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Carnac en Fete

Carnac en Fete

The season of the fetes has arrived in true style, vibrating with visitors all eager to join in the fun. Every little town, village and hamlet has at least one day of partying, followed by half the contents of the local cellars and at least four courses of splendid local cuisine, followed, if you’re not very careful, by some outrageously vigorous dancing. I was swept off my feet – literally – last year by an elderly Lothario who insisted on lifting his shirt and rolling the muscles of his six pack at me. I kept treading on his toes because I’ve never learned to tango and neither, I suspect, had he. When I waved at him the next day he didn’t even recognise me, but then of course it might not have been him…

As I sit here writing to you my eye is caught by vast cream swallowtail butterflies flirting on the lavender bushes and clumsily avoiding the hummingbird hawk moths, busily collecting nectar with their quick, darting flight and a proboscis as long as their bodies. Between them they perform an elegant ballet that goes on from sunrise to sunset. They share the summer honours with the evocative cicadas, which supply the orchestra.

Further afield oleander and hibiscus colour every garden, vines grace every terrace and the bunches of grapes that hang enticingly down from their delicious shade are already beginning to plump and blush. The vineyards are tended carefully now too, next years vintage is hanging in the balance, although I’m reliably informed by my vigneron neighbours that the signs are propitious, who knows, perhaps as good as 2003?

Reine Claudes

Reine Claudes

In the swollen markets the results of the summer harvest are almost overwhelming. At my favourite fruit stall thirty or forty crates of crimson peaches jostle with a teetering tower of boxes spilling with glorious, juicy apricots. The Reine Claude plums are just coming into season – a short, sweet treat in this area – and our wonderful quercynoise melons are heaped wherever there’s a space. They’re served for breakfast, as an entrée for almost every meal, eaten as a snack mid-afternoon and still we can’t eat them all. Then there are the vast heaps of oversized peppers and strings of long, waxy chillies. I love fresh chillies, but you have to be a little careful when buying them in a market, the French are still amateurs when it comes to spicy food and stallholders tend to be cagey about the variety and degree of heat. As a result I almost blew the beloved through the roof last night. I retrieved him without too much damage and he proceeded to put out the fire with a second bottle of deliciously blackcurranty Prieure de Cenac – purely for medicinal purposes, naturally.

Another August anomaly is the boom in the café business. Tables are rarely empty. Waiters appear in force, like the march of the penguins, flirting with lithe, scantily clad teenagers and collecting unprecedented tips for small services to numerous babies. The French sip their café, watch and smile from their usual places at the bar or in the quiet of the dining room.
It’s the season. It’s wearing, but it’s wonderful.

© Amanda Lawrence 2006

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Quercy en Vacances from French Vie

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