i’ve only heard one person complain about my lack of posting in the past two weeks…. what does that mean?? (ahemcommentmoreonmyblogpleasefriendscough…) in any case, here i go.
two weekends ago i had the opportunity to visit an olive grove in salon de provence. it’s a long story to explain the connection, but suffice it to say that claire had the hookup via her sister’s boss in utah, and rox and nico, the proprietors, were happy to have us come visit (read: work) for the day! so we hopped on the morning bus to salon, and were picked up by rox from the station when we arrived.
the olive grove is called “mas de bories,” which means, loosely translated, ‘shepherd’s stone house.’ it’s an ancient type of stone house built into the sides of hills, used by shepherds i don’t know how many years ago. or maybe they still use them… regardless, rox and nico have one that they house a tasting area in, which is pretty cool. the grove itself is comprised of 1400 olive trees of myriad different varieties (and some almond trees too), which are picked at varying times of the year.
claire, caitlin and i were put to work immediately, which we were happy for (haven’t done physical labour in quite some time, it felt pretty good), and claire was recruited to help assemble a grove-side picnic lunch for us, which we devoured and washed down with some fresh pressed coffee. then it was back to work! nico used a contraption to shake the olives onto the net-covered ground below, after which us girls sorted through and removed large branches while also gathering the olives into piles. claire’s sister’s boss, steve, who was also there, then sucked the rest of the leaves out of the piles with another contraption, and we then ‘crated’ the olives. after the crates were put onto the back of the tractor, we had to collect the nets and tarps and move on to the next section. this process repeated for five or so hours until our backs started to get a little sore and steve started mentioning “happy hour” every few minutes.
rox then took us through a real olive oil tasting, complete with five different kinds of their olive oils (which have won numerous awards and are generally known as being some of the best olive oils in france), wine, olives cassées and two kinds of olive tapenade. in case you’ve never tried a raw, uncured olive, let me give you a word of advice: DON’T. unless of course you want the experience, in which case, yes, it is an experience. i learned this the hard way, and believe me when i say it was the most disgusting, bitter thing i’ve ever put in my mouth (a close second would be the caper berry garnish that i ate at AG once, which, to be fair, was not really bitter, just disgusting). olives cassées are an attempt to remedy this without the time it takes to cure the olive. essentially you take a hammer to each individual olive so that a crack forms, and through a series of salt-water soaks the bitterness leaves the olive. you can then put them in oil with whatever kind of flavouring you fancy. the ones i tasted were in olive oil and fennel, and they were delicious.
i would be lying if i said that it wasn’t one of the coolest things i’ve done – harvesting the olives. and what fun with my two closest girlfriends here! we were only sad to leave, as we could smell the dinner nico (a retired french chef) and rox were cooking up. apparently we’re to come back and stay overnight next time, and then we’ll forsure get dinner. as it stood, we had a bus to catch and thus headed back to the station, laden with our day’s wages of oil and tapenade…
it happened to be hallowe’en that day. france doesn’t typically recognize this holiday, but i do live in a university town filled with international students who have managed to import this social event to aix. despite being exhausted, we managed to put together a costume (part of the cast from peter pan!) and drag ourselves into town. it was worth it…. to see the narrow streets crowded with every kind of costume, and to have laughed our stomachs sore at josh wearing tights… definitely fun. needless to say, i slept well that night.
yesterday, remembrance day (if you’re canadian), veteran’s day (if you’re american), or armistice day (if you’re french), was pretty good. over in these here parts it’s a holiday, which means no school, but lots of other things still open. a few of us had intended to take a bus to la ciotat, a small town on the coast. well… we were running late that morning. after claire made josh run to the bus station so i her and i could bike using their bicycles, missing the bus by approximately 30 nanoseconds was slightly disappointing. this was compounded by the fact that it was morning, i had not had breakfast, i had not had coffee, and i had just biked, fast, to the gare routière. next plan: coffee and breakfast. at l’unic of course, our favourite place in aix.
afterwards, it was lunch time. and after that? let’s go see a movie! we saw the imaginarium of dr. parnassus, which was probably the coolest thing i’ve ever seen, if also the most bizarre… and in the time we had to wait for it to start, we wandered around aix, had a photo shoot in a really neat street, and bought candy.
so, i’ve been trying to keep busy. it’s not too hard, although i should probably be even more busy with reading and studying and translating etc., it’s just pretty hard to be motivated for that when there are so many other cool things to do and look forward to. not to mention that i’m planning for a christmas and new years (spent with friends and a pretty great visitor) in paris, sweden and aix!
until then i really SHOULD get some studying done. for now i have to go to the international office to sign some papers that will allow me to stay here beyond november. you’ll know if something goes wrong because i’ll be kicked out of the country and sent back home at the end of the month! let’s hope, for that reason, that i don’t see you in december (except those i’m meant to see!), even though that would be really, really nice…