Spice it up!

In last week’s post, I hinted at my visit to two wineries.  My first stop that afternoon, following the morning’s wine tasting, discussed last week, was at the cooperative winery in Saint-Chinian.  I had come not to taste wine, but to look at the “Art en Cave” – enormous works of art which are painted on the fronts of the wine tanks in the cellar.  The project started in 2013 and since then at least one new painting has been commissioned each year.

Each year a new cuvee is created in tandem with the new artwork.  The wine is issued in a limited edition, with the painting featured on the label of the bottle.

When the project was first started, it was a unique concept.  “Art en Cave” is now a registered trademark!

After my visit to the cooperative winery, I went on to say hello to my friends Nadia and Cyril Bourgne at Domaine la Madura.  For the occasion of the winery open day, they had decided to pair visual arts with their wine.  I enjoyed the paintings of Stéphane Villafane as much as I enjoyed the wines of Domaine La Madura!!

This will be my last post this year – I’m going to take a break for the holidays.  So, here is my Christmas present to you: my recipe for mulled wine!  I recently made a large quantity of mulled wine for a Christmas concert in Saint-Chinian.  The lucky visitors went through 15 litres of it!

Mulled Wine

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A wonderfully fragrant and tasty mulled wine, ideal for the holidays. The quantities in the foreground are for one bottle of wine, the quantities in the background are for 10 litres!

It’s not necessary to use an expensive wine for this recipe, but if you use a decent quality wine you’ll end up with great mulled wine.  The secret is to ensure that it does not get too hot – use a sugar or yoghurt thermometer if you have one.


  • 6 cloves
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange, zest only, peeled thinly
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bottle red wine


  1. In a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel or enamel) heat the wine with the other ingredients to 80 degrees celsius. Use a thermometer if possible.
  2. Leave to infuse for 15 to 20 minutes over a very low flame.
  3. Strain and serve.

If you want to make a non-alcoholic version, substitute red grape juice or a mixture of grape and apple juice for the red wine, add the juice of the orange and omit the sugar.

Leftover mulled wine can be bottled and kept for several days.  Reheat gently

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Drink responsibly!


Dates for your diary

Courses Camarguaises – May to October 2017

If you want to see a bull-fight, but are not into blood sports, then a course camarguaise is for you!  The bull always leaves the ring alive, and the men in the ring have to be very nimble on their feet.  I wrote about one such bull-fight here, and you can find all the dates on the official website.

European museum night – 20 May 2017

Since 2005, European museum night has been enchanting visitors every year.  It’s a free event, which gives visitors the chance to discover the treasures of museums all over Europe in different ways.  You’ll be able to find the whole programme on this site .

Les Feeries du Pont, Pont du Gard – 2, 3, 9 and 10 June 2017

The Pont du Gard like you’ve never seen it before – lit up with flames and fireworks.  It’s an unforgettable show, and I was lucky to see it some years ago!  More information via this link.

Pont du Gard

Vente de Charite, Saint-Chinian – 4 June 2017

This is a fixture on Saint-Chinian’s calendar of events – a sale of bric-a-brac, plants, clothes, second-hand household items, books and more, all sold for a good cause.  The sale takes place in the abbatiale, the former abbey church in Saint-Chinian, and in the cloisters, and it is open until noon.

Balade Gourmande, Saint-Jean-de-Minervois – 4 June 2017

This gourmet walk has become a very successful and enjoyable annual event.  I went on this gourmet walk back in 2015 and enjoyed it very much.  If you want to give it a try yourself, you can find out more via this link.

A wonderfully fragrant spot

A wonderfully fragrant spot

Fete de la Musique, all over Europe – 21 June 2017

Don’t miss this wonderful celebration of music all over France.  It’s a great occasion to listen to all kinds of music. I’ve written about some of my experiences here and here.  The official website for the event can be found via this link.

Fesitval de Carcassonne – 1 to 30 July 2017

Once again, Carcassonne is hosting an array of famous French singers and musicians during its summer festival!  For the full programme visit here.

Re-opening of the Fonserannes site, Beziers, 1 July 2017

The site around the staircase lock at Fonserannes on the Canal du Midi, on the edge of Beziers, has been given a complete makeover!  I am looking forward to when the site re-opens again in its new splendour.  The staircase lock is a marvel of engineering and worth a visit if you are in the area!

Feria de Beziers – 12 to 15 August 2017

With four days of bodegas, parties and bull fights, the feria in Beziers attracts visitors from all over.  If bull fights are not your thing, the party atmosphere in the town in the early evening is lovely to experience, with pop-up restaurants bars everywhere.  You can find out more via this link.

Fete du Fil, Labastide Rouairoux – 14 and 15 August 2017

This fete is a must for lovers of all things textile.  The textile museum will be open to visitors free of charge, there will be several exhibitions and the flea market.  Full details on https://lafetedufil.jimdo.com/

Fete de Saint-Louis, Sete – 17 to 22 August 2017

The Fete de Saint-Louis celebrates the patron saint of Sete with five days of concerts, street performances and the all-important water jousting tournament!  Full details can be found via this link.

Start of La Vuelta, Nimes – 19 August 2017

La Vuelta is Spain’s answer to the Tour de France, and this year the city of Nimes hosts the first stage of this race.  A must for all lovers of cycling!



Celebrate the season

One of the many joys of the holiday season is the opportunity to say ‘Thank You’ to all my readers.   Your likes and comments are wonderful to see and read!

Here’s wishing you all a very happy and peaceful holiday season and all the very best for the New Year!!

Here are some pictures, which sum up the festive season for me:

I look forward to catching up with you again in the New Year!

Something fishy…

If you’re in the vicinity of Grau du Roi, whether for a visit to the arena for a bull-fight, or on your way to Aigues Mortes, a visit to the Seaquarium is going to be fun, especially if you have children with you.  You can plan your visit so you have time for walk on the beach, or along the seafront in the centre of town.




IMG_6623-001The outside of the Seaquarium is somewhat unprepossessing, but there is plenty of parking just next door.  Once you’re inside it’s another story though.  The fish tanks are amazing and you’ll be able to see nearly 200 kinds of marine animals on the way round.





The very first tank contained some extremely interesting looking creatures from the Mediterranean.  I’m not sure that I’d want to swim with any of them  🙂 ?

P1020726 P1020731

Most of the fish were really difficult to photograph because of the low light levels and their constant movement, but I hope you’ll get the idea.  Some underwater life is incredibly colourful.

And some of it is hard to distinguish from its surroundings – those two really look like rocks on first glance.

P1020738The sea horses are my all time favourites and they are pretty extraordinary creatures!


The Seaquarium’s main claim to fame is the Requinarium, a 1000 square metre space dedicated only to sharks, and unique in Europe.  Walking through a glass tunnel with sharks swimming all around you is impressive, and walking over the top of the enormous tank gives you an idea of the size and scale of some of the sharks!  There are many species of shark, from the very small to the enormous!




The accompanying displays were highly informative and interesting, and I learnt a lot, but all the same I was very happy that the sharks were behind glass :-)!  Over the public address system I heard an announcement that there would be a training session of seals and sea-lions in a moment, so I made my way to the outdoor pool and watched for a little while.




P1020775The trainers were amazing with the animals, but it lacked a little excitement.  And they kept talking in a kind of intercom which hung around their neck.  In the end I figured out that the real “show” was to be seen on the floor below.   And there they were – the side of the tank was one enormous glass wall, and there were two more trainers, one with an intercom, and the other with a microphone, explaining what the animals were about to do.  It was fascinating to see what the seals and sea lions would do at the wave of a hand, and of course they were always rewarded with a fishy treat by their trainers upstairs!


All in all a great visit, highly interesting and enjoyable!

Wheels in motion

By the time you read this, the 2013 Tour de France will be on day 7, the stage from Montpellier to Albi.  On the following day the race will start at Castres and head for the Pyrenees, as close to St Chinian as it’ll get this year.  The Tour de France 2013 is 21 days of sometimes gruelling physical exertion, with only a couple of rest days in between.  You can find the whole schedule at the official website.

A few years ago, Le Tour actually came right through St Chinian, and what a thrill that was!  For months before everyone was speculating exactly which roads the cyclists would be taking through the village.  Would they come past the windmill, or via Fontjun, or from the opposite direction altogether via St Pons?  And would they take the sharp corner from the grand rue to the avenue Raoul Bayou (impossible, some said) or go on towards the Cave Coop and take the bypass?  A few days before the event, excitement reached fever pitch in the village.

On the day, everyone lined up along the streets hours ahead of the race.  Then the Caravan started to come through.  If you’ve never seen the Tour de France sur place it really is worth the effort – at least once!  The caravan is a seemingly never-ending succession of promotional vehicles, and a lot of them have goodies to distribute among the waiting crowds.  The caravan can be more fun than the race!  The advertisers/sponsors always come up with fun ideas for their vehicles!

There are also the official souvenir vans, and of course I just had to get some for my nephews in Germany!


In amongst the caravan are the support cars, laden with bicycles, the VIP limousines, and of course the photographers and TV cameras.

And once all the cars in the caravan had passed there was the road-sweeping truck – what a sensible idea!!  I hadn’t thought about that, but of course those racing bikes really don’t do all that well on loose gravel and other stuff!


Now the crowds were beginning to get impatient – are they coming yet??  All kinds of nationalities were present among the spectators, and many had brought their national flags along!


After several hours of watching the fun, I heard some shouting further up the road, there appeared the noise of a helicopter, and then the leading cyclists came whizzing round the corner.  And I really mean whizzing!!  I would never take that corner as fast as that in a car, let alone on a bike!




There was a little lull, while I waited for the peloton (the pack, made up of all the cyclists except the leading riders), I think there was something like a three-minute gap.  And then more and more cyclists came pouring around the corner, it was almost as if someone had turned on a tap.  Everyone was clapping, cheering and shouting encouragement, and as fast as they’d arrived they were gone, whizzed by.  A few more cars came by, ostensibly with spare parts, and then one lone cyclist brought up the rear.

And then it was all over and we all went home… :-).  Oh, but some people put in a fair bit of effort afterwards, and put some wonderful videos of the event together.  I don’t take any credit or blame, but thank you for the two people who posted these on YouTube: