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.

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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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fête de vin

First band of the evening warming up
First band of the evening warming up

The annual fête de vin or wine festival in Carcassonne is not to be missed. Tourists come specifically for this event and locals come to have a fun evening or two and try the different wines from the areas represented.  The location of this particular festival is located in the center of town, Place carnot. There are cafés one each side of the square but during the hours of the event, they limit what is on offer.

In the photo above, the first band of the evening is warming up their instruments and the crowds. Being France, it isn’t long before the dancing begins. The vendors are setting opening bottles and setting up the dishes they will offer. Each vendor will have foods that are best served with the wines they have for sale. One vendor specialises in desert wines and has several decadent deserts available.  Glasses of wine to try are normal serving size and available for between one and two euros per glass.

Fountain in the center of the square
Fountain in the center of the square

At intervals around the vendors stalls you will find large covered wine barrels that serve as bars or counter space where groups of people can gather around and enjoy their drinks and food. Once the festival gets going it quickly gets crowded and navigating can be a bit challenging but worth it.

The crowds descend
The crowds descend

Some carried a light wrap for the evening but we were fortunate and didn’t need them. The weather was glorious and we sat in the square at Chez Felix, a favourite café. Even with most of the square’s cafés staying open, seating was at a premium so our group of four would take turns looking for a wine and food to try. We each found different wines and foods and sampled and shared. It was a great evening.

A good time was had by all!
A good time was had by all!

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

It’s that time again: La vendange

Remy and Gait
Gait (manager) Remy (owner)

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.

Local beauty
Local beauty

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.

My neighbour, 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 “honour” 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.

Vineyards are everywhere
Vineyards are everywhere

 

Porters, Corneilus and Yost
Porters, Corneilus and Yost

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste
Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste

 

 

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

 

Load it up!
Load it up!

Remember, you can always click on the photos to enlarge them.

Bisous,

Léa

 

Fête Nationale / Bastille Day / quatorze juillet

Arrive early to choose your seat
Arrive early to choose your seat

When it is spoken of in English speaking countries, 14 July is usually called Bastille Day or (French National Day). Here in France, it is La quatorze juillet (14 July) or La Fête Nationale (Formal name). The actual storming of the bastille was 14 July 1889

The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the heart of Paris. On the morning of 14 July 1789, the people stormed the building and released the seven prisoners it contained at the time. Yet this action had nothing to do with the number of inmates but the fact that the storming was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy and was the critical stage which erupted into the French Revolution.

Make reservations?
Make reservations?

There were three events that led up to the revolution. First was the revolt of the nobility, refusal to aid King Louis XVI by withholding taxes, the second was formation of the National Assembly and the third event was the storming of the Bastille and the ensuing Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Grab a beverage and start socialising!
Grab a beverage and start socialising!

The masses formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour or cockades (cocardes) ribbons knotted together of red, blue and white. These cockades and soon the color scheme itself, become symbol of the revolution and continue today as symbol of France itself.

A few are beginning to take their seats...
A few are beginning to take their seats…

While the date for the destruction of the Bastille was indeed 14 July 1789, the date for French National Day was actually 14 July, 1790 to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and reconciliation of all French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France.  A largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign quests.

A Counsel member chats with the DJ - a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A Counsel member chats with the DJ – a band takes over when the meal is finished!

 

In most cities outside of Paris, there is usually a small ceremony at the monument for those who gave their lives in WWI and WWII. In the evenings there will be fireworks. In our village, the are shot from the ancient castle behind my home.

A great view of the castle and fireworks
A great view of the castle and fireworks

Here in my small village, there will be a meal (repas) attended by all who wish. Each year a different village organization takes charge of preparing the dinner, selling tickets procuring music and everything else that is involved. As the meal comes to a close fireworks are shot from the village chateau. The tables and chairs get moved way back and the dancing goes on well into the morning. Despite the fact that I was, once again, invited to spend the day in Carcassonne where there is the second largest fireworks display outside Paris. However, the evening with my friends and neighbors cannot be matched by a mere firework display. It is one day I truly do not want to be anywhere else.

Henri et Georgette - await their respective spouses
Henri et Georgette – await their respective spouses
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette
Christiane, Serge (the respective spouses and friend) et Puerto
After a great meal, fireworks begin
After a great meal, fireworks begin
And the dancing begins
And the dancing begins
Dance the night away... at least until 5am
Dance the night away… at least until 5am
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) AKA Cotton Candy
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) AKA Cotton Candy

Seating fills quickly but you can make a reservation by stationing someone from your group or by placing something at one point, tipping forward the chairs you will be using and also with a pen or marker put the name and number of guests you require seating for.  While this may sound simple, the claim is respected and your seats await you.

Chef station
Chef station

Bisous,

Léa

First course: melon with port
First course: melon with port
Everyone is in a festive mood!
Everyone is in a festive mood!
Meals take longer because there is real communication going on!
Meals take longer because there is real communication going on!
Bonsoir!
Bonsoir!
The place to be!
The place to be!
Feux d'artifice
Feux d’artifice!
Our chateau by night!
Our chateau by night!
Dance...
Dance…
Dance, dance, dance! The DJ won't stop for hours...
Dance, dance, dance!
The DJ won’t stop for hours…

Fète du Vin Primeur

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Fète du Vin Primeur

The harvest from the vineyards is safely bottled and most will go on sale next year. Yet in the wine region, we have festivals to toast the new wines. It is an opportunity to taste the fruits of this years harvest. It was fun to experience this with friends, Yvonne and Pauline, who had flown over from London for a long weekend of delights. This particular event was in the village of Trèbes a short 7 km from the city of Carcassonne. The population at the last census, 2008, was over 5,500.

As with any event, there was music (bands and DJ), dancing, and of course food. There were plates of mixed cheeses, Charcuterie – plates of assorted sausages and hams, each served with pain (bread) then of course you can have foie gras which is served with a special bread which contains bits of dried figs. Also on offer was grilled brochette of canard (duck) served with spiced apple (Amazing!)

We took a cab from Carcassonne on the first night so that this Designated Driver could safely sample the delights of the event. However, the next day I drove us back to the village to make a few more purchases and explore the town. However, that will be another post!

Bisous,

Léa

Opening ceremonies and acknowledgement for some of the outstanding wine makers and wines
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Bon appetit!
Plates were being sold as fast as they could be made up
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New wines and previous vintages available for tasting and/or purchase                                                             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dégustation (tasting) encouraged!                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottle with the hand wrapped around it
The bottle with the hand wrapped around it Is a sweet apéritif or dessert wine                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A delightful vintage (2007) from the nearby Minervois – it happens to be the year I moved to France!

 

Vendange

Remy
Local beauty

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.

Remy (owner –  France) et Gait ( Holland- manager)

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.

Tomek (seasonal worker – Poland) 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, 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.

Bisous,

Léa

Domaine Sainte Juste
les raisins (grapes)
Vendange
Steve (England – worker)
Tomek et Gait
Domaine Sainte Juste
Remains of the day
Vats, table de degustation (tasting table)
Local Miel (honey) available.

The taste is simply unbelievable and you cannot eat just one
More vats