Remembrance and flowers

On May 8 sixty-eight years ago the guns in Europe fell silent and the second world war came to an end.  France celebrates VE day as a public holiday, and each village holds a ceremony of remembrance.  Saint-Chinian is no exception and at 10.30 on the dot the procession of flags made its way through the gardens in front of the Mairie.  Following closely behind were the members of the town council, delegations of the Sapeurs Pompiers and the police, and the war veterans.

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Everyone lined up around the war memorial in the gardens, and flowers were laid to remember those killed in the wars.

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Of course the local brass band was there too!

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To start with the mayor thanked everyone for being there, and then asked all to observe a minute’s silence.  The president of the veterans association then read a letter from the Minister for war veterans, and after that the mayor spoke.   One of the points in his speech was that De Gaulle and Adenauer signed the French-German friendship agreement 50 years ago this year.  Europe has never known a period this long without any wars, and long may that continue.

To round off this post, I wanted to share some flowers which have been blooming in my garden recently.  This year the wisteria was a waterfall of blooms and simply magnificent!

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The California poppies have gone wild and popped up absolutely everywhere, creating wonderful splashes of colour.

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The comfrey is planted under one of the roses, and seems to thrive in the semi-shade.

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This exotic looking flower is probably a weed and will spread all over the garden if I don’t manage the seed heads 🙂 – does anyone know the name?

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The pelargonium is another early bloomer and despite being chopped back quite severely it has been flowering for a couple of weeks now.

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The next one is not a flower but a praying mantis (I think so anyhow).  I had a hell of a time getting a shot of this beastie, discovered while I was weeding the roses, and I hope you’ll be able to see what so fascinated me.  The back-end of it looked so very much like a stem bursting into leaf – very clever.  I’m glad I got the pictures I did, as the mantis had vanished the next time I looked, never to be seen again.  From what I’ve found on the net, it could be a juvenile Mantis Empusa fasciata or Empusa pennata – but don’t quote me on that :-)!

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And finally, here are some flowers not found in my garden, but on a recent walk!  Wild tulips, growing in a meadow.  A sight to gladden the heart!

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Wisteria hysteria, flowers and restaurants

Last week I showed you a tantalizing picture of the wisteria buds, and felt a little bad that I included only the one photograph at the end of the post, so here are a few more, for all of you who enjoy the generous blooms of wisteria flowers.

Last sunday the weather was perfect for a wild flower walk, so off we set down Rue de la Digue (past La Digue) and the potagers along the road, and into the vineyards.  It’s a gentle walk, crossing the river over the ford, and past a grove of olive trees.  After a little while we decided to veer off the path and walk along the river, perhaps we’d find some wild asparagus?  No luck with the wild asparagus, but there was a discovery albeit not of the edible kind:  wild tulips!!  In all the years I’d never come across them perhaps I’d not been out at the right time, or maybe the weather had not been damp enough when it needed to be.  First there was just one lone tulip, the some still in bud, and finally there was a patch of them!  Utterly delightful!

There were other flowers too, and the Euphorbia in particular were looking very good.  The wild arum is the first one I’ve come across here too.  At the end of the walk there were a few interesting picture opportunities:

On Monday came the highlight of the week (so far): dinner at Restaurant Lo Cagarol in Aigne (we’re you can find Maison du Beaupre).  Stephanie and Christophe have been running the restaurant for the past eleven years (how time flies!) and Christophe’s touch with the food is very sure!  The four of us tried to have as many different dishes as possible, but there were firm favourites.  For starters there was Foie gras a l’ancienne, served with a jelly made from Muscat de St Jean de Minervois, Escalope de foie gras served with a creamy asparagus soup, and Gambas sauvage au curry rouge.  Both the foie gras dishes were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the wild prawn was very tasty too!

Before the main dishes arrived, we had a Trou Occitan, a small glass of vodka with a scoop of sorbet made from Muscat de St Jean de Minervois – very much a palate cleanser and delicious!  For  main course we had Montgolfiere de St Jacques, a dish of scallops and prawns in a creamy sauce, topped with a puff pastry lid which sealed in all the flavours; Entrecote steak which was beautifully tender and cooked to perfection and Thon Albacore, which was the best tuna I’ve ever tasted, tender and succulent and in no way dry (!), the two served with mashed potatoes with olive oil and vegetable spaghetti.

Then came the cheese course, and with it something I’d not come across before:  A sorbet made with sheep’s milk (from a local farm), served with honey and crunchy nuts.  There was very little sweetness in it except for the honey, and just a hint of cheese.  Great idea!  The other   we tried was gorgonzola, served on a crouton over a puree of sun-dried tomatoes.

Dessert was obligatory, and when it’s as nice as at  Lo Cagarol one can always find room :-)!  I can’t quite remember the French names of the desserts, so here’s a description:  the first was a cigarre filled lime and cactus sorbet and fresh gariguette strawberries, topped with cream.  The second was a ganache made with Valrhona chocolate, served with fresh raspberries, and lastly there was Baba au rhum, which was served with the most divine banana ice cream – to my mind bananas and rum go really well together!
So there you have it – a fantastic meal!! If you want to try Lo Cagarol yourself be sure to book! You can find the restaurant on facebook here!  And here’s the picture gallery of all the photographs in this post.