Back To Basics
Pre-Post Note/ Well, that was a roller-coaster of a week! Regular readers may have noticed that I missed my usual post last Sunday. Well, dad started coughing last week-end, so as you can imagine that threw us all into a bit of a loop. So we all got COVID-19 tests (yup, that lovely arm-length swab up the nose…it is NOT pleasant, by the way) and then waited anxiously for 2 days for the results. All negative thank goodness, so in the end it was just a regular ‘ol cold and we’re all in the clear. But I was far too nervous to blog! Anyway, with that said here’s last weeks post, finally getting out today. And as long no other crazy curve-balls come our way, I’m back on track again…
It’s the middle of August and the end of summer is in sight, or so we all hope.
We’re been chugging along in our day-today, doing our best to survive the last (please??) of the big heat-waves, trying to keep our plants alive (many are dying or drying up from the sécheresse), and tentatively, cautiously thinking about some French- based fall motorhome travel, assuming the government allows us to do it.
It’s all very new to us, this kinda-planning/non-planning thing which 2020 seems to have thrust upon the world. As a type A personality it’s been deeply disturbing to not have any kind of grasp on what we’re going to be able to do. Then again, in the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s a small issue. We’re comfortable & safe here in our little French countryside enclave, so we can’t really complain about the state of things.
On est bien là, tu sais (“we’re good here, ya know”)
Plus we did do something brand new this week, or rather something we haven’t done in a long, long time. And we’ve gone back to a few basics in life, other things we literally haven’t done in decades. You could say we’re regressing, or perhaps we’re progressing in an old way, the “new old” if you will. And with the way things are going in 2020, I guess it all makes sense. As the future becomes ever more murky, the past is something solid to hold onto.
Sometimes oldies are the best songs of all.
We Had Our First Meal Out (Since February)
Our biggest news of the week was undoubtedly Paul’s birthday. Not so much the fact that he edged a year older (or a year finer, as I like to say), but rather that we decided, quite impulsively to go out.
It was a….BIG….DEAL!
We haven’t been out to a restaurant since sometime in February, which is so long ago that none of us can really recall any of the details. Soon after that the virus blew up, and then of course confinement shut everything down. We’re not huge restaurant people, as we rather enjoy cooking and eating at home so the withdrawal hasn’t been too bad, but after 6 months of daily meal-making in the house I have to admit the idea of eating out seemed rather scintillating. Absence and fondness of the heart, and all that.
It would be a real treat….
So I started looking around, trying to figure out where we could go which would not only feel comfortable and safe (virus-wise), but also enjoyable for all three of us. Oh, and it had to be open for business, which is never a sure thing when the French August effect is going on. Lastly it had to have shade, so that we’d be able to sit outside and manage despite the crazy heat.
Thanks to a tip from our Swedish neighbors, I found the perfect spot!
Restaurant L’Olivier is a little place just ~30 mins from our home with a large garden setting and well-separated tables, each with their own spacious Tiki shade. All the waiters wear masks (as is obligatory these days), and there’s plenty of space between customers so we could relax outdoors. Plus like all places around here, they do a nice 3-course “formule” lunch for only €15 (~$18). Oh, and of course they are dog-friendly, as most country French restaurants are (although Polly didn’t join us this time, due to the heat).
So Wednesday lunch we all dressed up in our Sunday best, and headed out to a rather exciting meal cooked by someone else. It was hot, but the shade made it work and the spot was absolutely perfect. The setting was lovely and everything was well-managed, even down to the menu card which the restaurant had rather ingeniously turned digital (we scanned it from a QR code stuck on the table) so that we didn’t have to handle cards touched by everyone else. A nice touch.
Plus of course the meal was lovely too. We enjoyed a kir cassis (white wine with blackcurrent syrup) to start, some wine & beer with lunch, a salad, main dish and ice cream for desert. Nothing fancy, but all really, really good.
We Subscribed To A Real Newspaper
Another retro thing we did this week was subscribe to a real newspaper. And by that I mean the good old-fashioned paper kind that’s delivered to your mailbox everyday.
Yeah, we really took a ride back in the time machine on this one….
This was actually Paul’s inspired idea. He’s deep in prep work to take the level B2 French exam (a requirement for citizenship, if ever he decides to do that down that route), and wanted something physical to read each day. We’ve got plenty of French novels in our library of course, but a newspaper just seemed like the perfect addition. And despite our digital world and all the adaptations we’ve made to it, reading something printed that we can hold & feel in our hands, is still something we both thoroughly enjoy.
These days it’s rather a luxury….
So we signed-up for Le Monde, one of several “big daily” newspapers in France. Of course it took a few weeks before we got our first edition (nothing happens fast here, especially in August), but we’ve now got daily deliveries of a good ol’ fashioned journal everyday. And to be honest it’s been really interesting. Not so much for the daily news (we get that from the internet, whether we want it or not), but rather for the culture, history, travel and opinion pieces that are all unique & incredibly well-written.
For example, last week we read a 5-part series on Maria Montessori (who founded the Montessori school system), while this week we’re reading about the “oasis” movement in France, a group of over 1000 self-sustaining off-grid eco-communities where folks live and work the land together. I had no idea….
We’ve been enjoying it tremendously, learning a ton of new stuff, and absorbing quite a bit more French in the process too. Our “used” newspapers will either be composted, or recycled (so they won’t to waste) and in the meantime it makes me happy to support professional journalism. IMO we need it in this day and age.
We’re Harvesting What We Can
The only other thing we’ve been doing this week is trying to keep the few things we have alive in the overwhelming heat, and harvesting what we can.
Amazingly, our tomato plants are still doing well, and although our harvest has been rather small, it’s been out-of-this-world delicious. We decided on a minimal watering approach this year, on a wild tip from a neighbor, digging down eggshells (before we planted, for calcium), and fertilizing regularly with banana peels soaked in water (an excellent source of potassium). And it’s worked! The fruit has been mindbogglingly intense in flavor, literally the best tomatoes I have ever eaten.
Next year we’ll have to plant twice as many.
We’ve also been harvesting our grapes, leftover from when someone (sometime) grew actual wine grapes here. They mostly keep themselves entertained, apart from a bit of water every now and then, and like all our fruit this year, are small but incredibly tasty.
Finally blackberries are coming into season, a fair bit earlier than they should, but in great quantities. Blackberries are the one plant I have a solid love/hate relationship with. For most of the year it’s the latter, as they’re horribly invasive, kill just about everything in their way and are impossible to get rid of thanks to their abundance of thorns and seemingly indestructible constitution. If ever the apocalypse occurs, I’m convinced blackberries will take over the world (that, and cockroaches).
But once a year they bloom quite prettily, and produce a most tasty and luscious dark violet fruit. It’s a fleeting, but intense romance that lasts several weeks, during which time I am whisked away by the deliciousness of it all. It’s all so lovely that I start to question if I’ve been too hard on the plant. Surely something so delicious cannot be that bad? But alas, ’tis but a mirage and a ruse, a once-a-year tease that drags you along….until you realize once again that the little devils are taking over your garden and killing everything else.
Oh, the tribulations of fruity love….
And thus ends another week in SW France. We still have no movement on our septic tank situation (August and all that), so we’re just doing our best to hang on until the end of the month. And of course we’re anxiously watching the rising COVID-19 infection numbers, as almost everyone is these days. Cases have jumped all across Europe over the weeks of summer vacations, so now it’s just a matter of wait-and-see. Either results stay mild (thanks to better treatments, changing nature of the virus, more younger people getting infected vs older etc.) or they translate into a rapid rise in hospitalizations & deaths several weeks from now. I’m hoping for the former of course, but only time will tell.
As for us, we’re moving onto grainier things, and the start of a brand new project which should deliver rather tasty results fairly soon. Or at least that’s the plan….I’ll tell you all about that one next week 🙂
So I’m curious my dear blog readers, have YOU been out to a restaurant recently? Or a bar? What are your thoughts on it all? And how is the heat where you are? Still unbearable (I know there are many fires in the US at the moment)? I hope you are all safe!! DO share in the comments.