Bastille Day

Yesterday, 14th July, was a public holiday in France – or at least, it would have been, had it not been a Sunday. I do think the British bank holiday system is better: fixed days, usually on a Monday. And if it’s a moveable feast (for example, Christmas Day & Boxing Day) and it falls on a weekend, days get added after the weekend. Splendid! Here in France if the bank holiday falls on the weekend, well, tant pis!, you lose it!

Anyway, there were celebrations going on all over France, to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in 1789. which is recognised as the beginning of the French Revolution. Wikipedia gives you more information about this, should you be interested.

We did no storming of anything however. Our friends who own a restaurant in the next village were having a Mechoui (a spit roast). I had a photo of their poster to put here, but the picture of a spit-roast pig was a bit graphic, and I’m aware that there are some vegetarians who read this, and may not appreciate such photos. Here, however, is a cropped picture of people tucking into the meat

We met up with someone we’ve not seen for ages, and caught up with news on her and her daughters – they came to France 12 years ago, speaking no French at all, and now one of the girls is working in a help-centre for UK customers in France, after 3 years doing languages at University, and the other (who struggled at school) is working as a chef in a hotel kitchen – both loving it! It’s always good to hear about young people doing well.

We had our meal – which was enjoyable, and quite filling – while chatting to a Dutch couple. They had cycled over from St Just, having seen the graphic poster for the meal. They were having a rest day on their epic ride from Holland to Spain! The woman had left her job, and the guy was self employed so had stopped working; they had taken 4 months out to ride to Barcelona (I think) from their home in the Netherlands. It was interesting talking to them & finding out more about their trip.

Then,  Jean-Luc (the owner-chef) and his band played into the afternoon…

…the music was good, but the lyrics (all in English) were mangled. If you didn’t know what they were supposed to be singing you wouldn’t know what they were singing! If you see what I mean.

!

We sat in the sunshine, drinking our Perrier and enjoying the sounds of the 70s and 80s!

Take it away, Jean-Luc! Guitar solo time! (J-L is on the right)

Dire Straits, Beatles, Status Quo, Rolling Stones…all the oldies were there!!

We left about 5.00, but I’m sure folk were there well into the evening, but Mr FD wanted to get home to watch the end of the cricket world cup final, which England won after what I was assured was a nail-bitingly exciting ending.

An enjoyable, relaxed day.

We had had to choose, unfortunately, between this event and the Fete des Voisins meal, which was happening on the same day. We went to this event last year, and it was good fun, but this year we chose to go to Jean-Luc and Traudel’s event. And next year, who knows…

 

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Away with the Cyclos – Day 3

Actually, today was a day  away but NOT with the Cyclos… It was forecast to be hotter than yesterday, so, although the plan was that those who wished to could visit a market in the morning, lunch at the holiday village, then a visit to a gardens and a boat ride on the river, before setting off for home, Mr FD wanted to visit the gardens in the morning – cooler – and then head for home. Although I’d like to have visited the market I could see his logic, so we decided to cut loose and go to the gardens by ourselves. I’m glad we did. It was cooler, but also, as the visit was only by guided tour, and we were on the first tour at 10.00, with only two other people, our visit was much calmer, and cooler, than it would have been with twenty nine other people at 3.00 in the afternoon!…

The gardens were called Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire (the Gardens of the Imagination) and they were really lovely. Our guide was informative, but not intrusive, allowing us to ask questions and to discover the gardens ourselves.

 

It was lovely and there were lots of different areas to see. The rose garden was a little past its best, because of the heat, but the fountain garden was a delight to walk through in the sunshine.

and there were banks of flowers to pose against

As we left the garden, the 11.30 tour was starting – about twenty people, with children and pushchairs, all chattering, laughing and making a lot of noise: we were glad we’d taken the early tour, which gave us the silence to enjoy the sound of the water (as you can see there was lots of it) and the birdsong.

We left Terrasson to head in the direction of home, thinking we’d easily find a restaurant for lunch. Hah! No such luck! We did finally (at 1.30) find a roadside auberge, which looked rather unprepossessing. More in hope than expectation, we asked if they could serve us, and without batting an eyelid, the waitress led us to a table. There I chose a local paté (which was a bit too “agricultural” for my taste, but was edible with lots of chutney!) followed by a lovely piece of beef with bearnaise sauce. I chose cheese as dessert, as I still had wine to finish up, and Mr FD had ice cream (I think) allowing me a spoonful in return for the blue cheese on my plate.

We then took the road for home – I fell asleep to the dulcet tones of Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s film reveiw programme, which Mr FD had downloaded, and woke up as we left the motorway 10 minutes from home! That wine had a lot to answer for!!

We got back by 17.00 – which was probably when the rest of the group would have been just thinking about starting off. With work the next day, we were glad that we’d taken the choice we had. The cats were happy to see us too.

Away with the Cyclos – Day 2

Today dawned clear and bright – not! As the holiday village was on the top of a hill, the views should have been magnificent. Instead all we could see was cloud. Although the set off date for the Cyclos was 8.00 there was much hanging about and discussing whether it was safe to cycle. As visibility was about 300 m Mr FD was sure it was, but others (including our dear, but extremely cautious, friend Louis) weren’t so sure. Mr FD got more and more frustrated as they vasillated between going and not going, but finally they left.

The non-cyclists were tasked with carrying the picnic, and meeting the cyclists in Uzerche, a pretty town. So we set off to wend our way there, stopping in picturesque villages on the way. First stop, Saint Robert:

It was a charming village, but sadly, so many of the shops were boarded up or “A vendre” (for sale). With the place still wrapped in cloud, what few sounds there were were muted and almost ghostly. We spoke to an old guy who bemoaned the fact that the young people had moved out to go to the big cities, while the older folk were slowly dying away.

There were a few cats to be seen, including this one

who appeared to be directing us to the Boulangerie where there was a very old bread oven, still being used to bake the bread

  

Old bread oven, & bread baked in said oven

 

We then meandered on our way to Ségur-le-Chateau, one of Les Plus Belles Villages de France – villages designated as being particularly attractive.

Set on the banks of the river it was indeed very lovely, so we wandered around, admiring the views, and the old stone houses.

   

After this we drove onto Pompadour, where there was a chateau to be admired, from the outside…

…before we headed on to the designated meeting place – which was at the highest point in Uzerche – fine for us in cars, buit a bit unfair on the cyclists!

 

But they all made it! (Some people were on electric bikes, so it was easier for them!)

By now the weather had cleared, and it was getting quite warm. We were glad of the shade of the trees in the garden where we could have lunch. Odette &Louis had arranged with the Mairie to have the school opened so we could use their toilet facilities as well. Which we were grateful for! We had our picnics and spent a bit of time relaxing, which included having a coffee in a café that had agreed to recharge the batteries for those people who had electric bikes.

There was then much faffing as group photographs were taken, which annoyed Mr FD greatly. Once he starts cycling he wants to carry on, and while stopping for lunch was acceptable, enforced hanging around while we waited for this person to arrive, or that person to stop tinkering with his/her bike, was not.

Mr FD in a sulk (not really. Just a bit fed up)

They finally set off again, so we moved on to our afternoon port-of-call, which was the Chateau de HautefortThis link gives you much more information than I could, about the place (& better photos!)

 

   

We visited the interior first, and then the “French garden” – with its manicured and trimmed box hedges, and very orgaznised planting.

We didn’t have time to go to the “English garden”, which is much more landscaping, in the Capability Brown style.

We got back to the holiday village about 5.30, where I found Mr FD stretched out, wearing not a huge amount, drinking copious amounts of tea, exhausted after the second part of the ride in what had become hotter-than-one-would-wish-for-when-cycling conditions. We went to Yves and Brigitte’s chalet to have an apero to celebrate the birth of their first grandchild, and then wended our way up to the dining room for dinner.

This was a salad with gésiers – pleasant enough, but a bit small on portions – followed by cuisses de canard (duck legs) and green beans. There was also pasta. There was cheese and salad, and then a tiny portion of a walnutty kind of pastry with crème anglaise (thin custard) Another organisational meeting then off to bed!

Away with the Cyclos Day 1

A couple of weekends ago Mr FD and I went away with the Cyclos de St Just (the local Cycle Club, of which Mr FD is the treasurer). We stayed in a VVF Holiday Village in Ayen, not far from Brive, in the SW of France. The Holiday Village is a little dated now, but each couple had a chalet each – there was even a bedroom for the bike! – and the food was good school dinner / canteen standard.

We arrived at lunchtime on Friday, and had our picnic in the dining room of the village. We had all brought our own picnics, but after we’d eaten, Yves produced a huge box of cherries from his garden, Marie-Claude had made an enormous box of  bugnesand someone else had made a nutty-crunchy-biscuity thing, all of which were passed around the table for us all to eat. The plan was for the cyclists to ride on Friday afternoon, but it was pouring with rain, so we decided to go to Lascaux 4.

If you don’t know much about the history of Lascaux, this site tells the story of the discovery of the caves, and what happened afterwards.

It was amazing! Although it’s not the “real” Lascaux caves, it is as near as dammit. Everything was really well laid out, and the guide was knowledgable. We had visited way-back-when, about twenty five years ago, but now the Visitors’ Centre has been expanded. It’s fascinating, with lots of interactive displays that even I, a complete techno-idiot, could manage!

While you can’t take photos in the caves, you can take photos in the exhibition hall.

 

I particularly liked the “fat ponies” as I called them. The markings on this one remind me of the markings on Przewalski ponies, the prehistoric breed of pony that can still be found on the Causses of France and in Mongolia too.

This poor pony appears to be falling to his death. It is a remarkable painting, as it is painted “around the curve” of the rock, so the painter couldn’t see the whole picture as he/she was painting it.

Here are some more paintings of bulls and cattle.

I really enjoyed my visit, and found the exhibition to be really well put together. It wasn’t cheap, but you could easily spend a good half day there. We didn’t see all the exhibitions. If you are in the area I’d definitely recommend it – but remember, you need to book your place on the tour! There’s no “free” visits, they’re all guided tours.

Mr FD fully focussed on his interactive tablet

When we left, it had stopped raining, and the sun was starting to come out, which gave me the chance to take a couple of pictures of the outside of the Visitors’ Centre

     

We got back quite late, so dinner took until about 9.30 to eat. We started with a rather thin, watery soup and then had magret de canard with peaches, together with sautéed potatoes. There was cheese and salad, and then a rather miserly slice of raspberry bavaroise. For Louis, one of the cyclists who usually has 3 or 4 desserts, this was a bit of a disaster!

A short organisational meeting over coffee in the bar, and we felt it was time for bed. Cycling tomorrow! (for Mr FD…)

You can have the next installment soon…What did we do on Saturday?!

May pictures

Not sure what to blog about, but feeling I should write something, I delve back into my photo archives to see what I can find!

MAY 2010 – I used to do more walks when I had time between or after lessons. Here’s a little garden I found on a walk above Royat. Obviously a beautiful day! I really enjoyed these walks…I wonder why I don’t do so many now. Perhaps I’m too busy!

May 2010 was when I held George for the first time – our lovely cuddly George cat. He went missing almost three years ago, and although we have Jasper now, George is still very sadly missed. He was the most placid of cats, loving nothing more than a cuddle.

 

MAY 2011 – For a few years we had a Fete de Cheval here – it was, rather sadly, mostly a place where knackers came to buy old horses which were then taken to the abbatoir. It changed for a couple of years when our friends, who keep a livery stables and breeding stables took over the organisation, but that was too much work for them, so it stopped happening a few years ago. Here however is one of the animals that wasn’t a horse – there were some llamas one year!

MAY 2012 – The plant seller is out…I always buy my balcony plants from the same guy: he comes to the market in May/June but his plants are always good value and I’ve never had any complaints. The balcony is looking very sad at the moment, so I need to get out there and tidy it up. Because I’m working on Thursday mornings now I may have to ask Friend Cathy to buy my plants for me this year!

MAY 2013 –Here are Mr FD and our friend Louis, on the top of Mont Ventoux, having cycled up. I was the designated official photographer, but due to becoming too interested in the market in Bedouin, I very nearly missed their triumph! I drove up the mountain rather too hastily (there were hundreds of cyclists!) and caught up with the two of them no more than 3 km from the summit! Luckily I managed to get one action shot of them both, as well as this one.

!

MAY 2014 – A card made for my friend’s “Christian birthday” – I think it may have been one of my first “Celtic style” crosses, which are now one of my favourite things to draw.

MAY 2015 – I’m looking a bit blown about! This was taken when we went out for the day on our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a picnic and visited Mont Dore in the Auvergne. It was a lovely day out. I think this was taklen around Puy Marie, but I may be making that up!

MAY 2016 – an appropriate picture for today. Why, you may ask… Well, another blogger, Elizabeth, who used to live in France wrote:

In France we have a delightful custom of presenting our friends with a bunch, or even just a stem, of Lilies of the Valley.
It’s a custom that dates back to 1561, when the then King, Charles 1 received some lilies as a lucky charm. Each year he offered a bunch to the ladies of his court. So the tradition grew, and by 20th Century it was well established.
The flowers are given as a symbol of Spring. I think it is the one and only time that something is allowed to be sold without tax applying. Scouts and Guides will be in our town today, raising a little money by selling these beautifully perfumed flowers.
and mine are blooming in the garden, so I shall go and pick a few for our neighbour.
The photo was of some lily-of-the-valley that we’d been given by Michel across the road. Unfortunately they didn’t take, so we don’t have them any more.
MAY 2017 – One of my students was getting married, so I made him this card – very simply done with an embosser, and lots of little flowers cut out of scrap paper with my flower punch. The pearls were a bargain from Noz – of course!!
MAY 2018 – By now I was half way through my chemo, and had lost all my hair. Here I am in patriotic mode for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t have bothered normally, but we’d been invited to Richard’s to watch the wedding on TV and to partake of lunch. I made a delicious but nt very attractive mlemon-and-elderflower cake
And May 2019? Well, it’s only 1st May. I’m sure there’ll be photos to share later on in the month…

This month in walking… and a history lesson.

I didn’t quite make my walking goal, but I was close enough – as you can see below. February hasn’t started too well, as I did something to my back yesterday morning, and have been in too much pain to do much moving, never mind purposeful walking! So, with February being a short month, I may not make the monthly 60 km. However, if I keep going, I can still make 600 km by the end of October. When the weather is nicer, and the evenings longer, then I will be more inclined to find time and places to walk.

However I have enjoyed my last two Wednesday walks – sadly not as long as I’d planned, as somehow it took me longer than expected to get out of the house. I’ve been having mild panic attacks, and getting extremely anxious about self-imposed tasks or targets. Stupid, I know, as they’re self imposed, but logic doesn’t come into it! Anyway, the first of the enjoyable Wednesday walk was by the Port in Roanne:

As you can see, it was a snowy day, so it had taken me longer to drive down, and I only had about 15 minutes to walk, before the first lesson I was teaching. Still, I had a brisk walk up one side of the marina. As you can see, there are barges and other boats tied up here, as many people come and over-winter here in their houseboats. We know a few of them through Friend Richard, and I met one on line through a FB group too.

The following week, I had planned to do another walk round the Port, but decided instead to walk along the “levée” at the side of the river Loire.

The river has a large flood plain now, since the hydro-electric barrages were bilt further upstream, and is quite shallow. In the past, it was a deep river, and Roanne  was an important trading post ,exporting local products— wines, including casks of Beaujolais that had been shipped overland, ceramics, textiles—and after 1785, coal from St Etienne (an important mining town) which had formerly been onloaded upstream since river improvements at the beginning of the century. Sturdy goods were rafted downriver on sapinières that were dismantled after use.

This postcard shows a Sapinière on the Allier river – closeish to Roanne, but in the Auvergne. The Allier river plain is the next one along to the Loire valley.

Half the population of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Roanne depended in some way on this transportation economy: merchants and factors, carriers, carpenters and coopers, master-boatmen and their journeymen and oarsmen, and waterfront labourers. The other half were probably involved in the textile trade for which Roanne was famous, and later in the armaments industry. Like London, Roanne has a neighbourhood known as Arsenal.

Here’s an old picture of the Port (which is now where the houseboats moor) showing how busy it was.

My walk took me upstream, along the ancient levée, built as a wharf for loading and unloading. I’ve taken this picture from the upper part of the old wharf, looking down at what would have been at river level.

I can’t imagine that the Loire was tidal here – much too far inland! – but you can see the two flights of steps. One from what is now the flood plain, but would have been (I assume) under the river, up to the lower wharf. Then a further flight to the upper part

And here’s the river now.

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My walk took me on a path between the river, and allotments, mostly beautifully kept, with some very smart sheds, with verandahs, patio heaters and barbecues. There were some less reputable ones too, cobbled together with various materials, but all well kept. I look forward to doing this walk again, in the springtime, but going further than I had time to on this day. I only had time to do 10 minutes one way and 10 minutes back.

I have, however, found that when I walk my knees are quite painful, and my hips also don’t feel “quite right”. I’ve generally felt more out of alignment since I’ve been doing more moving, and having seen the podiatrist, he explained that (because I haven’t changed my insoles since 2016) my walking position is all wrong. My feet are not positioned correctly, thus forcing my knees to point in different directions which twists my hips and my back. I’ve also had neck & shoulder pain, which may be connected to this. I am collecting my new orthopaedic in-soles on Monday, and I’m hoping they will help. I look forward to a miraculous improvement!!

Here’s my walking record to the end of the month:

DAY                                                                    DATE                                  DISTANCE

Sun 20 3
Mon 21 2
Tues 22 3
Wed 23 0.6
Thur 24 0
Fri 25 1.6
Sat 26 3.8
Sun 27 0
Mon 28 2.4
Tues 29 3.2
Wed 30 1.5
Thur 31 0
TOTAL: 58.6

A total of 58.6 km isn’t bad. Some of the distances have been guesstimated a bit – a couple of the Lesley videos stop halfway through and go into something else, so I’m not sure quite how far I’ve walked, but still…I think 58.6 is about right.

I am a cider drinker

A blast from the past here, with the video of The Wurzels, a British comedy (questionable!) band from the 70s. Does anyone remember them? They had a Number 1 hit with “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester (and I’ll give you the key)” as well.

Anyway…I thought of them as I wrote the title for this post, which is about our cider making exploits, back in November. It was a very mild day – just after a very cold spell – when our friends Jean & Claire called us to tell us that they would be making their cider that day. So we first of all picked apples at our friend Danièle’s plot, singing along to Big Big Train’s “Wassail” which seemed appropriate.

 

I was still wobbly on my feet – apparantly one of the longer-lasting side effects of chemo – so Mr FD did more picking than me, but we got quite a few bags-full between us. Bizarrely we found several “Bags for Life” abandoned in the orchard – we have no idea who left them there. They wouldn’t be from Danièle’s family, as no-one lives in the village any longer, so maybe it was an apple scrumper who was disturbed! Whoever it was, they lost their bags, as we used them and took them home!

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, with a view over the village. Here’s a view of the orchard

 

Some of the apples had been eaten away – I imagine from the inside, as some flying creature laid its eggs inside the apple to provide a food source for the hatched babies, whatever they were. The remains were actually rather lovely in their way. We left a lot of apples on the trees and on the ground – hopefully they will provide nourishments for “creatures of the forest” during the winter.

After we’d picked the apples, we headed over to Les Ports, the family home of Jean, now used as a holiday home by his sister, who lives in Lyon. Here there is the old machinery that has been used for generations to make cider. Each year (that the harvest is good enough) Chantelle and her husband, and possibly children too, come across from Lyon, and with her brother, Jean, and his family, the ancient equipment comes to life once more.

This year, Claire & Jean’s youngest were home from their studies: Alyssia and Joe are twins. Joe had brought two sisters from China who are at Uni with him to see what was going on.

 

 

 

First the apples were tipped into the hopper of this machine, which chopped them into smaller pieces. It’s a vicious machine, with blades going up and down really quickly. H&S doesn’t exist here, as Jean pushes the apples towards the blades with his bare hands! The pieces of apple are gathered in large plastic buckets, ready to be tipped into the press.

    

Mr FD, Jean, and Jean’s BiL are manipulating the press. The apples have been tipped into the barrel part, and the top part is weighted down and a huge screw-like mechanism is turned to press down on the apples to extract the juice.

There’s a bucket at the bottom, collecting the juice (which is filtered through straw placed around the base of the barrel-part) and we had to keep an eye on this, ready to whip it out as it got full, and replace it with another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then taken outside where it was decanted into various jerry-cans, bottles, and demi-johns to be transported home. Here’s Alyssia and one of the Chinese guests carefully pouring the juice into a demi-john.

I was getting really chilled near the end, so I went and sat next to the log burner inside, while everyone finished off, overseen by Jet and Bilout, Jean & Claire’s two dogs

We took home several bottles of apple juice, which Mr FD mostly drank. It was a bit too sweet for me. I suppose (thinking about it far too late!) I could have mulled some of it with spices and lemon juice, which would have been nice! Never mind…

It was a very enjoyable day.

(Sorry the placing of pictures and text is a bit random. I was trying to embed the pictures in text but wasn’t very successful!)