Category: garden

January 13th, 2009 by ptinfrance

We were lucky to stumble upon a charming, 14th century, fortified medieval village called Villeneuve les Avignon (Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, Department: Gard), which sits atop Mont Andaon and is situated just a couple of miles outside of the city of Avignon, across the Rhône River. Instead of passing by it, we decided to see what was within the walls. No regrets because inside those walls we found a hidden gem, particularly the abbey and the Italian style gardens of Saint André.

During the same time as the Avignon festivals (July/August), Villeneuve has its own festivities, Villeneuve en Scène, with over 20 groups performing concerts, musicals and plays. Here’s a quick slideshow of some photos I took.

Saint André Abbey in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

tags: , ,

Posted in Gard, garden, photos, Provence, tips, travel and places, travel tip

September 5th, 2008 by ptinfrance

pumpkins and squash

tags: , ,

Posted in food and drinks, garden, photos

August 1st, 2008 by ptinfrance

sage in the garden
Sage in my garden.

, , ,

Posted in daily life, garden, nature, photos

July 29th, 2008 by ptinfrance

yellow stripe spider harmless garden variety

Last night’s untimely tempest left the garden marvelously wet and alive this morning so I stepped outside early to take photos before work. Just above my blueberries was this spider, which caught me by surprise and created a blood curdling scream (from me), the kind of scream that shatters anything shatterable. If anyone in the neighborhood was still sleeping beforehand, they certainly weren’t after that.

There are actually two webs side by side with another smaller spider, so after googling “scary striped yellow spider” I was relieved to discover that these are very undeadly garden spiders. Whew.
2 spiders

According to wikipedia, the smaller spidey is the male and the larger (photographed above) of the two is the female. When they do this side-by-side web thing, it means they’re getting ready to mate.

After mating, the female lays her eggs, placing her egg sac into the web. The sac contains between 400 and 1,400 eggs. These eggs hatch in autumn, but the spiderlings overwinter in the sac and emerge during the spring. The egg sac is composed of multiple layers of silk and designed to protect its contents from damage; however, many species of insects have been observed to parasitise the egg sacs.

Aren’t you happy you came to my blog today? Ew. Over a thousand of these creepy crawly things in my garden. Of course, I shouldn’t complain because at least they aren’t deadly.

This ends today’s arachnaphobic Arachnid lesson of the week.


Posted in daily life, garden, photos

June 28th, 2008 by ptinfrance

From the nyt:
gardens in paris
“Next to the Palais de la Découverte, just off the Champs-Élysées, is a flight-of-fancy sculpture of the 19th-century poet Alfred de Musset daydreaming about his former lovers. As art goes, the expanse of white marble is pretty mediocre, and its sculptor, Alphonse de Moncel, little-remembered. For me, however, it is a crucial marker. To its right is a path with broken stone steps that lead down into one of my favorite places in Paris, a tiny stage-set called Jardin de la Vallée Suisse.

Part of the Champs-Élysées’ gardens, this “Swiss Valley” was built from scratch in the late 19th century by the park designer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand. It is a lovely illusion, where nothing is quite what it appears at first sight. The rocks that form the pond and waterfall are sculptured from cement; so is the “wooden” footbridge. But the space — 1.7 acres of semitamed wilderness in one of the most urban swaths of Paris — has lured me, over and over again. My only companions are the occasional dog walker and the police woman making her rounds.

On a park bench there, I am enveloped by evergreens, maples, bamboo, lilacs and ivy. There are lemon trees; a Mexican orange; a bush called a wavyleaf silktassel, with drooping flowers, that belongs in an Art Nouveau painting; and another whose leaves smell of caramel in the fall. A 100-year-old weeping beech shades a pond whose waterfall pushes away the noise of the streets above. The pond, fed by the Seine, can turn murky, but the slow-moving carp don’t seem to mind, nor does the otter that surfaces from time to time.

The Swiss Valley is one of the most unusual of Paris’s more than 400 gardens and parks, woods and squares. Much grander showcases include wooded spaces like the Bois de Vincennes on the east of the city and the Bois de Boulogne on the west, and celebrations of symmetry in the heart of Paris like the Tuileries and the Luxembourg.

But I prefer the squares and parks in quiet corners and out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Many are the legacy of former President Jacques Chirac. In the 18 years he served as mayor of Paris, he put his personal stamp on his city by painting its hidden corners green.

“He took some of the pathetic, shabby squares and gardens and transformed and adorned them,” said Claude Bureau, one of the city’s great garden historians who was chief gardener of the Jardin des Plantes for more than two decades. “He appreciated….”

Read the full article


Posted in art/culture/design, articles, garden, news, paris, travel and places, travel tip

June 27th, 2008 by ptinfrance

physialis lantern flower edible
Dad-in-law showed me this pretty flowery tomato thing growing in their garden in the north of France but I kept forgetting what it was called so I repeatedly asked him about it. “Just think of the sexually transmitted disease, Syphilis, because that rhymes with Physialis, sort of.”

Rather an unpleasant association, but I guess it works. In the English speaking world, this delicate and beautiful plant is known as Physalis, Chinese Lantern, Strawberry Tomato, Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry or Cape Gooseberry, and is a relative of the tomatillo in the Solanaceae family.
physialis lantern flower edible
They are so delicate with a paper-like shell that really does resemble a Japanese or Chinese lantern. Add them to flower arrangements as well as desserts and meals for an artistic and exotic visual impact.

physialis lantern flower edible

They have a unique flavor. Maybe it’s because I expect them to taste like tomatoes, I’m not sure, but they are a teeny tiny bit like cherry tomatoes and plums with a hint of pineapple and a strange unidentifiable aftertaste.

Note: The unripe Physialis is poisonous, so please avoid those. However, the ripe fruit can sometimes cause intestinal distress so please consume in small quantities…like one or two in a sitting.


Posted in daily life, food and drinks, garden, nature, pastries, photos

June 23rd, 2008 by ptinfrance

giant gray blue bamboo bambouserie de prafrance southern france

While strolling through the largest garden of more varieties of bamboo than you ever knew existed (about 40), you would imagine that you’ve found yourself in a far eastern land, a place surrounded by exotic flowers and plants (impossible to pronounce), hearing only the waft of a gentle breeze combing through the long stalks in a bamboo forest.

entrance bamboo bambouserie de prafrance southern france

The zen-like ambiance of this unexpected garden has actually placed you in the Mediterranean climate of the south of France, not far from the town of Alès and two kilometers (just over one mile) north of Anduze. There are 34 hectares devoted to the cultivation of bamboo and other exotic plants from the Asia.

We’ve been wanting to see La Bambouseraie for long time now, so while we were south we decided to take a drive (about an hour) from our temporary home base in Saint Laurent des Arbres.

irrigation bamboo la bambouserie de prafrance southern france

To satisfy the thirsty bamboo, more than five kilometers (3 miles) of irrigation canals are discretely blended into the landscape. With the sunny climate, ideal soil and a dependable supply of water, the bamboo can grow more than a meter (3 feet) a day.

irrigation bamboo la bambouserie de prafrance southern france

La Bambouseraie de Prafrance was founded in 1855, and is the very first giant bamboo forest in Europe. Eugène Mazel, a native of the Cévennes who made his fortune by importing spices, began his bamboo collection while traveling through the French colonies of the Far East. After purchasing the domaine of Prafrance from its owner, Anne de Galière, he began to build his dream bamboo garden on the property. It now features water gardens, sequoia trees from California, traditional projects (Japanese garden, Laotian village), a garden labyrinth, a greenhouse and a nursery.
dwarf vietnamese pigs la bambouserie de prafrance southern france
Oh! and some dwarf Vietnamese pigs. They look pretty humungous to me, though.
japanese zen garden la bambouserie de prafrance southern france
The Japanese Zen garden is relatively new to the park (2001) designed very true to Japanese style. The sculpting of the landscape took inspiration from the year it was founded, which was the Year of the Dragon. The Japanese garden’s form is dependent on the body of water it surrounds, so you’ll see the water wind through the garden like a dragon, both existing in harmony with each other. Note that “dragon” is an anagram of Gardon, the nearest river…
dragon zen garden la bambouserie de prafrance southern france
Dragon in the Zen Garden

For the rest of the post and to see a lot more photos after the fold click: Read more of this article »

Posted in art/culture/design, environment, garden, nature, photos, Provence, shopping, travel and places, travel tip

April 25th, 2008 by ptinfrance

expandable gardening pot
With all of the GMO (genetically modified organisms) laws being passed here and there and everywhere so the public never knows what they’re eating, gardening is becoming the new black. Why be left to wonder if you’re eating pesticides and other toxins when you can grow your own food. More and more people are turning to their own organic gardening so they know exactly what they are consuming. But what about city dwellers? Those fortunate enough to have a large basement are turning them into hydroponic artificially lit organic gardens. Apartment people have to turn to other methods. This is where resourcefulness and ingenuity come in.

French product designer, François Clerc, has come up with something so purely awesome: Graine de pot, a biodegradable, expandable garden pot that is great for urban gardening. How does it work? Plant your seeds, expand as necessary, watch your veggies, say tomatoes or courgettes or peppers, grow, enjoy them all summer and later in the fall throw all of it including the pot out into the compost. Hopefully, your city collects organic rubbish or you can just give it to a friend with a garden for compost.

Now if you can get your hands on non-GMO seeds, you’re in business – but that’s another matter.


Posted in art/culture/design, daily life, food and drinks, garden, nature, people, products

March 11th, 2008 by ptinfrance

french documentary about monsanto
The French documentary, “Le Monde Selon Monsanto / The world according to Monsanto,” directed by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, airs tonight on ARTE.

The film paints a grim picture of a no-holds-barred evil corporation with a decades-long track record of environmental crimes, health scandals and endangering the population of the entire world.

It will open your eyes to many things and you’ll never look at food the same way again.

Read about it at ARTE (in French) More about it here (in English)

See the movie trailer here

Posted in daily life, environment, garden, health, kids, nature, politics, products, stories, tv and movies

December 15th, 2007 by ptinfrance

From the internet journalist:

most famous tree in france
(Image credit: Luc Doudet)

The Chêne-Chapelle (Chapel-Oak) of Allouville-Bellefosse is the most famous tree in France – actually, it’s more than just a tree: it’s a building and a religious monument all in one.

In 1669, l’Abbe du Detroit and du Cerceau decided to build a chapel in (at that time) a 500 years old or so oak (Quercus robur) tree made hollow by a lightning bolt. The priests built a small altar to the Virgin Mary. Later on, a second chapel and a staircase were added.

Now, parts of the tree are dead, the crown keeps becoming smaller and smaller every year, and parts of the tree’s bark, which fell off due to old age, are covered by protective oak shingles. Poles and cables support the aging tree, which in fact, may not live much longer. As a symbol, however, it seems that the Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse may live on forever.


Posted in garden, nature, weird

November 4th, 2007 by ptinfrance

st jean de beauregard


Plantes, Fruits et Légumes d’hier et d’aujourd’hui / Past and Present Vegetables
Nov 9, 10, 11, 2007, 10am-6pm – Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard
Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard is well known for its 17th-century château as well as its gardens à la Française. November’s event celebrates plants, vegetables and fruit from past to present.

Entrance Fee: €11 (regular admission); €8 (reduced for large groups, members and students of horticulture groups/schools, large families); free for under 10 y.o.
Website: Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard

Le Parc Australien / Australia Park
Until November 11, 2007, Carcassonne
A five-hectare area just outside of Carcassonne’s Medieval village will make you forget that you’re in France. At Le Parc Australien, you’ll step inside another world that will get you playing a didgeridoo like a pro, and speaking like they do Down Under.
Website: Le parc Australien

Boulogne-sur-Mer’s Herring Festival
November 17, 18, 2007, Boulogne-sur-Mer
Get your herring before they no longer exist! Boulogne-sur-Mer takes advantage of the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau then mixes it with fish.

Ubuntu Release Party in Bordeaux
November 17, 2007, 10am – Bordeaux
Fun Geeks of France are getting together to celebrate the new releases of Ubuntu, Gutsy and Gibbon, Free Software. They’re be a demo of their free version of Guitar Hero called, “Frets on Fire.” Bring food to join in on the Potluck.
Website: Gutsy Party

[thanks for the tip, Angry B!]

Lyon Christmas Market
November 24, 2007, Place Carnot, Lyon
One of my newly favorite cities in France, Lyon, starts its holiday spirit early, so head on down for your dose of gastronomy, live music, arts and crafts.

Chicken Festival
November 24, 25, 2007, Clôtres Jacobins, Saint-Sever, free admission
Grab a most delicious roasted chicken in he medieval town of Saint-Sever. The town celebrates its huge population of chickens every year by eating them!
Website: Saint-Sever

Festival des 38e Rugissants / 38th Festival of the Roars
November 20 to December 1, 2007, Grenoble
Grenoble invites talented musicians and groups from all over the world, and features their fascinating nomadic music at venues all over the city.
Website: 38e Rugissants

Paris Banlieues Tango / Tango in the Suburbs
Until November 27, 2007, Le Satellit Café, Paris
It’s time for Tango, which mean Paris Banlieues Tango, a festival celebrated in the suburbs of Paris.

Posted in art/culture/design, events, food and drinks, games/software/tech, garden, music, nature, paris, travel and places

July 20th, 2007 by ptinfrance

heart shaped potato france

This adorable potato is from our recent harvest. It’s how potatoes grow in the land of love and romance: Heart-shaped. But, of course.

Posted in daily life, food and drinks, garden, photos, weird

July 16th, 2007 by ptinfrance

french fries

When in France we’ve been doing pretty much as the French do: eating lots of french fries. Not a problem. Only, whenever we have them at French people’s homes, I always find them to be just slightly undercooked by a couple of minutes. No, they’re cooked all the way through, but lack the perfect finish: the crispy light golden (yet not burnt) outside.

At home, we make them like most people: fry them twice, which is gives them that delicious crispy outside and soft inside. Oftentimes this doesn’t happen and we’d been wondering why. We finally figured out who the culprit was: the potato, not us. Ha! We started trying different kinds of potatoes, with no luck.

My father-in-law later told us that if you buy supermarket potatoes, try to find the ones that still have dirt on them, the ones that haven’t been washed. He claims that the washed potatoes always end up being soggy fries, even the potatoes that say they’re specifically for making fries. We decided to solve the dilemma our way: grow our own potatoes. That’s so French!

So over the weekend, we (I mean my sweetie) harvested half of our potatoes. (Thank you, sweetie!) We’ll end up having hundreds upon hundreds of spuds.

We made fries yesterday. The results: Our home-grown potatoes made the BEST french fries, ever. They are sooooo gooood!

On an opposing note, I ran into this video called “How Nasty are McDonald’s Fries” with Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me) doing an experiment with McDonald’s food showing how quickly or slowly their food decomposes.


mcdonalds experiment morgan spurlock

Basically, everything gets moldy and nasty but the McDonald’s fries NEVER change over several months. It’s shocking and makes you wonder what the fries are made out of. Do I hear PLASTIC? or perhaps GMO corn? In any case, like plastic, these fries don’t biodegrade like food is supposed to.

Posted in cultural differences, daily life, food and drinks, garden, weird

July 11th, 2007 by ptinfrance

cloudy sky

Since being back home in the land of fabulous fatty foods: France (from a too short trip to the U.S.), I’m wondering about a few things:

1. WHERE the *&%@ is summer?! It’s raining and it’s COLD! The thermometer says it’s 57 degrees (F) outside. I want to play outdoors in the sun! Where’s the sun? My potager (kitchen garden) is very, very depressed. It probably wont’ give me many veggies this year.

2. Why do the soldes (the biannual sales in France) seem fake to me now? Prices suck. They are going on right now, btw. After being able to frolick around the biggest outlet mall in the U.S. (Woodbury Outlets in New York) and buy things at REAL sales prices, the sales in France just seem ridiculous. I bought a bunch of pans at Williams Sonoma at the outlets which was a steal (I got a 40% discount). Love those pans! They were really heavy in my bags but totally worth lugging around.

3. Why doesn’t France have TV shows like:

Dirty Jobs – where a guy goes around and works the dirtiest jobs in the U.S. Gross but entertaining TV! That would be such a hit equivalent in France, don’t you think? Wouldn’t Benjamin Castaldi be a great host?? (He’s now the host of that crappy French show, “Secret Story”)

Cash Cab – This is the show where a taxi driver quizzes the passenger. For every correct answer, the passenger wins cash. He can double (or nothing) his winnings at his destination if he answers a final question with a correct response. Wouldn’t that be a funny French equivalent if they were in the SNCF (train) and the controller quizzes passengers? Maybe?

Posted in daily life, garden, nature, shopping, travel and places

May 10th, 2007 by ptinfrance

It all started chez Mr. Pott, the Potter. (Yes, that is his real name.) We were being led to the kiln where all his creations cook down to their glorious art forms. As we wandered along the winding path, a putrid cloud of fumes wafted toward me and overwhelmingly assaulted my nose. I was certain I was going to puke. It was nauseating. If you can imagine an effluvious melding rotten cat vomit with sewage after a 5-week long, city-wide bout of extreme irritable bowel syndrome, (aka The Runs) then that is what it smelled like.

Ahead of us, Mr. Pott turned around abruptly to warn us of the smell. “Thanks for the warning,” I said, as I repressed projectile vomiting a gag. He apologized and told us it was his purin d’orties. (nettles “manure” or fertilizer. It’s nettles soaked in rainwater.). I’d never heard about it. He mentioned that it not only was a natural insecticide that works but it was also a nutritious fertilizer “tea” for garden vegetables.

Upon further research, I found out that nettles is somewhat of universal super miracle ingredient being beneficial (even curative) to allergies and health problems, as well as serving as sort of a magical elixer in the garden. You can also cook it like spinach for a vitamin rich delish potage or other dish. There are undoubtedly endless uses for this undeservedly maligned weed.

I decided to try to make some purin d’orties too. Here’s my batch. It doesn’t stink yet as it needs to brew for a few more weeks. I’ll probably cover it when we start to smell something funky.

nettles fertilizer

The shocking information that I stumbled on, however, was that selling purin d’orties is strictly prohibited in France. Um. You can’t sell water soaked in nettles? That is weird. In addition to that, it is now illegal to publish information on purin d’orties in France. But! It is ok to use purin d’orties that you make at home. (This proves that it is safe to use, but how the heck can you get info if it’s illegal to publish details about it??!) Strange Strange Strange. Not to mention RIDICULOUS. While we’re on the subject of ridiculousness, I also found out that it is illegal in France to publish that hot water kills weeds in alleys. I’m not kidding. It’s a good thing my blog lives on a U.S. server.

In any case, as we all know, evil takes on many forms. Evil can be ridiculous and quite often is, as we’re witness to today. Evil can look at you straight in the eye, lie with a smile and you wouldn’t even know it was lying. Evil can be a weed killer company, a pesticides/fertilizer company, a seed company. Maybe they’re all the same company?

As we might be able to surmise by now, there are only a few usual suspects responsible for this kind of heinous legislation: government (Le ministère de l’Agriculture) and the fertilizer industry (which includes the pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical, pesticides, seeds and GMO industries). And for good measure we might as well throw in the other evil industries: the oil industry, which is the same as the plastics industry and the food industry. They are all bad, bad, bad to the core. This is no exception. It looks as though the industry has lobbied the government (in other words: paid dubious amounts of cash to the agriculture minister and other officials) to pass this most subversive of laws for the benefit of the company whilst being detrimental to the earth and consumers. Anyway. As one of the most destructive industries, they are endangering the health of this planet, and its inhabitants. How much more unscrupulous and unethical can they get? I’m sure they’ll never fail to have something else up their sleeves.

Back to the case of nettles. Nettles fertilizer is so effective that it’s probably better than anything you can buy at the garden store. But it has so many more uses. How do people love nettles? Let them count the ways: 1) Dilute your nettles fertilizer “tea” and spray it on your plants for a safe insecticide that knows how to get rid of the bad bugs and keep the good ones (especially good for veggies like tomatoes); 2) If sprayed, it will also be a foliar fertilizer rich in iron, vitamin C, nitrogen, beta-carotene, B complex vitamins, phosphorous potassium, oligoelements, enzymes, chlorophyll, magnesium, calcium, silica, iodine, and amino acids. You can also enrich the soil by directly watering the ground around your plants; 3) The diluted fertilizer is known to stimulate your plants immune system, building their resilience to diseases and insects; 4) Undiluted nettles tea is a very impressive natural weed killer that will not harm your health, the soil or the environment; 4) Nettles leaves are also a great addition to the compost heap being rich in nitrogen they provide the fuel for the bacteria to accelerate the break down of the more “brown” compost; 5) Dry the nettles leaves to make an infusion tea that will give you an iron boost if you’re feeling run down. This tea is also a safe, gentle diuretic—considered restorative for the kidneys and bladder, and used for cystitis and nephritis. 6) As an expectorant, it’s recommended for asthma, mucus conditions of the lungs, and chronic coughs. Nettle tincture is also used for flu, colds, bronchitis and pneumonia; 7) Nettles are a traditional food for people with allergies as they are filled with formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), plus unknown compounds; 8.) Nettle tea compress or finely powdered dried nettles are also good for wounds, cuts, stings, and burns; 9) Other uses include treating gout, glandular diseases, poor circulation, enlarged spleen, diarrhea, and dysentery, worms, intestinal and colon disorders, and hemorrhoids. 10) Eating nettles or drinking the tea makes your hair brighter, thicker and shinier, and makes your skin clearer and healthier—good for eczema and other skin conditions.

Last Note: Strangely, there is no mention of the garden uses of Nettles in Wikipedia. Hmmm.

Sources and Related Links:

Round-up is a descendent of Agent Orange
Ex Monsanto Executives now in the Bush Administration
Interdiction d’informer sur les phytosanitaires naturels non-homologués
How to Make Nettles Fertilizer Tea/Insecticide

Posted in daily life, environment, food and drinks, garden, health, nature, politics, weird

May 1st, 2007 by ptinfrance

lillies of the valley muguets

Someone must have read my blog post (or at least the comments from that post) exactly one year ago when I wrote about France’s Labor Day, a non-working national holiday, La Fête du Travail. I got these cute muguets / Lilly of the Valley flowers this morning and like the sticker says, they should bring me good luck. I actually planted some in the garden last November so we do have some of the muguets nearby but only some of them have blossomed.

If you haven’t yet gotten your sweetie some muguets and you’re in France, you won’t have any difficulty finding these delicate, fragrant blossoms; people are selling them everywhere. However, what I recommend is getting flowers that still have their bulbs, just like the one I received this year. That way, you can plant them in your garden or in a pot and they will come back next year.

Posted in cultural differences, events, garden

April 25th, 2007 by ptinfrance

We try to order online as much as possible, which saves a lot of driving time and reduces our carbon (dioxide) footprint. We live far from everything. There’s a company in Lyon ( where we order computer equipment and supplies and we love them. They’re great because they are incredibly fast, which seems unusual for France. They usually mail your things the very same day as you order it! Most of the time, you get your order the next day. If you know France, you know this is absolutely amazing.

flower seeds

Anyway, with each order, they always include a gift of some kind. Sometimes it’s chocolate, other times, it’s been a USB memory key or other gadget. This time, it was a small piece of paper the size of a napkin. Ads were on one side and when you turn it over you could see there were seeds embedded into the paper. All you have to do is peel off the ads then put the sheet of seeds into a pot, cover lightly with soil, water and voila! Flowers in a few weeks.

Posted in daily life, games/software/tech, garden

February 6th, 2007 by ptinfrance
rejected by the fda

Sooooooooo. I tried to send a package to the U.S and it was returned to us because it contained food items. Remember? It went from our place to Paris and then they rejected it because it had chocolate in it, so they refused to send it onward to the U.S. When it was returned to us they made us pay extra for the “trouble.”

Well, a second package destined for Washington state containing lots and lots and LOTS of goodies for our friends up there, just got returned. We’d sent this package about the same time as the last, so we didn’t know about the U.S. now restricting food items from France. I also heard that the U.S. now doesn’t allow seeds (for gardens) from Europe unless you jump through hoops of fire and cut off your right arm or something and fill out gobs of redtape.

Is there a Cold War going on?

Back to our returned box. I’m not sure if this particular package actually went ALL THE WAY to the U.S., said hello, said goodbye and was sent right back to our place in France or if it was sitting somewhere for a long time. It’s hard to tell because this package should have taken 10 days to get there, but after over a month passed it was returned. There’s strange sticker on it in French and I’m not sure if it’s from the FDA (because it’s in French). The bright RED sticker says, “Return to sender. Products inadmissible without authorization of…” and then the sticker is cut off. Ok, where is the rest of the sticker?!

Anyway. Chocolate is clearly an unauthorized good as well as EVERYTHING ELSE that’s edible. Is that ridiculous? I think you can only send those items if you have a permit.

Is there a “Buy American” Campaign?

The saving grace of this whole unpleasant snafu is that we didn’t have to pay a penalty, which probably would’ve been seriously exorbitant. Why didn’t we have to pay for it? Because we have an adorable mailman who saw it at the post office and before they could slap a fine on the package and us, he snatched it away and hid it in his car – then brought it over to us. YAY HIM. We thought that was sweet. And uncommon, but we are grateful…for him, at least.

[related: Not Allowed: Mailing food packages from France to the U.S.]

Posted in daily life, garden, people, politics, products, travel and places

November 20th, 2006 by ptinfrance
terrasson france

You might find yourself passing by Terrasson in Dordogne saying, “Wow, what a pretty town,” then driving right through it without stopping, but don’t do that. If you can stop and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jardins de l’Imaginaire / Gardens of the Imagination, you will not regret it.

About the Jardins de l’Imaginaire in Terrasson
Created in 1996 by landscape gardeners Katryn Gustafson and Philippe Marchand, the “jardins de l’Imaginaire” at Terrasson-la-Villedieu, a little town in the Dordogne, cover nearly six hectares of hillside. Powerful and simple at the same time, the garden invites you on a sensual tour in which the perspective, the plants and the ubiquitous presence of water highlight the site’s natural qualities. Finally, we might mention the town park of Issoudun (Indre), created by Michel Desvignes and Christine Dalnoky, and, above all, Erik Borja’s extraordinary Zen garden at Beaumont-Monteux, in the Drôme. This poet-gardener has punctuated a sea of swaying boxtrees with basalt columns which lead in successive waves down to a lake surrounded by Mediterranean species. An absolute marvel. [source: Ministere des affaires etrangeres]

jardins de l'imaginare

The Gardens of the Imagination overlook the Vézère valley. It is a modern interpretation of a classic form, the terrace garden, but with sculptured curves. Symbollically, there are ‘fragments of the stories of gardens': a Sacred Wood (sacro bosco), a Vegetable Tunnel , A Garden of Elements, a Theatre of Greenery, an Axis of the Winds, a Water Garden and a Rose Garden. The Axis of Winds has 12 metre masts with wind vanes. The Rose garden is a 1000 m2 suspended steel structure (and 2,000 roses). The Water Gardens form a coss with jets of water fed by a cascade. The Sacred Wood has 50 bells suspended from oak trees. The greenhouse was designed by the British architect Ian Ritchie and won the Stephen Lawrence prize in 1999. [source: Terrasson]

Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire
Place du Foirail
24120, Terrasson Lavilledieu France

Visitor Information

April-October – 9:50am to 11:20am, 1:50pm to 5:20pm

May-June-September – 9:50am to 11:50am, 1:50pm to 5:20pm

Closed on Tuesdays

July and August 9:50am to 11:50am, 12:50pm, 1:50pm to 6:10pm

Note: Guided visits only, buy tickets at least 10 minutes before the next guided tour; ticket office: Place du Foirail. Tours start there.

For more information – Jardins de l’Imaginaire
Rue Jean Rouby, Place du Foirail
24120 Terrasson-Lavilledieu France
Phone et
Tél :
Email :

Posted in garden, lulu/dogs/cats, travel and places

August 30th, 2006 by ptinfrance

coeur de boeuf beef heart tomatoes
My neighbor has a gorgeous potager (kitchen garden) and brought over lots of vegetables including these beautiiful Tomates Coeur de Boeuf / Beef Heart Tomatoes. They are about the size of large oranges. I love how they look like hearts and are so different in shape (ridges and a tapering bottom) from your run-o-the-mill tomatoes everywhere. There might be many varieties of these Beef Hearts but they don’t look anything like the so-called Beef Hearts I’ve seen in French markets, even at the farmer’s markets. The market varieties never usually look like cow hearts (or at least what I imagine actual cow hearts to look like) because they have flat bottoms. These from my neighbor do seem to merit their name. I am guessing that the market varieties are genetically modified or just a different kind of Coeur de Boeuf that have flat bottoms, which pack and transport easier. (They don’t roll around so much and get damaged with that flat bottom.) In any case, it is once again amazing to see all of the different kinds of vegetables and fruits around here, that I’ve never seen before. Btw, these are so amazing in flavor, it is best to eat them raw in salads or as thick slices inside a simple yummy tomato sandwich. (I made tomato sammiches with avocado, bleu auvergne cheese and lightly toasted walnut bread.)

It may be cold, rainy and icky outside in August of all months (I thought it was supposed to be summer?!), but that didn’t stop us from having a summery lunch next to the warmth of the fire inside!

Posted in food and drinks, garden

August 10th, 2006 by ptinfrance

France’s gift to mankind is her sense of aesthetics. That’s why France sent Philippe S+arck far, far away to the U.S. I really can’t stand his stuff. In any case, IN GENERAL, I feel that that is a notable strength of France, and if power were given to a country with a great eye, France would be King.

Take these garden tools, for example. Functional yet so very cute especially the sécateurs (pruning shears). ‘nuf said.

Click on photo to enlarge.
french gardening tools
[related: Design Within Reach?]

Posted in art/culture/design, daily life, garden