Friday, 30 September 2011

Bordeaux: help x work/fun

We worked for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week at Le Ramet doing all sorts of tasks

stripping shutters with a hot air gun, then filling, sanding and painting them

A finished shutter next to a yet to be started. Renovating the shutters has changed the way I look at all of those rustic shabby french houses, before I used to thing they were so romantic - now I look at the shutters and think all of those bastards need to be sanded.

I spent a lot of time in the potager, podding peas...


and making rainbows with the hose

Using the tractor to try and rip out a very stubborn fig.

There were so many animals at Le Ramet - 6 jack russels, 3 great danes, millions of cats, horses, donkeys, goats (not all in the house!)

Chinoise & Tigre

My sister and I used to watch a film called the ugly daschund, it was just like that at Le Ramet - hilarious

Daniel & Patricia our hosts/french teachers/chefs...

Gregg concocting a cognac, coffee and chocolate delight called a push push

I have never eaten so well as at Le Ramet, we were treated to delicious French fare every day - eaten in the particular french way

And another amazing help x experience draws to a close, the car is packed and we head off North

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Eating like the french

We have been in France for 3 months now observing the mysterious ways of the French. A few months ago at a BBQ in Paris we were baffled by the weird ways of french eating, however, after spending more time with the french I can reveal the secrets:

1. Bread: Baguette is eaten at every meal. In the morning with butter and jam and dunked in coffee and with lunch and dinner it is ripped into small pieces and held in the left hand and used like a knife, or like a sauce scoop. Mini sandwiches are never made midway through a meal, when you do make mini sandwiches (especially with chips) the french will stare with a bemused look.

2. Wine: Wine is drunk with lunch and dinner, but only one or two glasses, certainly not a bottle each (!)

3. Eating order: This is a strange one, you eat your meat first and once that is finished you eat your vegetables/salad. One night I cooked both green beans and potatoes - this confused the french, only one accompaniment with the meat! The separate eating thing doesn't count if you are not eating french food, so if you have (Spanish) paella and a piece of meat these can both go onto your plate at the same time.

4. Cheese: Cheese comes after main course or dessert (plat) and can be used to mop up remaining juices that haven't been got with the bit of bread

5. Other drinks: Aperitifs and digestifs are one of the great pleasures of France and the type depends on your location. So, in the Charante you might have cognac for a digestif and a Pineau for aperitif and in Paris you might have a Ricard.

6. Snacks: No

Saturday, 24 September 2011

French Daniel's French dressing

The recipe for French Daniel's French dressing, to be used on grated carrot/chopped tomatoes/miscellaneous French things

To make 1 beaker full:
2 heaped teaspoons of moutard
Du sel
Poivre 5 bailes 13 turns
l'ail seche 2 teaspoons
Les fines herbes 5 heaped teaspoons
1/3 balsamic
2/3 olive oil

 Merci Daniel


The very funny Remi Gaillard 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Bordeaux: I love you

Bordeaux Bordeaux how I love you
Twisting cobbled streets, unbroken facades of dusty gorgeousness, more laid back then Paris with a plethora of quirky public spaces overflowing with people. The Gironde flows through the centre, its tides marking time - from lazy red mud slowly meandering east to rushing tides west 

Trees on every balcony

Exotic smells and markets full of tres trendy industrical chic

Central street lights strung from buildings - why were we never allowed to do that in Barnsley?

Canopy of London Planes 

The original mirror pool reflects the Bourse and changes throughout the day, lights reflect at night, cool steam in the heat if the day, teens hang out drinking and laughing, children play, people make music - it's all so animated. Such a simple and successful design

Monday, 19 September 2011

Île d'Oléron

Île d'Oléron is an island off the west coast of France, due west of Rochefort and south of Ile de Re. Ile de Re is one of my favourite places, beautiful villages, lots of chic french people, pine forests and altlantic waves but we decided to give Île d'Oléron a chance as the bridge is free to cross and it's closer to the chateau.

You can't beat the atlantic coastline in France for gorgeous light and dramatic weather and the island didn't disappoint. That magical french grey that all of the shutters are painted seems to glow against the old stone houses. That grey I have found out is called gris clair, in other words plain old light grey and not some fancy farrow and ball dead pigeon, just bog standard light grey which I have become very familiar with and am covered in it as I type this!

The Île d'Oléron isn't as gorgeous as Ile de Re but feels much more like a working town with fishermen and warehouses and hippies and dreadlocked surfers. Huitres shacks with flaking paint litter the salt marshes and pine forests flank the southern shores, its really quite pretty - although not quite as preened as its northern neighbour.

 Moules mariniere with a bucket for the shells

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


We have arrived in Bordeaux where vines replace rolling hayfields

and the sunflowers are all dead. The fields look quite morose with withered black stalks and drooping black heads facing east.

Our home for the next month, the rather fabulous Le Ramet. We are now speaking French all day every day so hopefully it will improve by the time we head back up north to Normandy

The chateau used to produce award winning Cognac, these plaques are remnants of that golden age.