Mid-Season report, and a blogging break

If you’re here in Europe, you’re experiencing it. If you’re elsewhere, you’ve been reading about it. Yes, Europe is in the midst of an awful, and awfully long, heat wave.

And as the “beating heart of Europe,” as the Greater Daglan Area is sometimes called, we have indeed been melting.

From your science lessons, you probably recall that hot air rises. And since the Global Headquarters of Radio Free Daglan is located on the top floor of our house, it’s particularly unpleasant up here, even with the fan struggling valiantly.

So I’m planning on a break from blogging, at least until later in the month, when (one hopes) things start to cool down. But first, some updates as we’ve now approached mid-Season (that is, more-or-less halfway between the peak tourist months of July and August):

The Big Festival. Let’s start with the biggest coming event: the annual Daglan fête, or what I have dubbed the Festival of Heat and Noise. Here’s the latest poster, with almost-complete details:

The mystery parade!

Events like the dinner and the various musical evenings are fine, if you like that sort of thing. But the must-see event is the parade — or Défilé de chars — on Sunday. I’ve written about the parade many times, and if you’re in the area, please do visit the village on the Sunday afternoon — it’s a great example of local wackiness, creativity, and just plain fun at its best. Unfortunately, the poster this year doesn’t specify what the “theme” of the parade will be. So, be prepared to be surprised.

Changes on the high street. We have had some welcome changes on the main street through the centre of Daglan. Here’s a look at the home of various workshops and artists’ galleries, called Les Ateliers:

Workshops and galleries.

But now, immediately next door, is the expanded home of La Goutte Noire (The Black Drop), which moved from across the street. It still offers lovely (and surprisingly well-priced) handmade jewelry, but now also offers a variety of items for babies and young children. (My wife Jan recently bought a new set of lovely earrings for herself, and a cute-cute-cute backpack for the young daughter of some friends.)

I wrote in detail about the jewelry and its maker in “A real jewel of Daglan,” posted on May 9, 2013. Check it out in the RFD archives.

And what of La Goutte Noire‘s previous home? Well, it’s now nicely occupied by a new shop, as you’ll see below.

More room for lovely jewelry.

Meet La Margotte, a very pretty shop across the street from La Goutte Noire, which is run by a talented young seamstress. Here’s an entrance:

Welcome to our newest retail outlet!

Virtually every day, there’s a new outfit on display just outside the store (see photo below). The fashions are attractive, and attractively priced, so much so that Jan has already bought two dresses (and had some alterations done ).

Inside the shop you’ll also find attractive and decorative items for the home, from mirrors with unusual frames to small statues to pottery items. It’s certainly worth a visit.

A new dress almost every day!

And on the food scene. The other big event on our high street is the major expansion that has taken place at La Cantine, the restaurant run by Fabrice (le Chef) Lemonnier. He’s expanded the dining area dramatically, and had a pretty terrace built in back of the restaurant.

I’ll be doing a more detailed report, but just not now. Not while the temperature up here is registering 30 degrees Celsius (86 American). Enjoy the break, and think cooling thoughts.

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Posted in Festivals in France, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Coming event! (Tomorrow, in fact)

If you’re vacationing on a Greek island or in the Caribbean, don’t drop everything and rush to Daglan. But if you’re in the area tomorrow (Sunday, July 29) you might want to visit our annual Promenade en Gastronomie. Lots of people will be there for sure.

Here’s some of what I wrote about the event in a blog posting last July:

… on Sunday Daglan will be hosting the annual Promenade en Gastronomie, which is basically a much-expanded weekly market featuring all kinds of goodies — including tapas à la truffe d’été, which is to say summer truffles.

Also included in the festivities will be Démonstrations, chiens truffiers, which is to say demonstrations of how a trained dog sniffs out truffles among the forest roots.

As I suggested at the outset, the market is not the most exciting event you could imagine, but it really is a good place to stroll around and buy some excellent food products (fruit, vegetables, sausages, and much more).

And of course, there’s the truffle dog exhibition, in which a dog and his handler wander around an enclosed area that’s packed with earth and studded with branches, until the dog sniffs out one or more buried truffles. Here’s how it looks:

Our shaggy truffle hunter is closing in.

Posted in Festivals in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newcomers to Le Petit Paris — and us

Two of our very good friends have had a holiday home quite near us for several years, within 100 metres or so of Daglan’s well known restaurant Le Petit Paris (LPP). And yet, they had never tried it. So on Sunday, my wife Jan and I joined them for what was our second lunch at LPP this year.

I wrote about this year’s first lunch at Le Petit Paris in “Back to LPP (and let the blogging begin!)” and posted it on February 18. Here’s some of what I wrote in that blog posting:

At lunch, we realized that this coming September will mark a 20-year history with Le Petit Paris, the well known restaurant at the heart of Daglan.

It was in September 1998 that six of us Canadians rode into Daglan on our bikes, on what was the last full day of our bicycle journey in the Dordogne and the Lot départements, and had lunch on the terrace of Le Petit Paris … Different owners back then, but a very enjoyable meal. And the village itself struck Jan and me as so lovely that, eventually, we bought a home here.

As for today, it was back to LPP for our first lunch there in a long time, and I have to say it was a great success. The reason? We chose the Menu Truffes de Daglan (or Truffle Menu) for 52 euros. Our impression of the five-course meal? Zowie!

So, how was the lunch this past Sunday with the LPP newcomers, Elisabeth and Gerhard? Not quite Zowie!, but in Gerhard’s apt description: Faultless.

It started with a genuinely warm welcome from Mme Guilbot, the hostess and wife of the chef, Sylvain Guilbot. We were seated on the shaded terrace promptly, at a nice table, and Madame reviewed the entire menu with Jan, to point out the gluten-free items for her.

Then we ordered apéritifs, and for our meals, the special Périgord Autrement menu at 39 euros for three courses (featuring a lot of summer truffles), plus some good Sancerre wine.

We all agreed the setting was lovely, the service was efficient and friendly, and the food not only delicious but attractive. Here is the entrée, a well-decorated plate with a terrine of foie gras at the centre:

A plate as delicious as it looked.

The plat principal was equally attractive, and equally rich in truffles. It was nicely cooked turbot, with a delicate sauce made of petit pois and accompanied by a few slices of sweet potato. Here’s my plate:

The turbot is hiding under the truffle slices.

To finish our meal, we were all given the choice of any dessert on the menu, and I opted for the rich chocolate fondant, served with a cooling ball of ice cream. Yummy, as you can imagine:

Rich chocolate, refreshing ice cream.

For Jan and me, choosing a special menu (despite a higher price) seems like a smart option — particularly when we are so familiar with the regular dishes. So that’s our plan for future meals at Le Petit Paris.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The place to party hearty

I’m not sure if Saint-Pompon is actively seeking a nickname, but I’d like to suggest Party Town. For a few precious Saturday evenings each summer, the night market in the village — just a few kilometres from Daglan — really rocks.

We were there last night — my wife Jan and I, with four very good friends — sitting at a table in the heart of the action, near the DJ and the dance floor, and a great time was had by all.

I’ve written many times about Saint-Pompon’s night market, so I won’t go into detail here. If you need background, check out “A Good Night,” posted on Radio Free Daglan on July 21, 2013.

Jan and I arrived with Elisabeth and Gerhard just after 7 p.m. By then, the shaded side of the street — where nearly all the food and drink stalls are located — was packed. No room at any of the tables for us. Have a look:

Sunny sky, and full tables.

So we moved across to the sunny side of the street, where we were soon joined by friends Suzanne and Mark. The six of us immediately began  choosing and then buying our wine and food for the evening, and settled down to chat and enjoy the music.

As the sky began to darken, the dancing began. As usual, the dance floor had just a few people on it at the beginning:

The dancing usually begins slowly.

As the evening rolled along, the dance floor attracted more and more people, including a whole bunch who seemed to enjoy line dancing. (I can never figure out how a group of strangers seem to know what moves, in unison,  to make.) Here they are:

Stompin’ at Saint-Pompon.

But for me, the most entertaining — and amazing — event of the evening was the enthusiastic singing by a group of seven Dutch women at the table next to us.

Clearly, their native language was Dutch. But when it came to singing along with the music, they not only sang in perfect English, but seemed to know every word of every popular song — from “Dancing Queen” (ABBA) to “We will rock you” (Queen). Here are four of the women next to us, obviously having a great time (while entertaining us):

Are they having fun, or what?

Sadly, there are not many Saturdays left this summer to enjoy the night market in Saint-Pompon. In fact, next Saturday may well be the last one for 2018. If you’re around, this could be the place for you to party hearty.

 

Posted in Festivals in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Markets in France | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Highlights: a special Bastille Day, and more

A surfeit of socializing (how about that phrase?) has kept me away from toiling in the Blogosphere, so this will be a quick report on a few activities from the past weekend, starting with a special event at a village ceremony on Saturday.

The French call it la Fête Nationale; English-speakers typically call it Bastille Day. Whatever, the holiday on July 14 marks the storming of the Bastille in 1789, considered an important turning point in the French Revolution. My wife Jan and I try to attend our village ceremony every year.

And this past Saturday, our celebration had a special touch that made the ceremony all the more meaningful, not just to Jan and me, but to nearly all the villagers, and one family in particular.

First, here’s a look at the ceremony, held (as always) in front of the restaurant Le Petit Paris, at the village’s war memorial:

Village dignitaries, and a military presence.

The ceremony included the usual features — the speech by our Mayor, the group singing of la Marseillaise — but the highlight was the presentation of the Legion of Honour to a notable villager, Jacques Pasquet.

Before making the award,  retired General Raymond Wey. another notable villager and a municipal Conseiller, outlined M. Pasquet’s dedicated service, both in and out of the armed forces. The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit, and was begun in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.

After the ceremony, we all repaired to the courtyard of the village school for drinks and snacks. And here is General Wey, congratulating M. Pasquet once again:

 

Congratulations from the General.

The award is clearly a high honour, and one that M. Pasquet certainly deserves. And now on to other topics.

That new Mexican restaurant. In a posting of June 17, I wrote that the Mexican restaurant that was supposed to open in the village of Saint-Laurent-la-Vallée had not. (It was awaiting final official approval.) But it’s open now, and so on Sunday Jan and I went there for the first time with friends Elisabeth and Gerhard. Verdict? A very pleasant lunch spot, with very reasonable prices.

Maria Bonita is not what you probably would expect from a Mexican restaurant — quesadillas and tamales and enchiladas. Rather, it’s more typical continental cuisine with some Mexican touches. First, here’s what the restaurant looks like:

The view from our table.

It was a sunny day, so we ate in the courtyard across from the restaurant (as did all the other patrons). Service was a tad slow at times, but quite friendly. And the food?

Well, Jan ordered a steak, and said it was probably the best one she has had in France — both tasty and tender (and tender is not often used to describe steaks here). Here’s her dish:

Served with some purée of carrots.

The other three of us ordered the salmon en papillotte, and thought that although it tasted fine it had been baked too long, so it and the accompanying vegetables were a bit too dry. Here’s my plate:

A bit too long in the oven, we thought.

And just how “very reasonable” are the prices? Well, the four of us shared a bottle of Prosecco to begin; then Jan, Elisabeth and Gerhard had an entrée; and then we had the main dishes described above. We also shared two bottles of rosé wine. The price per couple? Just over 44 euros. Not bad.

For a final photographic flourish, here’s a photo of Elisabeth, showing off her modified version of a sombrero. We thought she looked appropriately Mexican. See what you think:

Hola, Elisabeth!

World Cup follow-up: Finally, what did you think of the World Cup? Jan and I were quite into it, following (in particular) the teams in which we have a special interest — England and France.

Before the kick-off on Sunday, we were sitting across from the Mexican restaurant (see above) when a pick-up truck drove through the village with a big French flag in back. I hollered “Allez les Bleus!” at the driver, and gave him a thumbs up sign. And that was about that.

During the final itself, there were six of us in our TV room, cheering on France against Croatia. When France won, we cheered like crazy, and then went over to the deck of some neighbours to celebrate some more.

While there, a convertible drove through our little street, with several young people honking the horn, waving the French flag, and hollering. We hollered back. And that was that.

Yes, for all the celebrations elsewhere in France, the Greater Daglan Area was pretty quiet after the victory. The thing is: This is rugby country.

Ah well.

 

Posted in Festivals in France, French government and politics, History in France, History in the Dordogne, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our fast-and-slow start to summer

It’s been a bit bizarre this year. We’ve had a very fast, virtually immediate jump into “The Season — Summer,”  but a very slow glide into “The Season — Tourist Invasion.”

This year’s advent of summer, with high temperatures and deep blue skies that are often cloudless, started suddenly after the most miserable spring we’ve had since my wife Jan and I moved here eight years ago. It seemed like almost constant rain, along with temperatures that were cool to cold.

On the plus side, all the rain meant that the ground has been well soaked, and it just took the hot weather to cause plant life to explode into growth mode.

Walnut trees are already hanging their branches with their fruit, and the walnut pods are already dropping to the ground. (I know, because I nearly twisted my ankle when I stumbled over one of the pods on a walk this morning. They are as hard as croquet balls.) In this photo, you can see the dark green leaves of the walnut tree, and in the distance, some rolls of hay.

Hanging walnuts, rolled-up hay.

Flowers are up everywhere, our wisteria vines are growing so fast that they need trimming twice a week, and farmers have already harvested some crops and are planting the next. Here’s a field of corn as it looked this morning:

As high as an elephant’s eye?

However, we’ve noted for some time that things seem much quieter this year than is normal. People with rental houses say their bookings are down; campgrounds simply don’t look as packed as usual (after all, we are now in July); and traffic doesn’t seem as heavy as usual. On the bike path between Daglan and St. Cybranet this morning, it appeared to me that there were many fewer cyclists and runners than normal.

A couple of days ago, Jan and I drove up to Castelnaud for an afternoon drink, and found the normally popular café La Plage virtually devoid of customers. Have a look at the terrace:

And just where are all the people?

The common wisdom is that the absolute peak time for tourists is mid-July to mid-August, so there is still time for the tourists to invade. We shall see. But what’s been keeping them away? Perhaps the generally poor spring weather in Europe, perhaps the economy. I don’t know, but the slow start seems real enough.

Coming event: If you will be in or near Daglan this coming Friday — that’s the day before la Fête nationale, or Bastille Day — you may be interested in a special dinner being held in the community hall, or Salle des fêtes. Here’s the poster, advertising the details:

An event for Friday evening.

The dinner, starting at 8 p.m., features roast stuffed pork as the main course. The bal populaire starting at 10 p.m. means it’s a “local” dance (don’t expect the Rolling Stones), usually featuring a small band with one or more guitars and an accordion. And of course the feux d’ artifices (fireworks) start at 11 p.m. and are always exciting.

You should reserve for the dinner. If you can’t read the number on the poster above, they are: for the Mairie: 05 – 53 – 28 – 41 – 16, and for the Office de Tourisme: 05 – 53 – 29 – 88 -84. And that’s Radio Free Daglan, at your service, signing out.

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Cafés in France, Camping in the Dordogne, Festivals in France, Flora and fauna, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Showing off our “new showcase for art”

Both my wife Jan and I like and appreciate art, and are sorry that we’ve run out of space in our home — otherwise we’d be buying paintings and sculptures all the time. (Of course, we’d also be going bankrupt.)

In any case, this fact of life was driven home once again on Saturday evening, when we attended the advance opening of Daglan’s new art exhibition (Expo Art Plastique), which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, until July 8.

It turned out that many of Daglan’s plugged-in residents — that is, those who tend to be active in community events — were on hand for the advance showing. Here’s a look:

A good crowd showed up.

For the remainder of this posting, I’ll give you just a taste of the art that’s been placed around the Salle des fêtes.

First of all, these four paintings of peaceful  seaside scenes received a lot of favourable comments, including from Jan and me. Once again, we regretted not have any more space on the walls of our house. Have a look:

A popular quartet.

I didn’t count, but I’d guess that paintings outnumbered statues by at least three to one — but there were still a large number of carved or shaped pieces, like this one:

Just one of the statues on display.

Next come two abstract paintings by a painter in our village who goes only by his last name, Robain. (In my previous posting, on June 21,  I published a photo of his studio at the southern edge of Daglan.) And here are some examples of his work:

Two paintings by Robain.

Naturally, not all of the paintings in the expo are abstract or surreal. What would an art exhibition be without paintings of people and animals? Like, for instance, this piece of a mother cat licking one of her kittens:

Is there anything cuter than cats and kittens?

When Jan and I were talking with a friend about the show, I pointed at two abstract pieces and said they were my favourites — and our friend replied that they looked as if someone had just sloshed some paint on the canvas. Well, that’s personal taste for you. One person’s art is another person’s mess.

Personally, I like the strength of these black, dark blue and white paintings (by an artist named Jacques Croci), and would love to have a dramatic wall in my home where I could show them off. See what you think:

My favourite abstract pieces.

The most expensive piece, as listed in the expo catalogue, was Port la nuit by Gérard Remigereau, shown below. It’s on offer for 4,000 euros.

The costliest piece in the show.

Which brings me to prices. While 4,000 euros was at the top, there were a few paintings at 3,000; quite a few around 1,000; a great number in the hundreds of euros (200, 300, 400, and so on); and a fairly small number at just under 100 euros.

With most products and services, “you get what you pay for,” but when it comes to art, I suspect that personal preference plays a particularly large part. So what’s your view?

Posted in Art in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments