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Six years of high school French and a “Learn to Speak French in only One Hour a Day” course on compact disc have not prepared me for the verbal challenge of investigating the booths set up at the Hazelnut Festival in the village of Lavelanet in the Midi-Pyrenees Region of southern France.

While my friends are watching new postulants being inducted into the Confrerie du Noisette, by confrerie members dressed as hazelnuts, in long brown robes with green caps and capes, I wander off to find out what burning issues stir the people of this area to action...
I wake this morning to a sky that is grey with the promise of rain. Before breakfast I walk outside and round the block to check if the café/bar is open yet. It is not. Today is a “day off” from the travel part of the course and time for us to focus on our writing. Sydney and Stephanie decide to go for a long hike. I decide to write.

I come up to my room to begin work. I sit at the desk with the pastel blue wooden shutters back against the wall of the building...
The sudden banging of a wooden shutter somewhere in the house wakes me at 4 am. The branches of the tall palm tree outside my window scratch at the surface of the glass as the wind drives them wildly up and down. The weather is changing. Wind and rain will punctuate our visit to le marche in Limoux today,in contrast to the sun that beat down on the dry soil of the vineyards at Brugairolles.

I sit propped up in my warm comfortable bed, laptop resting on my knees listening to the wind prowl around the walls...
Today’s agenda was to visit two wineries at Brugairolles, 26 km from Carcassone, capital of the Languedoc-Rousillon region. We drove through Fanjeaux, a hilltop village, pausing briefly outside a Benedictine church to survey the surroundings. The Benedictines were the Catholic order that slaughtered the Cathars.

The first vineyard and winery was Domaine Gayda. The grape varieties here are Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Carignan, and Cinsault. They do a Chardonnay Viognier blend. This winery is either new or under relatively new management. They have built a modern stainless steel winery, following Australian standards. We were fortunate to arrive...

As comfortable as my bed at home: I don't even hear the alarm ring.


 


Lee-anne, our gracious hostess and wonderful chef, in the old temple area.

 


John, genial host,driver, local expert, in the entry to l'impasse du temple.

 

 

My working area: note the open computer and word document.

...

MirepoixWe are based in the tiny village of Leran which is located roughly midway between the larger towns of Mirepoix and Lavelanet, in the Ariège department of the Pyrénnées-Orientale region of France. It borders on the Languedoc Roussillon region and our food related adventures encompass travel in both these regions.

As an introductory exercise today we visiting a traditional French market to observe le cuisine du marché. And Monday is market day in Mirepoix. The cooking term, mirepoix, a mixture of diced carrots, onions, and herbs used...

The Midi Canal
Although I love most foods there are a few that are on my hit list and I shudder at the thought of them. One is cilantro. Another is half of the entire group of legumes. Since accuracy is important to a nonfiction writer, I looked up legumes in the on line “Cook’s Thesaurus”, (http://www.foodsubs.com/FGLegumes.html). There a legume is defined as “plants that have pods with tidy rows of seeds inside. This category includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts”. For some bizarre reason, nature or nurture – don’t know, while I love peanuts and peas, beans...
Today we visited the Chateau Abbey at Camon where Peter and Katie Lawton have created a welcoming environment and exquisitely decorated bedrooms in a restored 16th century Benedictine Abbey. Parts of the building date back to the 9th century. From a terrace there is a panoramic view of the green fields and trees of the surrounding valley.

We walked up winding stairs, wide enough to allow a donkey laden with panniers to climb up to the Abbott’s quarters, to bring him dinner. I wondered whether he had grown too large to make his own way down the stairs...
After my somewhat traumatic day of travel yesterday I slept like a Jill-in-her-great-bed in Vancouver. In other words I was in bed by just before midnight, read for about half an hour and then I finally realized why people say out like a light. It was a toss-up whether I or the bedside light were out first. I had carefully set my alarm for 7 am to give myself time for a leisurely breakfast and to repack my disordered luggage before meeting my new friends at 10 am.

I was jolted awake by some incredibly noisy people in...
After my somewhat traumatic day of travel yesterday I slept like a Jill-in-her-great-bed in Vancouver. In other words I was in bed by just before midnight, read for about half an hour and then I finally realized why people say out like a light. It was a toss-up whether I or the bedside light were out first. I had carefully set my alarm for 7 am to give myself time for a leisurely breakfast and to repack my disordered luggage before meeting my new friends at 10 am.

I was jolted awake by some incredibly noisy people in...

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