Friday, May 31, 2013

France et Moi with travel writer Maribeth Clemente


Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where  this week I am talking to author and travel writer Maribeth Clemente about what France means to her.

French Village Diaries France et Moi Interview Maribeth Clemente A Tour of the Heart
Maribeth, who currently lives in Colorado, has lived in Paris and travelled throughout France gaining experiences which led her to write her four books The Chic Shopper's Guide to Paris , The Riches of Paris: A Shopping and Touring Guide , Riches of France and a book I really enjoyed A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, see here for my review.

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Maribeth: There’s so much that makes France special from food and wine to culture to the French people’s deep regard for family. It’s no wonder it’s the most important travel destination in the world. What comes to mind most for me is its beauty and grace. From how a table is set to the lavender fields of Provence to the Tuileries Gardens and more, everywhere you look in France I see the imprint of beauty and grace. Much of this is manmade, much is natural; either way, France is a blessed land and the French know how to show her off in the most lovely manner.

2) What is your fondest memory of time spent in France?

Maribeth: Wow, that’s really tough---I have so many. I loved discovering Paris for the first time when I was sixteen. Then when I did my junior year abroad I truly fell in love with the city and the French way of life. I became une vraie parisienne when I went back and lived there for another ten years after college. I was totally immersed in the French life then and like most Parisians over the centuries, I felt the world revolved around Paris---or at least France did. When I first moved back to the U.S, I was like a long distance commuter to France. That’s when I was researching my book, The Riches of France:  A Shopping and Touring Guide to the French Provinces. I did many long trips to France for that, primarily in the provinces and that’s when I came to fully embrace the great diversity of its many regions. After that, I became much more all about France than just the City of Light. Thankfully, I’m still flooded with many extraordinary memories from each phase of my French life.

3) You are very well traveled in France, but is there one special place you love to return to?

Maribeth: That’s like picking your favorite child! I love all the regions of France for different reasons and, of course, I’m crazy about Paris. Here’s an area I hold near and dear that I’ve actually been thinking a lot about lately:  la Camargue. It’s a magical place where I experienced some special times. I love the wildness of Camargue, its horses, its pink flamingoes, its colorful culture, its food and music. (I’ve always been a fan of The Gypsy Kings.). But I never went to a bullfight at Saintes-Maries de la Mer nor do I chose to ever go.

4) Every region in France has it’s own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish?

Maribeth: There are so many French dishes that I love:  I sometimes find myself thinking about une bonne blanquette de veau or une sole meunière like the best you find in Normandy. I’ve always been a huge fan of confit de canard and les bons plats mijotés like those you find all over France. I also relish the freshness and aromatic flavors of the dishes of Provence.

5) Is there any French dish you won’t eat?

Maribeth: I steer away from organs and the like as much as possible although I have had ris de veau and found them to be delicious. I’ll never forget when I first arrived in France with my mother for my junior year abroad. I felt that my French was good enough to confidently order some food on the train. I was appalled to discover that I had ordered tongue. Later on that year, I remember going to the university cafeteria and discovering that the plat du jour was liver FOR EVERYONE. Unlike in the U.S., there was no alternative. That normally wasn’t a problem since the food was so good but that day I decided to pick up un sandwich elsewhere.

6) What is your favourite thing to buy in a Boulangerie/Patisserie?

Maribeth: Another tough question. I love it all. Really. I think what I miss most are the wonderful pastries you can’t easily find outside of France. I sometimes find myself dreaming of quintessential French gâteaux such as une réligieuse au café, un fraisier or une barquette aux marrons. Good bread and pastries such as pain au chocolat are easier to procure beyond the borders of France.

7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Maribeth: Un grand crème avec un croissant ou bien un pain au chocolat.

8) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Maribeth: I’m definitely a Camembert. What I love about Camembert is that there are so many varying degrees of ripeness. You can go to the market and ask for a Camembert and a good fromager will ask you “pour quand?” It makes a difference if you say for today’s lunch, tonight’s dinner, tomorrow’s lunch, etc. I feel like everyday of my life I have different degrees of ripeness and it’s especially wondrous when I can be described as bien fait.

9) Do you prefer French or New World wine?

Maribeth: I enjoy wines of all different provenances. I like a nice, oaky chardonnay from California yet a crisp Sancerre blanc can make me swoon. I am much more adept at reading a French wine label and have visited many more vineyards in France than elsewhere, so I feel more knowledgeable about French wines in general.

10) Can you describe your perfect French apero for us the drink, the nibbles, the location and the company?

Maribeth: A perfectly chilled glass of champagne with just a few chips or crackers outside en plein air with some of my oldest and dearest friends from France---that would be divine, s’il vous plaît.

11) Do you have any plans to visit France again soon?

Maribeth: I have a trip to France in mind for this fall. It’s to be a surf/spa combo trip to Biarritz. I love the Basque country and the Southwest of France in general. I’ll also do at least a week in Paris, bien entendu.

Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Maribeth: My big project for the summer is promoting my new book, A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France This July marks the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France, so I want to join in on all the Tour hoopla. A Tour of the Heart highlights love, romance, travel, culture, food and wine, and, of course, cycling and the Tour de France.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.

You can follow Maribeth’s blog here and find her on Facebook here 


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

A day on Ile de Ré

French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré Ars-en-Ré France
Cycling on Ile de Ré


I don’t know about where you are, but the weather here in our little bit of French paradise is quite horrid today. I have decided we need a day trip out, so come with me as I return to the sunnier days of last September when we did our very own Tour de France, or at least a Tour de Ile de Ré.

Ile de Ré is a small island (30 km long) just off the coast of La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime department and is about an hour and a half drive from us. It is a very popular holiday destination and home to some very exclusive (and expensive) hotels and accommodation. It is accessed by a 3km bridge, that when you approach by bike like we did, looks very imposing and a little intimidating. We left home at 8 o’clock in the morning with the church bells ringing the Angelis and the sound of gunshot echoing in the distance, as the first Sunday of the hunting season got under way. We had a couple of near misses on route as a ‘lucky’ fox dashed in front of the car, causing Ade to make an emergency stop and just as we approached La Rochelle we saw our first ever sighting of a wild boar, just out for a stroll on the dual carriageway. Hunting season or no hunting season, I didn’t think much of his survival chances poor thing.

french village diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Re La Rochelle
The bridge from La Rochelle

There is a large car park with viewpoint (belvedere) just before you enter the tolls for the bridge and this is where we left our car, for free, for the day. The tolls are quite pricey in high season (from 20th June to 11th Sept) at 16€ for a car, outside of these dates it is a more reasonable 8€, and Ade wanted the challenge of cycling over the bridge. The original plan had been for Ed and I to take our bikes over on the shuttle bus and meet up with Ade on the island. However, as we left we were talking to Pierrette, our neighbour who is in her seventies, and she casually slipped into conversation that she would be happy to cycle over the bridge too. We were not alone in leaving the car and packing up day bags and picnics onto bicycles, there were many families with young children and we all set off to tackle the bridge together.

Ile de Ré can be difficult to navigate by car as it quickly becomes a very long traffic jam, but with over 100km of marked cycle paths it really is best explored by bike. Not wishing to brag (too much), with 80kms clocked up over four and a half hours in the saddle I think we pretty much sampled nearly all these paths, but as it is flat and open it was very easy cycling. Once we are back to our summer fitness levels I’m sure we will return to see our favourite sights again, at the moment I can’t imagine completing that distance in one day!

French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré La Flotte France
La Flotte, Ile de Ré

French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré Salt France
Ile de Ré salt
Our first stop for morning coffee was the busy port of La Flotte, where we even struggled to find space to leave the bikes, as everyone (on the entire island) seemed to have the same idea. Fuelled up with coffee and dark chocolate (and coke for Ed) we continued to follow the coast to St Martin-de-Ré and on towards Ars-en-Ré, cycling through vineyards, salt marshes, and past wading birds, oyster bars with fantastic views and unfortunately more hunters. We picnicked in the pretty village of Loix and made it to the lighthouse of the whales ‘Phare des Baleines’ for a mid afternoon ice-cream break. Energy levels were again topped up with beer or coke and snacks before we cruised back to the bridge, which seemed a lot steeper from this direction. Tired but very pleased with ourselves, and especially with Ed who wasn’t quite 12, this really marked the high point of our 2012 summer of cycling. Now all we need is for some nice weather to get back out on our bikes – fingers crossed for this weekend.

French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré oysters France
Oyster bar with view Ile de Ré





French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré Phare des Baleines France
Phare des Baleines, Ile de Ré

French Village Diaries cycling Poitou-Charentes Ile de Ré Bridge France
At the end of the day on Ile de Ré

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review of Gastien Part One by Caddy Rowland


For Book Worm Wednesday this week I am reviewing the first in the five part Gastien Beauchamp series, Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream (The Gastien Series), written by Caddy Rowland and set in nineteenth century Paris. I will be the first to admit this is not my usual type of book to read, but I like that it was different and took me out of my normal comfort zone.

French village diaries Caddy Rowland Book Worm Wednesday review The Gastien Series
Gastien is born to be an artist, colour is his passion and his art is his reason for living. This book follows his troubled life from ‘disappointing’ first-born son of a hard (and evil) farmer in the rural Parisian outskirts, to struggling artist and successful lover in bohemian Paris. Following a row with his father he is forced to turn his back on his family and make his own way to the streets of Paris, where he will sacrifice anything to fulfil his dream to one day own a studio in the new arty district of Montmartre. There are many very dark and desperate moments that make disturbing reading, but a real passion behind the writing, as well as the characters, mean at other times a thrilling and exciting read. This is an explicit novel in places and that may not be to everyone’s taste, and it also includes some homosexual scenes.

Caddy’s writing really made me feel sad when times were bad for Gastien, which sometimes resulted in a need to stop reading and have a break, but when things were going in his favour I too was buoyed up and enthusiastic. It would be true to say Gastien got into my head! I am intrigued by his story, and very much looking forward to reading the other books in this series. All of the books are available from Amazon in ebook and paperback format.

I would like to thank Caddy for contacting me and sending me this series to read and review.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Silent Sunday

For Silent Sunday today I am sharing the photos we took during our visit of the JL Charlemagne wine caves in Angouleme yesterday. It was a fascinating tour where we learnt about the Champagne method that takes place within the caves, from the wine that arrives from many local vineyards, the fermentation process, the automated bottle turning and through to the corking and the labeling. We also got to sample and buy some lovely wine.

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
The entrance to the cave

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
Where the process begins

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
Some of the 400,000 bottles in the cave
French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
Some that had been there a while

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
Within the limestone cave

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday Photos Angouleme JL Charlemagne Poitou-Charentes
Automated labeling
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Friday, May 24, 2013

France et Moi with author Jamie Cat Callan


Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to author Jamie Cat Callan about what France means to her.

french village diaries France et Moi Jamie Cat Callan
Jamie, inspired by her Grandmother who was French, has traveled extensively in France talking to inspirational French women whose secrets she shares in her books French Women Don't Sleep Alone, Bonjour, Happiness!: Secrets to Finding Your Joie De Vivre and Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. You can read my review of her most recent book here.

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Jamie: Ah, La Belle France! In America, we have Uncle Sam, but in France, you have Marianne - a beautiful woman as the national emblem.  And I do believe this feminine sensibility permeates the culture, from the voluptuous statues in the Tuileries, to the artfully arranged macarons at Ladurée, and let’s not forget the luscious lingerie at Cadolle.  Everything in France conspires to please the feminine eye, and I believe this is what makes France so unique and so “French.”

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France? What is your favourite holiday location in France?

Jamie: I first arrived in France in 1976.  I was just out of college and I was on an exchange program.  I arrived in February and Paris was cold and grey and my French was terrible.  I was miserable.  I thought this place is not for me!  And then something happened.  Yes, I fell in love—not just with a boy, (although I did do that too), but with the city of Paris.  Slowly, but surely, the City of Lights got under my skin and seduced me, changing me forever.  And yet, she never quite revealed all her secrets to me and so even now, over thirty years later, I must return to Paris again and again.

And while, I will always be faithful to The City of Lights, my favorite holiday location in France is a little village in the southwest called Auvillar.  I’ve been there several times on writing and teaching fellowships. (The Virginia Center for the Arts has an artist residency program there and they have generously awarded me several fellowships.)  I love the slower pace of the Midi-Pyrénées, the sunshine, the fig trees, the outdoor markets and the people themselves.  They are all so warm and open and welcoming!

3) Have you ever spent time studying in France, or on a school exchange in France? If so what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?

Jamie: I studied French at the Alliance Française in New York City and again while in Paris.  That said, I was never great at learning a new language!  And I guess this is the scariest thing about being immersed in French life.  I always (and often, still do) feel as if I am a child surrounded by grownups who know how to act and speak properly.  Like a child, I want a cookie (or a croissant or a glass of wine) and I am forced to use up all my vocabulary in a short time, and I am left feeling so vulnerable.  And perhaps this is not just the scariest thing about being immersed in French life, but ironically, it’s also the best thing.  I love that feeling of seeing and hearing the world with new eyes and the challenge of searching for the words and the struggle to express myself.  It’s delightful.  I love feeling so alive to the world.  And because my French is not what it should be, when I’m in France, I know I must be completely attentive or I will surely miss something.

4) Do you have any top tips for learning French?

Jamie: I love the classes at the Alliance Française.  Currently, I visit with my French tutor, Madame M. every Wednesday and we speak French for two hours.  I do believe that if you’re not in France, it’s important to find fellow-francophones in your hometown.  Also, it’s helpful to rent French films and watch French tv shows.  Oh, and I love Laura K. Lawless and French Lessons on About.com.

5) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?

Jamie: Oh dear.  Okay.  I was once in a restaurant in Auvillar with my friend Denise, who speaks much better French than I do.  I wanted to ask the waiter for a bottle of water, so I said, je voudrais un boîte d'eau
And Denise looked at me, a little crosseyed and told me I had just asked the waiter for a box of water.  We had a good laugh over that.  He must of have thought—those crazy Americans, they drink their water from a box!
Note to self:  Bottle of water is bouteille d'eau.

6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Jamie: An espresso.  If it’s really warm, I’d order a citron pressé.

7) What is your favourite regional French dish? Do you ever cook French food at home?

Jamie: My French friend, Isabelle gave me an amazing recipe for Salted Cake with Bleu Cheese and Prunes. At home, we make it with bleu de Bress.  Yummy!  And be sure to use dried prunes, not fresh prunes.  Even though Isabelle calls it a “cake”, it’s really a savory bread and goes great with a crispy green salad.  Isabelle comes from the countryside near St. Etienne, and this recipe was handed down to her from her grandmother.  The full recipe is in my book Bonjour, Happiness!: Secrets to Finding Your Joie De Vivre

8) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Jamie: Ooh La La!  Jacqui, this is a great question!  I think I’m some sort of goat cheese from the sunny southwest.  I’m a bit soft, sweet-natured, creamy, but I can also be unexpectedly zesty and very lively.  I get along with everyone, so I’m a good compliment for any occasion.

9) France has some beautiful cities and there are a few that constantly battle to be my favourite, what is your favourite French city and why?

Jamie: J’adore Toulouse, also known as the Rose City.  The light is so lovely and I so enjoy sitting in a café at Place du Capital and people-watching.  I love the ancient parts of the city and walking through the cobble-stoned alleyways—which is actually how I broke my ankle and ended up staying at the hospital there for nine days.  I think it was this very unique experience that truly made me fall hopelessly and forever in love with La Belle France.

10) How does France inspire your writing?

Jamie: All three of my books French Women Don't Sleep Alone: , Bonjour, Happiness!: Secrets to Finding Your Joie De Vivre and the soon to be released Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day are about French women and France.  I find that every trip to France gives me new information and inspiration.  With each new book, I meet more and more French women who are happy to share their thoughts on love, romance, joie de vivre, fashion and style.  That said, when I return to America and have time to process what I’ve experienced from the perspective of being far from La Belle France, I see the differences and the similarities with great clarity.

11) When you are writing about France, if possible do you prefer to write in France and if so do you have a favourite location?

Jamie: When I’m in France, I take copious notes during and after my interviews. I take tons of photographs.  I collect meaningful objects.  I even draw pictures of things.  And then, I go home to Cape Cod (where I live with my husband—he’s a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and I sit at my table, looking out at the water, and I slowly piece all these things together and write my books.  I should say, that my studio is filled with pictures from France, metro maps and little souvenirs I picked up along the way.  Tangible things inspire me and bring me back to my time in France, but truthfully, I need to be home to write.  Plus, I think my husband likes me around!

12) Do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Jamie: Yes, Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day  is about to come out.  Please buy a copy and write to me if you like it.  Or, find me on Facebook!  Merci beaucoup!

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Caves Charlemagne Angouleme

french village diaries Poitou Charentes Angouleme wine Charlemagne Rosés en Folie

There is an exciting event marked in our diary this weekend that I thought I would share with you, just in case you happen to find yourselves anywhere near Angouleme, here in Poitou-Charentes.  Our favourite Angouleme wine cave, the Caves Charlemagne, have a fête celebrating their rosé wines this Saturday.

We first discovered Charlemagne last April and have since returned twice and despite them no doubt having more regular customers (and those with bigger budgets) we have always felt welcomed back. Last time we were even given a free bottle to compare with the ones we bought.

I will admit it is not the easiest place to find (even our SatNav had problems), but I’m so glad we persevered. Just out of town and tucked away at the end of a cul de sac, to find yourself in a Champagne cave set in the Angouleme limestone cliffs is a little unusual. M. Charlemagne, born in the Champagne region of France, set up his business here in 1921 as the cave offers the perfect conditions for storing wines and the local white Charentais grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) are perfect for Champagne method wine.

On our first visit, we were interested in their sparkling wines (identical to Champagne, but can’t be called that as they aren’t made in the Champagne region of France) and were greeted (in English) by Sarah who talked us through the different varieties. She was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and generous with her tasting offerings. In addition to the sparkling wines, they also bottle a local vin de pays Charentais wine, Mainart, some of which are Paris gold medal winners. It is not the largest or most celebrated wine region of France, but we had to return to buy more of the 2009 Merlot which at 7.20€ a bottle well deserved it’s gold medal. We can recommend a visit to anyone in the area and especially this Saturday, as they will be offering discounted prices on their rosés. Here are some photos to whet your appetite.


french village diaries Poitou Charentes Angouleme wine
Charlemagne Sparkling and Mainart wines

french village diaries Poitou Charentes Angouleme wine Charlemagne Caves
Tasting with Sarah

french village diaries Poitou Charentes Angouleme wine
Mainart Vin de Pays Charentais

french village diaries Poitou Charentes Angouleme wine
Mainart 2009 Gold Medal wine

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book review of Ooh La La! by Jamie Cat Callan


french village diaries book worm wednesday review Jamie Cat Callan Ooh La La!
The beautiful envelope my pre-published copy arrived in
My Book Worm Wednesday review this week is of Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day by Jamie Cat Callan that celebrates it’s publication on 28th May. Jamie has already written two other books on a similar theme, French Women Don't Sleep Alone and Bonjour, Happiness!: Secrets to Finding Your Joie De Vivre and was kind enough to pop a copy of her new book into the prettiest envelope ever and post it off to me, thanks Jamie. The minute it arrived I could tell Jamie was someone who thought about every detail to give the best impression. 

I have read a few books that promise to expose the secret of the elusive French woman and enlighten us poor non-French souls, but I often feel they are writing about a different kind of French woman than the ones I see on a day to day basis in rural France. Because of this it would be fair to say that this subject interests me, but I am sceptical, especially as I know French women do get fat, just like the rest of us! However, this book was different. Jamie takes us with her on a journey through France where she meets and chats to some fantastic French women and picks up tips and advice on the way. As well as the chic Parisiennes we also meet French women from the provinces and while they all had something different to say on the subject of feeling beautiful, together they gave a real insight into what makes a French woman. I liked the personal feel of this book as Jamie really shared her travels and adventures with us, even when things didn’t quite go to plan.

Thanks for a really thought provoking book Jamie, we are often searching for ‘something’ in life, but this book showed me you don’t always find it where you are expecting to. We have lived in France for nearly nine years and if I’m honest the longer I’m here the more I feel I will never be one of them. However this book made me realise that just through the simple things I love about my life in France and how being here has changed me, I had already found my ‘Ooh La La’. Maybe I am more French than I first thought, although I may need to rethink my lingerie collection to be really accepted.

Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day is available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon as are Jamie’s other titles. To help celebrate her publication Jamie will also be joining me back here on Friday for my France et Moi feature.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Walnut Bread

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Today in France it is Pentecost Monday and another bank holiday, the forth and final one for May. All these long weekends would usually mean lots of days out for us, lycra-clad and following marked cycling routes, browsing the vide greniers (car boot/yard sales) for a bargain or sampling tasty delights at local food fêtes, but we have been unlucky. The first long weekend and Ade was struggling with a bad back, the second weekend and both Ed and Ade were suffering with heavy colds and this weekend it has rained, rained and rained some more. The bikes are gathering dust, the ducks are turning the garden into a mud swamp, the only things thriving in the potager are the weeds and we are cold, damp and fed up. The weather forecast for the week doesn’t show much of an improvement and we may even have a frost on Thursday (at the end of May!). In an attempt to cheer myself up I have decided to bake and thought I would share my Walnut Bread recipe with you. The oven will warm the kitchen and the fresh bread will smell and taste delicious, perfect comfort food.

french village diaries recipes walnut bread

Walnut Bread
½ teaspoon of dried yeast
300g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
170 ml of water
50g of shelled and chopped walnuts (they do taste better if you toast them first)

Combine the flour, yeast, salt and walnuts in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil and warmed water. Bring together to form a dough, then turn onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Form into a ball shape and place in a greased bowl or cake tin, cover with cling film and a towel and leave to rise for at least an hour. Pre heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200c) and when risen nicely cook for about 30 minutes, or until golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Sorry to be vague, but my oven is a little temperamental. This bread is perfect with homemade jam.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Silent Sunday

One of the great things about social media is the ability to chat with people you don't really know and may never meet. This weekend I was chatting with some ladies about the humble French potager, the work involved and the glamour, or lack of it unless you count posh or flowery wellington boots. It got me thinking about my potager, especially as I should have spent the weekend weeding, digging, planting out and watering, but the weather has been horrid, raining all day yesterday, overnight and most of today too. This would have been good news if we had already planted out our summer veggies, but we haven't, mainly due to the weather.

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardeningA definition of a potager is an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden, often planted with herbs and flowers as well as vegetables to enhance beauty. We use flowers in ours mainly to attract the pollinating insects and to discourage the nasty bugs, but I will agree they do add to the beauty too. Here are some photos of our plot taken in different years and different times of year. I hope you like them too.


French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening 

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening
 There is always work to do in the potager from weeding to watering or sowing to harvesting, but despite the work it is a very special place to me. It is better exercise than the gym and comes without a monthly fee, it focuses the mind and gives plenty of time to think and it beats a supermarket for fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables every time.
French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening

French Village Diaries Silent Sunday photos potager gardening

This weekend I have also uploaded some clips to YouTube of some photo slideshows we have been working on for over a year. One is a lane we regularly walk with the dog, changing from spring through to winter that you can see here. The other is the life of a sunflower field from seed in April to harvest in September and you can see that here.