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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Our daily bread

baguettes

Imagine these piping hot

One thing I’m finally getting pretty good at is baking bread — specifically, baguettes. Good friends of ours gave me a baguette pan a few years ago after we returned from my first trip to France and began raving about the baguettes.

If you have been to France you know what I mean; if not, you don’t. There is something mystical about a daily trip to the boulangerie for fresh baguettes. Once we were picked up at a Parisian train station by our hostess, who made a mad dash through Parisian traffic to get to her favorite shop before dinner. They were out of baguettes and she had to settle for Italian bread. What to do for dinner? What kind of leftovers would there be at breakfast? Quel horreur!

On that same trip we stayed in a gite (rural guest house) in a tiny village in the Loire valley. Probably fewer than 200 people lived there, but their bakery opened early each morning with fresh-baked loaves. The aroma was intoxicating, and the daily trip quickly became part of my routine.

There’s something about these loaves that speaks to the sense of community French people feel. You can buy cheap baguettes at a French super market, but for heaven’s sake why would you? Supporting neighborhood bakeries (and subsidizing wheat) is intimately tied up with the French identity in ways we just don’t understand here. After all a companion is literally “someone you share bread with.”

The best baguette I have ever made is inferior to the simple ones churned out by thousands of little shops across France. (Those buttery crusts! Those gossamer insides!) Maybe I just don’t have the right flour. Or the humidity isn’t right, or I’m not wearing a beret. Or something. But I like to do it. It connects me, if only briefly, to the shops and smells of France.

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Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

Click for a slideshow

Click for a slideshow

One of our favorite discoveries in France was the little village of Aubeterre, right on the edge of the Charente region. Signs proclaimed it “one of the most beautiful villages in France,” and it certainly was that. It turns out that that’s an official designation. There are 150 towns and villages in les plus beaux villages de France.

The name comes from the Latin alba terra, ‘white earth’, because of the nature of the limestone of the area. It’s the site of an enormous underground church, an ‘eglise monolithe.’ Here’s a small slide show of our visit, taken with our first digital camera — a monstrous 1.3 megapixels.

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IMG_1182This is the American cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer. We took this on our tour of Normandy in 2005. That’s my sister Margaret and her husband Sonny in the middle of the picture. The principal reason for this trip was to visit the Normandy monuments of D-Day.

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chez Faivre

chez Faivre

Here’s the house of our friends the Faivres, near Poitiers in France.

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Van Gogh

Van Gogh

This imaginative look at Van Gogh’s paintings was made by students at Clemson University.

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Gite in Normandy: cat

Gite in Normandy: cat

Another of our France photos. This one from a gite in Normandy, from our 2005 trip.

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Montmartre 2002

Montmartre 2002

Montmartre, the steps leading to Sacre-Couer.

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