Puylaurens, France-- Betsy continues to wow us in the kitchen. She has just finished baking four kinds of bagels: plain, poppy, sundried tomato and cinnamon raisin for dessert. Though its only Tuesday, this week has felt very full already. Hans and I are now working on some severely worn-out walls. They are 400 years old originally, but as we can see behind the crumbling plaster, they have been repaired many times. We have been fixing them with hemp-lime, which is a kind of plasterwork using lime mixed with hemp. Hans has tried to explain the eco-qualities of the material, but it's pretty complicated. Apparently this material is really good for moisture transfer and can help regulate interior humidity conditions. Anyway, I'm learning a lot here, not only about theory, but also application-- and that's always good.
Monday was tough. It was the first time I've used hemp-lime and I didn't know that the mixture was too dry. The preferred technique is to whip it into cracks in the wall with a trowel, kinda like pitching a baseball combined with flicking a fishing rod. But it kept falling off the wall because I didn't know the proper consistency. We finished late-- 7:30! Today was much better and I've been flicking and whipping like a pro. I mixed two batches and finished ten buckets of hemp-lime with no trouble before 5:00. Hans really was impressed and it made up for all the times yesterday when he tried to show me what I was doing wrong all day.
Sunday, the four of us took a day trip around the region. First we stopped at a small town named Saissac, in the Black Mountains, to grab a coffee and walk around an old castle (but not inside it for some reason?). From there, we headed over to Carcassonne for the afternoon. Carcassonne began as a Medieval fortified town atop a mountain. It was later creatively restored by Viollet le Duc in the 18th century. It's supposed to give visitors an authentic Medieval city planning experience, but we found it to be overly touristy, chock full of chatchke shops--boardwalk style--that sold everything from "local" foodstuffs to anonymous junk jewelry and Barbie lollipops. It also catered largely to children and families.
Betsy and I got lucky, though. While touring the Basilique Saint-Nazaire, a Russian quartet of opera/folk singers gave a free, breathtaking performance. By the time they'd finished, about ten minutes later, a crowd of about fifty tourists within earshot had followed the beautiful music into the church. The acoustics were amazing, and I have never heard applause in a cathedral before. On the way home from Carcassonne we made a detour to a small organic vineyard to pick up some more vin de table. We had a mini-tasting and sprung for the expensive 9,2 Euro bottle for next week. Hans and Angela bought 47 liters in large containers, but half was for a friend...they say. It was a fun but exhausting day, and the beginning of a busy week.
P.S. Friday's challah turned out great.