Cajun tunes in Ardèche!

La Gang du Quêteux is a Cajun group from Ardèche made up of some old friends of Geraud’s and new friends of mine.  And guess what!?  They have a new CD hot off the press!  Here is a fun, short video made for the project.  If you are interested in a copy of the CD email, Valerie at [email protected]

Here is the video link in case of viewing troubles:

Similar, but different…

Of course, since coming to France, I notice all the little differences between life here and life in the U.S.  I thought it would be fun to go through the house making photos of a few of those little differences:

It took me a couple of weeks of naturally reaching for the “C” faucet thinking that “Cold” water would come out before I finally learned.  Nope!  “C” is for “Chaude” and “F” for “Froide.”

Shopping for your average, daily life products wasn’t always easy, but eventually I learned things like “bio” means “organic” or “après shampooing” (after shampooing) is “hair conditioner.”  Géraud has had to go into the pharmacy with me multiple times (even ibprophen and cough drops have to be bought from the pharmacy, they are not carried in grocery stores) to help me find various feminine and prenatal products that I could normally find on my own in the U.S.  He’s always a good sport about it.

Pictured above are dishwashing soap (savon de vaisselle) and toothpaste (pâte dentifrice). The reference of “pâte” for “paste” in toothpaste is interesting to me because it is also the word for dough or pasta.

You often see toilets that flush with a button.  If you look closely the button gives you the option of light or heavy flush…pretty fancy huh?  Light switches and plug-ins are different too (hence the need for an adapter when I use my computer).

For my first visit with our midwife, she asked my height and weight measurements.  I opened my mouth to answer this oh-so-standard question when I realized that I had no idea.  The midwife looked at me like I was from Mars until I got the chance to remind her that we use pounds and feet/inches in the U.S. rather than kilos and centimeters/meters.

Even google knows I’m in France!  (How do they do that?)


Food Happenings

Some of the food we have eaten…

Being gluten-free here is a little bit of a challenge (and a bummer considering all the wooooonderful baked goods there are to be found.)  Through the years, I have basically let go of baking and replaced all of my cravings for sweets with dark chocolate.  However,  Géraud and his family and friends won’t hear of me skipping dessert.  Dinner at a friend’s house this Sunday included a wonderfully airy, gluten-free cake with chocolate chips, lemon zest and almond powder in place of flour (sorry I don’t have a picture of that one).  Géraud has been experimenting with brownies made with “farine de châtaignes” (chestnut flour) and he made the crêpes below with a mix of quinoa and rice flour.  Mmmm…

#1 Local pears from the Saturday morning market soon to become a pear-apple crisp.
#2 An upturned jar with green-lentil sprouts under way.
#3 Mushrooms we gathered during a walk (Géraud learned about hunting mushrooms from his grandfather.  It’s a big thing here.  When the season is right and it’s a day or two after a good rain you will find cars parked all along the little country roads left by folks of all ages searching for mushrooms.)

“Lait cru” written on the little signs mark the raw-milk cheeses.  The absolute majority of cheeses in France (of which there are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds) are unpasteurized.  Though I agree with eating “live” foods, I admit that when a super-duper moldy cheese appears on my plate I take a double-take.  These are moments when I remember that I am an American (though this doesn’t stop me from tasting!).

This picture is from New Year’s Eve at about 3:00 in the morning.  Our friend Pascal (a real high-energy kind of guy) is leading a group croissant making effort.  The table is outside under a tent so that when the croissant are ready, they can put them directly into the old-timey, wood-fired oven to the right.  The bottles of water are to be used as rolling-pins.  Since we were heading home at this point we didn’t get to try them, but we hear that they came out of the oven around 6:00 a.m. and tasted great!


Chez Polo et Nadine

I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

“How did you take a bath?” you ask.  Though they have an outdoor shower house with a nice view of the mountains it was still a little too cold to be wet and outside at the same time.  So, a large kettle of water heated on the stove, a water basin, soap and a wash cloth were the answer.  One night, I got to take a bath downstairs right next to the stove.  It was wonderful!

This is where I slept.


The Land of Ardèche

I’m back!  It has been quite a while since I last wrote and I promise to make up for it (though I admit that I really enjoyed having a break from the computer).  Aloooot has happened so let me start from the beginning.

I took a train from Vichy to St. Entiennes and then an afternoon bus to a very small town called Saint Agreve.  The bus ride took me higher and higher into the mountains leaving behind the beautiful, central France springtime and replacing it with a climate almost a month delayed.  I had entered the land of Ardeche, an area I feel in love with during the three weeks that followed.  I’m sure you’ll see why.

If you look at the map below, near the bottom right corner, you can see Ardeche within in the Rhone-Alps region which is colored green.  It’s only a few hours drive from the Hautes-Alps (High Alps) which you can see to the right.

The bus dropped me off near a fountain in the center of town.  It was drizzling, there wasn’t a soul in sight (even all the shops looked closed) and I had to pee reeeeal bad .  Within 15 minutes Polo and Nadine, my new hosts, pulled up in their white van with all four of their very sweet dogs in the back seat.

We greeted with cheek kisses which is, of course, the normal way in France.  After 2 months of meeting new people I was getting more used too this very different way (for an American) of making acquaintance with someone I have never met.  In Joelle and Daniel’s town everyone gave two kisses for greeting so after a kiss on each cheek with Nadine I stepped away and she smiled and said, “It’s three kisses here.”  I had no idea that some places are two, three or even four kisses.  How do know how many and at what time is what I wanna know!

There is so much I could say about my time with Polo and Nadine so if you want all the goods we’ll have to talk in person.  But to start, they have a very special way of living, a way that would be very good for the planet if more people followed their example.  I was completely inspired.

They heat only with a woodstove and choose not to have hotwater, an inside bathroom or a refrigerator.  All of the woodworking, from the woodshed (which Polo built alone in one day while I was there) to the chairs in the house to instrument pegs are made by hand by Polo.  Nadine makes wonderful bread, soups, sprouted grains and soy-yogurt.  And they both play LOTS of music!

Away from the constant humming of electronic devices, cars driving past, street lamps and cell phones I immediately relaxed in a deep way.  I slept really well, pulled weeds in the garden, red books by the woodstove and some nights we played tunes together.  I admit that I often thought to myself, “I want to live like this all the time!”

Once again I started to get settled in a new place.  Then the good times began…(as if I hadn’t been having a blast already…tee hee).