Feature Article #1

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Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE (more…)

| January 27th, 2017 | Continued

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Live French Saints – part one

 

 

 

French Country Travel Life Saints are everywhere here. Down every obscure byway. In villages and cities. Always ready willing and able to effortlessly shower you with their self-less help and hospitality.

As you would expect, I’ve met many in my zillion and a half years of surfing the French Country Backroads. But two of the best I’m still in touch with. Is it just a coincidence that they share the same surname as the famous French religious celebration – “Toussaint?” (All Saints)

Whatever your take on coincidental veritie – Bernard and Marie-Andre Toussaint are the real saintly deal.

Example: They’re driving along a Northern  country road  and stop to offer a ride to a not too young heavily backpacked couple.

When the Toussaints find out this couple’s mission is to WALK to the South of France(can you say: “EXTREME?”) They kidnap them for two weeks of saintly R ‘n R at the Toussaint sanctuary.

My introduction to the natural goodness of Bernard and Marie-Andre began on a drizzly autumn day. One that was definitely promising to accelerate it’s quantity and force soon.

While, admittedly not the brightest light in the intellectual sky, I do have enough sense to come in out of the rain.! And Bernard and Marie-Andre’s door did look inviting. To be clear – not just “convenient” but inviting.

Was it the way the house was nestled in a mini-park with tall trees? It’s position farthest away from the road? The circular “come hither” driveway?

No idea. But it definitely called to me. And I answered the call. Marie-Andre answered my knock. With an instant genuine smile. And before I could say word one, She stated the obvious: “You’re all wet…..come in…”

Now, wouldn’t  most people’s first reaction be: “Who is this tall, wet stranger with a guitar on his back? And why is he knocking on our door?”

And if they were inclined to be hospitable, wouldn’t most folks say: “you’re all wet…..so take off your wet stuff before you come in?”

Bernard was quickly summonded and introduced. He quickly introduced me to some of his dry clothes.

Then, as you would expect, the obvious question for the exotic stranger from the far away lands: “Are you hungry?”

A former air traffic control supervisor, Bernard had taken an early retirement. An Active one. Tennis, Photography (winner of several Nikon competitions) playing guitar in a 50’s music rock n’ roll band with other retirees. Appropriately, and whimsically named “The Old Rabbit Skins.” Before retirement, add solo rock climbing (the chalky hands and no net kind) and motorcycle riding. The latter ended voluntarily.

Marie-Andre was a former solo acrobatic pilot. So – you can probably guess where and how they met. Can you not? Sadly, unlike Bernard ‘s voluntary “fini” to motorcycling, Marie Andre had a mandatory end to her solo flight career. You gotta quit at 50. (the diminishing reflexes thing.)

Since it was ordained that I would be spending the night Marie-Andre escorted me to my room. But, it wasn’t a room. It was a SUITE! Think large living room with huge sunken tub, monster bed, two adjoining wash basins with seperate mirrors, small cozy terrace with a view onto  the other side of their not so mini-park. (Catch yer breath yet?)

Saints. Gotta love ’em – yeah?

Part Two – Next Time

THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!

What are ya thinkin’?

 

Le Abbaye Royale du Fontevraud

 

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The French Country Travel Life History Lesson goes down every year. All over France.  Usually just for one day.  Sometimes two. And, happily, it’s (mostly) free. While it’s not a holiday in the strict sense of the word, it’s equally, not a day of work.

It’s offical title is : “Le Journee Du Patrimoine.” which, loosely translated(and isn’t that the best way?) is:” The day of History appreciation. ” This is the day  that  private Chateau you’ve always wanted to visit but couldn’t is obliged to open it’s doors to “le grand public.” (if it is classed as one of the Historical Treasures of France.)

And that World class museum, usually too pricey to even consider? – Today – not a problem. (Note:  “attractions” with an entry fee will reduce it, if it’s not eliminated altogether.)

This particular “Journee du Patrimoine” happened to fall on a weekend. So – Historical goodies both days!  Since DA BG happened to be in the Loire, and being especially attracted to French Churches/Abbeys/Cathedrals, et al, the destination was clear. The monstrous Abbey (complex!) of Fontevraud.

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Like every Monstrous Religious edifice in France Le Abbaye Royale du Fontevraud has a history worthy of several Hollywood movies. (“Abbey Wars – The Sequel!” ) It was founded in 1100 as a “double” monastery -ie – Monks and Nuns side by side.  A rarity in any era. A variety of King’s, Queens, and assorted Royalty are also associated with it. Particularly the  English Plantegenet line.

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Eleanor of Acquitane, the Widow of Henry 2 become a nun at Fontevraud. Henry was buried there, along with their son, Richard “The Lionheart” (who spent most of his short  life in France) as well as their daughter Joan, their grandson Raymon VII of Toulouse, and Isabella of Angouleme, wife of Henry and Eleanor’s son King John.

The French Revolution, bringing bad news to almost everyone, didn’t spare Fontevraud. It ordered all monasteries closed.

Eventually, in 1804, the former Abbey became a prison. Reputed to be one of the harshest in France. During World World Two, scores of French Resistance fighters were executed there by the Vichy Government.

After a major restoration, Fontevraud was opened to the public in 1985.

And that’s “30” for our French Country Travel Life History Lesson.

THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!

What are ya thinkin’?

 

French Chef No 1 – Part Three

 

(Author’s Note : Part One and Two could add to your reading enjoyment)

 

So, clearly, Jean Luc’s culinary talent, hospitality, and generosity take a back seat to no one. But what makes him, for Me, the greatest French chef – is his embodiment of all the best elements of the French character. Dynamic. Resourceful. Discreet.Positive. Always authentically “up.” Appreciating his good fortune. Never seriously bad-mouthing anyone. In a word, Jean Luc Maurice is real. No supermarket smile. No “have a nice day.”

To have Jean Luc as a friend, is to have a friend who is consistently dependable and accessible. Whenever I can’t avoid phoning him during cooking hours; He always takes the call. And always the first two questions are : “Where are you?” ”Are you alright?” Typical of Jean Luc’s “above and beyond the call “ qualities was : “The early airport caper.” I needed to get my large, boxed bike, plus all my gear to the airport, from Paris.

Impossible with affordable private/public transportation. Jean Luc, as usual, had it wired. We slept in the staff bunk beds in his office. Back o’ da bistro. At three am, a groggy, but smiling Jean Luc shook me – thrust an espresso in my face, and twenty minutes later – We’re airport bound. That’s the first miracle.

 


The second – not only did He finesse all my gear into his postage stamp-sized compact, but at the airport, he risked a monster parking fine, to get Me exactly to the right spot. After our goodbye hug – He intoned seriously. “You ‘ave any problem….
…you call me…….ok?……………..never mind what time…….You call me………ok?”

Often, over a glass, Jean Luc gets misty about his pre-chef days as a triathlete. And, although He’d like a return match, with forty advancing in the rear view mirror, and two kids at the need-daddy-most-now age, it would seem that a triathalon encore is not in Jean Luc’s cards. But then, when you’re the greatest chef in France – nothings impossible. Right?

THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!

What are ya thinkin’?