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Welcome to Armchair France

 

Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

septembre 2001
Uzès, France


We're back on-line after a frustrating battle with technology. Thanks to all for your patience and understanding. Now we can get back to the business at hand...a taste of France, be it from a small town in France or a small town in the USA. We're spending summer and fall in New England, but we continue to get news from la belle France, and we'll pass on what we've found of interest until we're back on the scene in early 2002. Stay tuned...
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La Côte Bleue, with Marseille on the horizon

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The Mediterranean "Blue Coast"
La Côte Bleue

One of the joys of visiting the south of France is the proximity of the Mediterranean sea, the bluest of blues, the center of so much history, industry, and culture. After our fabulous spring expedition in search of the perfect bouillabaisse near Marseille (see May 15), we decided to explore the coastline a little further.
     We spent a long weekend "by the sea" in June and found the experience perfect. Looking at a map, we set out for the towns of Carry-le-Rouet, Carro, and Sausset-les-Pins, on a continuous stretch of la Côte Bleue to the east of Marseille. The ports are alive with boats, fishing, and, of course, tourists. But this is not the Côte d'Azur, land of movie stars and jet-setters. Rather it's more down-to-earth, comfortable, and affordable. The sea is just as blue, the seafood just as fresh, and, unfortunately, the wind can blow just as fiercely as along the entire southern coast.
     Stopping at various little port towns that are nestled among the calanques, we sat at cafes to see what the locals were up to. Not much! It's a quiet life, disturbed only by the occasional weekend hordes of visitors from Marseille. We had a delicious Michelin one-star meal at L'Escale in Carry-le-Rouet (not to be confused with l'Escale in les Goudes, home of fantastic bouillabaisse), but we ate just as well at les Sirènes in Sausset-les-Pins, where the proprietors were friendly, funny, and, best of all, they let us linger for hours at our waterside table as the light faded over the sea. A fine way to "beach" at the Mediterranean.

2001 grape harvest - early, but good!
Le vendange 2001 - précoce, mais bon!

Reports from the southern parts of France, the incredible wine sea, indicate an early harvest for grapes this year. In Languedoc-Rousillon, the warm summer has hastened maturation of the grapes, with some vineyards already starting in on the white varieties (chardonnay, viognier, et sauvignon particularly), and scrambling about to hasten preparation for the much larger red grape vendange. One to two weeks in advance is the general consensus of readiness for this year's crop...and although the experts hesitate to speak too soon, there is talk of this 2001 batch being even better than last year's "very good" -- although apparently neither will compare with the quality of the 1998 vintage. We'll have to wait and see about this year's ratings, but there's nothing to stop us from diving in to those grand 1998s. A votre santé!

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Potager  planted...waiting for results.

A French vegetable garden in the US?
Un potager aux Etats-Unis?

One of us is a true gardener and has spent a lot of time browsing les pépineries (garden stores). Hoping to have as good produce as we've had in France, we decided to bring home some French seeds to plant in our small New England vegetable garden. After a quick check with the USDA website on the rules, we chose a variety of seeds, including cucumbers, green beans, mesclun, lettuces, zucchini as well as sunflowers and nasturtiums. The home beds were prepped, the soil turned, enriched, and the seeds planted. The results? Mixed.
     Summer is when gardeners can actually get "down and dirty" with the dreams and plots they've been hatching over the winter. As we hatched our plots, we were reminded of a wonderful book about an American's gardening experience in France. When we first read Richard Goodman's French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France quite a few years ago, we were struck by the clarity and seeming authenticity of this small volume. Leafing through it again a month ago, we realized that its setting is smack dab in the midst of the uzètienne region that we love. The descriptions of village life, the land, and the reserved people ring so very true. Worth a read for francophiles who are also jardinophiles. 

Glad to be back at this, and we'll have more for you soon.
Meanwhile, we'll be filling in some blanks in the rest of the website as we go along.
Merci bien
.

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