Tuesday, 23 December 2014


It is the custom at this time of year for comfortably well-off middle-aged folk to head Calais. Here important investments are made in wine, in preparation for the coming of Christmas. Vast warehouses are methodically divested of their stock. There are considerable savings to be made especially if nightly wine consumer is important to one’s health and wellbeing.

Thus it was the other week when we joined friends Moir and Diane, Mike and Lucy in a jaunt to France. It was our first time, however our friends were experienced plunderers, displaying Viking-like efficiency.

The trick is investing the savings made in a good lunch. Arguably, if one applies oneself the entire monetary benefit can be mislaid across four exquisite courses. We endowed the Restaurant Le Channel (http://www.restaurant-lechannel.com/en/) with our custom. An excellent feast from the Composez Votre Menu.

A champion meal at the Restaurant Le Channel in Calais

We all were treated to a petite-prelude of Pumpkin Soup, Fish Pate and Crab.

I enjoyed Fois Gras de Canard, and Pave de Cabilland.

Mike, with immeasurable generosity, shared his Fruites de Frites de mer.  See also footnote.

A reasonably priced Muscadet was appropriate to occasion and modestly consumed.

On the menu the dessert trolley is referred to as Le Chariot. Thus as good Christians we were trounced in the Le Channel’s Forum of excellent treats and fancies.

A most excellent, efficient and enjoyable occasion!

Many people enjoy Mike's own fruites de mer from his weekly stall in Borough Market. http://boroughmarket.org.uk/muirenn-smokehouse-2

Monday, 22 December 2014


Sunday is warm from the outset. Some of us are leaving today. Jan and Hilde are driving back to Belgium and Jan and Anke are flying home. Eric too is returning to Liege.

No olives to pick however we have to earn our keep. Those that are left form part of the gardening work party and work away in the warm sun. Marc and I fix up a section of electric fence to keep the Boar out of the olive grove; signs of their impatient hoof-marks are everywhere.

The Oliver Grove at Cabro d'Or

We enjoy a lovely wild boar casserole in the evening, made by the Mdm next door.
The Vines at Cabro d'Or

Monday, an air of finality and it is not quite as warm. We are given the keys to the house to lock up, as everyone else heads back to other parts of Europe to work. A final walk around the fields later in the afternoon and we prepare to leave dropping the latch and leaving the keys with Mdm. It was a wonderful week warmed by the sun, the people and this part of France.
A final drawing as we prepare to leave

We enjoyed a weekend at Cabro d’Or, a farmhouse that snuggles up to a shallow hill, a five-minute drive from Lorgues. Lorgues is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in Southeastern France.

Sunday, 21 December 2014


‘Lorgues is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in Southeastern France. Lorgues is located in the middle of wineries and fields of olive trees. It's in the centre of the department of the Var between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gorges du Verdon’.

That is the all-inclusive Wikipedia entry for this hidden away part of France fifty miles due north of St Tropez.

Cabro d’Or near Lorgues snuggles up to a shallow hill,

We were here to stay with our friends Marc and Louise and their friends for a long weekend at Cabro d’Or. Four days of sunshine and in late November and twenty-two degrees of warmth throughout the day. Ostensibly we are there to pick olives.
Fresh Fig Jam and saucisson 

Cabro d’Or is a farmhouse near Lorgues. It snuggles up to a shallow hill, on the opposite rise is woodland where wild boar are abundant. Between the house and the wood, in the small valley a field of vines and a little further a grove of olive trees.
The prelude to a feast 

As we all prepare ourselves for the first night of feasting I steal down to the edge of the vine plantation and look up at the house. Now dusk, bird song, insects chatter and conversation drifts down from the terrace.
Saturday morning and the coffee is strong


Saturday morning: Eric and I are up and making strong coffee. I go to the bread shop before breakfast. Jan and Anke are busy preparing figs for more delicious jam. We all greedily consume yesterday’s batch with our croissants. Then we travel to the olive mill at Draguignnan.

This is a sad year for the olive crop, across France and the olive presses are barely turning. Usually at this time of the year the street in which the Moulin a Huile is located is awash with bags of olives waiting their turn for the presses. All is quiet.
Then we travel to the olive mill at Draguignnan

The reasons for the crisis are the same for everyone; the excessive summer rain favouring the spread of olive fruit fly and a hot, humid October that accelerated the olives’ maturation caused a strong infestation of “olive leprosy”. There is five-year low in production of olive oil across the whole of Europe.

Saturday an afternoon of gardening, tidying the lavender and rosemary. Jan snips and lops the big fig tree for the second day running and is victorious. Others of us visit the Domaine d l’Estello, who crop the vines of Cabro d’Or to create a year’s supply of rosé for la maison.
The Olive Presses stand silent

Saturday night and we are eating at Chez Vincent. Jean France joins us, Marc’s major-domo at Cabro d’Or. He and Siân converse about plastering techniques as we tuck into more saucisson.  The Confit de Canard is quite wonderful by universal agreement.  There is a singsong in the kitchen when we finally get home.
Jean France joins the party.

Chez Vincent: The Confit de Canard is quite wonderful

We enjoyed a weekend at Cabro d’Or, a farmhouse that snuggles up to a shallow hill, a five-minute drive from Lorgues. Lorgues is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in Southeastern France.