Those things come to mind whenever I see a wisteria flowering! Right now, the wisteria in my garden is in full bloom and abuzz with a variety of bees, and the scent is delightful! There’s still a lot of work to be done in my garden – this year I’m very much behind with preparing and planting, but there’s always time for a cup of tea whilst sitting under the wisteria and watching the bees going about their business!
On October 30, 2020, restaurants, bars and cafes all over France had to close their doors to the public as part of another lockdown. At the time, nobody had any idea as to how long they would have to remain closed, but I don’t think that anyone expected the closure to last as long as it did! Finally, on May 19, 2021 – after six and a half months!! – restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed to serve customers once more. To begin with, diners are only allowed to be seated outside, with tables widely spaced, and the 9pm curfew still in place – but it’s a start!
When you think about how important a role food plays in French life and culture, you can imagine what a deprivation it has been not being able to go out for a meal. Even a glass of wine or a coffee on one of the terraces of the cafes was out of bounds!
I visited Cafe de la Paix in Saint-Chinian last Saturday evening to catch up with friends, and to enjoy a meal prepared by someone else!
Cafe de la Paix was taken over by David and Eve four years ago, and they’ve been working hard to improve the guest experience. The garden has had a complete makeover, the gravel being replaced with paving. There is new (comfortable) terrace furniture, and the place has had a general sprucing up inside and outside!!
The menu has also had a makeover – the focus is now on bistro cooking and appetising presentation!
Here now are photos of the dishes we enjoyed! 🙂 First off, a couple of delicious starters
The main courses were equally delicious, and it was bliss to just sit there and have someone bring the food to the table!!
Our desserts arrived as it was slowly getting darker. The weather was perfect and I didn’t need to put on the jacket I had brought in case I got too cold! The desserts were a yummy ending to a lovely meal!!
Because of the 9pm curfew, the restaurant had opened at 6.30pm to give diners ample time to enjoy a leisurely meal – it worked very well for us! If you have been to France in the past, you may remember that most restaurants don’t start to serve dinner before 7.30pm. I imagine that we’ll go back to this later starting time once the curfew gets abolished altogether later this summer.
As we head into summer, things are looking a lot more upbeat and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll continue that way.
Have you visited your favourite restaurant in France yet?
At this time of year, nature is bursting at the seams with new leaves and flowers emerging everywhere! I wanted to share with you some of the many shades of blue that can be found in and around Saint-Chinian right now! Some of the shades may stretch the definition of blue somewhat, but if you look at a colour wheel there are many shades between blue and red!
The following pictures show a different kind of blue – one that’s painted on! I found this old wagon on one of my walks – it sat neglected and somewhat broken down in an open shed. Wagons like that one were built in the thousands in Saint-Chinian before the combustion engines made horses obsolete. The factory building is still here – today the Citroen garage occupies it.
A smaller cart stood right next to the first one, even more broken down, but painted in the same blue colour!
Do you have a favourite shade of blue?
We’re in the middle of what I call green-up time, when trees and vineyards are clothed in a haze of pale green from the leaves that are about to burst forth, and elsewhere trees are covered in exuberant blossoms – a time of promise and a time of renewal! I wanted to share this post with you from a few years ago. I think it captures what’s going on outside right now pretty well (but then I’m biased as the writer :)) Where you live, spring may not be as advanced but it will come – I promise!! Enjoy!
We get renewal notices all the time – be it from insurance companies, subscriptions for websites, magazines, software, series of concerts, often marked with ‘Take action now‘ or some such.
Mother nature needs no such reminders or notices, renewal just happens as part of the scheme of things, and seemingly without much effort. Right now, we’re in the midst of springtime (even though spring won’t officially start until March 21), and there is renewal all around us. Leaves and blossoms sprout from barren looking trees, bulbs push up flowers, and there is birdsong in the air once more.
I took a walk through the vineyards, to try to experience that wonderful spring feeling. Here is what I came across, captured for your delectation!
At the end of a path through the vineyards, I followed a little stream. Where the stream flows into the river, there is a meadow, which is almost totally covered in wild narcissuses – such a joyous sight to behold!!
Nearby, I found some buttercups
The bee was having a fun time on the dandelion flower!!!
The plant below is bay laurel (laurus nobilis) – most of you will have some of its dried leaves in your herb and spice cupboard. Looking at the plant, it’s not going to be long before the flower buds will burst open!
I’m not sure what the tree in the pictures below is – could it be witch hazel?
I think that the flowers below are wild rocket, a plant which grows abundantly in the vineyards, where it flowers almost all year long! The leaves are edible, but tougher, and more pungent than the leaves of the cultivated variety.
Of course there were daisies too – such cheerful flowers!!
Here’s one of the many different kinds of euphorbia, which grow so well in our region.
The leaves below promise that there will be wild tulip flowers – and lots of them!!
These blossoms were tiny, no larger than 5mm across, and the branches were very close to the ground. Any suggestions as to what the plant might be?
Botany is not my strong suit – I think the flowers below could belong to a type of viburnum, but I’m far from sure 🙂
I do know what plant the exotic looking balls belong to – they are the fruits of a plane tree (platanus).
This is most probably a periwinkle (vinca) flower:
I could not resist taking a picture of this beautiful branch – the colours of the lichen against the bark is so beautiful!
Here’s another mystery plant – these seed pods look a little bit like a cardinal’s hat. Or is that my imagination?? Any ideas about the name?
Another bee, this time on a marigold flower (calendula):
I don’t know what the following flowers could be, but they looked so pretty!!
I came across a small cluster of grape hyacinths (muscari), right by the path.
The river at the Platanettes was so pretty – it will be lovely to take a dip in the cool water during the summer!
A cornilla bush (coronilla glauca) was flowering quite close to the river.
Here is another unknown plant – it has the most beautiful feathery foliage, and very delicate little flowers!
On my way home I came across this explosion of pink flowers, probably an apricot tree, or perhaps a peach tree?
Here’s a close-up of some of the flowers from this beautiful tree:
And there you have it – nature’s springtime abundance, to be found for the looking!
What a year 2020 has been – a roller coaster of lockdowns, quarantines, travel restrictions and more!! It’s kept us all on our toes and watching the development was never dull, there was always something new. It’s been a tough year for many of us on so many levels, work-wise, financially, personally, and we’re not out of the woods yet!
For me 2020 has been a year of learning:
- I learnt how to get by without handshakes, hugs or kisses
- I learnt to take nothing and no one for granted
- I learnt how to smile with my eyes when wearing a face mask
- I learnt that Zoom-ing, Skype-ing, Facetime-ing and WhatsApp-ing are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family
- I learnt to do more with less
- I learnt a few new skills, such as sewing face masks
- I learnt that vegan food can be totally delicious and satisfying
What I didn’t learn was a musical instrument or another foreign language. I’ve not yet joined a gym or taken up running, but perhaps that’s for next year?? 😉
I have a few New Year’s resolutions in mind: one of them is that I want to start writing blog posts on a regular basis again, probably not every week but perhaps every other weeek? So, watch this space!!
In the meantime, I’d like to wish you an enjoyable festive season – take care of yourselves and above all, stay healthy!!
Look forward to catching up with you next year!!
This week, I would like to share with you the series of photographs from the calendar I made for 2011. Let’s start with the cover picture, which is a collage of the twelve photographs used for the calendar:
The picture in January was of the fire burning in Stephane’s bread oven. Stephane revived an old bakery in Azillanet, and he baked the most amazing bread in the old wood-fired oven. I visited his bakery several times and wrote about it back in 2013 – you can find the article here.
Almond blossoms featured in February:
June is prime time for strawberries and this dessert was a wonderful example of what can be done with a few simple ingredients and some imagination! Crushed meringues, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, the whole topped with vanilla ice cream mixed with strawberry coulis. Writing about it makes my mouth water! 🙂
I adore fresh figs – their taste and texture are so far removed from the dried figs of my childhood! In Saint-Chinian fig trees thrive! Delicious figs can be found in the weekly outdoor market during the summer months or on walks in the countryside!