On 22 april, after all the usual pre departure kerfuffle, we headed for La Belle France again, this time for a two month stay.
Very sad to be leaving our animals, but our friend Fred is moving into the house while we are away, so I suspect that we will be missed rather less than we will miss them. As usual we are flying Cathay Pacific. It works really well for us because there is a TGV station at Terminal 2 at Charles De Gaulle, about a 5 minute walk from the Cathay baggage pick up. No obvious increase in security from our last visit – we saw a couple of patrols of young soldiers. Immigration was no different to the way it usually is — the Officer talking to his colleage about football or girls and paying very little attention to us.
After collecting our luggage we wandered around to the TGV station within the terminal. Outside, it was grey ,cloudy and ,judging by the icy blast coming through the exit doors, cold.
We had an hour to kill so installed ourselves in a cafe and started our adjustment to French coffee. I don’t know why, but it just isn’t up to Aussie standard. And cappuccino is just awful- they universally seem to use UHT milk. Ugh!!
It’s interesting how the smallest things can spoil your positive feelings. Here we were in France after a long but pleasant trip. Through immigration. On time for our train. Having a not too bad coffee. Time for a pee, I thought. So I wandered over to the toilets to be accosted by a man behind a desk at the entrance demanding the equivalent of one Aussie dollar for the use of the facilities. I had no French money in my pocket, so just forged on and did what I had to do. I was screamed at on the way in, during and on the way out! Welcome to France!
In due course the train arrived. The TGV stations have a great system where there are alphabetical signs spaced along the platforms and there are illuminated signs showing which carriage is going to stop adjacent to which alphabetical sign. So you get assembled in the right spot for your carriage. Then another aspect of France makes itself manifest – the French don’t queue and don’t apologise. So getting on is an absolute shitfight, particularly with luggage. And once on, there is really not enough space for luggage.
Once under way,though, the journey is magic! Quiet, comfortable and quick.
We had booked a taxi from Avignon and arrived at our beautiful house about 11.30 pm. Everything seemed to be in good order so we went straight to bed and slept very well.
Next morning we headed back into Avignon for an antique fair at the Parc des Expositions. These fairs are basically for the Trade, although anyone can attend it seems. There are literally thousands of vendors. They start at 8 am and go to 1pm. The red wine and pate and baguettes seem to appear at a lot of the stalls about 10.30. By mid day a lot of the vendors are quite pissed. Then, it being mid day they stop for lunch! The fair finishes at 1, so it pays to be early. These fairs are marvellous . There is a shipping company we have used to get stuff picked up and back to Oz called EDET International.
If you Google them there is a list of Fairs – dates and locations. If you think you might want to avail yourself of their services, ring Head Office and speak to Pascal. His English is better than yours!
Weeks one and two have flown! We have done most of the settling back in things , like car servicing , visits to nurseries and markets to buy plants , recommissioning the watering system, trying to buy some dry wood for our fires.
The wood thing is proving to be a bit of a problem. The last lot of wood we got has turned out to be still too wet to burn well and we are very low on the good stuff. The house has outdoor and indoor fireplaces and we love to sit in front of a fire at night. We have asked Celine ,our new manager , to source some ,but no result so far. We were recommended to a wood yard near Avignon, but their minimum delivery to our village is twice what we can cope with. We’ll keep trying.
The food available at the markets ,supermarkets and specialty shops is just amazing to us — the quality is so high and the prices so reasonable. Au moment it’s asparagus and strawberries. The biggest, sweetest “clery” strawberries from Carpentras are about $6 a big punnet. The asparagus is easily the biggest and best we have ever had.
So we haven’t been out much. Janelle has been using what’s fresh to make soups — tomato, artichoke, asparagus. Sublime! She has been making savoury tarts using the local sweet onions which don’t exist at home. And other tarts using the fantastic local, picked ripe, tomatoes and anchovies. Heaven on a stick.
Anyone who wants a recipe for anything need only ask.
As a known carnivore ,I’m in my element — rabbit, quail, spatchcock, huge veal chops, veal kidneys have all been on the menu since we arrived.
There is heaps of fish available and it’s about to get a workout.
We’ve also been spending a bit of time whipping the jardin back into shape. I find trimming the boxes with nail scissors very therapeutic. We trimmed some of our trees and like good little Vegemites ,took the trimmings down to the Transfer Station . Closed for lunch 11.45-2. So we went to lunch!
Public hols. are all the rage in France in May — there are five. May1 of course . This week, thursday was a holiday and so is monday. So what does a French worker do? Take the Friday as well , of course! Uzes has been like a zoo. So many people and so much traffic. And a huge market on saturday!
After a number of false starts we have visited a cafe (“la Grange”) attached to a winery (“la Gramiere”) in the nearby village of Vers. It’s run by two girls ,one fron the U.S. And the other from South Africa ,both of whom have been in France for around 15 years. Simple but good. And Vers is lovely. We could easily live there.
At our house we are experiencing the joy of watching a couple of families of swallows getting themselves set up under our eaves for summer.
Next week we plan a trip to Marseilles so Janelle can have a look at the new season’s fashions in Linen. Also lunch at Le Tracteur, one of our absolute favourites.