Saturday, September 19, 2009
1. Octopus (es? ii?) are big.
2. Octopus are not that cheap.
3. I really, really didn't want to have to deal with leftovers.
4. The less legs to strangle me with when I'm not looking, the better.
Lovely fishmonger at the market with my half an octopus.
So I got home from the market with a big bag of slimy legs. Not very appetising.
Then I 'cleaned' the octopus, which means to remove the parts that are less appetising than the rest of the slimy tentacly edible bits.
Then I washed what was left and blanched it (rapidly boiled for a few minutes) which was a bit spooky, it looked like a big pissed off octopus head would come out any minute and get me.
Then (no pictures, this bit wasn't very interesting) I braised Mr. Octopus in the oven for about 4 hours as per the instructions I found on the internet. Afterwards all the fat and skin and suckers came off and I was left with the muscle.
I was left with a fairly disappointing amount of edible octopus which (luckily) looked nothing like what I started with. I sliced the tentacles in half-cm slices widthways and we had one tentacle in spanish style tapas with paprika and olive oil, and the other three in a salad with papaya and tomato and coriander. I had a couple of glasses of wine and forgot to take photos of the finished product, sorry. But if I had remembered, it looked a bit like this:
Photo of octopus tapas from www. travelmuse.com
Next time I think we'll be eating something else.
Then I got the thing home from the butchers and had to carve it. Of course, it comes with its head and half its guts. Someone out there probably thinks those are the best bits. At this point I started to feel a bit sorry for it, sad little beast with it's paws chopped off.
I got most of it organised (rabbit + wine + herbs + mushrooms + green olives in casserole dish, put in oven. Not hard) but it wouldn't stop looking at me resentfully.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Actually the truth is a bit more difficult. You have to catch your own grubs (though they are allegedly edible). We looked, and looked, and smashed up bits of wood with other bits of wood, but all we got was an angry centipede and a smashed thumb.
After having a massive fail at the Bancoule festival (Wood grub = bancoule in French, which makes it more fancy and therefore less disgusting and more of a delicacy), we went horse riding in the nearby town of Sarramea. This was great. We had an awesome guide who was very patient with us, the horses were patient and nice and didn't try to kill us, nobody fell off, we saw some lovely countryside and we finished our ride just as everyone's bum was really starting to get sore. The company is Sarramea Randonnees and it's 5500XPF for 2 hours. The horses are well cared for and the business is well run. Highly recommended.
Then we ran into some crazy bush ninjas.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The hike around the rocky headland is 3.8km long. It doesn't sound like much but it took us about 1.5 hours each way. The climb begins with a bit of rock climbing up a sheer face about 4m high, then continues over razor-sharp fossilized coral rocks. The guide book says 'you need to be fairly fit to enjoy the walk'. A bit of an understatement.
Shredded running shoes
Now, it sounds like we didn't have a good time on our hike. That's not true- it's just that we didn't really anticipate how difficult it would be, so we weren't adequately prepared. As you can see from the photos, it is spectacularly beautiful, and a real adventure. Shabadran beach itself is your reward for reaching the end of the hike, and it's well worth the trouble. Shabadran is an lagoon of crystal clear water, soft white sand, coral and fish sheltered from the breakers by a rocky reef. Shabadran beach
In the photo below you can see the clear water and coral. It's a good idea to bring a snorkel and mask- the snorkeling is great- but don't bother with the flippers/fins. In the middle of the rocky reef there is a natural spa bath hollowed out by the action of the waves. Waves break over the top of the reef and create a waterfall into the spa. After the sweat and effort of the walk, sitting in cool water that fizzes and bubbles around you is brilliant.
We arrived back to our car about 1:30pm, which left just enough time to check our the 'Warrior's leap' before arriving back to the airport for the flight home. According to legend, a warrior once leapt over a 5m gap in the cliff to escape his enemies, escaping both the enemies and the 5m drop to the sea below. Luckily no climbing was involved. You can drive right up to the cliffs and there's a nice easy path down. You need a pretty good imagination to appreciate the legend but the sea is a pretty blue.
Next mission was to find the vanilla plantation. Both the Lonely Planet and our friend's French guide book were a bit sketchy on the actual location of the plantation. We found a signpost by the side of the road proclaiming a vanilla plantation with tours and souvenirs but nobody was around and the place looked dodgy. Vanilla fail? No! We kept driving just on the off chance that there might be another one that was open, and had the biggest win of our trip. Not only did we find another vanilla plantation, we found a guide who (for a small fee) gave us an hour-long tour through the vanilla, the rest of his family's land and up into the hills where the ancestors tombs are.
This mad the bone hole spirits angry and they had their revenge (courtesy of a sharp rock that didn't like being lobbed into the hole).
We visited the natural aquarium on the way from the airport to the hotel. The natural aquarium is a large sheltered rock pool frequented by fish, rays and occasionally turtles. It's beautiful and the turquoise water is a startling contrast to the surrounding bush. It might be tempting to bring the snorkeling gear, but it's a sacred site for the locals and swimming is not allowed. Besides, the limestone walls are too steep to get in or out easily. We were lucky enough to see a large stingray cruising around the deep end of the pool.
Finally, we decided to find and explore 'La Grotte de Pethoen'. This is a large grotto with a deep blue lake at the bottom. It's a bit tricky to find as the roadside track that leads to the grotto isn't signposted. The grotto is only a 5 minute walk from the road though and it's worth the effort of finding it. At midday the water is bright blue and you can see eels swimming around. However as we visited later in the day, most of the grotto is in shadow and you can't see the eels. It was still an amazing place to visit though.