no one can open their presents until every last apostle has been eaten. Okay, I added that last little bit, but for all we know, I could actually be right… I know it’s rare, but it has been known to happen. You know, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nobody knows how to truly party like a Lithuanian!

Drink #348: Christmas Kiss

Christmas Kiss Shooter

  • 0.75 oz Chambord
  • 0.75 oz Kahlua
  • Garnish with a Candy Cane

Are there any meals that particularly stand out to you as a little bizarre? Everyone has their own way of celebrating, but that certainly doesn’t make it normal!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
I thought this shot would give me the chance to finally use the candy cane shot glass I picked up for Mrs. Sip a couple years ago (because that’s what I do: buy gifts for her that are really for me!). Then, tragedy struck when the shot glass immediately began to leak. I acted quickly, sucking the liquid through a hole in the bottom of the vessel and promptly tossed that waste of money into the sink, shattering it into pieces. Sweet revenge! The shot itself was pretty tasty, as I was expecting with the mix of two pleasant liqueurs.

November 5 – International Incident

Drink Nation

I recently stumbled upon a report about the 10 greatest drinking nations in the world. Sadly, Canada did not make that list, but neither did our neighbours to the south… or even their neighbours to the south. Here are my thoughts on those that did crack the top 10 and where I think Canadians need to improve to better our future ranking.

10. Australia

While Australia has wine and beer creations to its credit, I can’t think of any liquors they’ve introduced to the world. The article does point out that former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke made the Guinness Book of World Records for downing 2.5 pints of beer in 2.5 seconds. If that’s the effort your politicians are putting forward, I guess you deserve to be on this list.

Kangaroo Drinking

Wow, even the roos are getting in on the act!

9. Germany

The land of Oktoberfest; the event which has largely earned them this spot on the countdown. Germany is known for their beer making, beer serving (wenches impressively carrying eight beer steins at the same time), and beer consumption. Although the Czech citizens drink more beer than the Germans, that’s still not enough to topple this suds nation.

8. Uganda

How does an African nation make this list? Does professional wrestler Kamala (the Ugandan Giant) have something to do with this, forcing the country’s way onto the list through sheer intimidation tactics? Apparently residents will gather and sit around a pot of ajono (beer-like substance) and pass a long straw around. Not sure that earns their way onto this list.

7. South Korea

All this despite South Korea’s strict social guidelines. Apparently, it’s common practice in the country to get plastered on mixes of beer and whiskey and let loose, getting out all of your pent-up anger and frustration. So, basically what every drinker in the world does when they’re a few wobbly pops deep into the night!

Korean drinking

6. Moldova

According to the World Health Organization, Moldova is the most liquored up nation in the world. Stats say that per person, each resident drinks 18 litres of alcohol in a year. Does that include children? The former Soviet nation’s favourite hangover cure is pickle juice and I’m down with that. Perhaps we could share some Moldovian fruit brandies, followed by pickles for breakfast!

5. Ecuador

The local liquor in Ecuador, Zhumir, is affectionately known as “hangover in a bottle”… that’s a challenge the Sip Advisor would like to take, given my invincibility towards the morning after suffering. Etiquette in the country dictates that you cannot start drinking until someone has made a toast, so if you’re all alone, make sure there’s a mirror in your room to cheers yourself.

4. France

Home to the Champagne region and too-many-to-count wineries. Apparently the people of France turn their nose up to selling liquor from other countries. That’s not really surprising, but it means they’re really missing out, especially with Belgian beers, Spanish sangria and English gin offerings so close to their borders.

french-funny-flag

What does this have to do with drinking? Nothing, but I’m posting it anyway! Suck it, France!

3. Russia

Russians drink vodka at all times of the day. It’s just their way of life. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime snack… no time of day is enjoyed sans vodka. Russia is the all-important buckle of the Vodka Belt. I’m totally down with people that don’t drink in normal conventions. We’d get along real well.

2. China

Sadly, this site has never received a viewer from the massive country of China. Thanks to the nation’s censorship laws, citizens often have to tether on to other countries internet signals to access non-governmental approved sites. I guess the more citizens you have (and China of course has tons) the more liquor you need to keep the population docile and happy and therefore your portfolio in the alcohol world grows.

1. United Kingdom

While I’ve always had a good time drinking in the U.K., I’m not sure I agree with the country taking the top spot on this list. That said, the country is lined with bars that are often packed to the brim with people looking to get boozed up. They can also be credited with much of the world’s gin production and for that, we thank them. Party on Brits!

Drink #309: International Incident

International Incident Drink Recipe

  • 0.5 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Amaretto
  • 0.5 oz Coffee Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Macadamia Nut Liqueur
  • Splash of Milk
  • Garnish with Macadamia Nuts

If the fine folks in Mexico can’t even crack the list, despite their IP on tequila production, then us schlubs in Canada shouldn’t feel so bad. I also question nations like Ireland (although I guess it’s kind of part of the U.K.) and Belgium not cracking the top 10. I want answers, dammit!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This recipe is intended to be a shot, but I increased the ingredient increments and turned it into a nightcap cocktail. The drink gave me my first chance to use our Macadamia Nut Liqueur, which I subbed for the originally scheduled Hazelnut Liqueur and it tasted great. A highlight of the cocktail was the hint of salt you got with each sip, thanks to the Macadamia Nuts garnish!

September 3 – Unicorn

Animal Crackers

Recently, a big deal in social media was made over Scotland’s national animal (to be revealed very shortly). That got me thinking about the rest of the world and which creatures have had the honour of proudly and respectfully representing a country. No nation will be off limits, as I am definitely going to skewer my home country. Here are some of the best selections:

Unicorn – Scotland

For some reason, a mythological animal for Scotland actually makes sense given they’re a mythological country! I’m just messin’ with ya Scots. Don’t forget, we here in Canada still have strong ties to the U.K. despite our distance from the motherland. The unicorn was actually a symbol of the Scottish royal family. The more you know *rainbow swipe*!

unicorn

Beaver – Canada

Speaking of my part of the world, we chose an animal which just begs for other citizens to make double entendres about how much we love it! Bring on the jokes, we can take them! The beaver is a very industrious animal, building their dams for shelter. They are also good recyclers, using trees that nobody needs anymore. Stupid oxygen-enabling trees!

Lion – Belgium/Bulgaria/Luxembourg/Netherlands/U.K.

Are there even lions in most of these countries (that aren’t caged in a zoo)? Did they just choose a bad ass animal to look cool among the international community, not realizing how many other countries also claimed the feline? A place like Ethiopia or Kenya having the lion as their national animal makes sense…since, you know, lions actually live there.

King Cobra – India

This is an intimidating choice, warning us all that the Indian population can be subdued with hypnotic music, but at the same time are deadly predators that can strike in an instant and cause accelerated death. If that’s really the case though, why does it take me so long to get a live person when I call for customer service?

Cobra and girl

See, cobras can be cute and cuddly!

Gallic Rooster – France

It kind of makes sense that France would relate themselves to a bunch of cocks, am I right!? I’m sure most French people are actually quite nice, but Parisians take the cake on being dicks. We once had a cab driver who refused to acknowledge our request to go to the Eiffel Tower until we flipped it and said “Tour Eiffel”… Va te faire foutre!!

Persian Cat – Iran

While most would view the Iranians with some fear and hostility, how can you do that when they picked a freakin’ fluffy cat as one of their national animals! Ma and Pa Sip have a Persian-ish cat at home and she’s a darling…unless you try to move her off the bed. Not very friendly to her fellow felines either now that I come to think about…

Dolphin – Greece

Of course the Greeks would pick the most sexual of creatures when selecting their national animal. They did, after all, invent a great deal of the carnal moves and positions in existence, rivaling the Indians and their Karma Sutra. Apparently, dolphins also play a role in Greek mythology, as helpers of mankind. Aquaman must be jealous!

funny-dolphin

Dodo – Mauritius

Good job Mauritius (wherever the hell you are) for picking an animal that has long been extinct. Perhaps your fate will be much the same. Seems like you’re asking for a rough future with your choice in animal worship.

Bull – Spain

Nothing like killing your national animal for the entertainment of screaming, blood-thirsty fans! What’s that, you also show it respect by tying up its testicles before you taunt, tease, assault, and slaughter the beast? Hmmm, you Spanish have a funny way of showing affection. At least the bull sometimes gets revenge with a thunderous gore!

Bulldog – U.K.

Scotland’s pick of the unicorn doesn’t look so bad anymore. At least it’s a majestic creature. Meanwhile, England picked one of the foulest mutts in the dog world. With a face only an owner could love and enough drool to flood an apartment, the bulldog seems an unlikely choice for people who a nation of prim and proper tea drinkers.

Drink #246: Unicorn

Unicorn Drink

  • 1 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.5 oz Brandy
  • 0.5 oz Kahlua
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Cointreau
  • Dash of Melon Liqueur
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with a Pink Marshmallow

What do you think of some of these national animals? Is there a country you wish I had targeted with my adept lampooning? I can take the heat, just as much as I can give it out! By the way, here’s a quiz on the subject of national animals (I hope you were taking notes)… enjoy!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoyed the Melon Liqueur finish. It went really well with the rest of the recipe, highlighted by the Irish Crème. Garnishing the cocktail with a Pink Marshmallow seemed like the perfect addition for a Unicorn-themed drink.