. Truffles or Turnips!...and history of course

Trip Start Jul 09, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2011

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Thursday, August 4, 2011

We have tried our hardest to revive the European economy whilst here but listening to CNN obviously we have not done enough. Needed to bring bigger suitcases or pack less (another tip for young travellers – travel light!).  Anyway my message is stay calm all you investors", I have some good news stories to tell.   Instead of watching the stock market I think you should be planning your next holiday and looking at a culture that is different and challenges your thinking.  Disregard talks about debt ceiling, double dipping and recession and join me to talk about cultural immersion, global understanding and diverse experiences.  I am going to leave the overview of the last two days to Pete - Narbonne, Bages and Carcassonne and I want to talk about vegie patches. 

I have been hoping for an entree into talking about communal gardens but think maybe they are significant enough to talk about them in their own right.  Every village, including ours, has communal vegetable gardens.  They are designated by the Maire (the local council) and you can buy them or lease them.  Families and individuals have a patch, part of what might be a couple of acres in total, and you tend to the patch and plant what you want.  Most have tomatoes but there are pumpkins, lettuce, onions, strawberries, shallots, roses etc.  Family members go on a daily or weekly basis and grow vegetables for themselves or to sell on market day.  There is a sense of therapy for some people, a great way to live sustainably and a great sense of community.  I watched people caring for their plot, there appears to be no issue about stealing someone's ripe tomatoes and just a positive space in which to be.  Why are we not doing this in Australia?  There is land everywhere in Australia and we transport food long distances.  Maybe when I get back I might suggest a market garden at TAFE??  Pete thinks he is going to establish a garden on the hillside behind – not so sure but love his enthusiasm. 

It has been incredible that you can become complacent about the age of some of the buildings that we have and are seeing.  Today some of the walls and structures were 4th century, so things built in the 12 century seem somewhat common!  Maybe that is what has happened in America, trillions are now just a reality.  I find it hard to conceptualise how these structures were built 2000 years ago with no machinery, no roads, no cranes etc and I find the concept of trillions of dollars too difficult when I am struggling with day to day exchange rates in euros, crowns and dollars.  Jo and Danny, I am feeling far more comfortable about the TAFE budget now!!

Over to you Pete……..

I have the difficult part……to talk about touristy type things and food. 

Yesterday we had a laid back day.  We drove to Narbonne the city we picked our car up on last Saturday, visited the medieval centre (1 klm by 700 metres), the smallest of any city we have visited but a good size at this stage of the holiday.  After checking the antique buildings, having a coffee on the square and watching the shops close their doors for siesta we headed off to Bages for lunch (pronounced Barrrrge) about 10 klms from Narbonne on a large lake situated up on a hill looking down on the lake.  We parked down below and walked up the hill to dine at the Portanel Restaurant with fantastic views over the lake.   We arrived at 1.30 pm and asked the waiter for a table for two (une table pour deux).  His first response was to look at his watch (we later saw on the menu the opening time for lunch was 12 to 1.30….. but there were plenty of people still there).  His second response was to give us the second worst table………still pretty good.   One look at the menu was enough for us to decide that the best value lunch was the Menu du Jour…. "Entrée du jour, plat du jour et dessert du jour avec café”………….all for 19 euro and besides that we couldn’t understand what everything else was.  The meal was superb.  First course was an asparagus soup.  Sounds boring?  When you add the normal French ingredient we are supposed to avoid in the era of healthy eating (cream) plus a few herbs and spices it creates a whole different life for the asparagus.

Second course was fish with vegetables (probably from the local communal vegie patch) with a creamy (what else) sauce seasoned lightly with a curry….just subtle enough to be …………well French.

Dessert was a berry tort with ice-cream……….pastry was very French and the berry part tasty as ………

All of this was accompanied by a glass of the best French white (included in the cost)………..we lashed out and had a second…..as you do.

Today we had our first bacon and egg breakfast since Prague (cooked by chef DM from Chez DM) and headed to Carcassonne.  This is an incredible historical site.  It is the oldest medieval site in Europe.  It is a walled city still functioning, that dates back some 2500 years in part but in reality the areas that can still be seen are from 4th, 12th, 13th and beyond centuries.  We keep thinking that we have seen enough history (must be time to head back to Oz) but around every corner is another unbelievable site.

Apparently Carcassonne is the second most visited attraction in Europe and I know why.

We lunched at Adelaide Restaurant (within the city walls) and settled for a Salmon Salad (drizzled of course with the mandatory French dressing) a beer for me and a coke for DM and headed home.  We walked the best part of 10 klms today.  The feet feel every bit of it tonight but it was worth it. 

Oh……..dinner tonight……DM extravaganza……pork chops from the local Bouchier (out comes the large leg of pork from which he “chops” off two “chops” wraps them and sends you on your way with a “äu revoir et merci beaucoup”) cooked on the bar b que by me (yes there is one here) with French vegetables a la DM cooked in the French style of course.

To finish, we want to leave you with this thought – it is ok to start life as a truffle or a shiitake mushroom but think about the poor  turnip (or the Brussell Sprout Ben) ………but  – it is how you finish, not how you start that is important.  Go conquer!  Love D-M and Pete

PS  just because Federic has created such interest we thought we would include a photo of the front door with the handle, taken last night at 6.30 pm.  He does return the handle!
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Ron T on

That is a fantastic photo of you both at the cafe at Carcassone. My cousin lives in Carcassone. He went over to play Rugby League in the 80's and stayed. Sadly he is not there at the moment as his mother died last Friday and we had the funeral on Tuesday, so he in in Innisfail. Apparently the casselette (not sure of spelling) is a must. Enjoy.

kateandsam on

You're making it very difficult to at all care about my two jobs, uni subject and thesis with these tales of communal vegie patches and French butchers. I hope that you can keep this new philosophy when you return - lucky you will have the blog to remind you! Thanks for the 'commenter award' - I thought you would re-mention the work hard, study hard part, but I'm doing enough of that at the moment I think!

dmandpeter on

Ron, sorry to hear about your aunty. I guess that your parents are taking this hard so our thoughts and prayers are with them too. Carcarossonne is a beautiful place, almost fairytale in its appearance. I can understand that attraction this area would have for someone. Anyway, we will be home in under a week and will catch up then. cheers to all D-M

dmandpeter on

Kate, I know you are working hard and it sounds like the thesis is really coming along. Pleased that the research you did has proved your hypothesis - always a bonus! lots of love Mum

Don Metcalf on

Thanks for the update.
For your travel throughout Europe do you think that it is better to use Public Transport or has it been better to have your own transport.
Just trying to weigh up leasing a vehicle for 2 months or going by Eurail.

Trish b on

Amazing all of it. Glad u are having the best time. The architecture is one of those hard to believe concepts. Exactly what u said about no trucks or heavy machinery to help -really begs the question of how much blood sweat & tears -not to mention patience. The communal market places & languages make me ponder that we are just lazy or we do really place too much emphasis on our busy/hectic lives & the almighty $$. Harrys good -still puzzles over the neighbours driveway & which is the front of the house where people wld normally walk or drive by but which u can't really see. Anyway keep having fun & looking forward to seeing u again & hearing the many stories face to face

Cal on

Hi Pete and D-M. Just had a marathon catch up on the blog since arrival in Prague. Amazing trip and commentary. Enjoying a couple of weeks in Adelaide, freezing cold. Looking forward to catching up soon, in the meantime keep enjoying and keep writing.

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