09 December 2009

Faces of the Rodez Marché

For each small town we have lived in, there is always a certain joy and sense of adventure with an excursion to the closest "big" city. For us here in Aveyron, that closest big city is Rodez, home to less than 30, 000 inhabitants and current host of France's most popular and reputable circus- Cirque Amar!

Saturday is market day in Rodez, and since it has been a while since we've been able to feed our constant craving of French markets, we jumped at the chance to go. At first the markets were mostly about the different foods and cheeses and meats that we could fine- wonderful little treasures. But as we continue to frequent the markets of southern France we've found another little joy to look forward too...people watching! And yes, while of course there is nowhere near the diversity and uniqueness of bustling Chi-town streets, there are definitely some gems to be found among the many attendees of a Saturday marché...

This is Elisabeth, our lovely friend from Austria who has been at Agnes' for over 6 weeks now! She grew up on a pig farm in the countryside of Austria and has many intriguing stories about farm life, birthing piglets and accidentally falling asleep in the pigpen when she was little.

Hmmm, now if only I could remember what it is I came here for.....

Wook at awww da vegetables.

Oo La La, so serious on a Saturday morning!

Bozouls Bizzles

This part of France seems to have more than its fair share of fascinating, beautiful, and peculiar little villages. Luckily, Agnes lets us use her car to make day trips so we've been able to go out and do lots of exploring.

Each little village we visit has its own unique appeal...something that sets it apart from the dozens of other cloyingly attractive villages nearby.

Bozoul's claim to fame is the breathtaking "Trou de Bozouls." The Dordou river hollowed out a canyon, leaving a 500 meter limestone plateau. Most of the old part of the village is perched up on the narrow plateau, seemingly teetering on the edge.  The rest of it is scattered around the bottom of canyon.

Near the edge of the plateau looking out over the abyss is the church of St. Fauste -- a rather stern, abandoned looking place.  The church almost looks haunted framed by the leaf-less, spindly trees.  (Doesn't the one on the left look like a person shaking their fists at the sky?!)

After exploring the part of the village on the plateau, we made our way down to the bottom of the gorge to explore from a different angle.  Besides offering a great perspective of the upper village, we also got a better look at the Dordou.  The tint of the water comes from the high iron content in the soil -- the same thing that colors all the rock red.  

A look back at the different levels of Bozoul -- kind of like a 3-tiered wedding cake!

07 December 2009

Mamma Mia!!!

We've been sharing kitchen duty for the past week and eating really well.  However when Christian, the Italian helper, broke out his genetically bestowed pasta making skills last night, he definitely took the prize.  

The anticipation had been building for days... 

First, there was a skype phone call to Grandma back in Italy for the recipe.  

Then, we had to make a trip to the market to get all the right ingredients -- of course, it was impossible to get all the right ones in France, but we came close. 

Finally, right after lunch on Sunday, the chef got to work.

First came the prep work.  The work surface had to be perfect and the ingredients weighed precisely . 

Eggs cracked lovingly into a little mound of flour.

Then it was time to work the dough.  It came together pretty well, but something was a little off.  Another skype call to Grandma was in order.  After a heated discussion in Italian, (something like..."How-a could you mess-a up-a da pasta! Mama Mia!")  Christian reported with sadness that he had made a mistake.  Too many eggs.   

But, like a good chef does, Christian bounced right back.   On to the filling for the pasta: potato, blue cheese, and chopped walnuts. 

Once the filling was ready and the dough had had a little rest, he got to rolling.  No pasta machine for this guy, it was all about the rolling pin.   

Hand stuffed tartalle!

The warrior after battle, tired but proud.

The chef and his masterpiece.  The 
finished product was topped with a heavenly butter and sage sauce.

Seven hours after he began, we dug in...it was absolutely incredible!  Christian insists it wasn't nearly as good as Grandma's, but it tasted phenomenal to us.

Buon Appetito!

06 December 2009

At Home in Aveyron

We are now helpxing with a fabulous French woman named
Agnes who lives in the Aveyron department.

We are technically still in southwestern France and only about two hours north of Ventenac,
but everything is just a little different. That's the wonderful thing about France. Each little
region has its own special feel, a unique "terroir" that is hard to put into words but
manifests itself in the architecture, the landscape, and the spirit of the people.

Here is Chez Agnes! Her home is a cozy 120 year old farmhouse.

Her property also includes two other buildings, both in the process of being renovated.
This one is still in the relatively early stages. One of the great things about helpxing
is helping our hosts realize their dreams. A few years ago, this building was little more
than a pile of rocks. In a few years, Agnes plans on moving in their herself!

Another one of Agnes' dreams is to have a clean house. One of our main
projects this past week has been to make that dusty, spider-web filled dream a reality.

Sneak peak into our bedroom!!! Looks a little bit like summer camp (or an orphanage), right?

Meal times here are also quite an affair. Three meals a day, the five of us helpers (the other three are Elizabeth from Austria, Stephen from Belgium/Mars, and Christian from Italy) and Agnes come together for discussion, laughter, and good eats. We are so incredibly fortunate to have tons of great food at our fingertips -- luckily, we are all of the same mindset that savoring delicious food is one of life's greatest pleasures. The fireplace is pretty nice too.

A lot of the food we are enjoying comes straight out of Agnes' top notch garden.

These lettuce rows are 10x better and 99% cheaper than any Whole Foods produce aisle!

We also tend to Agnes' chickens. Stephen has established quite a
relationship with them and they go crazy for his daily gift of the kitchen compost.

And of course, they leave us little gifts too!

The view out of the back yard. Looks like we've found another little patch of paradise!