Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yes, the Perfect Car




I have been going to a neighboring town of St. Siffert for the last three weeks to meet with Blanche, an "almost" five year old, who wants to learn how to read. We climbed the stairs each evening to her room to sound our letters and go "shopping" in her house of art for the letter sounds (Blanche's Dad is an art dealer---what fun their house is.) Maude, Blanche's sister, always brings me a cup of tea as we sit and talk about the day.

Thursday upon jumping into the car, traveling through the narrow, dark, winding roads, down the hill with French headlights almost touching my tail lights, something happened to the car. No power steering. I did get home carefully turning thru the four round abouts and the following day the car went into the hospital.

Now we are traveling in style. We have Amy's car. It was an old postal car and has seen many roads and hills in its life. It is air conditioned as every time I open the window, it falls out. This morning it is raining and I must go to the market for some treasures to bring home. It always is an interesting ride in this wonderful, vineyard vehicle.

Yes, we are returning to the states early Sunday morning. The house is beginning to sparkle again after having Molly and Billy's two dogs vacationing with us. It is ready for the next lucky people who will be journeying to our area. This is our great desk for writing your notes home.

(Ah, we are now home to snow and single digits. Brrrrrr.)

I have lots more stories to tell about our French life and send them on to you. Can't wait.

Hugs,
Cindy

P.S. We did arrive home in snow last night. And the temperatures? In the single digits!

Click on any of the pictures to make them larger.

Friends are selling their home in the next hill town of Castillon du Gard. If you are thinking about a new life, you may want to visit their website. The view is amazing over the vineyards!

http://www.smith-chaigneau.com/page16.htm

Wouldn't that pool be wonderful this summer?
Do see their web site for more views.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood...





Yes, we celebrated in France. When we arrived at our friends' home, the television was on showing the enormous crowds on the Mall in Washington. We all gathered around a warm fire and intently watched and listened to history being made. As we watched, Lucy made guacamole for our truly American, Mexican dinner. It is interesting to watch a US inauguration from the British point of view on BBC. It was quite exciting!

This morning I walked up to the Tabac (newspaper, candies, and important things can be bought here.) to get the French newspapers. Yes, the inauguration was front page news.









Here is a picture of Amy that she put on her facebook this morning. It does make one smile.



Off to the vineyard for our last two days of pruning as the next two weeks are black.

It is a beautiful day!

Hugs,
Cindy


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Precious Than Chocolate Truffles!


Sunday, quiet, dark, drizzly. Well, almost. It wasn't quiet. The Truffle Festival was held in Uzès and of course, we had to go. The Place aux Herbes was crowded with the grays and blacks of winter, however, there were those warming spots of color wandering from activity to activity. As we entered the Place a warm fire was blazing under this an enormous pan balanced on a front loader. Hmmmm. The lines grew around it and 300 eggs were poured in along with 2 kilos of truffles. Scrambled egg, one of the best ways to taste truffles.

At the market the sellers were all scurrying to sell their black, bumpy gems. Some had been found by pigs, others by dogs trained to sniff out the treasure. As you can see by the price, you are very careful to pick the perfect truffle---smell it, feel it, and be sure the hunter had not left on extra soil to increase the weight of the truffle, therefore, the cost to you. ( Note the price on all the truffles was 70 Euros for 100 grams, therefore, about 700 Euros for a kilo or 350 dollars for a pound!)

In one tent an auction was taking place. Note the truffle on the right. It was over 2 kilos or4 1/2 pounds. I did not think I should bid on it so left to see what else was happening at the market.

If one places truffles in with uncracked eggs, the eggs will absorb the fragrance from the truffle. You can scramble the eggs and have the flavor of the truffle, while using the thin slices in another dish. The price for ten eggs plus some small truffles? 20 Euros.

Most restaurants have truffle luncheons. (The one pictured is outside with the floor covered with straw and yellow mimosa at every table.) We had lunch at a new restaurant of a friends who will be serving hamburgers. (The restaurant will not open until March, but was trying out a portion of its menu.) Would you believe that the don't French understand that you pick up a hamburger with your hands and eat it! We showed them how.

This afternoon we are going to an inauguration party! Along with some of Amy's friends inviting us to watch, our French neighbors, Michel and Cristelle

invited us to join them. How exciting!

Enjoy,
Cindy
(To see any of the pictures in a larger format, just click on the picture.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Café Creme? No!

I know, I know, we are all eating healthy after the fun filled holidays. However, January is almost three quarters gone, and it is time for.....a visit to our favorite pastry shop in Uzés, Savarin. As you can see, even grown men enjoy looking in the window and dreaming.

It was market day and it was cold. I had bought some linen for hanging at an upstairs door to keep out the cold and right across the street, calling to us, was Savarin.

Today, Joe, with his chocolate Black Forest cake in multiple layers, and I, with a meringue filled with a layer of chocolate mousse and pistachios, made out way to the Place aux Herbes for coffee and people watching under the warm heat lamps at Terroir.

Café, no thank you. Vin chaud for us today. A warm glass filled with spiced wine, currents, and raisins helped to warm the morning.

No, we couldn't forget to try some of Savarin's winter desserts. Always remember, chocolate is a bean so it must be on the government food triangle in the vegetables!

Hugs, Cindy

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time Passes

On the mornings that our church has mass, the bells toll happily to invite the town's people to the charm of our church. ( Listen to the first sounds at the bottom of the page.) People walk down our street, cars arrive, and voices sound in the passageways, all traveling by foot to the church at the top of the hill.

After pruning grapes in the vineyard all day and trying to stay awake, the darkness brought the droaning of these same bells, announcing the death of a villager. Upon awaking this morning, again those bells tolled (In second picture at the bottom you will hear their song.).

Before going to the vineyards,I walked to the Mairie (the town hall) , and found the condolence book for two villagers. There, as people passed, they signed the books for the families. The book will remain outside the Mairie for people's thoughts.

Time passes, but the old traditions remain in Vers Pont du Gard.

And we, in America, must pay for our notice in the newspaper to tell others of a death. Hmmmm!


Hugs,
Cindy




video video

Thursday, January 8, 2009

BRRRRRRRR



Do you remember the first scene in the movie Chocolat (If you haven't seen it, it is fun)? The wind, sweeping up from the valley, and the snow, dancing through the air, followed Vianne and her daughter into their new village.

Yesterday, we replicated that picture here in Vers Pont du Gard. If only I had had Vianne's red cape instead of just a red scarf. We had about four inches of snow and no one could get up our gentle street (Ah, it is a one way street----down. I wonder if all the other village streets were impassable also?).

Marseille was totally closed as the trains had stopped all the way thru southeastern France. Tomorrow, yes, there is more snow predicted. We shall see.

Brrrrrr, it is cold.

Hugs,
Cindy

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Who Has the Fève?






Today, January 6th, is twelve days after Christmas or Epiphany. Since the Middle Ages, this day has always been celebrated with La Galette des Rois or the Kings' Cake. In France all of the boulangeries have their counters fill with these special cakes. Here in our bakery you can see the two different cakes, one made with puffed pastry and filled with frangipane, an almond paste, most seen in France, and the brioche which is from our area which is decorated as a crown. The candied fruits made wonderful jewels in the midst of winter.

The fun part is the fève. It is a small porcelain figure (in the Middle Ages it was a bean---well, all the way into the 1800s) found within the cake. The lucky person who finds it will become king or queen for the day wearing a bejeweled crown which always accompanies the cake from the bakery. The fève can be an animal, a person, or as we got, a figure of Ron from Harry Potter.

Last week we had coffee with our neighbors and enjoyed both of these cakes. As you can see, we have two kings, who did enjoy their power---only for a short time. (Axel and Joe)

Celebrate today with La Galette des Rois and maybe you will become royalty too.

Hugs,
Cindy

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Adventure of the Hour is...


With a telephone call from Molly and Billy, we were on an adventure that placed us on the Spanish border! Off we went to follow the road of the ruins of the Cathar castles northwest of Narbonne (a city whose cathedral is only 1/3 finish after being started in 1272...sounds like some of my handwork projects).

Winding along a road that only cows could have created, we arrived at two of the castles built in the 11th Century at Durban and Aguilar. They were very air conditioned, however, quite fun to wander around. No, the trails were not wide and stone free, and in the U.S. one would not have been allowed to travel without signing a waiver that whatever happens--- you fall off the side of the mountain, an 11th C wall collapses on top of you, or you fall in a hole, it is not the owner's fault.

Following a windmill to the village of Cucugnan, we discovered a Salon de Thé for lunch. Opening the door we knew this was the right place. Only seating for about 20 with the tiny kitchen located in the corner, the room was filled with the sounds and smells of those enjoying lunch. A pumpkin soup, pasta with peppercorns and a local cheese, a selections of cheeses of the region, and finally, a nut filled brownie drenched in a kirsch sauce. The breads were from the bakery across the way with the flour ground by the windmill powered by the valley winds.

Onto the next and largest of the castles of the region, Peyrepertual. The winds were screaming and I decided this would be a great castle for the others to see. After a long hike UP they did not reach the castle being 500 feet directly above them. It is amazing and on a warmer day, I will climb to the top. It was built in the 11th-12 Century also, to guard the border with Spain...no one ever attacked it. Hummm, wonder why? The Pyrenees shown white from the snows in Spain last week (When we arrived, signs on the interstate warned of snow in Spain! Click on the picture to see the Pyrenees in the background. Look carefully to see the castle on the right.).

The area must be gorgeous in the summertime. I will return---at least for lunch!
Hugs,
Cindy
video video

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bonne Année

No, we were not up until 3 AM, just 2:15 and we left 2008 with friends, good foods and champagne as we entered 2009 with the same. Happy 2009 and to wonderful adventures ahead! Hugs, Cindy