Friday, October 21, 2016


1. A man buried 2,500 years ago in northern China had 13 marijuana plants covering his torso like a shroud. Not the first burial in the region showing signs that the Chinese were stoners. A grave close by contained two pounds of seeds and powdered leaves. Seeds and shake in a grave? Saving the buds for the living, maybe?

2. Conservative pundit Matt Drudge said that he didn't believe that Hurricane Matthew had the potential to be as bad as was forecast. The National Weather Service lied to hype climate change, said Drudge. We are in a post-truth world. Drudge makes a claim. News agencies report the claim. The claim becomes a concern. The concern requires a Congressional investigation. And suddenly the National Weather Service has to defend its science because Drudge was having a brain fart. Bull cookies! (And of course, the flooding in the Carolinas was massive...)

3. Hillary said, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders..." and the Right and the Left go nuts. Open borders and open markets. Like a nerdy Star Trek future. Hillary also said that it's not for governments to do. Specifically not for governments, she said. Spin, spin, spin...

4. The American Presidential election. That's all. Just that.

5. Brexit, Hard or Soft? The Europeans are saying that as long as the Brits choose to leave, it's Hard. Period. As if that wasn't obvious from the start...

My kind of singer/songwriters...

Monday, October 17, 2016


Built by Moors as a fortress in defense of a nearby town, what became the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria in 1099 dominates the skyline of the village of Alquezar. The year-round population of just a few hundred swells ten-fold during high season due to Alquezar's majestic views, interesting architecture, the surrounding national park, and the many nearby opportunities for adventure travel. Cathey and I chose to visit during October, a quiet time that would have been just a touch quieter if there hadn't been a cadre of youth on the streets freed by mid-term break from their Spanish schools. Not many, and not too rowdy, but just enough to add a bit of color.

We chose the scenic route to Alquezar from our home in Quarante, heading for Toulouse and then turning southwest and climbing over the Pyrenees. Even with a six-page printout of directions from the Michelin website, we strayed off our route more than once and, when the road turned into what amounted to a paved cow path, we found it necessary to inquire of a family having lunch on their patio if we were indeed on the right road. To our surprise, we were. On arriving, we found parking toward the top of the village, located our Hotel Castillo on a quiet side street below, then struggled with our luggage. After we spent a couple of days learning the layout, we realized that we could have driven to the hotel's front door. I'm glad that we didn't try that initially, though. Tiny streets with dead ends, not wide enough for cars traveling in different directions to pass, can make for nervous driving especially if you're not certain of your directions.

The Hotel Castillo was perfect. Quiet. Great view from our room. Perfect little breakfast. Check out their website HERE for more info. But a slight caveat. The photographer who took the pictures of the rooms really knew his/her stuff. Our room was adequate to be sure but not as spacious as the website made it appear.

Since high season had passed, not all restaurants were open during our Monday through Thursday stay. But we found the available choices perfectly satisfactory. The norm seemed to be a simple, three-course lunch or dinner, wine included, for 14 euros - interesting starts, grilled meat (beef, rabbit, lamb, chicken, sausage) and frites for a main, and an assortment of sweets for dessert. All good. I'll be putting up reviews on this blog over the next several days.

We didn't raft or canoe or hike the gorge. Our days were quite simple. We enjoyed our breakfast, walked around the village - more hiking than strolling given the changes in elevation, found a place for lunch, returned to the room for an afternoon nap, then chose our dinner stop. Simple, quiet days. Eye candy and good food. A vacation. are the pics. Enjoy.

One of the better roads through the Pyrenees.
For those of you familiar with the Languedoc, think of Alquezar as a fully realized Minerve with better restaurants.
Our room named Blancal..
Night time view of the Collegiate Church from our room's balcony.
View of the gorge of the Rio Vero. We didn't take advantage of the many goat tracks leading down from the village.
Whenever I enter a new church, I light candles for Florence and, more recently, Mae Brown. This was a new experience, though. Put 20 centimes in a slot and an electric candle lights up for an allotted period of time. It's probably cheaper than tapers for the church but I prefer real flame.

Huge altar piece covered in gold leaf. Truly impressive.

Wall paintings - I don't know if they qualify as frescoes - surround an upper gallery.
Everybody who has seen it wants this letterbox.

Stairs everywhere.

I'll be doing a restaurant review but I just had to give a shout out to L'Artica. Great for a late morning cup of coffee and a tasty, hearty lunch. Staff pleasant and attentive. And, of course, the view.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


1. A man was arrested on a New Jersey beach wearing a 'swimsuit' made of clear plastic wrap. Island Beach State Park, my favorite Jersey beach, had the honor of hosting the show. The investigation before the arrest took two days, during which time the police report says that his genitals were clearly in full view. I guess the police had to be careful how they handled the evidence.

2. My Presidential candidates spend late nights on Twitter either ranting about sex or replying to rants about sex. I'm asleep. They should be too. If they are asleep, it's somebody from their campaigns posting on Twitter. Either way, they both should be ashamed at the depths to which this campaign has sunk. I certainly am.

3. Nigel Farage is back. That's all. Just that.
3a. Tim Tebow is now a professional baseball player. That's all. Just that.

4. Although Florida Governor Rick Scott denies having created the policy, a former lawyer for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says that employees were banned from using such terms as 'climate change' and 'global warming'. Now, Hurricane Matthew. Certainly, Florida has been devastated by hurricanes in the past. I saw for myself the havoc wrought by Andrew. But with flooding on the streets of Miami a common occurrence when the winds blow onshore during a normal high tide, let's hope that Matthew veers away to the east or at least brushes past at low tide. Otherwise...

5. On a Sunday talk show, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani resented being asked about his admitted marital infidelities while speculating about Hillary and Bill. Why are we listening to Giuliani in the first place? I guess because New York's Roman Catholic former mayor had three wives and one of them forced him to sleep on the couch during his tenure, making Giuliani a leading expert on marital infidelity by public figures. Alongside Gingrich. And Trump. Maybe that's why Giuliani said 'everybody does it'. All of his political friends did.

This works. Cumberbatch? Not so much. 
(Or didn't you know that Gilmour brought Cumberbatch 
up recently to do Comfortably Numb with him?)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


The conversation is predictable. It begins when we say, "We live in France now."

Full time?


Really? All the time?



Well, during our active retirement years we wanted to visit friends in England and travel in Europe. Why not live here?

How did you pick France?

Long story. (Pour wine and tell story. It's HERE on the blog.)

Are you going to become French citizens?

No. Residents but not citizens.

Does it cost more than living in the States?

Not really. Depends on how you live. And the dollar is quite strong these days. Viva Brexit!

Do you speak the language?

Well enough to get by and we're getting better all the time.

And then, at some point during the conversation, "What do you miss most?"

The stock answer is, "We miss friends and family the most." But you can see the real answer for yourselves when you see the picture of what Cathey brought back from the States for me in her suitcase last week.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


1. On a recent Saturday, a French hunter 'accidentally' killed a hiker wearing brown clothing thinking that the hiker was a deer. Protestors demanded that France calls a halt to all hunting...on Sundays. People hike on weekends because it's their days off? Guess what. Hunters hunt on weekends because it's their days off too. But the point is that if you shoot a hiker, any day of the week and regardless of the color clothing that he's wearing, it means that you haven't properly identified your target. That's not an accident. At the
very least, that's reckless endangerment.

2. 'Community activist' Sean Thomas grabbed Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson from behind and shoved a custard pie into his face while shouting at him. Johnson, a former all-star pro athlete, proceeded to kick Thomas' butt. Thomas says Johnson over reacted. I say Thomas is an entitled idiot who is lucky he can still walk and fashion complete sentences. Whether you see Thomas' action as civil disobedience or felonious assault, I simply do not understand why folks who carry out these types of actions expect to walk away clean. Purity of heart is not protection from the consequences of your act or from the law, even if the law is unjust. Be prepared for the consequences. (Are you listening, Eric Snowden?)

3. A judge asked a rape victim why she didn't just keep her knees together. A former small-town mayor says that the four year-old girl that he abused for over two years was a willing participant. A teenager who pled guilty to sexually abusing a one year-old baby for a porn video spent two years in jail awaiting trial but was sentenced to probation, registering as a sex offender, and no further jail time. I'm not worried about ISIS or ISIL or Daesh. I'm worried about the guy next door. He seems OK, but...

4. Hillary started the whole birther thing...and Whitewater and Travelgate and she had Vince Foster murdered...
5. And Bill committed Trump and Giuliani and Gingrich... 

6. A cruise ship sailed from Seward, Alaska to New York City via the Northwest Passage because of the lack of Arctic ice. Cabins started at $22,000. Because the pristine wilderness that is the Arctic really needs a cruise ship with folks popping golf balls off the fantail and a small ice breaker and an escort ship for evac (just in case) passing through. And do you really think that they packed out all of their trash and sewage?

 OK. I get it. You can't take a perfect song, cover it, and expect everyone to be happy. But what can I say? I like these guys and I like the way that they honored this wonderful song.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Having discussed breakfast (See Meal #1), it's now time for lunch. A sandwich. A sausage sandwich. Across the Pond in the Colonies, particularly in the Northeast, there's a thing about sausage sandwiches. They are ubiquitous, hefty and chewy and overstuffed and sloppy and seldom very remarkable. The bread isn't as good as the bread here in France. The sausages are basic pork sausages, not very interesting. And the other ingredients...well, you get the picture. I'm a fan of French food...locally sourced, in season, grown for the taste and not the ability to be shipped across a continent. But I do miss a good sausage sandwich. So let's put together a suitably French version.

Ingredients: I start with a loaf Aveyronnais from our local baker. It's crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, a bit bigger in circumference than the average baguette but a bit smaller than the petrissane that I had for breakfast, and nice and grainy. Made, logically enough, exclusively from flour from the French region of Aveyron. For the sausage, I chose chipolatas from the butcher, a thin and lightly spiced sausage a griller (for grilling). The onions and potatoes come from local producer Fanny, the lady in the market. Now we cheat a bit. So what? I'm on my own. Nobody's watching. I don't char and peel fresh red peppers. I buy them already skinned in a jar from the super. But they're French, so it's OK. Same for the jalapeno peppers...from a jar. The mayonnaise is also store bought. In a squeeze bottle! (The Southern Woman That I Married makes fine homemade mayo. But she ain't here.) For cheese, already grated emmental in a bag, technically a Swiss cheese but milder. Sort of the French equivalent of Monterey Jack. Yes, I didn't buy a more interesting cheese and grate it myself. Mea culpa.

I start by cutting a potato into thin, thin slices. Almost crisp thin. (For the Americans in the audience, almost chip thin.) I brown them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil, then arrange them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven to finish.

While the potatoes are roasting, I grill the chipolatas on the gas grill with the peppers and onions on the upper rack. Yes, I put the onions on top of the peppers. For this sandwich, I like the onions warm but still crisp. And yes, I use a gas grill. I also have a wood-fired grill/smoker but the gas grill works fine for this sort of thing.

I slice the Aveyronnaise lengthwise to match the length of the chipolatas, spread the mayo, lay down the peppers and onions, arrange the chipolatas, and cover with emmental. (Now I know that with hot dogs, and even the traditional American sausage sandwich, the mantra is: Dress the meat and not the bun. Well, I prefer it this way. Less mess. And I know that mayo may not sit well with everyone. Well, it's my sandwich, not yours.) I pull the baking sheet out of the oven, push aside enough of the crisps to accommodate the open-faced sandwiches, and put the sheet back into the oven until the cheese has melted.

Arrange on the plate. Salt and pepper the potatoes if you'd like. Eat. (It's not a sandwich to be eaten by hand. You can, I suppose. But married life has diluted the Neanderthal in me. Knife and fork, please.)

Bachelor Meal #2...

Sunday, September 25, 2016


The Southern Woman That I Married is visiting family in the Colonies. I'm on my own. That's not to say that friends haven't stepped up with dinner invites. They say that they are 'taking care of me' as if I'm incapable of feeding myself. But I do know my way around the kitchen. And I don't mean that I can heat a frozen pizza.(Well, I can. But only once in a while.)

Every student, solo apartment dweller, and spouse winging it alone has relied on scrambled eggs for sustenance at some point. They're cheap and they're easy and we know how to fix them just the way that we like them. So why am I writing about scrambled eggs? Well, you've got your recipe and I've got mine. After a great deal of experimentation - and not a few failures - I've finally come up with a method that works for me. Every time. Since I've probably tried your recipe already, it's time to see if you are willing to try mine.

Now, I know that there are many schools of thought. Mix the eggs in a bowl. Add water to the eggs. Add milk to the eggs. Add cream to the eggs. Salt in the pan. Salt on the plate. Use a nonstick pan. Use a cast iron pan. Cook in butter. Cook in vegetable oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, olive oil. The possibilities are endless. And, of course, every cooking site has seventy-three recipes and every chef/cook/blogger has THE answer.

I have THE answer.

MY answer, anyway.

Here goes:

Note the ingredients. Two eggs - locally sourced, fresh, and never refrigerated. Saucisse de foie, a livery bit of hard sausage from the local butcher. Bleu de Causses, my favorite bleu cheese. Olive oil, locally sourced, fresh, and buttery. Slices of petrissane, a soft and crusty, slightly grainy bread fresh from the local bakery, preferred over a baguette. Tomatoes fresh from the garden of a local producer who sells them in the market a few steps from our door. And garlic. Locally sourced. Of course.

So I pour a bit of olive oil into a cast iron skillet and heat well. Then I toast one side of the bread. While warm, I rub the toasted side first with the cut side of the garlic and then with tomato.

Then I crack the eggs into a bowl and dump them into the hot pan, stirring with a flexible spatula.

As I scramble the eggs, I add the saucisse. The bleu goes in just before the eggs are done. The heat of the eggs will melt the cheese and I don't want the cheese to stick on the pan. Cook the eggs soft or hard, to your taste.

Arrange on the plate. Sit down and eat up. No salt or pepper. The cheese is quite salty and the saucisse is well spiced. Just eat what comes out of the pan. You know what I really like about this method? The colors of the eggs stand out, yolks and whites, not mixed together but truly scrambled.

And there you have it. Bachelor Meal #1.

Monday, September 19, 2016


When Cathey suggested that we have lunch out on Sunday and that we stick close by, Le Terminus immediately came to mind. It's just down the road, we've eaten there on several occasions, and we've always enjoyed it. So I was surprised to find that I'd never fully reviewed Le Terminus as I searched through my blog. True, it appeared on a couple of lists of restaurants worth a visit. But a formal review? Nope. Couldn't find one. So here goes.

Located in the old train station between the towns of Quarante and Cruzy, the new young owners have created a thriving, bustling dining experience. In the summer, there are tapas nights with music. Special meals are featured on major holidays, even for take-out. The 16 euro lunch menu is always interesting. So Le Terminus is a local hotspot. On the Sunday that we arrived, the shabby-chic main dining room was fully packed. (And a bit noisy...) And the 16 euro weekday formula menu had morphed into a 30 euro menu. But one expects paying a premium for quality weekend dining.

I was a bit surprised at the extent of that premium, but more on that later.

A small dish of lucques, local olives fresh off the tree, greeted us at the table. No amusée bouche was forthcoming. We chose from the aforementioned 30 euro menu. Cathey started with the rouget (red mullet). Properly (barely) cooked, the two little filets came on a bit of greens with a slice of grainy toast,\ with red pepper tapenade and a chunk of chèvre de Combebelle (the especially fine local goat cheese) underneath. Just perfect. I chose an off menu recommendation from the server, an assortment of cured hams. Tasty, enough for two, and the cause of the aforementioned premium. (Wait for it...)

We both chose the Charolais beef tartare for our main, topped with shaved Parmesan, light greens, and bits of dark toasted olive crumble. You either like tartare or you don't. We do. To be special, the tartare has to be fresh, really fresh, and naturally sweet. It was. We were both quite happy.

I chose a chocolate confection with a caramelized crust at the bottom for dessert. (See the pic.) I've said it before. The French know chocolate. Scrumdiddlyumptious. Cathey's baba was the one disappointment. For us, a baba is about the sponge and the rum. This baba was confined to a cutesy Mason jar and covered in a thick and unnecessary layer of chantilly. It's considered a specialty of the house and, from the number of servings that came out of the kitchen, it's a customer favorite. Had she known, however, Cathey would definitely have tried something different. Not a total loss, mind you. Just not Cathey's idea of a baba.

With a bottle of Mas de Cynanque rose (local, clean, bio, at 13%) and a bottle of still water, the total bill came to 92,65 euros. That's about 12 euros more than I expected. Why? Apparently, my choice of the cured hams at the start meant that I was off the formula and ordering a la carte. Maybe my French wasn't good enough to understand that would be the case when the server announced the choices. But it was a surprise and frankly, if I had realized that would be the case, I might have ordered differently.

Water under the bridge. A fine meal, prepared well, presented well, served well. We'll be back...and be more careful when ordering off menu and choosing desserts.