Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Trip to Limoux: the birthplace of sparkling white wine

Just this past Sunday, Sam and I decided to venture over to a new French town, one that isn't far away, but as of then yet unexplored. The name of the town is Limoux, and its claim to fame is, in keeping with the French style, booze. I suppose many would list the three month carnival-like festival as the premier reason to visit, but then, that doesn't begin for another couple of weeks, so I will leave that for a later post.

The sparkling wine of the region is called Blanquette, which basically means white, and doesn't sound very inspired, but then Champagne is just named after a region, so it appears the French weren't being overly creative hundreds of years ago. The Blanquette of the Limoux region dates back further than the creation of Champagne and is said to be the first sparkling white wine ever made. The good monks of the local abbey apparently discovered it by accident, but after that the idea stuck. Legend states that good ole Dom Perignon stole the secrets of Blanquette and hightailed it over to Champagne, and there the bubbly beverage was given its most popular name. Some experts, however, note that certain Blanquette varieties are just as good if not better than it's more famous cousin. I had a couple glasses of the sweeter version, and though I am no aficionado, it tasted pretty damn good to me.

Limoux also boasts the “longest carnival celebration in the world.” I have no idea if another town somewhere can claim the same, so I'll just take their word for it. It runs from the end of January (sadly we missed it, but are planning to go back) through February and March and into April. I'm not exactly sure what's involved, but costumes, parades, music, and wine must be included. Count me in!

The two of us wandered over on Sunday, and unfortunately the local wineries (so, wine tastings) were closed. Without the carnival on the town was quiet, but still brimming with the charm that comes with old French towns. We stopped by the main square first and stopped into the local cafe for a giant cup of cafe au lait and a couple yummy French pastries. After that, we wandered around the winding stone streets and eventually made it down to the river, the Aude. The sun was shining for most of the morning so we took advantage. As the sky started to turn grey, we went inside, specifically inside the home of a married teacher couple that Sam works with in Carcassonne. They were friendly, welcoming people, with two very cute and intelligent children. We spent the rest of the afternoon with them, eating and conversing in French.

The bus ride home, like the ride there, was lovely, and I can't wait to make it again when we return during carnival time!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Les Catastrophes de Beziers

After witnessing another fine specimen of the Beziers population, I have finally decided to devote an entire blog post to the "catastrophes de Beziers".

Last Wednesday, my friend Colleen, our new French friend Sylvain, and I were at O'Sullivans pub for the weekly quiz night. We won by the way, though we do have to think of a better team name. Any suggestions?

Anyway, at about 10:30pm or so a woman entered the pub. I'd guess she was in her mid to late 60s, but who knows; some French women don't age gracefully at all, and a woman going into a bar already half in the bag a few hours shy of midnight probably hasn't been too easy on herself. Her face was rather pretty though, think Dame Judi Dench a la As Time Goes By. Unfortunately, she was rather plump and ample chested - which leads us to her biggest problem that evening.

She was resting on a stool just a few feet from our table, and as she took off her coat, I could have sworn I saw a flash of nipple. I couldn't be sure as she sat with her back to us for a bit after that, but as she turned back our way, I was, unfortunately, quite sure of what I had seen. She was wearing a sheer-ish hip length leopard print blouse, but under that, she was sporting a very low cut, black, lacy bustier-type top. and she was, without mincing words, 'busting out all over'. To say that I saw nipple would be a stretch I suppose, but a good few centimeters of areoles were present at all times. This attracted the attention and glances of more than one man at the bar, and in her favor, most of them were over 40. I still don't know if she realized, but I'm guessing she just didn't care. She was even joined by a gal pal a bit later, who apparently said nothing - to which Colleen leaned over and whispered, "I'd be a better friend than that. I'd definitely let you know if your nipples were hanging out." Thanks Colleen! but let's pray it never comes to that.

Our very own 'nipplegate' and her wardrobe malfunction stayed at the bar for as long as we did, - until midnight, and managed to chow down two plates of bar food (the smoked salmon plate and the good ole fried stuff plate) with her friend. There was no escaping the sight, as she was sitting directly in front of me, and I still don't know which part was worse - the ever present areoles, or watching her stuff her face with her chubby, be-ringed fingers, complete with long claw like fake nails. Whatever it was, it was too much. just too much. At least it makes for good blogging!

I post more updates on the 'catastrophes de Beziers' as they come up. And don't worry, they're never few and far between.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Was Still Christmas Eve....

Sorry about the Delay!

After Sam and I landed in ye ole England, we hit the icy roads along the coast. Everything was going smoothly (sorta), albeit slowly until we got up to Chichester. Then, apparently (because I was being a piss poor excuse for a passenger and was sleeping) we broke down. Luckily, Sam had his pillow and duvet on hand, so the wait was definitely worse for him than for me. Though the tow truck man had wasted close to an hour trying to find us - thanks to some mix up with the directions, he was still kind enough to give us a lift all the way back to Sam's parents' home. By that time, it was 3am. Fun times!

I can't really complain too much, since what would a road trip be without something going awry?...and I did get a full English breakfast in the morning thanks to Sam's parents. Eggs on toast, Bacon, Sausage, Baked Beans, Fried Tomatoes and Mushrooms, and good strong Tea. Yummmm.

We drove the short distance down to the coast after that and checked out the Isle of Wight (from a distance obviously) and then had some extravagant looking hot chocolates at the Keyhaven yacht club. - sounds a bit fancier than it is.

The next day, my train to Bath was cancelled, but the nice man manning the booth at the gate wrote his initials on my ticket and let me go through an hour earlier, as opposed to an hour later. In Bath, I was picked up by my friend Sean's mom. Sean is an old friend from my study abroad days - who I hadn't seen for two years! I spent three lovely days with him and his family, checking out the sights, relaxing, and always eating and drinking well.

I continued my cross country (sorta) adventure and hopped on the train back over to London (specifically, Chessington) to spend the next five days, including Christmas, with my cousin Rachelle, her husband Matthew, and their five yr old son, William. They had gotten a Wii, so I spent many an hour improving my lackluster video game skills. William and I played with legos on the night I babysat, and in general I lazed about, drank more tea, took a couple walks, but mostly just relaxed. It wasn't so much different than Christmas vacation back home, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit melancholy about being away.

However, I'm back in B├ęziers now, back at work, and getting back into my old routine.