29 April 2014

Long days, holidays, and ponts

When I went to bed last night, it was just a couple of minutes before 10 p.m. As I lay my head on the pillow, I glanced at the north window, which doesn't have a shade or curtain, and I noticed that it wasn't even dark outside yet.

This morning I woke up at 6 and, again, I noticed that it wasn't at all dark outside. The birds were chirping cheerfully. Another day was dawning.

Yesterday in the vineyard, looking toward our hamlet at 6:30 p.m.

That's the nice thing about this time of year when you live so far north. At more than 47º of latitude, Saint-Aignan is farther north than Montreal, Quebec, Duluth, Fargo, or Billings — it's about the same as Seattle and Spokane. Our sunrise today is at 6:40 a.m. (right now), and sunset will be just after 9 p.m. this evening. All that, and we are still six or seven weeks away from the summer solstice. These long hours of sunlight will be with us until well into August.

It's strawberry season in the Loire Valley. The local gariguette berries are good with scones that Walt makes and some crème fraîche.

Speaking of long hours, the mass of May holidays in France begins this week. This Thursday is May 1, which is a big public holiday here. May 8, the following Thursday, is also a big public holiday, celebrating Victory in Europe, or the end of World War II 69 years ago. Another May holiday, one that always falls on a Thursday, is May 29 and is called L'Ascension. It's a Catholic holiday that marks Christ's return to heaven forty days after his crucifixion and resurrection at Easter.

We've had a few rainy days, and I made a blanquette de veau with rutabagas, celery, carrots, onions, and mushrooms to ward off the chill.

That's three major holidays in May, and because they all fall on a Thursday this year, many French people are preparing to do what is called faire le pont — or "make the bridge" — by taking the Friday after each holiday off work too, giving themselves three four-day weekends in the space of a month. There's another holiday on Monday, June 9, called La Pentecôte — so there's another long weekend.

Puffy clouds in a blue sky over the vines

All we need now is some more nice weather, and we'll be set to go. Soon it will be summer, and les grandes vacances will be upon us.


  1. I remember one year, I think it was 2002, when all four holidays came in May. I took my annual vacation in May that year because it didn't cost me too many vacation days. We took the whole month and went to California (family), Costa Rica (tourism, and Florida (family)!

    1. That sounds nice, Ellen, traveling around for the whole month of May.

  2. Ken, go further North still...
    to Caithness in the far north of Scotland and you can take part in an all-night golf tournament on Midsummer's Night....
    the sun actually only dips below the horizon for around ten minutes...
    it is great to watch!!
    The sun-dip that is... the golf is boring [but it is good fun in the club house!]

    And do you know why the swedes [rutabagas to you] are so very small in France....
    I've yet to see any bigger than 15cm across... and most are much smaller.
    With the result that they don't have any flavour....
    or is that the reason??

  3. INCREDIBLE photos of the sky and vineyard :)
    I, too, am really appreciating the additional hours of sun.

  4. I really miss the long days (short nights) of summer in California. I remember being in France one summer and I could still see a little bit of sunlight at 11 pm. Your photos are stunning!

  5. Reason I like visiting France in May instead of September to enjoy the sunny days.
    Your description reminds me of the days I had to go to Yellowknife in May - still daylight at midnight when we were glued to the TV watching the hockey playoff games from the east coast to the west coast.
    Yup you are further north compared to Montréal but not as cold or snowy :-)
    Two perfect days for gardening and then rain, rain and rain until the WE.

  6. Tim, the rutabaga I cooked the other day was about 25 cm / 10 inches in diameter, as were some that we cooked at my mother's place in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed the flavor. A lot of people say they don't like rutabagas or turnips, but Walt and I like them a lot. If the ones grown farther north are tastier, I wish someone would bring or send me one.

    1. Now that's a good sized swede!!
      Where did you get it....
      I've not seen anything that size...
      except for the ones we grow here.
      We grow "Acme"... a late 1800s variety...
      full of flavour and doesn't seem to go woody, either.

    2. Intermarché in Noyers. That's where I got the veal too.

  7. Judy and Nadege, glad you enjoyed the photos. These long days, especially the sunny ones, are really energizing. Winter is so dark and long. Today, by the way, we had an inch of rain between noon and six p.m. A real downpour...

    Beaver, I think May and June are the best times to come travel around France. The only danger is that you might try to do too much each day, and wear yourselves out, because night doesn't fall until 10 or 11 p.m. September is often drier and has charms of its own -- l'arrière-saison peut être très belle.

  8. just LOOK at those beautiful pix! great work!


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