Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A New Tradition

Traditionally, Bastille Day in Lauzerte has primarily been celebrated with a vide grenier, a mayor's cocktail, and some sort of music on the square.  I don't recall any serious attempt at a fireworks display since I came to the village....until now.   It actually started earlier than planned, so I was at home when I heard the boom-boom-boom.   As Bosco was already beginning to shake from fear, I decided to watch from my bedroom window.  Surprisingly, it was quite a show...

A tradition is born...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cave Dining

The inaugural dinner in the wine cave could not have come at a better time, as temperatures soared daily into the mid-nineties.  Those who had helped our host with the renovation of the cave were invited for this special evening, including me who had carried a couple of buckets of cement for the mason laying the floor.  We were advised to wear a jacket or sweater, and we felt silly arriving so attired in such heat..until we descended into the stunningly-designed cave where it was deliciously cool.

And because we were in a wine cave, the wines took center stage.  Our host greeted us with a chilly Meursault that paired beautifully with his asparagus tart.

He followed that with not one but two delicious reds, a Chateau Bouscaut from the Pessac-Leognan region in Bordeaux and a Domaine Pouderoux from Rousillon. They accompanied a beef daube which is traditionally a winter dish but seemed right at home in the cool cave.

And for good measure there were two sweet wines, a sauterne to pair with a platter of blue cheeses and a  Domaine Pouderoux Maury with the fruit tart.

But the evening was not all about the food and was also about great talk and camaraderie.  Without much prompting, the diners began talking about the village, its history, and many of the colorful characters who populated it over the years.   As the newest arrival to the village (14 years ago!), I could listen, admire, and laugh along with everyone's amusing anecdotes.  And I even had the chance to tell about my encounter with the village's "lady of the night" which spurred others with their own tales.  It was fitting that the evening ended with armagnac as we lingered in the coolness, still chatting, and feeling pride in the part we played in helping our host achieve his vision for his wine cave. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Over Lauzerte

When Bernard offered me the chance to join one of his hot-air balloon excursions, I hesitated.  I was not really afraid but a lot of my friends and family had misgivings, so it did give me pause.   In the end I couldn't really justifying not grasping this opportunity.

It turned out to be a long but exhilarating experience.  Even though it seemed to be a hot and nearly windless late afternoon, the trial balloons told a different story.  We had to change venues twice before Bernard was satisfied with the air currents we would encounter, and we set about preparing the balloon in the football field just below Lauzerte.  While some grumbled at the delayed departure,   once we were in the air, we realized that we were about to enjoy unparalleled views over  our medieval village.

I always thought Lauzerte was best appreciated from the ground but the views from above were absolutely stunning.

And once we passed the village, we could also appreciate the lovely countryside with its patchwork quilt of fields both green and brown.

Bernard, our pilot, promised a wonderful sensation of floating above the ground, feeling neither displacement nor dizziness while discovering the magnificent panorama that nature offers us. And he was certainly not exaggerating.  thanks, Bernard.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Malbec 4th of July

For a number of years the 4th of July has been a non-event for me here in France.  When my friend Yvonne was at the embassy in Paris, I used to be invited to the official party at the residence, but she is long gone and so are the invitations. I have not missed celebrating it since July is so full of activities, especially those surrounding Bastille Day and the weekly Marche gourmand.    However, this year the Villa Malbec in Cahors, always looking for a reason to party, decided to celebrate Independence Day with a barbecue, country music, and a tasting of California malbecs.

Normally, I wouldn't attend an evening event like this since I don't like to drive home in the dark after a bit of partying.  But Jeremy Arnaud, marketing director for the Cahors wine union, called to say it was my duty as an American to attend....and to give a speech in french on the history of Independence day.  I protested that there was no time to prepare anything for the next day but he claimed that it was an essential part of the festivities and I was the only one who could do it.  So thanks to my friend the internet, I was able to patch together a speech that included  a bit of history and ample recognition of the part the French (such as the Marquis de Lafayette) played in the success of our revolution.

After a little rain in the morning, it turned out to be a lovely evening and the space in front of the Villa Malbec was chockablock with American flags, bunting, a local football team, a mustang, and lots of party goers, some appropriately attired.

As this was France, there were ample dignitaries (the American Consul from Toulouse, former US Ambassador Hartmann, and Cahors city officials) to receive medals and give speeches.

I was not included in this illustrious group but had to wait until midway through the evening by which time most of the partygoers had had lots to drink and eat.  I dutifully gave my presentation to a half attentive crowd who fortunately perked up when I announced a bit of a surprise close to their hearts.  A historian had found that nearly 200 residents of the Lot had fought on the side of the Americans during our revolutionary war.  To commemorate this Franco-American partnership, we were each given a piece of paper with a name when we entered the party venue; on the wall of the Villa Malbec was a list of the participants where we could find out more about "our" soldier or marine (date and place of birth, and rank).

My soldier..

Now that my duty was done, I wandered over to the barbecue truck but the line was so long (one truck for 200 diners!),  that I just  sighed and drove home.  Happy 4th of July!