A Travellerspoint blog

Gastronomie d'Aquitaine ~ Jan 2011

The region where I am now is the Aquitaine...remember it from high school history...Eleanor of Aquitaine married to Henry II, King of England? Very beautiful region of woodlands, rolling green hills, farmland, medieval villages.

The Aquitaine holds cultural treasures, surprising both your eyes and palate! This French South-Western area can indeed boast, offering a wide range of local specialities such as the Bayonne ham or Perigord truffles, and the mouth-watering dishes renowned worldwide - Foie Gras and Duck Confit. Sharing borders with Spain, including its renowned vineyards in the area of Bordeaux to the Basque country beaches and Bearn mountains, Aquitaine offers some gems of the traditional French gastronomy.

France is Cheese Heaven! So I will focus on some ...they have been quite divine! I have tried about 15 different types, only 985+ to go....that's not a typo error!!


Of course we all know the popular and delicious Camembert, and my personal favourite, Brie. I have tried them both here and they are sublime. Nothing to beat either with a fresh flute (large baguette) and a bottle of great red. But there are so many others to savour, I decided to be adventurous, no matter how weird it looks and smells!

So here is one which I must still find - Brie Noir
This is usual Brie, left to mature for longer, typically several months to a year; the cheese becomes stronger in flavor and taste, the pâte drier and darker, and the rind also darker and crumbly. Over-ripe Brie contains an unpleasant, excessive amount of ammonia, which is produced by the same microorganisms as required for ripening. Around the Île-de-France, where Brie is made, people enjoy soaking this in café au lait and eating it for breakfast....now that just doesn't work for me!!! I DO NOT adulterate my latté and, by the sounds of things, this cheese smells of pee :)

Last week at the fresh market in Monsempron-Libos.....
PICT2161.jpg I was brave and bought 3 little cheeses to try. The 2 small wheels are goats cheeses, 1 Euro each...good buy in Euro terms! Don't convert - it just makes one choke. One is called Rocamadour and the other I can remember!! And then there is the scary one which really looks like an old bread roll that rolled under the dining room table and has been hiding there for 15 years!! :) It looks like one that would move, but it is firm inside. I was very brave and ate the outer rind as well!! It is scrummy...much like a parmiggiano but with the mouldy taste of a blue. I also can't remember its name but will be back at market this week and will write it down this time.

At home we had a perfectly creamy, yummy Bleu du Bresse which is similar to a Brie but has the blue mould of a Roquefort. Also a 5 star cheese for me.

Lastly today I will share with you the orange cheese originally made to resemble Dutch Edam - Mimolette - it's good, but not a favourite of mine...I much prefer the "wild" ones!!

One of those cheeses that seems to mysteriously move on its own is Les Paulinetoises.. a "fromage de brebis au lait cru", which loosely translated is cheese of ewe's milk that has not been heated beyond a certain temperature. It is creamy and very runny at its best.

At the fresh market there was a huge stall selling only offal. There were some pieces of animal there that I can remember from science class dissections !! I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of the lamb brains, they were sold in a shot!! Will try this week...get there early. There was an array of liver, kidneys, tripe (it did look beautifully clean I must say!!), tongue and many I couldn't identify. Each to his own, I guess...as Mark Twain says "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness"!!

No mention of French cuisine is worth its words in gold without "le pain" ... our daily bread!

This region is also renowned for its truffles. They are extremely expensive but do go a long way and, because it's a once in a life time experience, I think I might forego a 4 or 5 meals just to try them. There are a few farmers that still use pigs to snuffle out truffle...apparently many of them are missing a few fingers!! The others now use dogs. I am hoping to visit a truffle farm before I leave France.

The duck dishes are also fantastic...and part of a very healthy European diet. Much like ostrich in SA they have very little or no cholestrol, despite being so fatty. Roast potatoes done in duck fat is quite divine! When I first visited a French supermarket, I saw many tins of meat. Now for me canned meat smacks of bully beef and spaghetti and meatballs...uuuugh and just plain unappetising. But not so here...the French have perfected the process and the duck legs in their own fat are great!!

Happy drooling!!!

thanks to Wikipedia for some pics and info

Posted by Gypsy Lee 01:40 Archived in France Comments (0)

Bits 'n Bobs in Salles ~ Jan 2011

Some random pics...

It was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey...ice from the water trough

The colourful rooster and his harem...when I am out working they follow me wherever I go!

and the day's bountiful harvest....don't know where the little midget came from :)

Home to the king of the roost and his girls

The pigeonnier...next project to tackle...much work to convert into a BnB

Stunning sunsets at Ramon - fire in the sky, some nights

The déchetterie in France is a cool place to visist...one man's trash is another man's treasure...we found 3 of these lovely chairs which match an existing table perfectly...loaded up for free..mahala..zip..nada..rien......sweet!!

Other stuff on the farm and the immediate surrounds...

My bum bag (on loan from darling friend HeinyBee has served me well and, sadly, now lies in a dump in Fumel!!

Posted by Gypsy Lee 15:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Monpazier, Lacapelle-Biron, Montagnac-sur-Lède ~ Jan 2011

I am still pinching myself black and blue!! But it's true, I am visiting the most delightful little French rural villages that I had never even heard of a month ago. Most of them are bastide towns - fortified new towns built in medieval Languedoc, Gascony and Aquitaine during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In an effort to colonise the wilderness especially of southwest France, almost seven hundred new towns were built between 1222 (Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn) and 1372 (La Bastide d'Anjou, Tarn). Built to a pattern, which, nevertheless allowed for individual variation, bastide towns were laid out in a grid pattern. Regular plots of land were marked out around a central square, usually bordered by covered arcades. This central square was the focal point of the village and housed the market and the village's elected representatives. Look for the Place des Consuls on any bastide map and you've found the mediaeval heart of the village. The bastides were also an attempt by landowners to generate revenues from taxes on trade rather than tithes (taxes on production). Farmers who elected to move their families to bastides were no longer vassals of the local lord — they became free men. Most bastides were built in the Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne, Gers and Haute-Garonne départements of France, because of the altitude and quality of the soil, and some were placed in important defensive positions.

So here is Monpazier...

This is what Montagnac-sur-Lède has to offer

The beautiful chateau in Biron

and Gavaudun, just down the road from the farm

Posted by Gypsy Lee 14:28 Archived in France Comments (0)

Sister Sledge in Slippers ~ 3 Jan 2011

sunny 14 °C

One of the 1st jobs we tackled here in Ramon was the demolition of an internal partitioning wall. When Ann said she wanted it out, I cringed a bit....after all, I create, not destroy!! But when I took that sledgehammer in my hands and gave my first thud, it felt gooooood!! With more and more gusto, but still with that careful feminine touch, Ann and I opened up some more space in the passage. What fun...and in slippers nogal!!

Next mammoth task was sorting the rubble from the restoration work....roof tiles that had been thrown down into a pile....cement goes in the wheelbarrow for the dump, stones in a pile for building and broken, old roof tiles on the tarp for recycling in the foundations. It's back-breaking work, but we sing slave songs as we go along and doing an hour every day we manage to reduce the heap considerably!! Big plus is it's on the sunny side of the house!


Like so many of the farms that I have visited brambles are a huge challenge. For my South African friends who don't know what it is....think back to the story of Sleeping Beauty. After the witch's curse and the whole castle falling into a deathly sleep, a forest of briars sprang up around the castle, shielding it from the outside world; no one could try to penetrate it without facing certain death in the thorns. Well Fitz, Ann and I braved the briars and survived, albeit with a few scratches and nasty pricks......again it felt good to climb in with the machete and shears...I must be a "tool" girl :)


After a good day's work it's time to relax around the fire...each doing his own thing...drinking wine and listening to great music...Ann doing what she loves best - sewing, moi writing my blog and Fitz enjoying the crisp air on the patio (that's where the smokers go!!)

Posted by Gypsy Lee 16:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

Salles, Aquitaine ~ 30 December 2010

all seasons in one day

It's quite amazing....as usual....how my next move is perfectly orchestrated and things just fall into place. I have been communicating with Ann re a possible volunteer stint with them in Salle, a little village in the province of Aquitaine. "Just so happens" that a friend of theirs is leaving from Carcassonne tomorrow to fetch her cats who have been staying with Ann & Fitz....I can get a lift with her. Aaaaah, life is so good to me!! So the next part of my journey begins.

It's been quite a torrid time trying to organise everything without a mobile, but we got it all sorted and I "just happen" to be close to the station when Lizzie calls to meet me there. And YAY!! At last I can draw cash...close shave that one!! We are off...a 3 hour drive to Salle. Volunteering in Europe is GREAT..I am able to see so much and all it costs me is my travel..bed, delish food and mostly some good wine thrown in for a few hours of good, hard work, fun tasks (and sometimes some slave driven labour) 5 days a week!!

France is full of these beautiful plane trees....the story has it that Napoleon planted them to provide shade for his troops when they were on the march.

It's great to take a car journey and get to see some lovely rural landscapes along the way. We arrive at Ramon late afternoon, to a most warm welcome. Happiness!!
Salles Ramon view from my room

Salles Ramon view from my room

I feel at home immediately and we are into the swing of things prepping for New Year's eve which will be spent with friends in Cancon. A lovely evening, eating great food, yet again, drinking good wine and playing board games until the fireworks go off at midnight....but it seems the French are rather quiet...traditionally eating oysters, pate de foie gras and drinking the bubbly.

Posted by Gypsy Lee 12:33 Archived in France Comments (2)

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