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Bumble

After months of roaming and pondering in this adventure, we have finally decided to go back home, for good – well, for a while at least – to be reunited with Budgie, but more importantly with family, friends, Bumble the dog, and good old Blighty.

We’ve taken this decision for various reasons and we’re really happy about it now. It’s funny how you try really hard to make something work and when you stop struggling and you finally surrender, liberation follows. Up to one week ago, we were still quite sad to see the Canadian experience end, but now we are really excited to leave. Our life is no longer here.

We came to admit also that we might not have been able to enjoy it eternally. Something is missing: another dimension. I felt the same in California. A sense of emptiness. It took me a lot of time to realise what was bothering me. It’s so much easier to react against things that are ever too present, jarring or downright irritating, but this particular vacuity is trickier to capture with thoughts. It’s a vague, lingering sensation. California felt like living on a movie set, and it’s not that much different here.

Crow

Our friend Graham who is also going back to England soon, discussed it with Ed the other day, and it was the little epiphany I needed about this place. It is so beautiful that you would feel really ungrateful to resent its flaws. Beauty in that respect can be incredibly intimidating. Doesn’t one feel a bit more shy when they meet a really good looking person? You almost hope you belong to their club somehow. It’s absurd but it’s a common impulse.

The same happened for us in Vancouver, it’s so beautiful that you want to be a part of it. However this has a price, the real estate is unaffordable, the general cost of life is prohibitive, and the job situation is scarily unstable. Testament to its charms, people are still ready to make the sacrifice, for the sake of enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the ever-changing unbeatable scenery.

Well, we sure will miss a lot of things here, but there are so many people and things that we’re happy to find again in Europe two weeks from now. Among other things, and in no particular order: cheese, bread, being able to afford most things and food, pubs, the English countryside, the Atlantic coast, picnics in the park, sunshine, charity shops and boot sales, Habitat, having a vehicle, the museums, the fashion, Waitrose, the wittiness, English gardens, Neil’s Yard Remedies, Hampstead, Portugal, our tagine dish, jam, ham, etc.

View from Royal Crescent by Rachel Milne

It’s all been a great adventure and we’ve learnt so much from it, and we will come back to Europe with a fresh perspective, and then lose it again, and then find other ways to entertain our restlessness. Abraham Lincoln said “and in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

We’re full of life and as Frank Costanza says in Seinfeld: ‘I’m Back, Baby!’

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We’ve now been in Vancouver for a little more than two weeks and it seems to be a good time to write about ‘first impressions’. At the same time, oddly enough I feel that I don’t really have many. Maybe, it’s because we have been travelling for several months now and the feeling of novelty has worn off in the process. It’s not that we are becoming  jaded, but unfamiliarity has become the norm in our new life since leaving London back in August. So, when we arrived in Vancouver, at the beginning it felt like just another new place. It took me time to realise that this is our final destination and that this is where real life was starting again.

Also, as mentioned before this is not the first time that I have moved to another country. The bit of wisdom I’ve developed from previous experience, tries to keep me away from the usual pitfalls. I’ve the best intentions of refraining from generalisation about the place, the people and the culture, as to me, it doesn’t always come from a good place. Generalisation, I feel, can become easily an outlet for things that have nothing to do with the country one is settling in. It rather has to do with the difficulties that one encounters and the feelings that accompany them: frustration, isolation, fear of the unknown, rejection, you name it. Xenophobia etymologically stems from fear, hatred is just the by-product.

Anyway, long preamble just to say that I don’t have black and white first impressions of this place, it might, and probably will, come later, in moments of frustration, fear, isolation etc. but for now, it’s not on the menu.

I could still point out a few random things that we have noticed, like for instance, people here are very friendly and chatty. You can’t look lost for too long here because somebody will inevitably stop and kindly offer help and directions, and then have a nice chat about anything. As we don’t really know anybody here yet, we’ve made the most out of those brief encounters, and always came out of them with a big smile and an “oh, people are so nice here”.

But our experience with people generally has been superficial as you would expect after so little time. In the first stages of immigration, you feel like you’re out of the game, you’re the newbie at school and you want to play but you feel somehow shy and inadequate because you don’t hold all the cards in hand and you don’t know the rules. So, you just observe and learn from the outside until you can get in. It’s like being a strange hybrid between tourist and unemployed and you’re neither in nor out.

It makes me think of ever so grumpy Elias Canetti, who in his memoir – published posthumously by his greedy estate, in English under the title Party in the Blitz  – was moaning about not receiving the warm welcome and due respect he thought he was deserving of from the Hampstead elite, when he was in exile in London. It amused at the time. You cannot expect people to roll out the red carpet when you emigrate somewhere, you have to expect to have to do all the work, that’s part of the game.

We went to a meetup of British expats on our first week here and met all sorts of people. One of them, from the corporate banking world, kept on saying, ‘it’s all about networking’. That’s what they tell you in any immigration help centres. Of course, it’s about networking, but the term makes me cringe as it sounds so pragmatic. I prefer solidarity, but this nowadays sounds communist and somewhat so uncool. Networking doesn’t seem cooler anyhow, very 90s. People probably say linking or linkage these days. In a trendy cafe in San Francisco, overlooking Dolores park, I overheard a conversation of probably Stanford graduates, probably Silicon Valley workers, probably Google employees, that kept on  mentioning that such and such had ‘friended’ them on Facebook and on LinkedIn. Friending maybe the term nowadays in our internet confusion between work and personal relationships. We could be grammar snobs, raise an eyebrow and suggest alternatives such as befriending, but how good would that be?

I had read a fair bit about Vancouver, and I feel that I know just about a bit more now than before landing here. The only difference is I have a first hand experience.  It is beautiful as everybody says, but this is almost exclusively due to its setting, which is quite spectacular and offers splendid views to enjoy one day after another, rain or shine.

Rain, while I’m at it, is a major preoccupation, and it’s not green by accident. It rains more here than in Aberdeen, said a lovely Scottish couple we met at that same meetup evening. So far we consider ourselves quite lucky, and the first week was actually gorgeous. It was as if we were having our own little honeymoon period with our new city and it showed itself in its best light; the peaks of  Grouse and Cypress – those who followed the winter Olympic games might be familiar with the names, it’s where most big competitions took place – on the other side of the bay; the pine trees of Stanley park on the nose of the peninsula, stopping the expansion of downtown, which is quite classy and relaxed for a North American city. However, I wouldn’t say that Vancouver is as charming a city as for example San Francisco that we have visited recently.

Also, we are very privileged because we are living for now in one of the best locations to enjoy the views, 3 minutes walking distance from Jericho beach and we are 15 minutes cycling from Kitsilano, probably the most interesting neighbourhood we have seen so far.

Kitsilano, aka Kits, is divided into two main avenues, 4th and 10th and it’s where you’ll do the groceries if you like organic, European, Asian, or South African  food,  it’s where you’ll dine if you like fusion sushi, and above all for me, it’s where you ‘yoga’, as Semperviva, one of the biggest yoga schools, has 5 studios in Kits and 150 classes a week.

My growing love affair with Vancouver is very much yoga-biased at this point. I’ve taken a newcomer weekly pass with Semperviva and I’ve been to 4 classes, all with very inspiring teachers, so far in 3 different studios. I remember people complaining at my leisure center in Hampstead when there were more than 25 people in the class. Here, some studios seem to have capacities of over a hundred people and I saw one Yin class on Sunday that was fully packed: 100 yogis all ready to let their muscles surrender to gravity. Needless to say that yoga is big here, and I call Kitsilano ‘yogaland’. After my first class, when I came home, I was high on endorphins but also on the excitement of having found my own little version of paradise. Yet again friendliness prevails and teachers do ask your name and warmly welcome you to town.

We haven’t seen much of the surrounding areas, or been to the mountains yet, but we can already see the peaks gathering snow from our side of the bay. We will have to wait  until we have a car to enjoy the wilderness that lies beyond Vancouver.

In the meantime, we go for walks in the nearby Pacific Spirit park, with its massive pine trees, cycle by the seaside on our old second-hand mountain bikes, and play frisbee on the beach. We cook tons of vegetarian dishes as meat has become an expensive treat – $25 chickens have been witnessed – and vegetables are tasty and much more affordable.

To conclude on a musical note and to introduce a post I’m drafting at the moment on Canadian music, here’s my song of the moment: Favourite Food by Tokyo Police Club.

Namaste!

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I realise that I haven’t posted for a while – access to wifi in California was sporadic – but now a few flights after my latest post, we’ve finally arrived to destination, Vancouver.

A lot has happened since leaving our dear van, Budgie, in Essex. I flew to San Francisco where for a week, with a bit of jet lag, I worked my way through the city uphill and downhill, hiking, cycling, thrift store shopping with my dear friends Farida and Christophe who is very much in love with the Dirty Harry town. He told me so many of its fascinating stories, anecdotal and historical, of its origins and building and subsequent rebuilding in the aftermath of the  big earthquake, but also more recently of the influence of all the new money born in the 90s out of the dotcoms and all the Googles, Facebooks, Microsofts and Apples, and of the fortunes made and lost, but mostly made. As we walked, cycled or drove, he explained the history of SF’s neighbourhoods: the latino Mission, the gay Castro, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill and its parrots, the gentrification of Noe Valley by the Google crowd, the Russian migration, the grimness of the homeless haunted corners of Tenderloin. He didn’t forget to mention the movies, the coffee in the Italian neighbourhood where Coppola wrote The Godfather and the iconic places in Vertigo, and how the cemetery had to post  a sign discouraging tourists from looking for Carlotta’s grave, and of course Dirty Harry and Portero hill which I climbed by bicycle.

Meanwhile Ed went on a reconnaissance expedition in Vancouver and found us a cosy little flat, one block from the beach, two steps from a big park in the swanky Point Grey, adjacent to trendy boho Kitsilano – where all the good yoga studios and organic shops are. I now call it Hampstead-on- the-beach. Ed then came to meet me in SF and we borrowed Farida and Christophe’s Subaru to drive all the way down to L.A. for Ben and Jessica’s wedding in Santa Monica.

Our first stop on this Californian trip was Boulder Creek near Santa Cruz. Never heard of it? Well, I’m not surprised as this small town is cosily hidden in the mountains where the most amazing specimens of redwood trees can be found. If you have a chance to do the SF to LA road trip, I recommend a night there before heading to the California 1 highway. Unlike many towns in the US, you won’t see any Starbucks, Safeway, Gap or any of the widespread franchises. Instead, on the only downtown strip,  you find an organic supermarket, a family owned taqueria, Los Hermanos, a friendly coffee shop, and then there is Mac’s, which is possibly the most insane and exquisite antique shop I’ve ever been to. To me Mac’s is not only an antique shop but rather a quirky museum of all sorts of everyday objects from the past century.

Another landmark of Boulder Creek is Brookdale Lodge, a famous getaway for the famous, the infamous and the outright crooked. In the 50s, it was the second most popular resort in California, attracting among others Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and the well-known jazz and swing bands of the time. There is still the viewing window on one side of the now empty swimming pool where women initially dressed as mermaids would cavort but later in the 50s, guests would pick the naked lady of their desire.

We were lucky enough to stay with Ed’s American family in a wonderful house overlooking the local golf course and surrounded by mountains and redwood trees.

Next was the One to Santa Monica, I had made the same trip 10 years ago with Farida and Christophe in their convertible Cadillac El Dorado at the time and the beauty of the Pacific coast had captured my imagination ever since. Unfortunately, on this occasion the weather was particularly foggy which spoiled the experience a bit. But we hugged the misty coastline with its turns, highs and lows accompanied by Salif Keita, in a dreamlike state and agreed with Ed’s cousin, Adam, who told us before leaving, that driving the One was like a trance.

We stopped at San Simeon to watch the seals and sea lions roll lazily on the beach, and behind us, lodged in the mountains, was Hearst castle, which inevitably brings to mind the eerie beginning of Citizen Kane. In the evening we  had dinner in Solvang, a theme park looking Danish village in the middle of Santa Ynes valley, and were served by waitresses dressed in worn out traditional polyester outifts with Skechers sneakers. We spent the following day in Santa Barbara where I used to teach and had a great Mexican lunch at my favourite place in Paseo Nuevo, and it still has no name.

In Santa Monica, I was awfully grumpy and walked down 3rd street promenade furiously, truly put off by the juxtaposition of all the GAPs, Apple Store, Urban Outfitters, and so forth, everything being somewhat too impeccable for my taste. One shop had a notice clearly aimed at homeless people, deterring them from sitting or sleeping on their sidewalk. Meanwhile Ed had a much more enriching experience and surfed the famous Malibu wave.

The wedding was the loveliest there could be, and at three in the morning, Ed and I ended up eating a slice of pizza from a tiny place that seemed – telling from the pictures that were hanging on its wall near the counter – really proud to also serve Ben Stiller.

We drove back to SF on the less glamorous highway 5 – stopping once again in Boulder Creek – and then spent a week seeking Vietnamese Pho because we caught a terrible cold on a rainy day. Christophe and Farida moved just before Halloween from their lovely flat in Telegraph Hill to the lively Castro where we spent our last couple of nights, seeing all kinds of extravagant characters in the streets dressed up as dark angels, convicts, ‘find Willy’ and many more.

Finally on Sunday Ed flew to Canada and I joined him on Monday, and soon I will write about our exploration period in Vancouver!

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Next leg

I should be doing my packing really as I’m hopping on the plane to San Francisco tomorrow, but before leaving Europe, I wanted to change the face of Budgiediaries as we will now travel by other means and park the yellow van for a while.

The end of the European journey was hectic as Charlie the cat misbehaved in the cattery where he could have stayed, if he hadn’t made a point of beating up the female inmates. Not popular with the ladies our black and white friend! So we drove him to Spain and then dashed back to Calais almost missing the last Eurotunnel of the day.

The whole holiday though was a wonderful and memorable experience: we snorkeled in Portugal, bet on horse races near Agen in France and won 31 times our 2 euros bet on a horse called Rosco, we saw Kelly Slater surf in Hossegor, we ate duck hearts in South West France, octopus in Portugal, drank horchata in Spain, we saw dolphins, friendly goats, sulking donkeys, wandering dogs, hairless cats, chubby green lizards, we got lost in a giant tunnel in Madrid in big traffic, we felt cursed on the Parisian peripherique, we said “wow!” a lot, we walked miles barefoot on the beach, we found the best campsite in the luxury Pavillon Royal near Biarritz, we finally made peace with the satnav – at least for now -,  we saw some gigantic waves in Zavial (Portugal), we practiced yoga on the beach, on the grass, on our friends’ living room floor, we gained weight in France, lost it in Portugal, and found it again in France, we had gourmet picnics, we went to markets and cooked a lot, and above all we spent some great moments with friends and family who all treated us so well.

Now this is over, and with only two days in between adventures, I’ve barely had time to really create my expectations as to what is coming next, and that’s the best way for me I find. I’ve decided to keep on posting in the budgie spirit and share the next leg of our journey.

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We are now cosily living la vida doce in Portugal, and my mind has been so relaxed and my brain so vacant that I found it hard to bring myself in front of an empty blog entry. Also, the weather is so marvelous that we spent most of our time outdoors.

But I think I should try to write a bit of a recap of some episodes of our French epic. At book fairs, I used the cliche “a journey of self-discovery” so much to describe commercial women’s fiction that I managed to even bore myself. So, when I started in my mind to use it to describe aspects our small adventure, I decided that it would be a good way, cliché or not, to explain some deep experiences I’ve been through when in France.

After our vibrant start in Normandy, we went to spend a fabulous evening at my cousin’s Jerome. Jerome was born 13 months before me in the early 70s and we have spent a lot of time together mostly during summer holidays when we were toddlers and up to the age of 7 or 8. It’s rather young and I remembered pictures more than the actual holidays. I hadn’t seen Jerome for almost 20 years until we started being in touch again through facebook last year. It was amazing to feel already by email how much we had in common.

Dinner at his house was wonderful, Isabelle his wife being a dream of a hostess and also because my aunt Martine, Jerome’s mother who I hadn’t seen for the same amount of time was there as well. She had lots of stories and pictures of us two when we were children but also about the family on my father’s side – she married and then divorced my father’s elder brother – all stranger characters the one than the other, and rather on the dark side of the force.

I have always admired Martine as a child, she was my cool aunt, very pretty, wonderful silhouette and always effortlessly fashionable, but above all she had always incredibly and genuinely kind to me. With Jerome we looked at all the photos she had of us like a recently dug treasure of our lost childhood, and Ed took a picture of the two of us, and we took the road again, my mind full of new-found memories.

We then went Brittany, because, even if the weather has become a joke, it’s always my favourite place in France. We first headed to La Torche, one of Brittany’s best surfing spots, and spent the night close to the dunes, camping in the wild with the other surfer vans, all shapes, sizes, colours and interior designs. The following day we drove to the presqu’ile de Crozon.

When I grew up I heard the name a lot as this where my family on my mother’s side comes from. You don’t have to believe me and it’s no mere Breton chauvinism, but it is a place of exceptional beauty. The pointe de Pen-Hir, is a perfect example of the monumental wonder of nature, giant rocky islands, thrown into the ocean as the legend says. In Landevennec, the bend of the river Aulne as it reaches the ocean forms a majestic landscape of water, islands and lush forest.

Landevennec is another name I heard a lot as my grandmother was born in the watermill there. So when we visited that tiny village and I saw the old stone church and its graveyard surrounded by the ocean, my imagination started to work wildly. I kept on thinking that if my grandmother was born here, my great-grandmother Philomene – another kind lady – would surely have been married in that pretty breton church, a century ago. I imagined the stern dress and traditionnal breton headpiece, and the wedding lunch afterwards, possibly beef tongue, as it was the Breton feasting meal.

When we left Landevennec, we drove a few miles into the country to Hanvec and after losing ourselves various times in the forest, we finally found the house of my ancestors on Philomene’s side. A grey granite stone house that has endured the passing of time in an awesome way, so much so that the stone oven that is facing it,  although covered in moss, is still in pristine condition.

The oven somehow captured my imagination too, and it’s probably because of my obsession with food and cooking, but also because it’s fire and it’s warmth and possibly was the center of the family life. My ancestors were wooden clog makers and given how isolated they lived in this very woody part of Finisterre, the process of food was probably one of the rare occasions to socialize and chill at the end of the working day. That was how Philomene was brought up, very simply, very cut-off from the world, and then for some reason she went to town, Landevennec, and worked as a maid in the watermill.

We continued our journey and spend almost two weeks in the South West of France, renowned for good food, good surf and beautiful countryside, and we enjoyed all of it very much. We went to visit my aunt Danielle in the Lot et Garonne, one of my mother’s younger sisters. She came to visit me in London last year, after again a long time without seeing each other. She, too, has lots of family stories to tell and like me she is quite fascinated by the Landevennec family. In her living room, she has a picture of Philomene’s husband with his parents and sister, young,  with a beautiful and proud moustache and dressed up in his military uniform – he fought in both wars and died in combat in 1940.

My aunt also had picture of his wedding with Philomene, which looked more like an end of year school picture than the romantic setup of nowadays wedding albums. Nothing romantic there, all dressed in rigid black and white traditional outfits, sitting on wooden benches in perfect orderly rows, as simple and austere in fashion as a wooden clog.

I love those old pictures, I stare at them intensely trying to find something that resonates in me and repeating in my mind, I come from these people. They’ve stayed for decades and generations in that tiny hamlet, lost in the woods, minding their own clog business, making bread in their indestructible stone oven, and then Philomene broke free and went to town, and then my grandmother became a teacher and went to Nantes, the big town. I’ve lived in different countries and I’m about to move another continent yet again, but I wonder how would my life have been if Philomene had stayed in Hanvec. I would probably not be born for a start, but I found out that the people who now live in the house are actually still related to Philomene’s parents. I should be a bit more bold next time, I go there and ask why they still live here, and how it feels to have stayed in their ancestors’ house.

In the meantime, I’m grateful of Philomene and her free spirit, and I’d love the Breton Samhain myth – now known as Halloween – to be true and spend a night with her, listen to her stories.

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The world is our oyster

After two weeks and a half in France, this is going to be another food and sea related post, no surprise there, as we are mainly travelling by the coast and when not at the beach, we are mostly shopping for food or sharing delicious dinners with friends. La vie est cruelle en France, ah oui!

So to recap a bit, in Normandy, we had the wonderful squid that Marie Astrid fished and then cooked for us and that was quite a special start. Then, inland, we had more meats and charcuterie, nearly overdosing on l’andouillette – a deliciously fragant and tender sausage that you grill on the barbecue.

Things became fishy, though, when we spent several days in Brittany. Ed had been surfing in Morgat in April this year and had found a great spot on the beach where he found a whole bunch of mussels. So when we went back there, his first job was to check on his tasty little friends and he filled a whole bag of them. I had foraged the odd fruit for jams or mushroom before, but seafood was definitely a new frontier, mainly, I have to admit, for fear of food poisoning.

We went back to le camping des Pins in the evening and Ed prepared his booty with what he found in the camper van, the result was quite amazing and the recipe will follow. No food poisoning the day after, so now a new world of foraging started.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a new raid on shellfish. We arrived on Sunday evening in the South West of France, in Les Landes, where Sylvaine, one of my oldest childhood friends lives, in a beautiful restored old farm, in the midst of the pine tree forest. I asked incidentally if there were good fishing spots around and she said we should go for oysters in the Arcachon Basin. Fun prospect, even if I never eat oysters.

So, here we go, on Tuesday morning, ready to be covered in stinky sea mud, as low tide of course is the imperative for this type of seafood collecting. We got there and the first steps in the mud were epic and frankly quite ‘degueulasse’. Mud up to the knee, we went on, not really knowing where to search for or what to look for, there were definitely loads of empty shells around, and finally Sylvaine spotted the first bigorneau – winkle – and soon after the first cockle. Collecting winkles is quite time-consuming, they tend to hide in between long algae herbs and isolated from each other. The French say “cueillir les bigorneaux”, picking, like for flowers or fruits, and it does make a lot of sense.

The guys, meanwhile, went on an oyster mission because we had to divide the party into two for efficiency and also because Sylvaine’s 6-year-old daughter yelled and cried a lot because of the mud and the baby crabs crawling around, and frankly, I can’t blame her, when you still wear tiny pink flip-flops, you are probably not cut-out for this kind of adventures yet.

After an hour or so of bending down and picking, we found ourselves with a couple of kilos de fruit de mer for team bigorneau and as the tide was rising, we decided to go back to meet the boys where the cars were parked. They came back with a big bag of 50 oysters all looking rugged in shape and smelling of fresh seawater. Not an appetizing sight for me, but I was glad the other foodies would make a feast of them.

Dinner time came and Sylvaine prepared the cockles in a wine and onion sauce, winkles in her special bouillon, and cooked the oysters in garlic and parsley butter. Absolutely divine and I finally enjoyed oysters for the first time.

We are staying in Les Landes a few more days, heading to the Basque country next week, and then the south coast of Spain, and then Portugal. It’s too early for mushrooms in the Basque country but I’m starting to wonder what natural delight will be up for grabs when we go.

Sylvaine really enjoyed the experience too and she has decided to make it a monthly routine with her husband and daughter. Holidays, as the mind is in that particular ‘everything is possible mode’, seem to be the starting point of many new habits, hobbies or sometimes careers. For now, it just tells me yet again that the world is our oyster, and to parody Pierre de Ronsard a French poet, who, in a sonnet to his lover, asked her to enjoy the roses of her beauty: cueillez dès aujourd’hui les bigorneaux de votre vie –  pick today the winkles of your life.

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A nation of foodies

We have spent most of our first week in the north-west of France
travelling from one relative or friend’s house to the other and while
we stopped at lunchtime for baguette, paté and cornichons picnics,
nights were all about feasting.
A sentence that the exchange German friends we had when I was a girl
said all the time, started to come back to mind last week and suddenly
resonated: to eat like a King in France. Now with the distance of 11
years abroad, I see France as a massive theme park for foodies who
know how to make food special, so much so that each region has its
spécialité.
When I was 6 or 7, I had a French educational board game meant to
teach each department name, its head town and specialty, e.g. Sarthe,
Le Mans, les rillettes. Here one learns their geography along with the
gastronomy and recite it like one would do with times tables: les
andouilles de Guémené, les calissons d’Aix, les huitres de Marennes,
la Bénédictine de Fécamp, le sel de Guérande, la moutarde de Dijon,
etc.
A lot of cheese and wine simply bear the name of the place it’s produced. In
Normandy, there’s actually a village called Camembert and when you
drive through the region, road signs point to cheese destinations:
Livarot, Pont L’Evêque… When we arrived at the Loire Valley, it was
like reading a Carte des Vins: Bourgueil, Vouvray, Saumur and Chinon.
Last year, meandering through the Bordeaux region was a trip in wine
wonderland Saint-Emilion, Sauternes and Pomerol.
When you cross those lands, you see the produce grow or graze: the
vineyards on the side of the road and the plump healthy cows chewing
greener than green grass, the life blood of the terroir. The
generosity of the environment reflects in the local wealth and the
surrounding bourgeois farms, elegant domaines and villages. People
used to get really rich from feeding and inebriating the nation.
Last Thursday, Isabelle, my cousin Jerome’s wife, treated us to a
feast and her real passion for food was contagious. It was great to
talk with someone who knows her Saint-Nectaire from her Reblochon and
where food comes from. A big part of French identity and pride resides
in knowing your gastronomy geography and to me apart from sharing
wonderful dinners with family and friends, it feels good to be home
because all this knowledge surfaces again. The proud seven-year old
comes out in me and recite the local specialities to Ed everywhere
Budgie takes us: ‘Oh! We’re in Brittany, you gotta to try the Kouign
Amann.’

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