Category: France

Wild Boar – it’s a wild life in the Languedoc part 1

Sanglier or Wild Boar. Marcassin is the specific name for the boar piglet.

These fascinating and secretive animals are the subject of myth, legend, stories and several recipes. The hunting of wild boar, once the preserve of warrior chieftains and kings, is widely practised in France but carefully regulated to allow the population of boars to remain healthy. Once the hunting season is over, they return to our valley, La Vaunage (as it is known locally). If you are lucky enough, you will see them early in the morning or perhaps more likely, spot their trotter prints left in the mud after some rain. After 8 years, we have only seen them a couple of times whilst driving late at night, so there is nothing to fear.

Marcassin

Marcassin snuffling

Apparently, according to Wikipedia the natural predator for the wild boar is the tiger. Not many of those spotted recently in the neighbourhood. Failing that, the wolf. Again, rare, which leaves humans as the main predator, continuing the tradition established long ago by Asterix and Obelix.

Sanglier

Sanglier

From an early age, I have always associated France with Asterix and Obelix (written and illustrated by René Goscinny and Albert Uerzo*). The Indomitable Gauls who defied the Roman Empire and loved Wild Boar and Magic Potion.

Obelix_smaller

The descendants of the Gauls haven’t changed so much, in that wild boar is still firmly on the menu and magic potion could be loosely translated into the general love of Wine, Cognac and Whisky.

Now our children are enjoying the books (if not the boar and potion) and the irreverent national stereotypes that they describe in the stories. If you come and stay, you will see an Asterix/Obelix picture on our kitchen wall that shows Gauls, Belgians, Goths, Greeks and Egyptians all despising the army food dished out by the Roman legion kitchen, with one exception. There is a Brit with a wistful look in his eye licking his chops.

In fact Asterix and Obelix were probably just following old Celtic traditions. The boar in Celtic belief, not only embodies the skills of hunting and war but also those of hospitality and feasting (at its own expense I suspect). So a natural pastime for two Gaulish warriors would be to eat and hunt boar.

So if you should see boar early one misty morning in La Vaunage spare a thought for its noble past. Be reassured that despite being fierce adversaries (not to be provoked or cornered) they are very shy creatures which is not surprising bearing in mind the French love of feasting.

Written and illustrated by Partner in Crime (the Wild Life Correspondent)

* note on BDs: BD stands for Bande Dessinée. The BD in France is a revered art form that all ages enjoy and can be found in all big book shops (Cultura in Nimes or Sauramps and FNAC in Montpellier) and speciality shops exist like Album in Montpellier. Asterix and Obelix is perhaps the best known but there are thousands of titles including Corto Maltese, Lucky Luke etc..

A treehouse in the south of France

Much to our delight and good fortune, in the middle of April 2010, my Partner in Crime was put on ‘Gardening Leave’ for two and a half months. A more perfect time of  year for a couple of months off in the south of France, one could not have wished for…. April, May and June come exceedingly close to perfection. Warm days full of hope, cooler nights with only a hint of the summer heat to come.

It would have been oh too easy for my Partner in Crime to lie in the hammock all day long, listening to the astounding changes of Spring, smug in the shade of a burgeoning tree. Yet no, for plans were afoot…..

So first of all, this happened:

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And then, after a little more excellent local vino, some fine french cheese and of course a slice or two of saucisson, this appeared:

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Once early June arrived at our hideaway in france, so too did this:

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After much consultation with the three Rascals, it was decided that a terrace was needed for tree top dining and of course a pulley system and basket, for hauling up the afternoon tea. It is amazing what can be born from contemplation in a hammock and the encouragement of three little Rascals. Certainly a perfect spot for firing the imagination, for the young and young at heart.

The rudely healthy looking Partner in Crime was clearly content and the garden was peaceful once more. No drilling and deliberating, no banging and bashing. Just delightful, lingering thoughts of more creations for future years. Perhaps a fantastical fort for the field? I’ll keep you posted.

The Creator

Nimes…….a favourite place nearly on our doorstep.

La Maison Carré

La Maison Carré

Why Nimes?

A charming Roman city oozing sophistication, beauty and culture.

I love the tiny, twirling, twisting pedestrian streets filled with boutiques eager to be discovered; I love the cafés piled onto pavements; the shady squares pulsing with restaurants hidden around each corner. I adore the dramatic fountains which dispel the summer heat.

Remarkably preserved Roman buildings suitably bewilder at every turn and I especially love sitting in the shade,  with a glass of chilled rosé in hand, gazing in awe at Les Arènes, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world  – just like being on a film set, yet better because it’s the real deal.  I love gaping at the  beautiful Maison Carré (above) while devouring  ice-cream in the adjacent café. Strolling, exploring in the Jardin de la Fontaine.

The music of the city. The vibe, the elegance, the way of life……..

Top Tips

The indoor food market, Les Halles, is bursting with irresistible local food and atmosphere – better than Harrods food hall any day.

The Ferias of Nimes held in May and September every year, are unique parties celebrating bulls, music and food – not to be missed.

Forget the ghastly tower blocks on the outskirts and head straight for the pedestrian old town with lots of underground parking – easy.

Here is a new App about monuments in Nimes for when you are strolling around.

Where is Nimes?

25 minutes by car from our house via a stunning cross country route – worth the trip for the views alone.

Read more about Nimes here.

Be a cicada – metamorphose in the South of France

To hibernate in winter is natural, in fact many people do stay underground during the winter months. Numerous places in North America have fabulous underground cities to cower from the cold. Eagerly embrace it is my feeling but I can understand that winter is a tricky season, especially once the hopeful Christmas lights are pulled down.

I think we must be inspired by the ingenious, summer musician – the Cicada.

Do you ever feel like this after the winter months?

On reflection, I’m not sure that winter coat really was that flattering…..

Are you ever itching to  shed your skin and start afresh?

A positive outlook

Sorry to invade your privacy Mr. Cicada

Do you ever dream of such a transformation?

Splendid

Miracles really do happen at the bottom of the garden at our hideaway in France.

Enjoy the jingle bells now but once the razzle dazzle of Christmas is over, take heart from the impressive Cicada.

P.S. According to Wikipedia, the female cicada is meatier. Nothing wrong with that.

Just Imagine

Living in Montreal is exciting, invigorating and refreshing as most adventures are. Since moving here in February 2012 I think we have adapted brilliantly but we do miss our hideaway in France. One of the biggest changes for us was moving from a house in the country into an urban apartment with no garden. The Rascals were brought up with the room to roam and they spent most of their precious hours in France dressing up and running around making noise.

There was space both inside and outside to create the cacophony that children love to do, to run riot and dance up a storm. The freedom to let their imaginations fly. Although our apartment in Montreal is a good size, we are on the first floor with some rather unlucky neighbours beneath us. I cannot help wincing at every little leap and thunderous thump which is probably every second of every day. They are simply not used to noise restraint and neither are we.

When friends used to visit us in France, they waxed lyrical about the space which I took for granted then but can finally now appreciate. Maybe I should be more of a Tiger Mum but what I really want to do is give them the luxury of being imaginative, curious and carefree. We could all do with a few of those ingredients in our lives. Roll on holidays, I can’t wait to let my Rascals loose at our hideaway in France.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old;

we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw

Olive picking in the South of France

As we run through Autumn, maneuvering through months, heads down and hoods up against bitter winds, it is easy to be oblivious to the little treats that nature has to offer, even in Autumn.

A couple of years ago we purchased the field next to our house, for even though it is agricultural land, we wanted to protect our house from any construction in the future. The Rascals thought it was a perfect place to build a giant fort but they had to settle for a tree house at the bottom of the garden instead. For my Partner in Crime, who has always held the romantic dream of owning a wood, it was an opportunity to plant some trees. At first he envisaged an apple orchard, with aspirations of his own-label cider (he is originally from the West Country) but we were encouraged, much to my delight, to invest in olive trees. They are only very little trees and every year we plant a few more with the hope of eventually filling the field. It’s a slow, yet rewarding process.

Today I received an email from the lovely couple who live opposite our house, asking us permission to pick our olives for us. We have olives? Our very own olives! Above all though, it reminds us how lucky we are to have such special, kind neighbours who really care about our house and our baby olives. Our little corner of very french France really does have this generous spirit, this neighbourly love, even to the only English family in the village.

Transforming a home into a holiday house in France

It was this time last year that we began contemplating a move to Canada. My Partner In Crime had been offered a job in Montreal and his company needed a decision fast. Were we willing to move our whole family from the gorgeous Languedoc area in the south of France to the much more challenging, diverse climate of Canada?

The previous year my Partner In Crime’s ceaseless European travel had been bearable but the thought of plenty of  international travel began to fill me with dread. Either we all move, or we miss him terribly. I bow down in bewildered awe to all you single parents out there. The three Rascals are tough and brave but three week stretches is a long time to just have me at the helm! An adventure would be good for us all we decided and I think to my Partner in Crime’s slight surprise, we were all enthralled by the imminent experience.

Decision made, excitement high, practicalities needed to fall into place. What were we to do with our house? We are fortunate to have family and friends who were more than willing to look after our home for us, not to mention special neighbours. It’s a happy home and loves and needs the babble of people, of laughter, of merriment and yet, as is the case with most old houses, it needs money. So to rent for some of the year, was the future. The south of France has an eternal draw for holiday makers and we knew our home would delight  many. One problem – we needed to transform our  family home into a professional, minimalist, luxurious holiday rental property and fast. Six precious years of  life, with three small children, needed to be dissected, sorted out, boxed and saved for another day.

Ultimately I believe that nearly anything is possible with an enormous amount of hard work, determination and help. Fortunately on this occasion I was right.

On 12th February 2012 we flew to Canada and left behind us a spotless, organised home ready for new guests. Mas de Mahystre had never been more beautiful. I assure you it was hard to leave…….

Have you had a similar experience? Anyone turned a happy, cluttered home into a house to rent in France? Or maybe you are just intrigued by the stories behind a holiday house.

More information about renting our house is available  at ……

http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/france/FR10788.htm

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