Week 35 (28 August–3 September 2023)

Another week! Not as hot and not as cold as the last which is good. It's September now and suddenly there are less people less markets less events, it's nice. Climbed cooked read gardened drove around, and on the weekend friends from Switzerland were visiting.


C and I drove to Vogüé one day, we went climbing to a small crag nearby (would not recommend, very small and sparse points = possible ground falls1).

Since we were close to the village we drove in for lunch, and although we've passed nearby multiple times, we'd never been inside. Vogüé is one of Ardèche's "villages de caractère", it's nested between an impressive limestone cliff to the east and the Ardèche river to the west. It has a castle and a main street with a few restaurants and shops. We had a platter of local foods for lunch at the village shop, which incidentally sells a really nice selection of nature wine.

Before leaving we walked back to the crag where we'd forgotten something. We took the old railroad that connected Vogüé to Le Teil in the Rhône valley (115'200 passengers in 1897), which is now part of the Via Ardèche: a bike/pedestrian "voie verte" that links Vogüé to Aubenas and other towns. The path crosses the river on the old railroad bridge by the village and then goes into an old railroad tunnel (ECHO, ECHo, ECho, Echo, echo) that opens on the crag. There are blackberries to pick.

I and B in Joux

They visited over the weekend and only had one full day here. I had a list of ideas of things to do to fill at least a week. So we made choices and we:

  • went to the market at Les Vans in the morning, bought some foods, chatted with the sellers including one who moved back to France after 22 years in Laos and sells chili pepper snacks
  • visited the Chauvet cave, because it was overcast and B likes old stones. The Chauvet II reproduction is nice but I never quite had the illusion that I was actually looking at paleolithic art, too bad. There are more questions than answers about the art and the people who made it, but the visit was still interesting! I really want to try speleology
  • had ice cream at Aux glaces de mon père, great as always, and we were given a scoop of red pepper iced cream after asking about it, it was surprisingly good (they add some raspberry to it for a touch of acidity)
  • jumped in the river at the creux de l'ours
  • listened to old French music in the car but quickly defaulted back to our Sicily road trip playlist, pouli pouli pouli poula
  • bought some foods at the shop in Rocles and had an apéro at home with wine cheese saucisson tapenade and a bunch of veggies
  • played the 1984 French edition of Trivial Pursuit, apart from nature and geography questions are really difficult (arts and entertainment, history etc)
  • did a tour of the garden and picked tomatoes physalis (winter cherries) blackberries plums (green and blue) figs (yellow and black) peaches (red fleshed)

I and B drove back to Switzerland on Sunday afternoon with some figs and C. C is spending next week back in Lausanne so I'll be home alone and tasked with preserving whatever fruit and veg are left in the garden.

Garden update

Figs! Too many to eat, I've had kilos right off the tree and made pies and jams and chutneys and oven-roasted figs with goat cheese. Latest experiment: fig jam with red wine, balsamic vinegar and rosemary.

Grape! After our Gamay harvest last week a lot of other varietals are ripening. One of my favs is Isabelle, one of France's prohibited grape varietals that people still grow in the area. The typical red Isabelle is delicious, it has distinct aromas of strawberry and raspberry, the same that are found in wine made from the Isabelle grape (not easy to find because of the prohibition). For the first time I've also had some Isabelle rose, the same varietal but pink—unsure how it relates to Isabelle red and whether it's used for winemaking as well.

It's very much the end of the season for other summer crops. There will be leeks and saffron and olives and more peas in the fall.


Speaking of fall:


Notes coming up throughout next week (12.9.23: all notes added)


  1. actually just noticing that the FFME website says this is a trad climbing crag... this explains a lot. The sport routes might just be leftovers