Vendange

As per usual, the summer has flown by all to fast for some of us. I must admit that I include myself in those numbers. However, the Autumn does have some delicious things going for it and what could be better than French wine? 

One might imagine that things get rather quiet in a small rural village after the tourist season draws to a close. Yet, that is not the case. As early as late August, the vignerons begin the harvest. There will be some unfamiliar faces as young people from all over europe arrive to help get the raisins (grapes). From before seven in the morning until the last shards of light fade away the streets are a hive of tractors, grape harvesters and vehicles filled with pickers on their way to the vineyards and large trailers brimming with freshly harvested grapes.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small region than in the entire United States.  A wide variety of grapes are grown here such as Grenache, Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Languedoc wines cover a rather broad spectrum, from white to red; sweet to dry and of course sparkling which pre-dates Champagne (but that will be another post and another time). The region proudly cultivates the vines on over 700,000 acres here along the Mediterranean coast. It is thought to be the single largest wine-producing area in the world.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is arid, warm and brimming with sunlight. The rugged terrain of herbs, brush and resinous plants infuse the wine with their scents and flavours. It is the ideal terrain and climate for growing grapes. While the quality became secondary to quantity for a time in the early twentieth century the hard working vignerons  committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.

A neighbor, Remy,  makes a lovely collection of organic wines and also grape juice. If I am lucky, I can buy a few of the days pickings that did not end up in the vats. Gait is a manager for Remy and has the “honor” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back (porter). Being quite tall, he must bend to allow the pickers to dump the fruit into the container on his back which quickly fills. He follows around all of the people who are cutting the clusters of grapes and then transports his container when filled to the trailer which will quickly be transported back to the cave and on its way to the vats. While it is true that large machines harvest a vast amount of the grapes, a number prefer the hands on approach. Additionally, some of the terrain is such that this is not a viable option.

DELICIOUS!
DELICIOUS!
Tomek
Tomek (seasonal worker from Poland)

Most of the workers are seasonal and some speak little french.
The perfume of fermenting grapes begins to fill the air as fêtes de vins fill our weekends with tastings, dances, music and more. They last well through November even though the last grapes have been harvested. While these photos are all taken at Domaine Sainte Juste, and Embres – Castlemaure there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more vineyards just a few kilometers away. Embres – Castlemaure is a cooperative and Durban has a wide variety of Vigneron (wine grower) There are at least thirteen seperate caves here. In addition, there are many who have smaller vineyards and make wine just for personal use or sell to a cooperative. If you want a workout, try your hand at the porter’s job. The receptacle on his back hold 60 kilo or just over 132 pounds. They carry those on their backs up hill and down for several hours a day during the harvest. 

Vineyards are everywhere
Vineyards are everywhere
Porters, Corneilus and Yost
Porters, Corneilus and Joost

If you want an extreme workout, try the porter’s job. The receptacles they carry on their back hold 60 kilo or a little over 132 pounds. They are carrying these up and down hills and then taking them to the awaiting trailer to be hauled of to the cave.

Fill those containers and keep moving!
Fill those containers and keep moving!

In our village, a huge party is hosted after the vendange for all who participated. There is music, dancing and refreshments. This lasts well through the night.

Alas, this year, March was quite warm and enough to coax out those early shoots. April followed with two separate nights of frost and destroyed crops all over France. While some did not have severe losses, one of our local vignerons reports a loss of about twenty percent. Losses could be found on one side of a road with the opposite spared. 

With the wine safely pressed and in the vats, the wine festivals commence. They are everywhere and one can pick and choose which to attend. 

 

Remains of the day
Remains of the day
Embres - Castlemaure Cooperative
Embres – Castlemaure Cooperative
Fruit on the vine
Fruit on the vine

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste
Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste

 

 

Advertisements

In a village there is something for everyone

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”  – George Orwell

In a village you are part of the whole. Nobody is perfect and together we are amazing! The concentric circles take in the new and allow it its own space among the ongoing saga. If you want to be part of it, the arms are open to welcome you.

Here in our village of 700, we have just enough space for all here. If someone new arrives a new space is born respective of the others. I’ve been here nearly ten years and knew I was home the first time I saw it.

On Wednesday afternoons at the cantina there are games, refreshments and one of the most caring environments I have ever witnessed. My first visit I was welcomed and invited to join in. After that, you are one of the group and your absence is felt and inquiries commence. Are you well? Do you need anything and a really big one is, can I help?

While technically, the game time is for 50 and over, it just isn’t. Yesterday’s repas (meal) and Loto (much like Bingo) mixed several generations. While there are many who lend their support bringing cakes and beverages, lending a hand when there just are not enough for a particular game so nobody is disappointed and chauffeuring those who might not be able to attend otherwise and so much more, there is one person who really has her pulse on everything and I don’t believe the magic would happen without Sylvie. School is out and three young boys and their mothers joined in. Sometimes a young person will call the loto numbers. The three boys played and one actually won a game.

20170705_114209 - Sylvie

Sylvie

20170705_114354 - prizes

Loto cards & prizes

20170705_114406 - Loto cards

20170705_123331 - gathering 1

20170705_124149 - gathering 3

20170705_125528 - Usual suspects

Usual Suspects

 

tiff infomation

A few more suspects

20170705_125807 - bon appetit 2

Bon appetit!

20170705_125818 - bon appetit 3

20170705_140147 - Michael et Serge 2

20170705_143957 - more than one way to play... 1
Choose your weapon, plastic discs or nuts and bolts?
20170705_144013 - Denise et Claude, tough competition!
Denise et Claude – tough competition!

If you cannot find anything to do in a small French village, you are not looking. Flyers are posted at the local businesses and announced on the PA system. Just recently our village has posted its own website as more villagers go online.

Everyone had a wonderful time and nobody was in a hurry to leave. The group is on hiatus now until September but there is always something else to do. Now I am off to my favorite art expo and there just may be a post or two in that…

Bisous,

Léa

La Fête du Muguet

La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail, May Day in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers rights. It is also an occasion to present  Muguet, lily-of-the-valley, or dog rose flowers to loved ones. Often it is just a single sprig of Muguet with a few leaves. However, some will incorporate a rose or even add several sprigs of Muguet to a much larger arrangement or plant.

How is the day celebrated: People across France give bouquets (or a single sprig) to their loved ones. In some areas, families will get up early to go into the woods to pick the flowers. Labor organizations will sell the flowers on the streets on May 1. Special regulations enable individuals and some groups to sell the flowers on May 1 without complying with retail regulations or paying a tax.

Parades and demonstrations to campaign for the rights of workers are organized by Trade unions and other organizations.  Campaigns for human rights and other pressing and current social issues will be out in number.

May 1 is a public holiday. Businesses will be closed as well as banks, post offices and shops. Other than a high traffic tourist area restaurants and even cafes may close. In the major cities the airport, railway station along with the highways (tolls)  may be open.  There could be disruption to traffic in the heart of large cities especially Paris due to Parades and demonstrations. There could also be limited access to Public transportation so check before setting out. 

On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France was presented with Muguet and was so enamoured of the gift that he instituted the tradition of presenting them to the ladies of his court. In 1900 men began presenting them to women as an expression of affection or interest. Today, they are given as a token of affection/appreciation between family members and close friends.

When the eight-hour  working day was made official on 23 April, 1919 the first of May became a public holiday. During World War II, the holiday ceased but was resumed in 1947. One year later, it became known as La Fête du Travail or Labor Day. It is a day used to campaign for and celebrate the rights of workers across the Country.

Don’t forget to click on those photos!

 

  Bisous,

Léa

Du marché Narbonne: le printemps

Yes, we just went down these same paths last week, but I went back on Market Day and thought you might like to see it for yourselves. I hope you don’t mind re-visiting so soon.

DSCN2383
Les Halles

The vendors commence right up to the road and to the canal. There are many vendors on both sides of the canal and most anything is on offer. How is your French? You can haggle down a price on some goods and some of the vendors speak more than one language.

DSCN2406
Bijoux?

As you can see from this photo, table coverings must be sufficiently weighted down or clamped. When the Mediterranean winds kick in, things can become airborne.

DSCN2385
Les Halles

While Les Halles is only closed about two or three days in the entire year, it’s vendors are finished and closed up by noon. The restaurants serve lunch but close up afterwards and do not serve any other meal.

DSCN2387
Fresh spices anyone? Ah, the aroma…

Until you have bought and used fresh spices in your cooking, it is hard to know what you are missing.

DSCN2390
Lavande

I do love Lavande (Lavender). There are sachets in several drawers and with the linens. Once I read that if you put it under or next to your pillow it would sweeten your dreams and it can be comforting if you are lying down with a headache.

DSCN2409
Purses, caps…
DSCN2408
Pantalons…
DSCN2410
A typo or ?

Yes, these are on mens sport socks and I’m afraid that I just couldn’t resist including the photo.

DSCN2412
Les écharpes

I keep telling myself to buy one. Alas, I wear them so infrequently. They do provide a lot of colour for the price.

 

DSCN2428
Les vetements

The clothes are a big clue as to the season. The next few photos leave no doubt. 

DSCN2433
Plants and fresh cut flowers abound!
DSCN2437
Couleur de printemps
DSCN2453
Les fleurs
DSCN2466
Café ou rosé?

After all that shopping it is time for an aperitif…or perhaps lunch? There are many restaurants that would be happy to serve you.

Despite the plaza being filled with items for sale, this is only a small part of the Thursday market. Not far off there is a parking lot that is set aside each Thursday morning for Marché and in addition to what is offered here, there is also have fresh produce, cheeses, and other assorted foods.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chez moi – deux

Ma chambre et la fenêtre
Ma chambre et la fenêtre

Winding upstairs to the second floor to the rear is the third bedroom which is where I chose to sleep. It is smaller than Rita’s room but looks out to the chateau and is very quiet. A neighbours grand garden winds behind my house and it is like living above a park. Spring and summer, I am awakened by scores of birds singing their hearts out. As you can see, some of these photos were taken before I actually moved in so there is little furniture in the way. Today there is a wicker chaise in front of my bedroom window. The old 3/4 size bed was left here and with the purchase of a new mattress it serves me well. Perhaps you will notice the unusual tile pattern or the black marble chimney breast? Behind the bedroom door is a tiny cupboard and the same type cupboard in the bedroom directly beneath it. Each has two shelves at the top and either pegs or nails for hanging up your clothes. When this home was built, people didn’t have large wardrobes and the houses reflect that.

Across the landing from my room is the bathroom but to the right is a door which opens to yet another flight of stairs which sweeps up into the grenier. There were several pieces of old furniture now removed and a collection of old wine bottles which now house some very aged vinegar. A few other “treasures” remain where the previous owners left them. I have toyed with the idea of one day turning the back room of the grenier into a roof terrace. Time will tell what happens there. As it is, I just continue enjoying my home and discovering more of its stories.

Bisous,

Léa

Ma chambre
Ma chambre
From my window, turn your head slightly to the left and you are rewarded!
From my window, turn your head slightly to the left and you are rewarded!
One of the attic's skylights
One of the attic’s skylights
Grenier room 2
Grenier room 2

Lez’ Arts Chez Nous

Bienvenue!
Bienvenue!
So delicate!
So delicate!

...

A blue sky was over Chateau Bonnafous welcoming the local artists, artisans and all who joined in. The grounds, facilities and location are perfect for the many events held here. This is an annual event and there are always a few artists/artisans that we have seen previously.

We had a beautiful day for admiring the talents and skills of so many local residents. There is also the opportunity to purchase some of the items and to talk with the vendors. Naturally, you will be surrounded by friends, family, neighbours but perhaps make a few connections. Most of the tourists have moved on as the season’s change.

In addition to the singing group there was a concert held later in the evening. An actor read some poetry. Being a poet myself, I was disappointed that it was not his own work but he read so well with a voice that really held you. One woman brought her loom and gave demonstrations of weaving and had numerous examples of her work.

The majority of work is visual so I shall let the pictures do the talking!

Bisous,

Léa

Apéritifs
Apéritifs
Acapella group, songs from around the world
Acapella group, songs from around the world

...

...

Stained Glass
Stained Glass

...

...

...

Author: Linda Bastide
Author: Linda Bastide

...

...

...

...

...