French connection: Morocco, Part III

We are now settled at home in Daglan, where the sun is shining, where I just finished some chores in shirtsleeves (no jacket required), and where spring is in the air. But in today’s posting I’ll take a final look back at our Moroccan vacation, in the last week of February. The topic? The resort where we stayed.

A few introductory comments. Why am I writing about a commercial enterprise — is this an ad? Absolutely not. Radio Free Daglan doesn’t accept advertising; I write about things that interest me. And I was particularly interested in Club Med, because for all that I’ve read and heard about the resort chain over the years, my wife Jan and I had never visited one of its properties. Finally, I’ve written this posting somewhat differently: You’ll find short bits of text at first, interspersed with lots of photos; then near the end of the posting, I have more detailed comments, just in case you’re still interested. And awake.

So with no further build-up, here’s the sign that greeted us as we arrived from the airport at the Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie:

At the entrance to the resort grounds.

At the entrance to the resort grounds.

Having made our way through security at the front gate, we travelled along a well-landscaped road to reach the entrance:

We pass through a gate and head towards the resort.

We pass through a gate and head towards the resort.

As we climbed out of our van, we were greeted by Club Med staff and a group of men playing Moroccan music, and looking like this:

Moroccan music greets us at the entrance.

Moroccan music greets us at the entrance.

The grounds are absolutely immense, since they encompass, among other things, a gigantic swimming pool (unheated: never got in it); a golf course; a putting green; bocce courts; tennis courts; a nightclub and an adjoining theatre; a gym; a spa; and lots of wide-open spaces like this terrace:

Part of the huge terrace adjoining the main pool.

Part of the huge terrace adjoining the main pool.

Here’s a look at just one part of the main pool:

Part of the resort's main swimming pool.

A quiet corner of the resort’s main swimming pool.

And here’s a view over the resort grounds, as seen from a tall tower on the property. If I’ve got my bearings right, we’re looking towards Marrakesh itself, with foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the distance:

A view from a tower on the grounds.

A view from a tower on the grounds.

Our room was reasonably spacious and well-appointed, and the mattress was nice and firm. The daily towel art that our maid provided was just a bonus:

Towel art -- two swans on our bed.

Towel art — two swans on our bed.

The biggest surprise for me was just how family-oriented this Club Med was. In my mind, the chain still had a sort of “Swinging Sixties” reputation, but in fact it seems to have evolved dramatically, and now puts a high priority on families — and especially on keeping kids entertained. Just one of countless entertainments for the kids was this pair of snake charmers:

Two snake charmers kick off their act.

Two snake charmers kick off their act.

In this photo, the back-up man keeps beating his drum, while the lead charmer gets up close and personal with his cobra — as the kids sit mesmerized:

The lead charmer plays kissy-face with a cobra.

The lead charmer plays kissy-face with a cobra.

One morning, the Club Med staff took the younger kids off on an excursion on the grounds, painted their faces, and then led a parade back onto the main terrace, where their parents welcomed them before lunch:

Parents re-join their kids at the end of a parade through the grounds.

Parents re-join their kids at the end of a parade through the grounds.

Horseback riding was a popular activity, and so was riding camels, like this:

Parents and kids enjoying a camel ride.

Parents and kids enjoying a camel ride.

And what about food and wine, I can almost hear you asking. Well, there was an awful lot of it, and it was generally excellent, although having every meal as a buffet can be a bit disappointing, especially as the dishes were closer to lukewarm than hot. (Actually, the meals in the main restaurant were all buffet-style; there is another restaurant on the grounds that does provide a menu, but we didn’t find the food as appetizing there as in the main restaurant.)

My favourite meal on the grounds was an outdoor lunch that was beautifully set up. We walked to our table on carpets, past a sort of honour guard of camels and horses, and then chose from a great variety of Moroccan foods, much of it freshly cooked on grills. There was live music, some communal singing, and a friendly atmosphere. Here’s how it looked:

A beautiful Moroccan meal in the sunshine.

A beautiful Moroccan meal in the sunshine.

The variety and abundance of foods at every meal were amazing. Unlike the meals at other all-inclusive resorts we’ve visited, the meals at this Club Med didn’t suffer from the “sameness” problem — on a given night, dinner might include several kinds of pasta, a huge variety of salads, several fish and seafood dishes, a number of meats, and much more. Like Beef Wellington, for example:

Beef Wellington on the dinner buffet table.

Beef Wellington on the dinner buffet table.

For me, breakfast was a real highlight. At home, it’s usually some Greek yoghurt and a bran cereal, but when I’m travelling, I love a big, hot breakfast. Every day at the resort, one of the countless breakfast offerings was an egg dish made by a very quick chef, who made omelettes as well as simple fried eggs:

The egg chef was on hand for every breakfast.

The egg chef was on hand for every breakfast.

But the killer for me was the huge assortment of pastries — certainly as good as, and possibly better than, any I’ve ever eaten for breakfast at a hotel in Paris, and with much more variety. Personally, I hold the pastry chefs mostly responsible for the weight I gained in our week (more on that later). Have a look:

My favourites -- and my downfall.

My favourites — and my downfall.

Vacationers don’t live for food alone, of course, and Club Med resorts are known for some pretty professional entertainment each evening, with shows like this:

One of the shows, held each night in the resort's theatre.

One of the shows, held each night in the resort’s theatre.

Several of the shows featured acrobats, tossing each other around the stage, or circling out over the audience:

An acrobat swings over the audience at the resort's theatre.

An acrobat swings over the audience at the resort’s theatre.

So that should give you a pretty thorough view of what our resort was like. But if you’re interested, here are some summary thoughts:

The accommodation. We were happy enough with our room, although it did lack some of the extras that seem to be expected at luxury hotels — little bottles of body lotion, fluffy bathrobes, and so on. On the plus side, it had a large walk-in shower (not the tricky and sometimes terrifying shower-bath combinations found in so many French hotels), was kept very clean, and was supplied with fresh bottled water each day.

The weather. Mornings and evenings were surprisingly cool, and I wound up buying a zip-up  sweatshirt and a scarf to keep warm. But the afternoons were sunny and pleasant. I’m thinking that March or April might be better for a visit, if you’re after sun and swimming.

The food. For quantity, variety, and quality, the food at this Club Med was the best of any of the buffets we’ve had at various resorts and hotels. But we were happier at La Source in Grenada a few years ago, where breakfasts and lunches were buffets, but dinners were served à la carte. Jan in particular was unhappy that so many of the foods at the Club Med main restaurant were cool to lukewarm by the time we walked our plates back to our table.

The drinks. No complaints about the wine and other drinks. They were freely available, and generally quite good. We never felt compelled to pay extra for any of the “premium” wines, because the Moroccan rosé (actually a gris) was tasty and refreshing.  If you wanted to stretch out your dinner or lunch with another glass or two, or even another bottle, there was never a fuss. Bar service was usually quick and professional.

The activities. As you can imagine, no complaints here. We took part in the aquagym exercises one morning in the “tranquil” pool (adults-only, heated) but on other mornings we were either away from the resort or found the air simply too cool for comfort. We used the well-equipped gym quite a lot, and I had a good back massage at the spa one morning. As for other sports and activities, there are tons.

The guests. I’d say the clientele was reasonably upscale, but not over-the-top wealthy. The biggest surprise was how family-oriented the resort was, and frankly that was a bit of a bother. We didn’t mind the little kids around us — generally, they were quite cute and well-behaved, and we enjoyed watching some of their activities. But the pre-teens and teens were sometimes just too much, running through the bar, jumping off stairs, pushing one another, and so on.

The bottom line. Were we glad we went? Yes, for sure. Would we go again? No — the once was enough.  (On another trip to Morocco, we’d probably stay in another area, and possibly not in an all-inclusive resort.) Would we recommend this Club Med? Absolutely, if you have kids up to the age of 15 or 16 (after that age, teens find just about everything boring, especially if their parents are nearby).

And finally, what about that weight gain I’ve mentioned? Well, in the one week we were away, I packed on 2.4 kilos, or more than five pounds. Again, I blame the pastry chefs, plus the fact that we tended to eat big dinners (which we don’t, while at home). Having returned to Daglan, I’ve already lost about half that weight-gain, and I’m staying as far away from the bakery in Castelnaud as I can.

 

Posted in Food, Tourist attractions, Travels in and out of France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

French connection: Morocco, Part II

In today’s posting, we visit the medina of Marrakech — the city’s ancient quarter — and enter the souk or market via the Jamaa el Fna, a huge square in the heart of the city.

In the interests of accuracy, my wife Jan and I actually made the trip to the souk on the morning of Monday, February 23, at the start of our one-week vacation in Morocco. To get there, we took the free bus that was provided by our resort, the Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie.

As I wrote in yesterday’s posting, I was  enchanted with Morocco, as Jan was during her vacation there some 30 years ago. She particularly wanted me to see the Jamaa el Fna, a famous square whose name seems to have many spellings and many meanings, including “assembly of the dead,” named for the public executions that took place there.

I’ll confess I was a bit apprehensive about the venture, recalling the terrible explosion that took place on April 28, 2011 at a café on the edge of the square, killing 17 people. Just how tense would the place feel?

As it turned out, it was a pretty easy-going and enjoyable trip. As we clambered out of our bus, a man latched onto us and made it clear that he very much wanted to be our guide. After saying no quite a few times, we finally said yes; the price seemed reasonable for his morning’s work, and he was not only friendly but also spoke good English.

As we crossed the huge square, which seemed fairly bare, he explained that mornings tend to be quieter; the activity picks up as the day rolls along. So for us, there was not a lot to see in the square, except for a few snake charmers, some monkeys on leashes, and women who could decorate your hands with henna.

Here is our guide chatting with Jan, as we stopped for a coffee and some water on the edge of the square.

We've stopped for coffee, water, and a chat with our guide.

We’ve stopped for coffee, water, and a chat with our guide.

After the coffee break, we finished our walk across the square, passing these stalls selling oranges and orange juice:

Orange juice was for sale at several stalls around the square.

Orange juice was for sale at several stalls around the square.

And then it was down this wide street, and into the souk itself:

Our guide walks with Jan across the square and towards the souk.

Our guide walks with Jan across the square and towards the souk.

What we found was a maze of inter-connecting small streets and alleyways, lined with stalls selling just about anything — jewellery, fresh meat, statues, clothing, shoes, lamps, and much more. The streets are narrow and cobbled, so the walking isn’t all that easy. Carts pulled by donkeys, or pushed by men, as well as bicycles and motor scooters, managed to thread their way among the shoppers. Here’s just one of many carts:

Carts like this were common sights in the market area.

Carts like this were common sights in the market area.

The next photo shows one of the loveliest and quietest streets we saw, but it gives you some idea of the market area:

One of the quieter streets in the souk.

One of the quieter streets in the souk.

As it turned out, our guide had a specific destination in mind — a government-run store that sells a wide variety of herbs and spices and of course the ever-present Moroccan wonder-drug and all-purpose cooking-and-flavouring oil, argan oil. (That’s the oil that comes from a type of nut that goats seem to love, as I showed in yesterday’s posting.)

After a brief tour of the store, and a demonstration of argan oil extraction, we were led into this room where the store’s manager explained (in quite good English) the uses of virtually every herb, spice and oil mixture in the store:

We get a demonstration of how to rub oil on your temples.

We get a demonstration of how to rub oil on your temples.

In this next photo, he’s ticking off the benefits of argan oil. Eventually he finished his pitch, we bought a few items (including some saffron and one of the argan oil mixtures), and headed back out to the main square. After a rest and another coffee, we walked back to the waiting bus — thinking ahead to a big fat lunch.

Ticking off some of the benefits of the natural argan oil.

Ticking off some of the benefits of the natural argan oil.

And speaking of big fat lunches, in my next posting, I’ll offer a comprehensive review of our experience at the Club Med resort. You just might be surprised at how much weight a person can gain in a week.

Posted in Food, French language, Tourist attractions, Travels in and out of France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

French connection: Morocco, Part I

We are now back home in Daglan after spending the last week of February vacationing in the Kingdom of Morocco. It was the first time I had ever set foot on the African continent, but it was the second visit to Morocco for my wife Jan, who has raved about the country for years.

Morocco turned out to be easily the most “exotic” or different country I’ve ever visited, and one of the things that surprised me was just how French the people and customs are. (Quick facts: the population of Morocco is just over 33 million; and it became fully independent in March 1956, with the ending of the French protectorate.) Hence my title, the “French connection.”

While Arabic and Berber are the country’s official languages, French is spoken widely, and we used it frequently. Interestingly, we commented that many French-speakers in Morocco were easier to understand than some of our neighbours in Daglan, probably because they learned French in school, instead of picking up the language (and the slang, and the accent) from family and friends in rural France.

In any case, in this and the next two postings, I plan to give you a taste of the country and the places we visited.

We’ll start with the airport in Marrakech where we landed, having flown via Air France directly from Toulouse. The flight takes just a bit over two hours, so that part of the journey was  quite easy. (Typically, of course, travel from Daglan is not all that straightforward. First we had to drive 30 minutes to Gourdon; then take the train for about two hours to Toulouse; then take a taxi to an airport hotel; and then spend the night at the hotel to catch a morning flight.)  In any case, here’s the airport in Marrakech:

Here's where we landed in Marrakech.

Here’s where we landed in Marrakech.

On the way to our resort, we saw the kind of mixed traffic you might expect — modern cars and trucks and buses, plus beat-up vehicles, plus pedestrians trying to dodge their way across busy streets, with bicycles and motorbikes everywhere, and quite a few carts being pulled by horses or mules. Or men.

But it certainly wasn’t the terrifying or chaotic scene that I’ve observed (at least on television) in some countries in Africa and Asia; and in fact, I think I could drive more comfortably by myself in Marrakech than in Rome.

Exotic? Indeed. Street signs are usually in both Arabic and French; the dress is obviously specific to Morocco; and you do come across camel drivers and snake charmers reasonably often. This man and his cobra were on display at our resort, entertaining a group of children one afternoon, but we also saw quite a few snake charmers in the main square of Marrakech:

This snake charmer was performing -- for the benefit of kids -- at our resort.

This snake charmer was performing — for the benefit of kids — at our resort.

A sight we both loved was the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, which lie outside Marrakech. When Jan was in Morocco some 30 years ago, her visit was in September, so the snow hadn’t fallen yet on the mountaintops. But for our February trip, the snow was still glistening.

In this next photo, taken from a tower on our resort grounds, you can make out the mountains in the distance, although they may look like fluffy clouds to you:

The snow-capped Atlas Mountains are in the distance.

The snow-capped Atlas Mountains are in the distance.

While we spent much of our time at our resort (a Club Med facility), we did get off the grounds to visit the heart of Marrakech, as well as the port of Essaouira, formerly a Portuguese stronghold known as Mogador.

Six of us made the day-long trip to and from Essaouira — the driver and our guide, with Jan and me, and another couple of tourists from Switzerland. Along the way, we made a few stops, first for some (truly awful) coffee. Then we pulled over to see a group of goats, who regularly climb the argan tree to eat its fruit; the nut inside provides the incredibly popular argan oil that is used both in cooking and to treat virtually every ailment known to mankind. Here are the argan-munching goats at work:

Just off the highway was this tree, covered in hungry goats.

Just off the highway was this tree, covered in hungry goats.

As we stood by the side of the road, a shepherd rushed over with a kid for us to admire. Here’s our fellow traveller, the woman from Switzerland, holding the beautiful young goat:

Our companion on the trip was able to cuddle with this kid.

Our companion on the trip was able to cuddle with this kid.

As we approached Essaouira, heading down from the hills toward the Atlantic Ocean, our guide stopped our van so that we could admire the town and its harbour in the distance. Strictly by chance (ha!) there were a couple of camels on the scene, just itching to have their photos taken with the tourists, and to earn a tip for their owner. Here I am, at a comfortable distance from the larger of the two camels:

Looking down from the hills to the harbour of Essaouira.

Looking down from the hills to the harbour of Essaouira.

Once we reached Essaouira, we headed for the harbour itself, and braced ourselves against some fierce winds as we looked over the fishing fleet:

Checking out the fishing boats in the harbour.

Checking out the fishing boats in the harbour.

We also took some time to watch boats being repaired, and some being built. The owner of this boat took the photo himself, and told us that it would six men a full year to complete the vessel:

A work in progress.

Boat-building: a work in progress.

As we neared the end of our visit to the harbour, we came across two fishermen who were cleaning squid — while being watched very closely by a patient cat, who was obviously hoping for a scrap or two:

The patient cat kept waiting for one of the fishermen to offer a treat.

This patient cat kept waiting for one of the fishermen to offer a treat.

And then we walked off to a hotel, where we spent a few relaxed hours with some tasty Moroccan rosé wine and perhaps the best meal of our trip — a delicious plate of nicely spiced and fried John Dory.

In my next posting, we’ll go into the heart of Marrakech itself.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Food, History in France, Travels in and out of France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mixed results at a new Asian restaurant

Even the most ardent lover of traditional food here in the Périgord can grow weary of cuisse de canard and magret de canard and manchons de canard. So a new Asian restaurant — like a Vietnamese restaurant that recently opened in Sarlat — is an obvious draw.

My wife Jan and I are big fans of Sawadee, a Thai restaurant in Cénac, a short drive from Daglan, but sadly it’s now closed for the winter.

So on Friday, on a shopping trip to Sarlat, we decided to have lunch at Le Bambou. And our verdict? Decidedly mixed.

Le Bambou is right on one of the main streets leading into downtown Sarlat, not far from the  renovated Lidl supermarket. It’s in an old limestone building, and looks attractive enough. Here it is:

Red lanterns make the entrance easy to spot.

Red lanterns make the entrance easy to spot.

The inside looks pretty good too, with exposed stone walls around the perimeter and some nice modern touches as well:

The interior is comfortable, with reasonably well-spaced tables.

The interior is comfortable, with reasonably well-spaced tables.

We liked some of the decorative touches, like these planters suspended on a wall near our table:

Planters hanging on a wall.

Planters hanging on a wall.

When it came to ordering, however, things got a bit messier. The head man — presumably the owner — was enthusiastic, but hard to understand. Just one example: We ordered a glass of sake to begin, and when it arrived I asked him (in French), whether it was hot. “Oh, oui, oui!” he exclaimed. Then we took a sip and found that it was cold. I can only presume that he thought I was asking if it was warming, as opposed to hot (and it was indeed very warming).

Things got worse when the waitress arrived, and Jan tried to explain her gluten allergy, including the fact that we had brought along a bottle of gluten-free soy sauce for the kitchen to use when preparing Jan’s dishes, if required. That discussion went pretty much nowhere, and at times our waitress seemed to be speaking more Vietnamese than French. Much confusion.

Still, we ordered, and hoped for the best.

As my entrée, I chose shrimp sticks — sort of like shrimp fritters wrapped around sticks of sugar cane and then deep-fried. They were fine, if a bit gummy, and the sauce that came  with them helped. Here’s my plate:

The shrimp on sugar cane sticks were good, but a bit gummy.

The shrimp on sugar cane sticks were good, but a touch gummy.

For my plat principal, I ordered canard laqué (or lacquered duck), thinking it would have a crispy skin like Peking duck. Instead, my plate was a whole lot of duck breast slices covered in a sauce. It was fine (although much too large a portion), but not really what I wanted or expected. Here it is:

The duck breast slices were drowning in sauce.

The duck breast slices were drowning in sauce.

For dessert, I decided on something tropical — like a banana dessert. So I chose the kind of dessert that comes with three scoops of ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and chopped nuts. Yes, it was the traditional banana split. like this:

That Vietnamese classic: A banana split.

That Vietnamese classic: A banana split.

So we left the restaurant well fed, and not really unhappy. But neither were we delighted with either the service or the food, and so the consensus is that we probably won’t be rushing back. Meanwhile, we look forward to Sawadee in Cénac re-opening, next month.

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

Strip the Willow, Daglan-style

It’s a bit nerve-wracking to organize a party for neighbours in Daglan, strictly for linguistic reasons.

Since the Greater Daglan Area has so many holiday home owners whose first language isn’t French, how will the party chatter go? The risk is that the party will simply divide into separate and awkward clusters — French-speakers standing together, English-speakers in their own groups, and so on.

But our Scottish friends Suzanne and Mark bravely took on the challenge last Friday, holding a wonderfully successful early-New-Year party, and had a brilliant idea for getting everyone together — Scottish dancing.

Of course there were lots of other elements to the successful party. The venue was their large, renovated home with a gorgeous view; the drinks table was covered in bottles of Champagne and wine; and there were trays and trays of wonderful foods, including a number of appetizers from the boutique of Fabrice le Chef in Daglan, plus some foods that Suzanne made.

(Best idea of this past holiday season: A “samosa” made of phyllo pastry, and filled with those Scottish classics — haggis, neeps and tatties. I believe credit for the idea goes jointly to Suzanne and her sister-in-law Morag.  In any case, I lost count of how many I ate.)

Early on, the guests did make an effort to mingle and mix, with English-speakers doing their best to speak French, and vice versa. (To their credit, the Dutch seem to be generally the most comfortable in French as well as English, in addition to their native tongue.) But things really got rolling when the furniture was cleared from the living room, to allow for  dancing.

And to the surprise of most guests, the dancing wasn’t the usual Gangnam-Style hopping around, but a succession of Scottish dances.

It may be obvious that my Scottish-born wife, Jan, would know her way around Scottish dancing, but even I know quite a few of the numbers. For years, Jan and I attended the annual St. Andrew’s Ball in Toronto’s huge Royal York Hotel,  dressed in full Scottish gear and sharing a table with six close friends. (My kilt, by the way, is Ancient Dress Macdonald, since Jan is a proud Macdonald.) All through the evening, some 1,200 people danced everything from the relatively simple Gay Gordons to the tricky Eightsome Reel.

The mix wasn’t as complex at last Friday’s party, but there was still a good bit of variety. There was the inevitable Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant, a pretty ragged Eightsome Reel, and the dance that’s probably the most fun of all, the speedy Strip the Willow.

It was great to see everyone joining in — people whose home countries included Canada, France, Holland, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. Here’s one look at the fun:

Nothing like some Scottish dancing to get the party going.

Nothing like some Scottish dancing to get the party going.

Today we received our invitation to the village’s annual get-together to offer good wishes for the New Year — la traditionelle cérémonie des vœux — which takes place on Saturday, January 17 in Daglan’s Salle des Fêtes.

Maybe this year, Scottish dancing could be added to the celebrations.

A side note: One of the most pleasant personal surprises at the party, for Jan and me, was the number of times we heard this blog being discussed. One French man who recently became a neighbour of Suzanne and Mark started telling Jan and me about a blog he’d discovered — and was amazed when he found out he was chatting with the author. His girlfriend says she enjoys reading it while sipping a glass of wine at her home in Versailles. Later in the evening, a French tradesman made a point of writing down the blog’s address, because he said he’s heard so many of his clients mention Radio Free Daglan, and wanted to have a look. Well, we’re delighted.

 

Posted in Food, French food, French language, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our latest New Year health tip

Like many people, you’re probably wondering: “What can I do, as we enter this New Year, to ensure that I’m eating enough citrus fruit?”

The good news is that Radio Free Daglan is here to help, with our latest health tip. (Okay, I’ll admit that it may be our only health tip so far.)

Anyway, the answer is quite simple, and it relates to two ordinary facts of life: The holiday season, and your evening martini.

In holiday season, as you probably know, there are lots of tangerines around. Somehow, they just show up. Nobody knows why, or where they come from, or anything about them, except that they show up in supermarkets everywhere — and they are a citrus fruit. So that’s our starting point.

Next comes your evening martini. If you are clever (and why wouldn’t you be?) you keep your gin (or vodka, if you really must) in your freezer. That way, you don’t need to bother with the whole “stirred or shaken” question, and you’ll never worry about ice melting and diluting your drink. You’ll also save a lot of time fussing about.

So let’s get started, with building your martini, and then packing in your daily dose of citrus fruit.

First, “rinse” your martini glass with an orange-based liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier. No, you don’t actually wash the glass; you simply pour a bit of the liqueur into your glass, and swirl it around, and then toss it down the sink. (The liqueur, not the glass.) Then pour a little bit of dry vermouth into the glass.

Now for the citrus part: Using a very sharp knife, cut a small wedge of peel from a tangerine, stab it with a toothpick, and drop it into your glass as a garnish and flavour-enhancer. Finally, pour in a generous amount of ice-cold gin (or vodka).  There’s your evening martini, and frankly, you’ll love it.

And here’s the best part, at least in terms of citrus consumption: Having cut a wedge of peel from your tangerine, you’ll want to do something with the fruit itself. My health tip: Go ahead and eat the tangerine!

So, now you’ve had a good bit of citrus fruit, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your martini as part of your daily health regimen.

It’s also pretty nice looking, as you can see:

A beautiful, simple garnish to your evening martini.

A beautiful, simple garnish for your evening martini.

If you want to get really fancy, of course, you can cut a wedge of tangerine peel that has a bit of stalk and leaves, like this:

The leaves add an even more festive touch.

The leaves add an even more festive touch.

But that’s probably going too far, for an everyday drink.

In case you’re wondering about my qualifications for giving this sort of health advice, here you go: First, I’m a close personal friend of the VP Martinis of the Wild Forest Pig Contrada; if he doesn’t know how to build a martini, who does? Second, I grew up in Bradenton, Florida — the hometown and birthplace of the Tropicana orange empire.

 

Posted in Food, Life in southwest France, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Out of Africa — a twist on my experience with baby wild boars

This is a follow-up to the posting I wrote yesterday, about my experience in coming across an entire family of sangliers, or wild boars, just outside our village of Daglan.

Today we leave Europe for Africa, courtesy of our friend Robin, who is both a talented painter and a dedicated conservationist. She spends much of her time caring for orphaned primates at a sanctuary in Cameroon. Lately she’s been living in South Africa, where she’s focused on her paintings.

Once Robin saw my posting of yesterday — “The wild ones! (Boars, that is)” — she emailed me with a brief note about her recent visit to a baboon sanctuary near Kruger National Park in South Africa.

There she was given the opportunity to look after a young wart hog, with the wonderful name of Stella. What follows are the photos that Robin sent me of Stella, who is (I assume) some kind of distant cousin to the wild boars of Europe.

First, here’s Stella having a nibble on a log:

Apparently, Stella likes a good chew on some wood.

Apparently, Stella likes a good chew on some wood.

Here’s Stella, lying on her back and nestled in Robin’s lap, enjoying a belly rub:

Stella enjoys some gentle tummy-rubbing.

Stella enjoys some gentle tummy-rubbing.

And finally, here’s Stella doing what many youngsters like best — enjoying some milk:

Stella and her bottle of milk.

Stella and her bottle of milk.

And if you’re interested in the work Robin is doing — either her amazing art, or her work in caring for orphaned primates, have a look at her website. It’s http://www.peacefulportraits.com

 

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