Category Archives: France

Better than the Baby Jesus in Velvet Booties: The “Gourmet” Market

Help! I’m in a dream and I never want to wake up!

Not only do they have the “regular” farmer’s market every Thursday, but they have a “gourmet” market every Thursday night in the summer months. Wowsers! Or, as they say here, it’s better than the baby Jesus in velvet booties. I’m not sure how to translate that.

The gourmet market features more prepared, eat-it-here kinds of foods, but there are still plenty of fruits and veg if you missed the earlier market. For the gourmet market, they set up long white tables in the center of the square and tons of people come out for a kind of communal party-dinner for the evening. There was a band playing and it was all quite festive. I tried to buy two plastic cups of rose, but the gal thought I was saying two bottles of rose! Clearly, I need more speaking practice.

Dish of french fries with sign saying they're fried in duck fat

The best thing that's ever happened to me: fries fried in duck fat.

Merguez sausages with green lentils

Dinner: merguez lentilles

MJ drinking from a bottle of rose

It's going to be a great night. Drinking rose with J.



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Day 2 – Farmers Market en la ville

Consider me dead and gone to heaven. We went to the market today, a once-a-week, open-air farmer’s market in the centre ville, which has been running every Thursday since the 13th century. Wow. I have no idea why GB even bothers living in Portland. I sure wouldn’t. It’s hard to imagine a place more perfect for me than this village, and I haven’t even been here two days. When I got back from the market and sat down to eat my lunch, I felt for sure like this was the beginning of something I’ll do again and again. I really hope life can deliver that dream for me. This is truly a fantastic trip already.

The market is ridiculous. It’s somewhat like our farmers markets back home, but way more advanced. This is a small village of 2,000 people, yet there were several different cheese vendors, fish vendors, meat vendors, bread vendors, and all manner of vegetable vendors. Plus clothes, wine, hot food, and jewelry. Then random odds and ends like a candy vendor, olive guy, and soap lady. It was lively with tourists and locals alike.

GB says many French people also take their holidays here. I heard lots of French spoken, but also some English (as in British). And the vendors tried to speak with me in English, even though I want (and am trying) to speak in French. It is clearly a tourist town in summer, but feels relaxed and not obnoxious at all.

We looped around the market a couple of times before diving in for purchases. We bought a rotisserie poulet (chicken), a local vin rouge, fromage from this region (chevre and a tomme wedge), haricot verts, local green prunes (the French word for plums – these look to me like green gages), pruneaux (dried plums/prunes), tomates, cuke, basilic, and ail. That will give you a chance to learn some French with me.

GB went for un cafe with her friends and I walked back to the house (literally steps from the square). I made a lunch of salad, rotisserie chicken, chevre, olives, and vin rouge. I can see why French women don’t get fat if this is how they are fortunate enough to eat all the time. We just don’t have this level of neighborhood farmer’s markets this often each week in the States, even in our best city for it, Portland (in my humble opinion).

I ran up to the library to try to use the internet before they closed (at 12:30!), but their internet connection is down, and may be down tomorrow as well. Seems the internet may be like spotting Sasquatch here. I’ll just have to keep trying.

Now I’m sitting out on the terrace enjoying the hot, dry weather and the amazing view from here of the Lot river valley. There are many pigeons and swallows in the village, which have been fun to watch and listen to. There are nests outside my bedroom window.

Next up, a nap through the hottest hours of the day.

Paella and other large skillets of hot food

One of the hot-prepared foods vendors

View of the bonbons stand with a Sponge Bob balloon hanging there too

Les bonbons stand - with Sponge Bob!

Sausage stand at the farmer's market

One of the awesome sausage guys at the market - he had great sausage "candies." MMMMM.

MJ at the olive stand

Pinch me! I must be dreaming! This olive guy also had incredible candied kumquats.

Churros stand in a French farmer's market!

What market, even in France, would be complete without a CHURROS stand?!

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Day 2 – La maison en la ville

Day 2: ala maison. [note: please be advised that I do not yet speak French well and butcher it at every turn on this blog and when I’m trying to talk to people in person.]

Well, the village and the house are far more spectacular than I could have ever dreamed. It’s like something out of a movie. In fact, I said last night that it’s soooo perfect, it’s like a set. I expect grizzled old roadie-dudes to jump from the bushes and haul it all away any second. Here are some photos, but take my word that they really don’t do it justice. Let’s just say: 13th century stone walls, gorgeous tile floors, beamed ceilings, and a third-story terrace to knock your socks off.

living room in the house

Living room.

View from my bedroom (of my new ami, JS, talking with GB)

View from my bedroom (of my new ami, JS, talking with GB)

View from the terrace of the Lot river valley.

View from the terrace of the Lot river valley.

GB’s bedroom window looks out onto this fantastic patchwork of tile rooftops. Here’s a pic of that:

lichen-covered tile rooftops

Those are some OLD roof tiles, my friends.

The house smells exactly like KM’s cabin in Inverness: fireplace smoke, must, and like it’s been locked-up a while, some of my favorite smells associated with some of my favorite memories and place. Mmmmmm.

When you approach the village from Villeneuve-sur-Lot, there is just a crazy view of this village perched on a hill (wish I had a picture, but somehow, I did not get one). Pretty over the top. I just couldn’t believe: a) there was a such a wacky town built on a hilltop, and b) I was going to stay there. In the village itself, GB lives in a narrow little street. Here is the street.

View from the front of the house, looking down the street.

View from the front of the house, looking down the street.

Last night we somehow managed to drag ourselves out to dinner in an attempt to stay awake and get on local time. I felt like a teenager who’d been up for three days camping out before a Duran Duran concert, strung out on pure adrenalin. Only now I’m 40 and that doesn’t feel good at all.

We had dinner at Le Jardin, an extremely cute and quaint bistro on the central square. GB is friendly with the owners, so they were all very happy to see her in town for summer again. I had duck confit (this is duck country, apparently–this place just keeps getting better!) with a random yet completely delicious house red wine, a kir, and some fantastically thin and greasy fried potatoes. I polished the plate and then shared a sundae with GB. Je suis en vacances after all (i.e., no calories).

Duck leg with fried potatoes

My first meal in France!

After dinner, we walked the bastide loop road. Monflanquin is one of three bastide towns in this region, meaning in autre fois (the olden days) there was a fence around the town to defend it from the invading Normans (I believe–I need to get the details correct later at the bastide musee en la place). That’s also why it’s built high on this hill…easier to defend. We ran into P&S, GB’s village friends who are British. They are having a coffee date this morning, but I think I’m actually just too wiped out for that and will have to miss it.

My French is…manageable. I wouldn’t say it’s good, I wouldn’t say it’s bad. I’d say it’s where it’s at, which is in the beginning stages. I can understand the gist of a conversation, but I have a hard time responding when people are speaking fast and in long, complicated sentences. But I could order food just fine (the most important thing!) and was able to ask if there was any flour in the dish I ordered. I’m also able to read many signs. The drive out here was quite an adventure, but more about that some other time. The village folks are very nice when I’m trying to speak French, and GB says I have a great accent (thank you, Paul Pimsleur!)

Anyway, I’m off to relax and find an internet cafe so I can post this. I’m still extremely bleary-eyed and I haven’t been able to contact The Man yet, which makes me anxious. Love to all!

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Day 1 in France

[finally, I am in a 24-hour wifi zone! here are some posts i’ve written over the last several days…]

Here I am, safe and sound on French soil. I’m writing from a cafe in the Toulouse airport while waiting for GB’s flight to arrive. I have a couple of hours to kill, during which I’ll celebrate the fact that Air France did not go on strike and ruin all our plans.

I’ve already been speaking un peu de l’Francais. Oui! Pretty awesome. I successfully ordered my tea and attempted to chat up the rental car gal anyway. I’ll call that speaking a little French (very little).

For the record, Brussels airport? Avoid! To get to your connecting flight, you have to leave the secure area, get your passport stamped (literally, the border security guy did not say one word to me, simply stamped my passport after I had waited so patiently for 45 minutes in a swarming, stifling assortment of global body aromas due to vastly differing concepts of personal space), and then re-do the entire security she-bang (wait in huge line, take off shoes, unload electronics, give away firstborn) ALL OVER AGAIN. Seriously! I was like, okay, this would actually not happen in my country. People would throw shoes. I guess I’ll just be grateful that I did not have to check my pregnant snake (what The Man called my carry-on bag this morning before I left). The whole time I was suffering through that I was relying on some serious yogic breathing techniques to ward off the inner gale force winds of panic and anxiety around possibly missing my connecting flight. Hooooo. Deep breaths.

Anyhooser, I have to say I’m in surprisingly good spirits considering I’ve just spent the last 24 hours traveling and I still can’t seem to sleep on planes. I practically jumped into the airport bathroom sink just now to wash up and attempt to look human for GB. It’s almost 2 p.m. here and I have to try to stay awake until evening to get my body on the local clock. From here we’re off to the village! Next stop: Monflanquin!

view of Europe from airplane

Somewhere over Europe.

crazy billboard in a European airport of men jumping in very white underwear

Apparently, Timmy, white men CAN jump! (random billboard in the Brussels airport that I totally did not understand - I think it may be an ad for shoes?!)

circular hallway in the TLS airport

Groovy hallway in the Toulouse airport (killing time while I wait for GB's plane to arrive).

amazing instant fancy coffee machine in the Toulouse airport

You can order 10 different kinds of coffee from this machine, in the AIRPORT, for crying out loud! I can tell already that France is a paradise.

MJ's first photo in France

My first pic in France! I'm REALLY tired at this point (24 hrs of travel), but I will be awake another 10 hours.

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Technical Difficulties in French

Bonjour, mes amis!!!

I have several posts to post from France, but the internet apparently does not work often in a small French village. Nor does my phone card. Right now I am on the tourism bureau computer, struggling with the French keyboard. Bear with me!

Other than these technological challenges, I am having a great time and hope to post something substantial soon.

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Viva la France!

I don’t know how to break this news, so I’ll just bust out with it: I’M GOING TO FRANCE!!!

That is right, my sweets! Moi got an invitation to visit a fabulous friend and her famille in the Aquitaine region of France this summer. Moi can hardly wait!!! (And, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me: “You’ve never been to Europe?!” It’s like I’m a unicorn. For the record, I have been to England, but never to le Continent.) Formidable!

I was telling another friend of mine that for some reason, I never really imagined myself visiting France. I don’t know why. It seems like something other people do, but not me. I have been studying French for almost a year now and I also took it in college, but it just never occurred to me that I could actually go there. Now, I can’t believe how idiotic I am. Of course I should go there! What a great motivator it’s been for my studies. And who cares about remodeling the basement anyway?

Honestly, now I’m thinking about my NEXT trip to France!

But back to reality.

This all came about because I was telling the house-friend of mine that another friend of mine had just celebrated her fortieth birthday with a big, all-gal, Phenomenal Forty party. While I was at said party, I imagined what I would do for my fortieth birthday, coming up in May. The idea of a party was just not sparkly for me. What I really wanted to do was travel. Traveling is something I haven’t done a whole lot of, and something I really want to do a whole lot of. My friend heard this and said something like, “Well, you could join me at my house in southwestern France this summer…” To which I coughed up a polite reply, in complete shock. I subsequently went home and obsessed for 72 straight hours, wondering if my friend could possibly have been serious! It seemed PREPOSTEROUS that anyone would invite me to their house in France. But maybe these are the kinds of things that happen to you when you turn 40!

Needless to say, I pulled my head out and accepted the invitation.

I now have a stack of books to prepare for the trip, including a whole book on where to eat in Paris (I’m not even sure I’ll go to Paris, but I just had to have this book!) And I’m listening to my Pimsleur language tapes like a French maniac (Ou est les toilettes?) I can’t believe that come July, I’m going to be hanging out with my pal, sipping wine on her terrace.

I keep thinking that something awful is going to happen, like I don’t know, I’ll have a stroke by then and won’t be able to go. Deep breaths. POSITIVE THOUGHTS!

How do you say pinch me in French?! Ouiiiiiiiiiii!!!

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