Les poissons en France

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Part Two

For more than a year we had planned a very different celebration of our 70th birthdays and golden wedding in the UK. However as the much awaited day arrived fears that Ryanair would throw a spanner in the works haunted us. Fortunately Wednesday's flight cancellation list confirmed that our flights were still operating. Phew!

Last October we had reconnoitered the venue before before making a reservation. Hartwell House was built in the 16th Century and is owned by the National Trust. Consequently it has the air of a mini stately home set in mature grounds, just the sort of thing that is a million miles away from our everyday life, so suitable for our celebration.
However when we arrived on Saturday morning we felt that we had come for a themed weekend and expected the "Cluedo" characters to appear any moment. May be it's just that we are not used to being treated like "gentry". We soon entered into the spirit, particularly when we were escorted to our bedroom by the porter who gave us a potted history of the building as we climbed the grand staircase.
Soon our guests began to arrive and this was the very nicest part. Some friends joined us who we had not seen since we moved to France. Many had been major players on our wedding day, including Betty, my second Mum, who is now 94. Others we have collected over the past 50 years but they are all very dear and it was wonderful to share the day with them.

John decided that after each course the gentleman should move to the next table so that everyone could get to know each other.
Unfortunately we were a little disappointed with the food but we will gloss over that as it was the warmth of family and friends that was most important.

On the subject of food we had brought our own with us in the shape of the top tier of our wedding cake. It had been lanquishing in a tin in various lofts for 50 years and we had no idea what state it would be in. Inedible, but good for a laugh.
After John and I had delivered our "speeches" John and Lesley, Mas de Bouye friends, read a poem about us which Lesley had written. I would love to include it here but it is very long and you will have to read it when you come to see us.
Pat and Mel stayed over on Saturday night and it was lovely to share an evening reminiscing followed by a walk in glorious autumn sunshine the following morning.

Our pleasures did not finish there as on Sunday we drove down to the Forest of Dean to visit a friend who was not fit enough to join us on Saturday. She is a very accomplished artist who still manages to  "paint" using her iPad despite suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease. Very inspirational.

Following our visit to Kathy we stayed a couple of nights at a Premier Inn in Cheltenham, a bit of a contrast to say the least but we can only afford to play Lord and Lady Herring for 24 hours! We  planned to visit a famous garden at Hidcote Manor and possibly fit in a second garden nearby. Despite the unfavourable weather we joined the many vistors to Hidcote and gathered more ideas for our own garden.
However we have to say we enjoyed the neighbouring private garden at Kiftsgate Court more. It is a traditional but imaginative English garden created by three generations of lady gardeners. John particularly liked the two modern areas which have recently been added. We are both of the opinion that gardens should constantly be evolving.
We returned to Bovingdon to spend some more time with Betty but en route called into some more friends in Wiltshire who were again prevented from joining us due to ill health.

As you will no doubt have realised we thoroughly enjoyed our week of celebrations.  So now it is back to the grindstone ... an autumn garden awaits.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Le Weekend de Patrimoine

Every year on this 3rd weekend of September France (and Europe) put on a lot of events, open-doors and exhibitions on their history and culture.
This year the weather was very unsettled, cool and rainy, but people still brave the elements and yesterday we went to a chateau in a nearby village.
Historic houses that are listed and which receive financial aid from the government have to open to the public, even if for only this weekend. 
The guided tours at the Chateau de Vaillac were well supported and we realised that the knowledgeable guide was the owner of the property.
I, Sue, just have to add that this little man was a perfect French gentlemen. He spoke French so smoothly and at a speed that was impossible not to understand. He was exactly a French squire which is totally different to an English one.

We were impressed at the way 'ordinary' French people are proud of their history and make the effort to visit even an insignificant footnote of it.

Still having some of the afternoon left we travelled toward Cahors to the small village of Boissière.
Here we had seen that there was a stone mason working and examples of his restauration work were in the church.
We were struck by the way that a small village like this had been prepared to spend money to convert the ruins of the adjacent chateau into a 'chic' meeting place (Salle de Fete).  The French have a very strong pride in who they are and where they come from.

Today it was raining again and so we looked for somewhere indoors to go.  Having been in enough village churches thank you, we went to Figeac to the Musée Champollion which is dedicated to the man who deciphered Egyptian hierogyphics but now also explores the development of writing world-wide.
It is in the house where Champollion was born and is a very smart place ... again, no expence spared.
We enjoyed the visit but realised that we need to go again (when there aren't so many people there) as you need time to read all of the explanatory notices and take it all in (plus translate it all from French!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

So French

Yesterday 12th September, a General Strike was called by the second largest union in France to protest against the changes to the employment laws that the new President Macron is trying to introduce.
The strike wasn't supported by everyone so it remains to be seen if he will be able to revitalise the French economy!

But in Cahors we came upon this demonstration and march.
The French do get very vociferous about their 'Rights'

Monday, September 11, 2017

Our 50th Wedding Anniversary

 For a year we had planned our celebratory lunch with our friends to take place in the courtyard.

Our celebrations started last Wednesday with the arrival of "The Staff", ie Pat and Mel and Paul and Jennifer. We broke them in gently with lunch at a local restaurant and a little bit of shopping. Friday was supposed to be a "hectic cooking day" but some how it didn't work out that way. The team worked so well together that everyone just got on and did their allocated cooking job with no fuss and everything ran incredibly smoothly. 
The odd glass of wine probably eased progress!!
 However we all became a little anxious as the furniture and crockery which we had hired had not arrived by 7 o'clock - it was just that the delivery man couldn't tell the time!!! 
By Friday evening we all decided that we had laughed so much and had such a good time together that it didn't matter what happened the next day.

As you know in recent weeks we have been complaining about the heat but the weather decided it was going to change completely and the forecast was for pouring rain all day on the 9th. So we hastily moved to plan B with everything indoors.
However the smooth running continued into the next day, you would think "The Staff" had been catering and serving a lifetime. They created and served the seven courses without a hitch.

The "Staff" have insisted that we show you the menu.

Cold Pea and mint soup            

Monkfish and Prawn terrine                  

Spicy Cod with avocado                            
                  and citrus sorbet                         

Coronation Chicken                             
with pickled vegetables              

Cheese plate                      

Desserts in ’Café gourmand’ style         

Coffee or Tea    
White/Blanc :- Chêne Peyraille  Begerac                                                  
Red/Rouge :- Sàtirs Negre  D:O. Emporda (Catalunya)

 So the event started off without a problem ...
... and continued brilliantly.
But then everyone had to endure the speeches ...
... including a speech from Paul who had been our 'Best Man' 50 years ago.
From the feedback the guests enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Festival of Festivals.

You wait all year for a festival and then 3 come along all at once.

Well nearly all at once.  Last weekend it was the annual village fête at St Germain du Bel Air which lasted for 4 days with bands playing noisily into the early hours of the morning.
Then this weekend there were 2 more.  The local Young Farmers staged the 'Terre en Fête'
We went early on the Saturday morning especially to see the cattle and the judging of the classes.
There were also lots of horses and demonstrations of working horses.
It was good to see proper animal husbandry.
We so enjoyed the show that we went back again in the afternoon and saw the Voitures Coupées or Cut-up Cars.
These were literally cars cut in half with only the front wheels and they were raced against the clock!!!

Whilst we were wandering around we naturally kept bumping into French locals we knew ... but then, we are locals now ourselves!

The Sunday they were expecting about 8000 people there but we went to the second Fête which was held in the next village of Concores.  This was also on Saturday and Sunday but was mainly a diverse range of bands and musical styles ... all free!

We started our afternoon visit by going to the Exhibition of Photos.
The main display was a wonderful collection of photos taken in the 80's of local people who were then still living the 'old' life.
We then made our way to the small village church for a concert of operatic Arias performed by a soprano and her pianist ...
... and they were both tremendous.  We couldn't get over the quality of their performance in a little church in a little village in the depths of rural France.
Then from the sublime to the ridiculous!  We walked back to the Salle de Fête to see a duo called 'Les Idiots'  who were very French and who could have been very 'bluesy' with the right material.  No matter, they were entertaining the crowd and it was free.
There were also games and events for the kids, in fact something for everyone.

St Germain  has a population of about 500 and Concores about half that yet they stage events with incredible professionalism and we are just amazed and grateful.