Âllo, âllo, Bonjour!

A hearty Bonjour, here is a gloved-handful of nouvelitées directly from an unusually fresh France. There’s not much happening here during this season, hence the lack of news in this newsletter. Nevertheless there is a lot to be told. Allez on y va…

An eternal waste


Of our ten barrels of vin d’amour, made from grapes that have been separated from each other by hand, there are only six left (see Slurp! 14). To accommodate the gasses that come in to existence during the fermentation, the barrels aren’t hermetically sealed. The stoppers aren’t hammered into the barrels like we usually do, but merely placed on top of them. Sadly the bacteria causing the fermentation went completely mental due to the hot weather and partied so much that they spilled quite a bit if wine in the process. An eternal sin!


The glass stopper looks at us like an evil octopus sitting in a pool of blood: ’this is MY wine! Take it… if you have the guts...’
And he is right; we have to wait another 14 months.

Timing is everything


Like everyone knows the weather is always good in France. So on Boxing Day we had lunch outside. It wasn’t an arctic lunch either; with 19 degrees it was very agreeable.


The downside of this weather was that it was ideal for trimming the branches of the grapevines, meaning that we had to get up at an ungodly hour. Because this month about one hundred thousand branches need to be taken care of.
But we’re happy to do this. Because it’s a joy to see the cheering grapevines lift their newly altered arms towards the sky. I can hear him think: 'Hooray! I get to grow grapes again to make a new vintage of wine for all those lovely Brits!'


That is why, however difficult the work is, we still enjoy it. As we sing we cut the branches while the sun goes down.

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Chateau in sneeuw

The next morning however, things are going bad. The sun doesn't seem to want to show itself. The whole day it stays dark and gloomy. It's bitter cold and blizzards sweeping around the ancient castle walls.


Unfortunately even in this weather those damn grapevines need to be trimmed. With a healthy dose of reluctance we went towards the vineyards.
And what turns out to be the case!? The branches we cut yesterday have all grown back! Merde!


Nevertheless, at the end of the day the work is done. We throw a tree on the fire, open a bottle of homemade slurp and life is sliming at us once again!

Still, this hardcore winefarmers suffering doesn’t make us unsusceptible to wise thoughts. Therefore we do not have to go to a career-counselor, mental coach or a haptology practitioner to teach us life’s lessons.
For real life surrounds us every minute of every day. The pictures below prove once again the importance of assessing the right momentum. An idea can be brilliant, but the timing needs to be good for it to work. How many times have we done something right but was just a bit too early or just a bit to late. That could be an invention, but also an idea, a remark, or an initiative, which is painfully proven below.


‘Ha!’ thought this snowdrop. ‘Nice weather! I’m off. Upwards and onwards! Out of this cold ground.’
And what happens? Not a day later he is standing self assured with his frail leafs in the early morning sun and wham! A thousand pounds of snow, right in the face.
But never mind, it matters not. No need to call Greenpeace. He just folds up his petals and waits patiently for better times. And those are certainly on their way.

Along the ridge of the abyss

When at twelve o'clock sharp the French economy grinds to a halt and all over the land the parking sports around the restaurants start to full up with hungry people, thàt is the moment to be seriously on your qui vive. Where are the most lorries? That’s where you need to be!
This time we ended up at an adresse hardly a gunshot away from our Château.
In the winevillage Fronsac, a few doors on from the impressive Disneycastle 'La Rivière' there is a restaurant for those without fear. A tavern for die-hards that like to tempt fate. And courage is rewarded, because like the poet wrote: “The most beautiful flowers grow along the ridge of the abyss...”


In France people don’t stroll. Anything more than 50 metres is traversed by voiture. The deserted sidewalks are therefore ideal for parking. On top of that it is freezing here, which people in this area definitely aren’t used to, so the closer the better.

With boarded shutters, the pots with dead plants, and the terrace furniture that has never been taking inside: all of this point to an eccentric proprietor, who couldn’t care less what the neighbors think. A good sign.

To scare away any potential clients the owner did hide the entrance behind an aggressive prickly palm tree. He securely blocked the remainder of the entrance by his quatquat, which is what they call a 4X4 around these parts.


The client-scaring tactics were further implemented by their outdoor-cook, carefully pointing in the opposite direction.


With a creatively hung dead plant they expertly hid the menu.


A short safari passing the prickly palm tree and the quatquat teaches us that there are in actual fact several menus, but if you actually want to know what those menus are you’ll just have to go inside.


We push open the door and suddenly we understand why the entrance was so skillfully hidden…
Alice in Wonderland! We just stepped into the middle ages. The ding room has a crackling fire, men sitting at a gigantic table made from solid oak making pleasant conversation. Laughter, the clinking of glasses and of cutlery.
And old dog, which is dozing off on a pillow in front of the fireplace, looks up as we enter, but only for a moment after which he lays his head on down on his paws and continues to stare at the flames.


The holidays have already become a distant memory, but here they don’t give a crap. Here Christmas is still in the air and it isn’t going anywhere.


Two gaming children are gently guided away from a small table so we can take place at it. Without quitting their game, they moved to one of the corners of the room and let themselves be lowered in to an empty armchair all the while gaming with the utmost concentration, hardly noticing the displacement. 


To warm the backs of those who are sitting close to the door, they placed a red-hot electric heater next to a barrel full of petrol.


Here the use of menus is unknown. After a gracious welcome, a basket with bread, a big steaming bowl of soup and an unidentifiable litre bottle of wine are placed on the table. El Bulli might be closing, but here it seems as it will not be missed.


The wine is of own make and is served in a bottle that appears to have served as a pelican ink vile. Unfortunately the taste only serves to strengthen this theory.
Still, it matters not; just let it be. Red wine can be a bit of a burden in the afternoon, besides the soup is quite tasty.


While at the communal table another magnum bottle of red wine is opened, the lady with the high hair takes our cutlery for the second course. Halfway through the stops to swifty hug a leaving guest.


The following course is a Salade de carottes et tomates aux olives. Don’t worry, I just made that up. They don’t use that kind of gobbledygook. With a hear melting smile the lady with the high hair puts the platter on the table and sings: 'Bon appétit, mes enfants…' Carrot shavings, tasty tomatoes and good olive oil. Pepper and salt, a piece of crunchy baguette et voilà: what more could you possibly want.
And yet there was more to come. The salad was accompanied by a platter with jambon that could frighten even the most hardcore extremist among the carnivores.


The buildings here are constructed for good weather. Double glazing is myth and when you say draft the first thing to come to mind is not a preliminary version of a text or drawing. To try and provide some measure of warmth from the fireplace for out table, one of the regulars throws a few extra logs on the fire.
Moments later the owner comes along with two ancient electric heaters, which he puts near our legs. The badly repaired extension cords lay in puddle of melted snow.


De plat de résistance: steak vigneron with strips of bacon. The strips we ordered by me in an overly courageous whim, mostly because I didn’t know that 'Ventrêche' means strips of bacon. Though I’ve been a vegetarian for years, this piping hot plate is still a festive sight.


For a visit to the toilet one needs to pass through a crevice in-between two greasy curtains. Behind which there is a dining room that has slipped into a state of disarray, where it seems they put every little thing for which they don’t have a particular use and just dump it on one big pile. There is no lighting, so you have to feel your way through. But if you manage to make it to the other side alive, the toilet is over there. As a reward there is a possibility to put your clothing in to the wash and remove any possible bloodstains incurred in the journey.


Next to the toilet there is a sign indicating a Terasse ombragé, which after further inspection seems to be sub-optimally prepared for the coming summer.


After we manage once again to wade through the dining room, we burst throught the café-curtains with sigh of relief, just in time for the Plateau des fromages!


For dessert we are spoiled with several warm Gâteaux and coffee. With this a bottle of Armagnac is also being generously placed on the table ('S'il vous plaît, on the house!’). To be emptied at our own discretion and absorption.



The coffee was 'offert' and not without reason, because she was poured from an iron pot that had been standing on a red-hot stove since early this morning and tasted as if the owner washed his underpants in it.
Nevertheless we can say that this restaurant is one out of a thousand. For 15 quid you can eat a five-course meal that overflows with the spicy taste of real love and medieval coziness. And that while, all around you, there are scenes playing out for which every self respecting writer would happily commit murder.


For daring capitalists who are still recovering from an unpleasant period, above the address.

Allez, a très bonne année, a wholehearted Santé et à la prochaine!!



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