28 Jun 2007

Last walk of the season

Last Friday was the last group walk for a while - a break now until September because of the heat and the holiday season. It was a grand affair held up in the Black Mountains - beyond St. Pons-de-Thomières - at the edge of a reservoir.

No vines at this altitude - but lovely pine and oak forests, which made for a lovely 2 hour walk before lunch.
And quite a bit of heather in flower here too.

And so much cooler - good walking weather. There were more than 50 people for this day out - though only about half did the walk. The rest stayed back and 'set up camp' and made sure the BBQ's were sorted. And this is what I call a barbie! - a monster of an affair, with all four sides lit to cook for the crowd.

Here’s Edgar – in charge of the BBQ and a fine job he’s made of the Toulouse sausage …

This was a 10 Euro per head deal, and what a feast was provided, starting with the essential 'appero' after the walk. In this case, blue punch - made of much champagne, some type of citrus liqueur and a whole bottle of Blue Curacao! Looked ghastly - tasted wonderful.

And as I said, a veritable feast – and here’s the desserts (with just a little of the blue punch left, not looking quite so appetising at this stage).
And afterwards, out came the accordion, and a little singing and dancing in the afternoon. A good time was had by all!
I forgot to mention in my previous post that there was a fund raising event in the village last week – a repas down on the promenade at the edge of the river, to raise funds for the children of Madagascar.

The entertainment started at about 7 o’clock – local musicians playing popular music, the meal started quite late at about 8.30, and then the main entertainment of the evening was African drumming and dance. A very enthusiastic display that went on right up to 11.

Thereafter followed by a disco - for me a sign to pull up stumps and call it a night.

20 Jun 2007

Days of Wine and Roses

Well, perhaps that's stretching it. But a trip to a wine cave for 2 x 5 litre refills, and then to the Beziers flower market.

The wine cave is in the nearby village of Ginestas – and having tried a few in recent months, I have to say I think this one is a winner. The red and the rosé are really nice, and 5 litres of each costs me all of 20 euros, and that’s certainly not the cheapest you can buy around here by a long shot. In fact I took a bottle of the red to the group walk a couple of weeks ago, and those who tasted it wanted to know where it came from. I reckon if the locals think it’s a pretty good drop, then I must be onto a good thing.

The wine cave is only open twice a week between 11 and 12 on a Wednesday and a Saturday. I’ve only been on a Saturday, and it seems to be the local meeting place in the village. It’s humming – lots of tasting and banter happening. And there’s a man with his meat van who has cottoned onto a good idea – he parks his truck directly outside at 11.30 and has captive trade tumbling out the door. The surroundings might be industrial and gloomy, with the wine coming out of what looks like a petrol pump – but in this particular cave the attendant is tres chic!

A trip through to Beziers, where there is a flower market every Friday in the main avenue - not dissimilar to the Ramblas in Barcelona, but on a much smaller scale. The market was lovely, and I came away with a solitary chilli plant, as I have had so much trouble buying fresh chillis in the shops here. When I did find them, they were the tiny bird’s eye variety and hot as all hell. So my resolution not to buy any more plants didn’t last long – the court yard is looking decidedly green as I continue accumulating.

The Beziers traffic and road system is well-known for being a nightmare. It’s a standing joke that whenever I get within cooee of the place, I end up in ‘downtown’ Beziers whether I want to or not. Usually when I’m trying to skirt around the place itself, on my way to somewhere else! After the markets, we tried to get to the cathedral at the top of town, which can be seen for miles around. But we were thwarted at literally every turn. Even with the GPS, we ended up in tiny cobbled streets. I was trying to back out of one as I figured I could get stuck if I went any further, when a local advised that I was in fact headed in the right direction for the cathedral, and I should keep going. At this stage, Janice got out and walked ahead to make sure that I could indeed get the car through. We made it out of the labyrinth, only to eventually arrive at the main road up the hill to find it closed off! Thwarted at every turn. So, the views from the cathedral will have to wait for another day – but here’s a photo of it from the distance.

While Janice was here, it was a good opportunity to deal with another old cupboard in an upstairs room. If we’d been able to dismantle it and take it downstairs, I would have used it as a storage and tool cupboard in the garage. But even with the shelves and doors removed, it was still too heavy and unwieldy for us to manage down the stairs. So – over the balcony it went. And this time I did remember to take the before and after photos.

Shortly before ...

.... and sorted!

And here’s a few pictures of the lovely rooftops of Narbonne – we climbed the 251 steps of Narbonne Cathedral tower in the main square – amazing 360 degree views.

5 Jun 2007

Cherry Festival Trausse-Minervois

Cherry season is here at last – one of the reasons I moved to France!!! But ‘une catastrophe’ – April was so warm, that it’s hardly a season at all. But there were enough to carry on with the annual cherry festival in the village of Trausse-Minervois. And here’s a short video clip I made with my camera – most of these festivals seem to have either their own or a visiting ‘oompa’ band, and this one is very enthusiastic, if a little out of tune …

And another France-related video clip can be seen here - this one certainly not of my making – but fun!

I’ve just had a quick and unexpected trip to Spain today. Bizarre in my way of thinking, to be able to nip over to another country at the drop of a hat. Miki, a friend from the village, rang this morning – he was heading down to do a bit of shopping just over the border, and did I want to go down for the ride? Well, yes, of course I did – any excuse not to pick up the paint brush, which was today’s plan. Some things are much cheaper there - I now have more olives than I know what to do with, and a well-stocked alcohol cupboard that I do know what to do with.
Just on the border, we passed through the town of Le Perthus – the border goes down the middle of the main street. Signs on the shop fronts on the left are in Spanish – those on the right in French! And then on to La Jonquera, not a particularly pretty town but full of big shops, garden centres and terracotta and ceramic planters.
Last week I had Phil and Val with me, unfortunately only for three days, but in that short time they have fallen in love with the area! So much so that they’re coming back later in the year, and may even have a look at what’s on offer re the property market – how exciting!
And they happened to be here on a Tuesday and came on the walk with the group – it was all around an etang down the coast near Bages and Peyriac-de-Mer. And a great day was had by all – they were made to feel so welcome by the local folk and there were lots of laughs, eau de vie, other home made liqueurs and more cakes passed around after the picnic lunch than you could poke a stick at! We were even made to take some home for dinner.
Here they are the next day, dipping their toes in the Mediterranean on the big long beach between Sete and Agde. We had a seafood lunch at a restaurant in Meze, and not only did they share a lovely bouillabaisse –
but Val ate her first EVER oysters …..!
and the worried look was all for nothing – she’s now a convert, and we bought some more that day to take home for the evening.

Moving sideways

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