LA LIGUE CONTRE LE CANCER, CAPESTANG, 11 AUGUST: CONCERT PREVIEW

Last fall, we attended a performance by a Sufi choir and a Whirling Dervish in the seaside village of Meze. Last month, a quartet entertained us with a capella Corsican sacred and folk music in a church in the neighboring village of Ouveillan. In between, we've enjoyed jazz, classical, and world music in a variety of venues at prices ranging from free to 60€ per ticket. When we moved to the very rural southwest of France, I had no idea that our choices would be so diverse and so satisfying.

Typifying such unexpectedly high-level entertainment choices is an upcoming benefit concert in Capestang, just a few kilometers away from us here in Quarante, on August 11th. A senior chorister performing some of the same songs that he sang at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? Really? The organist during that same wedding performing jazz piano? World premiere of excerpts from a new ballet by a Grammy-awarded company? Show tunes? And a finale led by a mezzo-soprano who has sung at La Scala and The Met, Dame Sarah Connolly? Really?

We've got our tickets. I'll be posting a review after the event. You can learn more and buy tickets on the event website HERE. Look me up at the event. I'll be the graybeard with the balding head and the big grin enjoying himself immensely.


THE GOLDEN BEE (A JD WETHERSPOON PUB), STRATFORD-UPON-AVON: QUICK TAKE

As an American, it's hard not to cringe every time that I pass a McDonald's or a Burger King or a KFC along the highway in France. But it makes sense that these joints are highly visible here. McDonald's derives almost 40% of it's worldwide revenue in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), Coca Cola nearly one-quarter. Worldwide branding is a serious thing.

In the Colonies, places like Applebee's and Olive Garden might be considered one step up from fast food as represented by McDonald's. Call it quick food if you have to call it at all. There are more than a dozen Applebee's in Saudi Arabia, none in Europe...or the UK. (Best to start getting used to keeping those two separate.) Check out Applebee's menu (such as it is) HERE.

I discovered what may just be the equivalent of American quick food restaurants while in the UK for our Shakespeare pilgrimage this past winter. We'd arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon close to noon, we had tickets for the matinee, and we were hungry. We needed quick eats. Enter The Honey Bee, a JD Wetherspoon pub.Wetherspoon's website lists 881 Wetherspoon pubs in England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I had no idea.

Long story short, the place was clean and neat, glitzy at the front with electronic games and other come-ons near the bar but relatively more calm back among the tables. Service was attentive. Our food arrived in a timely fashion and was as we had ordered. And the price was reasonable - under 
20€ for Cathey's Ultimate Burger and chips, my Buttermilk Chicken Burger and chips, and an ale apiece.

Recommended for what it is, a quick and predictable meal.

I couldn't resist lining up the condiments for a pic. They certainly appeared comfortably familiar to this American but they are not formulated the same as they are in the Colonies. The catsup, for instance, is much, much sweeter. So is the ketchup.

Check out the more of my restaurant reviews HERE.








ASSIGNAN WALK WITH PICS - JUNE, 2018

There's not much to say about this walk. It's typical of the region. Typical except that Assignan is an interesting experiment in foreign ownership of a French village. (See how they market the "French village experience" HERE.) And don't forget the Belgian-inspired beer available at the end of the walk. The walk itself is partially wooded and shaded, partially open and in the vines, with some spectacular views and an oddity or two.

Visit other walks and my observations on French life HERE. Enjoy.

An 'official' walk starting in an overgrown parking lot

Lower sections shaded.

But every once in a while the path opens up.

Everywhere that I go, brooom finds me and my nose.

The vines are exceptionally lush this year.

Back into the woods.

This one won't make my collection of stone walls.

Can you see it?

Closer. Right in the middle of the trail. Not many walkers this year, I guess.

How to choose? Follow the marked trail. Blue lines. I've shown them before.

Tended vines in the most remote places.

Amazonia?

The walls of a hamlet? I keep threatening to bring a shovel with me.

Broom follows me where ever I go!

Upland meadow.

You just have to stop and look.

Hunter's stand. Deer? Boar?

Open...

...and closed up again.

At the end, a bit of road.

A photography installation throughout the village. Even an illuminated one in an olive grove.







WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT - JULY, 2018: BREAST FEEDING, CAPITALISM, AND KRUSHCHEV

My mother told me that the first time that she breastfed me, I threw back my little head and vomited like a fountain. It was devastating for her and, I suppose though I don't have any recollection of the incident, not a very pleasant experience for me either. Remember, this was 70 years ago. Breastfeeding was the norm. And I was allergic to my mother's milk. The idea that her little baby would be dependent on a store-bought product for his nutrition requirements for months to come was not the scenario that Mom had envisioned for her first born.

At the time, choices were limited. Evaporated milk was widely available and was touted as a nutritionally satisfactory substitute for breast milk, though that claim was later debunked. Similac had been around for a while and had gained a bit of traction. But right around the time that I performed my Trevi imitation, commercially prepared baby formulas began hitting the shelves in a really big way. Today, the four biggest producers generate over $40 billion in sales. That's more than McDonald's sales in the USofA, more than Apple Stores/ITunes sales revenue worldwide. That's BIG business. And Nestle has nearly a 25% market share.

So why should we be surprised that the USofA tried to bury a World Health Organization report documenting that breastfeeding was better for infants than formula? After all, the US believes in the free market and, as we have learned over the years, the most effective way to market is to buy politicians. And American politicians have been bought and paid for. Why? Because they deliver. The American government spends twice as much on corporate welfare as it does in welfare payments to individuals and families.

To be clear, I'm not talking about such gifts as no-bid contracts or targeted tax loopholes. I'm only talking about direct payments, cash on the barrel head. Coal, oil, and gas subsidies. Bailouts. Farm subsidies. (And don't tell me that farm subsidies support small farmers. Farm subsidies are targeted to the gigantic corporate farms, the ones who contribute to political campaigns.) These direct payments alone approach if not exceed $100 billion annually.

But all of that is not really important. What's really important is what Nikita Krushchev said in Poland in 1956 in front of a group of Western diplomats.

"We will bury you."

No, he was not speaking at the United Nations while pounding his shoe. No, he did not say,"We will bury you without firing a shot." Some years later, he clarified by saying," Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you."

And now we know that Krushchev was not quite right. He anticipated that the proletariat would rise up and seize the means of production and distribution from American fat-cat capitalists. Instead, the fat-cat capitalists have managed to seize everything in sight in the name of profit, from detention centers to prisons to the American healthcare system. Indeed, the health of the working class has become a major profit point. And as a result of the American not-so-free market system being applied to the healthcare of Americans, and in spite of the fact that Americans spend twice as much per capita as the European social democracies spend on healthcare, infant mortality is higher in the USofA, child mortality is higher, and life expectancy is shorter.

Our healthcare system is killing us. The working class isn't burying the capitalists. The capitalists are burying the working class. And they're doing it from the very beginning of life. Because who would want to drink mother's milk when you can drink manufactured milk out of a brightly colored can marketed by Nestle?


BISTRO GLOUTON, BORDEAUX: RESTAURANT REVIEW

Food, glorious food!

Would you consider me a hopeless Francophile if I said that moving from the USofA to France has been like trading gruel for hot sausage and mustard? (If you don't recognize the reference to the musical Oliver!, the lyrics to the song Food, Glorious, Food can be found HERE.) What I'm trying to say, in my usual roundabout way, is that living in France has been a lesson in how the human need for caloric intake can be satisfied both intellectually and aesthetically. (Except for beef. The French don't do beef very well. But again. I digress.) This realization has resulted in a spate of favorable restaurant reviews because even the lowliest of French eateries understand that fresh ingredients, proper preparation, and thoughtful presentation are the minimum requirements for a fine dining experience.

And then there are restaurants like Bistro Glouton. Not too big, not too fancy, in a line of restaurants across from the courthouse. Easy to pass by. Don't. Bistro Glouton served us the dinner that we came to Bordeaux to experience. It's worth saying again: Fresh ingredients. Properly prepared. Thoughtfully presented.

I like restaurants that feature their breads and don't just carry a basket to the table from out of the kitchen. Perhaps you can see the dip in the middle of the chopping board in the first picture below. It takes a heckuva lot of bread slicing to chip away at a bread board like that, reminiscent of the worn down middles of the stone steps in the old abbeys of the region, proudly showing the effects of constant use. (And maybe creating a bit of concern about the amount of incidental cellulose that we might be consuming.)

Our dinner began with an amuse-bouche of tuna ceviche, light and flavorful with a crunchy little cracker to help scoop it out of the tiny pot. The starter, a genuine delight, consisted of salmon tartare decorated with squirts of creamed avocado, each squirt topped in turn with a single, huge fish egg. For the main, pork. Wedges with caramelized crusts stuffed with onion confit and accompanied by grilled vegetables. Perfect portions perfectly prepared. At the finish, cream and chocolate because it's France.

The service was impeccable, not rushed, a bit chatty without being overly familiar. And when a less expensive bottle of rosé turned out not to be available after checking the cellar, we were offered the next step up at the lower price.

With that bottle of rosé, 100€ for dinner for two. Yes, city prices. But yes, this was the meal that we came to Bordeaux to eat. Recommended. Highly recommended.

Visit Bistro Glouton's website HERE. Read more of my restaurant reviews HERE.







BORDEAUX: JUST PICS AND PICS AND PICS

Église St Louis des Chartrons

c:
Monument with fountain and towering column erected to honor Girondin revolutionaries.



Every city has to have a wheel, right?

Basilica of St. Michael and surrounding market, mostly Middle Eastern.



Porte de Bourgogne

City of Wine: Amazing technology and a wealth of wine info...and tasting, too.

...with tastings...

...and a great view over the city.


Musée des Beaux-arts: Construction limited exhibitions


The Bourse

Cool, misty Mirror Pool between the Bourse and the river.

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux

Separate door for the rich folks...

And markets...

...and markets...

...and...


A TASTE OF LOCAL CULTURAL EVENTS: COST OF LIVING IN FRANCE #4

In the USofA, we lived in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area. The State Theater in Easton brought in class acts like Preservat...