22 July, 2010

Trains and tea.

Sometimes in the summer you can be convinced to do slightly offbeat things. In my case, it's often simply about building a solid foundation of memories for my children. And who's going to let a little soot get in the way of such a grand project? Enter a little steam engine. The real deal, huffing and puffing its way for the last hundred years through the Cevenol mountains.Today, it serves to schlep children and their slightly (okay, seriously) overheated parents from one village to another, with a stop at the lovely Bambouseraie just outside of Anduze. Tuesday's final destination was the organic farmer's market in St. Jean du Gard, where I was able to pick up my favoritest blueberry tart, which features no filling beyond deeply flavorful, tiny wild blueberries and a substantive, none-too-sweet shortbread-style crust. Summer heaven in a mouthful! (I ate it before I thought of my camera.)If you can ignore the smoke that periodically blankets the open carriages, you're in for some beautiful scenery as well.After the mini train trip, a dip in the saltwater pool to bring the body temperature down to acceptable levels (it was 37C, or about 99F, when we stumbled off the train). Then we were off to welcome our neighbor's brand-new baby. This is Annabelle, the first-ever offspring of attentive Roxanne, in whose belly she spent a placid 13 months. She is softer than you can imagine but what else would you expect: she's raised on luscious, healthful donkey milk; Cleopatra used to bathe in the stuff, and to this day it is a well-regarded and pricy beauty product. We humans'd apparently be nutritionally better off drinking donkey milk rather than cow milk or even goat milk, but as the average donkey only produces about 25 liters per year, this isn't a very viable option. Annabelle has these crazy, waggily expressive, oversized rabbit ears, and she loves to nuzzle. I am in love. Ears going in all directions, she suddenly hurtles off and then crashes to a halt, shocked by the slippery appearance of her shadow. To recover from our exertions [insert sardonically raised eyebrow here], we head for home, where I gather some chamomile I've stumbled across in the field. On the beauty line front, blondes can brew up a strong batch (using the blossoms only) and use it as a cool rinse to brighten and hydrate their hair. It's also considered by some to be effective in treating minor skin conditions, such as acne. Chamomile has been traditionally used for centuries to soothe minor digestive troubles and sore throats, as well as to promote relaxation and sleep (safe for even toddlers, though I understand it is not advised for pregnant women).At my house, a handful of fresh or dried blossoms are simply tossed into a pitcher, along with a couple of bruised handfuls of lemon balm (which grows exuberantly as a weed in my garden), and maybe even some mint (also all over the place). I pour boiling water over the lot, add a smidgen of honey to taste. Okay, a bit more than a smidgen. The brew's ready to be strained and drunk after about a three minute steep. It's a delicious way to hydrate and ease yourself into the night.


  1. That is just a happy picture. Annabelle is adorable.


  2. Hello Donna!

    I agree--and she's ever so friendly...

  3. We haven't made it to the bambouseraie yet but I heard good things from my niece (when she lived in Avignon). I dated a guy from Anduze when I was 21 years old. He work for the SNCF, had a farm, made wine and sold truffles in season. Annabelle is the cutest thing.

  4. Hello Nadege,
    I highly recommend visiting the Bambouseraie, though not in the hottest part of the day! Your old flame sounds quite interesting: you can never have too many friends with access to truffles, cepes--and good wine.

  5. Your pictures make me homesick. My family is from Marseille/St. Remy and I miss all the colors and smells especially this time of year!

  6. Thanks for visiting, mme maisonette. St. Remy and Marseille are both such lively, charming places, I can well imagine being a touch homesick. Hope you can make it back there soon!


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