Saturday, January 30, 2010

Douceur et Fraîcheur (Pontivy Redux)

Saturday is definitely our gourmandise day - thoughts of good food permeate our morning as we set out for the open-air market, thriving even in January. Today was extra special, as Iris had an appointment with the boulangère to go choose her birthday cake. It's brilliant: there are little tarts on display that can be made to order as big birthday tarts.

There is a great French phrase, "l'embaras du choix" (as great as the English phrase, "the embarassment of riches") - definitely what Iris experienced. She chose a gorgeous tart entitled "Douceur et Fraîcheur" (Sweet and Fresh) - details tomorrow, when we'll eat it for her birthday!

In the meantime, she is getting to be quite the little connoiseuse of the baguette. "A nice parfume to the crust, clearly crispy, yum!" She was a great little helper at the market and helped me order our delicacies for the week with many a "merci" and a "s'il-vous-plait" - yea!

Et voici: the cheeses of the week. Starting with the lovely wedge of orange-coated cheese, we have a Port-Salut, a mild soft cheese whose bark is worse than its bite; then, Oliver's beloved "brebis" cheese - what he calls his "sheepishly shorne sheep cheese" (!); then, Iris insisted on this one, and boy was she right: a nice, wide slide of Morbier - we get it in the States, so I was reluctant at first; but of course, we don't get it like this in the States: much more pungent and strong, the bleu streak more pronounced. Yum!

Yes, those are geese and a goat you're seeing - a not three minutes from our house! Since we'd gotten up early, and since the little roasted chicken that Iris and I had bought was clearly going to stay nice and warm in its cozy bag, we took a walk before lunch into the upper reaches of the city behind us: a whole other world! This marvelous little city has surprises around every corner, and some of those corners themselves are surprises. This neighborhood had a lot of houses that reminded of the 1930s "Paquebot" style of architecture (Mac took some great shots of architectural features) - lots of planar surfaces softened by a rounded corner at key moments). And then, what appeared to be a huge manor house made of old stone - we wondered if the entire area hadn't belonged to it at some time - it still has an adjoining building (workers of the domain?) which has been transformed into apartments. Lovely mysteries!

And then it was off to Pontivy - the last time we'd been there was a Sunday (which had been ideal for storming the castle), but we were keen to see the city with a bit more life in it, as we knew it would have on a Saturday (especially today being the last day of the January sales). Isn't that wonderful? Another bustling town with its medieval heart still beating. Now we can't wait for the castle itself to open up (soon, soon). We walked about and window shopped (best French phrase ever: "lèche-vitrine" = window licking!), and saw the beautiful Notre-Dame in town and took note of all the street names being in both French and Breton.

Truth be told, we had another mission in Pontivy, two actually: we'd passed a really nice looking bookstore where we knew that we wanted to make our purchase of a book we've been wanting to read in honor of the house we're living in. We're now the proud owners of a Folio Classique edition ("texte integrale"!) of Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas - the house being from the 17th century, we think it only right to steep ourselves in the glorious 17th century feats and deeds of d'Artagnan and his friends. The very first line of the novel blew me away, as it mentions "Meung, ou naquit l'auteur du Roman de la Rose" - !!! Promising, eh? Oh, but the picture: our main mission was to step into the wondrous toy store we'd seen and purchase a gift for Iris's birthday tomorrow. Being utterly unable to refuse her siblings the joy of a gift, we returned home to behold Oliver play with Legos (creatures from the lost city of Atlantis!), Eleanor with a Barbapapa family (I can't believe they still make those!!!), and Iris play with a little miniature doll (her big birthday gift comes tomorrow).

The kids were good and tired, so after they went to bed Mac and I had time to poke around on the web, as my interest had been peaked by the Michelin Guide's mention of "The Village of the Year 1000" in nearby Melrand - how much fun will that be? It opens back up on February 20th and we are going to be among the first in line! (There's also a 16th-century village that's been set up at Poul Fetan - all this puts Conner Prairie's 18th-19th century towns in a wonderful historical continuum). There's also a Post Card Museum (over 36,000 postcards of Brittany from yesteryear to yesterday!) which, in the way that only web sites can, led us to this astounding video of a popular Breton punk (yes, that's right) band - please tell me that nice lady is one of the musicians' mothers! :-) (Actually, this clip is quite cool, as halfway through it you'll get to hear Breton spoken). G'night!

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