Friday, 31 August 2012

Turn the other cheek? Not us ...

Last weekend our friends Graham and Tracey came to stay at Le Pre vert. We first met 8 years ago when we moved into our apartments at Thollon-les-Memises, Haute Savoie. Although we were in different buildings we were invited for drinks and found we had a lot in common. They are both teachers, interested in music, skiing and cricket and we discovered that when we first started teaching, in 1979, Graham and I had lived about 500m from each other in a small place close to Cannock called Great Wyrley.

We'd meet up during most holidays for meals, drinks and the odd days out in the mountains. When we sold in 2009 we vowed to keep in touch and last Christmas we returned to Thollon to ski and this summer, on their way back to the UK, they made the long trek across France to visit us.

We took them to Angles-sur-l’Anglin which in many ways is a miniature Yvoire (a medieval village on the shores of Lac Leman) but without all the souvenir shops and the lake!

A semi-retired Graham helping Tim with a drainage problem.

On our way home we drove through the main street of Preuilly-sur-Claise (where Simon and Susan of Days on the Claise live). The day was hot so the car windows were wide open. Near the boulangerie Tim noticed a lad hiding behind some cars wielding a huge water squirter. As we drove past Graham was soaked by the squirter and although Tracey and Gaynor ‘see the funny side’ neither Graham nor Tim can. We manage a U-turn at the top of the hill and go back. Graham, for once, is speechless but wags a finger or two. Tim manages to tell the lad several times that he isn’t very pretty (in other words, this could mean that he is very UGLY!) Gaynor wonders whether gentil (kind) is the word he’s looking for!

Feeling somewhat better we drive back down the hill, do another U-turn, and back past the lad who is waiting for another unsuspecting motorist. He doesn’t notice us coming back or even Graham with a water bottle at the ready. Graham squeezes, and, with exceptionally good timing  and a squirt of biblical proportions, soaks the lad!

This kept our simple minds amused for the rest of their stay and whenever we thought about the look on the lad’s face as he was soaked we had a little chuckle.

Turn the other cheek? Not us …

Thursday, 23 August 2012

S.O.S. Dairy..... join the milk wagon!

In the UK large supermarkets often use milk as a ‘loss leader’. This means that in recent times the large dairies (milk wholesalers) who supply the supermarkets have been ‘squeezed’ to cut the price of milk they supply. If the dairies don’t comply the supermarkets will find cheaper suppliers abroad. In turn the suppliers squeeze the farmers who have nothing to squeeze other than a drop more milk out of the udders - if they're lucky!

The upshot of this has been significant cuts, in the price per litre paid to farmers, resulting in many farmers producing milk at a loss and going out of business. This, at a time when they are already suffering  as a result of the recession and continued financial crises.

I’m a bit out of touch with UK news, but before we came away farmers were blockading large dairies with tractors and other farm machinery. A representative of the NFU (National Union of Farmers) made a couple of points which really put the situation into perspective.
·        In 1960’s a pint of milk cost pennies less than a pint of beer-just think about the differential now!
·        Bottled milk can cost much less per litre than bottled water!

How can this be?
BREEZE and WILSON are a couple local singer songwriters based in the Staffordshire Moorlands (and very interesting people!) They are great supporters of local communities and have a large following in Staffordshire and beyond. We’ve been to a few of their concerts, in local village halls, and are always well entertained by their music and banter. They’ve written a song in support of the farmers…

Toby and Graham have made SOS Dairy available on iTunes to raise money for the Royal Agricultural Benovalent Institution. 
I notice that when I do my weekly shop that most weeks there are deals on milk. In common with most people I like a bargain, although I'd much rather that these deals were coming out of the very deep pockets of the supermarkets than the livelihood of the small producers ... 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Paris pics (part 2) and a missed opportunity ...

 Following a long lunch on the Champs-Élysées (Italian!) we continued our bus tour. The bus provided headphones and commentary in a number of languages. However I’m sure that on occasions the driver took a slightly different route which meant that the words were often out of sync with the location and a bit of guess work was required! It wasn’t a timing issue as in between locations the listener was blasted with traditional French accordion music.
The upshot of all of this meant I got the ‘back end’ of a number of places…
The Rodin Museum.

Just look at those flying buttresses!

The Colonne de Juillet stands in the Place de la Bastille to commemorate the storming of the Bastille correction the July revolution of 1830 (thanks, Susan). The Opera Bastille (below) was opened on July 14th 1989 during the bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution.

French National Library (François Mitterrand)

This project was the major cultural undertaking of the President Francois Mitterrand. It consists of four towers (that look like open books) around a large garden. Each of the four towers has a theme: Time, Letters, Laws, and Numbers. The library holds the most important collection of books in France, with more than 395 kilometres of aisles. I’d like to visit next time I’m in Paris.

A little bit of the Arc de Triomphe.

We didn’t buy macarons at Laduree,

but we did visit a bar along the Boulevard St Germain.

You’ll no doubt be wondering about the significance of this photograph, which leads me nicely to the missed opportunity!
I was sure I recognised the group sitting on the table next to us in a bar as Jayne and Ian, who moved into their new apartment in Thollon at the same time as us. We met up a few times for meals and drinks and they sold shortly after we did, in 2009. I wasn’t sure enough to approach them but now really wish that I had. I found out later, through mutual friends, that they were in Paris so missed the opportunity to catch up. They obviously didn't recognise me!
 Isn’t it a small world?

Apologies for any errors. Blogger working to rule. Each mistake takes about 5 minutes to correct as Blogger seems to be on a 'go even slower' regime!
 Perhaps it's the canicule...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Paris, from an open top bus ...

We met up at St Pierre des Corps station at about 7.15 with just time for a coffee before we boarded the TGV. By booking in advance we were able to travel First Class to Gare Montparnasse for a little over £40.
We’d decided on our itinerary which was basically to take the metro to Montmartre and then to buy an ‘on/off’ open top bus ticket which would take us to the main sights. We’d all been to Paris before so weren’t really interested in joining the long queues on the tourist trail.
So that’s what we did and this is what we saw – you get a very different perspective from the top of a bus than you get from ground level. I'll warn you that on a travelling bus you don't get chance to line up the shot or to take it again if it isn't quite right. Still, a lot of fun was had in the taking!
Gaynor with Ann, Julia, Maureen and Janet.

We resisted the cocktails although Ann suggested that next time we incorporate an overnight stay and try them out! Decency prevents me from printing the names, but, if you want to see enlarge the next photograph ...

The Sacre Coeur minus the pushy sales people selling trashy gifts. Inside, Gaynor didn't see the 'no photographs' sign and was told off!
Paintings on the side of a building.
Gaynor stood up then the bus jerked causing another wonky photograph - honest!
La Defence district in the background. Too much sky!
The leaning tower of Eiffel!

A different view of the Louvre. Where’s the glass pyramid?

Notre Dame.

to be continued …

Monday, 13 August 2012

To be green ...

… or not to be green, that is the question?
We can't quite decide whether our shutters should be green - or as the tin says 'vert de terre' - or a creamy off white colour. As a trial we've painted one set green and will live with it for a while.

Off white will be less work, and probably slightly cheaper in terms of paint as we won't need as many coats, but that isn't the main consideration. We are thinking that we might prefer the look of the off white against the white walls. We have nine sets of these shutters so it's probably difficult to imagine by just seeing one set.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sour grapes ...

As London 2012 draws to a close we celebrate success and commiserate with those competitors who didn’t perform to the level they would have wished. There are many instances of excellence, Bradley Wiggins, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Jess Ennis, Mo Farrah, Ben Ainslie, Chris Hoy to name but a few. Excellence doesn’t always mean winning gold. Securing a personal best or getting to an Olympic final is also worth celebrating.

I'm saddened by the reaction of French team director Isabelle Gautheron who hinted that Britain’s success is down to illegal technology rather than the dominance of the riders. L’Equipe ran a poll asking the same question with 70% of the respondees agreeing that GB success was down to cheating. You can see the poll and responses here.
GB performance director Dave Brailsford wound up a gullible French interviewer by joking that “specially round wheels” were the key to Britain’s gold rush in the Velodrome! Incidentally the wheels are made by Mavic, a French company. The Mavic website details the success of their technology which is also available to other countries.
I wondered whether to question if Renaud Lavillenie, the brilliant French pole vaulter who so deservedly won gold on Friday, perhaps had springs in a  ‘magic pole’. However, I thought this might smack of sour grapes and detract from what had been a magnificent performance.

Methinks that a country with a reputation, par excellence, for doing such wonderful things with grapes should know that sour grapes doth not the best wine make…

  Gaynor x   (glass in hand and tongue in cheek ;o)

Expletive deleted ...

What do you say when you have a day out, see friends, have a lovely lunch, a photo opportunity of a cycle race comes along and you find that your darling husband has taken the memory card out of your camera???

Friday, 10 August 2012

Fireworks? What fireworks?

It reminded me a bit of the annual Terry Wogan firework spectacular. You know, the one that he did with either Deadly or Boggy Marsh on his radio show?
Well this one was at Angles sur l’Anglin on Saturday August 5th.

Always a popular event,  Chris determined that we should go the very long way round from Champagne as the traffic would be horrendous. Luckily we found some spaces at the top of the long hill that leads down to the bridge. It was funny really ‘cos as we walked down there were plenty of other places to park. Still, we’d just eaten and walking off the excess would do us good.
One or two people were walking in the opposite direction, but others were walking our way so we continued undeterred. We could see activity at the chateau and passed a sign which assured us that we’d got the correct evening.
We were a bit early and as the masses were yet to arrive we decided to walk up to the square for a drink – incidentally the best chocolat chaud I’ve ever had! We heard a few mutters of discontent but ploughed on until we spotted another flyer outside the Office de Tourisme…

What a let down! If only someone had thought to post this on all of the other flyers. There was even more muttering in the square but at least the cafes were open. I still don’t know exactly why the fireworks were cancelled but the waitress said that it was something to do with the afternoon rain.
 So, no firework pics but a some of Angles at night.

In all the years that Terry Wogan got me to school smiling I don’t remember him EVER cancelling his display because of a spot or three of rain…

Friday, 3 August 2012

La Promenade

We seem to have a 'nose' for picking homes in small villages with excellent places to eat. In Staffordshire it is the Hollybush, and in Le Petit-Pressigny La Promenade and Le Bon Coin. Different in price and ambiance but each offering good quality food. Last week we ate at La Promenade which is a Michelin starred restaurant run by Jacky Dallais. The food was fantastic and the wines of excellent quality and value. We've eaten here before and really think that it is an experience to savour and better shared with other people. Our partners in the gourmet experience this time were Maureen, John and their son Daniel (who live near to us in the UK and have a lovely home and gite near Chatillion sur Indre) together with Nick and Janet.
We all decided to take the 'Menu Tradition' and were expecting the fish course but somehow this was ‘lost in translation’, possibly because the first of our party to order asked for the fish as a main course. As things turned out it would have been hard to fit in the fish as well!
The tasters...

Janet, Gaynor, Maureen, Dan, John, Nick and the invisible camera man, aka Tim!
The menu - if you look closely you'll see Gaynor. Also if you click you'll see exactly what we ate. Better than my potted descriptions.

A glimpse of the food we enjoyed.
The amuses-bouche...
Thin potato crisp with black olive,a savoury concoction with onion and radish followed by a wonderful stuffed tomato.
The entrées
Salmon (yummy!)

Foie gras

Oysters - really inventive!

Chicken ravioli


Roasted plaice


Roasted geline de Touraine -chicken (scrumptious!) 

Sauteed kid

Shoulder of veal



Strawberry cheesecake

Paris Brest

Mandarin baba (perfection!)

Chocolate and coffee dessert

Petit fours…

With coffee we paid the princely sum of 41€! Cocktails and wines were extra (as you would expect) but due to the extensive and carefully chosen wine list didn’t break the bank! Not an everyday place to eat but certainly worth every cent and a real treat.
So if you are in the Sud Touraine and are feeling peckish give it a try, but remember to book first!