Completely unreligious though I may be, one of the things that I feel adds to the enjoyment when travelling through France, in particular, is the chiming of church bells on hours and half hours. The hours don’t chime just once but twice, with a gap of about a minute in between the two sequences. I think this is so you can count the chimes accurately second time around having been alerted by the first sequence but inevitable missed one or two. Most communities seem to stop the chimes over night – between, say, 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM – to reduce sleep disturbance but, even around the odd community that leaves them ringing over night – Arçais, for example – I find it all quite atmospheric.
Here in Jalón at midnight on Christmas Eve we were treated to bags of atmosphere. We are within ear shot of the churches of Jalón and Lliber, both of whose church bells began clattering away with gusto. I think they may have been trying to drown out Santa’s sleigh bells. Terrific!
As well as throwing excellent fresh prawns at us for what seem like ridiculously low prices, another thing that the Spanish give away for peanuts is fresh oranges. The price seems to vary, according to season, between €2 and €3 for 5 kilos. We’re in the €2 season now but we don’t even have to part with €2 because Chris has an orange tree in his orchard that’s still cropping. Perfectly decent Spanish Cava, like Freixenet, is readily available at €4 a bottle, as well. At this point, gastronauts brains should be lighting up with ideas of the perfect start to a Christmas morning. What better than a glass or two of Buck’s Fizz made with freshly squeezed orange juice?
Just because I could, I leapt onto the Internet to check proportions. Good job, too! Fine though the distinction may be – this is similar to the difference between a Dry Martini (mixed) and a Gibson cocktail – it seems that a Buck’s Fizz should be 2 parts of orange juice to 1 part of ridiculously priced Champagne/much more reasonably priced Cava. That’s far too much fruit unit and far too little alcohol, of course = way too healthy. On the other hand, a Mimosa is made with equal proportions of the same ingredients. Right, Mimosas it was to be, then. How educational research can be.
Using freshly squeezed orange juice improves presentation greatly, I noticed. The fizz in the sparkling stuff causes a very appealing orange-tinted froth on the top of the drink. This is not something I’ve ever seen using that accursed “reconstituted from concentrate” orange juice beloved of supermarkets. A few perfectly reasonable but purchased sausage rolls helped our drinks down and served as breakfast.
Our Mimosas were the only really sunny thing for Christmas Day, which, as had been advertised for some time, dawned an even, dull grey reminiscent of Britain and continued in that vein with sporadic rain as we walked the mile or so across the river to our Christmas lunch engagement with a friend on the other side of the valley. And very pleasant not having to cook was, too, if you’ll pardon the beginning of a sentence with a conjunction for effect. 😉
Since returning after being well fed and watered, the wind has risen and has been battering the house. Scamp dislikes the noise made by the wind and is decidedly jittery, and the wind is doing its level best to rip the sunshade roof off Chris’s gazebo thingy but I can’t see in the darkness to take any corrective action. Fingers crossed.
Scamp was so jittery that he insisted on sleeping in our bedroom. 🙁