February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day in Provence

Happy Valentines Day in Provence

Typically, Ginger gets off pretty lightly on Valentines Day.  With a wedding anniversary is just two days before, he can usually get away with a gift and/or flowers that cover both events. The feast of Saint Valentine is both historical and religious. So both Ginger and Nutmeg wondered about the significance of the 14th of February in France. As it turns out, the day is actually is quite linked to French historical customs.  As far back as the middle ages, the belief was that birds started mating in the middle of February.  Evidence from the 14th century, stressed a romantic theme emanating from poets and literature at this time of the year. The card or love note apparently originated in France, when the captured Duke of Orleans wrote a poem to his beloved wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. (more…)

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February 7, 2011

Cassis for Lunch in Provence

Cassis for Lunch in Provence

There are certainly many great things about Aix en Provence. One of the best things in Nutmeg’s books, is that fact that you can say over coffee in the morning “Do you want to go to Cassis for lunch?”.  Cassis is an easy 37 minute drive (50 Kilometres) so it is definitely doable for lunch.  One fine day in January they did just that. Cassis is located just east of Marseille and is very famous for the adjacent large towering white cliffs.  The cliffs are equally stunning as those found along the English Chanel in Normandy.  There are beautiful inlets called les Calanques that are accessible mostly by boat, or in some cases by tough hiking routes.  What surprised Ginger and Nutmeg was the significant wine growing area right around Cassis.  What they understand now is that the area is known for white and rose wines.  The area is not known for Creme de Cassis, which is actually made from blackcurrants and is a speciality of Burgundy. (more…)

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January 31, 2011

On A Ski Tour in Europe

On A Ski Tour in Europe

Ginger is crazy about alpine skiing. He has been checking snow reports since the slopes opened in France, in November.  The World Cup race results are reviewed on a daily basis.  He even convinced Nutmeg to leave shoes, clothes and her winter coat in Calgary, so that he could bring two pairs of his precious skis to France.  So it may seem a bit obvious to tell you that skiing is on the agenda, while in France. Ginger and Nutmeg both compiled “top ten” lists before leaving Calgary, to make sure that they were in fact headed to the same continent.  The good news is there was some overlap when it came to skiing. However, the individual motivation might be a bit different: Nutmeg would like to visit some of the fancy resorts, hang out by big roaring fireplaces, sit on warm sunny patios eating fantastic food and snuggle up in warm duvets at night. Ginger would like to follow the World Cup Ski circuit, work on a few race courses, cheer on his beloved Canadians and ski some of the challenging pistes. Jade would like some new smells, a few choice morsels of street food and some new hotel rooms to explore. (more…)

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January 24, 2011

Provence’s Black Truffle Demystified

Provence’s Black Truffle Demystified

It is close to impossible to buy Ginger a present.  He loves sporting equipment, electronics, airplanes, wine and other expensive things.  He is diligent about doing the research on a product, and ensuring that he is getting it at the right price.  Ginger is also has very good taste, so these new toys have a tendency to raise the Visa balance to new levels.  Nutmeg often struggles to find the right gift.  This year with a bit of help from a friend, she landed on the perfect Christmas, Anniversary, Valentines, Birthday gift (read: $$$..). Black truffle plants, ten of them. Nutmeg decided that the white truffle version he will have to buy for himself.  So yes, he is the proud owner of some 2010 variety plants, they should bare “fruit” in about seven years.  Ginger’s plants are very fortunate to be located on a plantation, in the well drained soil on the Valensole plateau in Provence. (more…)

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January 17, 2011

Lentils for Luck

Lentils for Luck

Nutmeg is not superstitious by nature.  That being said, she is not foolhardy either; there is no good reason to spend to much time with a black cat or walk under a ladder or generally tempt fate. It is a tradition in Nutmeg’s family to eat lentils on January 1st every year.  In many nationalities, eating lentils on the first of the year is supposed to bring you prosperity through the coming months.  The round shape of the lentil is similar to a coin, and thus in theory the more you eat the more wealth you will gain.  Given the fact that Ginger and Nutmeg are living, eating and drinking in France without paychecks, a bit of prosperity would not hurt. (more…)

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January 10, 2011

A Gourmand Christmas in France

A Gourmand Christmas in France

Finally, Saffron got her wish! For years, she has tried to convince Ginger and Nutmeg to travel to Chamonix for Christmas.  Of course that sounds outrageous and decadent, but long ago Nutmeg decided that travel at Christmas time is highly over-rated; crowded airports, busy roads, surly border guards, heavy clothing, excess baggage – you get the idea.  This year, Ginger and Nutmeg really had no good excuse to say no, as Chamonix is an easy 5 hour drive from Aix en Provence.  So they gladly accepted the invitation. Then the plans had to change, Nutmeg flew to England for a rather sad family event, to celebrate the life of a very special lady.  The game plan was to fly back to Marseille and drive with Ginger and Jade to Chamonix.  So Nutmeg had packed one small carry on bag, with the essentials for a two day trip to the UK.  However, Mother Nature had another plan, she covered the UK in a solid coating of the heavy white stuff and 6cm was enough to shutdown the country.  The news channels and other media outlets had a Christmas gift like no other; 24/7 “emergency” coverage of a winter “disaster”.   The roads were like skating rinks, trains and buses crawled to destinations on highly reduced schedules, major airports were shutdown for days leaving stranded travellers camped out at Heathrow, as flights were cancelled. (more…)

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January 1, 2011

Jade a Dog’s view of France

Jade a Dog’s view of France

Ginger and Nutmeg are out celebrating the New Year, so it is finally my opportunity to write a blog post.  For those of you who do not know, I am Jade a 9 + something year old black Labrador.  I love food, people and smelling stuff – in that order. So way back in September we head out for a little car trip in Calgary, I love the car.  We go to “big-box dog heaven” sometimes known as Pet Smart. I am really excited there are lots of my favourite things, see above.  Ginger is busy moving big plastic boxes off the shelves and I oblige when asked to run in and out, it’s kind of fun.  So we all head home including the plastic box.  The box is OK and I get to sleep in it for a few days. However, there is something clearly greater going on, I know as I have seen this kind of action before. There are travel bags, piles of clothes and technical gear on the basement floor, counters and living room floor. Nutmeg is not very happy as the house is not very organized and Ginger is still clearly still deciding.  So what is a bit of healthy tension? – I am still getting fed, so no need to get involved.  Looks and smells like a trip to me. (more…)

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December 24, 2010

Christmas in Provence

Christmas in Provence

In Southern France (Provence), many of the roads are lined with beautiful sycamore trees (sometimes called plane trees).  Ginger and Nutmeg noticed, that the Christmas light installation in Aix en Provence, on the Cours Mirabeau started the third week in October.  It was a lengthy process, as it took about 10 days for the light installation (there are a lot of trees). However, the lights are not illuminated at that stage, instead they hang in anticipation, for the upcoming festivities at the end of November. (more…)

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December 20, 2010

France Land of Boulangeries

France Land of Boulangeries

France is known for many things; art, music, food, wine, cafés, diverse scenery etc… As a population, they are very proud of all things French, and if there is one thing that is clearly a huge part of the national culture it is the bread.  This country does not easily cater to those who might require a gluten-free regime, unless you can survive on French fries.  The bread is made fresh several times daily; every small town and village has at least one, or in some cases a few boulangeries. Ginger of course is in heaven, since every meal promises a basket of fresh baguette or other equally good options.  Nutmeg has found you need to look a bit harder, but there are some options for “7-cereals” and multi-grain.  The Artisanal Boulangeries (fancier variety) tend to have some really decent quiche and/or tarts.  So far Nutmeg has tried quiche with tomatoes and Dijon (yum), quiche with salmon and capers, tarte aux aubergine et chevre and the best yet a tomato and chevre tart. Every good road trip should start with a stop at the local favourite purveyor. (more…)

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December 13, 2010

A warm welcome to Provence with a Pot au Feu

A warm welcome to Provence with a Pot au Feu

Ginger and Nutmeg have been overwhelmed by their generous welcome to Provence and Southern France.  They feel very privileged to have been invited into peoples’ homes for  some terrific meals during the last few weeks.  The lovely lunches and dinners have included; sausage stuffed peppers and tomatoes, curry chicken, soupe de poisson, shrimp and scallop risotto, roast beef, chili, summer salads and a traditional pot-au-feu.  These have all been very special occasions, highlighted by terrific company, lovely wine and great food. The pot-au-feu and soupe de poisson are very traditional Provençal dishes.  Pot-au-Feu is literally translated to “pot on the fire”, which is essentially a French stew.  Typically, it is made with beef although can easily be made with pork as well.  Many countries have a variation on pot-au-feu, as it is typically a way to use low cost (less desirable) cuts of meat. (more…)

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