31 Oct 2007

Everything chestnuts

It’s that time of year – chestnuts are everywhere. They grow best in this region up around St. Pons-de-Thomières and St Chinian. And of course there’s a festival to celebrate – the Fete de Chaitaigne. And that’s where I went with Sandra and Patrick last weekend. Weather turned out to be ideal, and we got there before the crowds on the Saturday.

Being a festival-come-market, there were the usual delicacies:

And fresh apple juice, squeezed – or I should say ‘pressed’ - the old-fashioned way. It was divine – tasted just like the apples I remember eating as a kid from my rellies’ (Aunty Joan/Uncle Ted) apple tree in Albany.

Continuing with the ‘everything chestnuts’ topic – our last picnic for the year with the walking group was yesterday up in the hills near St Chinian. From now on, it will be walks only in the afternoon, until the weather warms up again – probably around April.
After the walk, we ate lunch in another hunters’ hut. Later, the fire was set outside and the roasting of the chestnuts began. It’s obviously a ‘man thing’ and taken very seriously. I was actually allowed to turn the handle on the roaster for a while, but only lasted a few seconds having been told I was turning it too quickly!
They were very well prepared – bundles of tied vine cuttings, old vine roots and a trailer-load of olive prunings were all on hand to fuel the fire.

And not only were the chestnuts celebrated, but the 2007 new wine! And a nice little drop it was too. Claude had brought along bulk containers of it – a little ‘piquant’ he thought but said to give it time and it should be good.

Illyette thought it would be a good idea if Sandra and I donned traditional clothing (she just happened to have bags of it in the car) and joined her and a few others and played the part of serving wenches. So we did.

Yikes, that extra chin has snuck up on me ….

And last week, a group of us in Bize made it into the region’s newspaper – Midi Libre – with an article on the new 2007 wine. A wine tasting was held at Marie's wine shop Les Raisins du Soleil - the village's little wine shop.

13 Oct 2007

Freddie the Wonder Dog & Rugby

A quick post before the big game of rugby this evening (France v. England) - tomorrow I may be despondent if my team doesn’t win.
The builders have brought their dog to work these last few days.…. I called him ‘Fanny the Wonder Dog’ before he cocked his leg on my pot plants this morning, and the owner (one of the builders) told me he was ‘un garçon’…. In fact his name is Ouky and he seems to be shared by the two workers. I was taken outside to see the decals on the front and doors of their work truck – of themselves and Ouky!
But today Steve, Anita and I were in fits of laughter at the kitchen window (one of his owners in the background) –

he’s been painted in the French colours ready for the big match ……
Anita and Steve headed off today – a few days more sightseeing on the way to Nice and their flight home. The last of my visitors for the year - it's been really lovely having so many people come and stay and see where I've made my new home.
We had a beaut day in Guissan, Guissan Plage and Narbonne yesterday. They got to share one of their favourite desserts - crème brûlée – and afterwards wished they’d bought one each!

And to finish with a rugby theme – another interesting garlic creation in the supermarket in a nearby village:

7 Oct 2007

A walk in the clouds

On a lighter note, we have been a few lovely walks with the group since they’ve resumed after the summer break. Last week was up in the Black Mountains near a little hamlet of Vélieux. We were literally walking in the clouds so couldn’t take in all the magnificent scenery. Hopefully we’ll do this walk again some time.

Regardless, it was a great day out, culminating in a BBQ lunch in a hunter’s cottage – complete with stuffed animals on the walls.

There were no sleeping facilities – just one large room with an open fire and long table, and a large kitchen area off to the end. The kitchen had huge tables and sinks – and many knives. This was obviously where the spoils of the hunt are cut up.
But the lunch was fun - and a grand contribution of 2 euros towards the food. These people know how to have a good time - and were in fine voice during the lunch!

We had some lovely days out and lots of laughs – Diane and I worked out that have been friends for 35 years now – hard to believe. We stumbled upon a good restaurant down in Gruissan Plage – one I will be sure to return to. It was Sunday lunch and absolutely packed with French families – reasonably priced and mostly seafood. And this is just an entrée!

And to finish off, another two video clips:
Sitting around the kitchen one night – and it seemed like a good idea to recreate a previous video I’d taken of Sage and Indigo doing the washing up while they were here in August.

Needless to say, there were plenty of out-takes ….
And another day, we were having lunch at a restaurant in Carcassonne, and I was about to take a photo of Di and Colleen when a helpful tourist offered to take a photo of the three of us.
However, I had inadvertently left the camera on the movie setting. We howled with laughter that night when I uploaded my camera to the computer and saw this.

But here’s one I took later with Di’s camera …..

H&S French-style

And so more pieces of the barn and verandah come down. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener – these French workmen are entertaining to say the least. Anita and Steve (from Perth – following the world cup rugby around France and the UK) have been here for a few days and were highly amused by the goings on.
On the second day of work, the demolition team had their breakfast out the back before starting. Breakfast for all of them was a baguette. But the foreman washed his down with nearly half a bottle of red wine drunk straight from the bottle! I guess the rest was for lunch.
And deargod – the chain saw…… Fortunately wielded by one of the younger guys who had an alcohol-free breakfast – but no safety shoes, safety goggles or earmuffs. The sawing up of the timbers done on the ground was ok.
But when he was standing on scaffolding, sawing through a large beam with the end piece resting on his mate’s shoulder – that was a different matter. It was rather disconcerting to see the chainsaw in operation about 30 cm from his back. The picture isn’t very clear – ‘discretely’ taken from the kitchen window in not very good light. But the guy on the left has the piece of beam on his shoulder, and the pair of legs to the right belongs to the one wielding the chainsaw. You can just make out the vertical cut on the beam not far from his hand and arm, supporting the piece about to fall!

On Friday I was heading to Narbonne early in the morning to take Diane and Colleen (also on holidays from West. Australia) to catch the train to Barcelona. It started to rain and then turned into a torrential downpour. I could hardly see a thing and was driving very slowly. If we hadn’t been running late for the train, I would have pulled over. As it turned out, we arrived at the station at 8.22 – the departure time for their train was 8.20. However luck was on their side – it hadn’t left and they made it.
But when I got back, the workers had arrived, and showed me that the outside kitchen had flooded – now that the roof has gone from the upstairs balcony, water had poured through the cracks in the veranda floor. And also it seems that the metal through the concrete has deteriorated to such an extent that the veranda/ceiling is not safe. So there’s something that needs to be thought about. Fun and games – and the project has barely started.

Moving sideways

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