This week we have our friends Sandy and Kathy here to stay. They are from Yorkshire in the north of England and therefore from an area culturally deprived. Therefore, we felt it would be a good plan to spend the weekend introducing them to the cultural magnificence of France. Our immediate thought was wine! On Friday, we took them to one of our local supermarkets which just happened to have a Spring wine sale with plenty of special offers. This ended up with us buying a trolley full of wine, which amounted to 11 boxes each containing 6 bottles.

Thankfully it was agreed that some of the wine should be allocated for drinking over the next week and some for taking home. I did manage to find a crate of 2016 Bordeaux for only 17 Euros for 6 bottles. This I have now laid down for 2 or 3 years hence when it will have matured enough to drink. So, wine to drink now, wine for the coming weeks and wine for the future. A real acknowledgement of French culture and a healthy looking wine cave.

On Saturday on the next step of our cultural experience w decided to go to Fougeres. A large town, just over the border into Brittany. Here they have a weekly street market that sells almost everything from beds; books; CDs; clothes and loads of fresh food stalls. Of course, we had to buy some cheese from a lady who makes her own cheese. We also had an encounter with some supporters of Le Pen, the Front Nationale candidate for the Presidential election. We were suitably rude to them.

Fougeres street market

The election is now down to two candidates, Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen is a right wing racist so most people want Macron to win (or Le Pen to lose) and the vote is next Sunday and hopefully sanity will prevail. Today is 1st May and it is a French public holiday to celebrate working people. There will be lots of May Day rallies aimed at mobilising the vote against Le Pen.

To complete our cultural visit to Fougeres we went around the medieval town and had a quick look at the marvellous fortress before repairing to a café for a typical Breton lunch of “Galette saucisse” washed down with some local “cidre”. A galette-saucisse is a type of French street food item consisting of a hot sausage, traditionally grilled, wrapped in a cold type of crepe called galette de sarrasin or Breton galette. The French region known as Upper Brittany is the traditional homeland of galette-saucisse.

Fougeres medieval fortress

First created during the 19th century, the dish consists of two landmark food items of the cuisine of Brittany. Buckwheat, introduced in Brittany during the 15th century and largely cultivated in the region, is the main ingredient of Breton galette and was a common substitute of bread in poor families. Pork sausage is one of the food specialty of the Rennes area.

A good visit and several cultural experiences successfully ticked off. How could we match this on the Sunday? Why, by attending a village repas. Luckily there was a repas event at the nearby village of Lesbois. We naturally went with our good friends Emile and Yvette. This meal was not in the village hall but in “Le marmite”. This is the name of the local café/bar and is not named after a vegetable spread but on the French word for a cooking pot. Anyway, we had to squeeze in to a very small restaurant to have the usual three courses. The main choice was either a pork chop or sausage or tripe. Tripe was a cultural experience too far for our friends (despite Tripe being good northern food). They opted for the sausage or chop but at least we had “frites” and some cheese to finish.

The village had also laid on a bicycle race to enhance the Frenchness of the event. There was also in the village hall, a painting and sculpture exhibition by local artists. And in typical French fashion there is always something to surprise you. Alongside the village hall was an exhibition by the French bonsai association! Not a typical example of French culture and a bit bizarre but there you go! To complete the cultural experience, we went back to Emile’s for a coffee and naturally a drop of Calvados.

Then, on to Monday and as it is a bank holiday it seemed natural to find a village “vide-grenier”. This literally means empty attic and is the French term for a car boot sale and these are very popular in France. It is traditional for our local village of Le Pas to hold one on May Day. So, we took our friends and walked the three miles to the village and had a look around. We also frequented to local village bar “Chez Fanfy” for beers and coffee. After this we took in a typical village event food opportunity of a hot sausage baguette with a barquette of frites.

In order to not be completely overwhelmed by French culture we decided to return to our tradition of whisky tidying. Sandy, as a Scot has of course a cultural affinity to whisky and Sandy and I go back a while with our enjoyment of a wee dram. It has become a habit for Sandy to offer to tidy up bottles of whisky with only a small amount left. This year he outflanked me by bringing his own supply of three whisky bottles needing tidying up. We managed to sort that out in three nights leaving us to move on to my whisky supply tonight. Luckily there are several bottles that could do with a bit of tidying.

We are now considering what other cultural experiences we can fit into the next few days.

On another theme the filed to the left of the gite was ploughed over by Xavier who owns the cattle. Once the ground had been turned over we were witness to an amazing sight of 14 buzzards soaring over the field and then descending to land and feed on chewed up mice and disturbed worms.

3 of the 14 buzzards

We are now looking for an evening of culture by eating our lamb’s leg. Mrs. Parish has braised it in Beaujolais and we are preparing for a lamb feast. I have just been over to the cave and we have some Saumur sparkling wine to make a kir royale and then to go with the lamb a very nice 2009 Fleurie. Culturally, a very excellent experience awaits followed by some more tidying. A nice combination of cultures.

Bon appetite