Carnaval: The fête parade we never saw

You are about to witness some of the madness that was last Sunday’s parade in Daglan, a key event in our village’s four-day Fête de la St. Louis. These pictures are only possible because of the kindness of friends with cameras, because my wife Jan and I were in Paris on Sunday and completely missed seeing the parade.

Actually, if there is one part of the Daglan summer festival that I enjoy (and to be honest it’s the only one) it’s the Sunday parade. It’s a pretty wacky, homemade sort of affair, and everyone who takes part seems to enjoy the fun.

The crowds along the way join in, usually accepting with good grace the water that’s sprayed on them and the confetti that’s tossed everywhere.

For this year’s parade, the weather was less steamy than usual, although the sky was overcast (as you’ll see in the photos). The parade theme was Carnaval, so you can imagine that riotous colours and general goofiness were the orders of the day. Even villagers not in the actual parade got in on the action — for example, here’s the team at Daglan’s popular tea room, Le Thé Vert, in full costume, with a neighbouring man joining them in celebration (photo courtesy of Judith Thomason):

The woman with the green accented costume is Judith, the tea room's owner.

The woman with the green accented costume is Judith, the tea room’s owner.

As for the parade itself, all the following photos were provided exclusively to Radio Free Daglan by Alex Colquhoun, a young woman who will be returning to university in Scotland shortly, after spending the summer as an au pair with a Daglan family. (Many thanks, Alex!)

We’ll start with the float representing a carnival in Mexico:

The Mexican float heads into Daglan.

The Mexican float heads into Daglan.

You’ll note that the guy in the lower left of the photo has made time for a siesta, so it’s probably a fairly authentic Mexican float:

There's always time for a siesta.

There’s always time for a siesta.

It seems that an entry with a Chinese theme was another hit of the parade. Here’s the float being pulled up from the staging area and onto the main road into Daglan:

The Chinese float is pulled into the parade.

The Chinese float is pulled into the parade.

This photo will give you a better idea of how elaborate the float was:

A full-on look at the Chinese pagoda.

A full-on look at the Chinese pagoda.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chinese celebration without the traditional paper dragon, which was carried in front of the pagoda on the float:

The traditional dragon leads the way.

The traditional dragon leads the way.

And here’s the dragon in the centre of the village, being waved right into the rows of onlookers:

Getting up close with the dragon.

Getting up close with the dragon.

Any good parade needs at least one marching band, and here’s the band that starred in Sunday’s celebration. They’re shown in front of La Petite Minoche, the popular shop in the centre of the village that sells all sorts of hats, featuring chapeaux made by the shop’s owner:

Here comes the marching band.

Here comes the marching band.

This next entry appears to represent Italy’s most famous carnival (the Carnevale de Venezia):

And now, representing Venice...

And now, representing Venice…

In this year when the World Cup was held in Brazil, it was inevitable that a float representing the fun and games of that huge country would be part of the Daglan parade. And here it is:

The Brazilian carnival float enters the parade.

The Brazilian carnival float enters the parade.

As you can see, there was a lot of activity around the float:

The Brazilian float in full swing.

The Brazilian float in full swing.

And this costumed guy on top of the float naturally attracted a lot of attention:

The centre of attention in the Brazilian float was this guy.

The centre of attention in the Brazilian float was this guy.

For a final look at the parade, here’s a decorated car moving through the centre of Daglan, with handfuls of confetti being flung around:

Flinging confetti at the onlookers.

Flinging confetti at the onlookers.

So far, all the reports on the fête and the parade have been positive, and I’m almost sorry we missed it. Now — where can we go next summer?

Posted in Festivals in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Paris in celebration mode (again)

There were several good reasons for our trip to Paris this past weekend, not that we ever need much encouragement to visit our favourite city.

In any case, our reasons this time included the chance to socialize with my sister Karen and her husband Mark, who were visiting from Florida; a day trip to see the Normandy coast where Canadian troops came ashore as part of D-Day in June 1944; missing Daglan’s overly long and loud fête; and some brilliant culinary experiences.

More on all that in later posts. But just for today, here are a few glimpses of how Paris has been celebrating its liberation from the Nazis in August 1944 — with World War II vehicles parading through the streets.

The following photos were taken by Radio Free Daglan’s Chief Staff Photographer, my wife Jan, near our favourite café for people-watching, Le Tourville on the Place l’Ecole-Militaire. For some time yesterday (Monday), we watched a steady stream of vehicles pouring out of the military school’s gates and heading out into the city.

Here’s one of them:

A tank leaves the military school.

A small armed vehicle leaves the military school.

And another:

Another army vehicle moves out.

Another army vehicle moves out.

And another:

Heading out into the streets of Paris.

Heading out into the streets of Paris.

And one last photo:

Netting covers this personnel carrier.

Netting covers this personnel carrier.

It was good to see that a small group of people — Parisians? visitors? — had gathered on the sidewalk in front of our café to cheer on the vehicles. Celebrating, and remembering.

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All set to go!

It’s that time of the year again, and our village is all set to go. The sky is blue, the weather is good (pleasant and not too hot), and les Daglanais are as prepared as they’ll ever be.

For some time, Daglan has been kicking into full fun mode for the annual four-day end-of-summer festival. The posters are up, all over the village, like this one on the outside of the 8 à Huit, our convenience store and unofficial centre for news dissemination:

The poster provides the days for the festival -- all four of them.

The poster provides the days for the festival — all four of them.

Yes, it’s the Fête de la St. Louis (and no, I don’t understand why it’s “la” St. Louis, so if you understand the grammar, please share your thoughts with a Comment at the end of this posting). And this year, things seem much better organized than they were last year. One indication is that there are yellow banners hanging throughout the village, unlike the scene last year when publicity went into a sink hole. The banners indicate the theme of the Sunday fête parade over the years — like this banner for 1991:

The parade theme in 1991? The Bounty.

The parade theme in 1991? The Bounty.

And as of this evening, the stands and stalls and rides were pretty much all in place — like the huge bumper-car ride that dominates La Place de la Liberté, Daglan’s main square. Here it is, just behind that black car moving along the street:

A ride in the main square of Daglan, France, as part of the summer festival, August 2014.

The bumper cars are all set to go.

Aside from the rides (and the noise from the speakers attached to the rides, which play all night long), what’s involved?

Well, on Friday (Aug. 22), there’s the “festive meal” starting at 8 p.m., followed by a musical show. Then on Saturday, there’s an afternoon pétanque tournament; games for children; a dinner; and then a rock concert starting at 10 p.m. On Sunday, there’s the afternoon parade, which I consider the best part of the whole festival, since it’s typically a wacky affair; as an example, here’s a photo from last year’s parade, showing Daglan’s main street covered in foam from one of the floats:

A foamy coating on Daglan's main street.

A foamy coating on Daglan’s main street.

Late on Sunday evening there’s a pretty good fireworks show, and on Monday the whole festival concludes with a bike race (that draws scant attention) and a final dance (a Bal Musette) in the evening.

This year’s parade theme promises to encourage full-blown, over-the-top wackiness. It’s Carnaval. Yikes!

A final, personal note: My wife Jan and I are “all set to go” as well. We’re off to Paris and Normandy tomorrow morning, very early. So we’ll be missing the festival. (Drat.) But we’re sure to get a full report from the young woman who’s looking after our house, and our cat Scooter, while we’re away.

 

Posted in Festivals in France, French food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Busy market, big haul

After a spell of rainy weather, today turned out to be sunny — and so of course Daglan’s Sunday market was packed. At this point in August, it’s fair to say that we’re at the absolute peak of the tourist season.

Here’s a look at the market action, in Place de la Liberté, at about 11 this morning:

Daglan's weekly market in action.

Here’s another look at the market, where the focus is on food products — from cheeses to honey to fruits and vegetables and sausages:

Another view of the market action.

Another view of the market action.

Earlier in the morning, my wife Jan returned from a short shopping trip to report that the melon man from the Lot, the département just south of us, also was selling green beans grown in his own garden.  Here’s his table:

The melon man from the Lot.

The melon man from the Lot.

However, Jan wasn’t allowed to buy just enough beans for the two of us at one meal — the melon man’s  rule was that you had to buy a whole kilogram of the beans. So she did, impressed that the price was just 2.5 euros for the whole bag. At the same time, she also bought a melon, and a small basket of strawberries. Here’s the haul:

That's a full kilo of garden-fresh green beans.

That’s a full kilo of garden-fresh green beans.

And the disposition of all this? First, we had a good serving of green beans with today’s lunch of roast magret (duck breast) with blueberry sauce and whipped potatoes; the beans were delicious. (Jan gave the remainder of the beans to our neighbour Françoise, who is currently hosting several family members.) Next, we had the strawberries with a serving of Jan’s own semifreddo for dessert. As for the melon, I suspect it will show up at breakfast tomorrow morning.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Name this insect!

In case you missed the news, Daglan now has another nice spot where you can relax with a coffee or cold drink, or enjoy a light lunch.

At one end of the village, there’s Le Thé Vert, the popular tearoom that’s been operating for some years. And now in the centre of the village, across from the post office, there’s the patio beside the boutique of Fabrice le Chef. The shop itself is a year-round venture run by Fabrice and his wife Samantha, but the patio is available for just the two top months of our tourist season, July and August.

In any case, my wife Jan and I were having coffee recently on Fabrice le Chef’s patio when we spotted an unusual, and apparently quite friendly, visitor: a metallic-blue insect that kept flying around near us, even landing on my hand.

Our first thought is that it was a type of dragonfly. But having done a bit of Internet research, I suspect it could have been a damselfly. Perhaps a male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)? Or maybe a Common Blue Damselfly?

Here he is, seated with wings tightly folded, on a red-leafed plant beside our table. You be the judge:

The little blue fellow is seated on a red leaf.

The little blue fellow is seated on a red leaf.

If you recognize him, let us all know by leaving a note in Comments (below). But sorry, no prizes available.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Two hits and a miss: Lunch at LPP

It was a bit overcast on Thursday as the three of us walked up from our house to Le Petit Paris, the restaurant on the edge of Daglan’s main square. My wife Jan and I have eaten at LPP many times in the past, of course, but on Thursday we were accompanied by a newcomer to the restaurant.

With us was Alex, a young English woman and a student at the University of Edinburgh, currently employed for the summer as an au pair for two children in the village. She had wanted to try the restaurant, and knew that we enjoyed it. So, after a glass or two of Champagne at our house, we headed to lunch. Despite the grey weather, we were seated on the terrace, protected by a large umbrella.

Although we had enjoyed half a bottle of Champagne chez nous, we still had Champagne cocktails at our table while nibbling on the amuse-bouches — small glasses of chilled potato-and-green-bean soup, and duck rillettes. Then it was on to the main event. And the final score was, for me anyway, two hits and one miss.

Full disclosure. I should note at the start that I find the notion of raw chunks of white onion on a “fine” dish to be off-putting at best. Sure, you can have them on your hot dog at a baseball game. And once cooked down, they lose their sharpness and can be delicious on all kinds of food. But to my mind, using raw white onion on a delicate dish is like a woman getting dressed up for an evening out, and then dabbing gasoline behind her ears. So there.

And now on to Hit No. 1. This was my entrée, and it was quite wonderful. It’ a refreshing salad of cracked wheat with lots of citrus flavour, and perfectly cooked shrimp. It did have a few pieces of white onion on it — why? why? — but they were easy to move aside.

A refreshing and delicious start to my lunch.

A refreshing and delicious start to my lunch.

The Miss. My main course was the “miss.” It was a piece of salmon, roasted with a chopped- walnut crust, and served atop a bed of puréed white beans. So far, so good. But if the X-ray vision on your Internet browser is working properly, you’ll see that inside the salmon, things had become too dry; yes, it was overcooked, probably by several minutes. And then to make matters worse, there were bits of raw white onion scattered all over the place.

What's with the onions?

What’s with the onions?

Hit No. 2. Fortunately the meal closed on a high note, with LPP’s own take on that classic French dessert, the Paris-Brest cake. (The original was created in 1910 to honour the Paris-Brest-Paris bike race, and the round shape is supposed to suggest bicycle wheels. It’s made of chou pastry and typically filled with a praline-flavoured cream.) In the Le Petit Paris version, there were strawberries in the cream, and deeply toasted walnuts on top. Outstanding.

A strawberry-studded twist on a classic French dessert.

A strawberry-studded twist on a classic French dessert.

So on balance, it was a good lunch, accompanied by a nice rosé wine from Provence, and enhanced by an enjoyable chat with Alex. Unfortunately, through the night, all I could taste was raw onions.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Easy, breezy among the vines

Many of the posts on this blog describe fine dining in the Greater Daglan Area (GDA). But every now and then we push away from the restaurant table and explore more modest spots. So it was last week as my wife Jan and I followed up on a  suggestion of our friend Rosemary to try La Terrasse.

La Terrasse is a brand-new café across from the Tour Panoramique (or Panoramic Tower) de Moncalou, which means it’s a good place to relax after some sightseeing. It takes less than 15 minutes to drive there from Daglan, but it’s also a good destination if you’re cycling and you don’t mind some steep climbs.

The Tour Panoramique is on top of a hill in the centre of the GDA’s wine country, the home of Vin de Domme, and Les Vignerons des Coteaux du Céou (that’s the Winemakers of the Hills of the Céou ). The Céou River is a tributary of the mighty Dordogne, and runs through Daglan.

An easy way to reach the tower and La Terrasse is to drive or cycle from Daglan to Bouzic. When you see these signs, just turn right, head through the hamlet of Bouzic, and follow the signs that will lead you up into wine country.

Take the next right when you see these signs.

Take the next right when you see these signs.

When you finally reach the chai, where Vin de Domme is made and aged, you can stop for a tasting and perhaps buy a few bottles (we think the rosé is quite good). Then it’s on to the panoramic tower, shown here, where you can survey the surrounding vineyards and forests:

This is the panoramic tower, across the road from La Terrasse.

This is the panoramic tower, across the road from La Terrasse.

Immediately across from the tower is La Terrasse, brand new and still needing a bit of landscaping. It’s a wooden structure, with a pleasant deck that overlooks the countryside. Here’s how it looked on Saturday, with its friendly Dutch owner and chef waving goodbye to us, as we left the café after lunch:

The restaurant, with its owner waving goodbye.

The restaurant, with its owner waving goodbye.

To be clear, this isn’t the place for a fine meal. Instead, it’s an informal spot where you can enjoy the breezes on the hill while you have a drink and perhaps a snack or light meal. Here was the scene on Saturday, with our waitress serving another table:

A server at La Terrasse takes orders.

A server at La Terrasse takes orders.

On our first visit, Jan and I enjoyed some rosé wine, and I wolfed down a ham-and-cheese panini; on our second visit, we had lunch, which I’ll come to shortly. First, here’s the view from our table, looking past the top of our wine bottle to a scattering of oak trees, with rows of grape vines in the field below:

The view over the top of our bottle of rosé wine.

The view over the top of our bottle of rosé wine.

Prices at La Terrasse are reasonable — on Saturday, we paid a total of 37 euros for a bottle of rosé, a hamburger-with-foie-gras plate for Jan and a pizza for me, plus two espressos.

The owner/chef took a fair amount of time with us, discussing Jan’s allergy to gluten and ensuring that none of the ingredients he used for her meal included gluten. Jan was quite happy with her meal (see below), while I thought my pizza needed more baking. Interestingly, when I told the chef that the crust should be more crispy and the toppings a bit browned, he said I wasn’t the first to make that complaint — and he’d make a point to ask customers in future how they like their pizza baked.

Hamburger topped with a slice of foie gras.

Hamburger topped with a slice of foie gras.

A final note: If you like the colour orange, you’ll love La Terrasse. It’s clear that the owner is proud of his Dutch heritage, and has used the colour of the Dutch Royal Family wherever possible.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions, Walking in the Dordogne, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments