Back in Paris

I am back in Paris where there is beautiful weather, blue skies, mild tempertures and alot more tourists around.
As usual, I headed for Palais Royal where I discovered a new conceptual art exhibit by, I think, a Spainard. There are life size metal casts of Spainish Queens, all in a row.


Here they are.

This time the garden is full of roses, most of them white with a soft pink on the edges. Dahlias have been planted and I look forward to seeing them in bloom.

Confiture

Today, with the help of a friend, I made some cherry confiture with the very huge amount of cherries we have picked from the trees of a neighbor-we’ve been there three times and there is still a huge amount to be picked. From our first tastes, we think we may have used a little too much sugar, but it is a feeling of accomplishment to see the eight jars of cherry magic just waiting to be spread on toast. A couple of days ago she made us some excellent duck with cherry sauce. We continue to eat cherry by the dozens between meals and as a dessert. I think this will be the first year that I will finally get my fill of my favorite fruit.

Orange

Orange

Maurice and I tend to stick to our area as far as exploring other cities and areas. It wasn’t until a medieval festival was advertised that we decided to make the trek and see what makes Orange so special. It is only about an hour from our house, not that long a journey, and it makes me realize that we should start going a little further afield when we decide to do a little exploring. The Luberon is packed with places to see and it is fun discovering new things and the city of Orange was a joy on our first time visit.
I had read in a tour book-an English one-that Orange was rather a sad little reincarnation of all the many existances it has had throughout the centuries and was expecting maybe a dreary little city packed with traffic with a cloud of polution caused by the many cars as they wizzed around the Roman arena but was pleasantly surprised by our entry into Orange. Maybe we just missed the dreary parts. We easily parked and in a short walk were in a well-done pedestrian area with narrow streets lined with cobble stones and soon we were at a Roman wall, the wall that King Louis XIV called the best wall in his kingdom after he took the little Protestant kingdom away from the Netherlands. (Some of the royal family there still go by the name of Orange). He tore down what looks like it was a nice castle from old drawings but left the Roman arena which is the best preserved arena in Europe. In its present reincarnation, it is used for concerts, symphonies and operas and I now have the dream of someday attending something there. Maybe a currently popular singer or a jazz festival although it would be a fabulous place to see an opera, even though that isn’t really one of my interests. On approaching, it appears to be just an old wall, such as those that once surrounded a city, but it is the main huge back wall of the arena, and the round, half circle with the seating areas goes behind it, dug into the nearby hill. A walking tour inside shows what a true marvel it is and, like the coloseum in Rome, it is easy to imagine entertainment taking place there centuries ago.
The Medieval Festival turned out to be a tremendous experience with the sound of ancient instruments that we could hear as we neared the arena, and with the many participants dressed in costumes out of time, from kings, bishops, knights of the crusades, even magicians and stilt walkers, it all was a feast for the senses. Many items were for sale that were not the usual things seen at markets, mystical types of jewelry or figures of fairies, little costumes of knights or ladies of the realm for children, everything had a medieval feel to them. There was a real quality to everything done, from the costumes and make-up of the participants, the attention to detail in every presentation and the involvement with attending children, from patience to explaining how things were done in ancient times, such as a demonstration of making yarn from sheeps wool, to magic tricks and figures walking around in costume. Crusade tents were set up in front of the ancient wall of the arena with displays of all sorts and parades were done at least once an hour with knights of the crusade with red or black crosses on their costumes, or fantastic figures on stilts with masks of animals, such as a fox. It was truly one of the best festivals I have ever attended and I could imagine what the city of Orange itself must have been like at one time as magical characters walked by me in costume playing instruments of old, showing us times long past, a look at history not found in books at school.


A Jester who loved to pose.


Lots of magicians and performers to entertain.


Mystical fox on stilts-I like the interaction with the little boy.

Cherries part deux

We picked one huge batch of cherries and have been eating them madly ever since. I can’t remember the last time I made a cherry pie, if ever, baking mostly apple pies or peach cobblers, so I looked at several recipes and most called for tapioca which they not only have in France, but call it by the same name. I’m not sure what happened but the tapioca remained rather chewy instead of those usual soft little globules found in the pudding. The pie tasted good except for that.
I have a little cookbook with recipes for confiture, or jam, and when Maurice went to the nearest village for his daily bread, I asked him to pick up some pectin which the recipe calls for. He came back and said the lady at the store told him pectin wasn’t necessary, and, in fact, made the jam too thick and jelly like. We should just cook the cherries with sugar and it would be thick enough. I’m not so sure. The last time I tried to make some with peaches, it came out rather runny-Mauric said I didn’t boil it long enough. He also said that our neighbor said we should bottle the cherries in jars but I am not up to the task of all of those jars and the sterilization. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I am going to try a more difficult cherry tart from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’m sure that will be tasty. Maurice went over yesterday and picked another huge basket of cherries so, unless we can eat them all-not a bad thing-I will have to use them in something. Maybe Cherries Jubilee or Duck with CherrySauce. Too bad all of the recipes are so fattening.

Cuckcoo

The first time I heard a cuckoo bird, an actual live one, was in front of the Chambord Chateau in the Loire Valley of France. The evening had just begun and the whole area looked a little ghostly and haunted, when the bird started its song. I was very enchanted as I think, having only heard the clock, that they weren’t real, or at least I had forgotten they were. Another assumption I made, was that they were only in that part of France in that type of deep forest. Last night as Maurice and I sat on our terrace, me with my glass of wine, he with his pastisse, I heard a cuckoo again. It is a fairy tale kind of feeling for me to hear that sound echoing across our nearby forest. It only seems to sing as the sun is setting and I never hear it during the day. At first I thought I was hearing someone’s clock going off in a neighbor’s house but was delighted to realize that this is something I will probably hear every evening and I plan to be outside as often as possible when the sun is setting.

Cherries!

It is finally cherry season here in France. Cherries are my favorite fruit. I only wish they came in the size of plums or peaches. I always eagarly await the arrival of the season. When I first spot them in a market in Paris they are at the awful price of 24 Euros a kilogram. I wait a few weeks and they are then sold at 14 Euros a kilo. Finally, they have reached prices of 6 or 7 Euros a kilo, and I start buying. They are very small at first, but still pretty tasty. In a month or so, they will be at perfection.
Our great neighbor, Octave, arrived at our door today inviting us over to pick as many cherries from his tree as we can. He says they have 200 Kilos of cherries, at least. We went over and the boughs of the trees are heavy with the fruit. Maurice and I are going over this evening to pick a big basket full.
I find cherry trees to be particularly ugly, even though ruby red fruit hangs among the leaves. It doesn’t have a pretty shape and the boughs grow too long. We have one new little cherry tree that we planted. It does have cherries in its first growing season but they are really tiny, smaller than a marble. We are thinking that maybe we should plant a few more.