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A Summer in Gascony
This is one of the most charming books ever written about
the South of
France. A summer in Gascony – Discovering the Other
South of France, to give it the full title, is all about south-west
France, the opposite side of the country to the trendy and much more
expensive Nice and the Cote d’Azur.
I know this part of the country very well and I can vouch for the
quirkiness of the region that Martin Calder documents so well. The
language IS still French but with a difference. The name Martin might
seem simple to pronounce for us Brits and indeed the majority of the
French population, but he became Martaing to Martin’s local friends.
(Should have rechristened himself with an easy Gallic name like...er,
Martin spends a summer working in Gascony and encounters characters who
are warm, hospitable and full of humour. It’s a different pace of life
from that of Paris or other big cities and Martin’s experiences were
richer for it. Yes, the natives were friendly and there is even a hint
of romance in the shape of a lovely German lass called Anja.
Jacques-Henri, a farmer and Martin’s employer, and his family are
welcoming and give Martin a home for the summer. Even the stray dog
Pattes (paws) is pleased to have him around. They, together, provide
the backdrop to the season’s adventure.
There are wonderful food-filled interludes with plenty of paing et du
vaing (bread and wine) but also Cassoulet, cornichons and the Mechoui
which is a North African whole roast lamb so often the centre-piece of
large gatherings and celebrations. There is an evening of Pastis and
Peanuts and many encounters with live livestock and dead livestock.
This is still France, where food is pivotal.
A Summer in Gascony offers a realistic look at southern French life.
Martin describes the authentic French Market Day as not just
resplendent in peppers and garlic but also seriously big knickers. This
is a book filled with scenes that will make you smile.
Martin Calder has managed to capture the flavour of Gascony. It is
independent and coulourful. Its people embrace outsiders who appreciate
its unique history and heritage. This is a lovely holiday read or a
book to inspire next year’s tour de France.
A Summer in Gascony
Author: Martin Calder
Published by: Nicholas Brealey