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!

 

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?!

Eating, drinking and celebrating.

So as I mentioned a few posts back, I went over to the UK to celebrate mum’s 90th birthday. I had a great time.

Of course, I got over anxious about the journey, but it went very smoothly: Friend Cathy took me to Roanne station, for the 10.15 train to Lyon. I then took the express tram to the airport, arriving just after 12.00. My flight was at 17.25!!! Well, I knew I had plenty of time! No need to panic. So, I treated myself to a meal in a restaurant – tapenade and breadsticks, followed by a very nice gratin de raviolis. Washed down by a very nice glass of beer, I was perfectly happy. I spent another hour drawing a zentangle, with a quotation about travelling on it, which I then left for someone to find, and then I went through security. I sat in the departure lounge and drew another zentangle and then strolled in a leisurely manner to the gate. As I didn’t know what time the trains from Manchester airport to Liverpool were, I didn’t panic or have to run. I just made my way to the station, and found there was one leaving in 10 minutes – perfect timing…but I’d’ve been panicking about whether I’d catch it or not if I’d known what time it was! At Liverpool, I picked up a taxi, and got to mum’s at just after 9.00 pm. A long day, but one that actually was less worry-filled than I’d expected.

The following day we did some food shopping, went for a walk, read and chatted. Mum was itching to garden, but the weather wasn’t great.

A view of (part of) mum’s garden

In fact, we got a little damp on our walk, but it didn’t really matter.

I think there’s some water birds on the picture somewhere! These are the flood plains near mum, which are used to regulate water levels. We disturbed a lapwing who did the distraction technique that I’d heard about but never seen. Crying piteously it flew in one direction, low to the ground, trying to lure us away from its baby (which we’d already clocked running around in the long grass) So it didn’t need to panic any more, we walked back along the path, in the direction we’d come from, upon which it stopped calling and flew back to its nest. Fascinating.

In the evening, we went to some of Mum’s friends, who had laid on a birthday meal for her, together with a cake.

Surprise, surprise!

On Friday I went into Liverpool to do a bit of shopping, and to meet up with an old school friend. We had a meal in the Pen Factory bar & brasserie,

and then went to The Everyman theatre, to see Sondheim’s “Sweeny Todd”. while it wouldn’t have been my first choice of Sondheim musical, it was a great performance, which I really enjoyed. Very minimal set, but very effective. It was good to catch up with Tracy too, and to hear her news.

On Saturday, we went out to lunch with mum – this was the “proper” celebration. There was me, my sister & her husband, my brother, one of my nephews, and one of my nieces, with her husband and baby Bill. And mum, of course. We went to Moor Hall, “The Barn” – Moor Hall is a michelin starred restaurant, but The Barn is on the same site, but a less formal experience. Mum felt more comfortable with that – and it was delicious!! I meant to take photos but forgot! I had a duck terrine, with an apple compote, followed by chicken, with a leek and potato layer and wild mushrooms, then a fantastic dessert: a light choux bun, filled with rhubarb and custard, with a blood orange ice cream. Lush!!

This is The Barn

and this is the posh restaurant part

My niece, Rose, her husband, Dave, and Bill the baby

Bill enjoyed his chicken goujons with garlic-and-pesto mayonnaise

When we got home after lunch, we had coffee and cake (my photos were very blurry and not very good.) and then we all felt the need for “a little zizz”!! Afterwards, we sat around the table with a few glasses of wine and reminisced and talked. It was all very sociable.

On Sunday it was mum’s actual birthday: Rose left Bill at home with Dave, and came over from Manchester. We all went to church – possibly the worst sermon ever. I think God or Jesus was mentioned about twice, whereas Cilla Black got several mentions!! Never mind. There was coffee and cake (more cake!) after the service, and everyone wished mum happy birthday.

Here are just some of her cards, arranged around the fireplace.

We went out for a late lunch to the Scarisbrick Arms

where we had another delicious meal…I had a steak with chips, and onion rings and other delicious trimmings! I’d ordered the sirloin, which had a £2.50 extra charge (it was a set price menu) but the waiter came and said that they didn’t have any sirloin left. So I said I’d have to have the rump, which was the same price – “unless”, I said,”I could have the fillet steak (which was £¨4 extra) at the same price as the sirloin – to make up for my disappointment…” Yes, that’s fine, the waiter said!!! And it was lovely.

We got back, and another zizz was in order! The evening was spent reading, and trying to work out how the TV works! Mum has two, one which she uses most frequently, in her kitchen/sitting room, and a larger one in the main sitting room. This one is more complicated and she always forgets which remote to use and how they work. None of us are very technically minded, so it was a bit of a shambles – but we finally managed it!

On Monday Mum and Judy went to buy Judy’s gift for her – a bird table – before Judy set off for home. Mike, mum and I went over to see Rose in Manchester, and had lunch there. Then we went out to a park in the afternoon – Bill enjoyed playing on the play equipment

and seeing the animals, but then got a bit grizzly as he hadn’t had a nap

.

Mike & mum, in the sunshine

A Manchester Bee

So we left a little earlier than planned. Mike cooked us an enjoyable meal of pasta and salmon and asparagus, after which we just relaxed (again!) and watched a bit of TV.

On Tuesday, it was time for the journey home. Mike took me to the airport on his way back home to Yorkshire – I was only 4 hours early for the flight this time!! I did start to worry on the plane about having time to get through the airport to catch the last possible express tram to make sure I caught my train home. I was thinking “Will it take me an hour and a half to get through security? Will I have enough time?” (Yes, honestly, I thought it might take that long to get processed through immigration. Sigh) As it was, it took me all of 15 minutes to disembark, go through seciurity AND get to the tram station! I had plenty of time – in fact, enough time to have a coffee at the train station before catching my train home – where Mr FD was waiting for me.

A lovely trip home, to celebrate a very special Mum.

 

 

 

Goodbye to 2018

So that was 2018 – not necessarily my “best” year, but a year in which I learned something about myself, in which I made new friends, in which I drew closer to God. There were bright times, and darker ones, but here are a random selection of 12 photographs.

JANUARY

I found that focussing on celtic knotwork was a way of taking my mind off what was happening to me. I had surgery on 3rd January, to remove the tumour. This was done during my recovery, as a Burns’ Night gift for my Scottish-ancestors Rector and his Scottish wife.

FEBRUARY

Chemo started – again focussing on zentangling was a way of taking myself out of the situation. This koala was drawn as a gift for someone, but I have no idea who!!

MARCH

Despite chemo, we were able to go to Manchester to see Bill Bailey (comedian) and Elbow (band) in concert. We also met my great nephew, Billy, for the first time. Here he is with my niece, Rose, and her husband, Dave. We had a magnificent time. I also lost my hair by the end of the month

APRIL

I was still well enough to go to Fréjus with the Cycle Club – I spent a lot of time resting in the holiday village, but was able to for shortish walks. Here I am dipping my toes in the Med!

MAY

The Royal Wedding gave me an excuse to wear my patriotic scarf as a turban! Friend Cathy and I went up to Friend Richard’s to watch it on his big screen TV – an excuse for fizzies and good food! I made an inelegant elderflower and lemon sponge. Which was very nice!

JUNE

I was into the second set of chemo treatments by now – these were less pleasant (if “pleasant” could be used to describe the first set!) than the FEC100 with fatigue really taking over. However I still was able to get to Annecy with the cycle club. I did a little tiny bit of walking – 2 km was the furthest I walked, but I was very happy to have managed that!

JULY

We were into high summer by now, with long balmy evenings. Friend Cathy hosted a music night up at her home, where we sat out, singing, playing instruments, and enjoying good company. Great fun – even if we were forced indoors by a sudden rainstorm!

I had my last chemo at the beginning of July – huzzah! – and two or three weeks later started my six weeks of radiotherapy. It wasn’t so tiring, by any means, although I still appreciated an afternoon nap when I returned home from hospital.

AUGUST

The village had its Fete Patronale, right at the end of August. Never our favourite time, as the travelling fair sets up right outside the house, but we went to stay at Friend Richard’s overnight, and came down to watch the light show. It was, let’s say, “interesting”!

I finished my radiotherapy sessions!

SEPTEMBER

September was a good month, as I started to get some energy back, and – apart from my hormonetherapy – I had finished treatment. So, we were able to have a holiday in the Italian lakes, thanks to the generosity of a friend. Here I am enjoying the gardens above Lake Maggiore

And then my mum and my sister came to stay.

Mum, Judy and Mr FD on a walk through Le Gouffre d’Enfer in the Pilat mountains.

OCTOBER

I went back to work – not too much, but I was glad to be starting again! I felt I’d been lounging around for too long!

Still time for fun however – I had my birthday celebrations at Friend Alison’s

and went to Waterloo for the Convention of the Convocation of Episcopal churches in Europe, where Mark Edington was elected as our Bishop. Here he is speaking, via Skype, to the Convention. I was on the Transition Committee for the process of preparing for the Consecration of Mark; however, as it was causing me fairly severe anxiety, I resigned from the Committee in November. Still, I’m looking forward to going to the Consecration service next April.

NOVEMBER

The weather was a little odd, going from very cold (plus snow!) to extremely mild within a matter of days. Luckily it was warm(ish) and sunny on the day we got involved with making cider with our friends Jean and Claire, at Jean’s family home a few kilometres from St Just. Here is Jean, Mr FD and Jean’s brother-in-law manipulating the apple press that has been used for generations. And here are Jet and Bulot (except I don’t know how to spell his name – it’s a French slang term meaning “Little Willy”!!)

DECEMBER

My friend Jane and I spent a few days in Strasbourg, exploring the Christmas Markets. Here are a couple of views of Petit France, the area of the city where there are canals. It was a chilly day when we walked around, but we found a lovely restaurant to warm up in!

****

Do you know, looking back over these – and many other – photos has reminded me that this year hasn’t been so bad after all! Yes, I had to go through treatment for breast cancer, but despite that, there have been many really enjoyable things! We’ve been lucky enough to be able to go away several times, though I was sad to miss a couple of weddings, as they fell on a Saturday just a couple of days after a chemo session – no way I could have gone!

Here are the cards I made for them

I hope that 2019 will be even better than 2018. It’s starting well: Mr FD has a job!! He begins three months of training with a fibre optics company on Wednesday. As long as he passes the training, he has a six months probationary period with the company; if he passes that period, he should have a permanent post! This is really good news.

So, I wish all my readers a happy 2019, full of joy, and blessings.

 

A walk around Strasbourg

One of the things we did while we were in Strasbourg was to take a free walking tour – we’ve done this in Budapest and in Turin, as well as here in Strasbourg, and always found them to be really interesting. I’d recommend looking one up if you’re visiting another city. Of course, one gives a tip at the end, but you give what you think the tour has been worth.

One thing that I found very moving was when our guide, Leo, talked about the way Strasbourg and the surrounding area had passed from French to German hands and back again, a&nd back again…how a member of his family who was still alive had “changed nationality” five times in his lifetime! Leo took us to a war memorial: Here’s my picture of it, taken on a rainy day in December.

Here’s another photo:

Leo explained that the sculpture shows the mother “Alsace” mourning for her dead sons…but, uniquely for war memorials, these young men are naked, they wear no uniforms, nothing to identify them. The words on the memorial read “A nos morts” (To our dead)…almost uniquely, nothing about “dead for the Republic”, or “died for the glory of France”.

And why? Because there had been people from Strasbourgian families who had been fighting on both sides – for the Allied forces, but also for the German, simply because of where they lived, and who had been “in charge” at the time. So the memorial simply commemorates all who died. I found this very moving.

The rest of the tour was informative and interesting too..with a very engaging guide.

We were lucky enough to also have a rapid tour with an acquaintance, Denis, who we’d met for Vin Chaud. He told us about a space between two pillars, outside the Cathedral…Apparently, people had to go through this space at the end of Lent. If they couldn’t fit through, it showed that they hadn’t been very good at their Lenten fasting and were therefore fined!!

Here’s Jane proving that her Lenten fasting had gone well

despite us having eaten one of these, which is a cross between a pretzel and a doughnut (a doughzel? a pretnut?)

and one of these, which is a cross between a Danish pastry and a pretzel (a Danzel? a Pretzish?)

Both were delicious, but I preferred the doughzel – it was much lighter than it looked. We had shared one, but would have liked one each! Unfortunately, we’d taken it back to the flat to eat, so it was too far to go back to buy another one!

 

 

Good times in Strasbourg

I had a lovely few days in Strasbourg, with my friend Jane.

The journey there was a little fraught – although as I didn’t have any connections to make I wasn’t too anxious. We were on the last leg of the journey, about 20 minutes outside Strasbourg, when the train ground to a halt. After about 5 minutes the guard announced that we had hit a deer, and so had to wait for clearance to restart. Also, one assumes, for someone to clear up the debris. We were held up for about 30 minutes, during which time I texted Jane, to keep her up to date with what was happening. Finally we started off again, only to come to another abrupt halt about 10 minutes outside Strasbourg. This time, the guard told us with a weary sigh, there were children playing on the line, and a pram abandoned in our path. I suspect it was more likely to be yoofs dropping things onto the track from a bridge, but I don’t know for sure. That clear up took another 45 minutes or so – we arrived in Strasbourg about 90 minutes late. Jane had come from the flat to meet me, so we were able to have something to eat near the station, before taking a taxi back.

The first (but not the last!) mulled wine!

On Sunday we had planned to go to church, but ended up not going! We woke late and had a leisurely breakfast instead. Then we went to explore the Christmas markets… There were, after all, eleven to explore! Initially we were a little disappointed. They were either a bit too Chinese imported tat, or what was a small number of wooden chalets had been bigged up to be a “Christmas Market” However, as our time went by, we found ourselves being a little more forgiving; some weren’t much to write home about though. The “Off” market was supposed to be edgy and alternative, but was just a bit boring and unfestive. There were four or five containers with a couple of interesting stalls, plus some igloo type structures with some bits and bobs, but nothing terribly out there.

Still, while there were rather too many stalls selling Vin Chaud and baguettes with cheese and ham, we had a lovely time!

By sheer coincidence we were in the Place Kléber when the huge tree lit up – very festive! Especially when watched clutching a Vin Chaud!The market here was a little disappointing too – this was supposed to be the “ethical” market. The description told us that “Some one hundred support, charity and humanitarian associations invite you to come and meet them, discuss what drives them and share their solidarity actions at the Village of Sharing in Place Kléber, from 23 November to 24 December” What it doesn’t say is that these 100 or so associations were sharing approximately 10 chalets on a rolling programme, so there were only 10 different groups at any one time – most of them selling Vin Chaud! We did buy some “Humanitarian soup” (parsnip with ginger and lemongrass) which was good,and Facebook had a stand where they were showing their human face: encouraging us to make a donation to a charitable cause through FB, they were offering a free Christmas sweatshirt for every donation made. Well, as I needed a Christmas jumper for our works Christmas party, but was refusing to buy one, this seemed like an ideal opportunity! I wanted to support Phone Cedit for Refugees, but they don’t have a FB page, so instead I gave a donation to Restos du Coeur, and received a Christmas sweatshirt,a bag, a FB pin, a pair of gloves and a handwarmer!

Some of the decorations were amazing, and the stalls were beautifully decked out too

Our favourite market was in the Place Broglie, which is where we made many of our purchases. It was here we also met Denis, the treasurer of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, who lives in Strasbourg. He had offered to take us to taste the “best gluhwein in the markets” so (naturally!) we took him up on the offer. The Vin Chaud was at the stall Chez Mathilde and was, apparently, an old family recipe. It was delicious – the spices used included cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardomom. Then Denis took us on a whirlwind tour of the markets (showing us one we’d missed) and ended up buying us a beer in an old fashioned beer kellar/pub type place. We let him go home after thyat (it was raining hard by then) and we wandered around the market a bit longer before heading home ourselves. My back had been playing up both Sunday and Monday,  generally being painful, but also occasionally going into spasm, so I was happy to take the tram home!

Random twinkly lights

We also did some sightseeing, but I’ll tell you aboutthat another time.

The journey from hell.

Well, not quite – but not much fun!

Coming home from Convention, I had prebooked all my tickets:

  • Waterloo to Brussels Midi
  • Brussels to Lyon Part Dieu (a two part ticket, Brussels to Paris Nord, Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon Part Dieu)
  • Lyon Part Dieu to Roanne

There was 55 minutes to get from Paris Nord (arrival 14.05)  to Gare de Lyon (departure 14.59), with the SNCF site assuring me that the journey was 10 minutes, with trains every 10 to 15 minutes. It could be a bit tight, but do-able.

A group of us were on the first train, but in fact, we were going from another station, not Waterloo. We went from Braine-l’Alleud which was nearer to the church. We caught the train, and there were ticket inspectors checking the tickets. I ‘fessed up immediately, and after some humming and hahing, they let me off the extra 40 cents or so difference “because you had been honest” !

Arriving at Brussels Midi there was a notice saying the Paris train would be delayed by 40 minutes. Eeep. Thankfully, by the time we got to the platform, this notice had disappeared, so it left exactly as advertised. So far, so good. I relaxed, listened to a podcast and looked forward to a straightforward journey.

I got to Paris Nord, found the RER station, bought my ticket and arrived on the platform at 14.18. Calculating in my head (“40 minutes to go. Fifteen minute wait plus 10 minute journey leaves me 15 minutes at the other end to find the platform…Should be OK”) I looked at the departures board. Prochaine train 25 minutes it read. WHAT?! Next train in 25 minutes?! What about “train every 10 to 15 minutes”?! Mad calculations now going on in my head, I paced nervously on the station platform. One gentleman kept eying me up with a concerned look: I wonder if he thought I was a suicide bomber trying to get up the nerve to do the dreadful deed? At 14.37 the train rolled in, and hordes of people pushed to get on – it took at least 3 minutes to squeeze everyone on, and the automatic doors kept closing and opening as someone somewhere obviously got caught up and stopped them from closing.

The train got to Paris Gare de Lyon at 14.50. 7 minutes to find the platform (as they close the gates 2 minutes before departure) I raced as quickly as I could – unfit and with a gammy knee (or two) – from the RER station, to the departures board. Hall 1 for departure – where the f*** is that? Ask someone, race up the slope, look around frantically, run (well, walk as quickly as I could) along a concourse heaving with people walking slowly with their pull along luggage getting in my way, finally find Hall 1, hear a whistle and see a train pulling out. Yes, you’ve guessed it…

I found the queue for the Ticket Office, which was huge, and phoned Mr FD to let him know what had happened. The queue moved slowly and after about 15 minutes I was given a ticket number 427, to wait for a desk to become free. The automatic counter was on ticket number 402. By now I had forgotten that I’d taken out insurance against missed trains (d’oh!) and was thinking how I could get home the cheapest way possible.

Mr FD phoned and said if I went to Bercy station (850 m away) I could get a ticket to Vichy for 35€ and he’d pick me up. So I abandoned the ticket waiting queue and trundled my luggage to Bercy station, to the automatic ticket machine. Most of which were not working. I found one that was working, typed in the details. “Train full. Next train tomorrow morning” it laughed at me. Phoned Mr FD who realised that the following train had been cancelled and so two trainloads of people were getting on one train so that’s why there were no spaces.

Back I went to Gare de Lyon, where I tried to exchange my ticket at an automatic machine but it refused. Tired, confused and more than a bit stressed, I paid out 105€ for another ticket to Lyon. I probably should have gone back to the Ticket Office to explain my plight but I was beyond thinking straight by now. I got on the train, made a mess opf sitting down (I couldn’t find anywhere for my luggage, I knocked over someone’s drink…) and finally got seated. I got into conversation with the people opposite, as Mr FD was texting me about the last train from Lyon to Roanne, and would I make it…? We worked out I’d have 12 minutes, and a bloke on the train said this would be fine, Part Dieu wasn’t very big…

When we arrived, there was a fast train to Roanne that had been held up, and was leaving 5 minutes late. The helpful man thought I should get that, so practically dragged me through Part Dieu to the right platform. I got to the train, but the doors were closed. I hit the “Open” button, even though it wasn’t lit up, and nothing happened, except that the guard of the train, on the other side of the door, shook her head and made a “Tough Titty” kind of face. But then, miracle of miracles, the doors hissed open and I fell into the carriage. I can only assume the driver saw me in his mirror and took pity on me.

“You’re very lucky,” said the guard, slightly disappointed.

“I know”, I replied and collapsed into the first empty seat I found.

Mr FD was there at Roanne to pick me up – and (because I’d left myself a big gap in Lyon, and planned to take a slower train to Roanne) I actually got home at the same time as I would have done! I was just a lot more stressed!!

I’ve applied to SNCF for a reimbursement, as there wasn’t enough time between the two Paris stations to catch the second train – it was sold to me as one journey – but as I didn’t go through the proper channels I may not be lucky. We shall see. If not, I’m hoping Church might be able to give me a bit of the money, as I didn’t cost them anything going to Waterloo (as I’d gone up in Nick & Pippa’s car) Church will reimburse the hotel & the travel costs, but as the 105€ was extra, they may not be up for giving me that. We’re not rolling in money, so it may be too much for them.

But it certainly wasn’t the stressfree relaxing journey I’d planned.

Yeah, right…

What I ate in Waterloo

Kezzie said she likes food posts so I thought I’d tell you what I ate in Waterloo. (ETA, it’s turned into What I did in Waterloo, rather than just food. But that’s OK)

Nick & Pippa met me in Ikea car park – I had had lunch with Friends Cathy & Richard, enjoying the infamous Ikea meatballs, followed by their Dime cake

 
Then we drove from Clermont Ferrand to Waterloo – thankfully, all I had to do was sit in the back of the car, as it was a long journey, taking us about 10 hours. We stopped briefly for a coffee, and then for a sandwich, but nothing terribly exciting, food-wise. We finally arrived at the hotel at about 11.15 pm and fell into bed.

It was a great selection at breakfast – different bread and cakes, fruit, fruit salad, hot things (sausages, scrambled egg, baked beans), boiled eggs, meat and cheese, belgian waffles to make, a selection of honey, jam and other spreads. I had an egg, some bread and cheese spread and a bowl of fruit salad. Plus juice and coffee of course!

Nick drove us to All Saints’ Church, where the convention was taking place, and we registered, collecting the goody bags (not terribly goody-filled, but we weren’t there for the booty!) and hung around aimlessly for a while. We also chose the restaurant we wanted to go to that evening – a choice between an Italian, a brasserie, an Indian and a Thai restaurant. Feeling a bit shy, I decided to stick with Nick & Pippa, who chose the Thai.

Then we headed across the road to the big Carrefour for a coffee and a cross between a pain au raisin and a Danish Pastry. Eating healthily, hey, Fat Dormouse? I bought a wrap and a cereal bar, as I wasn’t sure whether I’d get peckish mid afternoon, and we went back to the church.

Convention started with various matters of business. The chicken-and-bacon wrap was consumed at about 16h, during the coffee break. Eucharist followed, and then we went back to the hotel to get changed, and to meet up to go to the restaurant. It was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.

I can’t remember the name of what I had, but it was very delicious, involving duck and red curry sauce. I was the only person who wrote down what they had ordered, so I got my meal with no confusion at all. Others were unsure what they’d ordered and so who knows if they received the correct meals?! “Was mine with minced chicken?” “I think mine was green curry?” etc etc.  Nick, Pippa & I left quite early as we were still very tired.

Friday was a big day, as this was the day we started the ballots for our new Bishop-in-Charge…I chose the same breakfast (plus a pain au chocolat) and Nick drove us up to the church. We’d decided to miss Morning Prayer, just to give ourselves plenty of recuperation time. Pippa, as a non voting spouse, took the option of going on the Battlefield tour (which she said was interesting but exhausting) but Nick & I were fully involved. The ballots were interspersed with other business, reports and so forth, so it was an interesting and informative morning. About 30 minutes after each vote had been cast, Felicity, one of the tellers (vote counters) from All Saints, would come silently into the room and hand a folded piece of paper to the Bishop, who would then wait for a break in the proceedings to announce the results. My preferred candidate, and another, dropped out after the first two ballots – I think it’s a shame, as I suspect Steven’s votes would have grown during the following “battle”, but there you go…

Lunch was provided by the Church catering team – delicious soups (choice of four – pumpkin, carrot and lentil, tomato with meatballs, tomato. I had the pumpkin and it was yummy.), with various quiches and salads – and deep, intense conversations were carried out as we compared our thoughts on the two remaining candidates. Interestingly, while the votes were close, it was clear that the majority of the clergy preferred one candidate and the majority of the laity preferred the other.

The afternoon session opened with prayer, and then further ballots, and other business. Still neither candidate was receiving a majority in both the clergy and laity vote, so there was some discussion regarding how this might be resolved…The Bishop finally said he would take advice overnight, but not to worry, as these things could go to more than 10 ballots and we had to simply pray,and to be open, and to trust that the Holy Spirit would guide us . The session closed, and we headed back to the hotel to rest, to opnder and to get changed for the Bishop’s Banquet.

This time of rest gave me an occasion to consider. With my preferred candidate out of the running, I’d actually been dithering between the two remaining: which should I choose? I’d heard people’s views, and had been flip-flopping between the two candadates, half thinking I shouldn’t keep changing my mind. But Paul Gordon could offer this….But Mark can help us do that….In my deliberations, one of them was winning on the “Taking the Convocation Forward” front, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that, despite seeming less exciting, one was more “right” than the other. Finally, as I thought about the two of them (both great candidates) I had a sense of peace about the one I’d voted for last. Don’t worry if he doesn’t seem quite “right”, the Spirit seemed to say, “Trust me.” So I did. I voted for this candidate in the rest of the ballots.

Feeling at peace, I had a short snooze and then got changed for the Bishop’s Banquet (Dress: elegant) It was in a rather nice function room/restaurant, about a 20 minutes coach ride away. We had some glasses of fizzies before the meal, and then several little amuses bouches– roast beef on horse radish cream, salmon on avocado, gazpacho etc. – while a talented acapella group sang various folk songs. After there was a choice of seafood, Thai or “Mediterranean” cooking. I’m always slightly dubious about shellfish and so on, and I’d had Thai food the night before,  so I went for the mediterranean – moussaka, and various cold vegetable dishes. Enjoyable, but nothing special.

The Bishop gave his speech, and gave out awards – always a bit emotional – to those who had done particularly good work through the year. Followed by dessert (several delicious cakes to choose from – I went for raspberry) and coffee, we headed home in the coaches at about 23h.

It seemed important to go to Morning Prayer on Saturday, so we had a quicker breakfast than the past couple of days, and headed to church. The service was led by Revd Katie Osweiler, the curate at the church. She had just had some terrible news that a friend and neighbour back in the US had been killed outside his house. She was trying to process the news as well as lead us in worship, so, as you can imagine, it was an emotional service.

The spouses went off for a day in Brussels, while we then headed into the next round of ballots, which was still a stalemate. So Bishop Pierre suggested we took a long coffee break and spoke to as many people as we could, outlining what we saw as the good points of both candidates. We were not trying to convince people of our view, but rather trying to discern which we felt was the right person; I was happy to stick with what I felt I was being led to do. So after coffee break we went in to the next ballot (N° 7) – result: another stale mate, with the laity majority for one, and the clergy majority for another, but with a significant movement in the clergy vote.

Time for lunch – again, prepared by the Church hospitality team, we had tacos and tortillas with all the trimmings. Over lunch much discussion ensued, but also time for some relaxation. Nick went outside “to watch the cars go past”, I hadn’t had much time to eat as I had to help Richard, the secretary, prepare a paper for the afternoon session.I would have liked to have gone back for more lunch, but didn’t have time!!

We had the next ballot, and Denis our Treasurer gave his report…I always find budgets very difficult to get my head round, but other people asked insightful questions and the time passed relatively quickly. When all the tellers trooped back into the room, instead of just Felicity, we knew that a result had been reached. Mark Edington had been elected. The press release read thus:

The Rev. Mark D.W. Edington of the Diocese of Massachusetts has been elected the next Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. He was elected on the eighth ballot on October 20, 2018. The election took place during the annual Convention of the Convocation in All Saints Church in Waterloo Belgium. 

Our Profound Thanks

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe expresses its profound thanks to The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, The Rev. Steven Paulikas, and The Very Rev. Dr. Benjamin Shambaugh for offering themselves as nominees in this Bishop election process as we discerned the direction and future of the Convocation. We thank their families, and their parish and ministry families for their support and prayers during this process. We ask God’s richest blessings on their continuing work in the Lord’s vineyard.

It was rather difficult to concentrate after that, especially as the Bishop was the one who phoned Mark – and had him on speakerphone held next to the microphone so we could hear his reaction. Which was measured, and considered, and humble. A murmur of appreciation ran round the room on hearing it. One of the priests who had been voting for Paul Gordon, rather than Mark, gave a brief speech, emphasising that while he, and others who were disappointed, were 100% behind Mark they still needed time to deal with their feelings and please could people be sensitive to the fact that there were people in the room who were not in an ebullient mood. Which, I’d like to think, everyone was.

Business continued, while others more techie than I set up a Skype call with Mark (who, by this time, had been awake over in the US, for more than 36 hours, waiting for the results – as after every ballot the candidates had been phoned with the results) Here he is addressing the Convention

Finally, the end of a long day was reached. Although there was Evening Prayer planned, several of us felt too tired to attend, so we went back to the hotel. I dozed for a while, but then felt really rather hungry (having missed out on seconds at lunch time) So I took my drawing materials, went to the bar and had a beer and a packet of crisps and some complementary peanuts; I sat in a quiet corner for an hour zentangling and thinking and decontracting.

Nick drove us back to All Saints where a caterer and the Hospitality team, had prepared another excellent meal…I ended up sitting on a table with people I didn’t know very well, but by now it was OK. I felt much more at ease than at the beginning of the Convention. We started with “fish three ways” – a mackerel paté, a tomato stuffed with tiny shrimps, and a piece of salmon in sauce – which was lovely. Then there was a choice of pork in a Kriek beer sauce (cherry) or Chicken Waterzooi (a rich stew and soup of chicken or fish, vegetables, cream and eggs). I’m afraid I had a helping of both; I think I preferred the pork, but it was a close run thing. Vegetarian options were available. Dessert was a choice of more delicious cakes – again, I chose a raspberry/vanilla concoction.

Then we were led upstairs, where Felicity had set up a slide show of some of the creative arts that had taken place throughout the Convocation, and announced the creation of the  Whalon Fund for the Creative Arts – our “gift” to Pierre, our outgoing Bishop. Pierre was very touched.

Soon after, Nick, Pippa and I headed back to the hotel, although I believe dancing went on well into the night. I met Caireen, our rector’s wife, at the bar and we decided to have a quiet, relaxing nightcap…Sadly, because of an upset person (I can’t say more) it turned into a less-than-relaxing counselling session, but I hope that we were able to do some good. I got to bed at about half past midnight!

On Sunday it was the closing Eucharist, but before church I wanted to buy some flowers for the person who had been very upset the evening before. I’d already noticed a florists not too far from the hotel, on our travels up and down the road to the church, so I checked what time it opened and scooted out to get them. I was able to buy a sweet little bouquet which could be popped into a little carrier bag that I had, so as not to be obvious. I think the recipient was grateful.

The Eucharist was an emotional, triumphant, delightful affair which touched me a great deal. Lunch was again provided afterwards, and then we dispersed for our various destinations all over Europe.

My journey home was not, however, as relaxing as I had hoped. But, as this has already gone on far too long, I’ll tell you about that another time!