Our Tree — in all its glory!

In yesterday’s posting (December 4), I raised the subject of Christmas in the heart of Daglan. Here’s some of what I wrote:

Admiring our village Christmas tree has become a time-honoured tradition, at least here in the world of Radio Free Daglan. But this year, I have a special treat for you — a sneak peek at the tree as it was being installed in the village’s Place de la Liberté this very morning.

And then I posted a photograph of two of the village’s workers installing the tree, securing it into a hole in the pavement created for just that purpose. I went on to say:

So far, so good. It looks nice and tall, so we’ll just have to see how the branches shake out when the tree is securely fastened in place. (Don’t worry, of course I’ll show the decorated tree in a subsequent post.)

As you can imagine, when I drove out of our quartier this morning, I was delighted to see that the tree had already been fully decorated. And here it is:

Daglan’s 2019 tree.

Is it the best-looking Daglan tree ever? I’m not sure, but it does seem to be an attractive specimen. And on that note, Merry Christmas to you all!

Posted in Holidays in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , | 2 Comments

A sneak peek, plus a few rich dishes

Today’s posting covers two fairly different topics — one related to the holiday that is fast approaching, and the other related to a favourite topic in these parts (food, of course). First, the Christmas item.

Admiring our village Christmas tree has become a time-honoured tradition, at least here in the world of Radio Free Daglan. But this year, I have a special treat for you — a sneak peek at the tree as it was being installed in the village’s Place de la Liberté this very morning.

Here you can see two of the village workers juggling it into place, as the village truck is slowly backed up, to support the tree:

Up she goes!

So far, so good. It looks nice and tall, so we’ll just have to see how the branches shake out when the tree is securely fastened in place. (Don’t worry, of course I’ll show the decorated tree in a subsequent post.) And now on to food.

You may have heard the expression, “You can never be too rich, or too thin.” The first part of this saying  came to me on Sunday as my wife Jan and I lunched with our friend Sara at the beautiful, Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gindreau. Because while the portions might seem small to some diners (such as the Super-Size-Me crowd), everything is so rich (and delicious) that you don’t want an overflowing plate.

I’m not going to go into great detail here, as I’ve written in praise of Le Gindreau many times, including in my posting of June 8, 2018. There I wrote:

Le Gindreau … has (quite rightly) earned two Michelin stars. It’s in the hamlet of Saint-Médard in the Lot, the département south of the Dordogne. That’s a 45-minute drive from downtown Daglan.

And while I do realize that you won’t be able to actually taste the food, I’ll just show off three of the dishes that we enjoyed at our Sunday lunch, because I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to see how rich the food at Le Gindreau is.

First is the entrée that both Jan and Sara enjoyed. It was a shrimp soup flavoured with lemongrass and including  clams and cockles, as well as coco beans. Here’s the soup being poured:

A rich soup featuring seafood.

For my plat principal, I had a piece of mi-sauvage duckling (and no, I don’t know how the duck was partly wild), served with a sort of lollipop made with the thigh meat, and served in a puddle of incredibly rich, and tasty, brown sauce:

The sauce was as rich as it looks.

Always happy to have chocolate in my dessert, I chose this concoction of milk chocolate, shards of caramel, and hazelnut ice cream (among other rich ingredients):

A delight for chocolate lovers.

And then for our mignardises, served with our coffees, came an assortment of treats, including  a sphere of chocolate which our server cracked open  to reveal halves of candied walnuts. Here’s our tray:

And speaking of chocolate lovers…

Prices at Le Gindreau are not to be sneezed at, either. The three of us each had an apéritif,  a selection of amuse-bouche, an additional small bowl of soup, then the three courses we each ordered (entrée, plat principal and dessert), and then coffees and the mignardises shown above.  With the meal we shared two bottles of wine, one red and one white. The total bill came to 400 euros, so this isn’t a meal we would have very often. On the other hand, it was really wonderful.

Posted in Food, French food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Lot | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Early December notes (2019 edition)

Things may be quiet around here, as I wrote recently, but the village is starting to get that Happy Holidays vibe. A few of our neighbours have started to adorn the exteriors of their homes with Christmas trees and other decorations, and the village workers have installed the Christmas lights that hang from street lamps and trees.

Of course, we’re all waiting with bated breath for the installation of the village’s Christmas tree. Will it match or even exceed the beauty of recent specimens? Time will tell, and of course I will report.

And speaking of Christmas: It seems that Christmas markets are a big deal in France. The outdoor markets of Paris, Strasbourg and Toulouse are well known, and pretty impressive. And now Daglan is getting a Marché de Noël of its own, next Sunday (December 8) in our Salle des fêtes, or town hall.

Here’s the banner announcing our Christmas market. The banner is hanging where you’ll see it as you enter Daglan from the south (that is, coming over the Pont Neuf or driving in from the direction of Saint Pompon):

Yes, our very own Christmas market.

I’ll have more details for you, later in the week, but I wanted to give you a heads-up notice first. So mark the event in your calendar, if you’re able to attend — and while you’re at it, plan on shopping in our black-truffle market, which will open the same day. Y’all come!

On other fronts, the seasonal shutdowns continue. One of the most recent closures was the Thai restaurant Sawadee, in neighbouring Cénac. My wife Jan and I had lunch there recently, on its last day of the season, and enjoyed our meals as always. Here’s a look at my glistening plate of chicken and vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce. Delicious!

A great portion of great food.

The sad news, of course, is that we will be without one of our go-to restaurants for some time. The good news is that we know when Sawadee will re-open. That’s set for March 13, 2020. Yay!


Posted in Festivals in France, Food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The sounds of (near) silence

You may have wondered, how quiet is our village at this time of year? My answer: Very. The only occasional loud noises occur when a large truck or tractor rumbles through Daglan on the main street, or when someone is employing hammers and saws for a renovation project.

Otherwise, we are talking seriously quiet. I’ll illustrate with two brief examples.

Earlier this week, I was heading out our front steps when I paused to listen to a strange sound. It took me a few seconds to figure it out, but then I realized that the loudest thing I was hearing was — wait for it — the sound of leaves falling through the branches of a neighbour’s walnut tree. Yes, the loudest thing I could hear was the sound of falling leaves.

Now even that source of noise is gone. After just a few days, the cold we’ve been experiencing at night has caused most of the walnut tree’s leaves to drop, so that the tree top looks like this:

By now, nearly all the leaves are down.

And then yesterday, as I went out to my car, the loudest sound I could hear was the water gushing out of the nearby lavoir — the spring-fed pool that was used by previous generations of women to wash their clothes. Because we’ve had so much rain recently, more water than usual is running underground from the hills surrounding Daglan and winding up in the lavoir. From there it flows into a small stream, and then rushes on to the Céou River, a tributary of the mighty Dordogne.

In any case, here’s the source of all that rushing water noise:

The water eventually runs into the Céou.

To be fair, one regular source of noise that’s fairly close to our house is the village church. The church bells ring out the hour (five rings for 5 o’clock — a.m. or p.m. — and so forth), with one “ding” on each half hour. As well, the bells ring crazily at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m., calling the faithful to prayer; that’s called the angelus or angelus bell. Funnily enough, my wife Jan and I are so used to the sound of the bells that we hardly notice them.

As I said, it’s a pretty quiet village.


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

Rain and Remembrance (and, bien sûr, lunch!)

Most people refer to the three months of June, July and August as the season of “summer;” here in the Greater Daglan Area, it is “the Tourist Season.” Similarly, the next three months are typically called “autumn;” while here in the GDA, it is the “Rainy Season.” And boy, have we been getting rain.

To give you an idea of how much rain we’ve had over the past few weeks, I’ll provide a contrast. First, here’s a look back  at the Céou River in more pleasant times as it flows from Bouzic towards Daglan, and tumbles over a series of rocks:

The river at its prettiest.

And here is the same spot just a few days ago, as the swollen river gushes over the rocks with no sense of “waterfall:”

Fortunately,  since I took the photograph above, we have had a few rain-free days, and that includes today (so far, as I write this), which was a relief. Today is of course November 11, called variously Remembrance Day , Veterans Day and Jour d’armistice, and so the village once again held its annual ceremony of remembrance at the war memorial in front of the restaurant Le Petit Paris. The sky was grey, but there was not a single drop of rain.

Today’s ceremony began, as always, with the raising of the French flag and then the reading of the names of villagers who were lost in World Wars I and II (the list of the dead in the first World War is depressingly long). As in the past, the names were read out by Jacques Pasquet, who last July was awarded the Legion of Honour.

Reading the names of those lost in the wars.

In my post of July 19, 2018, which described the village ceremony to celebrate Bastille Day, I wrote the following about Monsieur Pasquet and his medal:

The [Bastille Day] 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.

Now back to November 2019. Following today’s ceremony, flowers were carried up to the village cemetery to be placed by the graves of veterans, and then complimentary glasses of wine were served in the courtyard of the primary school (for those who could brave the cold). And then, for those of us who had reserved a place at the table, a wonderful lunch was served at La  Cantine, the restaurant of Chef Fabrice Lemonnier.

It was a five-course lunch, offered for the subsidized price of just 20 euros per person, and attracted a modest turn-out of just 18 people — 11 francophones, and seven anglophones. Too bad for the villagers who neglected to reserve, because the meal began with glasses of kir and bowls of a delicious mushroom soup, and went on from there.

As an entrée, we had a choice between scallops and foie gras mi-cuit; my wife Jan had the foie gras, while I happily had the scallops. And here’s my plate:

Scallops with crispy bacon and almond butter.

For the main course, there were three choices — lamb shank, a skewer of shrimps, and a risotto; my choice was the lamb, and here’s my plate:

Tender and tasty lamb, with vegetables.

After our plat principal, we were served a small plate of cabecou (a soft local goat’s cheese) with walnuts, and then a selection of desserts. Here’s my dessert plate:

What is there to say but: Yum!

All along the way (through a three-hour lunch), there was a seemingly limitless supply of both red and white wine, and then cups of espresso to finish. And I’m happy to say there was a lot of spirited conversation, in both French and English, covering everything from “the good  old days in Daglan” (yay!) and “the bad current days of Brexit” (boo!). All in all, it was a good day for remembrance, and a day to remember. And, oh yes, it was raining as Jan and I walked home.


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Dish du jour — 27-10-2019

This past Thursday, we enjoyed another wonderful meal at Restaurant O Moulin in Carsac, about 30 minutes from Daglan. This time it was lunch with our friends Joanne, Chris and Les, and we all had splendid food.

Having written about the restaurant many times, today I’m simply going to show off one of the artful dishes. So here is that entrée that both Joanne and my wife Jan enjoyed. And here it is:

Not just attractive, but delicious.

On the plate? Rolls of gravlax of trout, accompanied by savoury quenelles and caviar. Both Jan and Joanne loved their dishes. But of course every dish was wonderful — so good, in fact, that on leaving the restaurant, I made another reservation for lunch. This time it will be with friends Elisabeth and Gerhard, this coming Thursday. Yummers!


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

Heavy work, heavy reading

A few days ago, I was surprised to see a sign in our little street indicating that it would be blocked at one end of the crescent, because of  a construction project.

Further investigation provided the details. And the exercise reminded me of two interesting facts of life here: the difficulty of replacing a roof on one of Daglan’s old buildings, and the bizarre French habit of providing immense detail on certain kinds of projects.

I’ll start with the roofing project itself, which consisted of removing an old tile roof, replacing the wooden supports below it, and then placing new tiles on top. Here’s a view of the work:

Wooden supports being added.

I’ve written about this kind of work before, in a posting more than five years ago: “Our restaurant gets a new top,” on January 21, 2014. Here’s some of what I wrote:

A roofing job in this part of the world is quite different from what I remember from our days in Toronto. As far as I can recall, the last time my wife Jan and I had a new roof put on our two-storey house in Toronto, the job took just a couple of days.

The workers scrambled up ladders onto the roof; ripped off the old shingles; stapled down some new heavy paper; and then proceeded to nail on the new asphalt shingles. Okay, it’s not easy or glamorous work, but it moves quickly.

Here in Daglan, with our heavy tile roofs, the job often becomes a fairly substantial construction project. Usually, new wooden slats need to be put in place, to support the tiles. Sometimes, main beams have to be replaced before the tiles can be added.

Now, mercifully, the roofing project near us has been completed, so our street is wide open at both ends.

But that brings me to the subject of signage. Funnily enough, there is a noticeable shortage of signage (in this part of France, at least) for some construction projects — leaving you to wonder if a new building will be an auto dealership, a restaurant, or a movie theatre. Similarly, hotels and campgrounds and restaurants that have closed for the winter season generally don’t have signs saying when they will re-open.

However, for certain events (the temporary closing of a public park, perhaps for a festival) and for certain construction projects, the amount of information provided is, well, over the top.

In Toronto, a road closure might have a sign saying something like “Road closed for re-surfacing. — Office of the Roads Commissioner.” And that would be that. But not here.

Have a look at what was posted on a board at the end of our street (and no, you don’t have to read it):

Nothing has been left out!

Among the information provided is the source of the permission (our Mayor, with postal code yet!); the date of the contractor’s request; the company doing the work; the type of work; the place of the work;  and the dates to start and finish the project.

Then come five Articles,  which state, among other things, that one end of the street will be blocked completely; and how local residents can enter the street (from the end that isn’t blocked!). It then concludes with the stern statement that “This authorization is issued on a personal basis and cannot be assigned.”

So there — we have been duly notified!

Posted in French government and politics, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments