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Alors, les fromages...

June 11, 2019

One of the things you notice when you visit the Languedoc Rousillion area (that's the area we are living in down south) is that there is a distinct lack of cows and sheep. And yet, this area is not only known for its many wine varieties, but also its 380 types of cheese. Each market you go to here in the south gives you a disarming array of cheeses, their pungent smells beckoning you as you walk through the throngs of people. Even on a rainy market day as today has been, the cheese vendors are still there, smiling and calling out with huge smiles - "Bonjour Madame, des fromages pour votre dejeuner peu etre?" M. Lucque with his chevre (goat) cheeses in their little glass-covered cart, handsome Jean Pierre with his array of brebis (sheep) and vache (cow)cheeses hiding behind thick ash-covered rinds, Alain with the heavily coloured aged brebis that we have come to love so much. It is very difficult to resist over-packing the fridge in the little apartment with these delights. Invariably we come home with just one more! But you do get to wonder where the cows, goats and sheep that supply the milk for these delicacies, hide. Every available piece of land in this area is packed with grape vines, shooting tendrils at an alarming rate into the dusty air, whipped up by the crazy Tamertaine wind that doesn't seem to abate for more that a day this year. Just recently, our trip through the High Pyrenees down to the flat land on which Olonzac is built, has given us a hint of where these animals might be. The fields are full of lush spring grass, and are fenced off by electric wires, and there behind the fences, the cows and sheep are making an appearance. They have been wintered in huge barns down in the valleys where their wellbeing can be watched closely by their owners, But come the warmer spring weather, things change. Every year, near the end of May - this year the date was 26th May - a festival unique to this area takes place in the village of Aubrac, which signals the start of the Transhumance. This is the huge movement of stock, particularly cattle, to the higher meadows around the villages,


 which is done with all the fun loving sense of family and festivals that the French do so well. On the appointed day, the cows, decked out in bells, French flags and streamers, are walked through the main streets towards the hills. It takes all day, and the village breaks into huge party mode. Bands, food stalls, wine providers (of course) and anyone who feels like a bit of a knees-up, join in. Festivities go late into the night as the cows walk slowly and with great dignity befitting their status, up to the lush green meadows waiting for them. Another year has come full circle. Viva les fromages!




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