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Welcome to Armchair France

 

Armchair Uz鑣

la Vie Quotidienne

le 20 f鑦rier 2001
Uz鑣, France


321匛URO, it's so easy!
321匛URO, c'est facile!
The countdown continues for the conversion of francs (and other European currencies) to the all-purpose Euro. Beginning this coming July, French bank accounts will start the ball rolling, paying in Euros and likewise making it possible to pay credit cards and checks in Euros. Starting January 1, 2002, actual Euro bills and coins will be available at banks and at post offices across France, and for 45 days after that, both Euros and francs will be accepted as payment. After midnight February 18, 2002, there抣l be one currency in France, the Euro. If you抳e still got francs to burn, don抰 burn them厃ou can exchange them for Euros at any French bank or la Poste until June 30. After that, you抣l have to go to the National Treasury or Banque de France to exchange your francs for Euros厃ou have 3 years for pi鑓es (change), 10 years for billets (bills).
     Is this really going to happen? The designs for the new currency have just been released (see right), along with a nationwide ad campaign outlining the details of the conversion. Designated spokesperson? A 14-year-old who blithely tells us how easy it's all going to be! Meanwhile, the majority of invoices, menus, price tags, and promotions have been posted in both francs and Euros for quite some time now. All of this is intended to slowly accustom the French to the new monetary system. Good luck! And if you want to visit the French government's Euro website, click here.

"L'Euro, comment 鏰 marche?"
L'Euro, c'est plus facile ensemble"


"The Euro, how does it work?"
"The Euro, it's easier when we work together" 
...and Lise, official Euro spokeskid tells how
in a new French ad campaign!

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A chateau in Gascony near Agen perhaps?

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...or a fabulous house in Eygali鑢es in the Alpilles
of Provence facing the Chapelle Sainte-Sixte.

 


Daydreaming
R陃assant

In the mood for a little armchair dreaming? Check out some of the houses that are available for vacation rentals in France.  
     While working on beefing up the Travel pages for the site, one of the things that happens is that we get sidetracked. Not hard to do when you抮e looking to make some recommendations of websites for House Rentals in France. It抯 so easy to start checking out this place or that:  gee, what if we wanted to go to, say, Burgundy, might we find something as wonderful as we have here in Uz鑣?
     Whether you want a villa, a farmhouse, a little cottage, a windmill, an apartment whatever you can visit a variety of places, take a peek at the outside, some of the rooms inside, get the details on what抯 included or not. After a while you realize that you抮e virtually in France, visiting some of the most spectacular homes in a particular region. There are hundreds, thousands to visit and it's lots of fun卼ry not to get too carried away. The prices are high, that goes without saying. But it抯 fun to do some armchair dreaming, especially during this longest short month of February.

 


Gigondas: A special C魌es du Rh鬾e

Les vignobles de la vall閑 du Rh鬾e
Gigondas has traditionally been quality-rated in the middle of the C魌es du Rh鬾e crus, behind, for example, Hermitage, some of the C魌e R魌ies, and Ch鈚eauneuf du Pape, but ahead of St-Joseph, Vacqueyras, Cornas, and the C魌es du Rh鬾e Villages. Well, maybe. We抳e tasted many of the 揵etter crus that we say can抰 match a fine Gigondas. One of us has always been partial to Gigondas, since even in the US it still offers some terrific price-value opportunities. We抎 prefer to play the game this way: a wonderful bottle of French wine, regardless of origin, is an enriching experience for the palate and for the soul. One minds the pocketbook, of course, but 揼ood-better-best should be left to a more formal wine-tasting setting. We recently found a really nice Gigondas for nine bucks a bottle and we抮e certainly enjoying the case we bought.
     Gigondas, the eponymous village, is on the east side of the Rhone, north of Ch鈚eauneuf du Pape and just north of Vacqueyras. It took us a while to get there since we wandered around sightseeing a bit. While doing so we stopped at a small cave and filled our five-liter 揷ubie with a fresh, terroir-scented C魌es du Rh鬾e vin du table at what worked out to a-buck-a-bottle. Eventually we landed at Les Celliers Amadieu just below the tiny hill town of Gigondas. Madame was across the street when we rang the bell and she hustled over with her sweater pulled close against the biting mistral. We tasted several Gigondas and, no doubt about it, the most expensive was the best:  a 1998 Domaine Grand-Romane produced right there at the cave. Goodness! Rich, unmistakable nose and expression of terroir, definite burst of currant and vanilla. Just wonderful.
     The wine comes from the steep slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small formation of extremely sharp peaks ...well, 搕eeth, as the name implies, a patch of clay, chalk and shale terrain unique in southern France. Observing the almost absurdly difficult landscape and the vines planted and harvested on it, one has to smile thinking of the 揺asy life of, for example, the Ch鈚eauneuf du Pape vigneron compared to his cousin in Gigondas. The Domaine Grand-Romane Gigondas is largely grenache with generous dollops of syrah and mourv鑔re grapes, making a rich, full-bodied

 

 

 


The Dentelles de Montmirail
oversee C魌e du Rh鬾e country


Gigondas, a mix of grenache,
syrah & mourv鑔re grapes

wine of generous taste from grapes harvested in what has to be the most painstaking way.   
    Instantly pleased with ourselves for making the journey and the purchase, we drove to the top of steeply pitched Gigondas village and warmed ourselves with a wonderful three course lunch (ahh, the salade paysanne with butter lettuce, olives, fromage fermier and potatoes, unified in a bath of warm vinaigrette!) for an astonishing 55 francs. We headed for home in the nasty wind with just a quick stop at a gigantic supermarch in Avignon to pick up needed, basic supplies. Ah, France, land of contrast!     

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A blustery winter day in the village of Gigondas

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Rugby rules
Encore le rugby

Rugby competition in France, and across Europe, is heating up right now. Local clubs are down to the wire getting themselves lined up for playoffs next month, and our local team, the Ducs of Uz鑣, just hanging on in a tightly bunched group, are currently ranked 8th (the cutoff place) in their division.
      On the national front, France was swept out to sea by a fighting Irish team (no, not those fighting Irish, rather the Irish national team) with a nasty loss in Dublin last weekend. But all is not lost卼here are still hopes for more than last, less than first. A win over heavily favored England will be needed. Plus they can always hope for hefty revenues from the Dieux du Stade calendar to make up for their troubles. Details on the recent games and standings on the Rugby page.


Adieu to France's legend of song...
Adieu Charles Trenet... 

Sad news for France and francophiles. Charles Trenet, considered by many to be the father of la chanson fran鏰ise, passed away this past weekend. Dubbed le fou chantant (the singing fool), Trenet lived a long and productive life, authoring more than 1,000 songs during his 87 years. His light-hearted, sometimes surreal, compositions were a marvel of the French language, filled with plays on words and rhythms that belied the melancholy beneath. His last release in 1999 was accompanied by 3 sold-out performances (aged 85!) when he played at the prestigious Salle Pleyel in Paris.
     Of his many hits, probably the most internationally famous is La Mer, written in 1941. More than 4,000 versions (multiple performers, multiple languages) of this song were released, including Bobby Darin抯 揃eyond the Sea. Trenet and his work are being celebrated all this week across France. 


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The scene at the chaotic Place Djem鈇 el Fnaa

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Tranquility in one of the Riad Enija's gardens


Expressly Marrakech
Marrakech sans doute

Earlier in this month of February we were lucky to have had a chance to visit the marvelous, mysterious city of Marrakech. On the hunt for a little sun and warmth, we flew from Marseilles to Morocco for a long weekend, and were transported to another world.
     Met by a driver at the airport, we were whisked to the Place Djem鈇 el Fna, the incredibly huge and chaotic square that is the center of this colorful city. Our hostess from the Riad Enidja, where we抎 chosen to stay for several nights, quickly led us on foot into the dark maze of the medina卭ur luggage had been loaded into a donkey cart and had disappeared into the throngs. After a few rights, a left, and a few more lefts, all the while being startled by throngs of burnoose-clad Marrakechis on foot and riding donkeys, mopeds, bicycles, and such, we entered a quiet archway and there we were, at this haven of tranquility and luxury. The Riad Enija is a sumptuous oasis and an architectural treasure, filled with gardens, arches, mosaics, carved plaster, painted wood, and exquisite fabrics. With only nine rooms, service is top quality without being intrusive, and the serenity of the place is a welcome contrast to the lively spirit of old Marrakech.
     During our stay we ate like royalty, multiple course dinners in beautifully exotic settings; we shopped like tourists, inspecting everything and trying awkwardly to bargain with the very friendly merchants; and we were stunned by the people of Marrakech, extroverted and energetic, but at the same time private and solemn with their religious beliefs. For pictures in the gallery... The most lasting and haunting memory:  half-awakening to the pre-sunrise prayer floating through our window from the mosques, an almost unearthly mix of Gregorian chant and angels singing from above. Was this a dream?


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