I wish I could have seen what happened here many many years ago.
“Elle est belle la campagne à cette heure du matin,” I tell my dad as he drives me to the train station in Saint-Avold (Nice countryside at this time of the day). “Oh tu sais, nous, on ne remarque même plus !”, he replies (You know, we do not even notice anymore). In many ways, he is right. We always seem to notice more what we do not see often as we do not take it for granted. This is exactly the feeling I have when I take a walk in the village during my short stay with my family.
The best thing to do in order to remember familiar places not visited in a while is to take a walk through its nooks and corners, with the camera in my hand. When I decided that I would wander the small winding streets, I knew that I would be stopped by people in the village and have nice chats with them. Ah ben t’es rentrée ? T’es là pour longtemps ? (You are back. Are you here for long?) They know that I have left the village, of course, but every time I come back, it is almost as if they saw me yesterday. The only difference is that we have questions. We are curious about each other’s lives and it is good to talk about old times, and know how everyone is doing. I am particularly curious to hear them talk about what has changed since the last time we met, how old the pig I caught a glimpse of is, how the new bakery is doing, if the summer was wet this year or hear the sound of the church bell ring every hour. Bing, Bing, Bing ! Except during the middle of the night, when I am lying in bed at 3 AM wide awake because of the jetlag I cannot get over with. Details jump in my face, and I cannot help but shoot pictures of things that I hardly noticed before, when I still lived here.
I decide to start with a walk through my brother’s amazing garden, full of apple and plum trees. With the fall, the quetsches season is almost over. The recent heavy rain has not helped either. The smell of rotten fruit on the ground attracts a myriad of bees who seem delighted to feast so freely. B’s garden is huge and beautiful. It seems that places to sit to relax and soak the air in can be found every five meters. I admire my brother’s carpentry skills while looking at the pieces of furniture he enjoys making: benches made of tree branches or chairs and tables. I keep telling him that he should really sell them. He has so many great ideas and talent.
As I wander around, I notice that he still has some strawberries and grapes. “Ce sont des pieds de fraises remontants”, my mums tells me. (strawberries that get ripe twice in the year)
There are flowers everywhere. I try to imagine the number of hours required to water all of these plants but when I ask B, he tells me that not only he loves doing it but for many plants, the less care the better. Kea, my brother’s beautiful briard follows me around.
Near the presbytère (the priest house), I continue on and head towards the path leading to the old ruins of the castle. I try to imagine what lives people had back in the 12th or 13th century. I ask my mum — the walking Encyclopedia — the story of the castle, and she tells me that it belonged to bishops during the Middle-Ages. Many conflicts arise during the years between different peoples who all want to own the village and in 1637, the village becomes a French possession despite a massacre of the French and Swedes.
On the way, I am lucky to find some cute shy friends. It does not happen often.
I take a détour by the cemetery. Some people might freak out simply at the thought of doing so but I personally love to walk through it to get a sense of the history of the place. So many nice details to observe. No one is there, enfin presque ! (almost!) Are you ever alone in le cimetière?
On my way out, I am intrigued by Monsieur Briot’s farm across the road. Am I hearing well? Mimi the pig makes shrieking shouts and runs away as soon as she sees me get closer. When Monsieur Briot comes out and looks at me, I can see he has aged and does not recognize me. “Je suis la fille Peltre, la fille de Jean“, I tell him. “Ah bon, la Betty ?” Yes, it is me. In the village, people call me Betty and would not know who Béa is. He calls Mimi and here she is, running happily towards us while making the same sharp noises. She is a real pet it now seems to me! “Elle a 10 mois,” he adds. Wow, for 10 months, what a big cochon !
I continue on to reach the old lavoir (washing place) now transformed in a lovely fountain. I cannot believe that I never noticed the face. Was I blind during all those years?
Time to go home and what a delight to see that the last quetsches that my brother picked in the morning will become tartelettes soon, thanks to the skilled hands of my sister-in-law. Despite the rain, I manage to get the last fruit of the season, and it feels like a real treat. I came just in time!
Even Ortie, my brother’s adorable cat wishes she could eat some of them.
The next day, my aunt calls to ask whether we want to come and pick walnuts. Elles tombent de l’arbre, il faut venir chercher un panier. (they fall from the tree, you need to come and pick them). We do not need to be told twice. Des noix ? Cool ! The grass is wet from the rain of the previous days, and they are hidden under the leaves that tell us that fall is at the corner. We truly have more than we need.
Some friends are there with us, even if they are totally scared. Again, on n’est pas des monstres, I tell them though.
We come back with a full basket. Already I think about all of the nice breads, pastries I could make, if only I could take some with me! Alas! I hate those agricultural restrictions between countries. Getting things in the US can be tough!
J’ai passé une bonne journée ! (I had a good day!)
The day comes to a close. A nice day à la campagne. I feel I have rediscovered beauties in my home village. I am already feeling sad because I know I am leaving soon. Wait! Still some time, a few days, time for a dinner together. Le dessert ? Des gâteaux au chocolat (mini chocolate cakes).
Gérard Vié, chef of the famous restaurant Les Trois Marches au Trianon Palace de Versailles, praises recipes coming from the past. He is the one who delivers this recipe which is old in its origins, yet stays very modern.
- 5 1/3 oz dark chocolate, melted using the bain-marie technique
- 10 2/3 oz soft butter
- 5 1/3 oz fine sugar
- 3 1/4 oz flour, sifted
- 4 egg yolks – 3 white eggs, whipped firmly
- Ground pepper
- Cinnamon, powder
- Clove, powder
- A dash of coffee extract
- Melt the chocolate (with a double boiler) and add the butter, flour and sugar. Mix well with a wooden spatula or with a whip.
- Add the egg yolks.
- Sprinkle with a dash of the spices, pepper, cinnamon and clove, and add a few drops of coffee extract.
- Add the firm egg whites carefully.
- Divide the dough between small molds (silicone or molds covered with parchment paper, or cook in cupcake cases), and cook the cakes in a preheated oven at 420 F, for about 10 mns. Unmold them when they are cooled down a bit.
- 150 g de chocolat noir fondu au bain-marie
- 300 g de beurre en pommade
- 150 g de sucre
- 90 g de farine tamisée
- 4 jaunes d’oeuf – 3 blancs montés en neige
- Poivre moulu
- Cannelle moulue
- Girofle moulue
- 1 pincée d’extrait de café
- Incorporez le beurre, la farine et le sucre au chocolat fondu. Travaillez bien l’ensemble à la spatule ou au fouet.
- Ajoutez les jaunes d’oeufs et mélangez.
- Saupoudrez d’un nuage de poivre et de cannelle, d’un rien de girofle, et de quelques gouttes d’extrait de café.
- Incorporez délicatement les blancs battus en neige ferme.
- Divisez la pâte entre des petits moules en silicone, et faites les cuire environ 10 minutes à four préchauffé à 210 C. Démoulez les gâteaux une fois qu’ils sont tièdes.
A recipe from Elle à table, September/October 2006 issue.
lovely post and I heart your photos!
J’avais vu l’article dans Elle à Table, il reste très moderne ce chocolat! et tellement tentant!
Merci pour la belle ballade!
C’est merveilleux de profiter ainsi d’une journée à la campagne au saut du lit! Merci 🙂
Alors la Betty, un rien nostalgique on dirait! N’empeche, ton village et ta campagne ressemblent fort aux miens, malgre les kilometres qui les separent, et tu me donnes vraiment envie de sortir avec mon appareil photo. Merci de nous rappeler d’ouvrir les yeux sur les beautes qui nous entourent.
Bea, I feel like I have strolled through your village with you, met the neighbors, your brother, the tiny hedgehogs, the pig. You have a true gift. What a lovely way to start my day.
Dommage que Gérard Vié soit devenu un peu trop star … mais il s’y conaît en chocolat (tous les ans à Pâques, le Trianon Palace accueille une exposition/dégustation délicieusement belle ou magnifiquement appétissante !). Tu es vraiment très douée pour repérer les détails magiques de nos campagnes et avec toi les poules ont presque l’air sympathiques (je ne dirai pas intelligentes quand même) et tes prises de vue de l’eau qui coule me désaltèrent visiblement !
oh, bea, that was a wonderful little walkabout that you brought us along – the images are great!
Quel joli reportage…
Merci pour la balade ainsi que pour la recette
Lovely photos and lovely post. It makes me homesick — for a place I’ve never been! I’m so glad you are enjoying your visit home.
bellissimo! je crois qu’avec tes photos et tes recettes, tu peux rendre n’importe quel coin du monde alléchant!
tu as vraiment un regard particulier, plein de poésie à l’aide duquel tu nous livres des photos magnifiques qui donnent une furieuse envie d’aller retrouver le vrai sens de la beauté à la campagne… quant au cake au chocolat, en gourmande que je suis, je n’oublie pas d’en noter la recette, on n’a jamais trop de valeurs sures en la matière!
Bea, tes photos sont magnifiques!digne d’un reporter, tu nous fait prendre un bol de campagne, fraîcheur et verdure en quelques minutes. Petite promenade champêtre pour finir avec un gateau au chocolat divin. Merci!
Beautiful walk down the the memory lane. Thanks for sharing the lovely place, Bea! The cake looks yummy too.
What cute little hedgehogs 😀
wow. tes photos sont incroyable. merci!
That was so much fun to read and the pictures were transportive! I can hardly believe that place exists. It is so foreign from my own experience in America. Your brother’s furniture is amazing. Someday, I want a garden like that. The plum tarts are beautiful.
I was especially fond of the photos of the nuts. You have a very nice sense of place in all of these photos. I always said that living far away made me understand what home is. You have captured this idea perfectly. Thanks, Bea!
Oh Bea, gorgeous pictures… Everything looks so beautiful. I hope you’ve had a wonderful time!
I have really been enjoying your hometown stories and photos. They’re really beautiful! I wouldn’t be able to do the same… NJ isn’t exactly the new France.
It looks like you’re having a great time, beautiful pictures.
Beautiful! As I read through and lingered over all your lovely shots, I thought it can’t get any better. And then I saw the cake at the end, and decided I was wrong. Oh, yum. 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
Hi Bea, what a lovely read! I’ve enjoyed your story very much.
I don’t need to tell you that the photographs are so beautiful but i will! They are so mesmerising. Oh, how lovely is your France. I wish i was there picking walnuts with you 🙂
Btw, i would like to make these chocolate cakes. The photo is enough to make me drool!
hello bea, i’m back for a while into blogging, but still find it difficult to post. happen to hop into your blog and some others.
i hope you’ll have a chance to come to brittanny…i am sure you’ll like the place where i live.
Lovely pictures you got here…i love the cow picture and the cake…miam!
what a beautiful village. it makes me want to explore outside of Geneva more often. i hope you are truly enjoying your time back home. i know how difficult it is when you don’t go home so often.
Your France is so very beautiful. Thank you for sharing your memories and your gorgeous as always photos!
tu nous proposes encore des photos magnifiques ! Ta campagne ressemble à la mienne… en tout cas très belle apologie de la France, car il n’y a pas que Paris et les pâtisseries de luxe 😉
The cake looks awesome but I am in love with the hedgehogs! Oh my gosh, they are sooooo cute.
j’ai beau être une parisienne pure et dure, je trouve ce post très émouvant, très attachant..tes photos sont de plus en plus belles.. vraiment je craque!
Juste splendide…. ouaw! Ces photos sont superbes et le récit donne vraiment envie de te suivre. J’aime beaucoup celle de la fontaine…sublime!
Adèle, oui les épices sont surprenantes.
Caterine, merci, ravie que cela te plaise !
Martine, ah oui, comme on les aime !
Gracianne, il faut y aller !
Christine, thanks for your sweet note. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it.
B, ahhah, ah mais que si, elles sont intelligentes les poules! 😉
Eatzycath, thanks a lot!
Sooishi, ravie que cela te plaise aussi.
Lydia, yes it was quite special to be back.
Peggy, si seulement c’était vrai! Ca me fait plaisir que tu crois cela.
Alhya, très joli compliment venant de ta plume pleine de poésie et de talent pour raconter des histoires.
Noémie, merci vraiment.
Jacelyn, thanks. I am glad you are enjoying it.
Jeff, yes they were very cute and prickly too!
Julie, yes I want a garden like my brother’s too, believe me. A real paradise to relax.
Lucy, thanks a lot. I am touched to read so as I am very fond of your sense of writing too.
Melissa, thanks my dear. I had a blast, really.
Janet, I am sure there is tons of beautiful things to be found in NJ too!
Brilynn, thanks, yes perfect vacation à la campagne.
L, thanks. I am delighted to hear you enjoyed it.
Mae, thanks so much. I wish you could have come to pick walnuts too. I am sure you would have transformed into something delightful with your skilled hands.
Relly, hello. Long time! I will have to come to Brittany at some point. I am fond of this region! I hope you are well!
Rai, The surroundings of Geneva must be beautiful as well, n’est-ce pas ?
Anita, thanks. Glad you liked the balade.
Lilo, ah mais que oui, Vive nos belles campagnes. Je ne pourrais pas faire sans!
Peabody, yes very cute little babies indeed.
Avital, ah ben cela, c’est un compliment, merci!
Claude, merci encore une fois à toi !
Photos splendides! Et plein de cute little friends…
I’ve just made these Du Barry Chocolate Cakes…
Oh, my Gosh! So delicious, Bea. Thank you so much. You’re such an inspiration.
Gorgeous! Gorgeous! post Bea, makes me wish I was there too, collecting walnuts.
And Ortie looks just like my Boon, yes, too adorable!!
life is good where you lived! wish i can have the chance to visit France one day!
Absolutely amazing. Your brother’s furniture should definetely be sold, such beautiful unique pieces would be loved by many. Thank you for sharing this trip through your home town with us, it looks like a marvellous place 🙂
Mae, I saw them, they look gorgeous!
Bron, I am going to kidnap Boon then!
Ces, yes a nice place to be in for sure. Thank you!
Ellie, yes I would love my brother to sell his furniture. He is so talented. Thank you, once more, for stopping by.
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I have tried this same recipe.. but it gets stuck to the sides.. I should cook it in butter paper I guess
Love this chocolate! Photos exquisite! Miss the gentle moments.
Busy life in the States..NJAZ
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Un peu trop de beurre je trouve! J’ai vérifié qu’il avait pas d’erreur de traduction, mais non. Trop de beurre, à la vieille française! Merci quand même 😉