Category Archives: Simple pleasures

My new French family

Saumur, France

Saumur, France

I just spent ten days living in the most lovely community – Saumur, France – which is a historic town is perched on the Loire river. Staying with my friend Catherine’s parents, in their 17th-century, 3-story house in the center of town, I was able to experience traditional French living – and let me tell you, I loved it. Her parents are so generous and kind, and made me feel very welcome.

There is so much to say about this lovely town and all that I experienced while I was, there that I will need to separate this blog article into several postings.

I’ll start with Living life as part of a French family:

Each morning Catherine’s father walked to the local pâtisserie and picked up croissant and pain au chocolat for petit dejeuner (breakfast) – that along with a cup (or two) of café (espresso) was a perfect start to the day.

petit dejeuner

petit dejeuner

We dined together (as a family) daily for lunch and for dinner, and even though Catherine’s parents spoke very little English, and my French language skills are still a work in progress, we always had a delightful time.

These meals were generally a minimum of three-courses, with the table set with a beautiful table covering, all the silverware and glassware we would need (yes, we had a glass of wine with lunch and dinner), and of course a cloth napkin. Catherine’s parents each had a unique napkin ring to tell them apart each day, so as to avoid washing a barely used napkin; Catherine and I each folded ours in a distinctive way in order to tell them apart. When we were finished dining the napkins went into the bread basket ready for the next meal.

After dinner, Catherine’s parents would go into the longue to have their coffee and listen to music or watch something on television.

On Saturday mornings we walked to the market in the center square of the city. The first Saturday at the market it was pouring rain, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone, people donned their outer-wear and navigated through the sea of umbrellas and canopy covered stalls.

Raining Day at the Market

Raining Day at the Market

Market day in the Rain

Market day in the Rain

fresh sea food

fresh sea food

Boucherie

Boucherie

Stinky Cheese!

Stinky Cheese!

We purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, crème fraîche, eggs, muscles, pork, beef, sausages, etc. for the next few days of dining; then came home and started preparing for our mid-day meal.

Preparing the Moules-frites

Preparing the Moules-frites

Time for Lunch - Moules-frites - YUM!

Time for Lunch – Moules-frites – YUM!

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Afternoons at the Seaside near Marseille

The coast near Marseille offers an enormous array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its west-facing southern coastline. Most of the terrain is rocky, but there are some “beaches” with pebbles and a few offer a sandy place to walk in your bare feet.

A number of the beaches have activities as well, these include everything from kayaking, paddle-boarding and snorkeling to beach rugby, and even swimming lessons for kids. And it seems you will always find someone hoping to catch some fish for dinner. One thing to note, there are no bonfires allowed on beach (whether rocky or sandy) due to a high fire danger in the area.

One afternoon Evelyn and I headed over to the seaside but when we arrived the sky was clouded over and it was a bit cool for swimming. We had a nice walk along the rocky cliffs and then found a nice beach to lay our towels down on and relax for a bit. I put my feet in the water, but it was too cold to go all the way in, so I didn’t end up swimming that day.

Small cove

Small cove

Going fishing

Going fishing

Canoeing

Canoeing

Rocky sea scape

Rocky sea scape

Sandy beach

Sandy beach

sandy beach near Marseille

sandy beach near Marseille

Hello!

Hello!

I went to the sea near Marseille on a few occasions while in Provence, and below are some of the pictures from those trips.

Crystal clear!

Crystal clear!

Water activities

Water activities

Beach near the Old Port

Beach near the Old Port

Biking along the water.

Biking along the water.

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Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Simple pleasures, Travel

Simple Morning Pleasure: Opening the Shutters

Something I find very visually pleasing here in France is all the window shutters. You may have noticed from my photographs, they are everywhere!

Home with blue shutters

Home with blue shutters

But the shutters are not just for esthetics – there is so much wind here in Provence that sometimes the shutters are needed to protect the home.

One simple thing that I love doing here that I do not do at home in the U.S., it’s opening the shutters to the house each morning and seeing that first burst of sunshine.

1 door

2 door

3 door

4 door

5 door

I’m also greeted by the cat (aptly named: mon chat or “my cat”) meowing and purring and looking for his breakfast.

cat1

“mon chat”

I feed him, make my coffee, and then I take my breakfast out on the patio.

Misc. house provence 005

petit déjeuner

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Now We’re Cookin’: Soupe au Pistou

All the fresh ingredients

All the fresh ingredients

I love to cook and find new recipes, so one of the most enjoyable afternoons I spent with Evelyn (the woman I am staying with in Provence) was the afternoon we spent making a Provençal classic: Soupe Au Pistou.

Shelling beans!

Shelling beans!

Evelyn shelling beans

Evelyn shelling coco beans

Red and white beans, found in Provence

Red coco beans, found in Provence

Beans and vegetables mixture.

Beans and chopped vegetables mixture.

The soup consists of red coco beans, white coco beans and chopped vegetables: flat green beans, string beans, zucchini, onions, carrots, potatoes (or pasta), along with a celery stalk (removed after cooking), salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until all the vegetables are cooked.

Pistou, or pistou sauce, is a cold Provençal sauce made by pureeing lots of cloves of garlic and tons of fresh basil, a cooked peeled tomato, parmesan and olive oil. It is somewhat similar to pesto, although it lacks pine nuts.

Puree the basil, garlic, cheese and olive oil

Puree the basil, garlic, tomato, cheese and olive oil

Just before serving add the Pistou and serve hot. The amazing aroma will be a pleasant part of the experience for your senses… and it tastes good, too.

Soupe au Pistou

Soupe au Pistou

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Filed under Cuisine française, Simple pleasures, Travel