July has arrived and with it comes cowboys, bull races, Arles' ladies dressed in their finest, free flowing rosé, and a world reknowned photography festival officiated by Arles native and fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Today, Monday, July 7, is a day off from work in Arles to celebrate the Cocarde d'Or. As best I can tell, it has something to do with bulls in the arena. I need to ask more questions, obviously! We had lunch today in the Place Voltaire which was alive with the gentlemen above, a band playing bull fight music (it sounded a lot like our marching band kind of music, actually), ladies with their hair all done up and lots of tourists. I jumped right in there as one of them with my camera to get the above shot. They guys paid me no mind, as they were having quite a good time. Chef Erick did tell me that their scarves mark that they are sponsored by a company that makes pastis, a famous drink here in Provence. It is an anise flavored liqueur and one of the few drinks served cold-- well, colder than the usual room temperature. The French believe that cold drinks are bad for your digestion. And anything bad for your digestion is frowned upon. You do not want to mess with the French stomach, trust me. Richard, a friend, has had an ulcer and other digestive problems and is now without coffee, wine or his beloved île flottante (meringue served with custard) for over a month. He tells me he has lost 7 kilos (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds), but at what a sacrifice! Pauvre Richard.
Lunch today at Snack Voltaire was a wonderful paella. I had a langoustine for the first time. It looks kind of like a small lobster. There was also a shrimp, rabbit and chicken on top of yellow rice mixed with green beans and onions. It was so good. Served with a pitchet of rosé and fresh bread. Snack Voltaire is our favorite place to eat out. It is only a two minute walk from the house and the daily menu is always good. The salads are great, too. The owner is quite a fan of bull fights. There is a huge bull's head on the wall and lots of signed photos of famous bullfighters. I need to get a souvenir from the Durham Bulls for his collection.
Arles hosts bull fights twice a year, at Easter and in September for the Féria de Riz (Rice Harvest Festival). I have never been and think that I just may go see what it is all about in September.
Anyway, back to food. Yesterday's menu du jour at Voltaire was tortilla as the appetizer. I didn't have any idea what to expect. Chips and salsa in the south of France?? What I got was a slice of pie with chunks of potatoes in it, garnished with lettuce and vinaigrette. Senor Glass needs to give me a recipe for that! I am sure he has one. Then, for the main dish, it was salmon with tarragon and rice. Very tender, cooked just right and the sauce was a perfect compliment. More lettuce on the side. The daily menu also includes dessert, but I usually pass that up. Here at the house we have leftover tartelettes au chocolat, millefeuilles or tarte tatin in the refrigerator on any given day. Or there is chocolat noir aux violettes from Joël Durand, the handsome chocolate maker, in St. Rémy de Provence.
Not to worry, I haven't gained any weight. My daily work includes going up and down the winding staircases on both sides of the house more times than I care to count. My experience in cleaning toilets in French continues to grow. I'll close for now as there are a couple more rooms of guests to check in and more laundry to hang out the window of the second floor living room.
À demain, mes amis!