Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Midweek Musical Muse XXI - Thunderstrucked

The way these two guys play cello they make every song they play their song.
Absolutely love the ending.

When Elton John heard them he said he had to get them for his band.

The 2Cellos.
Classic Rock like never before.

Also check out their Smells like Teen Spirit.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Brutal January

Good Morning New Year

There is an old folklore about predicting long term weather. Some believe the first 12 days of January foretell the weather for each month of the year, while others say use the 12 days of Christmas, that is December 25 through January 5. Well, both interpretations missed the spot by a mile this past festive season. Christmas was actually a rather nice winter’s day. Cold, but sunny. And New Year’s Day was similar. But January, which supposedly is represented by either one of those days, depending on your interpretation of the old saying, was and still is anything but nice winter weather. Most of January was brutal. Especially the 5th, 6th and 7th. Thus, are we not going to have any form of summer this year?


It is 11:06 pm on a Monday night.

It could be any given Monday night in early January. It’s winter. Outside a layer of ice covered by a blanket of 3 inches of snow lay silently in the black night. The 15 mile per hour North wind has been blowing steadily the whole day. But the snow is not your usual soft, fluffy stuff that kids like to pick up and make snowballs from. No one is making snowballs with this snow.  The ice from below, the 15 mile wind and the teeth-shattering cold air have turned the snow into snap crackle and pop when walked on.

Animal watching through the window. Not much else to do.

It is -4 Fahrenheit /-20 Celcius outside according to the Skyscan weather station in my kitchen. And it can only go down from here. It tells me I could also be seeing a quarter moon, but not tonight. A thick wall of low clouds have waltzed in on the rhythm of the howling wind and settled over the gentle rolling hills of the bluegrass. More snow is imminent. Now add the wind-chill factor and suddenly it feels like -22 F / -30 C and the bone-crunching cold turns old bones into acute arthritis pain in joints you didn’t even know you had.

Deer came looking for food

Tonight is going to be Killer. Humans with inadequate heating, exposed animals on farms around here, sickly trees, and tender plants not hardy enough for this “polar vortex”, the latest buzz word in meteorology, that is flexing its muscles way out of its normal orbit. The polar Jetstream has shifted, again, (it happens nearly every winter, in some form or fashion) and brought the North Pole, on a nice day, down south to us. 

[Thanks, but no thanks.]

I was hoping to have the porch done before the end of January, but no such luck

I wrote about it several years ago. But this year the phenomenon is slightly different it seems. It’s pissed off! Most certainly the worst in my 17 years here. If you just have to go from car to house or office to car and being only briefly exposed to it is fine, however, having to go outside and work with water and feed to ensure the chickens survive in the coop it feels more like being on a different planet. Crunching snow under foot, icy winds creeping through every fissure of my coat’s down material and the intense cold and dry air on the exposed parts of my face brings tears to my eyes and freezes ones nose hair after barely a minute or so.

[This is probably how it feels at the North Pole.]

We have had it all this winter. Well, nearly all. Ice, rain, very strong damaging windstorms, far more snow than usual, and the coldest temperatures in more than 30 years.  The only weather phenomenon still missing is a white-out, a blizzard.

I’ll be glad to see  January’s backside. What will February bring...? It is usually our coldest month in winter so is the worst still coming?

 The pond on January 4, 2014

By January 26 is was totally frozen over and snowed in

[PS: We enjoyed glorious sunshine and a temperature into the high 50’s on the first day of February, just like the 1st day of January, alas, first, the rain, then the cold, again rain, which turned into ice, and then eventually into snow, returned on the 2nd day of February.]

 Make it while you have it

It is winter and I am not waiting with abated breath for better days to come. It will come by itself. When nature is ready for spring it will show itself. It has always done so in the past…

I suppose you could say my glass is half full.

 New Year's day evening. A last look at green grass.   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Market Day in Gordes


We drove south east on the N7 from Avignon to Cavallion, but after crossing the A7, which runs south to Marseilles, we went east on the Route D’Apt, the D900 to Coustellet. I think it should be called the Perch Village Highway. North of the D900 the villages of L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Gordes and Roussillon are easy accessible. Turn south from the D900 and the perched villages of Ménerbes and Bonnieux are not too far. Near Coustellet we turned north on the D15 to Gordes. If it’s Tuesday, it must be market day in Gordes.   

Along the way we stopped when I eyed this classical Romanesque-style chapel. Probably from the 12th or 13th century.

As we continued to climb into the foothills of the Monts de Vaucluse and made another turn in the road, the view opened up. On the right the valley stretched far into the hazy morning sunlight until it backed up against the Luberon Mountains. On the left, through cypresses and native shrubs, perched on a spur, Gordes. At the top, its centuries old castle next to the church, and down the slopes, its narrow alleys and stone houses cascade down like exquisite layers of lace over a flowing satin ballroom wedding gown.

The perfect French hilltop village.

I wondered for how many centuries they have held market day in the shadow of the Gordes castle. Typical French country, beret and all.
For nearly a thousand years, the castle has been standing sentinel supreme over the village. Thought to be built in the 11th century by Guillaume d'Agoult, one of the earliest ancestors of the powerful feudal family who ruled large parts of Provence, including Gordes. However, habitation goes back probably to about 6000 BC when flint was mined here. D'Agoult successors strengthened the castle in 1123 to make it a nobile castrum – a noble fortress, and one of the most well-known among the many nearby castles. It was further strengthened through the centuries and then mostly rebuilt between 1525 and 1541, parts in the Renaissance style, by Bertrand Simiane, the Marquis de Simiane, who was then the lord of the manor.

Quintessential Mediterranean - Olive, garlic, chillies...

Cured Meats.

While M continued to meander through the market I explored the outer edges of the market square.

That sure is the biggest wine bottle I have ever seen.  

It seemed that door and that entrance were there for ever.

Time to explore the village. Down we went.

It doesn’t really matter which way you go. The important thing is to get yourself lost. And that is exactly what happened. Here and there were natural openings on the side of a street to lookout over the valley; places to adjusts ones perspectives again. But around the next corner the tall stone walls and darker shadows engulfed the narrow uneven cobblestone alleys again.     

A feline sentinel high above street level.

Another on street level. Totally disinterrested in the tourists.

We eventually found ourselves on an opposite hillside of the village with excellent views of the village itself and the valley below.

This house was for sale. It came with a beautifully carved stone cross.

And this is why the villagers moved up the hill to be under the protection  of the castle. The view. Probably not for the beauty of it, but as a lookout and an early warning system. Warnings against feudal armies and religious zealots during the Wars of Religion in the 16th Century. Theview is not bad either.

Totally stoned.

We walked back to where our car was parked on the outskirts of the village and continued our journey through the valley towards Roussillon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Proetyd - 2de Glasie

Na ‘n driegang middagmaal en 2 bottels wyn tussen die vyf toer lede, was die oë maar swaar, die ledemate lui en teen daardie tyd het die sonnetjie lekker gebak en die gat liggies begin stamp. Maar David, die ervare toerleier wat hy was, was seker gewoond daaraan, want oppad na ons volgende proekamer het hy gestop by Chateau Mont Redon, ‘n wynplaas sedert 1344, aan die voet van die koppie en ons toegelaat om die wingerd in te vaar en die dekades oue  geknolde en verwronge wingerd stamme en Châteauneuf-du-Pape se beroemde ronde klippe van nader te beloer.

Volgens David, en menige ander kenners is dit die einste “rivierklippe” wat saamwerk om Châteauneuf-du-Pape se gehalte wyne te maak. Bedags hou dit die grond relatief koel en beskerm dit die druif se wortels teen die hittige somers en snags verhit die verwarmde klippe die grond weer. Geologies gesproke is die rivierklippe daar gedeponeer deur gletsers aan die einde van die laaste ys-tydperk. Maar dis ‘n te ver draai en te lang storie om te gaan haal vir dié bloginskrywing.     

Alhoewel dit na oestyd was was was daar tog nog hier en daar druif aan die tak. Klein, goud geel korreltjies, goed-ryp en stroopsoet. Miskien Roussanne, miskien Grenache blanc, miskien Viognier?

Mededeelsaam met die druiwe.

Ons derde proekamer was Domaine de Beaurenard. Die wynplaas het ‘n lang geskiedenis van wynmakery. In 1695 het die Coulon familie die plaas Bois Renard gekoop. Dieselfde familie, 7 geslagte later, boer nog steeds daar. In die indrukwekkende ontvangslokaal is glasbottels met voorbeelde van die 13 druif kultivars wat gebruik kan word om ‘n Côtes du Rhône of 'n Châteauneuf-du-Pape wyn te maak. Na ‘n kort besoek aan die wynkelder onder die ontvangslokaal, was dit proetyd.
Ons het drie rooiwyne geproe: Die Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape en die Boisrenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape vanaf hul 80 akker plaas in die Châteauneuf-du-Pape vallei en hul Côtes du Rhône Villages 2009 vanaf die Rasteau area, in Vaucluse, waar die Coulon familie ook ‘n wynplaas het. Die Rasteau was bietjie swaar vir ‘n vroeg middag proeëry maar oor die algemeen was dit ‘n wyn van gemiddelde gehalte. Dieselfde kan egter nie gesê word van die twee Châteauneuf-du-Pape wyne nie. Albei was top gehalte, de qualité supérieure. veral die Boisrenard was uitstekend. Alhoewel vrugtig, swartbessies en pruime was toonaangewend, het dit komplekse karakter getoon met donker sjokolade en spesery nasmaak. Soos die Engelsman sou sê: This was good stuff.


Ons laaste wynlandgoed was ook vir my amper die lekkerste. Clos Saint Michel lê op die oorsponklike bodem van die Rhône Rivier valley, net suid van die dorpie en langs die D17 wat Châteauneuf-du-Pape met Sorgues and Avignon verbind. Die ontvangs en diens van die eienaars was aards, spontaan en ontspanne en hulle het ons werklik tuis laat voel. Met ons aankoms het Monsieur Mousset Sr. ‘n koeltetjie geniet in ‘n lêstoel in die skadu van ‘n boom neffens die opstal. Siesta-tyd! Een van die huidige wynmakers, Olivier Mousset het ook kom inloer in die proekamer, klere rooi gevlek en nat van kelderwerk. Ek het baie van hul wyne gehou. Baie swartvrug met heelwat lyf, sag en rollend in die middel, met ‘n peperige stert wat vir lang oomblikke draal op die palaat. Beesstertpotjiekoswyn.

Ek sou wat wou gee om ‘n paar bottels saam te vat huistoe, veral van Clos Saint Michel en Roger Sabon, maar die hoofdoel van die dag was om te proe. Tegnies was dit ook net nie moontlik vir ons om wyn die heelpad in ons tasse rond te sleep nie. En sienende dat ons nie mag wyn aanstuur na Kentucky toe nie, was dit ‘n ekspedisie vir die sintuie, die natuurlike prag van die vallei en die inname van ‘n stukkie Franse kultuur. 


Laat middag, na die terug ry na Avignon en ons ons au revoirs  gesê het vir ons mede wynvliee/kultuur-najagters en hulle die beste toegewens het met hul poging om na Aix-en-Provence te reis, het ons stadig terug gestap woonstel toe. Terwyl ons rustig kykinkopies gedoen het al met rue de la Republique langs het die huistoe-gaan skares rondom ons geskarrel. ‘n Man wat vinnig indraf by die boulangerie vir die verpligte vars broodjie vir aandete. Daar een met ‘n bottel wyn onder die arm. ‘n Groepie studente wat lukraaks van winkelventer tot winkelventer beweeg en ooo  and aaa.  Menigde wat net strak voor hul uitstaar, ‘n bestendige pas handhaaf en doelgerig hul pad oopvleg deur die aankomende massas na hul bestemming toe.


Ons was vroegaand weer tuis in ons woonstel wat uitgekyk het oor die Eglise St Pierre Kerk en die Pous se Paleis met ons voete op die gemak stoel se armleuning en ons vakansiegees verder ingesonke. Rustig. Later die aand het ek ‘n ligte maaltyd gemaak van groenslaai, donker olyfbrood, en skerp plaaslike kaas wat ons die vorige dag in Gondes gekoop het, en die laaste van ‘n bottel Beaumes-de-Venise gedrink, ‘n present van die woonsteleienaar, en een van die lekkerste wyne wat ek in Frankryk gedrink het.

 Au Revoir! Vive!


Ruïnes van die oorsponklike kasteel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wat in 1940 deur die Duitse Magte opgeblaas is.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Proetyd - 1st Glasie

Die oggend was kraakvars. Sonnig, nog koelerig maar vol belofte dat dit 'n pragtige warm dag gaan word. Die wolklose blou hemelruim, amper daardie bekende Provençal blou, wat al deur menige skilders nageboots is, vertoon ietwat van ‘n deinserigheid. Druppels vogtigheid. Nalatings van die morestond se dou.

Eglise St. Pierre kerk

Ons het die woonstel vroeërig verlaat en ons pad deur die smal klipstraatjies van Avignon se ou stad gewurm, verby die Eglise St. Pierre kerk met sy pragtige deure en goue altaar, tot ons by die bopunt van die rue de la Republique gekom het waar dié oopgevou en uitgespoel het op die Place de l'Horloge. Die talle opelug restaurante en smouskarretjies het soos eilandjies in ‘n meer op die plaza gelê. Ons het links gedraai, treinstasie se kant toe en met Avignon se hoofstraat vir inkopies afgestap tot by die toerismekantoor in cours Jean Jaurès.

 Eglise St. Pierre kerk

Ons het 'n 9:00 vm afspraak gehad met ons wynkenner, motorbestuurder, kultuuronderwyser en grapjas vir die dag, David, van die Avignon Wine Tour maatskappy. Dié toer maatskappy spits hom toe op klein, meer intieme toergroepies. Daar was net vyf van ons op die toer. ‘n Amerikaanse student op sy brugjaar en wat wou leer van wyn en die proses en Franse kultuur, en ‘n jong egpaar van Pennsylvania, wie se vakansie met die aanlanding in Avignon nie te goed begin het nie. Die treindrywers het alweer begin staak. Wie weet waaroor hierdie keer. Die egpaar was basies gestrand of moes met ‘n bus na hul volgende bestremming, Aix-en-Provence, reis.     

Daar was geen manier dat ek, 'n grapenut, Provence en die Rhône Rivier vallei sal besoek en nie tyd spandeer in die proekamers van Châteauneuf-du-Pape nie. Hierdie klein dorpie, net noord van Avignon, en sy 3200 hektaar van wingerde, is een van die wynwereld se kleinste en gesogste wynstreke. Côtes-du-Rhônes wyne is van my gunstelinge maar die wyne van Châteauneuf-du-Pape, wat binne die algemene  Côtes-du-Rhônes streek geleë is, was nog altyd buite my bereik. Vins Prestigieux.

Ek is nie ‘n Frankofiel nie. Ek glo ‘n mens moet daarvoor alles Frans inasem en leef. Maar ek hou van hulle kos en hul wyn. Alhoewel ‘n mens die kos en wyne orals ter wereld kan geniet is die ware Jakob mos altyd lekkerder. (In ‘n vorige bloginskrywing het ek oor ‘n denkbeeldige wyntoer en Côtes du Rhône wyne geskryf.) Ons het deurgaans probeer om altyd tradisionele geregte te bestel en natuurlik plaaslike wyne te drink. En op daardie spesifieke Woensdag was dit dan ook nie anders nie.

Die toerplan was kort en kragtig: Twee wynmakers voor en twee na middagete. Ons eerste stilhou plek was by die Brotte familie se Le Musée du Vin en proekamer om te leer oor die wynmaakproses en die geskiedenis van wynmakery in die area. Alhoewel interessant laat die museum se inhoud veel te wense oor veral Suid Afrika, want die wereld se sesde grootste wyn produseerder word glad nie eens gemeld in die museum nie terwyl kleiner produseerders soos Australië, Chili en Argentinië wel verskyn op die groot muurkaart. In die verbygaan het ek dit aan David, nou die geskiedenisonderwyser, genoem, maar al wat ek gekry het was die tipiese Franse antwoord: Oë wat hemelwaarts slaan, mond wat ondertoe getrek word, oop hande wat sywaarts opgelig word, amper asof hy die seën wil uitspreek oor my en ‘n oplig van die skouers. Oui!

Miskien was ek net te sensitief?

Brotte wyne.
 Links is ‘n verweerde bottel meerjarige-oesjaar Brotte Pere Anselme “La Fiole du Pape.” David, ons wynkenner, wat vinnng verander het na ‘n wynverkoper, wou my laat glo dat die voggies afkomstig was van 80 jaar oue wingerde, terwyl hy ons deur die proses van kyk, ruik, en proe geneem het. Die wingerde “mag” dalk so oud wees, maar die wyn was maar middelmatig, te plat, geen diepte nie. ‘n Mens kan seker ook nie te veel verwag van ‘n wyn wat nie eintlik bedoel is vir veroudering nie. Regs is Brotte se 2011 witwyn. Ditto! Let’s move on. Ek kon net hoop dit sou beter word soos die dag aangaan. 


Ons volgende watergat was Domaine Roger Sabon. En dié dag het sommer onmiddelik beter geword. Ons het nie voor die toer geweet watter wynmakers ons sal besoek nie en ek was aangenaam verras toe ons van die hoofstraat afdraai na die Sabon proekamer. Dié wynmaker is bekend vir sy komplekse wyne en die 2009 Prestige and 2009 Reserve wat ons geproe het het nie teleurgestel nie. Beide die wyne was goed gebalanseerd en ‘n goeie mondvol van aktiwiteite op die palaat. Veral die Prestige se sagte tanienne, lae suur inhoud en kompleksiteit van vrugte, peper en leer was indrukwekkend, maar die Reserve was nie te versmaai nie en net ‘n kortkop agter die Prestige.


Hoe gou het die oggend nie verby gegaan nie en middagete was op hande.  Middagete was in Le Verger des Papes neffens Châteauneuf-du-Pape se ou vervalle kasteel.  Daar is maar min oor van die kasteel want die terugtrekkende Duitsers wat die toring en kasteel gedurende die Tweede Wereldoorlog as ‘n opservasiepos en ammunisie stoorplek gebruik het, het die plek opgeblaas op Augustus 20, 1944. Net die oostelike muur het behoue gebly. Die restaurant se ligging is idilies, bo op ‘n koppie met pragtige uitsigte oor die omliggende wynplases, Avignon en die Rhône Rivier wat soos ‘n silverslang in die verre deinserigheid gelê het.     

(Word vervolg...)

Heading image: Hotel Château des Fines Roches in Châteauneuf-du-Pape