Running and Exploring at the Same Time
Running here in Laroque and the adjacent “towns” is a ton of fun. The roads are hilly, so you get a pretty good workout even if you don’t run too far, the views are spectacular, people wave to you and you only pass a few cars during any particular run. I’m trying to do between 3 and 4 miles in the morning, not hard at all but I’m doing this distance for two reasons: 1) it doesn’t take that long so Phil’s not sitting around waiting for me and/or I don’t have to get up at oh dark thirty to run and 2) if we are going to do a lot of walking during the day, my legs won’t feel like mush at night.
Shopping at the Market
Michel came by the gîte promptly at 9:45 AM to see if we still wanted to follow them to the market – Bien sur, of course we did. Phil went down to get the car, we’re parking it in the Marie (town hall) parking lot (it’s actually hard to believe that a town as small as this has a Marie). Véronique had also arrived and we chatted for a while — Did we sleep well? Was there anything else we needed? Did we need a “sac” for our purchases at the “marché”? Would we like to come to their house tonight for a glass of wine and tell them about our day? I slept great; Phil not so much. We didn’t need anything, I had my Whole Foods “sac” with us so we were good there. Oh, of course we’d love to come over tonight, how welcoming, how friendly, and I’d get to practice my French again!
We followed them to Créon and they showed us where to park. The public lots were full but they knew where it would be okay to park on the street. Without them to guide us I’m not sure we would have found a parking spot. We walked over together and Véronique explained where we would find what items: clothes, antiques and other people’s junk, vegetables, cheese, meets, fish, poultry and most importantly where we’d find cafés to have a cup of coffee and enjoy the town. As we came upon the market, there was a cart piled up with bundles of grape vines. She explained to us that it is a specialty of the region to use the grape vines in the fire when grilling meat or fish. The vines give a unique “perfume to whatever is cooked on them”. Once we had the lay of the market, we parted. We would see them back at their place at 5:30 this evening.
We planned to buy ingredients for dinner for two nights. We wanted to keep it rather simple. For dinner this evening, we’d have a barbecue. Protein, baked potatoes, white asparagus (a specialty of the region and in season), and salad. The meats at the stalls in the market were ginormous. We decided to go into the butcher shop on the edge of the market. We had narrowed it down to lamb chops or steak. Steak won out and the young butcher sold us a “faux filet” and assured us it would be great on the grill (even without grapevines in the fire).
On our first exploratory trip around the market we had seen a vendor selling beautiful tomatoes. We bought tomatoes from him for salad and to make sauce for pasta, as well as enormous, freshly cut white asparagus.
We also picked up a carrot, leek and garlic for the sauce. We purchased potatoes and lettuce from another vendor. The most fun we had was making a purchase from the man selling homemade pasta. I wish we had a better photo, he was so friendly and complimentary of my French. We bought a hunk of parmesan cheese and ravioli. Two kinds, one with mozzarella and prosciutto and one with just cheese. We’d have pasta tomorrow night.
For lunch we bought an “empanada like” savory pastry filled with queso, corn and chorizo. There appears to be a bit of a Basque influence around here. One of the cheeses we bought at the Intermarché yesterday had espelete peppers in it. The vendor assured us this was his most popular variety and we’d love it. He wasn’t sampling the chorizo because it always sells out so quickly. We sampled the spinach and goat cheese and it was quite good.
Most marchés have a merchant selling spices. The colors and aromas are always inviting. Phil is always looking for crushed red pepper to have on Italian food when we are traveling. It doesn’t matter where we go in Europe, they never have it. We never remember to bring any. Sometimes we are offered red pepper in olive oil, which is very tasty but adds quite a few calories to any dish. I remembered how disappointed he always is that we don’t have it so we bought a little bag of ground red pepper. It smelled right, it was ground not flakes but I believe it will work just fine.
With our purchases complete, we had a coffee on the square and watched the world go by.
The Meals…Easy, Simple and Delicious
We grilled the steak on the electric barbecue on the patio. We’d never used an electric grill before. You fill it up with water place the heating mechanism over the water, put on the grill and plug it in. Phil and the grill did a splendid job grilling the asparagus with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper as well as the steaks to medium rare. I made a huge salad and Dijon vinaigrette and we roasted potatoes in the oven. We had a bottle of red, 2015 Chateau du Calvaire – Saint-Emilion Grand Cru that we picked up at the Intermarché for 11 Euros. Everything was simply delicious.
For dessert we shared two pastries that we picked up in a little shop in La Sauve-Majeure a town no more than 15 kilometers from the gîte. We had heated up and split the empanada when we dropped off the groceries at the gite, it was delicious but not exactly filling for two people for lunch. So, we also split a little pizza from the patisserie; they heated it for us. It too was delicious.
We almost wished we hadn’t bought bread at the famers’ market. The breads in this place are cooked in a wood oven and looked amazing.
The following night I made spaghetti sauce using the olive oil, garlic, leek, carrot and tomatoes we had purchased at the farmers market. The ravioli cooked in just 4 minutes in boiling water. I replicated the salad from the night before, added the left over grilled asparagus, and the Dijon vinaigrette was even better the second night.
We had to eat inside tonight, it was just too chilly to eat outside. But we pulled the table over to the glass doors so we could still enjoy the view. We finished the wine from the night before and shared a left over éclair that we had picked up at the Intermarché our first day.
Three really good dinners at the gîte; for our two remaining nights we’d try some local restaurants.
Wonderful People, Delicious Wine, Great Conversation and A Magnificent Home
We arrived at the gate to Michel and Véronique’s home, they promptly greeted us and invited us in. Their home is magnificent. Tile, stone, glass, modern appliances, open spaces, amazing views, a beautiful lawn and very tastefully decorated. They showed us around the house. It was 3 houses that an architect assembled into their home. I think we’re staying in a barn turned gîte and garage. They’ve lived there for six years I think. They moved from Paris when Michel retired and are so happy to be living in Laroque. There were clearly no regrets about leaving the City of Lights.
They had a spread set up for us out on their patio which had an even more spectacular view then we have. French woman are amazing at entertaining. They do it with ease. Michel was serving both red and white wine. Véronique assembled a plate of olives, some fish spread on toasts, cured ham wrapped around cheese, and slices of Spanish chorizo. We sipped wine, had snacks, discussed our day, considered what we could do for the next few days, and what we planned to do for the rest of our trip. They were interested in my French lessons and Phil’s guitar playing. Véronique had made a map for us of a walk they recommend around the gite. It was a wonderful evening.