Snow fell last Tuesday and temperatures promptly plummeted, I think the lowest so far was -10C overnight.
It's pretty similar to the big freeze in Ireland last year, apart from one major difference - it's not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence here, so these guys can cope! The main road through the village was cleared straight away. The minor roads were cleared as the day went on. The footpath on the main road had a walkway cleared by hand on the first day which has been kept clear and gritted ever since. Our drains have not frozen - oh how I remember THAT particular gem from last year! Nobody seems to have frozen pipes in their house and wonder of wonders, the village water supply hasn't frozen either!
Despite all this wonderful French efficiency, we've still been fairly restricted by the weather. I have to confess that I am petrified of slipping on an uncleared patch of ice and breaking something else! Anne, meanwhile, lives on one of the steepest streets in the village, and has a sheet of ice to contend with every time she leaves her apartment. With hindsight, she should have cleared it when the snow fell, but at this stage it is compressed into solid ice and is quite impossible to clear. It is a labour of love for her to get Fionn and Roxy out a couple of times a day, especially with Fionn towing her along enthusiastically!
So with riding and walking both well nigh impossible, what else could we do except turn our attention to food and wine?
Chateau La Canorgue is an organic vineyard which my brother discovered while he was climbing in this region several years ago. It is near Bonnieux, which also has a very nice wine co-operative selling for several different local producers. The LongSufferingHusband and I have been determined to visit both since we got here, and Saturday seemed like a good day to do it.
We went to the Co-operative first, did some tasting, bought some wine... then we went looking for La Canorgue, and eventually found it - it's quite near the Pont Julien, which is a really impressive Roman bridge, still in excellent condition.
|Pont Julien, over the frozen Calavon River|
We carried on to La Canorgue, did some more tasting, bought some more wine and promised to return in March/April when the next batch of red wines will be available. That'll be a very different trip - no snowy vineyard scenes in March, I hope!
|View across snowy vines towards Bonnieux from La Canorgue|
There is a restaurant near the Bonnieux Co-operative which was mentioned by Peter Mayle (more than once!) in A Year in Provence. That was also on our list if things we'd like to do locally, so we swung by to see if it was open. There it was, the Restaurant de la Gare, open for business, so in we went.
|Perhaps looking a little run down from the outside, but there is a new premises alongside waiting to be initiated!|
|Love the Cafe de la Gare tiles! I'm on the left with the Hyper-terriers tied to my chair|
Sunday's outing had been planned since we got here.
Anne: When I was here last year I happened on the annual "Fete des Truffes" in nearby Mane, and was really upset to discover that there was a "Gourmet Repas" to go with it for which of course I hadn't booked. So this year I was determined to go again and this time sample the gourmet lunch, at which every course has truffles except the dessert! But the French can be quite secretive about these things, not intentionally I'm sure, and when I finally discovered it was in Oraison this year, the website was very sketchy and had no details of how to book. So I kept checking and eventually the website was updated, so with my best French I phoned to book 3 places, but of course they didn't take credit cards, and we have no French cheques, so a quick visit to Oraison was made and the lunch tickets secured, with good old fashioned cash!
Today was the day, so off we set in sub zero temperatures, with local writer Elizabeth Bard to sample the food, this guy was selling dried fruits
While these ladies were wrapped up really well against the cold
This stall was selling local dried hams and many sorts of saucisson, including wild boar saucisson, with hazelnuts, I couldn't resist that! Elizabeth and I are at back left.
Then of course there were the all important truffle vendors, with their wares on display, but the best way to buy your truffles is by the smell, so some offer you a closed container full of truffles, you lift the lid and inhale...pure magic! And it's legal!
Then there is the truffle hunt, here Elizabeth and I are watching the sow searching for the truffles. This of course is a demo, and the sand is seeded with the provencal black gold before the sow is brought in.
She delicately lifts the sand with her nose, while "Le Truffeur" stands by with his spike, to quickly lift the truffle away from her before she can eat it!
La truie is then rewarded with a tasty titbit to reward her for her work.
|One of the many truffle hunters|
|Starter of Chicken Terrine wrapped in jambon cru,|
with foie gras & truffles, served with truffled
creamed celery on the side
|Dessert - A variety of apples, stewed (on the bottom),|
dried, glacee (and turned into a mousse) and caramelised,
my favourite, like a mini toffee-apple
We were surrounded by locals, who made us very welcome. With a few glasses of wine inside us we all got to chatting, and the lady opposite me, who was probably only a few years older than me had been liberated, as a child, by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Hawaiian regiment of the American Army in the Vosges in 1944. She had tears in her eyes as she recounted how her parents had suffered during the occupation, but a smile for the Hawaiian soldiers who had brought American chocolate bars to the children.