It is the end of the summer and all of our house guests have gone home and after this crazy fun filled summer in my expat haven in Languedoc Roussillon – I feel like I need a holiday!
But that will have to wait because here the summer never ends. Well ok, it does get a bit cooler and sometimes it rains and in January and February it can be positively cold. However, while the sun is still shining and the skies are blue, I am going to continue to wear my shorts and sun dresses despite what the locals think. Many of them seem to wear their quilted padded jackets right up to August and then it’s only for three weeks as all they do is think about La Rentrée!
Arrh La Rentrée! Which means back to school to the likes of you and me. It’s such a celebrated fête here – no such nonsense back in England. Yes Marks and Spencer’s ruin the summer fantasy by advertising their ‘Back to school’ grey socks and uniforms too early on, but – in the UK we just go back to school quietly. Not here – it’s big, it’s important and it’s very intricate. I always used to think it was complex due to my language barriers but no, it’s complicated because the French do complicated very well indeed ….. And bureaucracy. But let’s not go there…
September is a fantastic month to visit my part of France. Yes the sniff of autumn is there but it is still hot and gorgeous and beach-worthy. The grapes are bursting on the vines and this is a fantastic time to come and explore without the crowds of tourists bustling in your way.
Towards the end of September is the Vendange (Grape Harvest), it is the busiest time of the year for a winery. Festivals and events focusing around the excitement of the annual grape harvest keep the tradition and anticipation in full bloom, long after the grapes have ripened.
My local Chateau (Maylandie) always sends out invitations for those wishing to partake in the harvest. All my gite guests and I willingly participate – it is hard work you are warned, but fun and very rewarding.
Handpicked grapes are chosen for the winery’s finest vintage. The day starts with a good breakfast (to give us energy) and of course we are provided with a hearty picnic – spread out in the vines in front of a little chapel. It is hard to get back to work after that and tempting to sunbathe amongst the rows of voluptuous vines but once you are in a rhythm you get your groove and then finally… the last grape is picked. You can go home, scrub up and return to the Cave for a really fabulous slap up meal (last year it was wild boar) and bottles and bottles of delicious handpicked wine.
Who’s joining me this year?
Honor Marks runs the Maison de La Roche, a once neglected wine domaine in Languedoc-Roussillon which has been bought back to life as gites.