The best young butcher in France!
Our local butcher does his rounds in the local villages on a Friday afternoon, stopping off to chat with his regular clients whilst en-route.
One Friday recently he couldn’t wait to announce that his young apprentice had just won the title of ‘Meilleur Apprenti Boucher de France’ (Best apprentice butcher of France) in the national finals having also won the regional competition as best young apprentice butcher in Limousin.
His apprentice, English born, 17 year old Robert Fairbank lives on the family farm in the Haute-Vienne and has been schooled in France since moving out some time ago.
A great achievement for Robert and for our small village butchers too!
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The French ‘potager’
One of the first signs of spring in rural France is seeing people out in their gardens starting to prepare the ‘potager’ or kitchen garden for the season ahead.
The ‘potager’ has been popular in France since the 16th century and whilst some of the most famous kitchen gardens are undoubtedly seen in the chateaux of the Loire valley they are present in nearly every property from humble farmyard to chateau.
Traditionally separated from lawns, the ‘potager’ commands a much higher status or importance providing all the herbs, fruit, vegetables and salads for the year ahead. Indeed, they often give the impression that the owner is feeding a family of 20 with the quantity of produce that is planted. Such is the importance of the ‘potager’ in most French households; they are immaculately tended with row after row of neatly tended produce.
I always maintain that you can tell if a French couple are retired by the quality of the vegetable plot – neatly tended, not a weed in sight, nor a plant out of place! Not at all like our veg patch which I would best describe as ‘lacking attention’ being constrained by our working lives.
Taking our queue from the’ paysans’ around us we decided it was time to attack our own vegetable garden. Four or five years ago we were given the use of a plot of land adjoining our own garden to set up our ‘potager’ – our neighbour insisted that this piece of land would be much better suited than our own as at some point in the distant past it had been used for a market garden.
So in came the neighbouring farmer with tractor and plough to turn over the land we are to use – you might now guess that we are not talking about a postage sized plot of land – certainly far more than we need to feed a family of three!
So full of enthusiasm and anticipation last Sunday was spent digging out the worst of the weeds, rotavating and preparing the vegetable garden for the season ahead; with much discussion about what we would plant and what we were looking forward to most from the new season’s produce. With the temperatures set to improve over the coming days, the first seeds will be sewn next weekend and in the coming weeks we’ll be planting our tomatoes.
We really must try to keep on top of the weeds this year!
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Fest’Oie - The Sarlat Goose festival
Last weekend was the annual Goose festival at Sarlat la Caneda so being a wonderful warm winter’s day we decided to have a day out to explore the town and find out more about “Fest’Oie”…
The town of Sarlat is an old medieval walled town, very picturesque with something like 70 historical monuments and buildings within the town centre; it’s easy to understand why it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Dordogne. For anyone visiting this year, be sure not to miss the new open top lift in the church tower which gives a wonderful view over the medieval town.
The fete itself runs right through the weekend with many of the neighbouring goose farms hosting visits and demonstrations on the Saturday followed by the ‘Soiree Bodega’ on the Saturday night (an evening’s musical entertainment with a local ‘Banda’ accompanied by grilled goose!)
The fete returns to the streets of Sarlat on the Sunday with stands and displays from many of the local farmers and artisans, plus a parade of 200 adult Geese being herded through the streets of the town – quite a sight, and surprisingly well behaved geese too!
The Perigord region is famous for its geese and its ducks and their produce which you will find on the menu of virtually every restaurant in the area; foie gras, rillettes , confit and magret and other regional specialities. Most of the farming and production is still carried out using traditional methods in small family farms and they will all talk with passion about their business and their products, with obligatory tasters too!
The culmination of the weekends festivities was the traditional meal on the Sunday, an entire 14 course menu ‘tout a l’oie’ (all of the goose) with about 800 people enjoying this gastronomic delight. Having decided that 14 courses of goose were perhaps too much for us we retired to a local restaurant for a more reasonable 3 courses!
All in all a very entertaining day and a real insight into the passion behind these important local products
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I’ve received a few enquiries recently from some of our readers and client on the subject of firewood – where to get it from and how much should it cost?
Firstly, in terms of where to get it from then I’m afraid there is no standard answer, often the best course of action is to ask the previous owner or to ask a neighbour; in terms of sourcing good quality firewood there is no substitute for local knowledge.
I was asked to help out a client recently who had just completed on the purchase of their property, there was snow on the ground, the house was freezing cold having been shut up over Christmas and they were about to use the last of the small amount of firewood left to them by the previous owner.
In trying to find an ‘emergency’ supply of firewood in January it quickly became apparent that this just isn’t the right time of year to be buying wood. Most firewood suppliers prefer to deliver in the summer months when the wood can be delivered and stacked whilst dry. The second problem is that most suppliers have a regular clientele who buy a regular amount of firewood each year and accordingly they will cut and season just enough wood to satisfy demand; hence in January firewood is in short supply.
After trying a few local suppliers without success, I’m pleased to say we managed to find a local farmer who lived in the next village and he would be willing to deliver 8 metres of mixed firewood by the weekend and who even agreed to deliver an emergency supply the next day.
In terms of cost, there can be a great variation according to the quality of the wood, how long it has been seasoned for, what length logs you require and delivery charges. Most suppliers will prefer to deliver a mixed selection of logs with some oak, some chestnut and others although it is possible to get 100% oak but you’ll need to be prepared to pay for it!
In general I’d expect to pay between €50 and €60 a cubic metre and maybe€ 160 to €180 a ‘corde’. Most wood is sold in 1 metre lengths, if you need your wood to be cut to 50 cm or 35cm to fit in your wood burner, then I’d expect to pay about €10 a cubic metre or €40 a ‘corde’ extra.
Don’t leave it too late; follow your neighbours and arrange the firewood in the summer!
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marché de noël’
France is renowned for its colourful markets providing a mouth-watering array of fresh local produce, but at this time of years it is given an extra special touch as many towns host a seasonal Christmas market, the ‘marché de noël’.
Our local town of St Yrieix la Perche has held a series of Christmas fairs and markets over the month of December; a small Franco German market, a weekly foie gras market and last weekend the main event was the night-time Christmas market.
The French Christmas market has a wonderful atmosphere and offers a real sensuous experience, the beautiful wooden cabins lining the streets, decorated in Christmas lights and laden with tempting goodies and local produce. Take a pause for a glass of that great French classic ‘vin chaud’ (a French variation on mulled wine)or perhaps something more indulgent like a plate of fresh oysters then back to the stalls of beautiful hand crafted gifts and Christmas goodies.
Feeling suitably festive it was then off home to try and perfect our own ‘vin chaud’ recipe for pre-Christmas drinks the following evening.
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Buying wine the French way...
One of the cornerstones of the French living generally is their love of fine wines and their fierce belief that French is best; indeed most of our French friends will openly admit that they have never tasted wines from outside their own country.
Certainly, whenever we are invited to dinner with friends or neighbours, they always take great care in their choice of wines often buying direct from the producer or local wine merchant.
If I think back to the wines we used to drink when we lived in the UK, we certainly enjoyed a wider range of wines from vineyards throughout the world but the quality could be very mixed and often quite expensive to boot.
One weekend recently we decided to head off to visit one of our local producers in the neighbouring Dordogne where they produce the ‘Bergerac’ wines and in particular the ‘Pecharmant’ appellation, a rich ruby red, full bodied wine produced in the hills to the North East of the town of Bergerac. Pecharmant literally translates as ‘charming hill’! Over the years of living in France, Pecharmant wines have become a keen favourite of ours.
Hearing of our planned trip there were suddenly numerous requests from friends, neighbours and family to buy additional cases on their behalf, placing their trust in us to choose something we thought they would like – no pressure then for a relative novice, an enthusiastic amateur, choosing wines for French friends and neighbours.
Arriving at the chosen vineyard, a small scale winemaker we have known about for some years, we were warmly welcomed by the ‘Vigneron’ (the owner and wine producer) who proudly ushered us into his tasting room and treated us to an enthusiastic description of his wines accompanied by a tasting of each variety and a tour of his winemaking facilities.
There is a great satisfaction to choosing wines to suit your own taste and that is made all the more special buying direct from the producer who will explain with great passion the subtle differences between each different type or even each different year of production.
Choices made, we accompanied the Vigneron to his wine cellar to load our purchases into the van (yes, there was a van load) and bid farewell to the owner having spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning in his company.
Returning home I’m delighted to say our choice of wines were met with whole hearted approval from all concerned..
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The first taste of our home cured ham
Last weekend was planned to be the moment that we cut down our air dried ham which has been hanging from an old oak beam in our living room since the beginning of the year.
Those of you who have been reading our blog over the course of the year may recall our purchase of half a well fed pig last Christmas and the seasoning of the ham before hanging.
All the other cuts of meat are long gone, the home cured bacon, the pates, the sausages and the joints and I'm delighted to say that our locally reared pig did not disappoint; hence the first taste of our own air dried ham has become an eagerly anticipated event.
A fine bottle of Bergerac wine was selected to accompany the first tasting together with a selection of home made chutneys, roll on lunchtime...
About midday our neighbour, Michele wanders into the garden inviting us for an aperitif before lunch. Not having seen Michele and her family for a while we readily agreed and followed her back to her house for pre dinner drinks.
At this stage we were expecting to be back home in half an hour and having waited almost 11 months since first hanging the ham could wait another half an hour.
After maybe two hours of sitting chatting and catching up with news in the hamlet one of Michele's daughters insisted that we must stay to enjoy Sunday dinner with their family.
The dinner table was hastily rearranged and three more places set before we were treated to a rather impromptu family Sunday lunch.
Our home cured air dried ham became lost in the events of the day and by the time we arrived home sometime after dark it was apparent that after all the anticipation of the morning and the generosity of our neighbours there was to be no tasting of the ham today.
The wait goes on - maybe next weekend...
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Time to do the firewood
As summer draws to a close, much of France has been plagued by the heavy rain and storms which have caused flooring in many parts of the United Kingdom this week.
It is at this time of year that our thoughts turn to preparing for the seasons ahead and preparing the firewood for the winter months; we like the majority of people in rural France use our wood burning stove as our principal source of heating (although we do have the luxury of gas central heating too).
Our firewood comes from a number of sources, some from our own land but the majority we buy from a neighbouring farmer who always has a ready supply of good seasoned hardwood logs.
In different areas you will buy firewood in different volumes; to some it is bought by the ‘stere’, to others it might be by the ‘corde’ others might buy by the’ brasse’ and others perhaps by the simple measure of the cubic metre; The norm is to buy the wood in 1 metre lengths which you would then cut to size according to the dimensions of your woodburner.
Prices might vary significantly too according to what to what type of wood you are buying and whether it is delivered in 1 metre lengths or it is already cut to size.
Now being the right ‘season’ to prepare the firewood we had a visit from our neighbouring farmer to enquire how much wood we wanted this year and naturally to drink a glass or two of ‘Pastis’ whilst discussing the type of wood he had available this year and its various merits. – The same conversation we have every year but nonetheless we clearly need to be told these things every year!
Deal done and within 24 hours he returns with tractor and a very large trailer load of mixed chestnut, oak and a bit of willow, all cut to 50cm lengths ready to be stocked in the wood store and used over the winter.
When 4 cubic metres of firewood is tipped in your garden it makes a rather large pile of wood which is all to be moved and stacked by hand which I can assure you is a rather time consuming job and for us involves all the family helping out.
The firewood is all done, I’ve cleaned the wood burner, swept the chimney and we are ready for the winter, but lest not get too far ahead of ourselves, summer is just drawing to a close and we still have the autumn ahead of us and that in itself is one of the nicest times if the year in South west France.
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Entire Limousin village for sale - an update
Some of you may remember Limousin hitting the headlines back in the spring when the worlds press jumped upon the story about an entire French village for sale for £275,000.
The village of Courbefy is about 40 minutes south of Limoges, comprises 19 buildings plus swimming pool and stables and is centred around a beautiful chapel, surrounded by woodland and forest; at one time the village had a population of about 200 but latterly the village was run as a holiday village and restaurant and following the bankruptcy of its owners was put up for auction by the bank.
Having failed to find a buyer in the spring, the property was again put up for auction in May this year when there were said to be about 100 interested parties from all around the world, thanks in no small part to the coverage in the worlds press.
The new owner is the South Korean born photographer AHAE, who recently had an exhibition of his work at the Louvre in Paris, is believed to have paid in the region of 550,000 euros for the village and plans to create an artist’s retreat, bringing new life and jobs to the village and surrounding area.
Having recently spoken to the Mayor of Saint Nicholas Courbefy he is delighted that the village has now been sold and is giving his full support to this new project.
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Bastille Day celebrations
With the 14 July comes probably the most important French national holiday of the year, the Bastille Day celebrations, every town and village across France will be celebrating the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
Nowadays Bastille Day is a celebration of French culture with many large-scale public events, including a military parade in Paris, as well as communal meals, dances, parties and fireworks.
Celebrations start on the evening of 13 July in our neighbouring village of Ladignac le Long, with a large communal ‘marche picnique’ on the banks of the village lake. Many of the local businesses and producers will be selling fresh meat, fish and produce which will then be cooked for you on the communal barbeques and enjoyed in the company of friends and neighbours. Once the night falls there will be the fireworks and then dancing to a live band into the early hours.
In our village, Jumilhac le Grand there is an annual ‘vide grenier’ and market (attic sale or car boot sale) in the village square, following in the evening by fireworks and a ball, again with a live band and dancing into the night. The firework display is with the backdrop of the beautiful chateau and for a small village, really is something quite spectacular.
Nearby in St Yrieix la Perche the firework display is widely recognised as the most magnificent in the area. Set over the lake and railway viaduct the display follows a different theme each year and is a sight to behold. A picnic on the banks of the lake with a nice bottle of wine starts the evening followed by the obligatory ball and band.
If you are not fortunate enough to be in France this 14 July, then make a note to be in France to experience this national celebration next year.
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The month of the 'fete'
The month of May has been and gone and once again I have that guilty feeling that I have not posted any updates recently.
Ordinarily May brings with it the dawning of the summer weather, with bright sunny as and cooler evenings, but it hasn't been until the last few days that we can safely say the weather has now changed into summer mode.
Another particularity of France and the month of May are the bank holidays or 'fetes'; there are four of them in total, meaning that we only have one full working week during the whole of the month!
In France the holiday is always taken on the day it falls, so if the 1st of May falls on a Tuesday then it is the Tuesday you have off work and naturally many people will ’faire Le pont’ or ’make the bridge’ - in other words they will take the Monday off too and enjoy a four day weekend. Little wonder then that little gets done for the whole month!
The month began with with the annual plant fete in Jumilhac Le Grand, when many of the local plant growers, nursery owners and horticulturalists gather around the village square to present their new seasons stock, all with the backdrop of the magnificent chateau overlooking the village square.
This is perhaps the first of the annual fetes in the village and is always well supported by the local community; a chance to catch up with many friends and neighbours; to make plans for the garden for the coming year and to indulge in a few purchases too.
A week or so later was the flower festival at the nearby St Jean de Cole - one of the ”plus beau villages de France” - where the whole village is amass with vibrant colour for the whole weekend of the festival.
Against the magnificent backdrop of this beautiful medieval village this really is a fete that I would recommend to you. For us the fete has become a bit of a family gathering as both sets of parents celebrate their birthdays on or around the festival weekend.
We all met up in the village for morning coffee and a walk round the stalls before retiring to the local restaurant for a celebratory meal. For the weekend of the flower festival the restaurant does a special 5 course festival menu this year featuring the great regional specialities of foil gras and duck breast accompanied naturally with a very good local Bergerac wine, this time from the Chateau de la Mallvieille - must make a mental note that it is definitely worth a visit to the chateau!
As I write this, I find myself sitting on a Ryanair flight returning to France after a couple of days back in England visiting friends and family reflecting on the huge cultural and lifestyle differences between the two countries and glad to be returning home to France.
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Chateaux & Vineyards...
Even busy property agents need a break from work from time to time and with this in mind we've just returned from a family week away in the Loire valley.
We set off at the beginning of the school holidays, last Saturday, to make the three hour journey north to the Loire, an area I last visited whilst still at school (a sobering thought for me as it was almost 30 years ago, where did all that time go?)
Approaching the Loire we first arrived at the charming town of Loches with its historic castle keep and walled city visible from miles around.
From there it was off to stay in Amboise for a few days to visit the royal chateau, the famous chateau and grounds at Chenonceaux and the magnificent Chambord with its 12000 acre estate to name but a few.
Between the chateau visits we managed to find a little time to visit a few of the local vineyards and enjoy some wine tastings.
The first vineyard we visited was a family business now run by the fifth generation of the family. After a brief tour of the wine caves with the owner, we were offered a tasting of their range of wines; rose, white, a number of different reds and naturally the chance to buy afterwards.
For the second part of our week away, we stayed in Chinon and spent a few days visiting the area around Tours and Saumur, which again involved visiting more of the magnificent Loire Chateaux and visits to a number of local wine producers and as luck would have it the annual wine fair in Chinon too.
One weekend in April each year the town centre is taken over by the regions wine producers each looking to promote their own vineyard. Throughout the town there were a number of tents set up to house the 'vignerons' and accommodate the eager public.
Upon arrival we were each invited to buy a wineglass which we would keep with us for the day and would facilitate numerous tastings throughout the day. It really was quite a sight to see, everyone you met anywhere in the town, were carrying their wineglass.
It was a most enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, talking to the wine producers about their own wines, understanding the different grapes, soil types and tastes and most importantly after more than enough free samples, we left laden with the afternoon’s purchases.
A most enjoyable break to another beautiful area of France; we feel so lucky living where we do, as we have so many wonderful regions of France to discover right on our doorstep!
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Every year the village of Lanouaille in Perigord has an Easter parade and this year was no exception. On Easter Sunday afternoon, we made our way to the village and were greeted by the sights and sounds of the fun fair, much to our daughter’s delight. As we walked through the streets, it was evident that the entertainment had begun, as there was a line dancing group performing to the crowd.
Next came the floats, dancers and ‘Bandas’ bands who all made up the parade. This year’s theme was cultural and as the imaginative and beautifully designed floats come into view, they had all been decorated with hand-made paper flowers which must have taken ages to do. There was Tintin and his rocket, the Eiffel tower, a red telephone box and union jack, a windmill, a gingerbread cottage, a giant Spanish bull to name but a few. The school children on the floats threw confetti and sweets as they passed and the air was filled music and laughter.
The Easter parade is the first ‘fete’ of the season. Everyone gets together from the surrounding villages, the children have fun, families and friends catch up and take time out. I always see it as the signal that spring is here and there will be plenty more ‘fetes’ to come over the coming weeks and months.
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Spring is just around the corner
We’ve been a bit remiss with updating the blog for a few weeks, but we are back now…
With spring just around the corner and South west France enjoying temperatures of 25 degrees this week, it seems that winter is now well and truly behind us and all thoughts now are of spring and the coming of the new season.
With these exceptionally mild temperatures it has been a delight this week to sit outside and enjoy the sun whilst drinking coffee or aperitifs. The sun has created a flurry of activity in the garden too;
Most French people have a vegetable garden and it is now that all the preparation work begins for this year’s crops; ploughing or rotavating the land, planting the first seeds and seeing the first signs of this year’s growth.
The vegetable garden or ‘potager’ is such a large part of the rural French way of life, most of our retired neighbours will spend 2 or 3 hours a day tending the garden and providing enough fresh produce for the whole of their extended family.
For those of us who are clearly novice gardeners, (and don’t have the time to spend in the garden) there are always friendly words of advice if you take the time to stop and talk…
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I read this week, with a bit of a smile, the amazing story of a prize Limousin bull being sold for the world record price of £126,000.
Living and working in the Limousin, the beautiful Limousin breed is a common sight in the fields around here, they are after all our local breed.
The Limousin breed is well known for the quality of its meat; when buying from our local butcher he will readily tell you which of the local farms supplied this particular animal.
I wonder what our farming neighbours would make of the amazing price tag ?
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As the big freeze continues to cause havoc across all of Europe, Limousin as with the rest of France, has not gone untouched.
This morning when I drove my daughter to school the temperature gauge on the car was registering a rather chilly minus 15 degrees, this afternoon we have reached a high of minus 4; with these somewhat arctic temperatures forecast to continue for the rest of this week and into next!
For the older generation in our hamlet they simply cannot get out of the house, let alone make the 5 mile trip into the local village for their daily essentials. With this in mind I received a phone call from our neighbour, Michelle, this morning saying she was going to make the trip to the bakery and did we need anything. Ordinarily the local bakery delivers to the outlying areas 3 or 4 times a week .
She explained that she was phoning all the neighbours in the hamlet to take their orders for bread and essential supplies, I therefore offered to drive and as we set off Michelle explained that autrefois (in times gone by)when the roads had been impassable her father had made this trip on his open top tractor!
Arriving at the local bakery they already knew exactly who wanted what and would take no payment from us; instead they would seek payment from each household next time they made their deliveries.
Returning to the hamlet it really was an eye opener that so many of our neighbours had simply not been outside in the two days since the snow fell and how much our rural community relies on local traders doing the rounds of the outlying hamlets.
With the cold spell set to continue and more snow forecast tomorrow, we will be ready to do the rounds again in the coming days.
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The local terroir
I watched Raymond Blanc’s the very hungry Frenchman the other night in which he visited his home region of Franche Comte exploring its regional cuisine and local wines.
The programme prompted me to take stock of all that is good about Limousin, the local produce, our regional cuisine and the fine regional wines, in short many of the same things Raymond experienced in his home region.
In rural France there is much importance placed on the local “terroir”, the character and traditions of the region, the understanding of the earth, the land, the climate, the environment and its interaction with man, all combining to produce the finest local produce.
Limousin beef, apples, cherries, clafoutis (a regional cherry pie) walnuts, magret de canard, confit de canard, foie gras, the local black bottomed pig, all of which must of course be accompanied by a fine wine from the neighbouring Bergerac region.
How fortunate we are to live in such a rich and diverse region.
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Hanging the ham..
Last weekend saw the hanging of the ham, something which had become an eagerly anticipated event in our household. Let me explain...
Back in the autumn Tanya met up with some former clients of ours who purchased a beautiful small holding on the Dordogne / Correze borders. The couple raise a pair of pigs each year, one for their own consumption, the other they sell.
You couldn’t have met a pair of happier pigs, roaming the orchard and feeding on acorns, pumpkins and peaches, with a diet like that, they were going to be a pair of tasty pigs.
So we agreed to buy half a pig and a week or so before Christmas we received the phone call to say our meat was ready to collect.
The day was then spent sorting the meat, freezing the chops and the roasting joints, making home cured bacon, dicing the meat for sausages, preparing pâtés and rilettes.
The main event however is always preparing the leg to cure as air dried ham, something which you will find in all French supermarkets and most French homes.
The process starts with salting and seasoning the ham and then storing in a salting box for up to 30 days. Once the ham comes out of the salt it is rinsed wrapped in a protective muslin sack and hung to dry.
The air drying itself can take anything between 6 and 8 months with the ham hung in a well ventilated spot from one of the old oak beams in our living room.
Now we have the long patient wait until sometime in August when we will take down the ham and get to taste our own home produced Serrano ham.
I’m sure we’ll let you know how it turns out later in the year, but in the meantime we’ll just keep enjoying all the other wonderful cuts of meat.
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Up to my knees in it...
A rather unusual interruption to our Christmas day celebrations presented itself this year.
We were hosting a large family gathering this year with my parents and my son having travelled from England for the Christmas holidays, Tanya’s parents joined us from their home in France and her step brother had arrived from London for a few days break.
The day started, as I’m sure any other family Christmas in any other household would, with the giving and receiving of presents, although one or two of our number (who shall remain nameless) were somewhat under the weather after a touch of over exuberance the night before!
Christmas dinner with us tends to last most of the day and started with champagne and aperitifs sometime around lunchtime followed by a procession of courses over the course of the afternoon.
It was between courses, that for one reason or another my father went outside and when he returned he said something along the lines of “is it normal that the neighbour's horse is lying on its side kicking out like that?” Clearly something was wrong as indeed it turned out it to be.
I phoned our neighbour, Hélène (also in the middle of her Christmas dinner) and tried to explain that something was wrong with one of her horses and she should come quickly, whilst at the same time searching for my wellies and coat to go to the assistance of the horse.
On arriving at the horse, it appeared that it had somehow trapped one of its legs between the steel bars of its feeder and in struggling to free itself had tipped over said large steel feeder and trapped its hoof. Naturally the animal was becoming rather distressed and kicking out wildly.
Now I’m not what you'd call a 'horsey' person and a distressed horse kicking out wildly was not the sort of situation I’d envisaged for Christmas day.
Hélène tried to calm the horse whilst her sister and I tried to move the feeder and free the trapped leg. We could do no more than release some of the pressure on the leg, it simply wasn’t going to be freed that easily.
Plan B was quickly adopted, we would have to cut through the one of the bars of the feeder, which would involve one of us (guess who?) negotiating their way past said kicking horse and climbing into the feeder to be able to cut through the steel frame.
Fifteen minutes later, we succeed in freeing the horse without further incident, the vet was called and thankfully there was no serious damage to the leg. My father is elevated to hero status in the eyes of Hélène, for it was he who spotted the horse in its moment of need.
For the rest of the assembled crowd it was back to the dinner table to continue the celebrations, with one eye remaining on the field next door.
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Galette des Rois - A French New Year tradition
On Wednesdays, I tend to work from home, as our daughter who is in her last year at primary school, doesn’t have school on a Wednesday. We work first thing (me, to catch up with e-mails, phone calls etc and her with homework) then we like to take the dogs for an hour’s walk before lunch.
This week was no exception, the sun was shining, it was a beautiful warm January day and the dogs were chomping at the bit to have a good run.
On our way back, we were hailed by our neighbour, Raymonde, the matriarch of the hamlet. “I’m in the middle of lunch” she says, which I could tell as she was still in mid-chew! I have to admit, at first I thought something was wrong as it’s not normal for the French to interrupt their lunch. After we’ve had the customary bisous (a kiss on each cheek to say hello), she asks if we’re free Saturday night to come over for a drink. Unfortunately, I explain we have something else planned for Saturday evening. No matter, the date is changed for the day before and we’re off this Friday evening with some of our other neighbours for an aperitif and the cutting of the galette des Rois (cake of the Kings, traditionally eaten on Twelfth night) to celebrate epiphany and the start of the New Year.
I have to admit, we’re all quite looking forward to it, as it will be the first time we’ve ever been invited into their house(after 7 years of living in the hamlet!). Don’t get me wrong, we see a lot of George and Raymonde, they are usually outside when we pass and we always take the time to stop for a quick chat. However, this time it looks like we’re going to actually make it past the garden gate!!
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Where did it all begin?
When people first get into contact with us at Limousin Property Agents, they seem surprised by the fact that we’re not tucked away in a small dingy office somewhere in the UK, but we live and work full time in this part of France. We have actually done what a lot of people dream about; we upped sticks, sold up lock stock and barrel and moved our family to rural France.
It’s quite amazing to think we bought our then holiday home in this area over 8 years ago, 6 months later it become our permanent home and this coming March will be our 7th anniversary of selling French property in this idyllic corner of South West France.
Looking back over our years in France, we’ve had so many different experiences, so many ups and downs (thankfully more ups) and there are so many amusing things that have happened along the way, which has made living here a great adventure and one we still really enjoy. We have the most wonderful neighbours and friends and we really feel part of the local community.
We thought it might be nice to give you a taste of what it’s actually like to live in this part of the world, warts and all so welcome to our ‘blog’.
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Over the coming year you can follow our thoughts, our experiences and on musings on life in rural France.
We hope you will enjoy sharing some of our experiences
Tanya & Allan
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