Archive for the ‘Days out’ Category

Behind the Photos

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I’m lacking time & inspiration today, so here’s a random dip into my photographs.

These photos were taken at the end of March last year, when Cathy and I went down to near Clermont to do a walk. I think that I had a lesson in the morning, and then we met up for lunch and went to the Plateau of Gergovie for a rather blowy walk.

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This is the view of Puy de Dome from the track.

The walk was probably only about 5 km long but it is a lovely place, high above Clermont, with beautiful views along the valley of the river Allier towards Issoire. I remember we had a drink in the café at the monument that you can see behind Cathy; she was askig me how to say words in French, and I was trying to answer…but my French isn’t that good and the people on the table next to us were killing themselves laughing! In the end, I appealed to them for help, and we ended up having a nice conversation.

The monument celebrates the heroic stand made by Vercingetorix (supposedly an inspiration for Asterix the Gaul) against the Romans.

A Walk in the Pilat

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Often when we have visitors we take them on a “Pilat Day”. The Pilat mountains are about 80km away from us, beyond St Etienne, and we have refined our day out to be very enjoyable.

 

We went there on Friday with MiL. My bad back was getting better, thanks to pain killers, and to the fact that I have been doing some walking (very slow but it has definitely helped) so I thought I’d be able to manage the day.

First we drive to Rochetaillée, a small village above St Etienne, and from there to “Le Gouffre d’Enfer” (“The Chasm of Hell”) which is actually a really lovely gorge, which leads to a barrage.

Mr D and MiL were walking faster than I, so they went on ahead while I walked slowly. I thought it would take me longer to reach the bottom of the dam, but I was there in 10 minutes. Feeling okay I decided to climb the steps up the side of this edifice. It was built in 1862 and the resevoir still provides water for St Etienne. It took me about 10 minutes to wend my way to the top, but I was pleased when I got there. It was another 20 minutes or so back to the car, where I sat and read my book, waiting for the others who had walked around the resevoir itself. As I returned to the car I kicked myself (mentally) as I had forgotten to take any photos.

 

After this, we return to Rochetaillée and go to the Auberge de Rochetaillée, for their lovely rapées (a type of rosti) with a chive-and-yoghurt sauce and a glass of chilled beer. We love this place for its 1950s style décor (although looking at pictures, it seems to have been done up a bit) and the amazing view from its windows

Unfortunately it was closed for holidays, so we went to a pizzeria instead. Mr D and I both chose the Pizza du Saison – which had girolle mushrooms, artichoke hearts, parma ham and shavings of parmesan – lush!

 

The next part of our “Pilat Day” takes us to the high ground above Le Bessat, from whence one can often see for miles. Again Mr D and MiL went ahead while I walked at a slower pace, but this time I did remember my camera.

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Mr D & MiL get to the Table d’orientation before me

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I wish I could recreate the scents and sounds – the sun was warm, and the bees were busy in the clover and heather that covered the tops. The constant buzz was overlain by the  sawing noise of the crickets which stopped abruptly as I stepped near one. Every now and then one would leap high out of the grass, or off the path, a rapid movement which just caught the corner of my eye. The scent of warm heather and scrubland herbs wafted in the breeze – it was delicious!

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There had been a sign warning us of Troupeaux en Estival (Herds on sumer pastures) and here I met some of those Troupeaux taking advantage of the shade.

I met up with Mr D and MiL and we went to complete our “Pilat Day” by taking tea and Tarte aux Myrtilles at a restaurant at the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret

Here there is an amazing selection of tea – I chose a black tea, flavoured with red fruits such as myrtille and blackberries, while MiL had a green tea with cherry and raspberry leaves infused in it. The Tarte aux myrtilles came with a myrtille sorbet as well. Delicious!

That brings us to the end of our “Pilat Day” – quite a lot of walking, interspersed with delicious food and drink! This time it was a little different, as the auberge was closed, but we had a lovely time nonetheless!

And as the walking obviously did my back no harm at all, I have to ruefully admit that I need to do more exercise. So I will stop what I’m doing and go out for a 30 minute stroll around the village.

 

A bit of this and a bit of that…

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Hello Peeps!

Today is St George’s Day – perhaps we should have hung out English Cross of St George flag out of the window! Mr FD sometimes wears a red rose on St George’s Day, but this year he’s not left the house, so had no cause to do so.

But today is also the Very Bad Kittens’ birthday! Happy Birthday, George and Millie! Happy (nominal) Birthday Pomme and Bib! We don’t know when Pomme & Bib were born, but round about now would be a good guess for Bib, and Pomme – well, we have no idea! Perhaps we should have a Happy Adoption Day for Bib – she joined the Dormousehold on 1st June 2013, aged about 5-6 weeks.

We bought cakes to celebrate:

and I’ll go to ShCarrefour later on and buy some yummy cat food for the Cats. I have to buy the ingredients for my cheesecake tomorrow, so I’ll indulge the cats a little as well! Here are pictures (already seen, I know!) of our dear kitties:

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I am happy too because I have won a Giveaway. Yay! Ellie over at Silver Scrapper’s Craft Space picked me out of the hat to win a book about crafting ATCs. As I’m trying to create one ATC a month (I’ve made – but not shown – March’s, and still have April’s to do! Maybe tomorrow!) this will give me some inspiration (I hope!)

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The weather has been completely mad recently. Last week was gorgeous, with the thermometer hitting about 26° down in Roanne, then this weekend it was snowing again! Poor Mr D went out with the combined forces of St Just and St Germain Laval Cycle Clubs to do a day’s ride in the Lyonnaise mountains. They didn’t actually do any riding! They holed up for the morning in a Mairie in a small village where our friend Louis’ father was a BigWig, so Louis has some sway in the area. Mr D said he spent the morning failing to understand the rules of Belote. Cathy & I met them (together with other non-cycling members of the club) at a restaurant at the Col de Pavillon

for a set menu meal of salad, chicken in pepper sauce, with pasta & ratatouille, and then chocolate-and-raspberry-mousse-cake. It didn’t stop raining all day, and at some moments, the rain was horizontal, such was the force of the wind. And there was definitely some sleet mixed in!

Despite that, Mr D was (in his words) “vaguely tempted” to ride. But he didn’t!

Not too many lessons today – two cancellations, due to holidays & strikes – and none tomorrow. A bit of a break. Huzzah (not working)! Boo (not earning)! Film night tomorrow up at Cathy’s – I’m taking cheesecake (of the white chocolate and ginger variety) so I’d better trot on down to ShCarrefour to buy the ingredients. And the Sheba!

The name is, apparently, Bond…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Yes, together with a lot of people, we went to see “Skyfall” the new James Bond movie.

We went to see it in Lyon – where there were many showings of it in VO. The theatre was packed – I don’t think there was a spare seat there – and not everyone was Anglophone, by any stretch of the imagination. As MrD said, many people (him included) would much rather see a film with subtitles than dubbed.

I really enjoyed it. I’m not a huge James Bond fan, and Daniel Craig isn’t my first choice Bond (mine is Pierce Brosnan) but he played 007 well. There is a slight running joke about age/active service catching up on him, and I warmed to him much more in this. The villain is fairly believable, and, in all, I found the film much more “down to earth” than many earlier stories, and although I’ve heard tell that there are plot holes you can drive a bus through, I didn’t spot them, maybe because I wasn’t looking for them. I didn’t go to find things to criticise, but just to enjoy myself. The obligatory love scenes weren’t long, and pseudo-“sexy”, and there weren’t Bond girls a-plenty.  I won’t give away any of the plot, but yes, I’d recommend it.

We then went out to a restaurant for a meal too. It was a Lyonnaise Bouchon (a traditional restaurant selling Lyonnaise food) The name of this one (“Bouchon Carnivore”) gave a hint that it’s not somewhere to take vegetarians! I had a very ordinary onion soup (I’ve made better myself) but the fricasée of chicken was delicious and the Tarte aux pralines (very pink) was tasty too- though very sweet. It is also a speciality of the Lyonnaise region.

Dear Mr D drove there and back – on the way home the CD player was playing lively music very loudly, as it was getting onto midnight, and he was tired. Thank you, Mr D, and sorry about being parsimonious and po-faced when you wanted liver. (He’ll understand!)

 

On a film related topic, we also watched the DVD of the Aardman animation “Pirates and Scientists”. I enjoyed it a lot, and it was quite amusing.

 

The Day I’d Rather Forget…

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Monday wasn’t the best day for me…

I had to go to Lyon to see my podiatrist as my new inner soles hadn’t really addressed all the problems I’d been having. Mr D was going to come with me and we’d planned to see a film in VO and maybe have something to eat, as my appointment was at 7.00 pm. However, Mr D had a bad cold (which I now have!) and didn’t feel like going out. Change of plan: I’d get the train (it’s cheaper doing this for one, than driving & paying motorway tolls and petrol and parking) do a bit of window shopping, buy some cold care tablets for suffering Mr D, and then see the podiatrist, have something to eat and then return home.

I left the house, a bit later than I should have, which meant I was pressed for time; getting behind slow moving tractors didn’t help, so when I reached Roanne, I only had 15 minutes to get to the station (5 minutes away) park in the multi-storey, race to the station,,(2 minutes minimum race) queue to buy a ticket (usually fairly busy ticket office)  and (hopefully) catch the train. Suddenly I had the brainwave of driving to the next station down the line, with free parking near the station and a quiet ticket office. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, bought my ticket and was told that the train I’d planned to catch didn’t stop at Le Coteau (where I was) and the next train was in an hour. Oh buggery-pooh. Still, philosophically I went to window shop in the factory shops in Le Coteau instead, catching the train an hour later.

Arrived in Lyon with 40 minutes before my appointment (which had been brought forward to 6.30) so I thought I could take the bus (20 minute ride, one every 5 minutes or so), hop off when I saw a pharmacy, buy Mr D’s tablets, hop on next bus, arrive in time to see podiatrist. I’d forgotten that there is such a thig as a rush hour and the bus fairly crawled along. No matter, I decided, as we passed a 24 hour pharmacy, I can go there after my appointment.

Saw podiatrist (20 minutes later than he’d said, so I could have hopped off and on buses!) and found somewhere to have a very nice, very huge and eaten in a bit of a rush duck salad. Leaving myself 40 minutes to walk to pharmacy (5 minutes) buy tablets (the pharmacy won’t be busy at 8.10 pm) and take bus (10 minute ride) back to station to get the 8.40 train  I was fine. Oh no I wasn’t!! The world and his wife were in the pharmacy with complicated prescriptions to collect. I queued for almost 15 minutes, watching the clock nervously, until I had to abandon the tablets and rush outside to catch the bus. 20 minutes for bus ride – should be okay, I calculated nervously. The bus lingered at every stop, presumably to make sure it was on time, but causing me to panic.

We arived at the station. Seven minutes to go. I rushed (as much as someone with new innersoles and sciatica can rush) into the station. Aaargh, which train?! No train showing with the destination “Roanne” but the Clermont Ferrand train was due to leave at 8.40 – hopefully that one. I rushed up the stairs to the platform, read the departure board and Breathe. Right train, right platform,and 3 minutes to spare.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! I haven’t composted my ticket! (No, this isn’t a new form of recycling. In France you must composter your ticket – date stamp it – before you use the train, or else you face a 25€ fine. The machines for doing this are not on the platform, but on the main concourse.) So, I rush down the stairs again, compost my ticket, rush back up – the train is waiting. I leap on, checking tht it was indeed the Clermont train and yes, it did stop at Roanne. And breathe.

The train starts off and I idly watch the “This train stops at…” LED display board scroll past. “This train stops at Tarare, Roanne, Vichy, Riom and Clermont Ferrand…” AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!! My car is not at Roanne, it’s at Le Coteau! Five minutes by train, but 30 minutes (at least) on foot. AND I’ve got new innersoles and sciatica. Buggery-pooh. There may well be trains from Roanne to Le Coteau, but I won’t be back until 10.00 and things tend to stop early out here in the sticks. I resign myself to walking (though I do shoot a quick prayer upwards that there might (oh, look, flying pigs!) be a taxi at the station)

Then, “tickets please!” – a ticket inspector arrives in the carriage. I get out my ticket. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! It’s for Le Coteau, not for Roanne, which is further down the line.  They could, legally, fine me for not having the correct ticket. In stumbling French I explain my predicament, and, thankfully, I am let off; the very nice inspector writes a note on my ticket and says I don’t need to pay extra.

I forlornly watch Le Coteau station zoom by, and get off the train at Roanne, resigned to walking back to the car. When, look!! Two green “Taxi” lights are in front of the station! I thankfully get one, and on chatting to the driver, find out that they had both been debating giving up for the evening, as they’d been there for an hour without getting a fare. I am so glad that they didn’t. Thank you, God – if you had anything to do with it.

The drive home passed eventlessly, though I was feeling rather bleary eyed, and a tad sick -indigestion from the too-rapidly eaten huge salad – by then. I collapsed thankfully into bed, to be woken at 1.30 by Mr D’s hacking cough. After an hour’s wakefulness I decamped to the spare room.

Not the best day ever!

Weekend away

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

We’ve just had a lovely weekend away – I had an appointment in Lyon yesterday and we’d not had a holiday, so we took the opportunity to go away for a few days. We stayed in a lovely hotel the first night (you can find out more about the food we ate over at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner ) and then went to a great Chambres d’Hotes for a couple of nights.

We drove over to Aix-les-Bains…the weather wasn’t great but we went for a stroll along the prom:

Mr D gets splashed by a wave from the lake

 

the yachts all look a bit sad in the grey weather

OK, so where’s the nearest Decathlon?

Explanation: Mr D loves Decathlon, and wanted to buy a towel so we could go swimming (yes really) He also needed something for his bike. So he was looking for the nearest Decathlon on his Smartphone; he found one 5 minutes drive away = happy Mr D.

We went to Chambery for a wander around – I tried to take some “arty” shots – I don’t know how successful I was.

Mr D took this one.

 

I liked the house, bridging the narrow street

 

and this sign advertising a dressmakers shop

 

After lunch, the rain started in earnest, so we went for a drive in the mountains…just for something to do, really. (Sorry, I think I’ve made this next picture far too big!!)

After this we arrived at our Chambres d’Hotes. Here is a link to their website, and you can find out more about the wonderful meals we had at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner.

Our suite was decorated on a Moroccan theme – here are some photos

I loved the shadows from this light on the wall

 

The bed was draped, a little like a Bedouin tent

…with a little table, set for a glass of mint tea…

 

Well, it’s time for me to go and prepare our low fat meal for tonight – after everything we ate while we were away, I think we really ought to be fasting for the next few days!! I’ll tell you about Sunday tomorrow.

A Lovely Day Out

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Yesterday, we had a lovely day out with our friends Mij and Bill, who live about 45 minutes away from us…

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before how we met – through the death of my dearest cat, Pumpkin, and Mij’s kindness writing to a complete stranger.

After Pumpkin’s death I wrote (on one of my whims…which is how I had a Papal-blessing-through-the-post and a letter from Prince Charles’ secretary – and how I met Mij and Bill, the point of this story!) to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (then on Radio 2, but now on Radio Six Music) to say I was very sad about Pumpkin’s death and could they play a record to speed her on her Last Great Adventure. (Unfortunately the wording that I used – “Last Great Adventure” –  did cause some discussion about whether Pumpkin had died or not, but they came to the conclusion that it did!!). My email was read out, mentioning my surname and the village where we live. A few days later, I received a letter from Mij, saying that she had listened to R&M and heard my email, and that she wanted to say that she thought Pumpkin was a great name for a cat and that she was sorry that Pumpkin had died. It also said that her husband said she was mad to be writing to complete strangers (!!) and they lived not far away from us. I looked them up in the phone book and telephoned Mij to say thank you – well, we discovered that she is another Northern lass, and we got on like a house on fire! She invited us for lunch, we went and there you go! We’re good friends and although we don’t see each other very often, it’s always nice when we do.

Bill is a keen cyclist like Mr D – he rides with the Renaison Cycle Club – and so yesterday, we took Mr D’s bike with us, and  after lunch, Bill and MrD went on a ride while Mij and I took Dog for a walk. Mr D was happy to ride somewhere flat as they live near the plain, and I enjoyed a walk in different surroundings.

There were lovely views of old farms

signs of Spring – my first close up lamb (as opposed to while whizzing by in the car)

(Sorry about the fence, but I couldn’t clamber up the bank to get any closer.)

And we met two friendly donkeys, who were obviously hoping for apples, or somesuch delicacy:

Mij made us a lovely lunch of warm asparagus and salmon starter, then vegetable quiche, potatoes and salad, and cheese. We decided to have dessert (a cream-and-jam sponge cake, which I’d taken along) when Mr D and Bill got back from their ride. It was very welcome, with several cups of tea. We stayed sitting in their lovely little cottage garden as the sun went down on a really beautiful day, which was warm enough to be in June.

We had a great time. We must do something similar again soon!

I’m SO glad Mij contacted me after Pumpkin’s death.

 

Sneaking away mid week

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

We had a great two days recently up in Paris. To be honest, Mr D and I have not really had good experiences of Paris. I spent a week there when I was a student, sleeping on a friend’s floor, and not eating anywhere other than McDonald’s, because I was too shy to go into a café and order in dreadful dreadful French. I walked and walked, but only visited tourist areas. I spent a whole day at Sacreé Coeur, I think, and the Pompidou Centre.

Then one New Year, Mr D and I were staying in Fontainebleau in a very posh hotel on a bargain break. It was great and we had a lovely time, but our day in Paris was a great disappointment: long long queues for the Musée d’Orsay, no Impressionist paintings at the Jeu de Paume (because they were all at an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay!), rude waiters, greasy onion soup, and grey drizzly weather.

Not a good time.

But this time was great! I forgot to take my camera, and so have no photos, but no matter (particularly as that’s one of my gripes…) We arrived mid afternoon, having travelled up by TGV, and found our hotel – very nice. Clean, small but fine. It was in the 11th Arrondisement, very handy for the Real Reason we’d come to Paris. We strolled along the Canal St Martin, and stopped in a café for hot chocolate, as it was a bit chilly. Back to the hotel for an hour and then (ooh, getting excited) we walked the five minutes to the Bataclan Theatre-Club-Venue where one of Mr D’s favourite groups (and mine too, though I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Mr D) was playing. We had tickets to see Elbow!! Woo-hoo-and yay!

I’m not very good at writing reviews, but this guy is: his review sums up the concert well, and includes three YouTube videos of some of the songs they sang. If you don’t know Elbow, please listen. You might find a new band that you like very much.

What the review doesn’t mention is the shouted conversation I had with Guy Garvey (big grin) I had sent a handmade card to the band, via the club, wishing them a good gig. (I do slightly off-the-wall things like this occasionally. That’s why I have had a Papal-blessing-through-the-post. But that’s another story) In fact, you can see the card on the top of the keyboard/synthesiser/whatever-it-is in the second video clip in the review! (Even bigger grin!) Anyway he said

“Oh, thanks for this card…” (looks in card ) “…I can’t read your writing…Who sent this?”

“Me! I did!” I shouted (mightily surprising Mr D who had no idea) Laugh from audience.

“Where are you?” Mr Garvey squints into the audience.

“Right at the back!” (we weren’t really. We were at the front of the balcony. I don’t know why I didn’t say “at the front of the balcony.”)

“OK. Well, thanks.”

“That’s alright!” Another laugh from the audience. Followed by another great song.

After the gig we went to an Italian restaurant (it was open, it was near the hotel. It was good. I watched the owner rolling out my fresh tagliatelli on the pasta machine.) We chatted to each other about the gig, and then a woman on the next table leant over to us, and asked, in impeccable English if we had been at the concert. We said that yes, we had been and that we had really enjoyed it. And then she asked us if the group were from the North of England.Yes, we said, from Manchester. The woman’s husband then said something very rapidly in French. “My husband says that’s why he didn’t understand a word Guy Garvey said!” It turned out that she’d spent a year in Lancaster, so she could understand him, but her husband hadn’t been so lucky!

So to bed, tired but happy (via the late night opening Monoprix to buy a slice of cake because we’d not had a dessert in the restaurant. I had a slab of carrot-and-orange cake, that was so big I couldn’t finish it!)  The following day we had coffee and pain-au-chocolat in a Croissanterie, and then went to Notre Dame, as Mr D had never been. We strolled around, but I was struck by how many people were there with cameras stuck to their faces – they were, as Mr D said, recording it, not experiencing it. They were taking photos of anything and everything…but, it seemed to me, not really seeing the place. I suppose if you have travelled a distance to be there you want to have mementoes of the places you went to, but surely you want to have looked at the place too.

But I think the image that struck me most was the youngish mum, with a child in a pushchair. There they were, in an amazingly beautiful space, with light all around, and she was on her i-pod, texting somebody, while her child (who can’t have been more than three) was glued to his Nintendo DS (or something similar) playing some Racing car game. It just seemed sad. Though, I guess, they were both enjoying themselves, so why not…?

We went outside, and admired the carvings on the front of the cathedral. All beautiful, but there was one rather mystifying image. There was a row of fine upstanding  saints and kings, and at one end an angel, and at the other an eagle, book in claw. Then another serried rank of kings and saints, with a lion, and, at the other end a cow, with a book in its hoof.OK, eagles, lions, angels – all very Biblical, and symbolic: I can understand those. But a cow? Why?

Then I fed the remains of my carrot-and-orange cake to a sparrow. At least, it started as one sparrow, but within seconds there was a huge flock of them, and they were eating off my hand! Mr D took a photo (so I experienced it AND have a memento!) on his phone. When he sends it to me I’ll post it here.

We then wandered over to the Ile St Louis

where we looked in shop windows and admired the chi-chi goods on sale. And fell over at the price of some of them! Another halt for a delicious cup of hot chocolate – it was definitely getting colder, and I wasn’t wearing a thick enough coat. By now my feet were beginning to throb a little, but I bravely continued to the Botanic gardens where we ate a sandwich lunch,

and then back to the Gare de Lyon to catch the TGV back home. I really didn’t want to go back to work on Thursday!

It was a great two days, and many thanks to Mr D who organised it all. I had to do nothing except enjoy myself.

Two Great Weekends

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I had good intentions of blogging more frequently, but somehow work and general laziness always get in the way! When I get home from teaching, I usually spend half-an-hour reading emails and catching up on the Ship of Fools and blogs that I follow, but I don’t have the inclination or time to blog myself. Well,today is a free day. I could do some preparation work, but I’ve decided to mostly spend today doing “me” stuff – reading blogs, blogging, visiting friends, maybe cooking, and doing a little bit of paperwork too.

When I’ve written this post, I’ll probaly go for a wander around the market as well. It’s not the most interesting of markets, with Big Knicker Stalls being popular, but from time to time there is an interesting stall – melons from Cavaillon (although it’s a bit late for them now), the olive and spice man, or local saucissons. Usually I will treat us to a pain au praline as well – a brioche with lurid pink praline and stickiness galore! The baker’s van maybe sold out of these when I get there, but I’ll take that risk.

So, about our great weekends. The first was at the beginning of the month. Our good friends from the UK, Gary & Carlo, came to stay. Mr D and I have known Gary for quite some time (can it really be almost 20 years?!) and Carlo for a little less. Carlo used to be my hairdresser in the UK, and so I was thrilled to find he’d brought his scissors with him! They arrived on Saturday evening: we met them at Vichy station and we’d planned to go out for a meal there, but Gary wasn’t feeling well, so we came straight home. On Sunday we went for a tour of the local region, having lunch in a great little restaurant I’d not been to before, but will definitely go to again. It serves traditional Lyonnaise food – andouillettes, quennelles, sausages – and it was delicious!

On a clear day, you can see Mont Blanc

Mr D shows Carlo the sights from the tower at the Chateau d’Urfé

Three Great Guys

Mr D, Carlo and Gary

Smile!

 

On Monday Gary, Carlo and I went shopping! Actually we didn’t buy much, but it was great fun. Mr D is not a Shopper, so he stayed at home to work. We’d planned to go to the Casino, but by the time Carlo had coloured and cut my hair, done a “Gok Wan” on my wardrobe and thrown out half of my clothes, it was too late! Mr D was a bit grumpy with me, but I think I was forgiven…we had a raclette, and salad instead and drank quite a lot and got squiffy.

We went for a walk in the morning (and Carlo cut my friend’s hair too!) This is the view of the chateau at St Just from the hill above the village.

I dropped them off very early in Clermont Ferrand when I went to work. It was too short a time and I hope they’ll be back soon. I need Carlo to advise me on my wardrobe!!!

Our second great weekend was last weekend. The Divine Comedy was playing at Montpellier International Guitar Festival, and Mr D (who has missed live music since we moved here) had splashed out on a couple of tickets for us. He and two friends had planned to cycle to Montpellier, while me and the WAGs drove the Support Car, stopping at B&Bs on the way and staying at another friend’s B&B (see link on sidebar) near Montpellier. Unfortunately Steve’s dad became seriously ill, so he had to go back to the UK, and so the plan came to nought. However, we were going to the concert, so we drove down on Friday, stayed with Louise & Razaq as planned, and went to the concert on Saturday evening.

So on Saturday, Mr D and I went out on our bikes. He’d planned a long 80 km ride to the sea and back, while I planned a less ambitious route. However, my map was too small a scale and I got lost amidst the vineyards in the area. I had a lovely ride, but at times I had to get off and push, as the tracks were too rough and/or stony and I risked punctures. I came across some sculptures, and some of the crosses that litter the French countryside.

The Sea! The sea!

 

After the ride we went into Pezanas, a pretty little town – but quite busy. I can imagine that in the height of summer it would be horrendous. We found an English bookshop (I bought 3 second hand novels and a jar of mincemeat!) and I could have been tempted in other shops, with such things as earrings, soap and wildly impractical clothing…but all were fripperies and unnecessary. I suppose mincemeat and books aren’t strictly necessary either, but cut me some slack!

Mr D has found a friend!

 

A number 10 for Les Stylos!

 

After an enormous late lunch (duck and creme fraiche pizza for Mr D and a mixed grill of beef, duck and lamb for me – we drove to Montpellier, stopping to see the oyster beds in the Etang.

When we arrived in Montpellier, we had a wander and then sat in the shade a drank orange juice, and then moved onto a large glass of red! No food though, we were still stuffed from lunch! The concert was great, even though Neil Hannon had a cold and had to stop to sneeze or cough occasionally! I really enjoyed myself.

On Sunday, we drove to the coast – but didn’t quite get there! We stopped in Agde to get bread for tea, and were seduced by the market, the folklorique display…

…and the fish restaurants on boats moored at the quai of the Herault River. We finally chose the restaurant run by the only remaining fisherman/restauranteur in the village (or so the lady said!) and had a very enjoyable meal. I had fish soup, (which I adore!) with aioli and croutons, followed by a white fish with a Languedoc sauce – tomatoes, garlic and bits of seafood such as cuttlefish, tiny squiddy things etc. I finished with fresh fruit salad.

On our stroll around the village I came across these amazing murals/ trompes d’oeil

If you look really carefully, you can see that what looks like a cluster of buildings, one behind the other, is really painted on a flat wall. It is fabulous – it is just a shame that some **** seemed to think it was a good idea to graffiti it! Why?! I can understand “tagging” on a bare wall (just!) but on a piece of art work that brightens a dull corner? It is beyond me!

Anyway, after lunch we meandered back home, stopping at St Flour for a stroll and a coffee. We got home to our kitties around 7.00. And here is a kitty from Louise & Razaq’s. Marnie was a very insistent cat: he shared our room one night, but wasn’t the best companion, as he wanted loving all the time. So we were quite relieved when he didn’t make an appearance on Saturday night! But here he is wanting to come home with us:

Look! I could fit in your handbag!

 

Mr D took a picture of me with Marnie. The cat looks cute, but I look blobby and unattractive. So you’re not seeing that!!!

Bastille Day + 1

Friday, July 15th, 2011

I’m having a lovely, lovely long weekend – the only thing spoiling it is the concern over the car. It’s been in the garage since last Friday, and the Garagiste seems rather vague about what the problem is. He thought (or the diagnostic computery reader machine told him) that it was the injector (? Don’t ask me) was the problem. But today I learn that having replaced that, there’s still a problem. Ho,hum, it’s sounding more & more expensive. Then we face the decision of whether, having spent however-much-it’s-going-to-cost we then live with it for longer, or we buy a new car. This one is starting to go wrong more times than we really like – it’s been in the garage for fairly major things twice in the past year, and now requires 4 new tyres, and the cruise control is becoming less reliable. It has done a lot of kilometres, and trolls up and down the motorway most days. Maybe it’s time to think of another one…

Anyway – yesterday was Bank Holiday here in France, and today is le Pont (the Bridge) So a lot of places are closed today, including the Language school where I work. Yesterday I went out on the bike (fairly reluctantly, I must say!) and added another 28 km to the total. I’m now within 7 km of reaching three quarters of the 1,000 kilometre target. News about Chisomo below. We then went up to Alison & Gèrôme’s for a barbecue. I’d not seen Alison for ages so it was good to have a natter and to catch up. The food was yummy and the atmosphere relaxed. We went out for a walk with Marvin-the-Puppy and the kids and had a lovely time. I was knackered when we got home and spent a good hour and a half dozing, before watching the first episode of “Torchwood”. Which, I think on reflection, I enjoyed. I’d eaten so much at lunchtime that my tea consisted of a couple of handfuls of peanuts!

News from Chisomo, the Community School, is not good. Or rather, news about Richard, our friend and link to the school, isn’t good. I can’t – both because I don’t know details and because I’m not sure how wise it is to do so – go into detail but Richard has been arrested, falsely accused and is standing trial for, amongst other things, drug dealing and money laundering.

On consideration, I’ve edited this post a little. Maybe it’s best not to be quite so open with details about an ongoing trial.

Suffice to say, Richard needs your prayers, so if you are of a praying frame of mind, please pray for a swift and just outcome to the trial.

Apparently, when he was being questioned, the police said “You’re the kind of foreigner we don’t want here.”

“What?” Richard replied. “The kind who spend their own money helping the poorest members of the community?”

One of the saddest things for me is that there are church leaders who appear to be opposing Richard in his work, and who may well be implicated in his false arrest.

Anyway, let’s hope that when I finish my ride at the end of August I’ll be able to celebrate not just raising money, but being able to give it to Richard in person. It will be a terrible thing if he is found guilty.