Blog Archives

Chocolate Thanksgiving

Bill went to buy a turkey

One of the many advantages of living in a neighborhood with shops is that we can buy almost everything that we need on a daily basis without having far to go and easily on foot. Our fruits and vegetables all come from the Saturday market, 15 minutes away, but in two minutes or less we can be at the fish shop, butcher shop, greengrocer’s, bakery, newsstand, wine store, or a small but well-stocked supermarket. It’s there that we can often find turkey breast or legs year round  but we have to go a bit further, and only at this time of year, to find the entire bird. That was Bill’s mission last week because one of the large supermarket chains, on the edge of town, was featuring fresh turkeys. So, one morning while I was in language class he hopped aboard a 1€ bus, rode for 15 minutes to a shopping complex, and came back with the 9 boxes of chocolates that you see in the photo. Read the rest of this entry

When October goes

Colors along the Aude river

American songwriter Johnny Mercer left behind many unfinished compositions when he died in 1976, one of which Barry Manilow turned into a hit 8 years later under the title of today’s blog post. It’s a rather sad tale of a childhood in the distant past and a lost love that’s always brought back to mind when the leaves fall and “the snow begins to fly”. Add in a melancholy melody and you can understand why part of the refrain goes, “I turn my head away to hide the helpless tears….” Luckily in Carcassonne when the calendar changes from Halloween to All Saints’ Day, everything is a bit brighter than in the song. Read the rest of this entry

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in 3 days

One of the remaining water wheels in town

There’s a TV show that we watch here called Affaire Conclue (roughly, Done Deal) that’s kind of like the program Antiques Roadshow, but with a twist. Members of the public bring objects from their home to the studio in Paris where an auctioneer provides a bit of history about the item and then sets a value that she/he thinks it would bring if put under the hammer. The bonus is that in the next room a panel of collectors, flea market stall holders, and decorators is waiting to bid on what has come in that day and with cash in hand hopefully take their bounty home. They filmed an extended 2-hour version of the show in a town in Provence nicknamed “Capital of antiques and flea markets” that’s only a train ride away for us, so we were off for a long weekend in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Read the rest of this entry

Holiday? Let’s have a fête!

The covered market parking lot filled with people, food, and drink

Rumor has it that the French have a whole lot more time off from work than Americans do. It is true that many full time employees here receive 5 weeks of vacation each year while we know folks back in the “old country” who struggle to ration out their 2 weeks, combining them with weekends or other holidays to stretch the break a little longer. With annual trips to Europe, often to France, Bill and I were lucky to have had employers with much more liberal leave policies. But what about nationwide holidays known as public or bank holidays or in the US, federal holidays? In America there are 10 with an 11th day added every 4 years for Inauguration Day. In France it’s 11 and if any of those fall on a weekend, too bad, it’s not moved to the closest Friday or Monday so employees don’t get the day off. Last Thursday we celebrated one of those jours fériés that wasn’t on a weekend with 2 festivals; one in the lower town where we live and the other in the upper Medieval walled city that overlooks us. Read the rest of this entry

Bonus day in Provence

Castle ruins at Les Baux de Provence

In keeping with last Sunday’s “accidental” theme, the bonus for us was discovering that our friends from northeastern France were on vacation in the vicinity of Avignon at the same time that we were there. They had a car and suggested that we spend the day with them exploring parts of Provence only half an hour or so south of the city. Their itinerary included the market town of St. Rémy de Provence and one of the gems included in the Most Beautiful Villages of France collection, Les Baux de Provence. This was all new territory for us but the day began at some place quite familiar when they picked us up at the train station. Read the rest of this entry

Dijon in 2 days

Maille mustard founded in 1747

If you thought of mustard when you read today’s blog post title, you have good reason. It was the ancient Romans who originally brought the seeds to France, leading to kings enjoying it on their dinner tables as early as the 13th century. In 1777 businessmen Maurice Gris (Grey) and August Poupon, in their original factory that still exists today in Dijon are credited with creating and popularizing the condiment. Another well-known brand, Maille, also has its shop in town proudly proclaiming “Founded in 1747”. You might know this area for that hearty stew, bœuf bourguignon, and that bold red Burgundy wine that goes so well with this dish. On our way to northern France we stopped off for a couple of days to see what else the region had to offer. Read the rest of this entry

What did we buy?

Charcoal or spinach?

With the luxury of an open-air farmers’ market three days a week being about a 15-minute walk from our front door, our refrigerator is typically full of a variety of fruits and vegetables that we’ll use within the next few days. Occasionally we’ll be following a recipe that either asks for something that isn’t in season or specifies a frozen ingredient. That was the case when Bill was making a quiche Florentine and the cookbook author recommended chopped spinach from the grocer’s freezer section. We could have picked up some beautiful dark green leaves at the market but then that would have involved guessing about how much to buy, then chopping and cooking it. The ready-to-go version seemed to make much more sense until we opened the package and out poured what appeared to me to be green charcoal briquettes. Bill’s impression was a little more “earthy” since they reminded him of “road apples”, especially after the horse had consumed large quantities of fresh grass.What did we buy? Read the rest of this entry

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