19 Dec 2008

Noël en France

Bize-Minervois is gearing up for Christmas - this year the decorations seem to be a little sparce. I think perhaps it's because the village is so pretty, not many decorations are needed!
The other night Indigo and two school friends, India and Elisa, decided to do some carolling - sadly my camera battery went flat but I managed get these ....
Outside Chez Robert, the butcher,
who in fact has gone to quite a bit of trouble
with his Christmas decorations!

And a little video clip, including a fit of the giggles when they recognised someone!

There have been Christmas markets in many of the villages - Bize had a small market / vide grenier last week. There was a stall selling dried meats and sausages - with an interesting marketing ploy - the vendor admitted that lots of people stopped to enquire! It translates literally as 'the cousin's loaves' but in fact means the cousin's boobs .....

The main square in Narbonne is always decorated beautifully at this time of year - this year they've erected a temporary ice skating rink directly over top of the old Roman road, Via Domitia, in front of the Archbishop's palace.

We had the Christmas lunch with the village walking group the other day - in the new restaurant La Grange which has opened on the outskirts of the village.

It's a lovely new building and a good time was had by all, and there were even gifts for everyone. Such a lot of people - it seemed that it needed four Santas to give them out.

And then of course, a little stage show - these folk really love to dress up. And some of the men - like blokes everywhere - really don't mind slipping into a frock when the occasion calls for it!
Unlike me (known far and wide as Bah Humbug), Nic actually has put up a tree and decorations in the lounge room. And the kids are so looking forward to their first Christmas in France. They're definitely on count-down to present-opening time....

Wine tasting Westerberg-style

And here's a little story I wasn't going to write up, but a friend (thanks Mags ....) has insisted I must relate it .....

A few weeks ago now, Nic and I were talking to Claude, a friend and resident of Bize, about different wine domains in the area. He recommended one we should visit, about 20 minutes from here (and I'm certainly not naming it or saying exactly where it is...).

He wrote out the vigneron's name, address, directions, and the name and year of the wine we should ask to taste.

We found the little hamlet, no worries, and saw a sign on the big door of a wine cave - in French and English - saying if it was unattended, we should enquire at the house.

Now we'd passed this house about 50 metres back, and saw a wine sign outside of it. So we parked, walked back down to the house and knocked on the door.

A teenage boy answered, and I told him in my stumbling French that we'd like to taste some wine.

He looked a little puzzled, so I repeated myself.

"Now?" he asked.

"Oui, merci", I replied......

He looked a little flustered. At this stage the three of us were standing in the hallway of the house. He spoke to his three teenage friends who were sitting on the sofa watching a DVD, which our arrival had obviously interrupted.

They turned the DVD off, got up and left the room, and the young boy started removing all the folded up laundry from the dining room table and the back of chairs.

I think his friends had been despatched to find some wine.

It was about then that I had this awful moment of doubt - things didn't seem right!

In fact, we were both beginning to realise that perhaps we'd invited ourselves into someone's home and asked to drink their wine!

Deargod .... we had.

I brought out Claude's hand-written note, and showed it to him, and sure enough, he confirmed that we were in the wrong place. It was about 100 metres away!

It was just one of those awful moments when you think - this cannot be happening. Surely we haven't made this awful mistake. But we had.

My voice was very squeaky (read 'verging on hysteria') as I struggled to apologise profusely. And we made our exit - with no dignity whatsoever.

But this certainly says a lot about the amazing French hospitality .... I'm not sure I can imagine that happening in many other places!

But later, to make matters worse, when we finally arrived at the correct establishment we were told that the vigneron had recently been taken to hospital and so we weren't able to taste or buy any wine anyway. And no, we've not yet been back - but definitely will. Because of course, we know exactly where to go now!

Jeez, an experience like that's nearly enough to make a person leave the country!

And in fact I am - but only temporarily. I'm very excited to say that I'm heading back to Australia on Christmas Eve for about five weeks. Christmas Day at Singapore Airport (!) arriving into Perth on Boxing Day afternoon. It will be two years since I was there last, and I'm very much looking forward to catching up with family and friends.

Anyone up for a bit of wine tasting with me in Western Australia......?

Moving sideways

Future posts on Bize-Bytes can now be found on Facebook. Link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bize-Bytes/895137113876897