The fun is finally over.

Judy had two wishes: to see St Roch and to do a wine tasting – so that’s what we did!

On Saturday morning we went to Cervieres, which is a local Medieval village, where we went first to the church to see the stained glass window of our feted Saint

Here is St Roch, showing off his blue knickers, and Spot, the dog, with the Jammie Dodger

After a short walk around the village we headed off to Notre Dame l’Hermitage where there’s another St Roch, which I’ve shown before.

We climbed up to the viewpoint, and looked across to our village and beyond

before heading back home for a lunch of cheese (still lots left to eat ) and salad (and still eating the lettuces from my anti-wastage box too!).

Friend Alison had recommended a Wine maker to visit – they had been with friends earlier in the summer – so on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to la Domaine Vial.

We were greeted by a very barky dog, who, having alerted his master to our presence, followedus into the Cave and then promptly fell asleep. Monsieur Vial was charming – he took time to explain all the wines that they make, to help us taste them, describing what flavours we could expect, and generally chatting away. I was very gratified to actually understand everything he said, and to be able to translate where necessary. Here is M. Vial with the 9 wines we tried – two whites, two rosé, and four red, plus a sparkling wine, which was a tad too sweet for my tastes.

We each bought some wine – Mr FD and I have been entrusted with Judy & mum’s, and have to deliver it next time we go to the UK. It was a really pleasant afternoon.

A blurry photo of the barky dog.

We drove home by a different route to usual, just to give them a different view of the area, and there was time for a snooze, before going to Louis and Odette’s for an apero. Sparkling wine and delicious snacks were followed by a meal at the Hotel de la Poste, just round the corner. Another good meal – rabbit-and-prune terrine, steak (for me. Mum had duck again!), and then the splendid cheese trolley and dessert trolley. I find that after a meal I’m too full to really appreciate either, and they really are so good one could just go to the restaurant just for them!

               

It was a very pleasant meal, made even better by the fact that we didn’t have to pay for Mr FD & my meals, due to the bartering system where Mr FD’s infomatique help and advice is paid for in food!!

On Sunday it was time for mum & Judy to leave, so we decided to go over to Lyon and visit another Medieval village, this one called Perouges. It’s about 30 minutes from the airport, so it’s quite a good place to visit if you have a bit of time to kill.

We didn’t have quite as much time to kill as we could have done, so really only had time for lunch in a very pleasant restaurant courtyard, under the spreading not-sure-but-possibly-a-lime tree.

After our meal, we took Judy and mum to the airport, and dropped them off.

It was lovely to see them both, and to spend time with them. Mind you, after a week in Italy, where I walked quite some distance, and this week, when I walked another 30-odd kilometres I’ve been glad of a somewhat more restful week this week!

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The Fun Continues – visiting Villages of Character

On Thursday it is the village market, so the three of us had a wander around, just seeing what there was on offer. (Nothing special – just the usual!) and then we had a coffee back at home, before having lunch.

After lunch Judy went for a walk – getting lost and being befriended by an apparently stray dog – while mum and I stayed home, as Friend Alison was calling round. After that we went for a short walk, which was interrupted by Judy phoning to say that the dog was following her, did I have any suggestions? She decided to retrace her steps, encouraging the dog to go back to where it “picked her up” so to speak, & I guessed where she was and where the dog might belong so went to meet her. My guess was correct, and by the time I met her, she had discovered that the dog belonged to a farm, and that it was, apparently, an inveterate wanderer. The bloke at the farm said that she was very kind to have bothered to bring it back!

This isn’t the correct breed of dog, but I liked the picture!

That evening, we had some apero snacks and acouple of gin and tonics, followed by Spanish pork for dinner, but I can’t remember what we did in the evening…

However I do know that on Friday we went out exploring the local “villages of character” – having first gone to Roanne to explore Noz. I bought a nice top for 3,50€ and a lot of cat food. The last time I bought some of this, the cats wolfed it down. So when I saw it in Noz again, I bought four boxes of 12pouches each. Of course, (and I should have known this would happen!) they are now refusing to eat it! We bought a sandwich in a boulangerie, and took it to the forest of l’Espinasse to eat it.

Then we went to Le Crozet, a medieval village that I have never explored before. We went to the restaurant there with friends a few weeks back, but the village was new to me. It was a delight.

We followed the Discovery Trail around ther village, and admired the beautifully restored buildings. It really was like a film set – with very few alterations, it could have been used immediately! We could imagine the Three Musketeers would come striding round a corner, buckling their swash (or does one swash one’s buckle?!) and demanding a wench to bring them goblets of wine at any moment.

As we left to move on to Ambierle we nodded a Good Day to a Dutch couple in their car.

Ambierle has an ancient priory, with a polychrome roof, typical of the region – although most examples are found further north in Burgundy, in places like Beaune. We had a look around the church, as Judy wanted to see an image of St Roch, after I had told her the story of the Saint. There were many saints depicted in the windows, but not St Roch. However, to some surprise, we did come across the same Dutch couple as we’d met in Le Crozet; slightly embarrassed we nodded at each other, and then the three of us giggled a little at the coincidence.

We had a look around the gift shop and admired the fountain in the courtyard…

… before setting out for St Haon le Chatel, another Medieval village (this time with a tea shop)

We were sitting outside the tea shop, sipping our rather disappointing teas, and nibbling our very disappointing biscuits when Judy hissed “It’s them again!” Slightly unbelievably, it was the Dutch couple again, who were arriving for tea as well. It seemed really bizarre that they were visiting the same villages as us – especially as there are other pretty villages in the area! – but we laughed awkwardly when they arrived, and had a short conversation about the biscuits. We wazlked around the village, but we were all getting a bit tired by then…No Saint Roch in the church again though…

After this we headed home, as we were going out for a meal in the evening. We went to our favourite restaurant, and had a lovely meal. There’s really only one menu – if you have a request, you need to mention when booking (which we did, as Richard, who came with us, is vegetarian) – and so we had a goats cheese and tomato terrine with salad (a late request from Mr FD, who doesn’t eat goiats cheese, meant he had air dried ham with his salad), followed by duck (specially requested for mum)

Richard had a velouté of wild mushrooms, which he said was delicious. Cheese and then a very nice dessert (which I can’t remember, but which was fruity, I think)

 

Family time

So we get back from our lovely holiday in Italy on Sunday, round about lunchtime. We had all good intentions to do cleaning and tidying, but actually felt too tired to do anything other than flop during the afternoon. So Monday morning was a whirl of cleaning again (despite our efforts the week before we left on holiday!) and at 1.15 I was ready to leave to pick mum and Judy up at Lyon airport. But Mr FD just checked the site to see if the flight was on time – annd we discovered that there had been an “incident” at the airport. A person with mental health issues, rather than terrorist tendencies, had driven a stolen car through some plate glass windows, and then onto the runway – all flights were being delayed; many were being cancelled. Happily, theirs was only delayed, by 3.5 hours, so instead of arriving at 15h they finally got through at 18h30.

We drove them home, to a wild boar casserole that I’d prepared earlier, and a good bottle of red wine.

On Tuesday we had to go shopping, as otherwise there’d be nothing to eat, so we went to Les Halles Diderot, the market hall in Roanne, where we wandered around, admiring the fresh fruit, fish, meat and charcuterie, before stopping at Mons cheese stall:

Here we went rather b-zongo (a technical term meaning “mad and reckless”) and bought vast quantities of cheese: so much that we are still eating it almost  two weeks after it was bought! I’ve taken the last few crusty bits today and made a leek-potato-and-cheese soup for lunch. We then went to Lidl, and Carrefour, but mum was feeling tired, so she & Judy had a coffee while I did a quick zip round Carrefour for the last few things.

During the afternoon Judy and I did quite a lot of cooking. You see, I have heard tell of Boites Contre la Gaspillage (Boxes against Wastage) at Lidl – boxes full of out of date/ almost out of date food, usually fruit & veg, but not always – but had never actually been at a shop at the right time. Tuesday morning was the right time! For 1€ I bought a box containing:

  • 2 boxes of raspberries, only slightly mushy, which we made raspberry coulis with.
  • 2x500g boxes of grapes – when picked over, we got about 500g of good fruit from them.
  • 2x500g of carrots – these were mouldy, but when Judy peeled them they were fine. I cooked them up and froze them.
  • a wrinkly aubergine – I used it to make ratatouille, with
  • several large, slightly squashy tomatoes.
  • 6 Pink Lady apples – which are fine.
  • 6 Little Gem lettuces – slightly black round the tips of the leaves, but just needing a good trim
  • Half a cucumber

Not bad for 1€!! I was very impressed. That afternoon Mr FD had an interview, which actually turned out not to be an interview but an offer of some short term work. He needs to decide whether to take it on. The problem is that it might preclude him from taking on another job, should he find one…So he’s thinking about it at the moment.

Tuesday evening was Music Night! Cathy had organised another music night up at her place, so we gathered for drinks and food – I made a smoked salmon and broccoli pizza, and a salami and tomato tart to take – and singing and playing into the evening. Judy had brought her penny whistle with her, so she played some folk songs, and we sang to Beatles and Johnny Cash. A great time was had by all!

On Wednesday we went to the Pilat mountains, about an hour’s drive from us. Here we have a lovely walk that we like doing, which is called Le Gouffre d’Enfer – the Jaws of Hell. Which sounds way more difficult and scary than it is!

Mum, Judy & Mr FD ready to enter the Jaws of Hell – dum,dum, DAH!!!!!

It’s actually a gentle meander through a dry river valley, which then reaches a huge wall – which is the barrage, built in the reign of Napolean III, behind which is a large lake.

At the side is a winding flight of steps – no idea how many, but this is the view from the top of the barrage:

 

My 89 year old mum climbed these steps quicker than I did!

A view of the resevoir behind the barrage.

Then we followed the path back down to the car park, pausing to take in the view of the village of Rochetaillé

and to pose for photos

We had lunch in a pizza restaurant in the village – we usually go to the traditional Auberge, but neglected to check if it was open. Not on Wednesday. Never mind – we all enjoyed our meals, and I introduced Judy to the wonder that is a Café Gourmand – basically, coffee with mini tasters of desserts.

After this we drove up to the Cret de Perdrix, a summit with a good view. There’s about a kilometre walk up to it, and mum managed very well. The descent was a bit less easy, being very rocky, and mum being less confident of her balance, but with Mr FD’s hand and guidance she succeeded in getting down without too much difficulty. This photo shows the uneven ground underfoot

A further kilometre or so and we were back at the car…time for a drink! Mr FD also thought it was time for dessert, as he hadn’t indulged in a Café Gourmand at lunchtime. So he had a banana split. I hope he likes chantilly cream!!!

     

The rest of us had a variety of cold drinks and relaxed on the comfortable chairs in the sunshine, or the shade, depending on our preference. Finally we decided it was time to go, and we made our way home, with only a small diversion, as Mr FD took the wrong road.

We had a bottle of Asti, bought in Italy, which was very nice, and then for dinner we had  a chicken-and-vegetable tray bake. Cheese followed – we had a lot of cheese left to eat! But, TBH, we were all still quite full from lunch! Then we watched a DVD of “Brooklyn” which I very much enjoyed.

 

 

Turin today…Holiday Day 7

We have learned something today: Mr FD doesn’t like cities in hot weather.

The forecast had been for a cooler day, so we dressed for this, but unfortunately it was 29° – which can feel even hotter in a city, with the heat radiating off the buildings. We’d had a “discussion” about whether to take a Segway tour of the city, but the final decision had been negative. So I wanted to take a free walking tour (having found the one we took in Budapest so good) Mr FD was less keen, but agreed. However, when we arrived at the meeting place, he was really desperate for a toilet (!) and couldn’t find one, so he said for me to do the tour and he’d meet me later.

So I did. I really enjoyed a two-and-a-half hour walk through Turin’s history, admiring buildings from Roman through to Baroque and even more modern…

   

Francesca, the tour guide, was very informative, and I chatted to a pleasant Englishwoman, Megan, on the walk round.

Francesca does her stuff

At the end of the tour I texted Mr FD to tell him where I was, and I sat with a citron pressé, resting my feet and enjoying the shade of the arcades. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, he couldn’t find me, and was getting increasingly fed up, and feeling queasy after a large custard bun consumed at breakfast time. I suspect he was dehydrated too. After a flurry of bad tempered texts we managed to meet up, and he said he wanted to go back to the B&B. So, after a bit of discussion, it was decided he’d go back, and I’d stay in Turin, then get the train to Moncalieri, and text him from the station. So that’s what we did.

I did the walking tour backwards, stopping to look at places we’d not had time to properly explore on the whistlestop tour, such as the Cathedral and the roman area. I didn’t get to see the Turin shroud, as it only gets displayed once every five years – and anyway, I’m not too interested. I don’t believe it is the Shroud of Christ, and so don’t see it as particularly worth seeing.

I had a few problems buying my rail ticket back to Moncalieri – first because my card wouldn’t work in the machine, and secondly, I ended up buying two tickets because a smelly, dirty old man insisted on “helping” me at the ticket machine that took cash, and he pressed the buttons for me so I ended up buying two tickets. Happily, they weren’t very expensive (2€30 each) so I didn’t lose too much money, but I was most unimpressed by him then asking me to give him money for helping me! I’m afraid I said some rude words. It was a bit confusing finding where I had to take the train from, but with real help from a railway employee I got there okay.

Mr FD picked me up, still not his usual cheery self, and said it wasn’t worth going back to the farm, as Nicola had had a large lunch party for an association he worked with, and there would be chaos if we met people driving down the narrow road. So we went to the historic centre of Moncaleri again. We had a rehydrating drink first (Mr FD cheered up a little), then a refreshing beer, with some snacks (Mr FD cheered up more – he hadn’t had lunch, due to feeling sick, so some grumpiness was probably attributable to hunger too), and then we went to a restaurant where I had a burger, with avocado salsa and chips, and Mr FD had a pizza. With further refreshing and rehydrating drinks, Mr FD was smiling again by the end of the evening. He did want to leave early, so we informed Nicola of that when we got back, and packed the car.

Taking Nicola up on his offer, we sat outside in the warm evening with a glass of local wine, watching the lights of Turin and its suburbs twinkling.An early-ish night, and an early get up at 6.00 am, meant we were back home by 11.45, just in time to have bacon sandwiches for lunch!

Although Mr FD didn’t enjoy the last two days much, I did, and all in all, we’d say that the Piedmont area of Italy has much to offer. I’d recommend both the places we stayed, although the second was very simple. Mind you, it was also extremely cheap – 26€ a night for us both, with 8€ for the copious breakfast. But beware the chocolate covered custard bun – it might not suit your stomach!!

When we got home I felt really relaxed and recuperated…although during the week I had walked an awful long way. My pedometer isn’t terribly accurate, but it is telling me I walked approximately 70 km during the week. Not bad for an unfitty like me!

And the next day, my mum and sister arrived!

Moving day…Holiday Day 6

Not a terribly successful day in some ways…

We decided to have a look around Miasino, the village just above the B&B, before we went and to visit the botanical garden there. After wandering around for a while, trying to find the botanical garden, we eventually discovered it was closed until the afternoon.

As we were heading for Turin, we thought it best not to wait, and set off for the big city. It only took a couple of hours to get there, so having sussed out where (we thought) the next B&B was, we headed into the suburb of Turin called Moncaliari above which the AirB&B was situated.

We found a nice little restaurant for lunch: I had home made pasta with a simple tomato sauce, and Mr FD had a meat-and-cheese platter. We arranged to meet the owner of the place at 15h, so we drove up to where we thought it was, and waited in the car. After a while a suspicious woman came out and asked what we were doing. With a mixture of French, Italian and English we worked out we were in the wrong place, despite the sat nav telling us we were in the right place. After a bit of faffing, we found the farm, and Nicola, our host. We put our stuff in the room and decided to go to Asti, the centre of sparkling wine making…

The trip wasn’t successful. Mr FD was tired and hot, and didn’t feel like looking round the city so was grumpy. After about 30 minutes we admitted defeat, called in at a supermarket to buy some wine and went back to Moncalieri. Dinner was in a sweet little restaurant with a tiny terrace, where I started with caremalised cheese

Not a good photo, but the cheese was delish!

Then we both had a sort of leek flan with a creamy sauce

and then a very enjoyable dessert, which I can’t remember, and forgot to take a photo of!

Then up the long and winding road to the farm. The family were having a birthday party, so it was a bit noisy, but we didn’t mind; it was an exceptional circumstance, so we wished Papa Buon compleanno which pleased him, and went to bed with ear plugs in!

 

Speed King!…Holiday Day 5

Thursday 6th Sept

Mr FD wanted to do another ride, over the mountains between Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore, so I said I was happy to go back to Stresa to do some shopping and look around the town a bit more. So he set off, and I followed about half an hour later. I found a parking spot and walked into town. I’d just had time to start browsing, when I got a text saying Mr FD was back at the car. WHAT?! I’d hardly got started!!!

So my shopping was curtailed very abruptly, and I went back to meet him. Just in time, as the rain swept in. We had a picnic lunch, so decided to see if the weather cleared as we drove to Mottarone – a 1491m high mountain, offering views of seven lakes. While the clouds denied us views of all seven lakes, we certainly could see four or fiv

.

And on the top of the mountain was Alpyland

a kind of cross between a Big Dipper and a bob sleigh. The rider has control of the speed, as there is a lever that acts as both brake and accelerator, so you can decrease speed if you’re scared. We both went on it, but I have to admit it wasn’t my cup of tea at all! Mr FD loved it however, and had another go.

He said he went faster the second time round! Having got a taste for speed, he then decided to ride down from the top of the mountain. So he got back into his cycle gear, and off he went.

I followed in the car; I went at a speed I felt comfortable with on the mountain road, and I didn’t catch him up until we were very nearly back at the B&B. I overtook him with about a kilometre to go, and he had caught me up again before I had finished parking the car! He did an average of 37.5 km per hour! Speed King, indeed!

After showering, we headed back to the village of Orta SG again. We called in to see Dario, the owner of the B&B, in his gallery Oot and admired his work. He & MrFD talked about prog rock, a shared music passion, while I looked around the gallery. We then walked along the lakeside in the evening light, Mr FD taking lots of arty shots of boats and views.

This was my effort at an arty shot

We then headed to a rather posh hotel to have an apero on the lakeshore…

A Bellini for me, a beer for Mr FD, and some tasty snacks too.

and then went to have a lakeside meal in a very nice restaurant.

We had a shared charcuterie plate, and then I had Osso Bucco, with saffron rice, which was delicious, but very rich!

We then had a last gelato from the very good artisan gelato shop. I was persuaded to try a boule of what I think was bilberry, and the gelato man (gelatoteer?) suggested a creamy cream flavour to go with it. It was good, but maybe not my favourite. Mr FD had Cheesecake flavour.

Not my hand. Not my ice cream. Not actually my photo!

Then back to the B&B for the last time…

And relax! (briefly!) – Holiday Day 1

Hello everyone!

I am at last taking a breath and pausing, after a fabulous week in Italy and then a week with my mum and sister staying. It has been lovely, but I haven’t really stopped, so ended up feeling really tired! Today is a day of not doing much at all, and then I need to start thinking about going bacxk to work. After a gap of 9 months it’s going to be quite difficult, although I am definitely looking forward to it!

I’ll spread out my posts about our holiday… I won’t overwhelm you with everything in one post!

So we wet off on Sunday morning, after a panic filled Saturday evening – I discvered that my European Health card was out of date, and I couldn’t get onto the site to renew it, for many and various reasons. Mr FD was quietly frustrated with me, but we finally decided that we’d take the chance that nothing terrible would happen that required medical attention – and if it did, well, the lack of card would just mean we’d have to pay up front and get reimbursed later. Happily, it was not necessary!!

We decided that we wouldn’t take the Fréjus tunnel, but rather drive over the mountains between France and Italy

This is the Col between France and Italy where we paused to eat our lunch, before descending a very winding road into Italy.

We arrived at our B&B around 17h30, having stopped off for a beer in Omegna, a village at the lakeside.

Mr FD standing on the bridge in Omegna

The B&B was very nice, but there was a problem: there was parking for 2 small cars, and 3 bedrooms**. Our car is not small, and we were “the last in”, as it were, so the spaces were already “reserved”.  The public car parking, according to the owners, is 300m away…but they neglect to say that it is 300m up a hill, AND there’s another 200 m up to the house! That first evening Mr FD drove up to the public car park, and got caught in a torrential down pour! He was not a happy bunny, and was adament that I would struggle to walk up to it every day.

So, we (I’m a tad ashamed to say) played the “cancer card” – we explained to Dario, the owner, that, in my state of recovery, I couldn’t walk up to the car park every day, so if there was no other parking available, we were very sorry but we’d have to cancel the rest of the booking, and find another place to stay. Very quickly, a solution was found, and we were able to use their parking place for the duration of the stay! I’d certainly recommend the B&B to anyone thinking of going to Lake Orta – you would ned a car, as it’s a few kilometres above the lake, but it was very pleasant, and Dario and Ciara, the owners, were very accommodating. He explained to me that they are planning on improving the parking situation this autumn.

Lavanda e Rosmarino

It wasn’t the most “typical” place, being a modern house, but it was very comfortable, and the breakfasts were fab!

Our room

We were directed to an excellent restaurant for dinner, just up the road, where we ate very well. The Taverna Antico Agnello. I had a delicious tomato soup, with garlic bread, followed by home made tagliatelli with a rabbit ragout, and then pannacotta. When we arrived it was lashing down with rain, and when we left it was dark, so we didn’t get much chance to look at the splendid building that the restaurant was in, but here is Trip Advisor’s photo:

Despite the thunderstorm and parking problem, it was an auspicious start to our holiday. I was already feeling more relaxed!

 

** ETA – that sentence is badly written, sounding as though there was car parking space for not only two small cars, but also for three bedrooms!! What it means is, of course, that despite the fact there wre three bedrooms in the B&B, there was parking provided for just two cars, and small ones at that.