Carcassonne: Oenovideo Film Festival and Terroirs d’Images Photo Exhibition

On May 30 through June 2, Cité de Carcassonne hosted Le 20e Festival Œnovidéo, véritable moment de rencontre internationale entre le monde du cinéma et du vin, vient de se clôturer (the 20th Annual Oenovideo International Grape and Wine Film Festival) and le 8e Torroirs d’Images Exposition Internationale de Photographies sur la Vigne et le Vin (the 8th Annual Terroirs d’Images Exhibition of  Vine and Wine Photography.)

Oenovideo Film Festival
Oenovideo Film Festival
Terroirs d'Images Photo Exhibition
Terroirs d’Images Photo Exhibition

The Oenovidéo International Grape and Wine Film Festival featured 26 films from 14 countries competing for the title of best film on the vine and wine in 2013.  The Terroirs d’Images Photo Exhibition hosted 105 photos from photographers from 14 countries on the theme “Enjoy and celebrate wines on five continents.

After going to the website I was able to request tickets to the film showings and to attend the photography exhibition.  The event’s headquarter was at Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne, a four star hotel located inside the medieval city and next to Basilique Saint-Nazaire-et-Saint-Celse de Carcassonne (the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse).  The hotel has stunning private gardens where several events were held.

The films screened at the festival included several English language films including my favorite selection, “No Wine Left Behind,” a “kickstarter-funded” independent film which is described as, “When US Marine Sergeant Josh Laine returned from intense fighting in Iraq to his native Livermore, CA, he couldn’t find a job anywhere. When a girlfriend got him into wine, he decided to take a crack at winemaking and with the help of the other Marines that he served with, Lavish Laines Winery was born. The winery has since become a place where returning veterans can find a job, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose. The film follows Josh and his fellow vets as they try to take the winery from a garage start-up to a fully-fledged operation and in the process explores the challenges vets face in transitioning back to civilian life.”

Tracy and I really enjoyed the Terroirs d’Images Photo Exhibition.  The gallery was set up inside le Cité de Carcassonne’s Trésau Tower and  the venue gave the photos a powerful setting.  The images were suspended on thin wires to emphasize the photographer’s work.  There was a “No Photos” inside the gallery rule, but I took one overall shot to give you an impression of the exhibition and the presentation of the art.

Photo gallery inside Trésau Tower.
Photo gallery inside Trésau Tower.

Some of the photos were “blown-up” and displayed outside the gallery so I can share some of those below.

Tracy outside the exhibition with two photos displayed inside. Eighth Annual Terroirs d'Images International Photo Exposition.
Tracy outside the exhibition with two photos displayed inside. Eighth Annual Terroirs d’Images International Photo Exposition.

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Carcassonne: Equiaude Parade and Cheval en Fête (Horse Festival)

We had a great time at the Cheval en Fête (Horse Festival) today.  We watched more than 100 riders participate in the Equiaude Equestrian Parade.  The cavaliers rode from the medieval citadel of la Cité de Carcassonne, down and across du Pont Vieux (the Old Bridge), around Square Gambetta, through the streets of Carcassonne, and ending at the Hippodrome de la Fajeolle.

Equiaude Equestrian Parade passing over the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) with la Cité de Carcassonne in the background.
Equiaude Equestrian Parade passing over the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) with la Cité de Carcassonne in the background.

The participants ranged from mature to the very young.  There appeared to be several riding schools with groups of young people in matching shirts singing together as they rode.  Riders were using western saddles, dressage saddles, Australian saddles, and jumping saddles and there was a couple of horse-drawn carriages also participating.  With the municipal police taking front and rear of the procession for safety, the parade passed through town with the children happily waving to spectators.

The parade is part of a two-day equestrian competition at Carcassonne’s hippodrome.  The Equiaude Parade (Equi = equestrian, Aude = our department in France) is anticipated in Carcassonne like the annual Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive.

Equiaude Equestrian Parade
Equiaude Equestrian Parade

It was odd not to see iconic American Mustangs or Quarter Horses among the horses, but there were some beautiful Arabians and Thoroughbreds, with ponies and horse/mule hybrids for the children.  While I’ve been in a saddle fewer times than I have fingers, Tracy is a former horsewoman who explained tack and horses breds as they passed.

The part we enjoyed the most was the smiles and laughter of all the young riders as they enjoyed being the center of the attention while waving to the spectators and singing in unison.

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Carcassonne: Monet-Goyon Vintage Motorcycle

There I was “walking around the neighborhood” when I spotted this vintage Monet-Goyon motorcycle in the window of an insurance agency. I knew I had to get photos for my brother, Gary, who has always been a motorcycle enthusiast.   After a bit of a struggle getting the proprietor to understand my inadequate French, he was happy to let me take some photos of this beautifully restored classic motorcycle.  The insurance agency apparently is also a sponsor of the Circuit des Remparts, a race for classic Grand Prix and Formula 2 cars in Angoulême.  The annual event also hosts a Concours d’Élégance gathering of  vintage and prestigious cars, a “Hot August Nights” event for classic French and European cars.

Monet-Goyon 100 cc Motorcycle, circa 1954
Monet-Goyon 100 cc Motorcycle, circa 1954

Monet-Goyon motorcycles were made in France from about 1917 to 1959.  The factory was located in Mâcon, in the department of Saône-et-Loire in the region of Burgundy.

After researching online and getting information from Gary, I learned that Monet-Goyon motorcycles were widely used in France.  The Mâcon factory  (which also built Koehler Escoffier motorcycles) produced numerous Villiers (British brand 2 stroke engines) and MAG (Swiss brand 4 stroke engines) powered motorcycles up until 1939.  After the end of World War II, Monet-Goyon resumed production of small displacement motorcycles and scooters until finally closing its doors at the end of the 1950’s.

I believe this model is a Monet-Goyon 100cc S2G-1954G.  Fun little discovery and I’ve added the Circuit des Remparts and its Concours d’Élégance to my list of “Events to Attend” in France.

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French Beverages, Part 4: Kir

One of the iconic French cocktails is Kir (pronounced “keer”.)

Light and refreshing, it is considered the perfect summer aperitif.

The back story to the drink was that the mayor of Dijon, Felix Kir (a Catholic priest and hero in the French resistance during WWII), wanted to promote Dijon’s local products during the post-World War II economic recovery.  But the Nazis had previously confiscated the entire production of Burgundy wine for which Dijon is well-known and there was left a surplus of the then-unknown Aligoté dry white wine.  In a marketing coup, Mayor Kir invited delegations from around the country to receptions in Dijon and served them a cocktail he created using the Aligoté wine and Crème de Cassis, a sweet, dark blackcurrant liqueur that was also produced locally.  The Crème de Cassis‘ sweetness offset and balances the acidity and dryness of the Aligoté wine. Mayor Kir’s cocktail was a big hit and resulted in huge sales of both Aligoté wine and Crème de Cassis liqueur.

Kir Cocktail
Kir Cocktail

Today you may order the classic Kir with Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant), Kir de Mûre (blackberry), Kir de Framboise (raspberry), Kir de Pêche (peach), or you can “up the ante” to a Kir Royal made with champagne.

Most Kir cocktails today will be made using a local dry white wine and mixed one part Crème de Cassis to four parts wine-producing a deep blush color. Kir is served in a white wine glass and Kir Royal is presented in a champagne flute.

What do I think?  I like it. It’s very refreshing on a sunny afternoon, but it’s a little too reminiscent of a wine cooler to me.  It might be a nice change of pace, but I think I’d rather just have a good glass of wine (or a carafe of wine) to enjoy the afternoon.

Kir Cocktail
Kir Cocktail

French Beverages, Part 2: Languedoc-Roussillon’s Vin de France and Vin de Pays

“You know, every glass of wine here is French wine.”  Me sharing the extremely obvious with Tracy.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region in Southwest France, where we are living, is the largest area in France in terms of vineyard acreage.  The region is known for its Blanquette de Limoux, the world’s oldest sparkling wine, and many high quality red wines like Corbières, Cotaeux du Languedoc, Côtes du Roussillon, Fitou, Minervois, Saint Chinian, and Costières de Nimes.

Languedoc-Roussillon (Wikimedia Commons)
Languedoc-Roussillon
(Wikimedia Commons)

Languedoc-Roussillon is also known as the “Wine Lake” of France where the majority of inexpensive wines in France are produced. So much wine is produced in Languedoc-Roussillon that France worries the “Wine Lake’s” surplus drives down the export price of French table wine.  More than 1/3 of all grapes grown in France are grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

The everyday wines are called Vin de France, (previously called “Vin de Table“) the lowest level of the three tiers in the current wine classification system in France.  But don’t let the term “lowest level” deceive you, these are flavorful wines that enhance any meal or are enjoyable simply by the glass.  Any wine in France is all about its terroir:  the environment, climate, soil, geography, and weather that makes up the intangibles that combined with the variety of grapes and the skill of the winemaker creates the final taste of the wine.

Pichet de Vin
Pichet de Vin

The mid-level category of French wines are Indication Géographique Protégée wines (IGP), an intermediate category basically replacing the former Vin de Pays (“country wine”) category.  These IGP/Vin de Pays wines are simple varietal French wines that include Vin de Pays d’Oc from Languedoc-Roussillon. Vin de Pays d’Oc is the largest portion of all Vin de Pays wines produced in France.

Vin de Pays
Vin de Pays

Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) is the highest category of French wine replacing the previously used category of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wines.  We look forward to touring some of the local vineyards in the near future and tasting some of these top-tier AOP wines.  Restaurants in Carcassonne offer high quality AOC wine lists in addition to their basic house wines.

AOP Seal (Wikimedia Commons)
AOP Seal
(Wikimedia Commons)

Most of Tracy and my wine consumption has been Vin de France and Vin de Pays.  These inexpensive reds, white, and rosé wines have proven to be delicious.  “Un demi-pichet de vin,” (a half litre carafe of a restaurant’s vin de France) has never been a bad experience.  Restaurants carefully choose even the house wine with their reputations in mind.  Rosé wines are a respected wine choice and hold a prominent place in many of France’s major wine regions, including Languedoc-Roussillon.

Tracy enjoying "un pichet of vin rouge."
Tracy enjoying “un pichet of vin rouge.”

Shopping for wine is an embarrassment of riches.  The wine section in every store offers a huge range of quality, varieties, and price points.  It is difficult to narrow down your choices from so many offerings.  I was stunned to even see “boxed” vin de France meant for inexpensive table wine. Two of our most recent purchases, a red and a rosé, were both under 2 Euro and they were delicious!

Shelves of Wines
Shelves of Wines
Shelves of Wines
Shelves of Wines
Shelves of Wines
Shelves of Wines
Varied wines and prices
Varied wines and prices

Tracy and I greatly enjoy our new tradition of a glass of wine with lunch and dinner.  And there is nothing like a leisurely afternoon, sitting in the town square of Place Carnot, and  lingering with a carafe of wine as Tracy and I just enjoy the view, conversation, and people watching.

Win-Win and Wrinkle-Free Shirts

I had a run in with a little old lady the other day at the market. It wasn’t verbal, otherwise I would not have been able to participate anyway. It was all about the squint of her eyes.

Alan and I were walking through the stalls at the market. It was a nice warm day — this is the rainy season so we enjoy them when they happen — and we were without jackets. Alan’s permanent press shirts get wrinkled here, not exactly sure why but assume it’s the tiny washer/dryer combo and no room to fluff clothes.

As we were passing a group of three older ladies, he was in front of me, one of the ladies caught my eye, she gave me a look of disapproval, pointed at the back of his wrinkled shirt, then tsk-tsk’d me as she shook her head from side to side, her curly gray hair bouncing around her frowning, squinty-eyed face.

Her disapproval of my duties to Alan’s laundry kind of amused me at first. I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’m married to a full-grown adult who can wash, dry and iron his own clothing. We’ve been married nearly 13 years and the only time I’ve ironed something for him is if I was already using the thing for myself and asked if he needed anything pressed. Alan is fully capable of ironing his shirts in France, too.

But by the following Saturday, when Alan was getting ready to hit the market and pulled a shirt out of the closet that had a wrinkle on the back, I grabbed it and said, “hold on, just let me hit it with the iron first, can’t have the little old ladies at the market tsk-tsk’ing me again.”

I’m still a little amazed that I caved to peer-pressure from a little old lady. But, I alao avoided looks of disapproval from the gray-haired crowd at the market this time, so . . . win-win, and Alan gets wrinkle-free shirts!

French Beverages, Part 1: Pastis

Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur and popular aperitif in France.

Ricard is the number one pastis beverage in the world, its recipe unaltered since its creation by Paul Ricard in 1932. A refreshing apperitif, Ricard is a long-time favorite in France, especially in the southern regions of the country. Over 130 million liters of pastis is sold each year in France, more than two liters per inhabitant.  The name “pastis” originally comes from the regional dialect occitan’s word, pastís, meaning “mash-up.”

Ricard Pastis
Ricard Pastis

Pastis’ popularity grew following the French ban on absinth. One reason for the popularity of pastis can be attributable to the demand for anise flavored drinks created by absinthe decades earlier. There is also an old tradition in the Mediterranean of anise-based liquors like Sambuca, Ouzo, Arak, and Mastika.

The principal ingredients of Ricard is star anise, a rare spice that grows in southern Chinese and in the north of Vietnam, licorice from Syria, and aromatic herbs from Provence. Pastis is not absinthe and does not does not contain grand wormwood (artemisia absinthium), the herb from which absinthe gets its name. Absinthe obtains its base flavor from green anise, not the star anise which Ricard uses. Pastis’ flavor comes from licorice root which is not used in absinthe. Also, absinthes are normally bottled at 45 to 74% ABV, while pastis is typically bottled at 40 to 50% ABV. Finally, unlike absinthe, pastis is classified as a liqueur  because it contains sugar.

Pastis is normally served with the liqueur presented in one glass and accompanied by carafe of cold water.

The liqueur is diluted with the water according to the drinker’s preference, traditionally about 5 parts water to 1 part Ricard. Diluting the liqueur creates the “French Milk” effect as the water is added. The combination of liqueur and water ‘louches,’ and turns the diluted beverage cloudy and white in appearance. The drink is then consumed cold and is considered a refreshing beverage for hot days. Ice cubes may be added after diluting the pastis.

Pastis before dilution with water
Pastis before dilution with water
Pastis after dilution with water and 'louching' starting
Pastis after dilution with water and ‘louching’ starting

The Bells of Saint Vincent’s

While enjoying a cup of cafe kreme (France’s version of cappuccino) we were treated to a concert via the bells of Saint Vincent’s Church just a block away.

The bells of the local Catholic churches ring hourly around here. We often find ourselves counting the chimes to tell the hour of the day. Every once in a while it sounds like the bell ringer (or electronic system used to ring the bells) goes haywire and you get 20 chimes at 1 p.m. It’s taken us a while to realize that the two Catholic churches, Saint Michael’s Cathedral and Saint Vincent’s Church have over 50 bells between them. That’s a lot of church bells.

Thankfully being raised Catholic I love the sound of bells. According the the Catholic Liturgical Calendar [courtesy of CatholicCulture.org] today is the Solemnity of the Ascension, the day when Jesus returned to his Father in Heaven, which would explain the joyous noise we were treated to this morning from this gorgeous Gothic church (see photo below) while we were enjoying our morning coffee.

So regardless of your spiritual beliefs or mine for that matter, here’s a clip of this morning’s impromptu concert. Enjoy!

Bells of Saint Vincent’s video

Eglise Saint-Vincent (Saint Vincent Church)
Eglise Saint-Vincent (Saint Vincent’s Church)