Caught Up (kinda!)

Do you know, I’m not sure how helpful it is for me, or for anyone else, to read about how I failed at completing 40 Acts this year, so I think I’m going to stop blogging about what I haven’t done, but rather briefly think about what I have done. If anyone wants to follow 40 Acts, the blog is here so you can read it for yourself.

For ACT 13 I posted some Ninja notes through random post boxes, some with Bible verses, others with encouraging sayings

For ACT 15 I tried to pray whenever I felt prompted…which wasn’t very often, I must admit!!

For ACT 16 I promised our neighbours, who are facing the closure oftheir restaurant, that we would support them in their takeaway business. So far, that’s meant three pizzas and two slices of gorgeous Chocolate-Apricot gateau! Not exactly a hardship! We are also committed to shopping locally – partly through necessity, but also to support small businesses through this difficult time.

For ACT 18 we are driving much less…!!! (Though not necessarily by choice) Isn’t it amazing how Venice is so clean when the everyday traffic stops

 

For ACT 23 I am trying hard not to moan through this confinement period: we know it is for the good of our health, and the good of others’; we have work to do and so can earn money; we are able to go out for a short walk in the beautiful countryside round here (1 km from our homes, no more than 1 hour, go alone); there are supplies in the local supermarket & other shops. We are lucky. I know there are people confined in small appartments with children, trying to work, or unable to work, worried about where money is going to come from…so definitely NO COMPLAINING!!1

For ACT 24 I’m telling you about LEND WITH CARE which is, in my opinion a great charity to support. Now I give a £15 voucher to any young couple I know getting married (!) so they can choose who to support on a new venture, as they start on their new life together. And it’s the gift that keeps giving: as you are paid back, you can lend to another entrepreneur. With an outlay of my initial £15 I think I have supported 4 or 5 people starting new businesses.

There! I’ve caught up in a more positive way!!

LUNCH TIME!!

I’ve got three lessons this afternoon, and quite honestly I’d rather just have a nap…

A local chateau fort

A Chateau Fort is the French word for what we’d probably call a castle – not one of your poncy chateaux with fancy turrets and posh staircases like this one:

While we have a couple of those in the area, they’re not open to the public (unless you go Air bnb!) But we do have the ruins of a good old Chateau Fort – Le Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé

This was the “cradle” of the Urfé family, who ruled this corner of the Loire departement – but of course the departement didn’t exist then! Anne d’Urfé – a bloke – was one of the first Seigneurs, and his heart is interred in the little chapel here in St Just. Honoré d’Urfé wrote what is considered to be one of the first novels, a story called “Astrée”, after which our street is named. Later on, the family owned a more Chateau-y Chateau, Le Bastie d’Urfé, on the plain

but at the beginning the Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé was their home. It was remarkably well situated to view the Chateau in St Just itself, and that in Champoly, about 10 km away And – of course – it dominated the valley in the mountains, probably making it ideal to demand tolls from those passing, as well as keeping an eye on any aggressive movement of men from either of the neighbours!

I visited with my friend, Jane, while she was here.

This is the view from the tower, looking towards St Just. As you can see the chateau is now in ruins, and while volunteers come every summer to help to restore the building, they can only do so much. We were amused that the only nod to health and safety was a notice saying “Soyez Prudent” (Be careful) – climbing the steps inside the tower was not for the faint hearted: unlit, uneven, steep, low-ceilinged and no handrail of any description (until the final 10 steps when there was a rope to hang onto!) I’m sure in the UK it wouldn’t have been allowed!

After admiring the view we strolled around the bottom of the Chateau

 

We used to bring visitors here all the time, but I hadn’t been for ages. It was a pleasure to come back – especially on such a nice day. It wasn’t very clear however, but on a really clear day you can see Mont Blanc in one direction and Puy de Dome in the other.

Day 7: The Last Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t I just – um – look?”

“No madame. Au revoir madame.” Silence.

“Oh. Er – au revoir.”

And that was it.

So I went back home!

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

This time we had the 27€ menu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical Cervenolles countryside

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

Can you guess who designed it?

We were home in time for a late lunch!

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

Stay calmer…

…when you want to harm a llama

call a llama farmer!

I certainly didn’t want to harm a llama, but I had said that I wanted to visit a llama farmer. Which, having written that post, I decided to do something about!

So on Tuesday, Friend Cathy and I went to visit a llama farm!

We drove out towards the village where the llama farm was situated, and where I had sourced what looked like a lovely restaurant. Sadly, it was closed on Monday and Tuesday, so we ended up going to another restaurant we saw signposted from the main road. On arriving we both recognised it as a restaurant we’d previously visited on a Cyclo Lunch. It was very nice!

I had a flambéed langoustine salad (with a plate of chips) and Friend Cathy chose a “Fitness salad” (I had a bit of food envy!) and a plate of chips! We then were persuaded into dessert – I chose a frozen raspberry soufflé thing (basically a kind of raspberry ice cream) which was refreshing.

We duly turned up at the llama farm (visits only on Tuesdays) fully expecting to be the only people there, but it was heaving! A coachload of children, plus various family groups. I was really surprised. We paid our entrance fee – which, at 8,50€ per adult, I felt was a bit steep for what we got, but never mind…The tour began.

Into the llama/alpaca field to meet the animals and learn a little about them:

Most of us just wanted to pet them, but we tried to listen dutifully, while llamas and alpacas wandered over to show themselves off and eat hay. And pose knowingly for photos.

Yes, I know I am a handsome llama. This is my best side…

You like my ruff? I’m not sure it sets my ears to their best advantage…

Kinky boots? They’re passé. I have furry boots! They’re all the rage!

Furry boots? No, my dear, furry thigh-high stockings are what you want!

Ringo Starr is my inspiration for this haircut!

Yes, I have to be kept separate from the girls because I’m just SO irresistable with my shaggy coat. Just don’t get close enough to see all the grass and twigs that have been caught up in it!

We found out interesting llama facts…

Here are some:

  • gestation period of 1 year
  • only have one baby at a time
  • closely related to camels
  • “cria” is the name for a baby llama
  • Can cost between 1,500-2,000€
  • They are always “on heat”

…and next, the children were given the opportunity to feed the llamas and alpacas. I wanted to elbow them out of the way, shouting “Me! Me! Give me some llama food! This is *my* special outing!” But I restrained myself.

Then we went to feel some llama wool and watch a demonstration of spinning – both on a wheel and a drop spindle. I didn’t take any photos of this. There was a little shop, but not a great choice of goods. I wasn’t tempted by anything really. If they’d had llama or alpaca wool socks or a pullover I might have gone mad (though I imagine a pullover would have ben in the “I’m not payiong THAT for a pullover!” price range!)

And that was it.

So – One out of ten before I’m sixty crossed out!

 

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?!