The killing fields and dining tables of France

One of the delights of living somewhere different in terms of the climate and habitat is the opportunity to see plants and animals that you never normally see.

It’s not that far south where we’re living but sufficiently so to enjoy average temperatures about 4 or 5 degrees (celsius) higher than back in the UK which means that we see lizards here quite a lot.

We’ve seen two kinds so far – a basically grey variety about 10 to 15 cm long – and a green variety (less common) that seems to be a bit bigger. We also get hornets – huge fucking things – that seem harmless but quite interested in you.

There’s a huge variety of birdlife here. Lots of finches – chaffinches and greenfinches mainly – and also lots of owls of all sorts. What are really impressive are the buzzards which we see almost every day once we get out into open country.

We did have lots of voles but after counting 13 dead in one week – all due to Django and his hunting ability – I’m guessing the tunnels at the bottom of the garden are getting quite empty. He’s also had 2 mice and a mole, although the mole got away. Other victims include various large moths, a greenfinch and a young blackbird.

The most spectacular catch of all, however, was made by Oscar, who caught a fantastic moth:

P1010079

Our nature guides are all in boxes which we’re reluctant to hunt through, so if you can identify this moth I’d be very grateful indeed. It must have been about 12 cm across from wingtip to wingtip. Fortunately it survived its ordeal.

We went out last Thursday to the gardens of the chateau at Craon. There was a walled garden there which had passion flowers in bloom – that’s about 2 months earlier than I’ve ever seen in the UK and some parts of France.

We’ve been eating French strawberries for a month now. The ones from the Garrigue were the first to show up in the shops and they were just gorgeous. The larger regular variety have arrived now and they’re not quite as good but still beautiful. There’s far less in the way of imported fruit and vegetables in the shops here but what there is is good. The white nectarines from Spain are very nice indeed.

Most gardens here have an orchard of some sort. At the rental place here we have plums, pears, apples, currants and walnuts. At the house we’re buying, all those plus hazelnuts, cherries, mirabelles and various soft fruits.

It’s no secret that I like food and I have to say that I’m impressed by the quality of food here. OK, it’s generally more expensive than in the UK – particularly meat – but it’s far more flavoursome, it keeps better and when unripe in the case of fruit ripens up without going off first, which was often the case with things like nectarines in the UK.

In fact, the only thing that I really miss is Cheddar cheese. Nothing French quite has the bite of a good mature Cheddar, although there are some quite mature Comtes which have some strength, although a far sweeter and nuttier flavour.

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of fresh French bread. A fresh baguette just warm from the bakers with some ripe cheese – maybe some St Nectaire – a tomato and a glass of wine is better than many a restaurant meal I’ve had.

Now that I’ve discovered Windows 7’s ‘Live Writer’ – a blog editing program – I can write offline and format my entries rather more easily than via email. Internet usage via my Orange 3G stick costs 35 Euros for 12 hours which is a bit pricey as well as slow – it’s like going back to a 56K modem again! However, now I can edit offline I’m looking forward to blogging a bit more regularly and so the usual shit will be back for your reading pleasure or not, as the case may be.

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8 Responses

  1. Bugger. And there was me enjoying the peace and quiet. :o)

  2. I’m with you on cheddar! Comte is the closest I’ve found, but meh (works in a raclette, come the winter though). And fromage du chevre is an abomination, as are all things goat.

    I introduced a few frenchies that I work with to cheddar, they were amazed that real, vintage, cheddar was not the same thing as USA processed merde cheddar they expected. They recoiled at the unexpected strength of smell.

    Explaining Branston pickle was impossible, they have no equivalent concept.

    Beware asking a friend to bring over cheese by air, my friend evoked severe interest from security…candles should be avoided too. Cheese in the same bag as a bunch of electronics was NOT a good idea

    If you want a fun conversation, try asking for a translation of; “et monkey, c’est du poulet?”. I absolutely guarantee you will NOT guess the meaning. I’m pretty sure that it’s not hugely rude…no guarantees though

  3. emperor i meant lol

  4. That’s fun, in a good way, BTW.

    The first thing you should get is a big smile, followed by a frown as they try to work out a way to explain it…have a few bieres to hand

  5. Are you sure that you’ve got the best 3G deal?

    Even as a PAYG (“sans engagement”) Bouygatel (sp?) was something like 8 euros a day.

    Data by 3G is a PITA in France, even the illimité is not unlimited – they will throttle your bandwidth after ~ 0,5 GB

    If you find a good deal, please let me know…

    Cheers from Marseille area

  6. Oh, one of the best things about the annual booze cruise to Calais in May/June was the French hypermarkets, and the fruits available from the south. Melons that tasted of melon, strawberries to die for…keep all the imported rubbish from Spain and Africa, these were just heavenly.

    And the smell in the car going home..!

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