Week 19 (8–14 May 2023)

J and C are still here this week! The difference is that we're all working (so no more extreme working hours for me). This is also the last week before C and I leave on a long trip to Berlin and then Sicily, coming back on June 9th.

I'm still usually the first one up (around 7 am), I make coffee and occasionally finish the pot by myself if others aren't up by 8. J doesn't usually have breakfast (unless there's crème de châtaigne) and the rest of us eat through gallons of sheep yogurt from the Fromagerie au Château with fruits and nuts and oats.

Before 10 am, we often go to the garden to get some work done: watering, weeding, planting. C and I built bamboo structures above the plot where the tomato plants are: 2.5 m-high, fresh bamboo branches from F's bamboo forest (bambouseraie), planted across from each other and sideways so they cross in the middle (think tepee). We'll tie the tomato plants onto them as they grow.

Gardening-wise, P also taught me to use the weedwhacker! It's much more complicated than I thought it would be, and you end up covered with chopped up grass. Small stones can fly at you even if you're only using string (not blades), so it's best to be covered (at least the face). A memory from 2 years ago comes to mind: I was sitting on the terrace and caught sight of my uncle using the weedwhacker in the field below: cigarette in mouth, without a faceshield, and topless. I won't be doing this anytime soon (my skin isn't thick enough), but I'm happy to know how to use this most-useful tool! (Next I'd like to brush up on how these kinds of engines work—right now I pull the rope hard and just hope the thing starts, but I'd be at a loss if it didn't.)

After work, it's often apéro time. Cheese bread tapenade paté wine, or a variation of this. If we're still hungry we cook, either something simple or a fancier recipe, like Ottolenghi's take on shakshuka1 with spinach, feta and preserved lemons (the latter we found at the olive stall at the Les Vans market). A couple of times, after dinner, we played a card game that J and C taught us where you have to remember your own cards and remember special cards and be fast and I'm pretty bad at it but it's fun.

One evening we had dinner with F. For the apéro we had white from Neuchâtel with bread cheese saucisson tapenade, and then we fired up the barbecue (20-year-old cast iron plate on a wooden stand with a butane gas bottle underneath) and grilled caillettes sausages chorizo échine2, all from C's pigs in nearby Chazeaux. We ate the meat with a chimichurri dressing plus a big salad from the garden, patates nouvelles (baby potatoes) and a bottle of A's Chatus (Le Mouton Noir).

And then it was the weekend! On Saturday morning, the four of us sat at the table and painstakingly removed the small flowers and small leaves from the thyme branches that we picked last week. I boiled the elderberry infusion3 with about as much sugar and filled two small bottles. So J and C can bring a little bag of thyme and a small bottle of elderberry syrup back to Berlin.

After lunch it was rainy so we went to Chauvet 2 (the reproduction of the famous UNESCO-heritage cave that was discovered in 1994 in the region, second only to Lascaux in France) but after a 45-min drive, we were told that we had to book time slots to visit the cave, ugh. Since skies had cleared up, we drove to nearby Labaume, had coffee in the pretty village de caractère, and walked along the river4 to the jardins suspendus, literally "suspended gardens", but they were just on a very very steep slope. We ended the day with a galette at Le Colibri and a few stressful hours at home finishing packing for our trip. Nothing that a mango-yuzu sorbet couldn't sweeten, though.

And that's it: we're now on the train to Berlin. We left this morning (Sunday, May 14th) at about 5h45, drove 1h30 to Valence TGV, left the car at a long-term parking and were perfectly on time for the first train (a bit earlier wouldn't have hurt, it was tight). We had another 90 min in Lyon where we grabbed coffee and food for the trip. Then of course the Lyon–Karlsruhe ended up being late so we missed our connecting train (with reserved seats), so we're now sitting on the floor of a later Karlsruhe–Berlin train5. Hopefully we'll get to Berlin in good spirits, we have about 3 h to go. I can't wait for the Döner I'll grab as soon as I'm out of the train.


  • The Godfather (1972) by Francis Ford Coppola. This is a classic I'd never seen, and it jumped to the top of the watchlist when the Sicily trip crystallized. It was really good! Its long 3-hour running time flew by. Some characters were a bit rough around the edges but the plot made up for it: I can see how this trope (crime syndicates at war, vendettas) was a success.


About halfway through Les autonautes de la cosmoroute now. There'll be a long break in this one because I haven't packed the book for the trip. I'll probably pick up something Sicily-related next.


  1. Connor has the book! I first heard of Ottolenghi from N (Groovy Vegetables) who was delivering boxes every week to Neukölln from Brandenburg and who was a big fan. I'll get the books someday

  2. the latter barbecued with thyme, delicious

  3. one morning C (the visiting C) and I picked elderberry flowers and they seeped in water with lemon for about 48 h

  4. beautiful spot, I never regretted not having my swimsuit so much

  5. we found two vacant elderly seats, would need another two for our old backs