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Posts Tagged ‘France’

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There are a few places left on this extra cooking workshop in the first week in June (4th-8th) and in the extra autumn workshop at the end of September. The focus is hands-ons cooking of Mediterranean cuisine–with the accent on healthy recipes.

This June weekend will be the sixth I’ve run chez Dominique and Philippe, the warm and welcoming owners who run the beautiful La Terrasse in Lautrec.

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We start with tea–well I’m a Brit!–in the garden on Thursday afternoon and finish with a celebratory Sunday lunch.

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We eat outside in the garden as much as possible!

We eat outside in the garden as much as possible!

In between we top and tail, chop and slice, chew the fat and generally hang out together round the large central table of the working kitchen of the gite which Dominique and Philippe designed specifically for cooking courses.

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We are blessed to have Simone Sarti (pictured below) with us who keeps everything ship shape and the wheels turning.

Friday morning, we walk to the little market held in the main square of Lautrec and buy the makings for lunch, then go back and prepare it together.

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Friday evening we give ourselves a break and dine chez Valerie—a fine cook—in the converted barn where she and her partner, Bernard, have created a delightful table d’hôte.

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They have a sociable “Long John Silver” parrot in residence who is in love with Meredith and hangs on her every word.

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Saturday morning shop at the open air market in Castres, our nearest town, buying our fresh food for lunch.

Before the final dinner, Phillippe offers his expert take on local French wines in his extraordinary cave deep under the house.

Each attendee–Bravehearts to me!–has their cooking station with a chopping board, cook’s knife and an apron!

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It’s a hands on workshop–we are all in it together

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The aim is to have fun, make friends and eat well.

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The setting for all this is Lautrec—a medieval bastide (hilltop) village in the Tarn, proud of its designation as Un des plus beaux villages de France. It’s famous for its pink garlic–l’ail rose–and hosts a Garlic Festival the first Friday in August every year, attracting 10,000 visitors!  On a clear day you can see the Pyrenees from the hilltop.

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So far into the melting pot have jumped Bravehearts from the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, Australia and Majorca.

The pictures tell the story–it’s the people who’ve made it work.

Come be a Braveheart!!

Here’s more about it…

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Meredith and I made two visits to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach before Friday’s D-Day commemoration.

On Wednesday 4th she had arranged to meet an old high school classmate who was in charge of NBC TV’s coverage of the D-Day Ceremony.

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Ex-New Trier classmates re-unite: Meredith with Bob Epstein, Special Events, NBC News

The following day we returned to hear John Morris, a founding member of Magnum photo agencydeliver a short speech at the Memorial to honor of a friend who had been killed soon after the landings. He laid a wreath.

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John, who is 97 and first voted in a presidential election in 1935, also had a D-Day story to tell, which NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported.

The narrow lanes in Normandy link small villages where the damage has been repaired and only gratitude remains.

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Buildings are restored to former beauty–though the photographs from 70 years ago strategically placed (badges of honor almost) give a “Before and After” idea of the devastation wrought by allied bombing seventy years ago.

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Our journeys through the Normandy countryside are full of surprises.

No fighting troops but troops there are a-plenty–fully kitted out.

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…and driving every conceivable type of vehicle of the era.

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The plucky little guy!

Willys jeeps predominate–the ones we grew familiar with in post war films, usually transporting a cigar-smoking John Wayne or Robert Mitchum at speed.

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Answering a call of nature!?

I had a schoolboy crush on the Willys jeep, seeing myself in the Mitchum role long before I ever imagined I’d be an actor.

These “troops” processing at a more leisurely pace through the tranquil countryside are “re-enactors”, come to Normandy to do just that, re-enact incidents from the past and lend a non-violent “dressing” to the scene.

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Italian re-enactors!

After lunch with Bob “backstage” at the American cemetery on Wednesday, we watch a Belgian company of re-enactors paying tribute to the fallen with a full ceremony–including Taps (the Last Post) in front of the American flag.

They attract a crowd, perhaps providing a focus for people visiting this overwhelmingly emotional place.

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“Backstage” is the area where all the TV companies prepare the technical paraphernalia for the big day.

Meredith feels a touch of déjà-vu….

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Transported momentarily back into a previous life as a TV producer and writer with ABC News in New York.

(She was working freelance for NBC when she interviewed me in January 1986…)

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John Morris being interviewed by NBC TV

John Morris is telling the story he has told a thousand times since 7th June 1944.

He was based in London–Photo Editor of LIFE magazine–waiting anxiously for the first images of the invasion to arrive from the legendary photographer, Robert Capa–who was with the initial wave of American soldiers on Omaha Beach.  

The first three rolls of film were ruined when a darkroom technician tried to speed up the development process–but John managed to find a few frames which remain the defining photos of the American D-day landing.

(The story is best told by him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fzmieOlZy0&feature=channel_video_title/)

The backdrop to the interview is the Wall of Remembrance–dedicated to those Missing in Action.

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This is one of the eleven surviving images.

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John Morris points out in another interview that to take the photo, Robert Capa would have to have been on the beachside of the swimmer with his back to the German guns.

Back home now–time to read further and reflect on the events that unfolded from early morning on 6th June 1944…

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in awe at the bravery of those men wading ashore.

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One of the “Brave”–returned.

 

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The canicule brings on a state of torpidity.

Two words we don’t use often here.

Heat wave and listlessness–brought on by excessive heat.

I’m writing this at ten to ten in the evening and my arms are perspiring–(more than you need to know I suspect).

We haven’t taken the cats for their stroll tonight.

Beau looks forward to this ritual now and the other night when we were headed to Lautrec for the samba evening he watched us from the cemetery wall with a look of disappointment in his eyes–I swear.

Even Lucien the adopted tigré (tabby) whose arthritis makes him hobble, managed a crooked tail-rise as  he made his way up the hill towards us, remembering past evening perambulations with Butterscotch and Marmalade.

Pippa, the mother of all cats, hung back as usual awaiting our return.

I always suspect she regrets not coming with us–in the end.

Tonight it’s too hot to move anywhere–even with the fans blowing full strength.

La Depeche du Midi–the local daily–was full of gloom this morning, reminding everyone of the 2003 canicule, when upward of 15,000 people died, saying this heatwave will be on that scale.

That mustn’t happen again–so warnings are in order.

Lucien is taking heed–sacked out on the sofa!

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