Just to let people who may be interested know, I have my first novel on Amazon, printed and Kindle versions. Having waited in vain for agents to even acknowledge my e-mails, I have decided to self-publish because I would like people to READ it. It’s called Zazou and Rebecca, and is set in Southern France, […]
“I know a freedom, and that is the freedom of the spirit.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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.
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.
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.
Curried Coconut Chicken and Rice, it was delicious!
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.
“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.
Loto cards & prizes
A few more suspects
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…
Each year, monsieur le Maire hosts a soirée. If you follow this blog, at some point you begin to realise that the French take their sense of community seriously and love to enjoy the company of family, friends and neighbours.
Notice of the date is delivered about the village with a request for those who will attend to R.S.V.P. as they do want to have sufficient to serve all in attendance. Those needing a ride will be accommodated.
At the appointed time, villagers begin arriving and immediately the socialising commences. As everyone takes a seat, the Mayor welcomes the participants then gives a brief update of plans for the year.
It is now time for the entertainment to begin. This year we were treated to songs by a chanteuse, Nadine, who was accompanied by Yves. Her songs took us through a melody of French and American songs. There were numerous costume changes and at one point she re-created the famous scene of Marilyn Monroe having the wind send her white dress flying high! While there were a few lulls in the entertainment due to costume changes, she made up for it with her unbridled enthusiasm. Of course, no review of Marilyn would be complete with a rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.
As she wraps up her performance, plates of pastries and other treats began to arrive. The decorated tables sported plates of chocolates. Small pots of flowers and tiny straw butterflies were strewn about. Once your plate was served someone followed up pouring you a glass of Blanquette. For those who prefer there were bottles of water on each table.
The chanteuse took a short break and changed out of costume then joined us for a small respite. However, she soon picked up her microphone and the music started again. The dancing commenced and the party continued for quite some time.
One of the many things I love about France and the French is that they truly enjoy life and celebrate it completely. Last Sunday, the village association invited us all to socialise and share; food, music, wine, blanquette and most of all, each other. The tables were covered with white table cloths to allow the green ivy and olive branches to stand out.
This event was organised by Durban Village Association. The event adds to the social calendar at a time when many things are on the quiet side and the small admission of three euros each goes toward the Associations coffers which fund improvements in and around the village.
Les Chant des Corbières, one of the local choirs, was asked to perform and we were happy to do so. Albeit, being in the choir, I was unable to take any photos during the performance. The songs performed included; Les Tourterelles, L’Epervier, Cangaceiro, Je Reviens, El Condor Pasa and Des Jonquilles. Le Chef (choir director) Jacque has included a significant number of songs in Spanish to our repertoire this year.
Like all other social events, people mingle about chatting with their friends and neighbours before settling down to a table. After everyone was seated the choir was introduced and the singing commenced.
After singing, the choir members joined the others. Some sat with their families and the rest of us claimed a table of our own. Plates of chocolates, cookies and a clementine were passed out then someone offered us each servings of Galette des Rois and Couronne du Roi. There were bottles of Blanquette at each table and water of juice as desired.
A tombola was next on the agenda. Each of the several winners received three bottles of wine and one included a large plant. Of the eight or so winners, three of us at our table had winning tickets!
Our next village social is planned for 3 February 2013. Our host will be le maire (The Mayor).
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.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small department than in the entire United States. There is a wide variety of grapes 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 cast. 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 (vine growers) committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.
In the photo is one of our local wine producers, Remy, who 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 “honour” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back. 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.
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, there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more just a few kilometers away.
Remember, you can always click on the photos to enlarge them.
Next month I shall celebrate my fifth anniversary of living in la belle France. I arrived on October 31, 2007. The time has gone so rapidly and so much has happened. The first three months were focused mainly on house hunting. Never did I imagine it would take so long. It did give me the opportunity to see a number of different villages and types of house. While many interested me and one in particular in Les Martys which is situated in Montagne Noir (The Black Mountain) I was not convinced. Something held me back. An agent in Carcassonne (friend of a friend) showed me a few houses but we struck out. Then one day as I passed her office, she waved me inside and said she had a property to show me. Maryanne navigated and I drove.
Something I had not told anyone was that I had a date set when I would start looking out of the region I was convinced was where I wanted to be. That day as I drove closer to the sea than I had considered (thinking it was out of my budget) I tried to keep an open mind to what she would be showing me. It was January 16, 2008 and the birthday of my youngest son. I had been sure that I would have been successful by that date.
Maryanne read her printout from the internet as I navigated the main road then later
some small windy roads. The thought in my head was that even if this turned out to be the house, I would never find it again. We arrived in the village, parked and walked about waiting for the seller to arrive and let us in. We parked by the stone wall which stands between the house and le berre de rivière (the river berre). Leaning over the ancient stone wall, I saw the bridge (shown above) and felt a tug on the heart-strings.
We didn’t have much time to look about when Monsieur Pollard arrived and we began our look around the house. It is a town house with small rooms and spread over four stories. The top one being the grenier (attic).
The house had been empty for over two years. The structure appeared sound which I later had verified and while small it gave me two guest bedrooms which was more than adequate. The house is over 300 years old and the original tiles remain in all the rooms and stairs.
The kitchen contained a sink (typical of homes in France) and remnants of a chimney which could be replaced should one choose to do so. Any purchaser would have to kit out the kitchen on their own.
The village itself had the requisites that I had been wanting and more. There is the boulangerie, cafe/bar, post office. Yet there was so much more. The village has a piscine (swimming pool), tennis courts, a small market, flower shop, coiffeur, notary, bibliothèque (library) even a botanical garden. There is also a man who brings in fresh seafood every Thursday and a Wednesday morning market offering fresh produce, fresh goat cheese and more. The foyer hosts first run movies each Tuesday night and often additional films especially for the children. There is even a campground with cabins and facilities for those with tents. The tourist season here is quite busy so if you think that camping is something for you, I would urge you to book ahead. If camping is not your thing you can rent a house or stay in the small hotel over the bar. There are also several chambres d’hotes ( bed & breakfast).
Needless to say, if you like a place in the dead of winter, it can only get better. I made an offer the same day and it was accepted. Despite everyone telling me that it would take over three months to close escrow, two months to the day of viewing the house I had the keys and moved in three days later when my bed, fridge, stove and washing machine were delivered. Since then I have picked up a few more pieces. That feeling that I got when I first saw the village have grown. Getting to know the people has been the icing on the cake. I have never felt so at home anywhere.