Travel broadens the mind not only for young ones …
Back in Maubourguet after an extended break in Paris and round the world, I sincerely think that we French citizens should stop feeling blue, depressed.
It does not help looking backward, looking for a past that does not exist any longer, sticking to some old-fashioned privileges.
Look towards future, roll-up your sleeves, work and be positive !
While I write this, Japan is in deep, real crisis. I feel a bit awkward to send such a trivial newsletter but I will publish it and hope you will read it.
We know many Japanese people around the world. I hope they and their families are safe; I admire their courage and how dignified they are.
First I travelled to New York
to visit Arthur and spend Thanksgiving with him, Agnes the family previous au pair and her family.
While travelling to the Hudson Valley, in the commuter train we met Steve, New Yorker willing to practice his French language skills and wine dealer. Let’s bet that I’ll see him soon here in Maubourguet, tasting some nice Madiran.
We had an authentic Thanksgiving with Agnès and her family in New Paltz, NY state.
We had the turkey with delicious trimmings, fire in the chimney, gentle walks in the surrounding forests, chats, exchanging views and ideas, refreshing our memories of the “good old times”.
After Thanksgiving Day, the Village Tearoom, the restaurant Agnes is running with deserved success reopened.
I was in the kitchen for many hours, taking lessons on cooking and mostly on organization. They are busy all day from breakfast to dinner and they have to get organized.
I also took some lessons on pastry decoration. You will probably find some honey cake on martinn’s table in Maubourguet.
No wonder they are full ! Everything is delicious, made from local organic farms. Agnes does not compromise with quality. The place is friendly, no fuss, and country inn atmosphere.
Thanks Agnes, we had not had such a feast for years !
THE VILLAGE TEA ROOM & BAKE SHOPE
+1 845 255 34 34
10 Plattekill Ave
New Paltz NY 12561
After New York, I went to India
I have this reputation not to move away from home very much.
Mostly having the world coming to me.
But this year was different ; after New York, I went to India, Rajasthan, Agra and Vanarasi to be more precise.
2 years ago, my family and friends gave me a nice voucher for a trip to Asia, my long-time dream. It took me 2 years to decide where, when and how. Thanks to Bella, Francis and their friends Sylvie and Raymond, I was able to join them in a group. I was with them but was independent at the same time : perfect ! I will not comment on the Tour Operator because apart from the luggage and travel organization, we were not impressed. Quite expensive for an average service.
After just 2 weeks and a half in India, even though I know a few Indian people around the world, I will not try to pretend I know it all.
But I can say how I feel about this complex country.
So much contrast between the refined maharajahs palaces and poverty like nowhere else in the world.
Palaces are either Museums or luxury hotels today but still owned by maharajahs’ family. Palaces are rented for events or weddings and very profitable.
Palaces tell about the Indian “grandeur”, refined civilisation, open-minded relationships between the different religious communities, (especially under Mongol Emperor Akbar, 1542-1605). Nowadays, India is also advanced technology in Bangalore but not only. Even in small shops at crossroads you have TV, mobile phones and sometimes Internet.
On the other hand, you can feel tension between religious communities of today. We saw naked people searching refuse dump, cripples, and beggars including young children. Like our medieval times.
You cannot say they are happy of course but I don’t think they are as unhappy as, we, would be in such conditions. We, rich ones used to comfort and hygiene. They stay very religious, and they believe in a better Karma next time.
Is religion or the Cast system a good thing ? Does it help them cope with their life ? Does it prevent them to make any progress ? Are they losing the sense of their social role or are they at last able to improve their social statement ?
I cannot answer after such a short and privileged stay. If you know you are welcome to share your point of view.
What I can say is that, in spite of poverty, I never felt at risk. They were gentle and smiling people.
One thing is sure : there is before India and an “after India”. You cannot but question your values. I am pleased I discovered India and hope to stay Zen for a while, even though I came back to a home with heating and gutter issues, a car to fix, a post office not working correctly.
I brought back 5 suitcases into Maubourguet :
But I believe that the most important things I brought back, are intangible ones.
From New York and my email exchanges with my guests for Paris and Maubourguet, I brought back this sense of positive attitude that I tend to forget when in France for too long.
From India I brought back a sense of my easy life. I will not let minor issues bother my life. If my car is stuck, I will enjoy chatting on the phone with my friends, if the heating is low, I will light a fire, turn on the electric heater and cook a stew for my friends and guests.
On a complete different mood, I went to the SHOAH memorial in the Marais. It is dense and even though some letters deserve a better exposure, you should allow the whole day with a break into the Jewish district rue des Rosiers. Never forget how humankind is able to do the best and the worst. And the same as memorials all over the world, the most emotional are the human witnesses.
Completely different and not as important as the previous ones, the Musée du chocolat on the grands Boulevards (walking distance from rue D’argout) reminded us of the origins of the divine beverage, the how to manufacture it, the refined tableware dedicated to chocolate.
I also found confirmation of what I had read in a book my children had given me for Chrismukkah.
The book by Joan Nathan : « Quiches Kugels and couscous » is about Jewish cooking in France and the mutual influences of French and Jewish traditions and rules.
Chocolate was introduced in France, thanks to the Portuguese and Spanish Jews escaping the Inquisition. They arrived in Bayonne bringing along their knowledge on chocolate (thanks to their colonies in South America).
At this time chocolate was a medicine, and the quality of the beans they imported made the Bayonne fame.
Snowed in !
Seems some time ago now, but you will enjoy some insight of French management on Snow days.
I entertained some girl friends on a Saturday for Lunch and as we had quite a lot to eat for just starters and the weather outside was not inviting, we decided to stay inside and forget about a complete lunch outside. Mylène called it an aperunch.
And when the aperitif turns out to be a complete dinner, how would you call that ? (It happened to me several times ; too much food, too comfortable my little nest).
End -of-the -year treat
As an end–of-the-year treat, I took my children to Jean François Piège above the Thoumieux in the 7th. Before he got 2 stars by Michelin.
Welcoming décor, refined without show off, and not too formal. Looks like a nice living room rather than a restaurant dining room.
The menu is different from what we usually find in restaurants.
Every table gets the same amuse-bouches, cheeses and desserts.
You got to choose 1, 2 or 3 ingredients and the final bill will depend on how many you choose. We all chose 2.
Arthur and I chose scallops and turbot. Antoine chose another fish with caviar. Camille preferred some fatted chicken. Don’t remember about René’s choice. But we all were delighted with the delicate fragrance, refined and simple at the same time. There was enough food to fill our hungry appetite without being too much.
Some days ago, we learned without surprise that the restaurant had 2 stars in the new Michelin guide.