47 tips for a Great Vacation in the French Countryside. #1-5 Taking Time

gypsy green

The first summer I spent at Camont, 1990, friends began to arrive. It began in dribs and dabs, a friend here, a couple there, and then the Big NY Art Gang arrived. Journalists arrive looking for a story then remember to have a good time and discover something about themselves.¹ It was clear to me from the beginning that some people just know how to travel better, more easily and with panache. Me? I am a lousy tourist. I am a great traveler, but a lousy tourist. I just want to live everywhere… at least for a couple of days. So this is what I learned about spending time in the French countryside– on vacation.

Luxury or budget, backpack, train, bike or motor, even alone or with family in tow, travel is the same when you reduce it to the most common, basic but important element- experiencing life with a different point of view. And one of the biggest differences in our French countryside is the time. So Lesson Number One is “Take the Time to take the Time.”


Spring Market inspiration. Open your eyes!

Why go to the market?

I mean the local farmer’s market, of course.

Fresh, simple, direct- a bargain.

Inspiring, colorful, nurturing- satisfaction.

Diverse, diverting, fun- amused.

All those words pop into my head when I think of the many very good markets I can throw a Gascon stone at from Camont. But versatility is reason I stay faithful to one of my first loves in this area, the little true producer’s market nestled under the unattractive eaves of the Chat d’Oc strip mall on the Avenue des Landes. Not only can I buy just picked old-timey vegetables out of neighboring market gardens, get a great baguette  at l’Envie de Pain (thanks Pierre & Valerie!), take my weekly beekeeping lesson from Narcisse, pick up some house paint or maybe get a blood test at the Laboratoire and get Bacon groomed, I can also wash my car at the best carwash in town! It’s a full service strip mall French style… with wine.

What the Chat d’Oc lacks in French country charm it makes up in seriously good content. Here’s a sample of what I picked up yesterday before our MAGYC Day Cooking Class with Michelle & Rochelle where we started with a little fresh herb soup we drank as a hot cocktail.


Camont’s New Beekeeper- Narcisse the Sweet

When shopping the Le Passage d’Agen market on a Wednesday, I whisper to students and guests that “This man sells the best honey in Gascony!”. I get little patronizing nods, the cameras click away; they love his trim mustaches, the flowing gray locks,  his black Stetson hat. He flirts and poses and sells a few more kilos of leeks, garlic, potatoes, persimmons, nefliers and pomegranates. But I wait. I wait patiently for the French ‘central casting’ call to diminish and then announce again.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I love honey. I use honey in many of my traditional recipes like pain d’épice, chevre, miel & armagnac tartine or a pan-seared foie gras aux 4-épice. Best of all, I love honey straight from the pot, drizzled over warm toasted bread that has been smeared with fresh salted butter. But I have never, ever had such delicious honey as that Miel de Ronces (bramble honey) from local beekeeper Narcisse Ferranoto.

hives with a veiwsouth facing hives

This year I wished for a bee swarm and got one (see archives here), followed the #Tweehive happening on Twitter and have been planning to integrate more beekeeping in Camont’s resident programs. Only problem was WHO would be our King Bee?

hive studio

While working on a chapter for my book of French food producers- “Butcher, Baker, Armagnac-maker’, I have long ‘stalked’ this honey man, this beekeeper, this sweet pillar of the market. This week Photographer Xtraordinaire Tim Clinch, fall intern Julia Leach, and I went across the Garonne River and through the woods to discover the sweet secret way of the beekeeper Narcisse Ferranoto at his Ferme de la Chateau Madaillan. After coffee with his smiling new bride, (they have lived together 30 years and just married 5 months ago!), Narcisse told me a few sweet secrets and, at last, I know the answer of just how he makes THE BEST HONEY IN GASCONY.

setting up the shot

Want to know how? Then join us this spring in France for the inaugural Apiculture Internship at

La Ruche… outside the Kitchen-at-Camont.

April-June 2010.

Narcisse the Sweet by Tim Clinch

Narcisse Ferranoto by Tim Clinch

French Beekeeper Teacher at Camont

One Comment

Could this be your Perfect Pig on an October morning?

free range Frenhc pigs

The Agen market is full of surprises on a perfect fall morning.

Today, shopping for quince, cress, and cilantro I ran into a drove of pigs.

Free-range, pasture-raised French pigs.

pigs in forest

Like a stage setting, simplicity itself- one knife, a cleaver, a wooden block,

bacon boy

& a smile.

Julien Veyrac

of Tournon d’Agenais


No one was more surprised than me to meet the new butcher boy on the block

and discover some damn good looking charcuterie and fresh pork.

Merci, Julien for taking over the family farm.

See you next Wednesday for your andouillette-

my secret ingredient for an onctuous cassoulet.

producer of pasture-raised pigs

Wednesdays- Agen Central Market

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