Sunday, 23 October 2011

Chestnut Festival and De-rigging

As the days begin to shorten here in the South of France, the boat is being stripped down to her winter coat. Sails have been washed and scrubbed, hung out to dry and are now in storage. Blocks have been de-rigged, the coins, sheaves and forks removed, labelled and bagged up, ready for sanding.

Sanding blocks. Now there's a job. There are about 200 of them. Between us we will be fingerprint-less and pretty bored, wondering was it really a year since we did this last?

Lines and rigging are slowly being removed from Mariquita, down to the bare minimum and stored in our container here in Cogolin Marina. Our container becomes both storage and workshop and will gradually get colder as the weeks pass requiring us to wear layers of clothing and rig up heaters in the vain attempt to keep reasonably warm and newly laid varnish to stand a chance of going off.

The work does become quite tedious. I am now part chef, part maintenance man, spending a fair ammount of my evenings trying to remove varnish and paint from my hair and teak dust from my eyes. However this is all offset by the simple pleasure of having weekends off. Hooray for weekends off!

And this weekend was the start of the Chestnut Festival. The Fetes de la Chataigne starts today in the village of La Garde Freinet where our crew house is and will continue next weekend ensuring we have all had our fill of roast chestnuts, pig roast baguettes and confitures. Market stalls selling produce from jams and honeys to saucisson and cakes fill up the market square in the village and thousands of people come from far and wide to sample, buy and eat and of course to drink rosé.

The chestnut was an important food staple in the past as wheat and potatoes were hard to grow in this area, so the star of the show, the chestnut, is celebrated this time every year in La Garde Freinet which is surrounded by chestnut groves (Chataignerales). You can buy produce made from chestnuts of every concievable style. Chestnut jam (confiture marron), sweet chestnut purees and and chestnut honey (miel chatignier) are but a few of the varieties and you can be sure to find chestnut ice cream, cake and crepes filled with sweet chestnut purees and cream.

I inevitably came home after a little wander around armed with a chestnut cake and a jar of sweet vanilla chestnut puree. Yum. I think I may sneak up to my room with that, some butter and a pot of tea to picnic on my bed whilst I finish this blog. The cake is lovely, not too sweet and great smeared with butter and the chestnut puree.

Trés bien! 

The weather is definately turning and although the days are still sunny it's becoming quite chilly here now. I've unpacked my winter wardrobe and am cosied up in an old favourite hoody. Unlike Mariquita who looks naked now without her huge mainsail and webs of lines and shrouds, my winter coat is fur lined and many layered, rigged with scarves and boots. And I'm loving it.

Thanks for reading.


The old boys making the tartiflette