Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tasting Bergerac

I'm French! Why do think I have this outrageous accent, you silly king-a?!
Monty Python, The Holy Grail.

Next stop was dropping in on my family in Bergerac, France. I'm sure my French sounded absolutely hysterical to my hosts but they welcomed me with warm arms as they always do. Bergerac is located along the Dordogne river east of Bordeaux in the Périgord region. You can get here by train from Paris via Bordeaux or you can fly direct from London Stansted with RyanAir. The wine industry is a massive part of the region, with probably the most well known wine being the sweet white botrytis wine from Chateau Monbazillac. You have a fantastic view of the Dordogne valley from this Chateau so if you ever get there it's a must see.

In Bergerac itself you can stroll through the old city and visit this guy! Cyrano De Bergerac a famous 17th Century Philosopher. For me it was off to my cousins farms where I would spend the most of my brief stay. It was interesting for me to learn about farming in France as compared to the farming back home, that my Australian relatives are involved in. French farming can be briefly summarised as working smaller plots of lands, diversifying activities whether it be dairy, cropping cereals and or viticulture. They are also heavily subsidised by the European Union where the farmers back home fight it out by themselves with very little or no support. Its a long and complicated matter but many farmers worry about a life Post European Subsidies and when in a open market they would be forced to compete with a larger 'more efficient' international farming community.

I was really impressed with the quality of the produce from France and I believe it lives up to its reputation. The bread and cheeses were fantastic for the palette as well as all the pates and small goods which are often made in their own homes. Make sure the cheese is 'Au Lait Crue' which means 'Not Cooked' or Not Pasteurised as these cheeses offer rich flavours a far cry from those back home.

So I eventually tried my hand at farming after gorging myself with salami and cheese er... sorry... fromage! Belle or 'Beautiful' the farm dog was with me every step of the way, a kind of guiding hand that kept me on track and out of harms way.

This little fellow was preparing for life on the farm and because she didn't bear a name yet Frédéric my cousin allowed me to name her. I decided to call her 'Simpson' after the World War 1 stretcher bearer who along with his donkey personified the ANZAC legend. Not very ladylike I know but its nice to know that a piece of Australia now lives here.

It seemed like a blink of an eye and no sooner I was saying my farewells to Belle and the rest of the family and heading east back to work. It is different for me to first experience a country from the countryside, so for me it is a special place. Paris for now still eludes me and the sweet taste of Bergerac lingers.

Merci Beaucoup Vivian, Michel, Christian, Frédéric, Anna Marie et à toute la famille

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Rowing in Cardiff

Next on the agenda was a short stop in London to catch up with a good friend. If the truth should be known I was there to meet up with my mates little sister who had been working overseas for 7 months, spy on her, gather any intelligence I could to take back to Australia for dissemination. I hired a car and decided to drive my way around since Amelia and I had previously planned to take a drive up to Cardiff. We met in London and departed for Cardiff the next day.

I was surprised that getting around by car in the UK wasn't that hard except for the normal hardships of heavy traffic. The land of roundabouts had all it's major freeways marked really well so getting to your destination was relatively painless. After a short detour off the M4 due to the fact I had lost all my UK contacts information and had to find a internet cafe. I was strangely amused to have visited the above location. See if you can work it out?

Arriving in Cardiff on a Monday night I really couldn't imagine there being to much happening. But luckily Amelia has a nose for such activities and we stumbled upon student night. The night club that every student in Cardiff was trying to get into had a lineup equivelant to that of a David Hasselhof concert in Berlin. Our night looked grim. But in true Amelia style she assured me that she would improvise as we joined the 5 minute queue in the VIP line. We got to the front and Amelia in her best English accent (South African with a mix of Polish) explained that we were with the Cardiff rowing team. It worked, we were allowed straight through and had a great night.

The next day a old colleague of mine generously offered to take us around and show us a bit of South Wales. We visited some old castles and contemplated sunning ourselves on the pristine Welsh beaches (see above). Then decided not to. We took part in a tour of one of the old coal mines which is free and really interesting. I was totally oblivious to the fact that the minning industry was such a huge thing for this country for so many years. It solved my questioning on where all the trees had gone? Answer: Holding up all the mine shafts.

All up a nice little detour but I still feel sorry for the young Welsh kids who in school have to get their heads around what must be one of the stranger languages ive seen. When making words it looks as though they took the whole alphabet extracted all the vowels, put the rest in a sack, shook them about and threw them on the table.

Much thanks to John, Paul and their families.