Uzès – mercredi, le 3 octobre

Well … this has got to be close to Heaven (on earth at least)!20121003-094851.jpg
Out this morning for café au lait and a pain au chocolat at about 9:00 (how lazy can you be?), then Jo Anne changed some Dollars to Euros, went to the pharmacy, bought stamps while we waited for Jamie to arrive in Nîmes from Uzès. Things have really changed since I was here last – because now, under the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle is a huge parking garage! That’s where Jamie parked, met us in front of the Hotel Cheval Blanc, and helped take our luggage to the car. The drive to Uzès seemed short – my eyes were glued to the Southern France countryside. Uzès is in the départment (state) of Gard, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, and is about 25 miles north-west of Avignon. There are olive trees, umbrella pines, cyresses, oleander bushes … it’s lovely.

The streets tend to be narrow (built way before cars), and the buildings are made of a tan sand-colored stone that gets a warm glow in the sun. Did I say it’s close to Heaven? I intended to take pictures, but figured that those online would be even better than mine, so here goes:

This shows the warm golden color of the buildings.
Beautiful stone façade and a narrow street.
This is the market I just missed (olives shown, but there was much more)
This is a better picture of the Place aux Herbes than mine above.

Jamie, Jo Anne and I arrived at the parking area just two short blocks from the rental “villa” (sounds so much better than “house” – and it is). Penny and Tommy were just walking to the area from the house to gather their luggage. The first house was not acceptable so they moved out, and were fortunate enough to find #4 Rue du Coin. It’s four levels, lots of stairs but easy to climb (even by me with a crutch). And the rooms (!) – stone walls, arches, windows, light, modern kitchen, libraries (more than mere built-in bookcases), many baths and bedrooms – oh là là. After the house tour we five went to lunch (it was 14:30-ish) in a square called Place aux Herbes. The twice-weekly open-air market was just closing (next one would be Saturday).

Okay, more food. We decided on a restaurant called Terroirs, and I chose sardines basiliques for my starter. Sardines marinated in oil – don’t turn up your nose if you haven’t tried it, and if you haven’t tried it … be brave, you never know what you’ll like! Next I had smoked duck on a parsleyed toast with mushrooms over a fresh lettuce salad. No dessert, but coffee. Do I have to go home?

20121004-023511.jpgOnly two left … 20121004-023828.jpgSmoked duck is good !

Well, I had to go back to my Uzès home to unpack and relax. After all … there’s supper to think about! Penny had just caught a cold, and simply didn’t feel up to doing much of anything. I’m happy doing the same … it’s a vacation and you don’t have to run run run all the time (walk walk walk maybe). It was so nice to sit in the lounge on the top floor of this home and talk. Plus I was able to write, read some more, and finally unpack in my ground floor retreat.

At 20:00 only four of us went to the Bec a vin restaurant around the corner and down the street. No place for photos … my choices were a house pâté followed by a whole baked Bar (I think it was a type of sea bass, but I’m not sure). Fortunately I’ve prepared enough fish (and watched Julia Child et al) that filetting this one was no trouble … and it was worth it. Dessert was a three cheese sampler plate – first one this trip.

Short stroll back, gave Penny a vitamin C pill, said “good night” to all, plugged in my iPad, and climbed into a soft sleep sofa all wrapped up in comforters and multiple pillows (think “princess and a pea”).

Uzès – jeudi, le 4 octobre

What a delightful night, and so quiet even though my room was on the ground floor. Woke up by 7:00 and went to the fourth level sitting room where the wifi connection was stronger, and did a little journaling. At a little before 9:00 we headed to a salon de te with a wonderful patisserie as part of it. We ordered café au lait, café creme, tea for Jamie, and of course four pains au chocolat. And that was breakfast. Oh yes (so France), at the table next to us we were greeted by a sweet golden retriever-type of dog … so well behaved that she/he stayed right under the table the whole time!

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Cream cakes … more like art
Her name was “Bamboo”

We took a walk along the Main Street, looking for a bank, a post office, and a place for me to buy bananas, which I found. I think the merchant said they were from Turkey? We stopped at fruit / vegetable shops with their items so beautifully arranged that you almost didn’t want to disturb them. Then there was the boucherie / charcuterie … with cuts of meat very different from those in our grocery stores.

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We’d decided to have a full midday meal, then a light supper … so I bought a pâté de lapin, some mousse de canard, and some saucisse.20121004-165825.jpgWe already had a piece of blue cheese, a baguette and a bottle of Chateauneuf du pape. We got into a conversation with a lady who recommended a restaurant for lunch. Things just seem to happen that way … It’s so nice. So we returned our purchases to the house, rested a bit, did some laundry, and at about 14:15 we set out to find a little Italian cafe. You had to enter through an antique store before arriving at the little garden with about six tables.20121004-170956.jpg Jo Anne and I shared a grilled tuna with spaghetti, and a rigatoni stuffed with cheese in a tomato and cream sauce (everyone else had that). Only one taker for dessert … Jamie with a chocolate mousse.

This place had only been open for four months, after 20 years in Paris, so we told the owner/waiter that we’d give him some publicity …

You enter through this antique shop.
Tables are in a mini-garden patio, this is the entrance from the back street, take a left at that black chair.
Trattoria Via Curti
30 Bvd Charles Gide

He is the owner/server20121005-023423.jpg

We enjoyed Trattoria Via Curti !

A visit to a fruit shop rounded out the shopping trip with a little melon (sort of like the melon de Cavaillon that we’d had in Nice a while back. 20121005-043514.jpgThe produce is so pretty you just cannot get enough of it … and it’s always so artfully arranged. 20121005-044344.jpgJo Anne wanted plums but hesitated to get in line because she might not have had enough Euros. She went in anyway (after some prodding) and came out beaming! The vendor had given her the plums, no charge!

After that nice lunch we strolled a little (to help work it off), relaxed, read, said “good-bye” to Tommy (he was going to Nimes to get the train to Paris for a flight back to the States) – really will be missed as he’s the wine expert!20121005-163512.jpgPenny and I hung out in that beautiful upstairs room and watched the blackbirds coming to evening roost in the tower behind the house, and talked to the cat who was also watching them! We didn’t get even slightly hungry until 21:00, when we had the two pates, cheese, bread, wine, fresh coffee, melon and dark chocolate. Talked ’til bedtime. This was another wonderful day!

Uzès, vendredi, le 5 octobre

20121006-021503.jpgPenny and I went to a boulangerie around the corner for two baguettes, then to a nearby patisserie for four pains au chocolat to take back home for breakfast. We’d bought coffee for the French press and could make pretty good café creme, and also had some nice strawberry jam from the market.

It was foggy this morning, which gave each window view a lovely look. We sat and read, catching up in emails for a while, then Jamie and Jo Anne drove back to the first house to pick up a jacket that had been left behind. While they were gone, Penny and I scouted places for lunch. Making our midday meal the largest of the day is a good idea!

We decided to revisit the Place aux Herbes and eat in the Restaurant Terroir again. It was always packed, while the six or so other places in the square weren’t. Of course I had those great sardines again, and also tried the Assiette de charcuterie (a cold cut sampler: saucisson and two kinds of pâté. My main dish was Boeuf tartare … you know like hamburger without the bun, or the cooking … think of beef sushi! They served it with several condiments: a tomato relish, some spinach pesto, some parsley-tabouli-like thing, and a serving bucket with HOT sauce, Tabasco sauce, Worchestershire sauce, celery salt, and a herbed/spiced olive oil. I also asked for some Dijon-style mustard. It was like making your own individual meatloaf, and that beef was so tender!

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I had a glass of sangria with it, and a café creme afterwards. We even met two couples all the way from New Zealand (a 26-hour flight). Technology is really something (and I do have to get a cell phone of my own) – while we were eating, Penny’s phone rang … it was Isabella … from Hungary … calling to say “hello” … to me … in France!

By then it was 14:30, so while Jamie did some work, Penny, Jo Anne and I went to see the Uzès Medieval Garden (jardin medieval). It was recreated in 1995 to show the kinds of plants that were grown here in the Middle Ages. Plus there were museums of prisons that were here during the religious wars and surpressions. Fascinating.

Again I found a cat sitting on a bench studying a bird in the tree overhead …
20121006-024649.jpgso I sat beside him and got another “feline fix” by rubbing his tummy and chin. When we looked up, we saw the same tower that was behind our house (later back home we could see and identify where the garden was from our window). We took photos for other travelers – and they did the same for us.

20121006-022202.jpgWe left just before closing at 17:00, and spent some time deciding where and what we wanted to do on Sunday. Then I must have taken a nap while Penny and Jo Anne went to find people playing boules. She wanted a photo of them so that her sister could use it as a reference for a painting.

At about 20:00 we opened a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape and Jo Anne made omelettes for herself and Jamie. Penny and I had bread, cheese (Gruyere and a blue), olives and some wine. Coffee, dark chocolate and some melon made dessert. The lights went out in the neighborhood and it was pitch black (no candles here) … but came on in a few seconds. Carrying my flashlight from now on might be a good idea. Jamie had the flashlight app for his phone, and I could have used the light from my iPad screen – if I’d had it with me at the table. Dinner conversation and cleanup lasted until after 23:00, then we went to bed … Saturday is the big regional market day and it begins at 8:00!

Uzès, samedi, le 6 octobre

Jo Anne made great coffee and had a baguette with strawberry jam, while Penny and I had coffee and ate a banana. Jamie slept in because he had watched the Orioles-Rangers game which began here at about 2:00 (that’s a.m. our time), and he stayed ’til the end!

Today was the huge regional market in Uzès (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) … and there was everything from soup to nuts … no not just food (prepared foods and fruits and produce), but housewares, furniture, clothing (I bought a stunning scarf), shoes, leather goods, books and school supplies (I didn’t even hesitate as I passed), and probably more but it became TMI for my brain! Yes, this time the photos are mine:

Sausages of all kinds and animals20121006-080717.jpg So many varieties of cheeses20121006-080750.jpg Honey from different flowers / regions20121006-081634.jpg
Olives all kinds and flavors
Produce calling “buy me!”20121006-081727.jpg Flowers everywhere20121006-084641.jpg
Candied or dried fruits20121006-084658.jpg Paella for take away20121006-084708.jpg Fish cleaned on the spot20121006-085109.jpg
So many seafood stalls20121006-091112.jpg Shrimp that could eat YOU!20121006-091143.jpg Opening scallops20121006-091126.jpg
Slicing ham20121006-091950.jpg Pastas, raviolis …20121006-092000.jpg Trimming fowl your way20121006-092011.jpg

Ma foie … Oops, I mean Ma foi … It’s all that liver and other meats that’s got me confused! This was such a treat … we bought some fish for tonight, and a rotisserie chicken for Sunday. Of course, more cheese and vegetables. When we were done, Penny and Jo Anne took our stuff back, I waited ’til the potatoes, that were cooking under the chickens, were done while I had a café creme.

Our cheese man20121006-093831.jpg Are USA cheese folks this friendly?20121006-093849.jpg
Ladle that chicken juice all over those birds!20121006-093909.jpg Love café creme

Next I went home, the others were at a pharmacy for Penny (she is really stopped up, coughing, and can’t hear out of one ear). Jamie has gotten over whatever he had for a week, Jo Anne has improved, and I – well let’s just say that I am glad to be hanging around the house today! So I declined the three hour walk to the town tennis courts, and the hike on the narrow, rocky path across the river to see the ruins of the beginning of the Pont du Gard aqueduct that starts at Uzès’ Fontaines d’Eure and ends at Nimes’ Castellum (over 50k away).

At 17:00 Penny decided she had to go to the ER in Bagnols, about 25 minutes away. Jamie drove and Jo Anne did the translating. Me … I pulled up a blanket and tried to nap. Remember travelers, it’s not a catastrophe … it’s an adventure! All of a sudden I began to have chills, and my feet were freezing on these stone floors … so since I was alone, I climbed into bed and wrapped up. Brrrrr-rrrr! I got sort of warm, but my toes never did.

20121007-045535.jpgThey arrived back after 19:30. And Jo Anne began dinner: steamed shrimp in drawn butter, endive sautéed in olive oil, poached fresh salmon with olive oil, capers and lemon. I looked on from above – it smelled so good! For me – apple juice and clear liquids … it is so nice that Penny is a nurse. Bedtime came at about 21:00 and I was in the second level bedroom that Tommy had used. I am pretty warm, but Penny said that I have a slight fever… she figured that out by taking my pulse!

Bonne nuit!

Uzès, dimanche, le 7 octobre

An interesting night … slept downstairs but with a snugly comforter. By morning my fever had gone, so breakfast was a piece of yesterday’s baguette with strawberry jam and a cup of tea. Then I added an egg scrambled in butter … when I feel like eating all is well! Penny … not so good / Jamie … a little better / Jo Anne … went to the cathedral to pray for us all!

20121007-071445.jpgBells chimed at 13:00 so we started fixing lunch with some of the “goodies” we’d bought at yesterday’s market … two baked chickens and their accompanying potatoes (after putting all that into a pan, I noticed that we could have warmed them right in their bags according to the directions that I didn’t read first). Of course, figuring out the oven had the three of us stumped … at least we cut it on! Then we went online to see how hot to cook them … Fahrenheit \ Celcius conversion table via Google!

Success! Chickens were moist, tender and tasty, as were the potatoes that had cooked in the chicken drippings. Penny made zucchini-peppers-tomatoes in online oil … so simple but so good!

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After cleaning up the kitchen we remembered that we needed more bread for supper, and for breakfast … so out we went to the recycle bin and then to La Nougatine (boulangerie, patisserie, glacerie). The bread trip became the “Let’s get ice cream” trip. We all had chocolate, Jamie had two scoops, topped with creme chantilly that should be outlawed by the cholesterol police!

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Penny’s new friend
La Nougatine

Next stop a stroll around town, then back home for “technology time”, naps, reading, relaxing.

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We got to see the two “roof cats” that had visited every day, climbing the balcony walls and jumping from roof to roof. They even got onto the roof of our house because we could see them through the three skylights. There was a cream, a tortoise, and tonight for the first time a “tuxedo” that reminded me of “Henri, le chat noir”. Finally we thought about dinner (yes, again) at around 19:00. Tonight Jo Anne prepared another of the fish we bought yesterday. She poached it in olive oil, butter and dressed it with capers and lemon. The zucchini side was with peppers, tomatoes and onions. Tonight my appetite was fully back – ummm! At 21:30 after the dishes were done we adjourned to the upper sitting room for coffee, dark chocolate and conversation. That’s a nice way to end an evening. Tomorrow. It’s back to Nîmes for one night to be there in time for the early train to Paris on Tuesday the 9th of October.

The right person cooking!
The right “cleanup” crew!

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