Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the road (Europe 2010): Pouzolles--First Impressions

Pouzolles, halfway between Narbonne and Montpellier, and about 30 minutes from the Mediterranean Sea at Agde, is a little postcard of a town. The streets are narrow and hilly in places. The buildings are mostly built of stuccoed stone. There is a small 12th century church and a privately-owned 13th century chateau. There is not much here, really. There is not much to do. But that suits me fine. The plan is simply to live and work here over the summer and to travel a bit, as work permits.

There are three or four other villages in the immediate area accessible by bicycle or car that offer small shops, restaurants, and cafés (the photo shows the market at Servian this morning). There are stretches of neatly tended vineyard land between the villages. This area mostly produces the vin de pays Côtes de Thongue, which appears to allow a wide variety of grapes, including Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Viognier, and other varieties traditional in the Languedoc Rousillon area, as well as international varieties, such as Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. They seem to make a great deal of rosé here, which is nice to see, as I like rosé. The wines range widely in price, but some of it is surprisingly inexpensive; twice a week (Tuesday and Friday mornings) the local rosé is available from tanks (you bring your own container) at 6 euros for five liters--which works out to $1.37 a bottle--and it's quite drinkable. Until a month ago, I'm told, it was only 5 euros for five liters--and it had been for 14 years (what an outrageous price increase). As I begin to explore some of the wines of good reputation in the area, I will report.

Swifts, house martins, and barn swallows are everywhere. The swifts hunt incessantly over the rooftops. They are like black sickles in the sky. They dive and turn, beating their wings as fast as a bat and then they suddenly hold them still to glide in tight arcs for a moment before shooting off in a new direction, wings beating furiously again. The swifts and martins are nesting. The martins appear to make mud "pots" under the eaves of the buildings, similar to those made by our Cliff Swallows. The swifts disappear into cracks in buildings and other crevices. Walking in the more wooded areas, I've heard warblers, but I have yet to see any. They like to hide and tease with their songs--but I have yet to do any real exploring. So far on this trip I have added 13 birds to my life list nevertheless (Rock Pipit, Linnet, Greater Black-backed Gull, European Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, European Blackbird, Black-headed gull, Coal Tit, House Martin, Common Swift, and the European Roller). I hope to add many more.

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