15 December 2014

Avallon (4), and a seasonal report

Here it is December 15 already. We're planning Walt's birthday dinner for next Sunday, and we have already ordered a turkey for Christmas. We'll pick that up this Saturday, the 20th. As for it being mid-December, it's pretty cold outside this morning. The temperature is below 0ºC — in other words, just below freezing, here at the house. Out in the vineyard, it will be even colder when I go for my walk with Callie in about an hour. I have to wait for the sun to come up.

Walt's 55th birthday dinner will be French steak au poivre with an armagnac sauce. We make it every year, and have done so for more than 30 years now. Armagnac is a brandy like cognac, but has a much longer history — it comes from southwestern France, between Toulouse and Bordeaux. Walt wants to buy some tournedos steaks this time. We'll go get them at the butcher shop in Saint-Aignan where we bought our Thanksgiving leg of lamb.

For the Christmas turkey, we ordered a three- to four-kilo bird (7 or 8 lbs.) from the volailler at the Saturday morning market. (Volaille means poultry or fowl.) This particular market vendor, who sells poultry at Montrichard on Friday mornings and Saint-Aignan on Saturday mornings, has some of the best chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, and ducks available in the area. All the birds are élevés en plein air (free-range), and the prices are comparable to supermarket prices, if not lower. We plan to make a cornbread stuffing to go with the bird, and probably a baked squash and a green vegetable (kale or haricots verts from our garden).

The pictures here are of the old town in Avallon, in Burgundy, and I took them last October 21. It's nice to look at all the colorful scenes. These are the dark days of December here in northern France, which is farther north than Quebec City or Duluth, MN. The sun comes up today at 8:35 a.m. and goes down at 5:05 p.m. When skies are cloudy, it is really gloomy.

And it's supposed to rain this afternoon. The forecast for the week calls for a series of cloudy gray days, with intermittent rain. We might see the sun again by Saturday. That'll be good, because going to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan (or anywhere) when the weather is cold and rainy isn't a lot of fun. It's worth it for the good food you can buy, but you have to hope that you won't have to stand in line in the rain for very long.

I'm going to continue posting photos from our Burgundy trip for a while. Even though it rained while we were over there (late October), the colors are so much brighter than what we are seeing these days that it boosts the morale to look at them. At this season, it's hard to take photos outdoors around Saint-Aignan because there just isn't enough light. I'll probably mix in some kitchen pictures along the way as we get into the heart of the holiday season.


  1. Enjoying the Burgundy photos, Ken, but do look forward to some
    tournedos/turkey pics. Particularly since we missed out on the
    leg of lamb. Always enjoy seeing what's going on in the kitchen.

  2. I remember when you had your double nickel birthday...how quickly we age now. I could look at the first photo forever- I love the color combination.

    1. E., I celebrated my five-five in 2004. We had been here not quite a year. My six-six is looming.

  3. Apart from that awful yellow color, it seems this lovely corner house was heavily restored. Even a brand new window was added in the stairwell. I must say, it was very tastefully done.

    1. This house is called Maison des sires de Domecy. If your interested.

    2. Merci CHM. Je ne connais pas les sires de Domecy. C'était à quelle époque ?

    3. No sure why I answer CHM in French except that we have spoken French together for more than 30 years...

  4. Il faut que tout se renouvelle, CHM. Les maisons, les villes, les pays, comme la langue française (ou anglaise). Le goût, les couleurs, on n'en discûte pas.

  5. That blue portal reminds me of the grand-parents house on the island. It was in the city and was surrounded by tall walls like in your first pic. Unfortunately, it does not exist anymore :( Au lieu de renouveller, les nouveaux proprios ont préfére un éléphant en bêton !!!
    I have reserved a turkey like yours for new yr - sis is coming up for the new yr celebration.

  6. I miss those beautiful colours, Ken. Just plain hot here. Your turkey sounds good. We're going all seafood here. I've ordered black tiger prawns, WA rock lobster, squid, scallops and salmon. Christmas barbie! Sue

    1. That sounds really good Sue, but a summertime Christmas does seem strange from the Northern Hemisphere point of view. Glad to know that you and Leon have had a safe return.

      I told Leon I would send him the names of some French singers/songwriters/musicians so he could look them up on YouTube and have a listen. Here are a few examples of our generation's music in France:

      Véronique Sanson
      Francis Cabrel
      Daniel Balavoine
      France Gall
      Alain Souchon
      Laurent Voulzy
      Gérald de Palmas
      Isabelle Boulay (French Canadian)

      Don't expect French music to sound the same as Anglo-Saxon music. But as a way to learn French pronunciation and expressions, listening to popular music is great.


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