Renewal time

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

Buttercup, also known as lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)

Buttercup, also known as lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)

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!

IMG_4215

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.

IMG_4219

Of course there were daisies too – such cheerful flowers!!

IMG_4225

Here’s one of the many different kinds of euphorbia, which grow so well in our region.

IMG_4227

The leaves below promise that there will be wild tulip flowers – and lots of them!!

IMG_4232

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?

IMG_4233

Botany is not my strong suit – I think the flowers below could belong to a type of viburnum, but I’m far from sure ūüôā

I do know what plant the exotic looking balls belong to – they are the fruits of a plane tree (platanus).

IMG_4271

This is most probably a periwinkle (vinca) flower:

IMG_4247

I could not resist taking a picture of this beautiful branch – the colours of the lichen against the bark is so beautiful!

IMG_4260

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?

IMG_4241

Another bee, this time on a marigold flower (calendula):

IMG_4275

I don’t know what the following flowers could be, but they looked so pretty!!

IMG_4277

I came across a small cluster of grape hyacinths (muscari), right by the path.

IMG_4280

The river at the Platanettes was so pretty – it will be lovely to take a dip in the cool water during the summer!

IMG_4288

A cornilla bush (coronilla glauca) was flowering quite close to the river.

IMG_4314

Here is another unknown plant – it has the most beautiful feathery foliage, and very delicate little flowers!

IMG_4319

On my way home I came across this explosion of pink flowers, probably an apricot tree, or perhaps a peach tree?

IMG_4329

Here’s a close-up of some of the flowers from this beautiful tree:

IMG_4330

And there you have it – nature’s springtime abundance, to be found for the looking!

Celebrate the season!

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?? ūüėČ

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!!

Twelve months, thirteen pictures

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:

The picture for March was a still-life I took at a friend’s house near Roquebrun. ¬†I loved the shape of the glass jug and way the sunlight streaked across the table.

On the page for April, a honey bee was showing us how it’s done – collecting nectar on a quince blossom!

The landscape around Saint-Chinian is beautiful, and a small bit of it was on show during May 2011:

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! ūüôā

The sunflower in the July picture grew in my garden:

The August picture shows the bridge over the Canal du Midi in Le Somail:

I adore fresh figs Рtheir 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!

During October, I showcased some of the houses along the river in Saint-Chinian.  The stone facades contrast beautifully with the red ochre facade.

The sweet buns in the November photograph were baked at Stephane’s bakery in Azillanet. ¬†And very tasty they were too!!

The ‘shining stars’ in the last picture of the year lit up a stall at the Montpellier Christmas market. ¬†They were very colourful and festive!

So there we have it – a year in pictures! ¬†What’s your favourite picture of that year?

Virtual reality

Please join me on a virtual visit of Saint-Chinian and some of the surrounding area! ¬†I’ve found a number of videos on youtube, which I think will give you a great taste of Saint-Chinian and its surroundings!

To start with, a walk that takes in the countryside surrounding the village:

Next, a couple of videos which show Saint-Chinian from the air:

I found several videos about virtual wine tastings of AOC Saint-Chinian wines.  The following video is about the wines of Chateau Pech Menel, whose wines I have enjoyed a great deal!

Fr√©deric Revilla of Restaurant¬†Le Faitout in Berlou participated in a programme about wine and food pairing. ¬†The video is in French only, but you’ll get the idea – just don’t watch it when you are hungry, the food looks delicious!

Here is another aerial video showing the landscape around Saint-Chinian Рit will give you a good idea of the vast and varied terrain of the area.

Domaine des Pradels is in a little hamlet just outside Saint-Chinian, nestled in a little valley. The wines are very good, so add it to your list of wineries to visit next time you are in the area!

And to end our virtual visit, here is a video of the Saint-Chinian jazz festival 2019!

I hope you have enjoyed our virtual visit!!

From here to you

You might have planned a visit to France and to Saint-Chinian which may have had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed on travel. ¬†If you can’t come to Saint-Chinian in the immediate future,¬†then perhaps Saint-Chinian can come to you?? ¬†There are a number of ways to bring some of the essentials from this part of southern France to your home, wherever you may be right now.

With the music festival in July having had to be postponed until next year, the organisers are planning a virtual festival.  In the meantime, you can watch some clip of past concerts on the youtube channel Рplease subscribe to the channel and comment/like on the individual videos!!

If your local wine merchant does not stock your favourite Saint-Chinian wine, they may be able to order it in for you. ¬†If they are not able to order it for you then don’t despair, help may be at hand!! ¬†Espace Vin and Maison des Vins in Saint-Chinian both offer shipping and all the wines are sold at producer’s prices. ¬†Espace Vin is set up for a variety of different overseas destination in their online shop, for the Maison des Vins you may have to ask.

Veronique Etienne at Chateau La Dournie has set up her own online shop – you can visit it here.

If you are interested in the wines of Saint-Chinian but don’t need to re-stock your cellar right now, you might enjoy this book:

It is available from the¬†Maison des Vins and it is a great read. ¬†Written in French and English, it presents a wealth of information about the Saint-Chinian wine region, its wines, and its winemakers! The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs taken by the¬†Maison des Vins’ Gaylord Burguiere!!

Paul Lappin is a very talented artist who has spent lots of time in Saint-Chinian. ¬†His drawings are available as prints in a variety of formats. ¬†You could also commission Paul to draw your favourite view for you! ¬†More information can be found on Paul’s Instagram¬†feed or on his own website. ¬†Below are a few of Paul’s pictures:

The olive cooperative¬†L’Oulibo in Bize Minervois has an on-line shop, and they will ship abroad. ¬†If your country of residence is not showing in the delivery options, just send them an e-mail with your requirements.

Fabrics are something that’s very easy to ship! ¬†I stopped at the shop of Les Toiles de la Montagne Noire in Mazamet¬†back in February. ¬†It’s a bit of an Aladdin’s cave, piled high with all kinds of wonderful goodies, all of them made locally! ¬†I bought some linen material to make napkins with. ¬†I fell in love with their fabrics when I saw their stand at the¬†Fete du Fil¬†in Labastide Rouairoux a good many years ago. ¬†You can read my post about that fete here.

So there you have it – a bit of retail therapy or something to add to your “to do” list for your next visit! ¬†Feel free to share your favourite Saint-Chinian shopping experience in the comments section!

Changes afoot!

Week 6 of the lockdown in France – still doing fine here in Saint-Chinian!! ¬†We’ve had some rain this week, which has been incredibly beneficial for my garden and for nature in general!! ¬†I swear that the potato plants pretty much doubled in size during the three days of soft drizzle! ¬†As I am writing this, the sun has come out once more, and everywhere is beginning to dry out a bit. ¬†It’s still too wet to work in the garden this afternoon, so perhaps I’ll clean the windows instead?? ūüôā

Here is a picture I took the day after the rain stopped:

You may know that I’m heavily involved in organising the music festivals in Saint-Chinian. ¬†Our July festival was scheduled for July 19 to 26 this year. ¬†Was because the committee members (of the association which runs the festivals) have had to take a good and hard look at the facts and pronouncements by the French government, and in the end we came to the conclusion that we had better postpone that festival until 2021. ¬†Very sad ūüė¶ , but we had to think of the wider implications for our public and musicians. ¬†Three of the concerts from the July programme were rescheduled and added to the September festival, which will now run from September 2 to 6, 2020. ¬†Of course there is a question mark hanging over that too, but we’re trying to stay positive!! ¬†ūüôā

Here’s a little summary of what we’ve had to postpone/reschedule:

This is a very difficult time for all of us, but my heart goes out especially  to all the performers, musicians, singers and actors who are deprived of their public!

I am very much looking forward to the day when I will once again be able to attend live performances in person. It will certainly be a moment of intense emotion!  In the meantime, take good care of yourself and continue to listen to music as much as you can!!