May 28, 2007

Flowers of Spring

The poppy fields have been extraordinary...more plentiful and brilliant than ever. There are fields of poppies...then there are poppies falling over stone walls and even a lone ranger or two in the middle of a rocky path. They grow everywhere. We were such in search of them last year but never had the vistas that there have been in '07. Am taking lots of photos for my artist friends.

So many things are blooming. Here at Xavier's, he allows the wildflowers to progress through the Spring and mows only when they are spent.....first the tiny yellow flowers that blanket the yard....then come the bluets (though not the one we have), followed by the poppies and now the wild verbena (perennial verbena at home) with a yellow daisy......Nature sure does have alot to offer.

Last week, we made the trip to Abbaye de Senanque where the monks grow lavender and lavandin.....The monks have done an amazing amount of work since my last visit in September. The fields are gorgeous and I can't wait to return there in June when the lavender blossoms will be bursting forth......a field of purple. Lavender fields are everywhere......Did you know that it takes 100 kilos of blossoms (and think how light they are) to produce 1 liter of lavender essence! Below is the picture from the entrance of Senanque. I will take the same picture with the lavender in bloom in June.

May 7, 2007


I share with you a picture of yesterday's cheese tray. I want you notice the cheese in the center and the cheese at 12 o'clock. Most Americans would have discarded these cheeses long ago. However, they are the most special cheeses on the tray. Both began as a simple fresh goat cheese about the size of the cheese in the center. The cheese in the center is about 1 month old and has a bit of fluff growing on it. You know, good cheese is alive!!! The cheese at 12 o'clock was fresh in February and has been allowed to cellar age or age in a refrigerated situation where there is air circulation. So with this cheese tray in front of you, what do you choose and in what order.

At 9 o'clock is a Brique de Ewe. This is the mildest cheese and a place for you to begin. Next, at 2 o'clock is the Petit Basque (another ewe cheese but the process is different where the milk has been warmed and then the rind is rubbed with a salted cloth..causing the rind to get thicker and thicker). Then let's move to the first aged fresh goat cheese in the center. It has a bit more flavor than the fresh goat...don't shy away from the fluffy mold. It is okay. Remember cheese is living! Then the aged fresh at 12 o'clock....Before going further, I will tell you that I love all of them but I found this cheese a bit salty. As with all aging processes, flavors are concentrated. The mold you see on the cheese was not a problem, but the salt was for me. Finally, the cheese at 6 o'clock is calling me. I know this cheese and I love it!.. It stinks to high heaven when opened, but has a flavor that goes fabulously with red wine. It is Muenster from Alsace.

None of these cheeses are cut so that I can address the issue of 'cutting off the Pope's nose'.....a bit of cheese etiquette 101. Maybe another blog

P.S. I have corrected the times listed for my postings. They have been wrong. It is 8:05PM here and from now on you will see that I am posting on my time here in France....C'est 2:05PM in NC right now....

May 6, 2007


Well, it is remarkable to me that at 8PM....seconds after the polls close, a winner is announced. How do they know so fast??? Truly, the clock was ticking down on the television and BOOM the announcement that SARKOZY WINS with 53% of the vote! Also, I am amazed at the voter turnout...85%.....they are passionate about their politics. No laisser faire ici....or voter apathy.

Xavier says they know how to count votes!


AMAZING....there is a countdown just like New Year's Eve for the 8PM announcement. Sarkozy has won with 53% of the vote.


Today, Sunday, is election day here in France. There is excitement in the air. It has been THE topic of conversation for days...whether with friends and neighbors or around the table at meal times.

THe morning greeting this morning was "Today is the big day".......I'm thinking...big day....what is it.....what have I forgotten....where are we going???? Wrong! France is getting a NEW president! I won't pretend to know a tenth of what the average Frenchman knows but they are all animated and very excited about the change. The candidates are Segolene Royal, the Socialist illegitimate daughter of former President Mitterand...and you know the French could care less what her birth status was .....and Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative candidate who is promoting law and order and economic reform. Now that is as far as I am going with the politics....

Our day here in Les Arcs moved from the declaration of a 'big day' to going downtown where Bernard, Madeleine and Xavier voted. It was pretty much like our USA set-up but NO computers. Each of them had a voting card that was to be stamped (see pic) when they presented their identification. Then there were 2 stacks of paper for Royal and one for Sarkozy.....Most people pick up one of each and then go into booth and 'isoloir' (isolate themselves) to vote by placing the paper with their candidate into the box. Guess you could count the trashcan to see who loses!

Local jokes abound.....X received a text message from a friend yesterday ... Tomorrow, vote for Sarkozy so Royal remains only the name of a pizza!......

Today was only a presidential election.....the legislative election will be in June....never at the same time as we do.

It is 7PM here now. Most polls closed at 6PM except for the big cities which close at 8....Supposedly we will know at 8. Voter turnout is supposed to reach 85%. AMAZING!

May 4, 2007


It is always an adventure finding out upon arrival what is blooming, what trees have fruit, what is in the garden. Today was no exception. Look at these luscious artichokes...les petit violet de Provence. I have a picture from my files that shows a larger variety of an artichoke that has been allowed to go to flower...that flower is the choke that we remove before eating.

Walk into the kitchen this morning and there are two big containers of fresh strawberries...and not just any strawberries. These are the berries from Carpentras which is known for these luscious gems. These berries are about the size of the end of my ring finger and really taste and smell like strawberries. They have not been hybridized to the point of being huge with no flavor. This is what strawberries are supposed to be. Rarely, do we find them in the States. It hasn't been long since my arrival and between Xavier and myself (mostly me), the baskets are empty. I transferred some to a dish for photgraphing....maybe you can catch a whiff.....YUM..

Now, on tap for tonight's dinner are white asparagus....Having had many last Spring when I was here, I am looking forward to the evening repas (actually, I look forward to it every night if the truth be known). But, I have never liked those that I purchase in the grocery stores at home. Maybe I don't do something right but they are always tough and bitter for me. These are tender and succulent....and even more so with Xavier's vinaigrette.

I was looking forward to picking the cherries from the tree at my house in a couple of weeks....the usual time for them to be ready, but Xavier tells me that Spring came early.........and between that and a frost at an inopportune time, there are few cherries to be had....It seems to be the same scenario that was played out in North Carolina this year.


What can I say? Travel these days is not as easy as it once was and leaving from the big city of Atlanta made it even more laborious. Their sidewalk check-in was line....friendly personnel who even gave me 3 drink coupons for the flight...did I look like I needed a drink at 10AM in the morning?? Anyway, that is where the fun stops. Once inside and I was faced with the line (or should I say lines) through security. From the time that I was dropped off, it took one full hour to get through security and to my gate. Great flight to NY/JFK and then the interminable 5 hour wait for the next flight!

I think that JFK has undoubtedly the worst signage of any airport/train station/hospital/ or other place where you have no idea where you are. In my 5 hours there, I thought that perhaps I could redesign their directional signs..... heaven help the poor international traveler who doesn't speak English. Enough of that....I headed to the Sam Adams bar where there was a WiFi entertainment for the next few hours.

At the gate: Everyone is arriving.....3 people in wheel chairs.....2 people with dogs......more people than I can count with babies and children....and many different languages. Woman who arrived in a wheelchair with crutches and a dog needs to go to bathroom but can't manage dog, crutches and handbag alone. She doesn't speak English so I figure she speaks, she speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. I am not much help but find an Italian lady to help her. Now this is a brave traveler.

Flight is full but again I have my good Karma and there is no one beside me....I see no other empty seats.....I guess my focusing on this for the last 3 months helped.

Enough of this...arrived on time in NIce to cool, rainy weather...a first......but, to me, the sun was shining!