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  • Writer's picture by Rae-Helen

Autumnal moments in France- Rae-Helen Fisenden

Sitting comfortably, feeling snug and warm in our little cottage, you would not expect the cold that bites as soon as you venture outdoors.

From the window, the scene in front of me seems to paint a very different picture.

The field is drenched in glorious sunlight streaming from a cloudless sky, and the light dances gently on the last array of tiny leaves which have, thus far, clung to their branches in a determined effort not to fall. But fall they must, and the satisfying crunch underfoot is testament to that.

It's nearing the end of November and Winter is stealthily approaching. The frost on the fields is creeping slowly but advancing daily, and the silence, with the absence of birds,( long having departed to warmer climes) is, as they say, deafening.

Except, at 7 a.m. with unchanging repetition and regularity, the day is heralded by the bells from the village church. I'd like to say I wake to them daily, but the truth is, I often sleep through them. The cold brings with it a propensity to sleep in a kind of bear-like hibernatery way. And hibernation is probably a word for this season. People seem to have disappeared too and, just like the birds, prefer warmer environments. Spain seems to be a popular destination for those who can afford the luxury, while others stay at home, venturing out only for the purposes of work or to gather necessary provisions. A Winter funk seems to have settled on the locals who, even now, speak of a longing for Spring.

And to possibly underscore this theme of hibernation, the popular tourist-filled town of Sarlat (located not far from our village) has been over run by teddy bears. They are everywhere, hanging from every shop window and from the gables of every roof. Even the Mairie ( the Council building ) is adorned with them. Three of them joined me for a chat and a cuddle the other day. It seems strange to see Sarlat devoid of tourists, but we also know that very soon it will have a Christmas Renaissance of its own as it is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.

For us, it's a joy to be in France at this time. To experience Autumnal colours and colder weather necessitating the lighting of delightfully warming wood burning fires;-eating seasonal food which has become available, and making hearty soups and casseroles. Yes, comfort food that Winter initiates an insatiable desire for.

Last evening I roasted a beautifully fresh cauliflower with garlic cloves and a sprinkling of curry until the cauliflowerets were caramelised. This was then added to a rich chicken stock with sauteed leek and celery and then blended into a silky smooth soup with the addition of butter. Julia Child would be proud, I think.

Tonight I'm finishing the preparation of Blanchette de Veau ( an historic veal stew cooked by every french family.) Veal is readily available at the moment, and I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to create this melt in your mouth, creamy casserole. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Travelling to France at this time of year affords the adventurer many perks. Accommodation is not as expensive. There are way less tourists about, and it's much easier to navigate popular destinations and tourist hotspots. The hospitality industry is well...more hospitable, and not overtired nor fed up with the demands of tourists. The weather can be very good if you're not afraid to layer up and take your chances. Me? I much prefer cooler days to the humid, stinking hot days that July and August can produce. The quiet, tranquil, peaceful environment of Autumn is well... come experience it, and see for yourself.

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