Thursday, March 28, 2013

Six more sleeps...

until we're home again. And so Joss and I set off for a morning ramble down a little chemin that we've walked in every season now. We spend a lot of time fighting through brambles, a  lot of time calling the dogs to come out of the mud - they do love the mud! -

 and we gather branches of box and laurel and bay for Joss's family's Easter table.

And I realise I'll be gone before Easter comes.
But our landlords, Pierre and Christine come to take us out for lunch at les Genêts (blog-mate Michel's excellent review is here) which is delicious in every way:
 perfect food, good wine, and the most convivial company. A lovely afternoon and full of laughter.

I will miss Joss, though - and our walks through the chemin.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So - packing is fun

But I've said that before, haven't I? This week is full of last things - last walks to Seguret, last vide grenier, last Vaison marche, last dinners with friends. I cleared out my study today

and turned it back into a bedroom, for the next people. You'll love it, Next People. You can start your new novel in there -

(I did.)

Or you could use it for a bedroom again, of course, when your friends come over. We did that, too. 

Little finches will come to the window if you hang a seed-ball up for them on the shutter latch. The church bell starts to toll the hour at seven a.m., but it isn't intrusive. I left some pins in the cork-board for you, two stamps and a couple of pens and postcards in the top drawer of the desk. Because people love postcards.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Joss and  Mme E. take us up to see the church today - and I lose my heart to it immediately.

I have loved it all year, of course, when it tolls every hour (twice, in case you lost count the first time - Sablet is that kind of village) and every half hour when it whispers a kind of  "Yes, the day's passing, but slowly - no rush. Don't rush." It's ringing five as I write this and I wonder if I will be able to recall the exact warm note and tone of the bell when I'm finally back home again. I'd record it, but knowing that it was only recorded would be too sad to bear.

The only thing we can possibly do, then, is come back to hear it again.

It's the loveliest church I've ever been in, and I've been in some churches. Built in two centuries - the 12th and 14th - it is smaller than some. It is just the right size, in fact; and so bright, with the well-worn floor and  the thick, thick walls that are full of the whispers of calm and cool and silence.

A beautiful place

Next Book (not New Book, but the one after) is going to be set in a village in France, with just such a church as this - and it will be funny and bright and full of love and laughter.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saddest thing on my front gate...

Just breaks your heart. We've rented here for a year and our lease is almost up and the owners feel like the time has come to move on and so - gulp - the sign has gone up. I think it will sell very quickly, and oh, I hope the new people love it as much as we have loved it, as much as all our friends loved it, and Joan and Greg, who rented  the year before we did - and as much as all the other people over the years. It's really a gorgeous house - and look at that sky.

So we're trying to fill these last days with goodbyes and final glimpses of places we loved - as well as places we almost missed seeing. Last week we found our way to an old Roman Camp which is all deserted tracks and spills of stone and small, scrubby bushes of rose and thorn and thyme -  and as we were leaving I looked at my boots (I like my hiking boots when they're hiking) and there on the ground beside them, face up and dusty, an old little button - a circlet of metal with pale yellow glass inset. We  asked at the tiny museum in town, and the man (just an amateur, he said, but he spends every weekend out in the fields) pursed his mouth and nodded and gleamed a little and said,

"Yes.  Roman. Well done."

He might have been kidding, of course - he was only an amateur - but still.

When we asked if we could keep it he said  "But of course. By the right of your eye."

So it's probably only a button. But it's one of my treasures, now - if for nothing else than that wonderful moment of finding. 

And to show you when we come home. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two more weeks


I'm going to miss the Mistral most of all. If you could hear it now, moaning around the house and battering at the shutters!

I'm going to miss it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How will we leave this?

Our time here is nearly over now, but we find an afternoon where we've both -- shock, horror! -- caught up with all our stuff, and decide to get out and revisit some places we saw for the first time almost a year ago.

And we ask ourselves how will we leave


and this 

And how will we manage without our French friends and the village faces we know;  the chaos of birds in Rosemary's garden; the soft toll of  bells?

I have no idea.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"He was nonviolent to the next to the last degree"

I've just finished what I am absolutely sure will turn out to have been my Most Fun Read this year - and possibly the decade. It's called "Three Graves Full' by (I think debut) novelist Jamie Mason and it truly is the kind of delicious creation that deserves every recommendation it's going to get. There's room for unbridled fandom here - Mason's characters are deliciously well-drawn, human, warm (even the bad guys - so many bad guys!) and - well - uplifting in a body-stewn kind of way. Everyone's real and flawed and uncertain, and carried away on the tumult that's building around them. Everyone contributes: and everyone tries to make sense of the story - and stay alive at the very same time.

The plot is totally grab-you-and-don't-let-go  - but it stands up to scrutiny too, which is good because when you finish the book at 3:30 am, you're not wanting to go sleep for, well, for quite a while: and the writing itself is lovely: the word-working bright and ingenious, extremely clever and sharpened with tricks and quirks and little treats that you didn't see coming.

Stonkingly good. Really, really one to recommend with full-throated delight. One of those "I know a book you're going to love" things.

This isn't a book-review blog, and I know I'm supposed to be writing about Paris - but remember how much I loved Carrie Tiffany's "Mateship With Birds" (and Helen Elliot's gorgeous review of it)? This is that kind of love, only there are dead bodies in it.

Buy it. Read it. You'll thank me.

Note to self: Must blog about Paris.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

For the writers....

I'm almost scared to jeopardise it by alerting the writing gods - but this has been a terrific five days for plottage and wordage.

That's all I'm saying.

And just in case the writing gods read this blog, I'm going to post a distracting photo of -

Bruno!! From the Sablet's own Sports Bar, on the night of the Sablet Votive.

I know - I know....  He looks just like the advertisement, doesn't he?  

The whole village loves him - and so do the tourists.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I meant to say bonne année before this -

But my blog-thing wasn't working.

January is over, now - which means that the festive cries of  "Bonne année" have given way to the usual bonjours and bonne journées. Which is kind of sad. But before the whole festive season disappears from memory, I thought I'd share these - close-ups from the amazing Christmas creches  in various churches:

made with care

                                    and humour

and lots of imagination.

The crib is a bit of a thing here, in France.

But the prize goes to  lovely Seguret.

Because - hey! Live people!

It's their nativity play, really. I wish I'd been there to see it. (And I wish I knew the photographer, so I could give credit for the pictures. Sorry, photographer! But I'm told they were in all the papers - and they are lovely!)

Update: Mireille est le photographe qui a pris sa fille Mélanie en photo, pour la messe de minuit le 24 Décembre 2012 à Séguret.

Mireille and Mélanie - thank you  :) They're gorgeous photos.

Friday, January 25, 2013

And now we're home again -

(in the Village, I mean)

and while we were gone, Sablet went from this

to this.

Really, Sablet! You might have waited!

(Thanks for the photos, Joss)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Best pizza in Florence?

Is the one at Santa Felicita (really - it is) - but there's also a very good hole-in-the-wall styled place called the Piccadilly. Just up from the Uffizi. Well worth finding.

And yes, these posts are just place-holders for pretty photos...

Bought the loveliest coat from a nice little shop called Anna. Then read an article in the NYT that said the only place Florentines buy their leather coats is - Anna.. Prepare for some outrageous smuggery when I get home...  ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

fave restaurant in Florence?

Ristorante Pizzeria Santa Felicita. Because the food is wonderful, and the people are gorgeous - and because when I was moaning about the fact that my ribollita never tastes right in Australia, Elena went through all the ingredients with me (Amika translating) and we discovered that I never used juniper berries.

So here, for your cooking pleasure, courtesy of Elena, with un caro saluto - 

la ricetta ribollita Santa Felicita

Ingredienti per 6 persone:

2 patate
1 cavolo nero intero
1 cavolo verza intero
4 mazzetti di bietola
3 gambi di sedano
1 cipolla
2 zucchine
2 carote
300 grammi fagioli cannellini ( in scatola già cotti) 300 grammi
fagioli borlotti ( in scatola già cotti) 400 grammi di pomodoro
pelato in scatola 100 grammi di pomodoro concentrato Sale Pepe a
piacimento 50 grammi di olio extravergine di oliva

Per l'olio a parte
Mettere nella pentola
200 grammi di olio extravergine d'oliva ( per far bollire gli aromi
poi aggiungere nella ribollita a
3 rami di rosmarino
1 testa intera di aglio ( lasciare intera )
3 rami di salvia
6 perle di ginepro
Riscaldare il tutto a fuoco molto basso per 20 minuti.

Procedimento per la cottura delle verdure Nella pentola mettere
l'olio e fare un soffritto con la cipolla e sedano tagliato molto fine, quando si è rosolato aggiungere le carote dopo un po' il cavolo verza, il cavolo nero, la bietola, dopo 10 minuti il pomodoro pelato e coprire il tutto con acqua aggiungere il sale e il pepe, quando l' acqua bolle aggiungere le patate, le zucchine, la metà dei fagioli cannellini e dei fagioli borlotti. Il resto dei fagioli cannellini e dei fagioli borlotti li deve frullare e aggiungere 10 minuti alla fine della cottura. Il tutto è pronto quando si è cotta la patata. Alla fine aggiungere solo l' olio evitando gli aromi girare ed è pronta. Poi quando la deve servire aggiungere un po' di pane tostato e fare bollire per un po'.

Spero che questa volta possa gustare la vera ribollita Fiorentina

English translation as per ELEVEN requests. (Demanding,? You lot? Nah...)

Ribollita Santa Felicita

Ingredients for 6 people:

2 potatoes
1 whole cabbage
1 whole cabbage
4 bunches of beets
3 stalks of celery
1 onion
2 zucchini
2 carrots
300 grams white beans (canned pre-cooked) (reserve half for blending)
300 g pinto beans (canned pre-cooked)  (reserve half for blending)
400 grams of tomato
100 grams of peeled canned tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
50 grams of extra virgin olive oil

At the side –
Herbed oil.

(ie: 200g  extra virgin olive oil to which have been added
3 branches of rosemary
1 whole head of garlic (leave whole)
3 branches of sage
6 beads juniper
The whole warmed over very low heat for 20 minutes to release the aromas.

Procedure for cooking vegetables

Heat oil in pot, and fry the onion and celery chopped very fine until softened.
Add the carrots, , leave for ten minutes.
Add cabbage, chard, let soften
Add the peeled tomatoes and cover with water add salt and pepper
Bring to the boil.
Add potatoes, zucchini, half of cannellini beans and pinto beans. The reserved half are to be blended and added as thickened ten minutes before the end of cooking.

The soup is ready when the potatoes are done,

At the end, add some (strained) herbed oil and stir in. Cover pot.

Can be served immediately, but is better the next day.

Do note that this is pretty much my own (attempted) translation of Elena's recipe, based on my knowledge of ribollita, Tuscany and the conversation with Elena, googletranslate and help from some canny Italian-speakers on AW.  If anyone can see any glaring errors please let me know. Any mistakes are mine - not Elena's. 

You may have to go to the restaurant to taste it yourself. It is worth it. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

...and now I'm all falling-in-love with Florence

which I've seen a few times before, but always in Spring.

She's even more lovely in mid-winter, the darling old girl..

Paul's photos. Tiny camera. I have no idea how he does it...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh, my fickle heart....

Totally smitten with Venice, and I'll be sticking photos here soon (but none as lovely as the painting we bought today in a backstreet on the way to the Jewish quarter... by Daniele Scarpa Kos.)

Isn't he gorgeous?

Love you, Venice

Thursday, January 17, 2013

we're in Venice -

Hearing on the news that there  are, well, newsworthy snowstorms in the south of France.

Joss? Update? Photos? (I would especially like a photo of a snowman outside Bruno's, holding a pain au chocolat or something. Just if you happen to have a pain au chocolat, or something - and a snowman...?)

 Venice is lovely, btw.

Apart from all the expected gorgeousnesses, there's this sort of thing

                           And this, at night

And opera in ancient castles (stunning soprano!) and walks through the old town; and finding the fishmarkets quite by chance -

and catching a shot of this marvellous lady.

                                                             Plus, there were books.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

froid et venteux..

We're reading about heatwaves in Sydney and terrible fires in poor Tasmania, and here it is six degrees -

and feels like two because of the Mistral. I love that wind - but it blew me back before I'd gotten half way to Seguret today, and I think it looks set to stick around. It still surprises me after all this time - the fierceness of it, and the unexpected shifts and swings in direction. Joss warned me that it was no day for walking - but what's a little bit of wind? I thought.

Live and learn...

(Just after I moaned about it here, I received this delicious little note: enfin tu as connu le mistral sous son vrai jour! tu es maintenant une vraie provencale!!! So now my undignified retreat down the hardscrabble track through the vineyards seems quite poetic. Why does everything always sound so much better in French?)

It's cold and bleak and there's none of le glanage or grapillage any more. The earth is resting.

Heart you, France.