Monthly Archives: June 2010

Market Haul

Here’s another one of my favorite photos from Vincent’s link – it is of their “haul” at the Beaune market on Saturday.

Will you just LOOK at the size of those snap peas and asparagus?

I Love it When Things Go Backwards

Over the past few years, this is the kind of thing you see tilling the precious soil between the Burgundian vineyards.  Now, these tractors-on-steroids may be pleasing to  people who get excited about machinery (I am not one of those people) but otherwise they are not particularly picturesque.  However, I think many of us have resigned ourselves to a more technological but less aesthetic world when it comes to machinery.

In Burgundy, however, I am pleased to report that while the rest of the world is moving “forwards” towards more technology, and processes that are quicker and cheaper, things in Burgundy have started to go backwards.

Have a look at this photo a recent guest at La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, Vincent Ball, sent me.

Isn’t this nicer to look at?  You see in Burgundy – a place where rapidity and cheapness have never been particularly cherished – winemakers are beginning to realize that nothing is better than a good old horse to plow and till your vineyards.   They don’t damage the precious soil, vines, or grapes and this in turn produces a better more authentic wine.   More and more winemakers are going back to using horses, and in fact being a vineyards horse owner / driver is becoming one of the most up and coming career choices in the Beaune area.

I’m sure even the guy over there to the right in his “old-fashioned” tractor is considering changing to this new-fangled horse method all his winemaker buddies are talking about.

Villers-la-Faye in The News

Thanks to Lisa K’s great blog, I found out about the riveting fact that our little village of Villers-la-Faye was recently front and centre in the French news.

Click here to watch the (rather long) segment about how the local school spearheaded a project to replant an old garbage depot in the Hautes-Cotes.  If this doesn’t take you to the right segment (after a small ad) click on the upper left hand corner of the page on “lundi a Villers-la-Faye”.

The local school in Villers-la-Faye really does some neat things with their students; things such as this project and also yearly field trips into the vineyards during wine harvest time, to the wonderful museums in Dijon, to visit local potters and violin makers, etc. etc… 

When guests are contemplating a sabbatical in France with their children, I always strongly suggest that they sign them up for a local school such as the one in Villers-la-Faye.  Besides adding some structure to daily life that is often welcome for both parents and children alike, there is no better way to learn French and become integrated into a French village.    

I love seeing many of our fellow villagers on the news clip – many looking rather star-struck – on Villers-la-Faye’s Place du Village where we will be having the big Bastille Day celebration in about three weeks.   There is also our Maire, Pierre Alexandre, who helped us get permission to put skylights in La Maison de la Vieille Vigne and who is remarkably at ease with all this media and PR stuff.     

I also love the sound of a teenager who roars by on a mobylette at the beginning of the clip.  Along with the leaves that unfurl from the trees the students planted, there is no surer sign of the springtime in Burgundy. 

And – hooray! – in less than two weeks we’ll be there ourselves.  I’m not certain if I’m more grateful for that, or the fact that our bevy aren’t quite old enough yet to go roaring off with one of the village boys on the back of his mobylette.

A toss up.

A Burgundian Wedding

My obscenely talented friend Marjorie who is now a full-fledged French resident, cooking teacher, and Citroen 2-Chevaux driver just sent me this link to some photos of the recent marriage of her daughter Kendall and her now-epoux Laurent.

I can tell from the photos that Marjorie, who runs The Cook’s Atelier in Beaune, used her masterful hand in decorating and beautifying her daughter’s special day. 

If you can possibly sign up for one of Marjorie’s wonderful market tours, dinner clubs, or cooking classes for your next trip to Burgundy I highly recommend them. 

Just one glance at any of the photos on the above link will show you why. 

These remind me of my Burgundian wedding with Franck in 1997 – just before the era of digital cameras. 

It was a rainy but amazing day.  Friends and family from France, Canada, the UK and beyond came to join in the procession (accompanied by a roving accordion player) from Franck’s house to our civil ceremony at Le Mairie in Villers-la-Faye.  Then we all drove to our church wedding in the little Roman jewel of a church in the nearby village of Marey-les-Fussey.  Next was a huge festin fueled by even more accordion music, impromptu singing by Franck’s aunt, and liberal doses of kir in the huge stone wine cellars underneath Le Mairie of Nuits-Saint-Georges.  

Franck and I were the last to straggle back to the hotel in Nuits-Saint-Georges well after the sun had come up.  And then only a few short hours later, we were back in the cellar enjoying another epic meal entirely prepared by Franck’s beloved Meme Germain.

Merci for the fabulous photos Marjorie, and felicitations to Kendall and Laurent!

Handy-Downs, etc.

Camille has coined some truly excellent franglais expressions, but lately Charlotte has been giving her a run for her money.

It is strange that I’m noticing these expressions now at the end of the year here at a time when Charlotte’s English is getting pretty darn close to fluent. Maybe this is why I am noticing them – they stand out when everything else that comes out of her mouth sounds pretty much the way it should.

Charlotte has long been gifted in the creative use of language department. When she was two she got off her Dad’s back after a long piggyback ride, then began to rub her legs and complain bitterly that they were full of “pinchy noodles.” This was Charlotte’s very poetic take on the (rather ho-hum, now that I think about it) expression “pins and needles.”

My first favorite of Charlotte’s recent malapropisms (or they may be categorized as “eggcorns” – if any of my writer friends would like to weigh in on this point I would be deeply grateful) is “Handy-Downs” for “Hand-Me-Downs”…..Well, heck, pourquoi pas?  I mean, it IS really handy to get other people’s clothes for free, n’est-ce pas

Her other one is “Lonely Child” instead of “Only Child” (i.e. Emmy’s mother bought her a whole bag of food erasers; I think she gets all that cool stuff because she’s a Lonely Child.”

I don’t correct Charlotte’s speech, of course.  I am far too Machiavellian for that.  However, I did feel obliged to clear up a misconception about “Lonely Children”.

“You know Charlotte,” I said. “Most “Lonely Children” are very happy not to have any brothers or sisters.  If you were to ask them, I’m pretty sure they would say that they are not the slightest bit lonely.” 

“I KNOW that Mom.”  Charlotte did a very tween-esque rolling of eyes.  “Don’t you know?  It’s just an expression.”

Un Petit Voyage Down Memory Lane

 Allison’s photos, particularly the one of the kids on the turquoise bench, inspired me to scroll back through mine.

I just had to post this photo – the last one we took of our bevy in France  just seconds before we leaped in the car and set off on our big move back to Canada.  

That was July 16, 2009 – almost a year ago.   And in about 2 weeks we will be arriving back in front of that turquoise bench again – volcanoes, strikes, and obstreperous two year old permitting.

The gaps in Camille’s mouth have been filled in with new teeth, Charlotte has grown about a foot, and Clementine may actually be capable of sitting still for longer than a millisecond while I take the photo.  

Actually, probably not. 

I guess some things don’t change after all.       

The Terrace Being Put To Good Use

In yesterday’s post I talked about my terrace in France.  Lovely…but that photo I posted, while idyllic to me, did seem weirdly empty. 

You see my dream for La Maison des Chaumes is, and has always been, of a house in France filled with friends, family, laughter, children, good food and good wine.  Spending time by myself on the terrace doesn’t happen very often.  In fact, I think the time I took that particular photo may have been the only time it ever happened.   

Allison May – a friend of Lisa’s (Lisa who just stayed at La Maison des Chaumes for 4+ months with her family) and someone whom I am very much looking forward to meeting in just a few weeks, just posted the photos below on her Facebook page – see below.

Allison’s photos warmed my heart.  

When I explain how we own and manage vacation rentals in France people often ask me how I could stand to have “strangers” live in my house.    I invariably have a hard time answering as really, at a visceral level, I just don’t get their question.    

I would SO MUCH rather have our house being lived in and enjoyed by guests – many of who become friends anyway – than sitting empty and silent.  How could you think otherwise when you look at these photos of Allison’s, Lisa’s, and Geraldine’s families enjoying the terrace, the yard, the long farmhouse table in the living room (perfect for opening Birthday presents in front of an audience), and – be still my beating heart – the little turquoise bench in front of the door where it has become de rigeur to take a few shots of our bevy as we arrive or leave. 

These are the moments that I want my life both here and in France – and my houses – to be overflowing with.