Monday, June 28, 2010

Abricot clafoutis and friends

Here I am again, preaching simple pleasures. This time, spending time with friends, eating abricot clafoutis and being thankful for a beautiful Saturday spent together.

Stress is very bad for your health 

Getting plums off the tree reminded me of my childhood plum tree at home...

The fairytale part of the Forest in Landes

Remember I told you that the pine forest is beautiful? That the Landes region is not flat? Here comes the proof! I went for a stroll in the Landes forest with my daughter Clara and her classmates. We started out next to the highway but within five minutes of walking, we were already in this fairytale land... let the pictures tell the story, even though they only show a small part of the magic of these places.

And you have to imagine the smells, the sound of the running water and the birds...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simple pleasures

There are many out there to try to convince us that we need so much to be happy. Especially to buy things - and most of all to buy toys for our children. The more expensive, the better.

In my experience, my children are never happier than when they are discovering things in nature. It doesn't have to be something impressive, like the ocean or the mountains. Looking at butterflies, ants and bugs go a long way.

We are happy to have a garden that borders a forest. This playground keeps them occupied for hours and hours.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strawberry and almond cream cake

Last week it rained, so we made waffles to cheer ourselves up. This week both the sun and the summer warmth is here, so we made a strawberry and almond cake to celebrate! Here you see Clara adding the final touch to the strawberries.... I used 500 g of them but the recipe said a bit more and next time I'll get 1 kg and only use the smallest and prettiest of them.....

As usual with me, this is extra simple and mega tasty. Ready made Danish pastry that I let pre-cook in the oven 160 degrees for 15 minutes. Mix 150 g almond powder, 80 g sugar, 50 g butter and two eggs. Add and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool off and add 650 g - at least - of strawberries. We had it with some custard, that my children Adore, but I think some whipped cream would have even better....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Show at School

According to the tradition, the school year ends with a show for the parents. Each class does something, a dance or a song or both. This year Björn dressed up as Charlie Chaplin and made a dance with his typical moves... (I didn't see Björn do them, but he had made me watch during numerous repetitions at home, so I was fine anyway)  The girls were Marilyn Monroe and made a choreography to I wanna be loved by you.

Clara took part in a more sophisticated creation, more like modern art, based on sight, to see and be seen.... deep. This to explain why she had had her eyes done like that!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

A walk around Contis with Emilie

Checking the map at the starting point.

Several people told me about a book called Les sentiers d'Emilie dans les Landes. It is a collection of 25 easy walks adapted for children. Last week I tried one with the children, after having done it first with my husband. I chose one of the closer ones, walking along the Contis stream, getting out to the sea and the beach, and then walking back through the pine forest. In the book it was marked as 1,5h walk, but I think we did it in less time, good to know that the time estimates are realistic!

Love this place. The contrasts between the calm water of the stream, the immensity of the sea and the calm and flavors of the pine forest......

The fence that delimits the walking path - nature here is very fragile and thus protected 

Approaching the sea....

.. details of the plants.....

... these beautiful flowers were abundant

Fighting to stay alive in the salty winds

The sea!

The Contis stream seen from the sea

The calm of the forest

Our guide

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pontet-Canet, my husband's pet wine

I thought my husband would start to cry. I didn't get any primeurs 2009 from Pontet-Canet, he said. The internet connexion broke off when I was about to pay and when it came back, they were already all sold out. I didn't know what to say. Pontet-Canet is his favorite wine. It felt like being in front of someone who just got their dog run over by a car. What do you say?

Primeur, for those of you who are not that much into wine, is when you buy a wine just after the harvest. You then wait for a year or two before getting your bottles, but you get a good price. Well, good and good, everything is relative. My husband insists to say it is an investment to buy a bottle of Pontet-Canet. I agree, but only if we don't drink them ourselves first - which I doubt strongly.

Pontet-Canet was classified as a fifth grand cru of Médoc in the 1855 classification. It puts it right at the top, but many people - like my husband - thinks it should be placed even better. Knowing that wines like Latour, Lafite and Mouton Rothschild belong to the same area, makes it easy to understand the level of quality I am talking of.  They belong to the great wines of a great wine area.

When we went to visit the Pontet-Canet domain in 2008 it was among my first visits to a wine castle. It was everything I had imagined, a fine castle, century old trees in a vast setting, a passionate and knowledgeable guide, taking us through the vines, the wine making facilities and ending with a tasting. I had imagined it would be a nice visit, but actually it was so interesting and it really made me passionate about seeing other places. Since then we have done many visits, which I still enjoy, but unfortunately I have also discovered that all places are not as good at receiving visits as Pontet-Canet, nor as rigorous with their vines.

At that time, they were sad, because they had been obliged to end the three-year biological farming needed to get a bio certification on the third and last year. Due to a very rainy season they added pesticides to save at least a small part of the harvest. But they were determined to continue. They also told us about their experimentation with using horses instead of machines. Sounds very medieval, but the only reason is to avoid compressing the soil with the heavy machines. Admittedly the horses required more work than the machines...

According to a recent article in Le Monde, Pontet-Canet is the only biological wine farmer in the Médoc area. Wine specialists' agree to say that the Pontet-Canet, already a very fine wine from the beginning, has acquired an even higher level of quality since they introduced the biological farming. Other castles are curious, but so far, they have not had the courage to start. I hope it is only a question of time.

Official site Pontet-Canet where I found the horse photo.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

11 beaches and a mytical lover's nest in Anglet

The lighthouse in Biarritz, seen from the Chambre d'Amour Beach in Anglet. Photo Ernult

Chambre d'Amour is the name of a famous cavern at the south end of the beaches in Anglet. According to the myth, a young couple, he a poor orphan and she the daugher of a rich farmer, meet in secret in the cavern close to the sea. One stormy day the tide rose faster than usual and the two got caught inside and drowned. People still go to see the cavern, but if you're not interested in caverns, you should still go to Anglet.

The cave Chambre d'Amour. Photo Josephik

An elevated lane follows the eleven beaches that stretches for 4,5 kilometres. At the end you see the Biarritz light house far up on the cliff and the mountains behind. Beautiful.
There are also cafés and restaurants all along this lane and in summertime the mood here is very festive with lots of people, families mixing with young surfers.

The city of Anglet has a lot of family feeling about it, reputed for good schools and nice residential areas with beautiful houses, it attracts families. The urbanisation has apparently been less regulated here, so it does not have the same charm and chic as Biarritz and Bayonne, but the situation, the beach area and the protected forest area Chiberta makes it a perfect vacation spot.
Tourist office Anglet

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

School outing at the Port d'Albret Lake in Vieux Boucau

I volunteered to join Björn and his class for a full day hiking experience.... with around twenty five-year-olds we walked for over ten kilometres during the day! I was pretty impressed to see how welll the little ones coped. We started with a forest lane that took us through the pine trees, along a small pond and along the edges of the golf course for about six kilometres. Then we stopped by the lake for lunch. The children played in the sand. We met up with two other groups that were biking instead of walking. There were also other groups from other schools - see all the bikes!

 Afterwards we walked all around the lake, approximately five kilometres. The children were tired by the end... me too!!

(When Clara was going to have her first school picnic, I wasn't sure what that meant in France. I asked another mum and she advised me to make it simple and not put too much. They won't eat all of it anyway, she said. I usually make a sandwich with two slices of loaf, butter, a slice of cheese and a slice of ham. A small pack of chips, a small piece of cheese and a yoghurt. Maybe a fruit and always a small bottle of water. I followed her advice to the letter and Clara was very happy with her picnic. Since then I have always given them the same, give or take an item. I intend to continue until they complain!)

We start out in the forest....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Teich, the bird paradise

Teich and its ornitological parc is the place to make you interested in birds, if you're not already into birds. You find this protected area next to the Arcachon Bay, a bay rich in fish and a great feeding stop for migrating birds. Among many others, here you'll find a great population of cranes.

The parc area of 120 ha stretches over several different water landscapes, from drier parts with forest and meadows towards the sea through wetlands and lagons, which means that you can find any kind of bird here, no matter what living conditions they prefer.

There are differents paths proposed, a super short of about 200 metres, a medium of 2 km and a long of 4 km. Along the paths you find view points and explanatory signs, pictures of the most common birds and some information about their habits.

Silver heron with a fish catch. Photo Phil033 Flickr.

When I went there last spring with the children, we tried the medium path. Parts of it is surrounded by bushes, planted both to offer protection and hiding places for the birds as well as berries and insects.  We felt like being in a cocoon with birds singing all around us - although we don't see most of them - and here and there comes openings towards water points. Very, very peaceful.

We had only one pair of binoculars - you can rent them - so the children took turns looking at the birds. Each new bird became a discovery! Look, a swan! There swims a duck! We studied the mighty cranes, high up hatching their newly  laid eggs. We entered the covered sighting places, to watch without being seen. Here comes a high gaggling sound .... it is the cranes!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Northern lake of Biscarosse, a big blue lagon

I have a lot to tell you about the big lakes of Landes, those rivers that became lakes when they could not reach the Atlantic sea. I start with the norther lakes of Biscarrosse, where we had lunch and spent the afternoon this Pentecoste Monday. The blue water, shallow and warm, the white sand and the pine trees. Another moment of pure happiness.... one of many in my favourite place, les Landes.

The Northern and Southern lakes of Biscarosse account for 3 200 ha of lagon like lakes..... the biggest resort of Landes has kept a soul. A place to go if you want the rude force of the Atlantic sea yet enjoy the smooth calm of the white sands of their lakes and their pine trees... me, I like. I like a lot.

White sand surrounded by pine trees
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