Rain is a big deal here as it is in most agricultural areas. The winemakers want rain early in the year and then almost drought-like conditions so that the grapes will develop better sugars. This year, for instance, gets mixed reviews from the winemakers. There was a lot of rain early in the year, then mostly dry, then rain again in July – causing mold on the vines. If the vintners don’t remove the mold, it gets in the grapes and then the grapes have to be removed. To make things worse, it started to rain again at about the same time as the harvest was to begin. One winemaker reported that they had a good harvest but a small harvest.
The truffle hunters like a lot of rain as it keeps the ground moist, thus promoting the growth of those very valuable mushrooms. Our market had truffles for about 800 € per kilo. Our friend Benoit told us that they sell for over 1,000 € in Paris. Such news makes me want to buy a truffle-sniffing pig and start searching!
Rain is also a big deal in our town as most adults from here remember the flash flood of ’92 where rain waters swelled the Ouvèze River to the point of going over the 2000- year-old Roman bridge, destroying 150 homes and killing 37 people. Though other bridges in the area were destroyed by the flood, the Roman bridge survived; in fact, it remains a main entry point into the town. Just west of town, the Rotary Club created a park in the flood plain dedicated to those who lost their lives during the flood. One day when Ellen and I were walking there, we met a man who pointed to his house at the edge of the plain and said that his house had three meters (almost 10 feet) of water during the flood.
Since our apartment overlooks the river we had a special interest in following the progress of the rise in water level. By Sunday evening, all of the little “islands” in the river were under water and the river kept rising. I watched an uprooted tree go floating by at remarkable speed. We were spared any damage – the flood line is 1.6 meters above normal and the river rose only 1.3 meters. The downstream village of Bedarrides and the town of Cavaillon both had to evacuate residents from their homes.
December weather - go figure...
Tish comes to visit
The only other diners in the restaurant were an English-speaking family with their dog inside and their baby outside. This explained why Mom and Dad alternately kept jumping up from the table to go outside every few minutes: Their baby was asleep in the car just a few feet away and they didn’t want to wake him when they arrived for lunch. We enjoyed the irony of Tish coming from Cairo and ending up seated next to English-speaking people at a restaurant in the south of France! Later we met the couple’s infant and I told the parents that I had been Père Noël at the crèche just a few days earlier. The father of the infant said: “Excuse me for saying, but you look a good fit for the part.” – Note to self: exercise more…
We went to the apartment of Benoit and Marie, located above their restaurant in town, for apero on Christmas eve and got to meet all of Benoit’s family. They opened champagne and served amuse bouche (appetizers) as we talked about Christmas traditions and Père Noël. In their family – and they said it was true for most families in France – Christmas eve is the big celebration time. They talked about families going to midnight mass, then having a BIG meal and opening presents afterwards.