Monday, 6 June 2016

Journal Provencal: Chapitre Trois

One of the highlights of any visit to rural France is a trip to a local market and this was the case when we visited the weekly market at the nearby town of  Aups. The place to go for fresh vegetables, fish, fruit etc and also the place to go to meet people. It's always a great pleasure just to wander around from stall to stall: tasting this and that, buying this and that and lapsing into Franglais in an attempt to be understood. I have the view that these markets contribute in no small measure to social cohesion and identity in rural France and it's something we've lost in the UK. It's a shame but it's an inevitable consequence of increasing urbanisation.

In the evening we had some culture when we took in a concert at the nearby mediaeval Cistercian abbey of Le Thoronet. The attraction was the four male voices of Var's Musica who treated us to 'Merveilles de la Polyphonie et Improvisations'. Unaccompanied voices reverberating around the walls of the nave of an ancient abbey - an unexpected treat and one to be long remembered.
A French olive stall. And I do mean a French olive stall: a stall selling French olives. Not a nice juicy Greek Kalamata olive, my very favourite, in sight. Just shrivelled French olives.
A colourful display of strawberries. Given their taste, I'd put my money on them being sun-ripened and never having gone anywhere near a chiller cabinet.
Some dangly things (it's a technical artistic term) forming a coloured curtain for the market backdrop.
Sad I know but I was intrigued by this display of heritage varieties of tomato. The colours varied from normal tomato red through to almost black purple. There were free tasters of some of them and very nice they were too. In my mangled French I managed to elicit from the grower that the problem with some of these varieties was that the yields per plant were very low and would never be high enough for commercial production. Only for the something something 'domestique' apparently as he rattled away, with my understanding diminishing in direct proportion to his enthusiasm at talking to someone interested in his plants.

An old type of Beefsteak Tomato. New, old - I can grow neither in my greenhouse.

Café culture: eating, drinking and watching the world go by. What better way to spend time? If only we had the weather in Cornwall to allow us to do this more often.
Ceramics - a speciality of the area. The style is rather heavy and too 'rustic' for my tastes. However, colourful they certainly are and the style fits in with the sun.
Saucisson of all shapes, sizes and substance. They make my efforts at chorizo making  look rather puny. But, thinking about it, perhaps I could legitimately describe myself as an 'artisan saucisonnier'. I certainly didn't come across any that looked remotely like mine. I could be missing a trick: I have a unique product that may deserve wider appreciation - or not.
I thought this mannequin had a rather wistful "I'd really rather not be here" look on her face. Perhaps this was due to the Day-glo swimming costume she was sporting? "Day-glo, Day-glo! They dress me in Day-glo", she seems to say, "I used to work for Dior once and now it's Day-glo". How the mighty have fallen. As a one-time fashion icon myself, I felt for her. Once you've been at the top, the only way is down.
Spices of the orient and Herbs of Provence.
Bags and bags of bags.
And this is something else I can't grow - garlic of this size. If you want it pea-sized, I'm your man. If you want it bigger, the holder of this stall is obviously the one to go to.
Under the plane trees in the central square in Villecroix for lunch, accompanied by the music of a very accomplished guitarist. Particularly memorable was his version of Clapton's 'Layla' - much slower and more melodical than the original.
Three of the four members of Var's Musica giving voice in the nave of the abbey at Le Thoronet.
This is a good example of what I love about the communication the internet allows. I write something in Provence and I am answered by a French-Canadian living in Northern Cyprus. Many thanks to LB who tells me that the planes we were wondering about yesterday were  Bombardier CL-415 'water scooper' water bombers. Operationally they skim the surface of the lakes scooping in water that they later drop on forest fires (or supporters of Marie Le Pen or Nicholas Sarkozy).

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