Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bon fête, Blaye!

This morning it is cooler with a brisk breeze coming from the waters of the Gironde that form part of the Port of Blaye. Today will be a quieter day with NO DRIVING! A chance to sit in the sun and read or whatever, allowing the left hand side of my face to get a little colour in an attempt to balance the right hand side!

Breakfast is shared with other guests Fanir and Kim from South Africa who are travelling in France prior to going to the Isle of Man to visit her parents. They too are loving France - I am yet to find anyone who doesn't. They are here withour a car and today Les will take them to Bouse on the way to dropping off one lot of guests to the airport and collecting another. They are told that St. Emillion is fantastic and as we are planning to go back there this week, we might even make it tomorrow so they can come with us rather than try to do it by public transport.

After breakfast, I grab the latest copy of Sarum and head across the road to sit in the gardens of the local park in the sun. Its lovely with the slight breeze and very relaxing - just the thing I need after a couple of constant days. In between watching the world go by I manage to get about 120 pages under my belt before Michael returns from a walk around town. The streets have just been closed off in preparation for the Music Festival later today. Quite a laid back affair - they begin with the barricades and then in a very leisurely fashion put the stage up. The cafes and bars are doing a brisk trade, but there is nothing else open. It is a National Day of Music in France today and there will be bands and solo artists playing not only ere in Blaye, but in every community - a very popular move by the President 25 years ago.

I sit and watch a group of local men play pentaque in the dappled shade of trees and as Michael gets back, we manage to get some photos. They are quite friendly and in their non-existent English and my dismal French they learn that we are from Australia and we give them lots the encouragement and commisserations as the games progresses. They throw the metal balls under-arm trying to get their balls closest to the jack, or trying to bounce the opposing teams balls further away. There are a couple of excellent aiming players and one in particular who is a master at hitting the opposition's balls. Great to watch and the banter between them is brisk and friendly (even if we can't understand what they are saying).

The ferry to Lamarque docked a little while ago and it has now re-loaded and is setting off across the bay. This vehicle ferry carries cars and foot passengers six times a day to the port of Lamarque on the peninsula opposite Blaye. We will take a trip over on Friday with Les when we will visit the Moutin-Rothschild winery! The tide is low as it leaves and is propellers stir up heaps of muddy water as it sets out.

The Citadel at Blaye is about the only thing open around here today - and that is really because as a still occupied town area, there is really no way to close it. But the inhabitants are taking advantage of the tourists at this busier time of the year and even the local museum is open. The path into the citadel follows the former drawbridge and so is quite steep and cobbled - a bastard on my hip, but when in Rome (or Blaye ...). We walk part of the way around the citadel ramparts, stopping to admire the views across the bay, and to marvel at the tenacity of some canoeists who, having erected a small sail, are battling with the oars to cross the fast current and come into the local harbour. Still, they get there, so they must have known more about what they were doing than we did!

It has warmed up beautifully and as we have not had anything since breakfast, we make a beeline for the local creperie. It specialises in sweet crepes and glaces (ice creams) and we end up with fabulous concoctions. Michael has a Marsiette (nougat ice cream, honey, toffee syrup and chantilly cream) while I have the Exotique (lemon sorbet, lime sorbet, grapes, banana, strawberry, apple all finely diced, raspberry syrup and chantilly cream) and coffees to wash them down with!

The museum is very interesting and relates the history of the fort since it was first occupied by the Romans and even some evidence of earlier civlisations and everyting in between and later including a prison, a bakery, a police station etc. That amount of walking does me for the day and so we make our way back to Villa St Simon. I'm surprised to see when we do get back that it is after 5 pm!

At 7 pm Les calls out that we are wine tasting down in his cellar, so I dutifully go down (he he he). Tonight we have two local wines from Blaye - the first is a 2006 organic wine and the second one a 2005 bio-dynamic wine (that is grown, pruned and harvested according to the lunar seasons). Both are very nice - but the 2005 is my preference - it is much bolder with a better developed body and a heaver tannin. Very nice. He leaves to go to the airport just after 8 pm and we stay down there until 10 pm talking. But gee, now my stomach is rumbling, so we come back upstairs (me in search of Michael) so we can go and get some dinner.

We join Les and his latest guest Peter from Liverpool back at Le Petit Port. Les brings one of Yann and Florence's Cantinot 2005 wines. Tonight we have:
Pate (Foie gras) Michael
Terrine de fruits de mer sauce tartare (Seafood terrine with tartare sauce) Maria
Ensemble de bar grillé (Grilled whole sea bass) Michael - complete with eyes that are eaten with glee in front of me
Mushrom de veau en sauce à la crème (Veal in mushrom cream sauce) Maria
Having had our desserts earlier today, we really don't need any tonight!

As we come back to the house the bands are really cranking it up. In English, a solo singer is belting out Hit the Road Jack, Lighter Shade of Grey, Our House! Seems that music truly is universal. But there is no where left to sit and I need to get off my leg. Doesn't matter - we are 5 terrace houses from the stage and even with the shutters closed over the windows we can still hear!! Not too much sleep tonight I fear. All good fun.

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