le 22 avril 2002
slice of history at the Oppidum near Gaujac
Une tranche d'histoire à l'Oppidum
Just outside the village of Gaujac, up the road from Uzès near
Bagnols-sur-Cèze, you'll find the Oppidum, a collection of vestiges of
pre-Roman and Roman habitation. This partially restored site, including the
remains of a temple, a well, baths, and fortifications, is clustered high on
a hilltop overlooking the valleys of the Tave, Veyre, Cèze and Rhône
rivers. The road leading up to the site is a bit rough for vehicles but
you can walk it in less than a half hour. With no guard, no gate, and no entry fee, you
step easily into a fabulous piece of history in the midst of the rural landscape.
Plantings of irises, euphorbia, and cotton-flower bring vivid spring color
to a scene that gives a true sense of how people lived many centuries
The origins of the site are probably from 500BC, with evidence
good-sized settlement around 425 BC. The Romans moved in in 40BC and added their own temples, baths and
improvements. They remained there until the 5th
century AD when the site was abandoned concurrent with of the fall of
the Empire and the increasing threat of invaders from the North. The reconstruction
work shows clearly how structures were arranged, and exploring the paths
that lead to and from the preserved portion of the site reveal even more
ruins not yet restored. The Oppidum (along with the Camp de César in
nearby Laudun) is a testament to the impact of ancient and Roman
settlement in this region. An archeological treasure and a great place to picnic, hike, and experience a slice of history…and the
views are incredible in all directions. Be sure to bring water as the
midday sun shines fiercely here.
The Roman baths at
and a carefully preserved well.
students took to the streets the day after election to express their
"Down with the Front
F is for fascist, N is for nazi!"
elections: Round 1, a huge shock!
Le présidentielle: 1e tour, le choc!
First round of the French presidential elections has brought shock, shame,
and renewed political commitment to the French electorate. During a ho-hum
campaign season, focused primarily on getting two unsatisfactory
candidates, current president Jacques Chirac (the right) and current prime
minister Lionel Jospin (the left), to the
second round for the final battle, the voters of France proved themselves
not quite up to that task.
Factor 1: a nearly 30% abstention rate, the highest
since the 1960s, caused by a combination of good weather, school
vacations, and a general apathy toward the leading candidates. Factor 2:
those who did vote assumed that the second round would be between Chirac
and Jospin, so they used this first round to make a sort of “protest”
vote for one of the more obscure of the 16 candidates who were in the
race. Factor 3: the general malaise around the country (and across Europe)
about increased violence, insecurity, and uncertain economic conditions, a
malaise that has not been effectively addressed by either Chirac or Jospin.
Result: Jacques Chirac took the highest
percentage of votes at 19%, Jean-Marie LePen, the extreme right candidate
came in a close second with 17%, and Lionel Jospin, the lackluster socialist
candidate, trailed third with 16%. Right-wing LePen is calling for
“France for the French,” against the euro and the European Union, with
the implication being that anyone not of “true” French origin should
leave or be sent away. Hints of the 1930s in Europe…
Response by le peuple to these first round
results has been swift and vocal, with a series of demonstrations (manifestations)
across the country expressing outrage and urging people to
get out and vote in the upcoming May 5th second round … and
to vote for Chirac. Act of desperation? Maybe. Just a few weeks ago Chirac
was branded "le super-menteur" (super-liar) because of
his shady dealings while mayor of Paris, but now a vote for le super-menteur
is a vote against le super-fasciste, Le Pen. Et voilà!
Consensus is that Chirac will win, hands down. But the
lesson isn't yet over. The legislative elections in June will bring out
the left in force, most likely ushering in another era of what the French
call “cohabitation,” with a President from the right and a
Prime Minister and Legislature from the left, causing stalemate in
governance. Little if anything will happen, perhaps leaving the French in
the same boat they’ve been in for the past five years. On va voir. (We’ll
More photos of the manifestation
pleasures of the "Cubie"
Les plaisirs du "cubie", le vin en VRAC
The first time we saw it, we didn't quite know how to react. We were
leaning against the counter at a cave cooperative in the south of France,
tasting the surprisingly good local product. A fifty-ish man bustled in,
his arms struggling to control three or four large plastic jugs. He
dropped them down, off to the side of the tasting area, next to a
contraption with four hoses coming out of it. Lots of pleasant familiarity
ensued between the man and the cave lady who had poured us our tasting
glasses. She grabbed a nozzle and started filling the man's jugs with red
liquid. When they were full, the man piled them onto a small trolley,
paid, and pushed the trolley out to his car to load. What was this?
day we have become big fans of the "cubie", occasionally called
"jerrycan". There may be more wine sold
and consumed in France by this method than by any other. It's cheap,
delicious, and probably the best way to buy your everyday wine. This won't
be vintage stuff, mind you. But it will be fresh, lively, honest product,
which can be astonishingly good if you follow a few simple rules.
buy "cubies" at hardware stores, supermarkets and many wineries. They range in size from 2.5 liters to 20 liters (Dare you to
try to lift that one when it's full!) There are two types of caps for
cubies: a plain cap allowing closure, and a cap with a built in robinet,
or spout. We recommend the latter, for reasons of pouring. Our favorite
size is five liters. It's not too heavy when full, but it yields seven
standard sized 750mm bottles. That's sometimes enough to get us through
Look for caves
coopératives. They all sell wine in bulk. And look for signs at
private domains saying that they sell "en vrac", which
means "in bulk". A domaine promising sales "au détail"
means that they sell their wine by the bottle or case, but not necessarily
en vrac. Some AOCs discourage bulk sales. Châteauneuf du Pape is
an example. Spoils the image to be selling the wine in bulk, ruins the
marketing plan. Fewer BMWs for the winemakers.
you'll find four hoses from the bulk tanks: one for white wine, one for
rose, and two for red, often identified only by their respective 11 per
cent and 12 per cent alcohol levels. But ask for tastes (une dégustation),
then decide for yourself.
rose wines bought en cubie can be stored indefinitely in the refrigerator.
There may be some eventual deterioration if you keep it too long. A couple
of months is a good rule of thumb. You may also find some sediment has
settled to the bottom after a while. Red wine is another story. It won't
keep its fresh, lively taste for more than a week in the cubie. It will
start turning sour. Solution: bottle it! It's simple. Save seven wine
bottles (for a five-liter cubie) and buy a top with a spout. Also buy a
bag of corks, widely available. Wash out the wine bottles with just plain
water, no soap. When you bring home your cubie full of red wine, pour it
into the bottles (a funnel helps here) and cork them by hand as tightly as
possible. This way the wine will last for a few weeks rather than for a
few days. When you go to simple gatherings at the homes of French friends,
what red wine is most likely to be served? A cubie-full of the local! 'Nuff
Head to your
local cave cooperative...
where wine is
sold en vrac,
"by the cubie"
...just walk on in
and say "Fill 'er up!"
2002 Six Nations Tournament
W - L
5 - 0
4 - 1
3 - 2
2 - 3
2 - 3
0 - 6
Bien fait en 2002!
Rugby Team: Best in the World?
France 44 Ireland 5
Grand Chelem for France!
Before a roaring crowd of 80,000 at the Stade Français in the Paris
suburb of St-Denis, the French National Rugby team demolished Ireland
44-5, thus sweeping all five of its games in the Six Nations tournament
and earning the coveted "Grand Slam". A confident Irish team
left most of its game behind in newspaper quotes and ended up with a
thrashing on the field. France was totally dominant from start to finish.
know who is really the best team in the world until a year and a half from
now, when the 2003 World Cup is decided in Australia. But, for the time
being, France can make a strong case for itself. In the autumn of 2001
France traveled to the southern hemisphere and swept its three game series
against South Africa, Fiji, and Australia, the defending World Cup champ.
This winter and spring France swept the Six Nations tournament against
England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, making it eight wins in a row
against most of the world's best. So who is entitled to call itself the
world's best, if not France? Happily, the coach and team have refrained
from so stating, leaving it to sportswriting hacks like us…
It's a long way from here to the end of the World
Cup tournament. Yet France seems to have put together a nice combination
of size, speed, experience and youth, which augurs well for its future
prospects. Allez les bleus! Bien fait en 2002!
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