History preserved

Just down the road from Saint-Chinian, on the way to Beziers, lies the village of Puisserguier.  Puisserguier is one of those villages which I have passed through countless times, always on the way to somewhere else. I’m sure you also know a few places like that?  BUT – Puisserguier has several attractions worth stopping for, and I am going to tell you about one of them in this post:  the Ecomusee de la vie d’autrefois.

An ecomuseum is the museographic name for a museum concept which deals with cultural heritage, both material, i.e. displays of objects, and immaterial, such as skills.

The ‘ecomuseum of life in bygone days’ is located in four rooms of an old schoolhouse and the adjacent school playground.  The subtitle of the ecomuseum in Puisserguier is Centre de Ressources des Memoires, the resource centre of memories.  The exhibition does exactly what the subtitle hints at, displaying over 300 objects which have been collected/donated by volunteers, and are arranged to give an idea of what life might have been like in a bygone age.

The displays are arranged by trades.  Here you have a selection of items which would have been sold and used in the epicerie, the grocery store:

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Every display has a “hook”, which provides a link to local history.  The photograph, which is tied into the grocery store display, shows a local shopkeeper in her shop.  Some of the exhibits have come from that very same shop!

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Here is the pharmacy:

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The mercerie has a great selection of items from a haberdasher’s shop:

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The coiffeur shows what a hairdressing salon would have looked like, along with the tools which were used to style and cut people’s hair.   Those wash basins don’t look too comfortable, do they??

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One of the rooms has been set up as a kind of reading room, where folders upon folders, containing all kinds of information, are waiting to be consulted.

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In the schoolroom next door, an exam, typical of those given autrefois was being administered – I was asked whether I wanted to give it a go, but I declined – I’m not sure that my French would have been up to it!

The displays continued outside, in what used to be the playground for the school.  A garage workshop had been set up under the cover of the old playground shelter:

With all the kids’ bikes lined up against the wall, it felt as though the schoolchildren might be sitting in their classrooms, ready to burst forth as soon as the bell was going to ring!

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A long, low building in the courtyard housed a great display of domestic paraphernalia.

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Inside, it was brimming over with “stuff” – there was so much to look at!!

Here is la toilette – from a time when most houses did not have bathrooms!  The bucket under the wash stand was for what used to be called “night soil”.  I leave you to work that one out! 🙂

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The kitchen corner had an amazing array of pots, pans, crocks and implements!


The fireplace, complete with family portraits and other everyday items, was the focus of the main room in every house, :

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Entertainment from a bygone era – definitely pre-digital!!

A well stocked linen closet, such as this one, would require a lot of work to keep everything looking good. The foot-powered sewing machine was a big improvement on hand-sewing, but laundry was usually done by hand!  How did they get the sheets to be so snowy-white??

The exhibition is completed by a large selection of tools used in the vineyards:

The ecomuseum in Puisserguier is open on Fridays from 10am to 12noon, and on Mondays from 3pm to 5.30pm, or by appointment.  Entry is free, so why not make a point of stopping in Puisserguier and see for yourself – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too!

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Still to come

Here are some more events, which have been added to the Upcoming Events page.

Fete du Cochon et du Terroir, Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres – 21 February 2016

Hurry up!  For those of you who are reading this in time and live close enough to take advantage of it, I think you would have a good time at this annual event in Saint-Pons, which I have visited on a number of occasions, and written about previously.  The format may have changed a little since my article, but I imagine that the fete will still be very enjoyable!

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Escale a Sete, Sete – 22 to 28 March 2016

Once again the tall ships will be mooring up at Sete for what promises to be an amazing week, celebrating the 350 years of the port of Sete.  I wrote about the tall ships in March 2014 – read the post here.   You can find information about this year’s programme via this link.

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Procession de la Sanch, Perpignan – 25 March 2016

Each year on Good Friday, the town of Perpignan hosts the traditional Good Friday Procession.  The custom dates back 600 years, and it is a deeply moving spectacle, the only one of its kind in France.

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Fete du Marbre, Caunes Minervois – 26 and 27 March 2016

The red marble from Caunes Minervois has been highly prized since Roman times.  The fete du marbre is a two day event of exhibitions, markets, guided visits and demonstrations, all to do with marble.  You can read my account of my last visit to the fete here.

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Fete des Mille et Une Pierres, Villespassans – 15 May 2016

This fete has been running each year since 2009, in this typical Languedoc village.  There’ll be an artisan market, a vide grenier (flea market), demonstrations such as sheep-shearing, as well as guided visits of the village and the surrounding countryside.  The day finishes with a concert by L’Art à Tatouille, an Occitan folk group that plays great music!

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Balade Gourmande en Saint-Jean-de-Minervois – 5 June 2016

For the third year running, the AOC Saint-Jean-de-Minervois is hosting a gourmet walk.  I enjoyed the walk last year, perhaps you will want to give it a try this year?  You’ll be able to find details on the AOC website later in the year.

A wonderfully fragrant spot

A wonderfully fragrant spot

Fete de la Cerise, Mons la Trivalle – 5 June 2016

This is a wonderful fete, which celebrates the bountiful cherry harvest.  I’ve been to this fete numerous times over the years, and have previously written about it here.  Don’t do what I did one year, and get there too late!  The cherries may be sold out!

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Vente de Charite, Saint-Chinian – 12 June 2016

The local Women’s International Club (WIC) will be holding its annual charity sale from 8:30 am to 13:30pm.  There’ll be all kinds of goodies for sale, including secondhand clothes, books, small household appliances, bric-a-brac, jewelery – you name it!  And as always there will be a plant stall too.

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Tour de France 2016 – 13 and 14 July 2016

On July 13, the cyclists of the Tour de France will be racing from Carcassonne to Montpellier – you’ll be able to see the details in due course on the official website.  Once again they will be passing through Saint-Chinian, making for a very exciting day!!  Here’s a post from when the Tour came through Saint-Chinian a few years ago!  On July 14, 2016, the Tour will go from Montpellier to Mont Ventoux.  This should be an interesting stage, as the cyclists have to climb more than 1300m in altitude!

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Fete de l’Ail Rose, Lautrec – 5 August 2016

This well-established fete is all about the pink garlic, for which the town of Lautrec is justly famous.  I’ve visited this fete several times, and you can read about one of my visits here.  The soupe a l’ail, the garlic soup which is served to all visitors, is absolutely delicious!  More details can be found on the official website at http://www.ailrosedelautrec.com .

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Out with the ashes

By the time you read this post, the Carnival season will be officially over – Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday will have been and gone, and it’s time to put the glittery costumes away for another year!  Southern France is not as strong on Carnival traditions as Venice or some regions of Germany, but nevertheless it does get celebrated.  I went to record one such recent celebration for you – the Carnival in Narbonne.

There was a lot of expectation in the air before the parade started!  Children all around were getting quite excited!

And then it all started.  First came a traditional brass band and some majorettes:

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Next came a drum band, whose members had elaborately painted faces:

They were followed by a group dressed in the most beautiful costumes and wearing masks such as you would see in Venice:

Then there was an enormous green frog:

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followed by a group of ‘ragged’ children, their parents and another traditional band:

Hot on the heels was a ‘Disco’ float!!  The sparkly wigs could be seen from miles away! 🙂

The driver of the float was beautifully dressed in a silver suit, great wig and sparkly earrings!!  He put the guys on the float in the shade – totally!

There were a number of comic strip characters:

And then came a band called Les Yeyettes – they played really well and had made a great effort with their costumes!!

Then some new Minions came along, different from the ones we had seen before. This time the figures on the floats were totally covered in flowers

The theme for this year’s carnival was “King of Pop”.

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When I saw that poster, the penny dropped for me – that’s why I was seeing so many afro wigs in the parade!!

I caught sight of these two little old ladies a little too late – they didn’t seem to be connected to any of the floats, but they were having a great time!!

The next two floats had a reggae theme.  I was amazed at the creativity and the ideas people had come up with.  The rasta wig is made with parts of a curtain designed to keep flies out!!

By now most of the bystanders were covered with confetti in various degrees!!  Some peoples’ haircuts seemed to be prefect confetti collectors 🙂

The “guingette” float was one of my favourites.  They’d gone to a lot of trouble creating the impression of a garden cafe!

The ladies in red preceeded the carnival queen and the two runners-up.  See how the carnival queen is getting ready to confetti-bomb the bystanders??

The parade ended with a representation of a king and some musical instruments – a different king of of pop??

And then it was over – everyone had had a great deal of fun!!

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Plenty more

A couple of weeks back, I published the 200th post on this blog!!  To mark this milestone, I treated myself to a very special dinner at Nopi, whilst stopping over in London on a recent trip.  Nopi is a restaurant which was created by Yotam Ottolenghi, amongst others.  I’ve long been a fan of Mr Ottolenghi’s recipes, so this was very exciting!!  Plenty more is the title of Yotam Ottolenghi’s fourth book.  There’ll also be ‘plenty more’ posts on this blog!

The restaurant was very stylish and there were beautiful touches everywhere!  The food was sublime, and the menu was very much geared towards people sharing a multitude of smaller dishes – perfect for me and my companion!  That way we got to taste far more than just two starters and two main courses.  I felt too self-conscious to take many photographs, and the pictures I did take did not come out well enough to share with you, because of the low light levels.  Phone cameras can only do so much, unfortunately. 😦

But fear not, I have been doing some more cooking with my friends, and together we tried out more of Mr Ottolenghi’s recipes!! 🙂

Here’s what we cooked:

Since it was not long after Christmas and New Years, we all agreed that we wanted to keep it as simple and light as possible. The dishes we had chosen were perfect for that!

You’ll be able to download and print off the recipes from the above links (to find the pear recipe please keep scrolling down the page), so I won’t go into any details as regards preparation or ingredients.  Without further ado, here are the pictures for the grilled red mullet with lemon and celery salad:

The multi-vegetable paella was a glorious combination of rice and all kinds of vegetables:

With the caramelised pears we substituted strained yoghurt for the mascarpone, and left out the fennel seed crackers – it was still a very delicious dessert!!

It was such fun trying out these new dishes, and the results were so very good.  Have you tried out any of the recipes from my blog?  I’d love to hear how you got on!