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Hydromel

Apparently, they call mead “hydromel” (water honey?) in France. I found a bottle sealed with beeswax at a little farmer’s market in the absolutely beautiful town of Cassis, along the southern Coast, between Marseilles and St. Tropez. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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As a bonus, when I told the beekeeper we had “deux ruches” back in Seattle, he didn’t scorn our “city honey”. Rest of the story of the day and the beautiful city of Cassis on our travel blog.

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C’est beaucoup du miel

When you think of France, you think of wine (and snails and frog’s legs), right? Well, I swear there are as many varieties of honey here as there are wines. Every little grocery store we go into has four or five different varieties from the region, light, dark, and crystallized.

European Tour 584We’ve been reluctant to buy lots of bottles of honey, as we are living out of our backpacks more or less (we’ve rented a car for a week, but then it’s two more months of carrying everything on our backs). We did buy one small jar of crystallized honey to go with our baguettes in the morning. We chose crystallized so it wouldn’t drip on our limited supply of clothing. That’s it in the back left in the picture of our trunk-top countryside snack.

We also resisted the temptation to stay in L’Abeille Hotel (“The Bee Hotel”) in Orleans, despite the fact that the guidebook said the smell of honey still “wafts through the corridors”. I can sniff honey at home, I suppose.

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Michelle found a write up of a particular apiary today here in Beaujolais that would give tours of their apiaries, Miellerie du Fut d’Avenas. It was a long, misty drive up through the hills to find it, but when we got there, unfortunately, it was closed, nobody home. We left them a note and a Hive Mind sticker.

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Pan et Oursons

We delight at each touch of honey on our travels. At Musee D’Orsay in Paris, for example, we found this beautiful sculpture , “Pan et oursons” by Emmanuel Fremiet. It shows the god Pan putting out honeycomb for two bear cubs and watching on mischievously.

The mischievous look on his face is rendered more meaningful when you notice that he’s lying on a bearskin rug.

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The next day, we stopped at a market in Dupleix in Paris (see our Travel Blog for where this is and the adventures around it) and found an apiarist selling his honey. We spoke with him only in our broken French, but you can see the details of his apiary in one of the photos I shot. We asked for a taste (“nous voudrions une goute de vos miel” I think I said) and he dipped taster spoons into a huge bucket and then popped them right into our mouths.

The first batch tasted like good honey, nothing special, but the second, darker honey had an amazing and unique flavor, I wish I knew what the bees were on that made it. It tasted meaty and earthy, almost like mushrooms.

I gave him a Hive Mind sticker as a thank you.

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Waxin’ Poetic

Beekeeping 2710Remember how I said I put some old, crystallized honey out for the bees to clean out of the jars? I had expected there to be a bit of wax that made it through the strainer, but I was really surprised at how much there was. Take a look at that picture (and the cute little tongue on the girl on jar’s neck). And that’s from just about a quarter of a jar of honey! I think the guy who did my extraction used a metal mesh strainer, which is probably less aggressively filtering. Mike used something more akin to a cheesecloth, so I doubt I’ll see as much in my 2007 batch.

Interestingly, I didn’t see any leftover wax in the tub of crystallized, store bought honey that I put out. I did, however, hear from Jean (late of Beez Neez) who reminded me that it’s a bad idea to put out store bought honey, or even honey from another apiarists hives, for your bees, because honey can carry American Foulbrood bacteria, which can only be killed at temperatures that render the honey less healthy, as well. Oops.

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We’re off!

As y’all know, Michelle and I are leaving for a 3 month wander through Europe tonight. We’ll be back at the end of November.

If you want to keep an eye on what we’re doing, we’ll be blogging our travels (with photos and other happinesses) at

http://www.hive-mind.com/travel/

There’s even a little form there you can fill out with your e-mail address so that you’ll get an e-mail update when we post to the blog (lest you forget to check and then forget all about us!)

Obviously, we’ll be checkin’ e-mail and stuff along the way, so please stay in touch. If you have any suggestions on places to go or things to do while we’re there, that would be great. Even greater would be introductions to people who live there who we could meet up with along the way.

We’re going to miss you!

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