Saturday, July 30, 2011

Good-bye Martignac!

We are pretty much all packed up. We are leaving in the morning for Burgundy and points beyond.

We have had a fabulous month in Martignac, Puy L'Eveque, and the entire Lot Valley.

We've toured, we've eaten, we've hosted, we've napped, we've shopped, we've drank, we've learned, we've relaxed, we've laughed.

Thank you to everyone who made this month so incredibly enjoyable. Diana and Roger, Gill and David, Chrissy and Kevin, Julia and Adrian, Melissa and Graham, George and Otis, Sally Gaucheron, Ian and Suzie Dick, Madame Murat, Monsieur Tonel, Madame et Monsieur Didier, Monsieur Cantagrel, plus all the warm and welcoming people whom we met at the market, in restaurants, in shops, and on the street. And to all the dogs and cats we met throughout our travels.

We will be back.

*Sorry for the blurry photos in these collages. Lord knows I've tried to post them in focus. No such luck. Just sorta squint your eyes and they'll look clear enough.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fifty-Three And Counting

As a child, I never liked having a summer birthday. Either one of two things would happen.

One: All of my friends would be on vacation and couldn't attend my birthday party.

Two: My family and I would be on vacation and none of my friends could come to my birthday party.

I always wished my birthday was in a month that was NOT July. Or August.

But not any more! As an adult, I LOVE having a summer birthday. And the fact that my past five birthdays have been spent in Europe is a dream come true.

I had a lovely birthday yesterday. We drove to the sleepy little village of St. Medard and had lunch at 'Le Gindreau'.

The setting was beautiful, we sat out on the terrace under the shady canopy of several huge chestnut trees, the service was impeccable, and I had to eat with my eyes closed for most of
the meal so that there would be no other distractions for my brain and my taste buds.

The food was absolutely heavenly. This is the second Michelin starred restaurant I've had the privilege to eat at, and it was perfect in every way.

After the three hour meal, one of the servers came out with a special birthday creation, complete with sparklers and dessert.

Chef Alexis Pelissous came out of the kitchen to wish me a happy birthday and signed the copy of his cookbook that we bought. Photos were taken, handshakes exchanged all around, and we were back in the car headed for home.

But the fun didn't end there! At 7:00pm, our lovely neighbours from across the street came over with their daughter who had just arrived from London. Wine, snacks, and happy chatter. Thank you Gill, David and Olivia for my coming to my party.

Thanks Joe, for another amazing day in my life. I am one lucky lady. You spoil me.

Thanks everyone for all of birthday wishes. I appreciated the phone calls, the Facebook messages, and the e-mails. I feel your love all the way across the Atlantic Ocean!

Like I said, I am one lucky lady.

La Vigne Haute

We have now seen and done pretty much everything in the Lot Valley. All that is left to do is to eat at the amazing restaurants in this area. Seeing as these are our final few days in Martignac, we have decided to go out for lunch every day.

We had been given several recommendations for 'La Vigne Haute' in the village of Castelfranc. Tuesday found us anxiously waiting for the restaurant's doors to open at noon.

We were seated in a charming room of six tables. Not surprisingly, we were the first ones there. I went for a little walkabout as there was a very sweet garden at the side of the building.

As always in this country, lunch was delicious. Simple food, made with the freshest ingredients, prepared with care.

We started with a souffle foie gras. The best souffle I've eaten in my life.

Followed by 'Magret de Canard Avec Sauce L'Orange'. The chef grilled the duck breast right in the fireplace of the dining room!

As you can see, we devoured the food.

Dessert was good old chocolate cake and ice cream, French style.

Another amazing meal in France. Thank you La Vigne Haute!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Resistance and Deportation

As we were driving home from Figeac on Sunday, I saw the tip of something poking up through the tops of the trees. "Let's stop and see what it is," I said. (That is one of the many things I am loving about this trip. Staying put in one location for an entire month gives us the gift of time. Joe and I are constantly stopping the car to take photos at the side of the road, making detours, or driving into villages that weren't even on the day's itinerary.)

When we pulled off the road to investigate, we found it was a Resistance And Deportation Memorial. It looked so lonely and desolate in the rain. We took a few photos, I pulled a couple of weeds around the base of the monument, then we continued on our way back to Martignac.

As we wound our way through the green rolling hills and fields of southwest France, I started to think about the books I have read set during WW ll and the occupation of France. 'Suite Francaise', 'The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society', and 'Sarah's Key' are a few novels that came to mind.

The French refer to the Lot Valley as 'La France Profonde'; which means 'Deep France'. The Lot Valley was also the heart of the French Resistance. I can't imagine what it must have been like to have one's country be occupied by another; that the Vichy regime served up it's Jewish citizens to the Nazis. It hurts my heart just thinking about it.

I began to look at the old stone farmhouses with new eyes.

I wondered which of them had housed Nazi soldiers six decades ago? Who here had relatives who fought for the French Resistance? What must it be like to live in a war zone? What must it have been like to leave everything behind to try and escape the Nazis? How do people go on after having lost loved ones in concentration camps?

I have so many questions and no answers.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quiet And Rainy

It is very quiet around here now that all of our company has gone. Not only have our house guests left us, but so has the sun. The past few days have been real wet ones. The view of the Lot Valley from the balcony is now full of low hanging dark clouds, mist, fog and rain.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Our home province of British Columbia has been hit with one of the worst summers on record. I think people are getting ready to build a few arks. B.C. has been under a deluge of rain and it's inhabitants are fit to be tied. Oh no, I'm not complaining.

But enough about B.C.

Back to me in my soggy little part of the world.

When it is hot and sunny, these 500 year old houses are just the ticket. Who needs air conditioning when you've got stone walls that are 3 feet thick?

But it is another thing entirely when it is raining! It is quite damp in here. The covers on our books are starting to curl in on themselves. I picked up the newspaper off the floor this morning and it felt wet in my hands. The bath tub is Joe's newest best friend. I don't take my cardigan sweater off.

I brought one pair of long pants with me and I have been wearing them non-stop these past few days. We've been out walking in the rain and they could definitely use a wash. But there is no way they'd ever dry in time for me to put them back on again if I hung them on the clothes line downstairs. So the trousers stay on my body and out of the washing machine.

We are not letting the poor weather get us down. (Well, maybe a little bit.) We are sitting with our backs to the French doors in the living room so we can't see what's happening outside. We've stopped checking the weather forecast on our computer every few minutes because it seems as if the rain symbols are replacing the sun symbols with shocking speed.

Now if you'll please excuse me while I go wring out my novel. I'm going to climb under my blanket and read.

- Posted from France

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Au Revoir!

After spending a glorious fun-filled 11 days together in Southwest France, it was time to say good-bye to my sister and brother-in-law. We drove them to the Cahors train station on Saturday morning.

At first we were laughing.....

....and then we were crying.

Honestly, what a couple of weirdos.

Thank you for coming, Chrissy and Kevin! Have a wonderful time in Paris!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Of course it would happen sooner or later.

Now that I have mastered 'Blogger+' and 'Photogene' (two unfamiliar computer applications to me)....

Now that I can publish posts on my blog without Joe having to hold my hand every step of the way....

Now that I have gotten the hang of it....


It seems that Blogger+ and Photogene have had a bit of a tiff and one doesn't like the other anymore. It means I can post only text on my blog but can't attach any photos.

Joe has just gone down into the village for our daily fix of 'twinkies' and has promised me he will look into this technical difficulty as soon as he returns.

I hate computers.

Marche Gourmande

On our last night together, we finally made it to a 'Marche Gourmande'.

We'd had a few false starts in the previous days and we were determined to make it to one before Chrissy and Kevin left for Paris.

It wasn't looking good. It had started to rain of all things! Marche Gourmandes are open-air affairs with everyone sitting at long tables eating together! How would it work if it were raining?

We were about to find out.

We left Martignac at 7:30pm and arrived in Montcabrier several minutes later. We parked in an alley and walked around the corner into the village square. I will never forget the sight that greeted us! Hundreds of people were sitting at the tables with their umbrellas in the air!! At that moment I fell in love with the French even more.

We had an airline blanket with us which we used to cover the wet table top. Just then the rain began to ease up. Kevin ran for the rose wine, Joe went to get some frites and Chrissy stood in line for some grilled sausages. Me? I just sat there and took it all in.

One of our appetizers were skewered prunes wrapped in bacon and grilled over the coals. I love me some sweet and salty. They don't look all that tasty from the photo (they kinda look like some weird larvae) but let me assure you they were delicious.

The rest of our meal was very tasty. In addition to the wine, sausages, prunes and French fries, we ate 'cabecou' (goat cheese drizzled with honey) and walnut cupcakes for dessert.

We toasted a fabulous holiday together and wished each other well on our upcoming adventures. What a great 11 days we had!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Soiree Gourmande

After my string of 'tour director misses', I hit one out of the park last night.

For the past couple of weeks I had seen Monsieur handing out leaflets at the Puy L'Eveque market advertising a Soiree Gourmande at his winery down in the valley. Literally translated, soiree gourmande means 'A Party For People Who Enjoy Eating Food'.

We love parties! We love eating food! This event was custom made for us!

We knew we were in for a treat when we arrived at the winery and saw a very long row of tables snaking it's way up the dirt path through the grape vines. Sunflowers adorned the white tablecloths.

We found a spot and sat ourselves down. I think we were the only English speaking people there. Everyone else seemed to know each other with double cheek kisses flying about.

The appetizer was half a melon filled with wine. A prune, slice of ham, and a cherry tomato were skewered onto the side of the fruit. God, I love the French.

It was such a joy to be there!

We ate a selection of grilled meats and a ratatouille of vegetables.

Kids ran about squealing. Boys played their video games. One little guy was sneaking the sunflowers off the tables and presenting them to the women seated nearby. (Chrissy was one of the lucky recipients.) A man began to sing French ballads into a microphone.

When it came time for dessert, we tucked into a most delicious walnut cake. The woman sitting across from us asked if we liked it. Liked it? We LOVED it! She said, "My husband baked this cake." Sitting beside her was the one and only Franck Tonel! Joe's favourite baker in all of Puy L'Eveque! Joe shouted, "I've met a famous person!". Which made Monsieur Tonel beam.

The sun set, the lights came on overhead, and out came the coffee. A man stood up and began to recite poetry much to the delight of the crowd. We bid our adieus to Monsieur and Madame Tonel and made our way back to the car where we left it parked in a field.

I turned around one last time to breathe in the ambience.

Sigh....I love this country.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tour Director FAIL!

I like to think that I can plan a half-decent event. I enjoy hosting parties, dinners and other social gatherings. So when 'ma soeur et beau-frere' were coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks here in France, I went into party-planner mode!

I have to say that I have been fairly successful in showing them a good time. We've been to quaint medieval villages. We've hiked and walked through woods and forests. We've eaten ourselves silly both at home and in restaurants. We've seen gorgeous countryside. We've introduced them to the neighbours and their friends. Lavender farms, foie gras museums, big cities. You name it we've been to it.

But for every 10 hits there inevitably is a miss. A big miss.

Here is my list of misses:

1) The Festival of the Absurd.

I was so excited for this fete! Not only was it going to be absurd, but it was in the village down the hill from us. So quirky, yet convenient. The first time we went we saw this. One weird boat racing up and down the river.


That wasn't much to see, so we went home for lunch and returned later in the afternoon. We saw three boats racing up and down the river.


2) Lot Valley Wine Festival

Then I said, "Hey! I remember seeing some posters advertising a wine festival in Grezels! Let's go to that!" We drove across the river to Grezels and came to a big open field. A few old cars sat displayed on the grass, along with some rusting farm equipment. All the wine vendors were packing up to go home.


3) A Tour of the Village of Belaye Under a Full Moon CARRYING TORCHES!

This was a huge fail. I had seen posters advertising the event everywhere. I thought, "Chrissy and Kevin would LOVE to take part in this!" Friday night found us snaking our way up the hillside to the village. Chrissy was so excited. She could barely contain her excitement about carrying a flaming torch around in the dark. She kept saying, "This is just like 'Beauty and the Beast'!"

The sun was setting, people were milling about waiting for the tour to begin. I happened to see the poster on a stone wall and decided to take closer look at it. At the bottom, in fine print, were the words "reservations obligatoire". Well, you don't need to be fluent in French to know we were supposed to make reservations! And that they were obligatory! Joe quickly rushed over to Madame to see if there was room for us. "Non, monsieur. Complet."


4) Marches Gourmandes.

Ever since their arrival, I've been telling Chrissy and Kevin about the marche gourmandes. I've gone on at length about how fun they are with everybody sitting, eating and drinking at long tables in the town square. Someone is usually playing a guitar to entertain the crowd. Kids run about. The air is full of French chatter.

Every village hosts one. Many villages have them on the same night every week. Or so we thought. We've tried to go to two marches now. Twice we have arrived hungry and full of anticipation, only to find an deserted square.


I hope that's the end of my party-planning failures. We are going to a vineyard for a 'Soiree Gourmande' tonight. We have made reservations. We've got the right night.

Wish me luck! I can't take another fail.