A show-off and a (temporary) shut-down

For medical reasons, which I’ll describe at the end of this posting, I’m taking a break from blogging. You can expect Radio Free Daglan to be off the air (figuratively speaking) for a few weeks.

But before we leave, take a look at a show-off that’s growing chez nous: our single wisteria bloom.

Regular readers will remember that I have previously showed off this flower — the very first one to develop on the two vines that I planted in 2012 in front of our house. I proudly displayed it in a posting called “A first flower, featured,” just a week or so ago, on April 5 . Here is how it looked at the time:

A first look at our first wisteria flower.

A first look at our first wisteria flower.

But the darn thing has just kept on growing, and growing, and growing. Maybe it’s because all of the plant’s flower power (to coin a phrase) has been channeled into this one blossom. Maybe we’ve got a special long-flowered variety of wisteria. Or maybe we’ve stumbled upon a genetically superior wonder plant.

In any case, here’s a photo of my wife Jan holding up a tape measure to the flower, where she discovered that it’s now hit 72 centimetres in length — which is more than two feet, four inches long.

It's at 72 centimetres, and may have more to go.

It’s at 72 centimetres, and may have more to go.

I have no idea if it will keep growing. But if it does, and its super size causes enough excitement in horticultural circles, we may have a new business opportunity — putting our wisteria out to stud. We shall see.

Our (temporary) shut-down: As noted at the start of this posting, I’m interrupting my (somewhat) regularly scheduled blogging for medical reasons — namely, an operation to deal with pinched nerves in my spine. Since I won’t be feeling too sprightly for a while, I thought it was better to just accept the fact that I’ll need a break. When I return to my regular and energetic explorations of the Greater Daglan Area of southwest France, Radio Free Daglan will return as well, and you’ll be among the first to know.

Posted in Blogging, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Some down-home French cooking

The ingredients at yesterday’s lunch may have been all French, but the idea actually came from a U.S. food show that my wife Jan and I were watching several days ago. “Mmmmmmm,” we both thought (yes, there were simultaneous thought bubbles over our heads), “let’s try that.”

So on Friday morning we drove from Daglan to a specialty shop in Gourdon, and bought a nice lobe of foie gras. (The price here in Duck Country: a mere 16 euros. You’ve got to love that.)

And so here’s what we did to make our down-home and super-tasty Friday lunch, replete with those magical tastes and textures of sweet, fatty, salty, herbaceous, crispy, jammy and creamy.

First, Jan sliced two potatoes into thin strips, double-frying them until they were certified frites, and then sprinkling salt and fresh thyme leaves over them. Then she made a lemon mayonnaise for dipping. Then she made up a batch of her homemade Caesar dressing, and tore up some Baby Gem lettuce leaves.

Then I got into the act, by first heating up a non-stick frying pan and then cutting several thick slices of foie from the lobe of liver. Then it was just a matter of sautéeing the foie for just a couple of minutes per side.

The assembly? We scattered the frites on plates, placed the foie slices on top of the potatoes, and then spooned some fig chutney onto the liver. Then Jan placed a bit of Caesar salad onto the corner of each plate. And, voila!

Sweet, jammy, fatty, salty, crispy -- What's not to like?

Sweet, jammy, fatty, salty, crispy — What’s not to like?

Believe me, it was a lunch when no dessert was considered. Even by me.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

La Roque gets ready to roll

The tourist season is approaching as fast as Usain Bolt heads into the corner turn in the 200 metres. Easter is almost upon us; every tree, shrub and plant in the Greater Daglan Area seems to be blooming; and the temperature hit 27 yesterday afternoon (that’s 81 degrees American). So I decided it was about time that I checked out the progress being made in La Roque-Gageac.

Just to refresh you, the village of La Roque lies about 14 kilometres from Daglan, and it’s so picturesque that it draws tourists like a sliced melon attracts wasps.

Unfortunately, it has also constituted one of the Dordogne Valley’s worst traffic bottlenecks, as its single narrow road is pinched between the Dordogne River on one side and a long row of shops, hotels and restaurants on the other. Every summer, the sight of huge camper vans trying to squeeze through crowds of pedestrians was commonplace — at times amusing, at times scary.

Then in 2012, along came a major construction project to widen the road with landfill; add proper sidewalks; and create a walkway along the river. I’ve written about this multi-year project several times (most recently on January 28 of this year). So the question now is: When will traffic again be allowed to flow through La Roque-Gageac, and what can tourists expect?

As you can see from the photo below, the road as of yesterday afternoon was pretty darn barré:

For vehicles, the drive through La Roque-Gageac is still very much barré/

For vehicles, the drive through La Roque-Gageac is still very much barré.

But there’s been lots of progress since January of this year, and things are looking good. For example, check out the new limestone wall that rises up from the Dordogne River, for the whole length of the village:

This is the view of La Roque from the river now -- with a new wall in place.

This is the view of La Roque from the river now — with a new wall in place.

As for the road that runs through the village, it’s been paved at least once with asphalt, although I expect it will need a final skim-coat to make it really smooth. Here it is:

The new, wider road.

The new, wider road.

The stone sidewalks in front of the various stores and hotels seem to be pretty much complete as well, although I believe that trees are to be put in planters along the way. Here’s one view:

La Roque-Gageac's new sidewalk.

La Roque-Gageac’s new sidewalk.

And here’s another view:

A close-up look at the village's new sidewalks.

A close-up look at the village’s new sidewalks.

And finally, the pedestrian walkway along the river looks pretty much completed, although there are gaps in the stone wall that are now protected with fencing; I’m assuming that some sort of railings will be installed, to minimize the number of toddlers toppling into the river. Here’s how it looked yesterday afternoon:

Where you'll stroll along the river.

Where you’ll stroll along the river.

There was no one to ask about construction when I visited the village yesterday, but my somewhat educated guess (Hey — I did start university by studying engineering!) is that everything will be done by mid-May. (And just to be clear, I finished university with a major in print journalism, having left calculus behind.)

Posted in Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A first flower, featured

You’re probably thinking that the first flower to appear on a plant is not a big deal. In most cases, I’d agree. But this time, it’s different.

The plant in question is one of the two wisteria vines (or glycine in French) currently engaged in climbing  up the limestone walls on the front of our house. It’s the vine that’s latched on to the wall at the right side of the stairs.

When we planted the two vines, in the spring of 2011, the first comment from one of our friends in Daglan was simply: “You know it won’t flower this year, don’t you?”

“Well, gee, thanks for that,” we thought at the time. “Any other jolly points to make?”

It turns out that our friend was right.

And on doing a bit of Internet research, my wife Jan and I learned that it often takes years and years for wisteria to come into flower.

Now when they do, they can be pretty spectacular. Long-time readers of Radio Free Daglan may remember that when I started this blog, I used a photo of a flowering wisteria vine as RFD’s header photo. The vine ran along the front wall of a neighbour’s home, and looked like this:

cropped-daglan-neighbor-house-with-wisteria.jpgOur wisteria has some distance to travel before it reaches the majestic flowering heights of our neighbour’s vine, but it’s on its way. And here it is:

There she blossoms!

There she blossoms!

If I say so myself, it’s a darn good start. We’re very proud.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When in Toulouse…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the trip that my wife Jan and I took to Toulouse, where I had a medical appointment. In that posting I described the dinner we enjoyed at Brasserie Flo les Beaux Arts, around the corner from the Hôtel des Beaux Arts, where we spent the night.

Since our meals that night included large plates of steak tartare, accompanied by a bottle of a good Beaujolais, a small salad, and a healthy portion of crispy frites, I called my posting “How French can you get?” (March 19.) Here’s what I wrote about the restaurant:

The brasserie is a charming place, located at street level around the corner from the entrance to the hotel. It overlooks the Garonne River, right at the Pont Neuf, an area teeming with cyclists and runners as well as cars, trucks and buses. Looking out the window to my right I could watch the Garonne flowing by as night fell.

This past Tuesday, I had a day’s worth of medical appointments (before a surgery that is now scheduled for April 14), and so we left Daglan again on Monday and headed south by train to Toulouse. Since we enjoy Hôtel des Beaux Arts, we stayed there once more. And since we enjoyed Brasserie Flo les Beaux Arts so much, we ate dinner there again. (I know — creatures of habit.)

This time, I spotted a local specialty on the menu, the famed saucisses de Toulouse, or Toulouse sausages. I thought: Why not eat like a local? And so I ordered a couple of these gems, which are typically made of pork and little else besides some salt and pepper and sometimes, garlic.  At the brasserie, they were served piping hot in a rich brown gravy, sitting on little clouds of whipped potatoes. (A vegetable? Don’t be silly. This is France.) They may not be elegant, but they’re delicious, and here they are:

My simple, hearty and delicious meal.

My simple, hearty and delicious meal.

Of course, a hearty and rich meal like this deserves a small, light dessert — or, as in my case, a big rich dessert, such as profiteroles stuffed with ice cream and then absolutely drenched with chocolate syrup. Like these babies:

Profiteroles hiding under chocolate sauce.

Profiteroles hiding under chocolate sauce.

So much for Monday night’s dinner. For lunch on Tuesday, in between appointments, we decided  that it would be easiest to return to the same restaurant, around the corner from the hotel where we’d left our overnight case.

So after a complimentary glass of Champagne, Jan enjoyed scallops sitting on a bed of risotto that she found so delicious she almost licked the plate. As for me, another serving of the saucisses de Toulouse. Creature of habit? Why not?

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Travels in and out of France, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The people have spoken: Daglan’s election

Like so many things in our village, politics bubbles along beneath the surface, generally hidden from public view. There are whispers, private meetings, nods and winks.

But yesterday, for our municipal elections, the people spoke out clearly and dramatically. It was, at least in Daglan terms, an avalanche of votes. And the result was a rout.

To see what I mean about politics lying beneath the surface here (unlike the municipal elections I’m familiar with in Canada), have a look at how the two 15-member  lists of candidates for election were promoted. This photo shows a stretch of Daglan’s main street, with two metal signs where publicity was pasted:

Election publicity in Daglan.

Election publicity in Daglan.

That’s it. Nothing else was posted anywhere in the village (at least that I could see). Now have a closer look:

Election signs in Daglan: A closer look.

Election signs in Daglan: A closer look.

On the left is a poster for Daglan Autrement, which means “Daglan Differently,” or “Daglan in Another Way.” It includes a photograph of all 15 candidates, with leader Raymond Wey front and centre.  Monsieur Wey is a retired doctor and general in the French Army.

On the right is a poster with the 15 candidates for the other list, Daglan Demain, or “Daglan Tomorrow.” Front and centre in this poster is Pascal Dussol. There is also a simple sign promoting a public meeting (for the Daglan Demain team) held on Wednesday, March 19. (The Daglan Autrement team had held its public meeting on Saturday, March 15.) Monsieur Dussol owns a restaurant in neighbouring St. Cybranet, noted for its pizzas and its soggy and greasy French fries.

Now if you think the publicity is low-key, wait until you see the single, simple sign on the doors of our Salle des fêtes, or community hall, indicating that this is the place to vote:

Here's where you vote.

Here’s where you vote.

That was it. There wasn’t even a sign visible from the road, pointing toward the voting station at the hall. As in so many areas of village life, it seems to be expected that everyone will simply know what should be done, and where.

In any case, despite the low-key publicity, the turnout yesterday was huge — of the village’s 462 eligible voters, nearly 89% came out and voted. And their voice was loud and clear: the Daglan Autrement list was roundly defeated, and the Daglan Demain team was overwhelmingly endorsed. Twelve members of the Daglan Demain list of 15 were elected; only three from Daglan Autrement (including the leader, Raymond Wey) were named to the village council.

Disclosure: Now here I should note that the Radio Free Daglan family was involved a bit more than you might have known, as my wife Jan had been persuaded to run for the village council on the Daglan Autrement team. It was not something she actively sought, and she did worry that her French language skills might not be sufficient for the fast-talking ways of political life. But eventually she was convinced, and wound up playing an active role in activities such as door-to-door campaigning, attending meeting after meeting, and helping to deliver flyers. Although in the end she wasn’t elected, she did attract 165 votes — a good total, when compared with the 232 votes for Dominique Pasquet, who received more votes than any other candidate.

So as we understand it, there will be no need for another vote next Sunday. Daglan’s council of 15 members have been selected, and in due course the councillors will elect one of their members as mayor. We are assuming that the mayor will be Pascal Dussol, leader of the Daglan Demain list, since that’s the way things are usually done.

Posted in French government and politics, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Voting day No. 1

Readers of Radio Free Daglan with long memories may remember a photo that I posted last summer of a float in the annual village parade, which is a highlight of our four-day festival, or fête. Here’s the photo:

Note the words on the side of the soap box.

Note the words on the side of the soap box.

The theme of last year’s parade was publicité, or advertising, and this entry was a take-off on OMO soap powder, complete with a bathtub on the back of the float. The phrase 0% alcool on the front of the box was a sly dig at the authorities who want to crack down on excessive drinking during the fête and similar events.

But there were additional words on the side of the box that I hadn’t noticed at first, and then wrote about in “Beneath the foam: A look back  at the fête,” which I posted on August 25, 2013:

You may recall that in my posting on the parade, I pointed out that the front of the laundry soap package on the float said “0% alcohol.” What I missed at the time, however, were the words that you can just barely see on the side of the float: Promo. Printemps 2014. Grand lessivage.

Translation: “Special Offer. Spring 2014. Big clean-up.” In other words, “Look for a big cleaning out of the civic administration during next spring’s elections.”

Well, those elections are now taking place. Today is the first of two days of voting (the second vote comes next Sunday) which will result in our village having a new council, to be in place for the next six years. Stay tuned!

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