Return of the (mountain) bikers

This past weekend was the occasion for some serious, national-level competition among off-road bicycle racers — the kind of young daredevils who ride what the French call a VTT, which stands for an all-terrain bicycle.

The competition was held once again just outside Saint Pompon, less than five kilometres from Daglan. And it’s a big event, with people arriving from all over the country. Here’s a look at just one of the parking lots:

Cars and campers fill the lots.

I’ve posted about this competition before — on May 28, 2012, in “VTT comes to the GDA,” and then on March 28, 2017, in “Thrills (and possibly spills) in the hills.”

It appears that this competition tends to be a family event — that is, Mom and Dad drive Junior (with his or her bikes) to the venue, because the competitors seem to be teenagers, and some are probably too young to drive.

The course is not only incredibly steep, but incredibly rugged, with serious rocks all over the place. Here’s a look at one young rider making his way up onto the course:

Heading up one of the main downhill runs.

Here’s another look at the same downhill run, with a couple of riders just barely visible up the slope:

One going up, two coming down.

By the way, I assume that the young guy heading up the track was going to make a sharp left before he collided with the riders coming down.

For a final look, here’s the finish line for at least one of the races:

And here’s the finish!

So, it’s quite a popular event. And while it’s not my cup of tea — and certainly not something I would or could attempt — I’m glad it’s a success, and I’m also glad to see so many young people who are fit enough, and skilled enough, to race the course.

 

 

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Posted in Bicycling in the Dordogne, Exercise and fitness, Life in southwest France, Sports, Sports in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our heavy hearts…

At this point, there is little I can add to the story of Monday’s terrible fire at Notre Dame de Paris, because the news coverage has been so intense and the feelings of so many people around the world — sadness, shock, despair, loss — thoroughly reported.

As it happened, on Monday evening I was watching a BBC News program called “Beyond 100 Days,” which features mostly political news from around the world, but mostly focused on the U.S. and the U.K. From the start, the program went to live coverage of the fire in Paris — and never left. My wife Jan joined me in our TV room, and we watched with heavy hearts.

So now I will add only a small personal touch, based on many trips to my favourite city.

A bit more than a year ago,  Jan and I had lunch with her cousin David and his wife Christine at La Tour d’Argent, the famous restaurant located on the Left Bank of the Seine.

I wrote about our visit in “Where to lunch on a birthday (in Paris),” which I posted on March 11, 2018. And in my posting, I included the following photograph, showing one of the breath-taking and inspiring views from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows:

A room with a view.

And there it is on the left of the photo, the famous cathedral topped by its sky-high spire, which has now disappeared.

We can only hope that the development team chosen to rebuild the cathedral can come reasonably close to meeting President Macron’s five-year target. Fingers crossed.

Posted in History in France, News about France, Paris restaurants, Restaurants in France, Tourist attractions, Travels in and out of France | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Dishes du jour — 6 – 04 – 2019

Yesterday (Saturday), we lunched at the Restaurant O Moulin in Carsac (30 minutes or so from Daglan) for the third time this year. And it was possibly the best meal yet — with true artistry on the plate.

For a full review of the restaurant, see my posting of February 12, “A river runs through it.” It’s easy to find earlier postings in the Archives column to the right of the main blog text.

This time my wife Jan and I were with our good friend Joanne, and after settling in with a kir vin blanc, and enjoying a delicious selection of amuse-bouche, we all decided that the choices on the three-course 45-euro menu seemed the most appealing.

And then it began: Perfectly cooked food, wonderful ingredients, artistically arranged plates, all brought to us with warm and friendly but professional service.

My starter was a nice surprise. It was described on the menu simply as mi-cuit foie gras, served with cocoa nibs and little cones of bergamot, the citrus flavour used in making Earl Grey Tea. But chocolate with foie gras? Have a look:

Looks like dessert, but it’s not.

When my dish arrived, we all commented that it looked more like a dessert than an entrée. But the chocolate topping over the foie, and the little cones of gel, and the crunchy cocoa nibs actually were perfect with the liver. To accompany it, I had a cold glass of Rosette from Bergerac, a wine that’s more fruity and less syrupy than the traditional Monbazillac. Meanwhile, Jan and Joanne were both very happy with their starter based on scallops in a velvety crab sauce.

For our plat principal, each of us chose the beef dish, and were delighted with the tender filet de bœuf Limousin and its vegetable and potato accompaniments, surrounded by a rich dark sauce.  With it, we had a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage red. Here’s my plate:

Tender beef with a rich sauce. Happy!

When it came time for dessert, Joanne was intrigued by the sound of a Mariage de la framboise et du coquelicot — described on the English-language menu as an “Alliance between the raspberry and the poppy.” As it turned out, the “poppy” was a tuile or baked wafer, and the whole effect was lovely. Here’s her dessert:

A raspberry delight.

As for my dessert, I once again found it impossible to resist the call of the chocolate — this time, Manjari chocolate, with nuts and blood orange. And of course I was delighted with this mix of chocolate flavours and textures:

Variations on the theme of chocolate.

After our coffees and mignardises, the three of us left for home, but all vowing to return to O Moulin before long.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A leader and a laggard

The wisteria (glycine in French) is like the little girl who had that curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad … well, you know the rest.

So here in the beating heart of Daglan, we have a couple of examples that prove the point about wisteria’s mysterious ways.

First off, here’s a look at  a vine that’s growing on the front of an old stone house, not much more than 100 metres from our home:

Is this impressive, or what?

Now, for a completely different experience, here’s a close look at the wisteria vine across the front of our home, with its few (rather pathetic) attempts at flowers:

Look closely. Really, really closely.

To see the flowers, you will need to put on your reading glasses. Or whip out your electron microscope. And this is the “exciting” part of our wisteria duet, because the vine on the right side of our front steps has absolutely no flower action.

I think it may be time to try the advice of our friend Helen — which is to speak very, very strongly to the vines. Apparently, she says, they may respond to sharp criticism.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France | 3 Comments

This spring’s bumper crop

Today, the last day of March, we have been basking in truly enjoyable weather, with lots of sunshine and a temperature of just above 20 degrees Celsius.

At a house beside Daglan’s main square, a family had set out a table this afternoon, and with a group of friends were enjoying a late lunch there. Much laughter ensued.

In this environment, you’re sure to see lots of flowering plant activity, and one of the most prominent crops these days is the lowly dandelion.

Here’s a typical expanse of the yellow flowers, thriving in a walnut grove beside the village’s rugby pitch:

Walnut trees are slower to come into leaf.

If you can get over the idea that a dandelion is a weed, they’re actual quite beautiful, I think.

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“All’s right with the world!”

Yes, I do know that all is not right with the world — far from it. However, that’s the first thing my wife Jan exclaimed today as we sat down for our first lunch of the year at Sawadee, the Thai restaurant in Cénac.

So while there are serious problems elsewhere on our planet, and indeed there are, at least there was a most happy couple today in the Greater Daglan Area.

For one thing, the sun has been shining, the temperature has broken through the 20-degree barrier (that’s 68 American), and flowering shrubs and trees are going gangbusters. Like this tree, in front of a large home near Sawadee:

One of the sure signs of spring.

Even better than the nice weather, however, was this year’s opening of Sawadee. In years past, the first meal (after a winter break) has been in February. But when we phoned to make a reservation, we were told that the restaurant was having work done — and that projects almost always take longer than first planned.

So, what was the work? Well, it’s quite nice — a completely new, crisp and clean bar area when you enter, which leads into a completely renovated kitchen, with all the latest high-tech cooking equipment, including refrigerated pull-out drawers.  Here’s a look:

Chef said she was delighted with her kitchen.

What counts, of course, is the food, and once again we were not disappointed. Jan had a shrimp dish that she loved, and I had my latest favourite — chicken sautéed with vegetables and cashews. Here’s my plate:

Tender chicken, and lots of veggies.

Even before I began to write this posting, I wanted to use Jan’s exclamation at lunch as my title. But when I sat down at the computer, Jan called up to me: “How about this for a title — ‘O joy, o bliss!'” And yes, that works as well. Good thing we’ve already made plans to have lunch at Sawadee with friends on Friday.

Posted in Food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Festival: from soggy to successful

Daglan’s Fête du Printemps, or Spring Festival, this year turned out to be almost a replay of the 2018 version — as the day started grey and drizzly, and then improved dramatically in the afternoon, with loads of shoppers strolling throughout the village and cars parked just about everywhere.

In fact, my description of last year’s event had a title much like today’s posting — “A wet fête turns sunny” it was called, on March 18, 2018.

As for this year’s event, around noon yesterday (March 17), my wife Jan and I walked up to the village bakery, where we were to meet friends Suzanne and Mark and head for a lunch outside Daglan. Here’s a couple of views of what we saw, starting with just a scattering of shoppers, carrying umbrellas or wearing hoods:

Umbrellas were a wise choice.

There’s no doubt that there was a great assortment of plants — flowers, vegetables, shrubs, vines, and trees — for sale at various locations throughout Daglan. On top of that, there were vendors selling a wide variety of wares, including various food items and  local wines. Here’s a nice grouping of flowers in the main village square:

A beautiful (but damp) selection of flowers.

In any case, we drove out of the village feeling as if the festival might not be much of a hit this year, simply because of the weather. Our lunch, on the other hand, was a definite hit — it was the second time that Jan and I had eaten at Restaurant O Moulin in Carsac-Aillac, and we and our friends had a really delicious meal.

I give this restaurant a very strong recommendation, so if you missed my detailed review, please have a look. It was called “A river runs through it,” and it was posted February 12, 2019.

After lunch, we drove back into Daglan — and were delighted to see that the sun had come out, and so had hordes of shoppers and visitors. As I’ve said before, this is a fête worth continuing.

Posted in Festivals in France, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments