Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Know your Onions

Lézignan-la-Cèbe is 9 Km south of Aspiran towards Pézenas. Cèbe is derived from the occitan for onion and the term was appended to the village name in the 17th century. The onions are renowned for their sweet white flesh and are particularly agreeable raw. The bulb is quite flat - more curling stone than tear shaped. They seem particularly suited to the irrigated flood plane soils between the village and the Hérault which flows 2 Km to the east. The soil is certainly richer here than upstream at Aspiran and beyond where vines start to dominate.

The A75 autoroute opened in 2002 and at a stroke eliminated the bulk of the passing trade but La Chaumière, on the N9 northern edge of the village, has a strong local following. They are one of the last producers of the Cèbe and their potager and fields at the back also grow excellent garlic, shallots and tomatoes. Roadside stalls are normally to be avoided but this one deserves an award.

The village has a "Foire à l'oignon doux" every July. For more information (in French) with pictures of these onions and the foire see this village growers site here.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Medieval music in the streets

Flyers for this were well hidden, we spotted one in the baker that stated Sunday evening 21h for a tour of the medieval village with music by the group "Sabor". A small crowd gathered at the Place du Peyrou and soon a delay was announced due to storms in Montpellier. Over half and hour later there was the sound of distant thunder that soon became louder, but also took on a distinct beat. "Sabor" turned out to be a medieval band (flutes, horns, drums) who had marched up the Grand Rue in full pomp accompanied by torch bearers.

After the band's opening number a guide and local history expert from Pézenas introduced the village - fortunately he has a clear loud voice. What followed was nearly two hours of parading through streets (and at one stage the river bed) to music with pauses for dancing and, while the musicians gathered their breath, more discourse on historic sites - la Placette, Chapelle des Pénitents, ramparts, river Garelle, Chemin de sous Ville and Portes.

Quite an evening and clearly scheduled to be the first Sunday of the school summer holidays. It's also good to see people have such a good time without alcohol. Apparently this isn't an annual event, but maybe it will be.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Champ's Avenue & Vintage

Update - sadly, but not surprisingly, Champ's did not open in 2011 and is for sale.

The unexpected happens, but when friends told us that a Champagne Bar had opened in the village it was both jaw-dropping disbelief and elation. The village has had a typical bar for years - table football, pool, big TV, sweet beer, pastis and, frankly, rough wine. Champ's is totally complementary, smart but not posh and where products of the vine take pride and place.

The owner Jean Paul was a vignerone in the Champagne region and sold up to presumably fulfil an ambition to run a wine bar. In the too narrow for vehicles Rue du Cazals what was once a shop has been totally renovated.

Original stonework has been exposed and cleaned. The entrance leads to three rooms with the bar in the back room. A small courtyard offers relief for smokers and atop an open spiral staircase is a delightful terrace.
Champagne obviously tops the bill and is extremely reasonably priced - go for the less well known names such as Waris Larmandier, Legras & Haas, Duchene and Villmart. There's also broad selection of nearby wines and beer if you must, but the licence prohibits spirits. While not a place for a full meal a selection of nibbles and tapas like dishes is on offer. Last but not least it's a cavist, so at last somewhere handy to buy a selection of wine and of course Champagne.