The wind rustles through the trees at all hours of the day, sometimes striking you in a seeming attempt to push you over, other times you can not even feel it despite seeing the trees swaying dramatically. Most of the trees here have a lean to them evidence of their relationship with the wind, but they grow strong and tall and most are very old. The plane trees are particularly amazing with smooth bark that turns into camouflage when it is wet and a huge canopy to protect from the heat of the sun. As you may know I have a strong affinity with trees and consider them to be one of my most trusted and powerful allies, so it is a blessing to be in the land of these dancing giants.
As well as the trees, the South West of France is dotted with tiny villages constructed of old stone buildings and tiny roads where people drive very fast in their tiny cars. Connecting the villages are tiny winding roads surrounded by vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see. The Languedoc, this region of France, was initially colonized by the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans seeing the great potential of the land they planted vineyards, built aqueducts and towns. This led to the Languedoc producing 80% of the wine for the whole country and being a very wealthy region until a blight struck in at the end of the 19th century and destroyed many of the vineyards in France. It has been a slow recovery and many decades of poverty and bad wine have plagued the region, which can been seen in the remains of many grande maisions. But life and prosperity have returned to the region and people are hard at work restoring the history of superb wine and beautiful homes. Everywhere I go there seem to be expats who have moved to this beautiful place for the cheap house prices, warm weather, the laid back lifestyle of the French countryside and of course the delicious food and wine.
The village of Olonzac which we have the pleasure of calling home for the next two and a half weeks is idealic in many ways. The village has a population of only about 1500 and yet there seem to be people out and about all the time. The buildings are beautiful and old and no doubt have many storied hidden in their walls. The Grande Maison I am staying in was built in the 1830s and housed the family of the one of the wealthy entrepreneurs in town. Today it owes it’s return to glory to some expats from Canada who purchased it a crumpled mess some 10 years ago and created 12 beautiful apartments which are owned by several Calgarians. My apartment which is owned by my boss, is a gorgeous one bedroom on the third floor decorated with bright tiles and a mixture of practical Ikea furniture and beautiful antiques collected from local brocantes (antique stores). It is a perfect blend of modern convenience with a washer and dryer, dishwasher, flushing toilet and antique windows, floors, hearth and furnishings. The deck looks out to the east, over one corner of the village onto the fields and rolling hills covered with wind turbines, capturing the mighty power of the wind.
On our adventures thus far we have visited two spectacular wine shops that specialize in wines only from the D’oc. There seems to be a never-ending variety of people plying this ancient trade and I haven’t yet tasted a wine that didn’t please. The Roses are particularly superb having a sweet fruity beginning and a smooth dry finish. I never thought I would love rose so much, but when the weather is warm and you are eating fresh fruit, veggies, meat and cheese grown on this land what could be better!
The markets are also really amazing. There doesn’t seem to be any foods that don’t come from France, Spain or Italy and the variety, freshness and taste are superb. I love the pride and tradition here of eating from their own backyard. One woman in town has a small garage that she opens up daily to sell produce from the community farms, that the farmers bring to her each morning. And at the local market their are dozens of people selling their vegetables, cheeses, animals, and fresh baked goods. The entrepreneurship here is totally inspiring!