How dry we are …

Rain obviously plays a critical role in the Greater Daglan Area, not only watering our many forests and fields of corn, sunflowers, tobacco and walnut trees, but also feeding our creeks and rivers. But it’s not exactly Mr. Dependable.

This spring, for instance, was incredibly wet. We had so much rain  that once, when I was driving friends to Bergerac, I could see that the mighty Dordogne River was running a rusty red colour as we approached Lalinde. The cause? All the reddish mud being carried into the river from streams, creeks and tributaries along the way.

It’s always a bit surprising how quickly our rivers fill up — to the point that the Dordogne usually overflows its banks at least a few times a year.

Just north of Daglan there’s a small bridge over our little Céou River, itself a tributary of the Dordogne, and I typically cross the bridge to get to the bicycle path and walnut groves where I regularly walk. Just a few weeks ago, I could look down from the bridge and see trout swimming. But not now.

Along with a very long spell of ferocious heat, we’ve had virtually no rain for several weeks. And here’s how that little bridge over the Céou looked on Sunday morning:

Once a small river, now a pond.

All that remains of the Céou in this area are a series of small ponds, and large stretches of rocks, logs and branches. Here’s another photo of the bridge, a bit closer up:

No water, but lots of rocks, branches, and logs.

That may look like fast-moving white water in front of the bridge, but I’m afraid it’s just a bed of limestone. However, we are supposed to get at least some rain, later in the week. Phew.

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Walking in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lessons from Canada (for French wineries!)

Do you think that French wine makers would be interested in learning anything from Canadian wineries? Sure, as soon as the Donald gives up his Twitter account, and pigs learn to fly.

But it’s worth a try, so here’s a report on a recent visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, which lies to the west and south of Toronto, and is simply loaded with wineries, large and small.

The area’s wine makers have done their homework on how to market (and label) their products and, significantly, have taken some big hints from the California wine country playbook.

As a result, the area offers kilometre after kilometre of wineries you can not only visit, but where you can taste the wine in comfortable surroundings, shop, and — get this — eat some wonderful food.

On our recent trip to Toronto, we took a day trip to visit friends who recently moved to the lovely town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and had lunch at the Trius Winery. Here’s our friends (with my wife Jan in the middle, in red) just outside the winery:

Friends outside the winery.

Before we get to the food, first check out the interior of the winery’s store (and this photo shows only some of the offerings). Not only is it bright and comfortable, and stocked with all the winery’s products, it also offers a huge range of accessories (wine buckets, wine openers, glasses, dishes, local food products, and much more).

By contrast, the last winery in France that we visited (near Bergerac) was more like a beat-up barn, with a battered old office. Here’s a look at the Trius shop:

What a wine store should look like.

And now to the food, which we enjoyed outdoors under large patio umbrellas (although there is a rather formal and attractive dining room).

My starter (entrée in France) was described as Atlantic Lobster, and was served with Ontario mozzarella, heirloom tomato, Chioggia beets, organic watercress, muskmelon, cucumber and quail’s egg,  all served on a circle of pressed watermelon. Here’s my cool, refreshing and delicious plate:

My refreshing entrée.

My main course consisted of Lake Erie white fish, served with (among other things) a beef short-rib-and-ricotta cannelloni, bok choy, Ontario corn (oh how we miss good Ontario sweet corn, here in France!), and a Trius Chardonnay vinaigrette. Here’s my plate:

Clever combinations in my main course.

As for dessert, it was impossible to resist ordering this — Peach Clafoutis, paired with “ice wine roasted peach ice cream, praline sponge toffee, and salted caramel.” It was as good as it sounds:

What a dessert!

And guess what? The wine region has become a magnet for tourists, seeking not only wine but also excellent food, in pleasant surroundings.

When Jan and I lived in Toronto, we would often travel there with friends  and ride our bikes from winery to winery; sometimes we would spend the night in the area, at one of the many resorts and bed-and-breakfast places.

So, if you happen to know any French winery owners, perhaps you could suggest they make a trip to Ontario. They just might get some worthwhile ideas.


Posted in Food, French food, Travels in and out of France, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Back to the Blogosphere (via Paris, no less)

We have now welcomed the dissipation of our troublesome canicule (Translation: the heat wave is over), and so I return to the Blogosphere with a new offering of Radio Free Daglan. But I begin with observations on some recent travels.

You may know that one of the disadvantages of living in a rural community like Daglan is that foreign travel typically takes a full day longer than you’d expect. On the plus side, this often means spending a night in our favourite city, Paris.

And so it was, a few weeks ago, that we took the train up to Paris before flying the next afternoon to the Canadian city where my wife Jan and I spent most of our working lives. Here’s a quick peek at our Paris hotel, located in our favourite arrondissement, the 7th:

Our hotel in the 7th.

It’s a great area, with wide open spaces, lively cafés, and at least a few popular attractions, like, well, this well known structure — as seen from the balcony of our hotel room:

A pretty nice view, yes?

Aside from its great location, one of the attractive features of our hotel is that there is a comfortable café on the ground floor, which features a nice full breakfast — like this one:

Fried eggs, fresh fruit, and of course croissants.

Well nourished, Jan and I took a taxi out to De Gaulle on a Friday morning and had a smooth and very comfortable flight to Toronto, starting in the early afternoon (Paris time) and arriving in the late afternoon (Toronto time).

Then we spent the night at an airport hotel, and took a taxi to son Michael’s house on Saturday morning to begin several days of fun with our lovely family (our two children, their partners, and now four grandchildren) and terrific friends. It was a wonderful break. And the recent break in the weather is wonderful too.

Posted in Cafés in France, French food, Holidays in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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.

Posted in Festivals in France, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 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