Thursday, November 30, 2017

Art Deco Lens

I’ve moved and am now housesitting just outside of Lens in northeastern France.

The city was occupied by the Germans during World War I. With 90% of its buildings destroyed, it undertook a massive reconstruction during the 1920s.

The cause is tragic, but the result is magical as the downtown centre is filled with lovely art deco buildings with touches of romantic seaside architecture.

There is brightly-coloured stucco, mosaics, two-story bow windows, fancy brickwork, and roofs à pas de moineaux [sparrow steps], which go up step by tiny step.

One of my favorites is labelled Ville de Limoges and has the most wonderful strips of floral mosaic.

The train station is designed in the shape of a locomotive with murals inside honouring the region’s coal miners.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 27, 2017

Urban Agriculture Open House, Dec. 7 
Saskatoon Food Council, Chain Reaction Urban Farm, Bridge City Chickens, U of S Rooftop Gardening, Saskatoon Seed Library, SFBLC Garden Patch, CHEP Good Food, Ecobain Gardens, and Our Farm are hosting an open house at Station 20 West from 5-7 pm, Dec. 7.

Güd Eats 
Güd Eats opens Tuesday, November 28, 2017, at noon at 2917 Early Drive.

Winter Veggies
Locally grown fruits and vegetables can provide maximum nutrition even in the winter. Check out the benefits of apples, pears, beets, cabbage, parsnips, and turnips.

Brit Sandwiches 
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a food snob, but I am so looking forward to buying ready-made sandwiches in Great Britain in two weeks’ time. I long for Prêt à Manger’s vegan Christmas special, and Marks & Spencer’s makes some pretty good sandwiches too. A long article about the history and the making of the British sandwich may help explain my obsession:

“The rise of the British chilled sandwich over the last 40 years has been a deliberate, astonishing and almost insanely labour-intensive achievement. The careers of men and women like Roger Whiteside have taken the form of a million incremental steps: of searching for less soggy tomatoes and ways to crispify bacon; of profound investigations into the molecular structure of bread and the compressional properties of salad. . . . British sandwich-makers are sought-after across Europe, and invited to places like Russia and the Middle East to advise on everything from packaging and production lines to mouth feel and cress.”

Prêt à Manger’s veggie Christmas special

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quillan: For the times they are a changin'

Cities that have been around for a long time go through ups and downs, decline and growth. It can be painful but also exhilarating. Quillan was first mentioned in the 10th century and experienced a period of rapid growth in the 12th century when many of the streets that still exist today were built.

The economic interests evolved over time – from logging to iron to shoes and hat-making and finally to formica.

The formica factory was established in 1952 and closed in 2003. The factory employed nearly 200 people in a small town, and its departure had a huge impact. You can still see signs for the hair salons, clothing stores, and bakeries that used to operate but don’t any longer.

There are renewed signs of life in Quillan nowadays – new sidewalks, facelifts on core businesses, and a new community centre. It’s exciting to see, but it has come about as the result of a dramatic shift in the community with English-speaking ex-pats now accounting for 10% of the population.

very recent facelift

The change seems to have been well received. The town invites newcomers to a welcome event. Restaurants greet their regular customers with a smile and remember their dessert order. Newcomers join in some French community activities, such as the walking club, but have also established their own events and set up an English lending library as well as a book stand at the Wednesday market. A fish and chips truck does the rounds of the neighbouring towns, and there are British-style quiz nights every two weeks.

English Library

The French community is active as well. I watched 4 films at the local cinema, went to a couple of plays during an amateur theatre festival, and attended a talk on archaeology. There are concerts every week and summer festivals to attract tourists.

I have been very, very happy in Quillan – friendly people, lots of interesting activities, outdoor patios when the days are sunny, markets twice a week, an excellent organics store, and very cheap bus/train service ($1.50) to neighbouring towns. There are also some lovely walks to nearby villages. Quillan is moving with the times and doing it very gracefully.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Aude River

I have walked beside the Aude River every day for the past two months and have been reminded of the important role rivers play in our lives. They are often the heart of our cities, a place where we can go to relax as we watch the water flow, and in the past they were essential for transportation, business, and everyday life.

The Aude River originates in the Pyrenees, slowly gathering force as it heads down onto the plain, passing through Quillan, Esperaza, Limoux, and Carcassonne before entering the Mediterranean at Narbonne.

Logging was important in this region in the past and thousands of logs were floated downstream in rafts. Products were shipped from Quillan down river to Carcassonne, a regional centre. The water also provided power for flour mills and sawmills as well as irrigation for the crops. Women knelt by the water’s edge to wash the town’s laundry.

Times have changed, but the river continues to play an important role in Quillan’s economy. White-water kayaking in the nearby mountain gorges attracts visitors, and tourists and locals alike enjoy the riverside restaurant terraces.

For me, the river has brought daily pleasure as I listened to its gurgle, watched the ducks, wagtails and heron, and admired the curving stretches of river, the trees changing colour as autumn progressed.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Flavourful Saskatoon, November 20, 2017

Romaine Calm & Party On, Dec. 6 
The City Centre Food Co-operative is hosting a burger & beer fundraiser on Dec. 6.

Celebrate Canadian Winemaking, Dec. 16
Sample wines from Nova Scotia to British Columbia on Dec. 16 at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

Clearcut Coffeehouse, Martensville 
Clearcut Coffeehouse is opening on Wednesday, Nov. 22, in Martensville. They’ll be serving Wild Serendipity Food's scones, macarons, and a soup.

Ecobain Gardens Expands
Ecobain Gardens will be launching 3 new products over the next 3 weeks – potted herbs, bare root, and larger clamshell basil products. They’ve also taken over distribution of their products to ensure that they’re fresher.

My favorite - pain au raisin!
Rethinking Food Drives
Food drives seem like a good idea – but are they really?

“Put yourself in the place of a food bank that has just accepted an anarchic 40-pound box of random food from an office fundraiser. It’s got pie filling, Kraft Dinner, beans, pumpkin, and chickpeas. All those food items need to be sorted, stored, inventoried and then shoehorned into the food bank’s distribution schedule. 

“So why don't more people give money? Because writing a check isn't nearly as gratifying to the giver as handing over a bag of canned goods. It's not as tangible as donating food. . . . Nor do charities want to ask for money instead of food, since some food is better than none, and they don't want donors to think they're being picky because help isn't badly needed. 

“So, if you really care, be pragmatic in your approach to vanquishing poverty (and food waste): "Suck it up, key in your credit card number and enter the glorious world of anonymous, non-glamourous philanthropy." 

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen 
Sean Sherman has published The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, which he describes as “a great starter book for people to think about ways that they can approach indigenous foods, and to gain a deeper understanding of the foods and flavors of their regions.” 

Food as Entertainment 
Fico Eataly World in Bologna is an enormous agri-food park with restaurants, stores, educational displays and workshops. They hope to attract 6 million tourists a year, but many are questioning its authenticity when compared to visiting a farmers’ market or sampling cheese in a small village. Fico Eataly World has an outstanding selection of producers and educational experiences; however, “the quantity of heavily branded restaurants and bars, and the way in which visitors are directed through the areas past Lamborghini memorabilia, as if at an airport, highlights the mass consumer culture behind the project.” 

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Carcassonne Market

There was a cold wind blowing through the square, but Carcassonne market was bustling with people come to stock up for the week on fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread, and more.

There were so many choices that I had a hard time whittling down my purchases to a reasonable number.

I made sure to buy fresh artichokes, endives (so good in a salad with tomatoes), Vacherin cheese, organic whole wheat bread, clementines, and apples.

My surprise purchase was a large fire-roasted beetroot. And it’s really good – smoky and sweet.

The products were so beautifully displayed, and there was so much colour and life.

I took the train back to Quillan, which was so much fun. We passed through vineyards and forests, 4 tunnels, factories and houses, and made brief stops in small towns and villages along the way. There was often no station – just a chunk of platform in the middle of nowhere or beside a busy highway.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kissed by Sunshine: Meandering in Perpignan

My third visit to Perpignan and it is fast becoming one of my favorite French cities. Of course, it helps that I’ve always visited on sunny days!

Perpignan is one of France’s southernmost cities with large squares, restaurant terraces, lovely old buildings, market stalls, winding alleys filled with clothing stores and chocolate shops, tea salons and tiny restaurants with brightly-coloured outdoor tables.

In the morning, I visited Les Halles Vauban, a brand-new, up-market collection of food stores and restaurants.

I drooled over the pâtisseries, longed to dip a spoon into the gooey Gorgonzola, and resisted purchasing some of every kind of olive.

The best surprise of the day was the rooftop terrace at Galeries Lafayette with its amazing views in every direction.

Lunch was wine, pizza, sunshine, and the delight of watching all the people crossing back and forth in the square.

This lovely art deco building is a cinema where I gave my feet a break and thoroughly enjoyed the movie Prendre Le Large (Catch the Wind in English). I highly recommend it.

The sun was setting as I made my way back to the bus station.

I applaud the Roussillon regional government for subsidizing inter-city bus fares in order to increase accessibility for residents of the many small towns in this area. I paid 1 euro (less than $1.50) for a two-hour bus journey – a shocking contrast with Saskatchewan where the government did away with provincial bus service.

Earlier posts about Perpignan:
Mediterranean Perpignan
Perpignan à Noël