La vendange, once again

Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge them. 

Fruit of the vine
Fruit of the vine

It seems that most everyone here is involved in La vendange (grape harvest).

Sunshine on our shoulder...
Sunshine on our shoulder…

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

Embres - vin cave
Embres – vin cave

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

Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma's hair
Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma’s hair

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?

Bisous et bonnes santés,

Léa

...
...
Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Raisins (French for grapes)
Raisins (French for grapes)
The other porter on this team, Yost
The other porter on this team, Yost
...
Cees and his Lamborghini
Cees and his Lamborghini

Behind the scene

Originally posted 2014.

Each year, most often in the spring, our choir, Les Chants des Corbières, often combines our performances with a small repast ( repas). While concerts are usually free, we do have a small charge for the meal and it helps to pay the choirs expenses.

In this post you will see a bit of the activity that goes into preparing an autumn repas following a performance in the nearby village of Villesèque-des-Corbières (Pop: 388).  The menu was kept simple. There was Pumpkin soup, baguettes, cheeses and a variety of desserts all made by choir members. There are always bottles of wine, juices and bottles of water on each table. However, we are also well known for our generous vat (30 plus gallons) of Sangria.

One of the first things I look for each autumn as the landscape begins to run rampant with colours are pumpkins and other squashes. When I first arrived in France they were abundant but almost unrecognisable to me. Living in California, New York and a few states in-between did not prepare me for what I would find at the local markets. No longer would I carve into a round and brightly orange vegetable. The pumpkins here are not round and smooth nor are they always orange. Many of the pumpkins are a light to medium and even a dark green.  Regardless of the colour of the outside, they are all the same vibrant orange inside and quite delicious.

Villesèque foyer's kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Villesèque foyer’s kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Andrea making the first cut
Andrea making the first cut
Part of our set-up crew
Part of our set-up crew
Front of foyer before being decorated
Front of foyer before being decorated
Never too many cooks!
Never too many cooks!
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter...
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter…
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Chop and peel, peel and chop...
Chop and peel, peel and chop…
Is it soup yet?
Is it soup yet?
Nothing like a lovely bowl of soup on a nippy autumn evening
Nothing like a lovely, simmering pot of soup…
Clean-up
Clean-up
Many hands...
Many hands…
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing

There is often a tombola (raffle) and prizes donated by local merchants including plants, travel, baskets filled with treats including bottles of wine.

While most of the songs we sing are French, we do have a few in our catalogue in Spanish, one or two in English and a few songs from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Audiences always have their favourites and they will demand encores so they can join it.

The choir has accumulated a large cache of dishes, silverware, glassware and serving pieces. It is a grand mismatched collection. Unlike typical village meals, our guests do not need to bring their tableware as everything is provided. We may be exhausted by the time clean-up is finished but smiling. Leftover food is usually shared among us with some of the cakes being frozen until our next choir practice along with some leftover sangria to wash it all down with.

Bisous,

Léa

14 Juillet, 2017

“I know a freedom, and that is the freedom of the spirit.”                                                    – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Preparation – before the crowd

It isn’t just about setting up and serving on the day. The Durban mon village Association has put in considerable time choosing a menu, the music, and the myriad of other considerations required to make this a memorable event. Just prior to the day, I witnessed several villagers creating the new countertop you see in the above photo. 

Celebrants begin arriving at about 7:00 in the evening and staking out where they want to sit, speaking with friends and taking a beverage from this willing crew.

DSCN3941

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The food begins! Bread, water, wine and such have been put in place and now the servers bring the first course. A half melon into which they will pour Muscat, a sweet, pale golden, wine. Though it is lovely, I opt for plain melon as I don’t have a sweet tooth. 

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A young couple with their three year old daughter join our table as the melon is being served. The young lady and her mom pass on the wine but watch her appreciate the melon as only a child can do.

 

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Curried Coconut Chicken and Rice, it was delicious!

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À votre santé!

 As always, a good time was had by all. The DJ, sometimes a band or more, and the music and dancing go on will into the night. Even the smallest children, barely walking, are out dancing with parents, and grandparents.  The French truly wrote the book on celebrating life. 

Bisous,

Lèa

Vide grenier – empty attic

It seems that many Countries have something like a vide grenier or empty attic. In some places they may be a car boot sale, yard sale, garage sale, block sale… Here in France we empty our attics which are much more common than a garage and the village is invited to put out their merchandise. Of course there are always a few new things, and an artist or two but most of what is on display will be items in search of a new home.

Metal sculpting
Metal sculpting
More metal sculpture
More metal sculpture

While most of the vide greniers take place from early spring and throughout the summer, you can find them year around if you search. There are websites where you can look to see what is available in the area you want and the one that comes to mind quickly is vide-greniers.org. They will have other information such as Brocantes (second-hand) which may include more antiques but DO NOT ASSUME! The best way is to check it out for yourself. There is always a group within the village that will host it and charge a few euros for the space to help raise funds. The same group will host the refreshment bar or buvette.

One persons treasure...
One persons treasure…

The next one in this village is on 25 May and will be hosted by the SAPEURS/POMPIERS or Emergency Services/Fire Fighters. They always have the largest turnout for vendors and customers and I would rank their buvette at the top of the list.

Old instruments...
Old instruments…
Moulins (Mills) and more
Moulins (Mills) and more
...
phonograph...
phonograph, balance
45's
45’s
Buvette
Buvette
Grilling sausages...
Grilling sausages…
more treasures
more treasures
Soap racing
Soap racing 14 Mai

The races on 14 May offer a bit of a demonstration today. As you can see from these photos, no two entries are alike.

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...
...
...

Of course this is a great opportunity to socialise with friends and neighbours. As more tourists arrive for the season their ranks will swell at the greniers. Not to mention, some of the vendors come from other villages and people do travel to greniers outside their home village frequently. The activities culminate in a dance which goes until the wee hours… Get your dancing shoes on!

Bisous,

Léa

Behind the scene

Each year, most often in the spring, our choir, Les Chants des Corbières, often combines our performances with a small repast           ( repas). While concerts are usually free, we do have a small charge for the meal and it helps to pay the choirs expenses.

In this post you will see a bit of the activity that goes into preparing an autumn repas following a performance in the nearby village of Villesèque-des-Corbières (Pop: 388).  The menu was kept simple. There was Pumpkin soup, baguettes, cheeses and a variety of desserts all made by choir members. There are always bottles of wine, juices and bottles of water on each table. However, we are also well known for our generous vat (30 plus gallons) of Sangria.

One of the first things I look for each autumn as the landscape begins to run rampant with colours are pumpkins and other squashes. When I first arrived in France they were abundant but almost unrecognisable to me. Living in California, New York and a few states in-between did not prepare me for what I would find at the local markets. No longer would I carve into a round and brightly orange vegetable. The pumpkins here are not round and smooth nor are they always orange. Many of the pumpkins are a light to medium and even a dark green.  Regardless of the colour of the outside, they are all the same vibrant orange inside and quite delicious.

Villesèque foyer's kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Villesèque foyer’s kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Andrea making the first cut
Andrea making the first cut
Part of our set-up crew
Part of our set-up crew
Front of foyer before being decorated
Front of foyer before being decorated
Never too many cooks!
Never too many cooks!
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter...
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter…
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Chop and peel, peel and chop...
Chop and peel, peel and chop…
Is it soup yet?
Is it soup yet?
Nothing like a lovely bowl of soup on a nippy autumn evening
Nothing like a lovely, simmering pot of soup…
Clean-up
Clean-up
Many hands...
Many hands…
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing

There is often a tombola (raffle) and prizes donated by local merchants including plants, travel, baskets filled with treats including bottles of wine.

While most of the songs we sing are French, we do have a few in our catalogue in Spanish, one or two in English and a few songs from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Audiences always have their favourites and they will demand encores so they can join it.

The choir has accumulated a large cache of dishes, silverware, glassware and serving pieces. It is a grand mismatched collection. Unlike typical village meals, our guests do not need to bring their tableware as everything is provided. We may be exhausted by the time clean-up is finished but smiling. Leftover food is usually shared among us with some of the cakes being frozen until our next choir practice along with some leftover sangria to wash it all down with.

Bisous,

Léa

Céramiques de Véronique

 

Recently while visiting friends in a nearby village, we popped into a neighbours home for a viewing of her work. Véronique’s work was displayed over two rooms and entrance hall of her home.

Véronique Le Besnerais
Véronique Le Besnerais – The artist at work and wearing one of her own creations

While I go to studios, galleries and museums when I can, It added a special charm to the event to be in the artist’s home. Canapés were available on the kitchen table and Véronique’s partner poured the wine while both of them were available for questions.

Les poissons
Les poissons

Being so near the Mediterranean, poissons (fish) are everywhere! Such pieces could certainly add to a fish dinner.

 

Fish plate and tiles
Fish plate and tiles
Bowls
Bowls

There is such a wide variety of colourful tiles everywhere you go. I sometimes think there may be an entire post on simply tiles. Here the tray of bowls seem to almost float above the tiled floor.

Pair of platters and small plate
Pair of platters and small plate
Variations on an artist's palette?
Variations on an artist’s palette?
Les légumes
Les légumes
Whimsical!
Whimsical!
The HAND...
The HAND…
Wearable art
Wearable art

A delightful sense of humour and a touch of whimsy spill over into Véronique’s work. If you have any questions for Véronique, regarding her work, you can contact her directly at: vlebesnerais@gmail.com

Bisous,

Léa

Châtaignes

Châtaignes (Chestnuts) roasting on an open fire… Actually in the small village of Embres et Castelmaure (Population approximately 150) there were several fires last night as people from the village and a few others assembled to enjoy a meal, entertainment, socialising and of course, châtaignes.

Assembling in the small foyer was a snug fit!
Assembling in the small foyer was a snug fit!

There was a good turnout and everyone showed excellent community spirit while relocating to accommodate everyone who turned out. Pitchers of a new wine, pale yellowish color, were placed on each table and a toast to the harvest.

One of our local choirs
One of our local choirs

 

One of the local choirs (made up of members of local villages) performed several songs before the meal and a few more at the end of the event.  Of course canapes, more wine (red), juice and water quickly appeared on each table.

Smiles all around!
Smiles all around!

At most every village meal I have attended since moving to France, everyone brings their own dishes and cutlery.  Organisers who have worked so hard in planning and preparing are not stuck in the small kitchen for hours with clean-up.

As the choir finished, everyone went to the serving area and got steaming bowls of soup! Perfect for a chilly evening. I’m not sure but it was similar to a butternut squash soup that I make only also had large croutons and sprinkled with cheese. It was delicious.

The soup disappeared quickly!
The soup disappeared quickly!

As people returned to their seats some of the organisers carried large platters of freshly grilled sausages and as usual, all you can eat. I want to warn anyone thinking of joining in one of these events, come prepared with an empty stomach. La pièce de résistance – Châtaignes fresh from the fires they were roasted upon and wrapped in quantities of newspaper were passed around to each table. Once again a village comes together to enjoy nature’s bounty and celebrate there community.

Nutty, creamy and delicious!
Nutty, creamy and delicious!

Much like any family meal, everyone pitches in with clearing the tables and taking them down then stacking the chairs.

Leaves from nearby provide the perfect centerpiece
Local color!

 

Villagers
Some of the locals

 

Bon appétit!
Bon appétit!
 Jöel visiting from Avignon

Jöel visiting from Avignon

It seems as one season of celebrating and festivals ends another one begins. Life is to celebrate and we certainly do!

When planning a visit to France, check out what might be available in the areas you plan to visit. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quatorze Juillet 2014

Quatorze juillet is also known as la fête nationale de la France. English speaking countries often refer to this most important day as Bastille Day. The French National Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July  1789, as well as Fête de la Federation which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. The celebrations will be held in every city, town and village around the Country.

apéritif
apéritif
Get there early and reserve a spot!
Get there early and reserve a spot while the DJ sets up!
À la table
À la table – Vivienne seems to be enjoying herself!
Mangez!
Mangez!

The evening was hosted by the Club de chasseurs (Hunters Club).  No doubt the main item on the menu, sanglier – Wild boar, was hunted down by the members. The sanglier are known to do a lot of damage to the vineyards. The sanglier was presented in a sauce with white beans on the side. The entrée was a small plate of charcuterie (sliced meats) and salad was served after the fresh baugettes were passed around as well as bottles of red and rosé wine and plenty of water.  Afterward more baugettes are passed out as is the cheese course. Ice cream and then a cafe´ rounded off the meal.

Up behind the chateau, the pompiers are busy preparing the feux d’artifice or fireworks. Once the fireworks are finished, tables and chairs are rapidly moved as the large round cement area is cleared for dancing.

No age limits on the dance floor!
No age limits on the dance floor!

 

...

                      ...
Party!
...
…into the wee hours!
Dance,  dance, dance!
Dance, dance, dance!
Amusements in the background
Amusements in the background
Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) or Cotton Candy!
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) or Cotton Candy!
hey Macarena!
hey Macarena!

Thank you for enjoying 14 Juillet with us here in France.

Bisous,

 

 

Léa

Saturday Night Paella!

The early birds are arriving...
The early birds are arriving…

Saturday night and Spring is here. Do you stay at home for a quiet meal with the family? Do you venture into town to dine at a restaurant? Or would you prefer to enjoy the evening with about 350 of your family, friends and neighbours? In my humble opinion, it didn’t take long to decide especially with Paella on the menu. As all meals, this begins with an apéritif and a social hour or two… The evening began at 19h30 (7:30pm) and dinner begins to be served about two hours later..The room will fill quickly but this first photo gives you an idea of how the tables are laid out. The tables are filled with bottles of water and a variety of wines. Fresh baugettes are passed around and added as needed. There are always a few courses and this will be no different. After the paella there is a cheese course then glasses filled with a creamy panna cotta with a raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries.   Despite the effort to leave space for dancing later, it would not be possible initially. Never fear, this is France and room is always created for Dance once the food has been eaten. However, the paella pans are so large, each one will need a table in the aisles to support it as plates are loaded.

Muscat, rosé..., que voulez-vous boire?
Muscat, rosé…, que voulez-vous boire?

As you enter the foyer, you commence greeting those around you and continue until you have made your way across the room a time or two. There are quite a number of very young children running about and not a collision not a single tear. The stage end of the foyer is quickly commandeered by the little ones. They have found a large flat section of box and it quickly becomes part of a dance/gymnastic routine that is very creative at times. There is music on the side for background at the beginning and the dancing later.

Socializing is what it is all about!
Socializing is what it is all about! Alain, Christiane and Pierrette

 

Dance, dance, dance...
Dance, dance, dance…
Creative expression!
Creative expression!
My dear friend Daniella is saving my seat for me. You can see my camera case on the end.
My dear friend Daniella is saving my seat for me. You can see my camera case on the end.
Paella... bon appétit!
Paella… bon appétit!
Mangez, mangez...
Mangez, mangez…

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As the initial hunger pangs are quieted, conversation resumes.
As the initial hunger pangs are quieted, conversation resumes.
Josiane with family and friends
Josiane with family and friends
Amis!
Amis!

...

Le maire, just re-elected!
Le maire, just re-elected!

 

a last dance with maman...
a last dance with maman…

A memorable time was had by all and a wonderful way to celebrate community!   Bisous,   Léa

Bienvenue à chez moi!

Ma maison et mon petite voiture bleue
Ma maison et mon petite voiture bleue

One of the things I have enjoyed when traveling abroad was visiting or staying in local homes. I have had the good fortune to experience such living from Vietnam to Holland and several countries in between. I am fascinated by the people I have met and the places I have been welcomed into.

La cuisine
La cuisine

What happens to a French home in the hands of someone else? Most of the wallpaper has remained unchanged (It is in good condition). There are four large photos in antique frames that hold a place of honour. Three of these hang in various parts of the house. My favourite of the photos is perched on a bureau against the wall. The frame is too fragile to hang. The couple who had owned this home had passed on and their only child had pre-ceeded them. It fell to her husband (monsieur Pollard) and son to sell it. As you walk into the salon, you will see the brightly coloured tile floor, a red marbled chimney and a large antique cabinet. The door behind leads to the stairs and also to the kitchen. Just inside the door leading to the kitchen is a second large cabinet. They were among some of the furnishings left behind and are still in use here. The table and chairs near the front window have been moved into the kitchen. The biggest change was removing the tiny vestibule. While it did help to keep out the wind, it made it impossible to bring in my sofa.  It took me awhile to see the error in what I had done. That is one of the reasons I have changed very little.

Left: front window Right, door to the old vestibule
Left: front window Right, door to the old vestibule
Salon
Salon

It is rather typical for a townhouse in this region. The house has two small narrow rooms on the ground floor (salon and kitchen). Naturally, all rooms have very high ceilings. In the centre you will find the stairs winding up to the other floors. They are elliptical and covered in ancient red tiles which are common around here. The first floor has the two guest bedrooms. The smaller one, at the rear, opens up onto the tiny terrace.

The chambre in the front, I call Rita’s Room. My best friend visits each year for several weeks and always has first option on that room.  The window is directly over the front door and looks out onto the River Berre, school and the maire. This is the largest and brightest of the three bedrooms and has a double bed, bookshelves, dresser and a small bedside table. It is the only bedroom that doesn’t have a design on the floor tiles. The are the traditional red floor tile.

Next time, I will show you the final room and up into the grenier (attic).

Bisous,

Léa

Rita's room
Rita’s room
...
That first fire…
A guest room that opens out  to the terrace
A guest room that opens out to the terrace
Winter view from Rita's window
Winter view from Rita’s window