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Posts Tagged ‘bread ovens’

It’s funny that we live here, pass through so many lovely looking places, and rarely have the time to stop and admire them. So, I thought that when & if I do, and seeing as I usually have the camera with me to record them, I’d do an occasional series to tell you all about them.

So, yesterday, in a rare fit of something approaching recklessness, I mounted the bike rack on the car and placed two bikes on it, announcing that we were off for a ride. Somewhere. Anywhere really. I’d loaded quite a few geocaches onto my GPS (thanks again Sue & Dave), and we set off with the intention of finding one or two, and combining the searches with a spot of cycling.

The roads here are superb for both cycling and driving, and we were enjoying the freedom of the forest road from Vernoil through to Bourgueil – one of our favourites. The sun was shining, the aircon was on, and all was well with the world. It’s rare that we get a chance like this. We have this chance as Sheila’s spending a few days in the UK with friends. A treat for us not to have to be on site all the time. Guests here at the moment are mostly out doing the same – enjoying the autumn sunshine, and roads free of holiday traffic, so there’s nothing to do for them.

Bourgueil is a stunning little town, famous for the quality of its red wines. And, as it was Tuesday, and therefore market day, we were diverted along the backstreets. We’ve never seen this part of Bourgueil before, and what a delight. We couldn’t stop. Well, we could have, but I was eager to show Syb how the GPS and geocaching worked. Plus, I wanted to re-visit the caves at Benais, to show her the old cart there. See my post on geocaching, a few weeks back.

Onwards, after visiting the caves, and marvelling at the industry involved in carving these things out of the rock in order to store wine, (or other stuff), and on to Saumur. Or so I thought. Travelling along the levée from Port Boulet to Villebernier, a sign caught my eye in Chouzé for ‘le port’. So, we followed it. Down to la Loire, and a sign for the cycle path. What a find. Mostly right along the riverbank, with tantalising glimpses of clear blue water, sandy beaches and fishermen enjoying their sport, this path is a gem!

Parking just after a tumbledown house in the process of being renovated (we think), we took off the bikes, locked the car and set off back from whence we came. Architecture fascinates me, and bread ovens too. So, to see this tumbledown house with a wreck of a bread oven built onto one of the gables was a treat.

Ancient bread oven.

Ancient bread oven.

It’s a shame that so many of these are left to fall into disrepair though, and brings out a quality in me that I’m ashamed of. I’m extremely jealous of other people’s bread ovens. And their woodpiles, if we’re being honest. I covet my neighbour’s bread oven. I also lust over his woodpile. It’s huge! No man could possibly burn ALL that wood, beautiful grey oak and smatterings of chestnut and ash. It’s a sin that my own woodpile is so pathetic by comparison.

Each winter though, our own woodpile grows according to how cold it is, how cold it’s forecast to be, and how much wood we can actually afford! Last winter, our own woodpile was almost as impressive as that of my neighbour. But we burnt all ours, while his just grew and grew! Sickening. In summer, I have little wood here, and what little there is is used in our bread oven to provide fouée and pizzas for guests. In summer, as in winter, my neighbour’s woodpile is impressive. It’s just so unfair.

Anyway, the cycle trail opens up after the woodland into lovely vistas of la Loire, with houses to the left overlooking the most serene landscape. Like this one –

The view downstream at Chouzé sur Loire

The view downstream at Chouzé sur Loire

And this one –

A traditional Loire 'barge' or 'gabare'.

A traditional Loire 'barge' or 'gabare'.

The boat’s a ‘gabare’, used in times past for the transport of goods up and down the river. In this area, most usually the transportation of salt from the marshes at the rivermouth near St. Nazaire. There are few left now, but those that are, are renovated to the most fantastic standard. They’re used as pleasure boats, transporting not salt, but tourists along this most beautiful riverscape.

Houses lining the river have a fantastic view, but are also in danger from the floods which can be very severe each winter. It’s so easy to forget, on such a warm, sunny autumn day that in just a few months time, this part of the Loire may well swell by a few metres, and the houses and gardens along the riverbank will fall prey to flooding once more.

We picked out a few that we wouldn’t mind being the owners of though…

Stairway to heaven?

Stairway to heaven?

Room with a view!

Room with a view!

This house has the most fantastic space overlooking the river, and a lovely old wisteria in the garden climbing up, over and through the pergola.

If it looks old, it probably is.

If it looks old, it probably is.

This particular house has this as it’s view…

Stunning view!

Stunning view!

For those in need of sustenance, there’s a great looking little café here. I dunno if it was closed for the day, or for the season, but I was gutted not to be able to pass an hour on the decking out front with an ice cold beer!

Never far from a café!

Never far from a café!

After exploring the riverfront, we decided just to have a meander up one of the narrow alleys leading away from the river, up the hill and into the town. As it was around 3pm, there wasn’t much life, but this is normal. Across the road was a lovely old house – a mini-chateau, if you will. These are literally around every corner here, and it’s something that never fails to raise a smile.

Chateau? Or family town house?

Chateau? Or family town house?

It all got a little surreal at this point. You’d expect maybe a piece of classical music, Débussy perhaps, to be the background noise whilst cycling past this magnificent dwelling, slack jawed. Not so – ‘Kung-Fu Fighting’, by Carl Douglas was blasting out from one of the open windows, heartily accompanied by madame! Bizzare!

The town offers some lovely architecture, and a very pretty church. it’s a shame to spoil all the surprises for you, so just go & visit for yourself!

Anyway, back across the road and down to the river we go (I feel a bit of Springsteen coming on….). Working our way back to the car, ogling houses here & there, walnuts crushing under the tyres. We decided that we really do need to collect natures bounty very, very soon. Lots of sloes (sloe gin), blackberries, elderberries and more to be had in the hedgerows.

The road led us past where the car was parked, and we were enjoying the day so much we hardly noticed the poor Mégane sat there in the heat…

Just past the car, we again stared open mouthed at the most lovely sight right on the riverbank. Someone, we presumed the houseowner from just opposite, had created a garden. A lawned garden, with tubs of flowers just everywhere. The large oak tree in the middle of this ‘garden’ proclaimed that the gardener, a Mr. Pierre Devilliers had been awarded many certificates by the town of Chouzé for his efforts.

A fitting tribute to a lovely old man

A fitting tribute to a lovely old man

There was a bench to sit on, overlooking the water, and a boat tied up at the waters edge. We watched huge carp feeding in the clear shallows, undisturbed by my scrambling down the riverbank to get a couple of shots. I put two euros in the watering can hanging from a hook on the tree, designed specifically for donations, and shuddered as the coins clanked, disturbing the peace for miles, and miles around!

they were THIS big, honest!

They were THIS big, honest!

The only way to travel around here.

The only way to travel around here.

We were so entranced with this little slice of heaven, that we failed to notce the garden, and the house on the other side of the road until we walked back to where our bikes lay by the roadside. What greeted us there was just superb. The lawn was a carpet of cyclamen, huddling together in the shade of the trees. Beyond was a traditional ‘longère’, a longhouse. again with a beautiful bread oven perched on the very end. This time in perfect order, no doubt still used for special occasions and family gatherings. I just couldn’t help but snap away at this sublime scene.

Cyclamen carpet.

Cyclamen carpet.

A labour of love

A labour of love

Catalpa tree. (Indian Bean) We have two of these in our garden!

Catalpa tree. (Indian Bean) We have two of these in our garden!

Just beautiful

Just beautiful

I managed to get this close to take the pictures because Monsieur Devilliers beckoned to us to enter, the sound of my shutter on overdrive obviously having disturbed his afternoon glass of wine with friends. For which I apologised. Not a problem he assured us, waving us in with the pride of a man who knows he’s created something very, very special. He offered to take a picture of the two of us among the flowers, but which I’ll refrain from posting as it’s quite scary. Two grown adults, grinning like loons in shorts and tee-shirts.

Here’s one of his house instead.

The very pretty house down the lane...

The very pretty house down the lane...

So. If you’re ever stuck for a bike ride along the Loire. Think about meandering along the river in and around Chouzé sur Loire. There’s literally something around every corner. It’s just typical of our area of the Loire and we still feel very, very lucky to have it on our doorstep.

la Loire

la Loire

Until the next time, au revoir!

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2009

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Last weekend was one of the high points of the village social calendar. The annual Apple Fair! The event’s held each third weekend of October. On the Saturday, there’s the official opening by the Maire. There’s a band, lots of stalls and the inevitable fairground rides. The bars are full, the villagers all get behind the event and make it a popular attraction for quite a few miles around, judging by the amount of ‘out-of-department-cars’ there are to be seen parked up in the fields and lanes! Sunday’s given over to a huge ‘vide grenier’ stretching up, down and around those parts of the village that aren’t already given over to other forms of stall-holding. It’s enormous! Again, all the villagers turn out in support, and there’s plenty of friendly banter and rivalry going on. There’s lots of laughter too, especially if the sun shines like it did last weekend! We parked up just on the outskirts of the village, the sunshine highlighting the glorious autumn colours in the trees. The village seemed to stretch away in front of us in tiers of golds and reds. It was simply beautiful. All around us were stalls of every description. Some hawking copper pots and pans, old clogs from the farms hereabouts and just about every type of farming implement you can imagine! There were bargains galore to be had, if only we had the money! Intermingled with the villagers’ stalls were the ‘Comité des fetes’ stalls selling freshly cooked ‘beignets de pommes’, or apple fritters! The smell was overpowering! Gorgeous juicy apples, peeled and sliced in front of us, then dunked in hot oil before being rescued, packed tightly into plastic ‘barquettes’ and smothered in sugar….I’d have inserted a photo at this point, but they were just too tasty! You’ll have to see for yourself next year! But, here’s a couple of the preparation, and the lines of folks all waiting patiently for their turn!


Anyway, we meandered (did a bit of nodding too…) around the stalls, picking up the odd (very odd) bargain here and there. It’s felt like home to us here for a long time, and now that the language is coming together for us, it’s even nicer to wander around a fete like this and feel a part of it. Neighbours were stopping us in the street, M. le Maire nodded bonjour, and shook our hands. Gilles was on his stall in the Place de la Mairie selling beer and wine. Raising his hand above the crowds, he waved to us! On a sunny day in France, slowly taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a local fete like this one is pure magic! There’s simply nowhere else we’d rather be right now. We partook of the autumnal tradition in these parts too…a couple of glasses of ‘bernache’ in Bernard’s bar in the centre of the village, before heading up to Alain’s for a couple more. Bernache is the must of the first pressings of the year’s grape harvest. It’s pretty much still fermenting, so slightly ‘sparkling’, and very, very cloudy. The old boys will judge how the years wine will turn out simply by sampling the bernache. It can be quite a potent brew too – the bottle we bought from Alain said 11%, so after a few glasses in the sunshine, it’s advised to take to walking around the rest of the stalls! So, onwards & upwards it was. Literally! Mouliherne’s a very old village, built on quite a few small hills, where once numerous mills stood once upon a time. Hence the name – ‘Moulin- herbe’, translated throughout the ages to simply Mouliherne.

Because we’re in a predominantly apple-growing area, we get to sample the delights of freshly pressed apple juice quite often. In the Place de la Mairie, there was an ancient ‘pressoir’ in service now just as it’s been for the past hundred years or so. This one’s unusual in that it’s square shaped, instead of the more traditional (and practical for cleaning purposes) round shape. The workings were explained to us by the owner, a local farmer who’s had this thing in his family for at least three generations he told us. It’s a work of art, a lovely piece of farming machinery. Indeed, we wondered whether health & safety back in the UK would preclude the use of such a thing at a public fete such as this. Yet, the ever pragmatic French were pressing their apples, collecting the juice in the large bucket, and selling it by the glass to delighted fete-goers such as us. It was quite simply superb! There are things like this to be found for sale from time to time. You see them in barns, left to rot down to powder and rust and it’s just such a shame. If the ‘powers that be’ in the UK spent more time turning a blind eye, and less time tightening the laws so that people can’t see anything like this other than a static display in a museum, then the world would be a much better place! Along the main street, rue Touraine, and up towards the stade, or football stadium (almost every French commune has one), there was something there that again delighted both the child in me (memories of standing on railway bridges while steam trains thundered below) and the pyromaniac brought out by my bread oven fetish! It was an old 1947 wood-fired oven that actually roasted peanuts for you! Again, an incredible piece of machinery, nestled tidily on a trailer, with artefacts from days gone by scattered around. It was lovely to see, and photograph.




Because the Sunday vide-grenier’s become more & more popular throughout the (almost) 40 years of the fete, there’s more & more stalls spreading further across the village! Even up by the old footpath from the main road and round by the wash house and down to the old centre of Mouliherne. I really should take some pictures and give you all a guided tour of our lovely ville some time soon!
It was up here, in the shadow of the enormous old oaks that we spotted something that we’ve been after for a while…there on the floor in front of a stall we recognised as being run by someone we’ve come to know recently, was a very old ‘pelle a pain’. A traditional boulanger’s tool for placing the dough in the ovens. This thing looked ancient! The handle was nothing more than a THREE metre long ‘stick’, a branch really! Ravaged by woodworm down through the years, and as smooth as silk to the touch. The history I felt while stroking this piece of wood was incredible. How many loaves? How many years of constant, daily use? How many people had this thing helped feed? I had to have it. I knew it’d be too big to fit into the mouth of my own rather insignificant oven, but still….It’d make a great talking point, hung over the ‘four a pain’ chez nous! So, without further ado, I offered €15 against the asking price of €20, and walked back to the car, scattering locals left and right as I attempted to re-create from days gone by, the boulanger’s stance while holding the pelle! People pointed, laughed, commented upon my purchase! A friend grabbed the handle as I was walking innocently along, holding the pelle vertically. I thought I’d snagged one of the overhead power lines, and looked heavenwards, expecting to see my pelle on fire! I realised what had happened, and followed the line of the handle back down to earth to see Yann grinning at me like a loon! He commented on what a fine looking ‘stick’ it was, and asked why I’d bought it, laughing. His face changed when I told him proudly that I’d built my own bread oven here at Le Chant! He changed tack immediately, and offered to come & taste anything we cooked! Yann used to be the coach of Niall’s football team when he was playing. He’s a bit of a character is Yann. He ran our local déchetterie too, which is the local recycling centre as well as municipal dump, whilst also being a paramedic and pompier! He bade us bon journée and went on his way, no doubt to sample bernache and beignets!

It wasn’t until we got back to the car that we realised the pelle wouldn’t fit in there…A small Rénault Mégane has only a limited amount of room for ancient boulangerie equipment! There was much laughter from passers-by as Syb & I wrestled the pelle into the car for the short journey home. So, after a bit of a tussle, the ‘paddle’ end lay on the dashboard, while the handle stuck out of the rear window by a couple of feet! It’s a good job the gendarmes know us here! laughing at us as we passed through the exit barrier, they called out bon journée, and ‘good luck’!

Anyway, as you can see from the picture, it looks lovely alongside the wicker basket Syb bought to hold the fouée we’ll cook and serve to guests next season!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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Well dear readers, the day finally arrived when I started the fire in the bread oven that would eventually burn hot enough to burn the soot from the vault and gradually turn the whole thing white hot. This is the point at which you know your oven is hot enough to cook.
Pizzas at this temperature take a matter of seconds to turn into molten rock, so you have to keep a fairly good eye on them. Croissants take nano seconds! So, it’s really no use placing them on a tray in the oven, walking back to the house for the camera and back to the oven (30 seconds) expecting them to resemble those on the shelves down at our boulangers. No. You’d find the charred remains of lumps of dough, about to spontaneously combust in extreme temperatures.


So, careful oven management is a pre-requisite of firing up irresponsibly large fires!

The fire was massive. Contained as it was within the vault, it was nontheless a scary, scary fire to witness. Sometimes the flames would belch out of the doorway (singed my eyebrows) or leap up the chimney in a bid for freedom. It was fantastic to watch, and I just kept piling the logs on. Hence the singed eyebrow!

The tell-tale signs were that the heat was such that the bricks of the inner archway were becoming ‘clean’ again. The layers of soot built up by subsequent small to medium curing fires were gradually being eaten by the ravenous flames. When I got close enough to actually see ‘up’ into the vault, there appeared to be patches of ‘clear’ brickwork. No soot. So, taking this as a sign from the god of bread ovens, I just kept whacking the logs on! The heat was intense. At this point, it’s a given that you’ve acheived something in the region of 1000°F. Now, I’m thick at maths, so I got bored with subtracting my shoe size, dividing by my mother’s age and multiplying by a factor of Pi r squared to the ratio of 7.658. So I Googled a temperature converter, and found that my oven was cracking out in the region of 538°C. Proper number!


No surprise then that what should have been tasty, lightly browned croissants were in fact a mass of carbonised dust.
I pushed the embers and the still burning logs to the back and sides of the oven, and sat back to wait for them to stop burning, and start glowing.
The roof of the vault was revealed in the light of the flames. It was marvelous to see. All my hard work of the past couple of weeks was revealed as a lovely brick igloo, glowing white hot with the sparks and the occasional flame rising to lick the roof. Truly an amazing feeling, having created something from scratch that will (hopefully) provide us with food (not to mention warmth) for a while to come. I now know how Gérard, our neighbour feels when he fires up his large family oven. It’s a feeling of power, certainly. Of controlling the elements, and bending it to your will. But it’s also a very soothing and calming thing too. To simply sit and watch the fire dance for me is very soporific, and once or twice I stopped myself from succumbing to the mesmerising effect of the flames and the heat. Long enough to chuck another log on!

There are a couple of very small points of escape for the heat, but at this stage I’m grateful for them as the heat was escaping as steam. Rather it found a way out naturally, without cracking the bricks or the outer layers. Once all the moisture has gone, I’ll fill in around the base with a little fire cement.

We have lots of guests in the next few weeks and we’re hoping to try the pizza recipes out on a few willing guinea pigs, ready for the spring and summer of 2009. We think they’ll go down a treat! Especially if they look like these….


That was my first calzone. Perfect with a beer on a warm afternoon!


And that was my first ‘proper’ pizza! Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

I’m also going to have a chat with Bruno, our boulanger friend to pick his brains about dough for fouée. That has to be on the cards, as it’s just simply delicious.

Although this wasn’t a particularly hard build, it ranks up there at the top as one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. If anyone wants the design, quantities and associated costs (for France) then let me know, and I’ll gladly send them on. If anyone wants any help to build one, again, just let me know!

Because I’ve built this oven, and we’ll be cooking regularly with it, I wanted one of those pizza peel things. You know, the flat shovel affair with the long handle (saves on singed eyebrows) to place your pizza in the heart of the oven.

So, off I trots onto e-Bay. I stopped by one of the ‘sponsored links’ pages, a company in the UK specialising in stuff like this to the catering trade. I saw exactly what I needed at just £10! So, I clicked on it to order, but no postage details to France from the UK. I e-mailed, then called the company based in Oldham to enquire as to what the total would be delivered.

Imagine my shock when I got an e-mail back quoting £54 ex. VAT just for posting the peel? So the whole thing would cost me £64 PLUS VAT! I sent them an e-mail back to say I thought that was a tad excessive. I begrudge paying that amount to post something worth only a tenner! The reply? That was the best they could quote after searching around. Sorry.

So, back to eBay and again to one of the shops there, this time based in Germany. No problem, the peel’s on it’s way this morning (just had confirmation). The peel was €13.50, and the postage was €12.50!

Is it that these companies trying to export to Europe are held to ransom by excessive transport/postal charges? Whatever it is, I wonder how much potential trade is lost per year? Just a thought.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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Since we spoke last, I’ve been very hard at work with my latest little project – the bread oven. It’s taken shape quite nicely and today we spent a nice hour or so sat in front of it, watching the first of many ‘curing’ fires licking the roof and belching smoke out of the chimney! Sad eh? It reminded us both of the first time my mam got a front loading washing machine, and we all sat there mesmerised by the laundry being spun this way and that. We don’t do that anymore though.

Anyway, these curing fires are small-ish ones which are lit to drive out any moisture within the build. It’s working really well too. There’s evidence on the parpaings (breeze blocks) that water’s been squeezed out of the béton refractaire base that everything else sits on. Only a couple more days and I’ll be ready to light ‘the BIG one’ in there. This one is the one that burns off all the soot that’s vgathered on the roof of the dome. The dome then turns white, as it’s literally white hot – around 500°C! Then it’s ready to cook!

Here’s a few pics of the construction as it developed.

There’s more….

All we have left to do now is sand back, stain & varnish the wooden surround to hide the béton refractaire layer, then paint the parpaings with crepi. There’s a chapeau to be made for the chimney, just in case it rains while the bread-making process is underway!

All in all, I’m very, very pleased with the way it’s turned out! If you’re visiting us anytime, then pizzas and fresh fouée may well be on offer!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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Well. After all the excitement of seeing those bread ovens in action over the past few weeks – the one at the vide grenier on Sunday, plus the one at the wine fair in Saumur – I had to get cracking on one of my own! I decided in the end not to bother with buying a ready-made one stuck on the back of a trailer, but opted instead to go for building one of our very own here at Le Chant. I told you I was trawling t’Internet looking for inspiration? Well, I found it. I Googled a website which is the first I’ve seen that details not only the plans used, but also the costs involved. So, many thanks to Marsu. Check out his site here. Ok, so the costs were for a four constructed in May/June of 2005, but actually, when I did some comparisons with my DIY bibles (Bricoman, Brico Depot & Leroy Merlin catalogues) the costs are even cheaper these days!

So – onwards and upwards! I already have much of the required materials strewn around the place, so that makes it a little cheaper still!

I’ll keep you all informed as to progress with pictures, don’t worry. I hope to be firing it up for the first time in a few weeks (or sooner) if possible.

Here’s a few pics just to whet your appetite! The first one’s as I was ‘dry building’ the walls to get an idea of scale etc. The old bricks on the front of the pillar are hand-made terre cuit briques from last century, we think. They’re lying around the place here so I cleaned them up to add them in as a feature to match the arch I’ll build for the mouth of the oven.


The second one was taken as I’d finished and checked everything for square and level. It’s bang on!


And this one’s to give an idea of where it’ll stand in relation to the bbq’s.

And the ones below are what the finished project will resemble. It isn’t big, but right for the space I have available for it. It’s situated on the ‘lean-to’ end of our old barn. It’s where we hold our twice-weekly meals on site in the high season. There are 2 stone bbq’s for guests to use there too, which will eventually form part of the feature.

So this area should form a very nice social ‘hub’ to the place when completed in a few weeks. It already proved very popular this summer after we completed the new roof!

Our Hannah’s boyfriend Steve’s spent the evening with us tonight. We fed him for the first time. We’re not exactly sure what he thought of the meal – one of Syb’s ‘concoctions’ that sprang from nowhere, using just whatever was to hand as we’ve been really busy today. He’s a chef you see. Quite a good one too, so Syb was a bit alarmed when Hannah said they’d be stopping for tea after spending the afternoon clothes shopping together in Angers. Panic! Still, it all turned out ok, and the pumpkin potato mushroom pasta chicken thingy went down a treat!

Steve even had seconds, though we think he was just being polite! I also tried to get his expert opinion on my bread oven, being French and all that. I could see he was impressed by the way his eyes glazed over and rolled into the back of his head as I explained how it’d work. To be fair, I can just imagine that he was thinking that I’d be asking him for all his best bread & pizza recipes. Oh, I will. I will…..

Anyway, it’s late here. I’m a tired, but happy ex-pat after reading some new reviews of our place on TA after the upset of the other day. It’s absolutely humbling to think that people think enough of this place to want to tell others that it’s actually quite a nice place to spend a holiday. So, on that note.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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I was saying just a couple of posts ago about how we love this time of year? Well yesterday (dimanche) had to be just one of the last best days of the summer for a variety of reasons. Not just because the skies were blue and the sun was hot on your face, but also because it was one of those rare occasions when we decided to go out and support a local event.

A lovely setting for a car boot sale!

Usually, we’re flying around the place doing what we do here, or we’re just too tired to bother. This time though, we thought we’d have a wander into Vernoil to help support the village’s inaugural vide grenier. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the French and their passion for these things? A vide grenier simply translates as ’empty loft’. It’s a way of life for many French and it’s a great day to add to any holiday itinerary too. Catch one if you can when you come to France next, you’ll find them great fun. If it’s anything like the one we visited yesterday, then you’ll be able to buy all manner of things from copper pans, to old newspapers, to very old farm implements among the usual baby clothes, cuddly toys and paperback books. There’s usually a few old Johnny Halliday LP’s going spare too…

Our one yesterday also had quite a few old cars on display from the earliest Peugeot’s to late 50’s Citroens and even a cute little Vespa! Niall’s currently looking for his first Moto. Shame it wasn’t for sale!

We bought all manner of things yesterday including an old tin, an ancient (but fully working) enamel inhaler, some books on the WW2, a beautiful (but heavy) copper jam pot, a couple of woven baskets for the fresh eggs and a half a garden bench(!) Don’t worry, I know where I’m going to put it. The lady we bought it from had the same idea – to ‘sink’ it into a wall on one half. All the transactions were extremely good natured, as is the way at these sorts of village gatherings. It was nice too to be greeted by friends with a cheery ‘bonjour’, and to feel like we belong in the community.

There were the usual crowd of people gathered around the bar there and parked right next to it was the fouée stall!

How could I resist a lunch of two of my most favourite things? Ice cold lager and a couple of hot fouée?

This is the rusty old (but perfectly serviceable) portable bread oven they used. I’ve seen a few of these wheeled out for country fairs etc. Although this one looked in need of a bit of TLC! Along with the old bbq parked right next to it, the comité des fetes managed to keep quite a few hundred folks well fed throughout the day. A four a pain was a way of life for many country folks living far from a village with a dedicated bakery. These days, although some remain, far more fall ravage to weeds and the elements. Some are kept as interesting curio’s – a memento of a bygone age. Ours was lost in the 1950’s. I’ve been sorely tempted to begin work on building my own bread oven here at Le Chant d’Oiseau so we can bake fouée for guests here during the summer, and pizza too. But now I’ve seen these portable ones at work, they seem more appealing! Once back home, I actually scoured the Internet looking for just such a beast. There are quite a few of them around, it has to be said. Unfortunately too far away in both distance and cash!

Anyway, here’s what the fouée looked like once out of the oven.

And well tasty they were too!

It seemed that the whole of the village had turned out to have a stall here, and some from quite a way away too. There weren’t that many tourists around, well not English anyway. But, we did bump into one or two friends and acquaintances all looking for a bargain or two as well.

Now, if only there’d been a bread oven for sale….

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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