With neighbors and friends, we stood at the War Monument in our small village deep in the south of France and we remembered. Though not born here, I could remember the grandfather I met and the one I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. Peace
Thank you Afzal my friend.
– Last weekend, possibly the final weekend of glorious sunshine for another year, we went to Strasbourg, the final birthday celebration, a city that is fully French, was once German for almost 50 years and is now filled with pretzels, flammenkueche, and all around adorability… And good cocktails! What? I’m Irish!!! Seriously, I wanted to […]
When I was a teenager, Boris Vian was my favourite author. I collected his books – I have 41- and had a photo of him on my bedroom wall right next to Charles Baudelaire. I loved him because he was a very versatile person. He was a writer, a poet, a musician, a singer, a translator and many more things. I loved his sense of humour and the way he manipulated the language, I still love it of course!
Boris Vian was born in 1920 and died of a heart attack in 1959. He had always suffered ill health and knew that he would die at a young age. He was good friend with Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus with whom he like spending time in the Café des Deux Magots in Saint-Germain des Prés in Paris.
During his lifetime Boris Vian was not a very successful author and musician…
Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.
It seems that most everyone here is involved in La vendange (grape harvest).
More grapes are grown in this region than anywhere else in France. Even before the last of the grapes are picked, the celebrations begin. The festivities seem to never end as each village hosts its own so there is always one to attend, throughout November, and sample the wares.
While it seems that increasing numbers are being picked by machine, much of the land here is just too steep for them. It is backbreaking work and the cutters used to take the fruit are very sharp.
It is almost a rite of passage that young people from other parts of Europe head down to the vineyards of France to pick grapes and enjoy the country. At the end of the vendange, our village hosts a dance. The wine festivals come later but since there is no set time for vignerons to begin their harvest, it will usually stagger over the months of September through early November. There are places like Leucate where they produce a Muscat (often very sweet) and begin in the August heat!
The vendange I followed and photographed, took place in the tiny village of Embres. It is only a few kilometers from my village and they produce one of the best wines around. My friend Cees (Cornelis) insists Embres wine is the best! They produce a
range of reds, white and delicious rosé. He will not get any argument from me. While it would have been lovely to get inside the vin cave to photograph the process, it is just to busy and I would have only been in the way. Perhaps there will be a future post inside? During the vendange, you can barely get into the little shop where you can buy a bottle of Trois, Pompador or any of their other delicious wines.
One of the pickers is a charming woman named Paloma who was asked to help out a few years ago and said she would give it a go! While many of the pickers are young, they are by no means the entire force. At the beginning of the day, Cees walked up to Paloma and tried to secure a lovely pink rose in her hair. With all the bending, it didn’t last too long but was a lovely thought.
On this team, there were two porters, Cees and Yost. They walk about the vineyard with a large plastic container strapped to their backs. They must keep an eye out for the smaller buckets of the pickers
which fill rapidly with the grapes and need to be emptied and carried off to the waiting trailers. Each of the containers holds between 50 to 60 kilos of grapes. Imagine yourself carrying around over 100 pounds extra on your back in the hot sun all day.
There was evidence of feasting by sangliers (wild boars) they can do a lot of damage to the vineyards. One local hunter went as far as to have one stuffed and mounted on the roof of his bergerie (sheepfold) where he lives. The unlucky sanglier will end up on a plate and are considered good eating. Yes! People do live in old bergeries here. They buy them, renovate and sometimes extend the sheepfold into charming and comfortable homes. However, that just may be another post?
Recently, I offered a post on the street where I live. As I went through some older photos, later, I found two that I had made off old postcards, on the same street more than a century ago. I thought perhaps some of you would enjoy seeing them.
If I am correct, my home should be just past that group of people seen exiting, or perhaps entering, a house mid-way on the left. While the foot bridge has a set of steps in each direction, the other side is not visible from this view. It is the second set of steps that appear further back that exist today as you can see if you check out the post of 5 August 2018. Inbetween the sets of stairs, you can see the old pump which still exists, and works, though rarely used.
If you look closely at the road, you can see some tracks for the old train that used to come through the village. A neighbor has just informed me that a small steam train ran from Portel des Corbières to Tuchan until the 1930’s. At different points it would connect and one could get into Narbonne which had a large number of trains that could take you to many destinations.
Some of the houses have interesting patterns on their walls which have long been covered up by renderings. Those patterns would be consistent with the era As you can see it is winter time as the trees are bare and the people at the top of the staircase appear to be bundled up against the cold weather.
From this second photo you can see there was an épicerie (grocery) just next to where the café was located at that point in time. No doubt you could stop in and pick up a fresh baugette with ham and or cheese and a thick spread of butter and wash it down with a glass of wine or beer. That is not where it was when I moved here over a decade ago nor where it is now located at the other end of the village. You get a look at the foot bridge that is no longer there, What you don’t see is that there was attached an outdoor toilet, how appropriate across from where everyone is eating and drinking. The café in this photo had been altered by its owners years later and for many years served as the village pharmacy. At some time after WWI, a number of balconies where added including the old pharmacy as you can compare if you look at the post referred to earlier. https://foundinfrance.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/on-the-street-where-i-live-a-challenge/
I can see, to the left, how high the wall along the river used to be. It has been lowered some years ago. As you can see, the wall is higher than most of the people near it. I am barely five feet tall myself and the wall now, in some areas, is little higher than my waist. Before you ask, nothing around here is level so we shall move on. It appears to be Spring or possibly early Summer as the trees are quite filled out with leaves and some of the citizens are in shirt sleeves. As you can see, everyone is glad of the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors on a beautiful day as the sunlight filters through the trees. I find it fascinating that in these photos could be former owners of my own home.
Perhaps I can find more such photos and if so, I shall share them here on the blog.