When good intentions go wrong!!

I had such good intentions…

 

I had just set off to work, and was driving quite slowly. As I looked in my side mirror I saw a beautiful white moth clinging on for dear life. Thinking it would get squished by a car if it fell off I stopped, and tried to encourage it to move off the mirror. Using an old parking ticket I flicked it off the mirror.

It fluttered briefly, and lmanded in the middle of the road.

“No-o-o! You’ll get squished!” I said, and hastily scooped it up again (it was early. There were no other cars coming)

It fluttered again, and caught a slight breeze, so fluttered over to a trellis fence where it landed. I could see it clearly against the dark fence.

“Phew,” I thought, “It’s safe now…”

…and watched in horror as a bird flew down and ate it!!!!

 

Hey ho.

Sorry, no. The bird has already eaten it!!

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Avoiding la Fete Patronale (as much as possible!)

Last weekend it was the Fete Patronale of our village. This is when the whole village has a fun time, with a travelling fair, and fireworks, and fun events for the Kiddies. It starts on Friday night, when the fairground opens, with flashing lights, and loud music, and goes on through to Monday evening, when the fair has its last hurrah. There are fireworks on Saturday night, and the fair shuts down about midnight that evening; on Sunday the loudspeaker bellows out its announcements and running commentary. The main street with its parking is taken over by the stands selling candy floss, and hook-a-duck and shooting stalls…

Did I say “the whole village”? Hmm, maybe not. We overlook the square where the fair sets up. We are therefore subject to all the noise and inconvenience from Thursday onwards. We get mightily pissed off by it. (as you can tell by the fact I’ve written a post complaining about it practically every year I’ve been writing this blog!!!) But, it’s part of village life so we can do no more than try to live with it. And, thanks to a friend and Mr FD, this year was the most bearable it’s been.

Friday evening wasn’t too bad – we closed all the shutters and had the TV a bit louder than usual. When we went to bed, the music was still going – the bass in particular was reverberating through the air – but I was so tired that I managed to fall asleep, despite the noise. Mr FD put on his noise cancelling headphones and listened to the radio until the fair closed down.

On Saturday, the noise didn’t really start until about 3 o’clock, when Mr FD suggested we took ourselves off somewhere. We couldn’t decide where, but finally we took our books, music and a bottle of water up to the local chateau, where there was a bench beneath the shade of a plane tree. We spent a (almost) peaceful afternoon there: we could still hear the music, and especially the rhythmic thump of the bass, but it was dulled enough to be able to ignore it. We were joined for much of the time, by this charming little cat

We went home at 6.15, feeling thoroughly refreshed and at peace. We then went up to Friend Richard’s – he lives about 5 km outside the village, and had kindly offered to let us sleep at his place that night. We had a meal with himù and Friend Cathy, and then drove down to the village to feed the cats and to make sure they were OK during the fireworks. Then we drove back to Richard’s. We settled into bed – but even there we could still hear the bass beat and the faint sound of music floating on the night air! We were grateful not to be in the midst of it!

On Sunday afternoon, we decided to do the same thing, so we took our books etc., plus a couple of flasks of hot water and tea bags, and scones (for afternoon tea!)  back to “our” bench. We read and listened to podcasts until about 6.30. Then we spent the evening with all shutters tightly closed watching TV. We couldn’t work out how Pomme could sleep quite happily out on the balcony, with the flashing lights, wailing sirens from the dodgem cars, and thumping bass. But she was happily sleeping away the evening! Although I wasn’t as tired as on Friday, I told myself that, as I am perfectly capable of falling asleep in front of the TV, I was able to drift off to sleep with the thump of music as a background noise. And I did!

Today is the last day for the Fete – I think they have even started to dismantle some of the stands. So we can breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all over for another year…and we weathered this year better than most!

 

Stealing from Kezzie: Part 2

Here’s the second part of the series of questions that I’ve borrowed/stolen/copied from Kezzie

21. How do you start your day? It depends on whether it’s a work day or not, but it usually involves some cat wrangling! I prefer to be showered and dressed before I have breakfast.

22. Would you ever live anywhere beside where you do now? Yes, quite happily. Now we have lived in France – which had always been a dream – I would be prepared to move back to the UK….though I think we’d be looking at Scotland, rather than England. Depending on what happens with Brexshit we may have to move back, but probably not.

23.  What is your favourite dessert? I don’t really have one. Although I love chocolate, I wouldn’t usually choose a chocolate dessert; I prefer fruity ones.

24.  Is there a dessert you don’t like? See above: anything too chocolatey-and-cream-laden.

25.  It’s a brunch! What do you eat? Full English breakfast, please, followed by toast-and-marmalade. And lots of good coffee.

26.  Where was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Ach, there’s too many lovely holidays to remember, all of them special for different reasons. I couldn’t choose!

27.   Favourite Disney animal? Don’t really have one. Maybe Puss in Boots from Shrek. Is that Disney?

28. What is a book you are planning on reading? “Iris & Ruby” by Rosie Thomas. “The Last Runaway” by Tracy Chevalier – I came across both of these as I was clearing my bookshelf and thought I needed to re-read them.

29.  What did you read most recently? I read “The Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier while on holiday, as it was partly set in the region where we were staying. And also “Skelly’s Square” by Stephen Black as it’s by someone whose blog I read. Both were very good.

30. Favourite solo artist? I don’t have a favourite, but among those I like are…Hafdis Huld, Sting, Paul Carrack, Richard Hawley….

31. What is something you’re tired of? Brexshit. ‘Nuff said. And joint pain.

32.  What is a city you want to visit? I’d like to revisit Amsterdam. I’d like to vist Copenhagen, Rekyavik, maybe New York, Prague…

33.  Heels or flats. It has to be flats. I can’t walk in heels of any height.

34.  Where does one go on a perfect toad trip? Anywhere that appeals! The French countryside is hard to beat!

35. What do you do on a rainy day? It depends on my mood, but often it’s blogging or art work of some description.

36.  What is your favourite exercise? I’m afraid that’s an oxymoron to me!

37.  What was your worst subject at school? I was no good at maths – Up to the last year in Primary school I loved maths, but then we were taught Binary numbers, which I couldn’t understand. It put me off for the rest of my life (except for a brief spark of interest with some kind of graph) When I found out I’d passed maths “O”level, I told my maths teacher, who responded with “Well, Alison, life is full of little surprises!”

38.  Which animal do you identify with most? Cat – I love sleeping and eating.

39.  What do you usually eat for breakfast? On a work day I have a big glass of orange-juice-and-water, egg on toast, and coffee. I’ve just started having a pro-biotic yoghurt too. On a non-work-day, it’s the juice combo, toast and jam, and coffee.

40.  What do you usually eat for dinner? I don’t “usually” have anything. In fact Mr FD sometimes complains that I’ll cook something nioce and then we never have it again! I’ve got loads of home-created recipe books with different recipes in. If we have the same thing twice in a month it’s unusual! I’m trying to have fish once a week, vegetarian twice a week, and less meat on the other days…but it doesn’t always work out like that.

 

 

 

Day 7: The Last Goodbye

We’d come to the last day of our holiday: Mr FD had wanted to hire an electric bike, but events had conspired against us, in that the local bike hire shop had hired all their bikes to a group, and the other one was slapbang in the middle of a town which was going to have market day today, making it too difficult to manouvre through narrow streets and park the car. As it was, he wasn’t feeling 100% again, so we thought it best to have a quiet day.

We called in at Ganges to buy a couple of bottles of wine as gifts for friends, and then had a simple lunch of quiche and salad back at the room. In the afternoon we read and I painted a bit. It’s a picture that needs more work doing on it sometime when I feel inspired.

I’d seen a sign for an Artisan of cashmere very close by, so I decided to call in – maybe buy a Christmas present for one of the mums, I thought. So I drove up, and parked at the foot of the drive. When I went in the shop, there was the Artisan plus two customers. They all stopped and looked at me. In silence.

“I’m – um – just here to – er – look” I said

“I have a rendezvous, madame”, said the man.

“Can’t I just – um – look?”

“No madame. Au revoir madame.” Silence.

“Oh. Er – au revoir.”

And that was it.

So I went back home!

We’d already booked to go back to the restaurant at Saint Martial, Lou Regalouand thankfully Mr FD was feeling better so having packed ready for the morning (it took all of about 10 minutes) we set off for the restaurant.

This time we had the 27€ menu:

Starter: Aubergines en caviar, soupe glacée de tomates et panisses ( caviar of aubergines – basically a type of aubergine paté – with iced tomato soup and panisses. Which are untranslatable. We didn’t know what they were, (although they were yummy!) but I have subsequently discovered that panisses are a type of giant-chip-shaped chickpea purée, breadcrumbed and fried) I’ve always avoided cold soup, thinking that “cold” and “soup” are two words that shouldsn’t go together. This was much more enjoyable than I imagined.

Main course: Brochettes d’agneu de pays façon kofta, salade de pois chiches ( local lamb skewers, kofta style, with a chickpea salad) I forgot to take a photo! It was very good. Possibly not as good as the steak from Thursday, but still very enjoyable.

Dessert looked almost exactly the same as Thursday’s, differing only in that the centre was raspberry purée, and it was served with a raspberry coulis. This one was not as frozen as the one on Thursday, and I think suffered a little from that, but again, it was very good.

And home we rolled, for our last night in the room.

Here are a couple of views from the area around where we were staying:

This shows the main house. We were just down the path and turn left

Typical Cervenolles countryside

We set off the next day, bright and early, for home – it was a 4 hour drive – stopping only for a coffee at an Aire (rest stop) near this viaduct.

Can you guess who designed it?

We were home in time for a late lunch!

It was a truly delightful holiday. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it!

Day 6: A Happy Accident

We were coming to the end of our holiday – it was now Friday – but we had had a great time so far (mostly, give or take a few grumps!) Today we were going to see the Cirque du Navacelles. The what?! you may ask.

Well, remember in geography you learned about ox-bow-lakes? (Having discussed this with an English couple we met, we decided that ox-bow-lakes and the water cycle were the two things everybody remembers from their geography lessons! At least, everybody in the UK) The Cirque du Navacelles is like an Ox bow lake on steroids (without the lake.)

We parked the car near the Visitors’ Centre and strode off to the viewpoint. There were a few people there when we arrived, and they appeared to be having a guided tour, as one woman was explaining the geology of the area.

So we started listening, and when the group moved over to the model of the area, and the guide asked more questions, we joined in! We learned about the rock, and identified different varieties: chalk, limestone, granite, “others”. It was really interesting and fun.

Then, as the group set off we asked if we could join in. The guide said Yes, but it was 6.5 km of walking, and our feet might get a bit wet. Did we have other shoes? Oh, it’s OK, I said. And so we joined in! We paused, so the guide (whose name I didn’t get. Let’s call her Mireille) could point out a cave, somewhere on the cliff face to the left

This cave was used by Protestant worshippers, during the Religious Wars in France – they had to lower themselves on a rope, or follow a dangerous, tortuous path, to reach the place where they could worship in secret. It made me fleetingly wonder if I’d be willing to do that, if I had to…

We then all piled into cars to drive to where the walk “proper” began. This was a descent down to a group of mills, which had been in place for over 900 years. They were built at the point where the river burst out from its underground flow, so these mills harnessed the power behind the water.

It was a real clamber down, and I was grateful for the help of Fiona and Charles, a British couple from Yorkshire (Mr FD was behind us as he and a couple of others had been parking the cars) who helped me down the steepest parts. We paused beside the river to have lunch and then we continued. It was a fairly brisk pace, and I did struggle to keep up at times, but Mireille stopped regularly, to instruct us on different trees and leaf forms, so I had time for a breather.

Then we came to the edge of the river and everyone started changing their shoes.

“Do you not have other shoes?” Mireille demanded.

“No…” I then realised that I had probably misunderstood when she said our feet “might” get wet…!! Finally I waded through the river in my trainers, without socks, and Mr FD started off barefoot. As it was very pebbly, he gave in halfway across, and rather wobbly, he put on his trainers. Mireille was concerned we’d get blisters, if we continued the walk in wet trainers, but actually it was fine.

When we arrived back at the cars, Mr FD, Fiona and Charles and I decided to pause for a beer and an ice cream in a delightfully eccentric little bar. It was good to sit and rehydrate – but I felt inordinately proud of myself! I hadn’t fallen/slipped/given up! Huzzah for me!

We dropped Fiona and Charles at their car and then we paused briefly to pick up something for our dinner. We had salad, a ready meal of Parmentier de Canard, and a lemon cheesecake. Again, sitting outside, enjoying the peace and quiet of our little place!

 

Day 5: Moods and Misadventures

The first mood was the weather – we had planned to drive to the top of Mount Aigouil, which is the highest point in the area, but the weather wasn’t playing ball. It was grey and rather murky, and as we drove towards the mountain it became clear that we’d see nothing from the top: it was covered in cloud!

We drove a bit aimlessly, trying to decide what to do, but finally settling on visiting Nimes-les-Vieux. This isn’t, as you might imagine, a town, but rather what is sometimes known as a “chaos”; an area where the outcrops of limestone rock have been worn into fantastical shapes by wind and water. The Yorkshire Dales has Malham pavement and Malham Cove; we had the chaos of Nimes-les-Vieux.

On the way we stopped in a small town for lunch. Which is where Misadventure 1 took place: I was walking along the edge of the road, in the gutter, as a pavement café was taking up the pavement, when I took a sidestep to avoid an advancing waiter; my foot found a hole. Twisting and turning, trying to avoid falling onto my knees, I staggered forward, clutching at a planter full of bamboo, and finally plonked myself down on a convenient bench. Unfortunately, as I was wearing my arm brace that day as my arthritis in my wrist was bad, I couldn’t manipulate my hand very well, and so my thumb took the force of my hand grabbing at the bench. I half-ripped my nail off. Concerned people from the café came over and gave me a plaster, as my nail was bleeding quite copiously. I had twisted my foot too, which was beginning to throb.

We quickly found a place to have lunch – I had a slightly disappointing salad, while Mr FD had a delicious pizza – and we discussed what to do. We knew there was a place where you could view vultures nearby, and thought that would be better if I was still in pain. The GPS was programmed and off we went. The GPS told us which way to go and Mr FD ignored it, because “it was wrong.” Of course, it wasn’t wrong, but by the time he admitted this we had gone too far to turn back.

So we reverted to the original plan of Nimes-les-Vieux.

But I wasn’t really in a Very Good Place. Grumpy, ticked off because I’d had a disappointing lunch, in a bit of pain from my foot and sciatica, and unimpressed by the weather, I stumped off along the pathway (4.5 km around the site.) After about 5 minutes Mr FD said “You’re not enjoying this are you?”

“No.”

“Well, go back to the car and wait for me.”

Hmmm. Not much sympathy there then! I didn’t want to just sit in the car for an hour, so I continued. Grumpily. Mr FD strode on ahead. Grumpily.

After another 5 minutes or so, I thought I had to take myself in hand, so I paused, and gave myself a good talking to. And I prayed a bit too. Thinking about the beauty of the place I was in, my health (OK, so I’m not in the best of condition, but I can walk – albeit slowly ), the fact I was with my Dear One…

And then we continued, with my mood a brighter one.

Here are some photos I took – Kezzie sometimes takes photos of clouds and asks her readers to say what they think they look like. So here are two of the rock formations; what do you think they look like?

  

As we walked round the trail, we went through several different landscapes, from rocky, like this

to more grassland, with flowers. We passed lots of these, most with their resident bee/butterfly/both!

At about the 3.5 km mark I was getting tired, and thinking that I wished we’d brought more water with us…when much to my surprise we saw a sign pointing to a Buvette (snack bar) We followed it, and there in a farmyard was a little room selling drinks and local produce! The drinks we had were very welcome!

Soon after we set off again came Misadventure 2. As you’ll have gathered some of the path involved clambering over rocks and finding footholds in places. Well, as I was traversing a fairly narrow gap between two huge boulders, my foot slipped and I got my leg stuck between two rocks. I couldn’t move! With my arm brace on as well, I couldn’t use one arm very successfully either, so for a couple of seconds there was panic and weeping (from me) and exasperated sighs and eye rolling (from Mr FD) With his direction, and help, I finally managed to get out and get to my feet, but not before a French family had come upon us, and had to be persuaded not to call the Pompiers! I was fine – a bit shaken, and only slightly bruised – but felt a bit stupid. Mr FD claims it was through lack of fitness that I couldn’t extricate myself, but it was more arm braces, and back pain through sciatica (and, although exercise could improve the latter, I don’t think the former is anything to do with fitrness levels!)

During our walk we’d experienced all kinds of weather – bright sunshine, driving rain, grey skies and wind. By the time we got back to the car it was fairly clear, with blue skies and sunshine, so we decided to go to the top of Mount Aigouil after all. When we got there (you can drive!) it was blowing a hoolie, and I was feeling tired, so I stayed in the car. Mr FD braved the gales and took some photos of the view

  

We got back to Chez Nous at about 5.00 so had time for a cuppa and a snooze before we went out to dinner. The nearest village, Saint Martial, was tiny: no shops, a church, a blink-and-you’d-miss-it kind of place. But it also has a good restaurant, recommended by several people. So we went there for dinner…It was a delight!

It wasn’t cheap – we had the 30€ menu, with a half bottle of wine – but not too extravagant, we felt, for what we got.

Starter: Tartare de thon, et sablé nois, glace saumon fumé (Tuna tartare, with a hazelnut biscuit and smoked salmon ice cream) Which sounds weird – but it was delicious! There was more to it – with a wasabi cream and wasabi peanuts, plus something else crispy that I don’t know what it was, and little preserved peppers which were sweet…We kept making “yummy noises” as we were eating it!

Main: Coeur de rumsteck, croute d’olives noirs, polenta crémeuse. (heart of a rump steak with a black olive crust, served with creamy polenta) If you don’t like your meat rare then don’t order this! We weren’t asked how we wanted the steak: it came as the Chef thought it should be! Happily for us, rare is not a problem, and it was lovely!

Dessert: This wasn’t written down, so I can’t tell you it in French, but it was basically white chocolate with a frozen cheesecake-y filling and a centre of apricot purée, served on a crunchy biscuit crumb with plum compote. Gorgeous!!!!!

We went to bed feeling very replete!!

Day 4: Bamboozled!

Today we had already decided was to be the day we visited La Bambouseraie going from Saint Jean du Garde by steam train, so we awoke bright and early to catch the 10.30 train. It was a tortuous route that the GPS took us, down roads that were distinctly “intestinal” – steep and tightly hairpin-bended. We arrived in plenty of time, and were able to watch the steam locomotive fill up with water

Of course, this was a popular tourist attraction, but we managed to find a seat in a carriage, with open windows and the opportunity to take lots of photos as the train travelled through the beautiful countryside

 

 

When we arrived at the Bambouseraie the queue of people waiting to pay was huge – the train had, after all, just disgorged most of its passengers – so we paused for a drink and a muffin before jopining the end of the queue. It took about 20 minutes but finally we were in! And it was lovely! Well worth the entrance fee, and the wait! Yes, it was mostly bamboo, ion its different forms, but well presented, beautifully shady and – even though there were lots of visitors – it didn’t feel crowded.

Here are some of my pictures – I’ve left them in “thumbnail format” but click on any to biggify them.

 

And who’s this strange beast, found lurking in the shadows?

It was a wonderful day. Unfortunately the train back was delayed, which made for a long wait, but it couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of the day.

After a couple of false starts, we found a restaurant in Ganges that was just right – it was in an open courtyard, shaded by a huge lime tree, serving food cooked on an open fire. Mr FD chose a huge magret de canard, and I had a gammon steak with honey and gaots’ cheese. It came with baked potatoes and lovely honey glazed green beans. We finished off with Tarte – mine was tarte aux noix (walnuts) and Mr FD had Tarte aux myrtilles (blueberries) Perfick!

We were back to “Chez Nous” by about 9.30. Time for a night cap (I’d taken a little jar of whisky with us!) and a sit, looking up at the stars wheeling above us… A really lovely day!