Showing posts from September, 2006

Gastronomic feast

Last night we motored down to Le Vieux Puis at Fonjoncouse

Such fun in the Grand Duchess. Some very jolly people waved to us along the way and I took a turn behind the wheel. She is rather a handful though and after a while His Lordship took over and I could sit and concentrate on the evening ahead, pressing issues to ponder, as to whether my outfit would pass muster in such terribly smart surroundings and wondering if I had remembered ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. In the end the mascara was left behind and the Small Cross One has stated that I simply must wear it.!!!

Do you know I've been pondering on how to best describe the food, it's not often His Lordship and I are lost for words but we are stumped. Okey, every course, every dish in fact is an amazing creation of art. It would have been a sacrilege not to have devoted your complete and utter attention on what was presented before you. It was a very serious business. Crikey, when they bought out the cheese trolley it w…

Health and Safety French style

I've been dying to share this little gem with you.

What is it about D.I.Y shops that make your head spin and your brain turn to mush ? "We've just got time to pop into the D.I.Y shop" announces His Lordship. "Are you coming in too?" Well I ALWAYS feel obliged to wander behind but truth be known the experience does nothing for me. There's this certain D.I.Y shop in Carcassonne that I always swear I will never have to visit ever again. It is an complete health and safety hazard, I am always amazed that they are allowed tocarry on trading, but there you go, same old story "This is France".

Oh, but the other day took the biscuit completely, even His Lordship looked in complete disbelief.

At the exit (where there is always a queue) balanced on two cardboard boxes about face height was a lit gas fire. A LIT GAS FIRE, unbelievable. No safety guard, no notice, no nothing. Just an accident waiting to happen.

As we exited (fast) I couldn't hel…

Ryan Air direct to Chateau Lasserre

Whooppeee, we've had a fabulous invite to Auberge du Vieux Puits in Fontjoncouse, a restaurant in the Corbieres that His Lordship and I have always wanted to visit. Not only is this the perfect excuse to don some glad rags it's an outing for the "Grand Duchess" whose had constant loving attention all week and draws admiring glances whenever she emerges. I do love looking in the Michelin Guide and recited the entry for our sojourn to His Lordship. "Your'e looking in the 2000 edition" he said, "it's three stars in the 2005 edition". And he was right, of course.

Also down in that region is the small town of Lagrasse described "as officially one of the most beautiful villages in France" A crowd of us converged on La Fargo's one hot sunny August afternoon. 14 of us seated at a long linen covered table under the shade of an enormous kiwi plant. You got the feeling that the fruit was going to drop on you at any time but as o…

Banging your head against a brick wall

My office faces the Pyrenees. This morning against the clear blue sky they have taken on a purple hue. The sunflowers have all been harvested and in the background is the gentle hum of the harvester gathering this year's grapes for the blending of the Malepere wines for which the area is so famous.

I had a most unproductive conversation yesterday with the British Embassy in Paris. Despite sending a full face photograph for a passport as requested it's been rejected. "It's not full face on enough" was the explanation. The word "preposterous" sprang to mind. Looking in the Oxford Dictionary this equates to "absurd, outragous, farcical, foolish, laughable, ludicrous, nonsensical, outragous, ridiculous, risible, sensible, " and finally "stupid". All of which I heartily agree with. It won't however, get me a passport on time. I couldn't help but notice that you can wear religious headgear, where, presumably, not much of y…

Scary Mary

Back into Carcassonne to give the Old Lady some new front tyres. I got the 'we thought we would see you back sooner rather than later' look but they were charming and efficient. The place next door had 25% off all new tyres but was empty. My French is simply not up to the technical standard of comparing one tyre brand against another so I just trusted my instincts, if the place looks busy it must be good. Mind you on the other hand the queue at any McDonalds waiting for a fix of 'grub' would quickly dispel that theory, (just an opinion you understand).

My friend Wallflower lives closeby to La Cite so I dropped by to see her latest find from this weekends vide greniers. She had two large boxes of vintage Laura Ashley material. It never dates does it ? I nearly jumped out of my skin though as I was confronted with two haughty looking ladies well over six feet tall. Let me introduce you to "Scary Mary" she said. She seemed to have a twin standing next t…

Singing out with fruity confidence

Down to the Corbieres for lunch at Sally's the Languedoc based artist who holds the most entertaining and legendary parties.  Usual eclectic mix of people.  Is it me or have digital camera's overtaken mobile phone's  as a table accessory?  Whereas before you were likely to be interrupted by a variety of electronic tunes assaulting you it is now the case that any behaviour, good or bad,  is likely to be recorded in a second and sent into cyber space for all and sundry to view,  whether you like it or not.  Personally I think they should be banned at any polite table. We did drink some excellent Prioundo though produced by Hugo and Paul who are also based in the Languedoc.  Jancis Robinson said "The wines sing out with fruit and confidence" and I can't argue with her there.  In actual fact later on in the afternoon Sally suggested that you were only allowed to speak if you sang out in operatic style.  Produced some interesting conversation but most o…

Tony and Gordon

"Tony Blair will always be my friend " says Gordon Brown.

I was seven feet up doing a balancing act on the stepladders. One of the very many jobs facing an owner of a Maison de Maitre situated in the South of France is the adaptation of curtains for either the blistering heat of the long summer months or the short sharp bursts of cold that greet us around January. (We usually have Christmas lunch outside) . I'm in the North side of the house now (may as well start early) and I'm replacing beautiful embossed linen drapes picked up for 8 euro's each at the local brocante for something more substantial and lined as double glazing does not feature high on our list of priorities. Neither does the most handsome wrought iron balustrade which stood with my name on it yesterday as I paid 10 euro's each for two wooden bedside tables, (Mirepoix Brocante). The house does not need it of course, it has enough original features without adding more, even so it…

Aga's and Chrysanthemum's

The fact that Autumn is slowly creeping upon us, I have, to a certain extent tried to ignore.

However my friend Wise Owl who regularly uses the Ryan Air flights direct from Carcassonne to Stanstead like most people hop on the bus (and sometimes at 1p each way plus taxes works out considerably cheaper) presented me with a large bunch of bright yellow chrysanthemum's from her garden. Delving into my Reader's Digest Enclyclopedia of Garden Plants and Flowers, (is there a household without one ?) I find they are of the 'Gold Plate' variety and very decorative they are too. Which led me to waste ten minutes looking at all the plants beginning with the letter C. The last one being Cytisus, commonly known as Yellow Broom. She also told me that her friend was flying out in October direct from Gatwick to Toulouse courtesy of British Airways for the princely sum of £50 including taxes. Incroyable, Oui ?

But the one single event heralding that summer is drawing to a close is t…

French Notices

Back into Carcassonne for the books we didn't manage to get yesterday. Quelle horreur, for the first time in weeks it's raining. Only yesterday I had enjoyed a leisurely swim in the pool with the temperature showing a very respectable 82 degrees.

First things first though and it's a trip to the local post office in Lasserre de Prouille. It is now open for three hours every morning which is the most amazing progress. It's looking suspiciously closed to me so I get out (in the rain) for a closer look. The opening times are quite clearly displayed on the brand new double glazed front door which has appeared on every Poste throughout France regardless of whether it is in keeping and sympathetic to the style of the building. In our village, which makes up one of the many circulade villages in the area of the Aude the post office itself must date back to the 17th c. Enough said ! Pinned to the door on a small scrap of paper is a note which reads "Patir a la Marie, de ret…

Wallflower and I discuss Napoleon III

Wallflower who saves my sanity wants to meet up to show me her latest purchases. I've been ordered into Carcassonne by the Small Bossy one for more school equipment so may as well break up the whole dreary process and sit and gossip in a smokey French Cafe. She always cracks me up but does not know it. Take yesterday for example and I had just been watching Under the Hammer and picked up the useful info that early second hand computers are worth collecting and she announces that she has a loft full. Well I've talked about myself for a full half an hour and she's looking decidedly bored with my descriptions of all my aches and pains, which I can understand as she has the hateful advantage of being at least 10 years younger than me. It's hot and windy again today and I'm feeling peevish already without having to lug an armful of material back to the car. "Jesus" I say "Where in God's name did you pick this up from, and why" ? "Lovely love…

Not a proper Chateau ..

It's not a proper Chateau is it ? I mean where are the turrets ? where are the vineyards ?

So ....I usually ignore all that and patiently explain that it is in fact a maison de Maitre (house of the village) called The Chateau since it was built around 1810 and everyone in the village refers to it as The Chateau which is why when people visiting get lost (which they usually do) because we are so beautifully discreet (which was the attraction in the first place,) apart from the stunning views of the pyrenees, and the fact that most of the original features were intact

Drifting up the wide Louis Philippe style staircase I was in a dream, was it the shafts of the July evening sun filtering through the half light onto the most striking floor tiles that made my heart rule my head and ignoring all sensible and practical thoughts made an offer on the spot for the full asking price.

Four years later I often wonder why I did it. When I look through the initial pictures it makes me shudder an…