A French country party

It rained and rained for a fortnight, or it nearly did on my birthday! At last the sun came out and the day began….. Continue reading

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The Cherry Orchard

Cherries in Yolande's garden

Sweet and succulent cherries in Yolande’s orchard

“When I sound the fairy call, gather here in silent meeting,
Chin to knee on the orchard wall, cooled with dew and cherries eating.
Merry, merry, take a cherry, mine are sounder, mine are rounder,
Mine are sweeter for the eater, when the dews fall, and you’ll be fairies all.” Emily Dickenson American poet 1830 – 1886

Hard at work in the cherry orchard using a special ladder for reaching the highest branches

At work in the cherry orchard using a special ladder for reaching the highest branches

We picked our first cherries of the season today – the warm weather has arrived!  In between pip spitting and gorging on freshly picked cherries we managed to throw a few into the baskets. Our neighbour Yolande has all the tools for the job:  a traditional wooden fruit picking ladder – wider at the bottom and thinner at the top to allow it to settle against the tree trunk, a long pole with a hook to bring down the highest branches, as well as little baskets and hooks to hang in the tree to leave your hands free for picking all those cherries.

Princess Margot lends a paw

Princess Margot lends a paw

There are hundreds of varieties of cherry. Yolande grows the Burlap cherry it’s huge and fleshy and very sweet. Fruit farmer Leonard Burlat created the stock in 1915 by grafting onto a wild cherry tree in his garden. Now all the local markets are beginning to fill up with the new seasons crop – summer is here at last

The booty!

The booty!

It was a lovely afternoon, neighbours coming together to pool their resources. John Donne said ‘No man is an island’ and the communal sharing of something you cannot do alone was uplifting. While we were working and talking we were asking Yolande what she planned do with all the cherries “Manger” she said between mouthfuls of cherries. I’ve just been looking up some recipes and we’ll make Clafouti which is a sweet baked batter packed full of cherries, cherry jam with eau de vie (strange but we seem to have acquired an eau de vie lake), roast duck with cherries ummmm!

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Gypsy Festival in the Camargue – St Maries De La Mer 24th and 25th May

 

Festival of pilgrims at St Maries de la Mer

Saintes Maries de la Mer (Saint Marys of the Sea) is a little fishing village in the south of France in the Camargue. Gypsies, Gitaines, Roma, Tzigenes (from Romania), come from all around the area to worship black skinned Saint Sara (one of the Marys) their patron saint – also known as Black Sara or the Black Madonna.

Saint Sara - patron saint of the gypsies

Saint Sara – patron saint of the gypsies

The town comes alive for these two days and is full of musicians, dancers, gypsies and tourists. In the church there was real emotion from the gypsies who touched the three saints for luck. All the front pews were reserved for the Gitanes.  After mass, only one of the saints, Sara, is hoisted on high and taken for a dip in the sea followed by a procession of singing gypsies and musicians.

Pilgrims following Saint Sara down to the sea

Pilgrims following Saint Sara in the procession down to the sea

Then the real partying begins…..musicans pop up all over the town, Flamenco, Romanian, 8 piece bands, duos, sole singers and guitars, double bass, drums, flamenco clapping all out shout each other for an audience. Luckily the right wing mayor realises that the festival brings great prosperity to the town but there are still the usual tensions between locals and gypsies.

The best travelling gypsy band "Urs Karpatz"

The best travelling gypsy band “Urs Karpatz”

Amongst the cacophony of sounds this band stood out “Urs Karpatz” they used to travel with a live bear, fantastic music 

A gypsy woman is chosen to represent St Sara

A gypsy woman led the procession behind St Sara

And here she is: St Sara, or the Black Madonna, or Black Sara

And here she is: St Sara, or the Black Madonna, or Black Sara

 

The other two saints whose shrine is at St Maries De La Mer

The other two saints whose shrine is at St Maries De La Mer

Gypsy women in traditional long skirts

Gypsy women at St Marie De La Mer

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Gypsy men on the famous white horses of the Camargue

Gypsy men on the famous white horses of the Camargue

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The best easter egg

Asparagus with a soft boiled egg

Asparagus with a soft boiled egg

There is nothing quite so fresh and green tasting as asparagus pulled straight from the earth and eaten immediately. Our French neighbour whose Potager we are sharing suggested a few ways to cook the asparagus, with vinagrette, with a cheese sauce or simply with a soft boiled egg – it was absolutely delicious! What a lovely breakfast.

Fresh asparagus, butter and a soft boiled egg for breakfast

Fresh asparagus, butter and a soft boiled egg for breakfast

Covering a chair with French linen sheets

Chair covered in French linen sheets

Chair covered in French linen sheets

Bonjour mes amies! So sorry for the very long delay in posting anything……..here we go, a new project that I’ve been working on. I bought this comfortable old armchair at a car boot sale here (a vide greener) and covered it with a lovely old linen sheet, I’m quite pleased with my effort. Don’t look too closely though or you’ll see all the mistakes!

Do you get good and bad truffles?

Our minuscule truffle…….

Our minuscule truffle…….

We’ve never tasted truffles before so we thought we’d go to the famous truffle market at Lalbenque in SW France. http://www.lalbenque.net Here’s the truffle we bought – it’s smaller than a walnut and cost 6 euros.

Black gold - the grated truffle

Black gold – the grated truffle

We left it sitting in with the eggs for a day and then grated it over an omelette. Unfortunately all we could taste was grit! What have we done wrong…..someone tell us please!

Lalbenque Truffle Market December

Lalbenque Truffle Market December

The little town of Lalbenque is transformed when the weekly truffle market takes place. It’s a real tradition here, all the truffle sellers line up behind wooden benches and display their truffles in little baskets with red and white tea towels. They usually like to try and sell the whole basket, mostly to chefs and restaurants I think as there were lots of expensive cars in town that day.

Black truffles in their basket with traditional red and white tea towel

Black truffles in their basket with traditional red and white tea towel

Lots of chat and bidding going on!

Lots of chat and bidding going on! The card this woman is holding is her licence to sell the truffles

More truffles…..

More truffles…..

Jon getting our petite truffe weighed

Jon getting our petite truffe weighed

How to get English TV in France

Yep we’ve succumbed! This is how you do it and it costs about 200 euros for everything:

Kit required:

1. A Humax box with Freesat –  it allows you to receive TV via satellite, costs about 100 euros from John Lewis http://www.johnlewis.com/

2. A satellite dish or ‘parabole’ in French, get it from Brico Depot http://www.bricodepot.fr/  about 75 euros

3. A bracket to attach the dish to the wall, get it from Brico Depot, doesn’t cost much (‘support pour fixer une antenne parabolique’)

4. A long length of TV wire – something long enough to stretch from the dish to the TV

Get a modern TV that can access satellite

Simple!