Thursday, January 29, 2015

Leeks~ it's what's (usually) for dinner

Here's what I dug for dinner yesterday
These grow in between the rows of vines, pushing up through the rocky soil, competing with wild arugula and dandelions for nearly non-existent moisture. They are small with tiny bulbs attached that when tilled or disturbed they multiply abundantly. They are tender and very sweet. I made them into a gratin with potatoes, bits of local prociutto, wild thyme and some Emmentaler cheese. Yup, it smelled and tasted as good as it sounds. Washed down with some local rosé and I was a happy girl.
Leeks are much more common here. As common as onions- or I don't know- potatoes are back home. I love that here everyone loves them as much as I do!

I'm headed back into the vineyards to prune tomorrow. I hope it will be as sunny as yesterday. With all my layers and wool I've stayed warm enough. I think we'll finish the grenache vines and perhaps we'll finish the viognier as well.

this is looking back toward Roquessels from the grenache vineyard.

these little structures are common used for horses or getting out of the elements while working

As I head into this very different looking countryside I'm keeping my eyes peeled for another sighting of the sanglier- wild boar! This is an elusive and rather unattractive creature that resides here. And apparently quite tasty though I'll keep you posted on that. Jen and I saw one driving home one night, it was quite agile for such a big critter and we watched astonished as he leapt up the stonewall and disappeared in the garrigue (a heathland habitat of tall shrubs, including rosemary and thyme).
The spot from which I dug my supper and watched as the sun slowly made its descent.

Social butterfly

Last weekend was quite the contradiction to what has become my solitary daily routine of walking, writing and reading and drinking endless cups of tea. One that started with an invitation to join Monica at friends on Saturday afternoon. Happily I accepted, eager to meet people but I was feeling a bit out of my league when I walked in to this spread...
they do take this quite seriously...
But after a rousting hour and a half of Petanque, we were frozen and ready for serious libation and sweets.
Jean-Claude explaining the finer points to Monica.
I learned the next day that the quiet kick-ass Petanque player was the mayor. I learned this when I arrived at the town fete. He addressed the the small group of about 40 that is the winter population of Roquessels. We then for the next 4 hours ate and drank and laughed (sometimes I even knew what was funny) I quite enjoy just watching this beautiful language of the face, voice and hands. I met almost everyone. They are very kind, all wanting to know why would a woman come here alone, in the winter? I stumbled through that answer as I stumble through most conversations. 

Soon I walked home through the quiet village, the wind easing as I ducked into the alley that leads to 1 Place du Maréchal, my footsteps echoing on cold stone. I had settled in with strong tea and a much awaited call to my brother when there was an insistent ringing of my little bell and a knocking on the outside gate. It was my new friend Barry, sent by his lovely wife Angel imploring that I join them for a dinner party. Of course I went, shamelessly hanging up on my dear brother and returning home about midnight full of beautiful food, conversation, great local wine and bonhomie.

My new friends, Barry, Angel and Arlett.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday market in Pézenas

A big beautiful red sun rose over the vineyards this morning, just heralding promise. So I took myself off to the big market in Pézenas. Despite being blustery cold and the slow season, it was wonderful. I wish I had portraits of every oh-so-memorable person I spoke to~ the oyster man, the fruit boy, the old woman who sold me beautiful fingerling potatoes, spinach and brussels sprouts, the bread lady and the truffle man. (Ah... the truffle man, straight out of central casting, he explained no less than 3 times exactly how I should heat the oil, put it the shaved truffles, add the eggs, turn off the heat,  let them sit for 2-3 minutes and turn them out and enjoy them) Also the escargot woman who patiently described all the different jars of escargots; with tomatoes, ground 1/2 and 1/2 with pork, with escabeche, in a spread with garlic and parsley (that was just as tasty as it sounds), et mon favorite- escargots confit in duck fat. I was completely overwhelmed and walked away with no escargots but grinning widely knowing this is available to me every Saturday for 2 months!!! Other than the escargots I bought nearly everything that appealed to me. So I have a well stocked frig with oysters on the menu for ce soir.

Friday, January 23, 2015

One really cannot call it work...

I had a glorious day in the vineyard today! It was very sunny but the strongest winds I've experienced here. It was tolerable but it did interfere with our chatting. I love learning about the different vines. Today we started with Syrah and then moved onto Viognier vines. I asked about the age of the vines and was told this was a newer method of trellising so they were probably only about 50 yrs old! (it's all relative, hmm?)
I'm back home with very strong tea and some nice little french bisquits (cookies) watching what they call robins here- tiny little birds the size of a blue bird with bright rusty-colored breast. They're quite curious and come very close.
It's been such a nice day. I'm happy to work, and in such lovely surroundings with nice people- it's enough. Definitely enough.
I've been invited out for wine with Monica and friends tomorrow night and off to the town fete on Sunday. My social calender is filling right up!
The morning view from my balcony

before pruning

After 1st stage of pruning

My mates. The lovely Monica is on the right.

This lunch that Monica made for us tasted like a million bucks. The wine did too.

The almond trees at the edge of the vineyard

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ma vie en Roquessels

   Jenny has gone home and now the solitary part of this trip begins in earnest. Why did I feel the need to come to a place alone where I know no one? I have been pondering that all day. Until a wine maker that I met popped by to ask if I want to help with the pruning on Friday morning. Voila I thought... my answer~ It's not that I want to know no one, I want to know new ones! There is room in my life for new friends. To add to my luxuriously long list of wonderful dear old friends. That is the best medicine I can think of. Makes me smile to write it.
  I just came back from a nice long stroll through the vineyards. Saying aloud "I am walking through vineyards in France, I am actually walking through vineyards in France... I made this happen..." Quel miracle!
   I missed my dear co-pilot yesterday as I tried to maneuver my way out of Narbonne, a beautiful old city with windy one way streets that can seemingly end without egress. But the sun was out and flowers were blooming! I found les Halles, like it's namesake in Paris, it's an enormous market filled with all the good things in life. I found a creative way out of the city and meandered home where, seeking more sun, I climbed up to the ruins of the castle up at the highest point here in Roquessels. Other than one tiny old man making his way cautiously down a very steep windy path I saw no one. I just sat quietly for hours hours enjoying the extreme luxury of having no where to go and absolutely no obligations.

  My time with Jen was fun-filled and we saw many beautiful places. I was really glad for the company and her enthusiasm for the next great adventure. We checked out Pezenas, the closest bigger town, where most things are closed- it's off season now. But it was wonderful to be able to wander the cobbled alleys and see it all without much human distraction. Some cafés were open thankfully and we shared the most decadent crepe filled with caramized local apples- incroyable! We traveled to St Guilheim le desert, another breathtaking old medieval village, stopping on the way at Mas Daumas Gassac - a classy vineyard known for it's unusual blends and stellar wines for a memorable wine tasting. We saw Montpellier, shopping and eating and having a real memorable time in a certain parking garage, some things are just different here. We so happily traveled to the coast seeing beautiful Sète at sunset and arriving in Bouzique just in time for some of their famous oysters. Oh mon Dieux! Well worth the trip- I'll be eating a lot of these.
The round-abouts here too have been a hysterical feat for two of us. They are everywhere, just as you get up to speed here's another one to spit you out in a new possibly unmarked direction. It may have been a good idea to brush up on my french traffic signs before venturing out behind the wheel but alas I've been driving now for a week- feeling ever more (over)confident every day. 'Tis a memorable way to learn.

Mas de Daumas Gassac winery



yes, those are flowers blooming in all those pots!

Les Halles

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lala's adventures continue...

After a couple of whirlwind days in beautiful Barcelona.... 
I really loved the markets

We walked for many many kilometres and sought sustenance as needed.

Construction began on this Gaudi cathedral in 1862 and is still not finished!

more Gaudi architecture...

I've made it to Roquessels, France. My home for the next two months.
Our humble abode

my chambre

guest chambre

Ah bring on the rosés....