Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Oui Oui -- to the l'Oulivie!

Mercredi, 21 août.

Yesterday afternoon, as we walked in to the Ionesco Building for our first French civilization course, we noticed a sign that read:  "Tomorrow, Wednesday August 21st, you have civilization class outside! Visit Oulivie, an olive plantation just outside of Montpellier in Saint-Gely du Fesc. With tasting."

So ... we're taking the time that would have been spent in a stuffy classroom and spending it instead touring and snacking at an oliveraie? I mean, come on -- great class or greatest class?! So I swapped out my backpack for a purse, my pen for a camera, and headed off to the Languedoc countryside with dreams of "I Love Lucy" in a giant wine vat dancing in my head.

We were in at the oliveraie within maybe 15 minutes, but it felt like an entirely different world than the city we had just left: surrounded by countryside, several kilometers away from the noise of Montpellier. Although the entire property seemed very well-kept, it felt old in the best possible sense of the word.

The sight of a dog (un chien) upon arrival at L'Oulivie sent the entire group into a tizzy. We were soon very happy to learn, however, that the farm is not home to just one dog, but several! As well as a horse (un cheval) and a very pregnant goat (une chevre). Naturally, we took photos with all of them.

This horse pulls a cart through the olive fields. Not kidding.

After taking enough photos of olive trees to last a lifetime, we headed around to the back of the property. There's a little museum and one of the owners took us on a tour. It was a very tiny musée -- just a few artifacts and some old olive oil-making equipment -- and I'm not going to lie, I did zone out a little ... especially after I found out we weren't going to get to stomp olives with our feet.

That's my professor in the bottom left photo, along with the machine they still use today to make some of their olive oil! (The one on the right is perhaps just a little bit out of date.) Each of the little blue sacks in the picture on the  left is filled with olives and stacked on top of one another. Then the whole pile is squeezed and squeezed until all the oil is gone! The machine pictured in the top photo is also used to produce some of their other types of olive oil. You can see more photos of the plantation here!

On the way back to the main building, it was naturally worth a stop to take some high-definition photos of olives.

Fun fact: although a lot of people think that there are two kinds of olives (green and black), that's not the case -- all olives begin green. They can be harvested, at least in Montpellier, in September/October. Those that aren't harvested continue to ripen and turn black -- they're not harvested until January/February. Apparently the olive crop is very temperature-dependent, which is why they're grown in such mild climates. Too many days under a certain temperature will ruin them -- which was apparently the case in like 1972 or something, when all the olives in Montpellier died. (Judging by the way our guide and professor responded to mention of this event, it may have been the worst tragedy to ever befall the region.)

Oh, time for more photos?

Finally, it was time for the dégustation -- the tasting! Our guide (the one wearing the purple apron in the photo below) set out five bowls of different olives and several of their different types of olive oil. Although I didn't feel like tasting olive oil by the spoonful, I did have several olives! There was a mix of green and black olives for us to try and though I've never considered myself an olive person, these were pretty darn tasty! .

After the tasting, we had a chance to watch a little movie about the olive plantation and shop around a bit. In addition to olives and olive oil, l'Oulivie sold wine, vinegar, and bio (organic) beauty products -- nifty! I didn't buy anything for myself, but I did get a small bottle of olive oil for a couple of Euro to give to my famille d'acceuil (host family) as a gift when I move in with them in a few weeks. As one of our student assistants, Valerie, pointed out -- who doesn't like olive oil? (In France, no one.)

I'll leave you with one last photo, one of my favorites from today. I don't know what this building is, but it was located on the grounds. Molly and I guessed that it might be the home of the family who owns the plantation ... and then just about died of jealousy imagining their perfect French country lives! The orange roof, the bright shutters, the little path that leads up to the front door... isn't it just absolutely perfect? 


  1. Je suis verte d'envie...Pour moi seules les olives vertes comptent...

  2. I'm going into the kitchen right this second and having myself an olive!