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

 

 

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L’Art Caché – Albas 2015

There are always art shows, festivals… nearby in which ever part of France happen to be. However, in this area each year is the L’Art Cache (hidden art). It is one I look forward to each year more than any of the other art events. This is my fifth year attending and the third year blogging about it. I’m afraid my camera got carried away with itself so this may have to be spread out in more than one post. An artist friend who could not attend this year asked what was my favourite and I’m afraid I could not tell him.

#1
#1

As we begin our tour of the art, we are handed a map to follow around and find the exhibits. This tiny village is filled with hidden courtyards, gardens and even barns. Each year owners offer their space to the artists who are participating. You can follow the path in sequence or wander about. Regardless, you will be rewarded with what you find. This time I began with #1, for a change, and followed it about at least for awhile. The first artist we are visiting is Anne Sarda and you can find her at sardine@aliceadsl.fr or annesarda.com

Entrance #1
Entrance #1 Artist: Anne Sarda

The next stop on this post will be with Cathou. You can contact the artist at cathoubroucard@gmail.com or cathou-brocard.blogspot.fr and I hope you enjoy her work as much as I did.

Cathou #1
Cathou #1
Cathou #2
Cathou #2
Cathou #3
Cathou #3
Cathou #4
Cathou #4
Cathou #5
Cathou #5
Cathou #6
Cathou #6
Crocodeon - Illustrations by Catou
Crocodeon – Illustrations by Cathou

The children’s book with Cathou’s illustrations was irresistible. If only I had a wee one to read it to…

Alexia Carmona’s creations incorporate wire, string, twine and other substances. Please forgive the  limitations of my skill as a photographer. It would have been amazing to be able to have access for different angles of the following display. I tried to find the artist as I did not see a title for this piece. Down in a corner to the left was a small laptop playing bits of music and poetry. You can find Alexia at: http://www.alexia.carmona-carmona.fr

Le homme
Le homme
Alexia Carmona #@
Alexia Carmona #2
Alexia Carmona #3
Alexia Carmona #3
Alexia Carmona #4
Alexia Carmona #4

Tucked in a secluded courtyard we can discover some works by Fanny Pallaro. For more information you can email: pale.arrow@free.fr  or visit her at http://fanny.pallaro.free.fr

Fanny Pallaro #1
Fanny Pallaro #1
Fanny Pallaro #2
Fanny Pallaro #2
Fanny Pallaro #3
Fanny Pallaro #3
Fanny Pallaro #4
Fanny Pallaro #4
Fanny Pallaro #5
Fanny Pallaro #5

It is hoped that you will find something here to inspire you. There are several other artists to go and more photographs so this post will serve as Part I of L’Art Cache 2015. If one of these pieces does get your creative juices flowing, I would love to see what you produce and perhaps post it.

Remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Bisous,

Léa

Peyriac-de-Mer and a vide grenier

Summertime along the Mediterranean in the lovely village of Peyriac -de-Mer, what could be lovelier? Well on 5 July, there was the additional option of browsing the village vide grenier.

Peyriac de Mer Centreville

Peyriac-de-Mer Centreville

Peyriac-de-Mer’s last census (2008) was just over one thousand. However, there are always visitors. They come for the food and for the wine. There are several wine caves and since I was last there, a second café has been added.

...
A centre courtyard
A centre courtyard
Bon appetit!
Bon appetit!
Vide grenier
Vide grenier
Étang - Pond
Étang – Pond
Étang

The étang or ponds that line along the Mediterranean are breeding areas for flamingos. They usually begin arriving in October but I noticed them in mid-September last year. They feed of the rich shrimp beds and have their young then move on in April.

More vendors
More vendors
Finding a friend
Finding a friend

I knew my friend, Jiranan, would be a vendor at the vide grenier but not where she would be. I managed to take the photo above before she noticed me. She is on the right kneeling with her copain (boyfriend), Olivier.

The vide grenier area and a small playground are located behind the foyer on the road to the next village to the north-east which is Bages.

Up close...
Up close…
L: Olivier  R: Jiranan
L: Olivier R: Jiranan
Foyer
Foyer

In most villages you will find a large smooth surface such as the one above in at either the foyer or the mairie. Many events, festivals and village meals (repas) will be centered there. While the area will be filled with chairs and tables early on, the circle will be cleared after eating and the dancing begins. Music is often part of the entire evening.

Walking around any village you will find benches for reading, visiting or just catching your breath. While larger towns have workmen that care for planters and gardens in our small villages these are cared for by volunteers.

Le bureau or shop where you can buy tobacco, newspapers, magazines...
Le bureau or shop where you can buy tobacco, newspapers, magazines…
Les deux cafés
Les deux cafés

The café on the left is one I had been to before on visits to the village. However, it appears to have changed owners and except for the basic structure, has no resemblance to the previous café. The small one on the right is new. The village also has a small store, boulangerie, realtors, numerous wine caves and art galleries. Like many of these villages, there is a large portion of the population that is involved in the arts. There are art events frequently but not this time.  Even with two cafés, many people were out searching for a place to sit and enjoy some refreshments.

Noix des Saint-Jacques Salade
Noix des Saint-Jacques Salade

The above salad is more beautiful in person. It is scallops and shrimp and of course, all local. The dark spots are a touch of balsamic vinegar and there were two different types of sprouts. A perfect pairing with a local rosé!

Gallery
Gallery

Beneath the green awning directly ahead is one of many small art galleries. This one in particular is currently featuring pottery. However, you cannot go far without finding another gallery.

This charming village is located about 20km from my village and I drive past it frequently on my way into Narbonne.

Like everywhere else in France there are weekly markets, music festivals, theatre and more.

Bisous,

Léa

Petit Hibou / Petit Chouette – Little Owl

Life here is filled with surprises and delight and this morning was no exception. Hibou is the word for owl while Chouette is one with tufted ears.

Petit Hibou
Petit Hibou

When my neighbour, Gait, came out his door this morning he was face to face with a little visitor. He took a photo with his phone and stopped to show it to me on his way to walk his dog. He said it was still there and to take my camera so I shall share with you the pictures I was able to get.

monsieur hibou
monsieur hibou

He/she made no attempts to fly off and the agency that deals with bird rescue has been contacted. For the time being, Gait has placed it in the container and covered it loosely.

...
Petit Chouette

The owl did not seem to object to being petted or when picked up. However, we felt it best to let it rest now until the experts arrive and can assess the owl’s health. Being nocturnal, we assume it would be more comfortable out of the bright sunlight at least.

...

While I know little about owls, I find them fascinating and if there was a magical bird, it would have to be an owl. The first time I got this close to one was in my youth while staying in Canada with my grandmother. While walking through and undeveloped area on my way to the local swimming pool, there was a snow white owl perched on a fence. It took my breath away and I couldn’t wait to get back and tell my grandmother about it. Swimming took a backseat that day.

...

The feathers are so very soft… like a small chick.

...
Gait and his little visitor at my front door
Gait and his little visitor at my front door

Don’t forget to click on the photos to see them enlarged. No doubt there are some of you out there who know much more about these fascinating creatures and perhaps even the type of owl this is. If so, I would love to hear from you. I hope you have enjoyed this little visitor to our village.

Bisous,

Léa

La mer, off season

From April until well into Autumn, our beaches stay filled. However, for some of us, it is still too beautiful not to go for a walk along the magnificent shore and perhaps enjoy a café, glass of wine or even a meal and stare out to sea. There are bits of obliging wood for writing messages in the sand and the sand is damp which is perfect for castles.

A quiet day at the beach
A quiet day at the beach
A willing you artist leaves his mark in damp sand
A willing young artist leaves his mark in damp sand
Tranquility!
With obliging bits of wood we draw and leave messages on the shore…
King of the hill, or at least the sand pile
King of the hill, or at least the sand pile
Enjoying the view...
Enjoying the view…
to the lighthouse...
to the lighthouse…
A few hardy souls!
A few hardy souls!
...
The sea air does increase the appetite and what could be better?
The sea air does increase the appetite and what could be better?

There is still some time before the tourists begin to arrive to enjoy filling the lungs with salt air, writing volumes in the sand,

While these photos were taken at Port-la-Nouvelle, there are numerous beaches along the Mediterranean which are happy to oblige.

Bisous,

Léa

Thoughts of Spring

Chilly, grey days such as today are fertile for the mind wandering down the path to Spring! Spring with its many delights. Here are a few delights from my village and from nearby Albas (sheep) to turn your thoughts to warmer days.  Last but certainly not least, I offer a few photos from one of the greatest gardens of all, Giverny.  Today the photos can do the talking.

...
After the rain
After the rain
Almond blossoms
Almond blossoms
Deep purple...
Deep purple…
Poppies scattered in a vineyard
Poppies scattered in a vineyard
Lovely to look at, fragrant but my personal nemisis
Lovely to look at, fragrant but my personal nemesis
Sheep shearing
Sheep shearing
Before
Before
After
After
Milk lamb - unweaned between 4-6 weeks old
Milk lamb – unweaned between 4-6 weeks old

 

Entrée du jour
Entrée du jour – Bon appétit!
Sharing sunshine with a friend
Sharing sunshine with a friend
Mimosas
Mimosas
How's your garden?
How’s your garden?
Lilas (Lilacs)
Lilas (Lilacs)
Wisteria
Wisteria
Monet's garden - Giverny
Monet’s garden – Giverny
More from Monet
More from Monet
The arbor leading to Monet's home at Giverny
The arbor leading to Monet’s home at Giverny

 

Spring is just around the corner and we have much to appreciate when it arrives.

Bisous,

Léa

Seasons change…

Mon village
Mon village

I have heard it said that if you love a place when it is winter, you will love it all year around. This photo was taken in January 2008 when I first saw the village that would become my home. In the centre of the above photo is a group of three houses. The first is a large double and the ground floor is home to an iron forge. The two narrow houses to the right of it complete this group and the yellowish one on the right is mine. To the left is the footbridge which crosses the river Berre. The footbridge leads to the other side of the village where you will find La Poste, La Marie (Mayor’s office) the primary school, la maternelle (pre-school), maison de la retraite (retirement home) Maison des Jeunes, a house with several rooms for activities for the young people of the village. While other groups have use of the facilities, the young have priority. There are such associations all over France.

Roman bridge
Roman bridge

Standing on the footbridge and facing the old Roman bridge, is my favourite view and even though the trees were bare, the river low and the sky grey, to me it was home. The old plane trees across the river now provide shade through much of the year for the new picnic area which was installed last year. On the right, the old stone wall which had been lowered to make the other side of the village visible. It had been as high as the bridge.  The level of River Berre fluctuates and is currently very low. However, that can change quickly and strong rains this time of year can bring concerns of inundation such as was experienced in November 1999. The flood waters reached the top of the ground floor of houses along my road and we have very high ceilings. We came close to flooding last year but the quick response of the firefighters (pompiers), wine makers and others in the village created a run off for the water and prevented a disaster. Over the past year preventative measures have been taken but the villagers are ever watchful and respect the beauty, bounty and the force of nature.

Picnic and giant pits for grilling etc...
Picnic and giant pits for grilling etc…

 

 

This region is known as “Les hommes des souches” is a Corbières saying describing local people whose families have lived in the area for a very long time and who have worked the land, tending the vines and producing wine. The ‘souches’ is the vine plant and the roots go down very deep into the soil. Durban people feel connected with their town, their land, their families and the history of the town which goes back to pre-Christian periods.

Below is my neighbour, Armand, in his atelier. He is a young 90+ and as sweet as they come. His skills are amazing as he creates gates, railings, decorative items and art. In his salon there is a collection of musicians with their instruments all he created at the forge.

Armand in his atelier
Armand in his atelier

 

Work by Armand - symbol of Pays d'Occitan
Work by Armand – symbol of Pays d’Occitan

 

The first fire in my new home. While it was new to me it has been around for over 350 years. The tiles are original and one of the distinct patters in the house.

First flames...
First flames…

The first December here, we had an unusual visitor.

A rare snowfall
A rare snowfall

From the hills

From the south east
From the south east

For me, even in the winter there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope you have enjoyed these few windows into my village.

Bisous,

Léa