Pop … pop … poppies!

Today has been a national holiday in France (Ascension). Which meant that most businesses have been closed for at least a half day, if not the whole day.

Which meant that the Othentic Spa in Costeraste is closed. Which meant that this morning, I was not able to take part in the vigorous aquagym exercise program in the spa pool, as I do three times a week.

Which meant that, for some exercise, I headed out for a walk with my Nordic walking batons, along the bicycle path that runs all the way north from Daglan to Castelnaud. Which meant that I was able to see this:

Way too many poppies to count.

Yes, spring is when those lovely red poppies start popping up, all over rural France. Often there are just scatterings of them, mixed in with the tall grasses that grow beside our roads. But sometimes you get to see whole fields of them, as I did this morning. A lovely sight!

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Exercise and fitness, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Walking in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fashion show and a tea, with some twists

For some weeks now, a group of dedicated female volunteers have been working on a special event to be held in Daglan on Sunday, June 2 — an event built around a fashion show and vintage-clothing sale, with the added bonus of a true afternoon tea, the kind featuring all sorts of goodies.

The event has been organized by a group of the women who belong to the Club de l’Amitié Daglanaise, or the Daglan Friendship Club, including my wife Jan.

So far, the women have not only planned and organized the event but collected a lot of used but well-cared-for clothing (for women, men and children), sorted it, and priced it for sale.

The event will begin at 3 p.m. in the village’s Salle des Fêtes with the fashion show. The entry fee is 7.5 euros, which includes the afternoon tea (including cakes and small sandwiches). Another 2.50-euro contribution will allow the guest to enjoy Prosecco as well as tea.

After the fashion show, attendees will be invited to shop among all the articles for sale. Proceeds from the event are destined for two charities — one being a group that helps people coping with cancer, and the other being an organization that helps refugees.

Reservations are recommended, and may be made by phoning either Judith Thomason at 06-71-18-43-55, or Jacqui Lindsey-Smith at 05 – 53 – 29 – 52 – 12.

In closing, here’s a look at the poster that’s been printed to promote the Salon de la Mode Vintage:

The stylish poster.


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Mowing on a grand scale

As we’re now well and truly into spring, we’ve had weeks and weeks of alternating rain and bright sunshine. And once again, that means we’re into the season of mowing on a grand scale — known in France as fauchage.

During the winter, there’s no sign of fauchage in the Greater Daglan Area, simply because the plant life has generally died back. But in April and certainly in May, plants explode into green life — flowers, shrubs, grass and weeds.

And while much of it is is attractive, the high flowers and grasses alongside our roads can be not only messy-looking but even a bit dangerous — for instance, blocking the view of drivers who must be on the lookout for cyclists.

I’ve written about the practice of fauchage several times — as long ago as October 11, 2010, in the posting “Shave and a fauchage, two bits” — but if you’re new to the GDA, it’s worth a review. Here’s some of what I wrote in that 2010 posting:

On bigger roads, fauchage is usually conducted by a convoy of two, three or even four vehicles. This can include one or two trucks with flashing lights and large signs that read “Danger — Fauchage,” on either side of the … fauchage tractor. The actual trimming is done by rotating blades that can be positioned in any number of ways, to cut grass whether it’s on the flat or on a slope, and to trim shrubs and tree branches that might impair a driver’s vision.

Here’s one of the warning vehicles, as seen through the windshield of my car one recent day as my wife Jan and I drove down into the Céou River valley, on the way into our village:

This is the warning vehicle.

And here’s the fauchage tractor itself, with the whirling blades being tilted upwards:

Trimming along the side of a hill.

And here’s the same machine, trimming shrubs and grasses on the side of a hill:

The blades can be moved into many positions.

What amazes me is the skill of the drivers, who smoothly re-position their blades as they drive along, trimming the grass and weeds while managing to avoid rock outcroppings and tree trunks and other hazards. And one more thing: I love the smell of fresh-cut grass as we drive along our country roads.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

V-E Day 2019: The wettest yet

Gloomy weather has often been a feature of Victory in Europe Day (Huit Mai, or Fête de la Victoire) since my wife Jan and I have been attending the solemn ceremony at Daglan’s war memorial.

For instance, some of my previous postings were “V-E Day 2015: Damp but dignified” and “2012: Our damp V-E Day ceremony.”

But today’s ceremony was the wettest yet, and in fact as I write this I can hear the rain beating down on the Velux window above me.

It looked to me like today’s crowd was (perhaps not surprisingly) a bit sparse, compared with the crowds of other years. And because I spent much of the time huddling under my umbrella, I didn’t get the chance to take photos. So I’m afraid you’ll have to consult previous postings if you want to get a sense of how the ceremony looks.

In any event, as always, I’m glad that Jan and I had the chance to honour the sacrifices that so many Europeans — and so many of their Allies — made during that awful war that finally ended 74 years ago.

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It’s not all Michelin stars

Over the years that I’ve been posting this blog, I’ve written countless times about various fine-dining experiences, often at restaurants in France (and elsewhere) with one, two or even three Michelin stars.

So just in case you’ve been wondering — no, all our meals are not at starred restaurants, or even at less glamorous but still fine-dining places. In fact most of our lunches (lunch is the main meal of our day, as opposed to dinner) are at home, featuring food made by either my wife Jan or me.

And when we do go out for lunch, as we did yesterday, it’s often to a restaurant that’s definitely not a fine-dining place — such as the Thai restaurant Sawadee, in Cénac, or the Basque restaurant Le Tournepique, in Castelnaud. Yesterday’s choice was in fact Le Tournepique, and as always, it did not disappoint.

To the surprise of no one (including the hostess, our waitress, and me), Jan had the moules frites, because she always finds the mussels sweet and delicious, and nicely cooked; as for the fries, they are soft on the inside but golden and crispy on the outside, and amazingly hot.

As for me, my choice for plat principal was the Basque omelette, as it often is. It’s perfectly cooked, and I love the rich Basque sauce inside the folded egg mixture — with tomatoes, onions and peppers. It came on a plate that (in my view) had much too much green salad on it; I nibbled at the salad, but devoured the omelette.  And then, just before coffee, I enjoyed the Basque cake. Here’s my main course:

This was salad over-kill.

At this point, I will confess that we are going out again on Friday, to a fine-dining restaurant. With one Michelin star. When you’ve got a good thing going, keep it going.

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

Breaking bread, and other traditions

We were having lunch at the Thai restaurant in Cénac this past Sunday, and my wife Jan headed into Sawadee first, while I parked the car.

When I reached our table, she tilted her head at the two couples who were dining across from us and whispered to me: “They’ve just ordered a basket of bread.”

“Ah,” I replied, “now that’s French!”

If you’ve had Thai food, of course, you know that the dominant starch (by far) is rice — so the idea of having a slice or two of French bread with a stir fry or curry seems downright silly or unappetizing, at least to me. But not to the French.

Quite simply, the French love their bread, and apparently they regard a basket of bread at the table as part of their birthright.

If you’ve been to France, you know that most French people are able to walk only five or 10 steps after leaving a bakery, before they start nibbling on the end of the baguette they’ve just bought.

I’ve found that servers in a restaurant are dumbstruck when I turn down a basket of bread, which they’ve offered for me to enjoy with my cheeseburger (which of course comes with a bun) or pizza (which of course includes an awful lot of dough).

Thinking about this French love of bread has made me reflect on a few other truly French traditions or habits, and hence this blog posting. So here are a few more, starting with “man’s best friend.”

The dog under the table. In  France, a common practice is taking your pet dog to a restaurant with you, and placing it  under your table. More often than not, Jan and I will see a dog emerging from under a restaurant table, as its owners prepare to leave. and realize that we had no idea the pet was next to us. The amazing thing is that we have never, ever heard one of these dogs let out a single yelp or growl. Somehow, they know to stay quietly at their owners’ feet.

The greeting on the street. As a rule, the French are certainly civil. Thus, it’s quite normal to hear a simple “Bonjour” as a stranger passes you in the street. This is usually accompanied by a slight nod of the head. Word to the wise: Be sure to say Bonjour when you approach a staff member in a store or restaurant; do not simply start in with “Where is the mayonnaise?” or “Can I get a table for two?” If you do, there is a good chance you will be ignored.

The greeting to various rooms of people. When we entered a waiting room in Toronto — say, at the doctor’s office — the practice was pretty much to avoid eye contact. Not here. Whether the waiting room is at the doctor’s clinic, the dentist’s office, a hospital, or anything similar, it’s normal for the person entering the room to nod slightly and say “Mesdames, Messieurs.” It’s a polite way to acknowledge the ladies and gentlemen waiting with you.

The quiet good-bye. This is a variation on the Bonjour greeting, and it’s quite subtle. In fact, Jan and I didn’t notice it until we had visited France several times before moving here. It’s a quiet (almost unheard) “Bonne journée” that’s said to the entire restaurant you are leaving.  Related to that is a “Bonne journée” or “Bon dimanche” (“Have a good Sunday”) which is said quietly to a table of strangers, if you have made eye contact during your meal, or are passing quite near the table as you leave.

Any more? If you know one or more additional French customs, those that amuse you, please send them to the blog, using the comments section. Merci beaucoup, et bonne journée.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Dish du jour — 25 – 04 – 2019

Let us first clear up something: No, I have not been hired as Director of Publicity for the Restaurant O Moulin. This year I’ve  written several glowing reports on the restaurant in Carsac, a 30-minute drive from Daglan, simply I think it’s so darn good.

If you missed it, I did a full review of the place in “A river runs through it,” posted on February 12 of this year. In it, I wrote:

How good is the restaurant? Well, when I checked TripAdvisor yesterday, there were 89 reviews — with 80 “excellent” ratings, eight “very good” ratings, and just one “average.” So I’m not the only one who likes it.

Most recently, my wife Jan and I lunched at the restaurant with friends Babs and John on Thursday, and now I’ll just show off one particularly excellent dish — my plat principal.

On the menu, it’s shown as “Pavé de lieu jaune,  légèrement fumé, cannelloni de courgette et ail noir.”  In other words, that’s a square filet of pollock (a relative of the cod), lightly smoked, and served with a stuffed tube made out of the wafer-thin slices of zucchini.

When our waitress served our table, I was surprised to see that my main course was contained in a small black casserole, with a lid. But then she removed the lid, and a puff of smoke wafted out. And here was the fish:

A delicate and savoury dish.

I’m not sure how Chef made the sauce that the fish was poached in, but it was smooth and silky and delicious. I took a long time to finish my dish, simply because I was enjoying it so much that I wanted to linger.

And when we left, friends Babs and John — newcomers to the restaurant — agreed readily with Jan and me that this place truly deserves success.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment