Sunday, 4 May 2008

Seriously hot hoeing

Wow. What a fantastic weekend it's been - real summer temperatures and dawn-to-dusk sunshine since Thursday. This afternoon I decided that I really ought to hoe the hot potager (that's the one where I plan to grow my French beans, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers and such like, as opposed to the cool potager where John grows radishes, spinach, cavalo nero, carrots and everything else that likes a slightly lower soil temperature). I wouldn't have been so foolish if I hadn't come home from the market in St Girons yesterday with - er - quite a lot of vegetable plants. We grow most things from seed, but when you see so many growers' stalls stuffed full with an unbelievable variety of healthy, robust plantlets ... well, what to do? (St Girons market is something else again and deserves a post here all to itself, so watch this space). The hot potager certainly lived up to its name today, with the shade temperature hovering around 28 degrees at 4.30, but by the look of the storm clouds predictably gathering over Mont Valier this evening my new plants (looking a bit shell-shocked at the moment) will get a good soaking tonight or tomorrow . And meanwhile, what was John doing on the hottest afternoon of the year so far? Yes, he had a bonfire. Incredible, but true.

On Friday we went walking for the first time in several weeks (why oh why do we leave it so long?). We parked in the blink-and-you-miss-it hamlet of Bidous, in the lovely Ustou valley, followed the footpath along the river, then took the path that trails up towards the Cirque de Cagateille, through some beautiful beech woodland. Suddenly, the woodland opens and there it is - three quarters of a near perfect circle, with at least nine impressive cascades (not always so dramatic, but it's major snow melt time). In true Slow walking fashion we spent nearly two hours over lunch, stretched out on the rocks overlooking the cirque, so that any vain hope we may have entertained of carrying on to Etang de la Hillette was quickly discarded. But it was very hot, it's a very steep gradient, and with a view like this to gaze at, what would you have done?

We did walk to the base of the cirque to get a closer look at the waterfalls. This is one of them:

And then there was nothing else to do but stop in Seix, one of my favourite villages, for an early apéro, which stretched into a late apéro, and then an oh-why-the-hell-not dinner at one of Seix's two restos, La Gourmandine. Which was very, very good: small, friendly, unstuffy, excellent value, and with a great vibe; cuisine du terroir with a contemporary twist, good local sourcing, and a female owner-chef (I felt quite at home in fact). And the entrée was just as good as the plat was just as good as the dessert. It's only half an hour or so from home, and we'll be back. Oh yes.

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