le 14 mars 2002
Alpilles, world's best olive oil?
Les Alpilles, le top de l'huile d'olive?
A road trip in search of olive oil took us over
the Rhone river to the Alpilles region of Provence, just south of Avignon.
We were thrilled to find that the cooperative at Maussanne-les-Alpilles
(near Les Baux and St-Remy- de-Provence) was open for business through the
lunch hour, and we stocked up on a good supply of the greenish-gold elixir
from this most luscious olive-oil producing region of France. In fact we
put this particular olive oil (Moulin Jean-Marie
Cornille) head to head
with an olive oil from Nyons, the most commonly top-rated olive oil of
France. A group of primarily French folks (and us) gathered around a table
with small bowls of oil, chunks of fresh bread, and of course some nice
wine for sipping, to see which oil was the favorite. In a blind test, all
agreed that both were delicious but that the good stuff from les Alpilles had a
much more intense, fruity and “true” flavor! So we’ll have to go
back for more as we’re quickly using up what supply we have! In fact,
we've just found out that this delicious oil has just won the 2002
Medaille d'Or at the Concours Général de Paris. Et voilà!
Award-winning olive oils from
the Moulin Jean-Marie Cornille,
beneath the rocky foothills
near Les Baux
| On the way out of the Alpilles, we
chose a small road just outside of
Les Baux, and were treated to a stunning view of this
imposing ruined fortress atop the rocky cliffs. Quite an impressive
site from afar, although a visit to the city can be more like
Disneyland than an historic monument. Worth a stop...if the parked cars
aren't backed up the hill outside the town and the mistral isn't blowing
The towering spires of l'
and another golden elixir...
Une abbaye et un élixir d'un autre tinte d'or...
We wound our way through the hills
back toward the Rhone, and suddenly came across l'Abbaye de Saint-Michel
de Frigolet, a
haven of serenity in La Montagnette. Starting as a Augustinian
community in the 12th century, this abbey includes the vestiges
of a Romanesque chapel dedicated to St. Michel and a beautiful park open to the public. Of course, being so close to Avignon (less than 20
km), the papes avignonnais had their influences here as well. In
fact, this hidden and well-protected site served as a pilgrimage stop
during the Middle Ages, a school in the 19th century (Frederic
Mistral, Monsieur Provençal attended here), as a POW camp during WWI,
and is now back to its religious origins as a monastery with hotel,
restaurant, gift shop, and beautiful grounds to top it all off.
|But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this
abbey is a world-renowned liqueur, Frigolet. This Elixir of Révérend Père Gauche, concocted and
produced here for centuries, was immortalized by Alphonse Daudet in his Lettres
de mon Moulin (Letters from My Windmill, written in 1890).
Although now produced in nearby Chateaurenard, the disgestif's formula remains
unchanged, an aqua vita with a secret mélange of honey and aromatic herbs,
cured in oak barrels. You
can read all about the Abbey and its history at www.frigoulet.com.
There's quite a story there...as with most of the abbeys scattered across
L'élixir du Père Gauche
rugby team in the driver's seat!
Les bleus dans la chaise de conducteur!
At the halfway point of the annual Six Nations Rugby
Tournament, France is the surprise leader. Les bleus were anything
but impressive last month although they beat Italy and Wales in their
opening matches. Then came the stunner: A
resounding victory over heavily favored England at the Stade Française in
Paris. It wasn't even close. France jumped out to a 17-0 lead and was
never threatened. Throughout the game the French defense swarmed all over
the confused looking, then, finally, disheartened English. The French team
took a victory lap around their home stadium while the adoring crowd of
nearly 80,000 screamed in triumph. The English slunk home, bewildered. A
betting person would have a field day making odds on who was more
chagrined afterwards: English
bookmakers who had installed their guys as 20-point favorites, or English
sportswriters, who, after England's unexpectedly easy trouncing of a very
good Irish national side, had anointed their team as "easily the best
in the world." Which makes the French team...??
for France: Scotland on their home
turf at Murrayfield, weekend of March 23, 2002. Beware, les bleus,
the Scots seem to upset someone every year. Two years ago it was the
English, last year it was the Irish, and, this year? One wishes certain
French sportswriters and certain French rugby fans would stop salivating
over the French chances for a Grande Chalem (Grand Slam, a sweep of all
the other five nations) this year. At the World Cup in Australia, summer
of 2003, we'll find out which country is really best. There might even be
a little team there from the host country who, last I saw, were the
defending World Champions.
Le Tournoi des VI Nations
Le Tournoi des VI Nations
as of March 10,
France la France
England l'Angleterre 2-1
Italy l'Italie 0-3
Ireland l'Irelande 2-1
Scotland l'Ecosse 0-3
Wales les Pays
de Galle 1-2
The French XV, les bleus,
take the driver's seat.
And from our
Uzès rugby team:
L' equipe de rugby uzétienne: comme çi, comme ça…
With four games left to play in the regular season, Uzès' edition
2002 is very much a mirror image of last year's team. They rank sixth among the twelve teams in Poule 8 of their
division, "Fédérale 3." This division is the fifth level among France's eleven
divisions. (The top two divisions, thoroughly professional, are the hosts
for the players on France's national team. Le bon dieu alone knows what
rugby looks like in Série 4, the eleventh rung of the ladder.)
off to a fast start, but has faltered of late.
Some strange goings-on have characterized their coaching situation.
"Les Ducaux" commenced the year with co-coaches.
Halfway through the season one resigned. Two weeks ago the other
resigned, and now the team is coached by one of its former players, Sam
Besson, who is also known to suit up occasionally. This past Sunday, on their home field, Le Stade du Réfuge, Uzès'
Rouge et Jaune thumped Le Mourillon, a team from the Var, 23-3. The game
started with extremely rude deportment displayed by the visitors, and
before it was all over Monsieur l'Arbitre had kicked out no less than three
of Les Maurrionais. In Monday's regional newspaper, the headline read
something like "Uzès keep their heads cool, lets the other team
probably even money that Uzès will finish in the top five or six in their
Pool, thus entering the playoffs and a chance to move up to Fédéral 2
next year. It's a much better bet that they won't move up, simply because
they would start the playoffs on the road and Uzès never wins on the
road. They're great at home, but… And for a little town like Uzès
(8,300) they play against fearsome competition:
Nice, Marseilles, Bastia, Alès, Ajaccio…huge towns by
history: The Uzès team was
started in 1976. They
started, and languished, where all beginners begin: Série 4. By dint of
their good play they started moving up in 1981, when they moved to Série
3. Then they made a really astonishing series of moves forward, winning
everything in sight. They moved from Série 4 to Série 3, to Série 2, to
Série 1, to Promotion d'Honneur, to Honneur, to Fédéral 3, and, in
1998, to Fédéral 2, the fourth rung of the eleven-rung French rugby
ladder. Unfortunately, Fédéral 2 was a bit rich for a small town team
(e.g., they were in with our neighbors, Nîmes, a town of 400,000) and Uzès
was "relegated", or dropped down, to Fédéral 3 where they have
remained, still over-achieving in an important sense. Still, one wishes
they had a little more scoring power…
More to come in the next few weeks -- we're heading southward for
castles and canals. A bientôt!
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