05 November 2009


Meal times are where a lot of the magic happened at David and Sundara's. This particular dinner will go down in the hall of fame.

The food was gourmet. A perfect tomato, avocado, red onion salad; roasted pork; leek and mushroom compote; and mashed potatoes.

Props to Chef Tim and his expert potato mashing skillz!

It was all washed down with red wine and topped off with what has become a Hannah and Erika trademark: flourless chocolate cake. yum

The highlight of the evening was a spontaneous wine-tasting. Sundara was determined to prove to David that in France, there is no excuse for paying more than five euros for a bottle of wine while David is of the opinion that pricey wines are almost by default, higher quality.

Sundara picked out three wines -- a 2 euro bottle, a 3 euro bottle, and a 10 euro bottle. She poured them into identical glasses and set them at each of our place settings.  

We smelled, swirled, gargled, and downed the options and then ranked them by order of quality.

While David has nearly perfected the art of being an expert, he actually fell short this time.  He ranked the 10 euro bottle of wine at the bottom of the pack -- much to Sundara's delight.

Oh, husbands...

And of course no night is complete without a little booty shaking to Stevie Wonder. "very superstitious, writing's on the wall..."

04 November 2009

Big Bike Adventure #2-Narbonne

Narbonne is small city 17km south-east of Ventenac. We hit the road on our bikes,
eager to discover and uncover whatever treasures the place had to offer.

Our first stop in any new place is usually the market. It tends to be a good way of forming a first impression-- if the food is good, that usually bodes well for us. Narbonne has a great one.

Les Halles is an old indoor market fully stocked with all the French essentials --
cheese, sausage, fruits, vegetables, bread, pastries, and wine.
It also featured several stalls that serve drinks and prepared food.

One of Narbonne's main attractions is this remnant of Roman road. Narbonne was established by the Romans and was an important crossroads between Spain and Italy.
It was built upon the Via Domitia -- the first road through Gaul.
Narbonne remained an important and thriving urban center during Rome's heyday.

Today, Narbonne is a small but picturesque city with
colorful buildings flanking the narrow, winding roads.

Another main attraction in Narbonne was its majestic Cathedral and the adjacent mairie. Though the gothic cathedral was never completed,
it is an imposing and dramatic piece of architecture.

The oldest part of mairie was built as the lodgings for the
archbishop of Narbonne who found the cathedral construction too noisy.
It was built up successively and today is a hodge-podge of various styles of architecture.

Here is a little taste of Halloween in France. We were feeling a little nostalgic and
were pleasantly surprised to see that it has actually caught on pretty well.
Children dressed up and went around to the different businesses in Narbonne collecting candy.
The pumpkin was on display at the local Wednesday market in Lezignan.

We were also treated to a great spectacle --
a lively wedding coming out of the mairie in the main square. Quite a party!

03 November 2009

Good Morning Fog

The fog is setting in around Ventenac. We have been waking up to a thick layer of fog surrounding the house the past few mornings. The view from our bedroom window stretches just barely far enough to see a hint of the canal and maybe a duck or two,
and then it's a white-out beyond that.

Thankfully around 10:30AM the fog clears up and we have
our beautiful days of sunlight and warmth back.

It is nearly 8AM, but Ventenac- a town of 500- looks more like a ghost town this morning.

The trees in the distance are dancing. This view encompasses a slice of the
property(to the left) of the second place we will be staying in Ventenac.
It is a huge chateau that is split between 3 different families.

The road to the west.

Off to the south, the usually vibrant yellow London Planetrees disappear in the distance.
These trees line both sides of our beloved canal and many of the major roads-
making for beautiful bike trips and car rides.

National burning day in Ventenac... This woman seems to have stepped off her barge, found a good place where she wouldn't be bothered and proceeded to burn her piles of rubbish. The smoke was drifting over the adjacent street, up the hill and into town,
where it mixed with the fog and went unnoticed.

While the inhabitants of Ventenac are apparently very stern with the rule to leash your dogs,
most of the dog-walkers we see along the canal let their dogs run free.

Standing on the path of the canal, you have the dirty, but calm waters of the canal on one side and endless stretches of vineyards to the south. Looking through the leaves of
London Planetrees the outline of land beyond is barely distinguishable.

The colors here do not compare to a good Midwestern fall,
but we do have our share of yellows and reds if you're looking out for it.

A road leading out to the north of town, towards more vineyards and small towns.
The church bells just rang 9AM. Time to go have breakfast.

01 November 2009

Qu-est Que C'est Que Ca?

Well, we learn something new every day. We were lucky enough to witness the end of a crazy wedding on our lovely afternoon in Narbonne. And apparently people in the South of France have never seen the likes of a limousine...

Yes, Erika is guilty of following the crowd on this one- but only to make sure this wasn't some special limo that you can't find anywhere but the South of France.

Whoa, cool, what's inside?

Hey, darlin', this is pretty nifty eh?

Oooo, I wish I could have a ride in this thing!

Hmmmm, now let's see......

Oh man! Oh man!

Well, that was alright I guess.

My turn!

Oh wow, can you believe?

Around Town

While Ventenac is a tiny village, it makes up in charm what it lacks in population.
The red tiled roofs, so common here in the south, lend an unassuming
beauty to the views out our windows here at Lafontenille.

Every day, the canal brings us so much joy we just can't contain ourselves.
Passers-by might think we look a little strange,
but we just can't understand why everyone ELSE isn't as excited as we are.

About an hour's walk east of Ventenac is the little village of Le Somail. The town used to be used as an overnight stop for visitors coming from the Mediterranean traveling along the Canal on their way to Toulouse. Thomas Jefferson even made his way there for a brief stay.
I wonder if he stopped and had some of the scrumptious ice cream like we did.

Today, Le Somail is a very quiet, peaceful little place with a few canal-side cafes, B&Bs, an old church, boat rentals, and a fantastic used bookstore.

"Le Trouve Tout du Livre" bookstore was an unexpected little gem.
It has a collection of 80,000 books from the French classics to poetry to history to children's books. Many of the books were hundreds of years old...a bibliophiles dream.

Le Somail is still a popular destination for boaters. It was especially busy because we are in the middle of "la vacance." The French definitely live up to their reputation for taking a lot of time off, and also for taking full advantage of it. All the kids are currently enjoying a two
week break from school -- maybe they work really hard in September????

Here is a view the vineyards and the Pyrenees in the distance from Ventenac.

Ventenac's very own Chateau at dusk. This is actually a "cave cooperative" -- a sort of wine co-op. We have yet to try any of their wine...we'll have to save that for another day.

A toute a l'heure!