BROWNS AND TANS (AND A HORSE): A FEW PICS OF WINTER IN THE VINES 2018

In the summer, the landscape is a symphony of greens. Every shade imaginable. In winter, browns and tans preside. Here are just a few pictures taken on my walk this morning to illustrate the point. And yes, I do bring apples with me for the horses and the donkeys and the Shetland ponies.

Is that the guy with the apples?
You're the guy with the apples. right?
OK. So where's the apple?
Not trimmed yet.
Work to do.
Work done...for now...
It's been warm enough, with enough rain, so there's green between the vines.

But mostly, brown and tan...
A reminder of the greens...
And in the fall, I can almost remember the look of the trees in the autumn in my erstwhile northeast USofA home.


CHRISTMAS WALK TO VIEW OF THE PYRENEES: 2018

Cathey said that it was OK for me to take my usual Tuesday morning walk on Christmas Day. I could help set the table and perform other minor tasks necessary for a satisfactory Christmas dinner with friends after I returned. So off I went. Temperature 40℉ at the start near sunup. 50℉ at the finish a couple of hours later. No wind. Blue skies. This was the winter that I came to France for.

The walk can't really be called scenic. Just through the vines until you get to the headland opposite the village. But the closer that you get to the top, you begin to see the Pyrenees peeking through. And at the top, it's a 360° panorama.

As always, start at the church. There's just something about the color of the sky...

For some reason, French Santa seems to prefer climbing in through the windows than down the chimneys.

Like I said, through the vines. Headed for the little hilltop.

Lousy camera in my cheap tablet. Thems ain't clouds. Thems the Pyrenees.

And looking back the way that I came from Quarante.

Woods at the top, the only shade if you're walking here in summer.

CHÉ OLIVE / LE ZINC, CREISSAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

No, it's not Chez Olive. It is indeed Ché complete with red star and black beret. I have no idea why and I wasn't about to ask. The French are the French and not to be analyzed too closely when it comes to politics, especially these days.

Creissan is the next town over from our village of Quarante. We pass through it often and Ché Olive is right there on the main road at the entrance to town. (One of the signs still says Le Zinc. Olive says he prefers Ché Olive though.) Olive opened it a couple of years ago after leaving the Bar 40, Quarante's basic local watering hole that's undergone a bit of a renaissance lately. We hadn't heard much about Ché Olive from our usual sources for dining recommendations. So we just kept passing by. For reasons not central to this review, we decided to stop in for lunch on a mid-week in late December.

The bar is cozy, the restaurant open and bright and modern. Newly renovated and perhaps a bit sterile. We were the first in and we weren't offered a menu, though I suppose that we could have asked for one. We tend to start at a new place with the plat du jour. If a kitchen can't properly prepare the featured dish of the day, what hope is there for the rest of the menu?

So, a choice of a charcuterie plate or a salad with chick peas for a start, slow-cooked beef for the main, and a mousse for dessert. All was quite satisfactory. The charcuterie was not the typical plate of smoked ham, paté, and saucisson. Frankly, I don't know the proper names of most of what we ate. I think that there was a bit of tongue, but I could be wrong. With a very nice, crusty roll and a bit of butter, an interesting and enjoyable mix. (We didn't try the salad but it looked ample and fresh.) The beef was falling-apart tender, swimming in a light gravy enhanced by red wine, with potatoes done just firm enough. Fresh parsley for color. A substantial portion for a chilly December day. Our server refreshed our basket of rolls, necessary to sop up the gravy. The smooth, creamy mousse for dessert came with crunchies on top and a bit of red fruit stirred in.

My café créme was positively tepid, almost cool. Too bad, but there's always something...

With a demi of wine, the tab came to 33€. Good food at a good price. And when we asked to see the dinner menu, the slate that was brought over looks the same.

Ché Olive doesn't have a website or a Facebook page. No one can accuse the French of intrusive marketing. No one can accuse the French of marketing at all. Open most weekdays for lunch and starting Thursday night for dinner...I think. You'll just have to call. 06.69.95.48.03





FRENCH YELLOW VESTS, BREXIT, AND THE COLOR OF CONCRETE: 12-2018

A friend worried that she'd been dropped from my blog's feed because she hadn't read anything from me for a couple of months. Shame on me. Yes, there have been problems and there's been work to be done. But I have an opinion for every minute of every day and I type reasonably well. So what am I waiting for?

THE COLOR OF CONCRETE: We live in the oldest part of our village, maybe 50 meters from the site of the original Roman villa, in a house that has probably been inhabited in some configuration or another for 1,000 years. We're packed in tightly with our neighbors. Our front door opens onto a pedestrian walkway that we can just barely fit our car into if we approach it from a certain angle. But the walkway is barely wider than the car, it's illegal to park there for longer than it takes to offload our stuff, and there's no way out except to back and fill and return the way we came.

The pieton, as we call it, used to be paved with bricks. This past summer, the town decided to replace water lines. They pulled up the bricks, covered everything with dust and dirt and mud, replaced the lines, and then poured concrete instead of replacing the bricks. It's a shame. A concrete sidewalk is easier to keep clean, yes. A boon for the young ladies who work for the town sweeping and cleaning our streets and sidewalks daily. But a concrete sidewalk simply has none of the rustic charm of a brick-paved walkway.

Last week, a work crew began digging up one half of the new walkway. Why? Well, after they poured the second half of the walkway this summer, it rained just enough to slightly change the color of the concrete. So the two halves of the walkway didn't match. That meant redoing one half and matching it to the other.

This tells you two things about the French. They don't have the good sense not to pour concrete in the rain. And color coordination is more important than money.

BREXIT: The world is getting smaller. The idea that a small island with a mid-sized economy can compete globally with the European Union, the USofA, China, Russia, India, South Korea, and even Japan is absurd. (Yes, the UK has the world's fifth largest economy. But that's today with free access to its largest trading partner, the EU. After Brexit?) The idea that a better deal than the one that Theresa May brokered but could not possibly get through Parliament can be renegotiated with the EU is absurd. Brexiteer Tories calling for a vote of no confidence when they had no chance of winning, thereby accomplishing nothing except their egotistically greedy goal of weakening the leader of their own party and assuring her departure sooner rather than later, is absurd. The fact that the best that Labor can do in terms of an alternative to PM May is Jeremy Corbin is absurd.

This tells you two things about the English. The English system of higher education has created a coterie of elite, self-serving, unpatriotic twerps who care more for the way that the seams on their trousers fall when they sit at their desks, counting their money, than they do for the health and welfare of their home country. And that the English are just as susceptible to covert Russian disruptive influence as was the USofA during our last Presidential election.

YELLOW VESTS: I asked an American friend living in Paris if the lawlessness was as widespread as it appeared in the media. Yes, she said. So I don't go near the Champs-Elysées. Well, the Champs-Elysées isn't all of Paris and Paris isn't all of France. Yes, there are goons of the extreme right and extreme left who have taken advantage of the situation, mostly in urban settings where they can remain anonymous. Remember, we're probably talking about maybe a couple of hundred bad apples in a movement that put hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.

The rural French are the backbone of the movement and they have a right to be upset. The government has pushed the use of diesel cars and trucks for years. The thinking was that diesels last longer than gasoline-powered motors and are more cost-effective to operate over the long term. Thus, diesel fuel has been subsidized. As a result, every French grape grower owns a little white diesel-powered van (usually inhabited by a little white dog) and all of their families own diesel-powered cars. Suddenly, though, the French government has changed course. The environment takes precedence. What had been encouraged was now about to be discouraged and heavily taxed. Why? To reduce France's carbon footprint. (And France, with its heavy reliance on nuclear energy, already has one of the smallest carbon footprints of any industrialized country.)

So we are stopped just about daily at a local traffic circle here in the rural south. The GJs (Gilets Jaunes = Yellow Vests) hand out flyers detailing the cost of government, the pay and fringe benefits of government ministers as compared to the income of local farmers. They explain that Macron is taking food from their mouths. I tell them that I'm an American. "Vous avez Macron. Nous avons Trump." They laugh. And then they raise the barriers and we are on our way in less than five minutes.

Those are the folks that are the true face of the GJs, not the bomb-throwers.

But my American friends, at least those who support the anti-immigration rhetoric of Trump and his ilk, will tell you that FRANCE IS BURNING! REVOLUTION! THEY ARE CHANTING 'WE WANT TRUMP' IN THE STREETS!

This tells you two things about Americans. The first is that those who claim that the media are peddling fake news are the first to believe the media if the reporting fits their agenda. And they forget the Boston Tea Party, when Americans rebelled against a far away and seemingly disinterested government that put a tax on a staple by destroying private property. Every American has heard that story in school. But most Americans have the long-term memory of a fruit fly and a capacity similar to that same fruit fly to think critically.


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...