Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day four Provence... ancient Rome... Iain's tomato obsession

Day four began in the usual way with the sun rising over the mountains and shining in the open windows of our top floor bedroom.

It was then time to endure the 40 or so metre walk up the stepped lane to the bakery for croissants and bread for the day and then into the car early for a long day of travel to Le Pont du Guard, a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct that spans a deep gorge with a river running underneath. The Romans' idea was to divert water from a spring on one side of the ravine to the city of Nimes on the other. They spent 14 years about the time of Christ building a massive arched bridge with a carved stone channel running across the top about 40 metres up from the river below... a mind blowing achievement and it's still standing today! There used to be 12 more spans off to the right (in this picture) but people used the stones for other things in the middle ages.

You can see from the intensity of the sun it was going to be a hot day!

We then took off to the town of Arles, famous for the local plump grained rice, large black fighting bulls and the place where Vincent Van Gogh first went crazy and severed part of his own ear. The town has a huge market that displays fruit, vegetables and the local crafts spreading down a wide vista and up the laneways into the town.

As it was market day we had trouble parking and had a long walk into the city. On this walk we stumbled across a mock bullfight with some of the young Arles men taunting a young black bull with large steel balls taped to the tips of its long curved horns. There was quite a crowd gathered and a raucous brass band. We didn't stay long, by Australian standards it seemed a little cruel. They don't kill bulls in France, but leave that to the Spanish just south of where we were.

The bull fight...

The amphitheatre at Arles.

Arles itself centers around an ancient amphitheatre that stands majestically next to the catholic cathedral. We sat just metres away from the theatre listening to booming operatic dress rehearsals of Carmen (more bullfighting) and had lunch at La Brasserie 2G. We both started with a tomato and jamon bruscetta type creation with toasted wholemeal bread with garlic and a ripe tomato smeared over it and generous room temperature jamon knotted over the top. The chef had scattered the plate liberally with pink peppercorns, lovely and pungent.

Second course Elysia had a large steak barbecued until it was warm but raw in the middle and a dollop of stewed capsicums. Iain ordered tuna that arrived glassy pink in the center with the same capsicums and a dome of the local rice. Both dishes were scattered with the obligatory pink peppercorns... way too much. Iain uses very little pepper in his cooking so it was a bit of a shock to the system. Although tolerable with the jamon, tuna is a little more delicate.

Tuna was nice, the rice very nice with large earthy grains. Beef a little too raw for us and the capscum compote was bitter on both.

Dessert was a rum baba (thankfully no peppercorns) with a caramalised rum syrup. The baba itself like a large canele (the little French cake very crisp on the outside and cloud light and soft in the centre) very light in the centre and softened with syrup, quite nice! The service was very slow, it was nearly 2 hours for three courses.

Jamon with tomatoes and garlic.

Tuna, rice and peppercorns.

Beef with pepper corns and capsicums.

The rum baba...

We wandered around the ancient theatre past a temporary stable housing large gleaming white horses for the town's horse festival (we think part of the opera) and through a beautiful lush green park back to the car.

Action had hotted-up at the arena with the bulls. A slightly larger man and bull were facing off. The bull without any protective steel caps managed to knock the (rather clumsy) man over as we hurried past hoping not to see anything distasteful.

We turned for home and stopped in at Saint Mark, the local co-op for small wine makers of the Cote du Ventoux Appellation and picked up a couple of bottles of the local rose and muscat to wash down the remainder of yesterday's things from the market.

Today's main lesson being that the GPS portable navigation system owned by Iain's parents is the best! Our advice is don't even attempt to drive in France without one, although you may end up on impossibly narrow roads, you still have confidence that you will end up where you want to.

Dinner tonight was again on the terrace and involved tomatoes. All the different kinds from the day before. The beef hearts are the standout with virtually no seeds or excess water, just flesh and sweetness! We also cut a ripe canteloup, cheeses, bread, good ham, grapes and rose from Caromb.

The beef heart tomatoes about the size of a very large grapefriut!

The little tomatoes before the goats cheese and oil went on.

More tomatoes tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Perfect tomatoes... Bravo for GPS and Roman civilisation. We like the Chateau Unang wines from Ventoux. Have fun!