Dinner in the Beaujolais

As I explained a few posts ago, on Monday Mr FD and I drove our friends C&A to see their friends over in the Beaujolais region.

We duly dropped them off at their friend’s house (having driven around the village a few times, as the instructions we had assumed we’d be coming from a different direction, so things got a little confused for a moment or two) and then headed off to the chosen restaurant. We’d changed our mind about the restaurant, and we went to this one: La Maison des Beaujolais

This is the menu we chose:

ENTRÉES :

Médaillon de Foie Gras, Chutney de Saison
ou
Salade de Saint Jacques Panées aux Amandes, Coco et Banane Plantain
ou
Salade de Gambas Sautées, Lardons de Canard et Pousses de Soja

PLATS CHAUDS :

Croquettes de Ris de Veau , Beurre à l’Oseille
ou
Magret de Canard au Vinaigre de Framboises
ou
Filets de Rouget aux Queues de Langoustines

Fromages

Carte des Desserts

 

We started with an apero – I had the Aperetif Maison, the exact make up of which was, I was told, a secret. It was a red wine and fruit juice combo, which was very pleasant. As the driver, Mr FD had an orangina. These were served with an amuse-bouche of vegetables, chicken and chorizo.

For my starter, I had the foie gras, which was served with a pain d’epices (a type of gingerbread, whose sweetness goes well with the foie gras) and a delicious chutney. I don’t know what it was made of, although we suspected it might have been red grapes. :

Mr FD chose the salad de gambas, which he said was enjoyable, although the sauce was a bit harsh. It had an oriental flavour, and he thought it was made with soy sauce. It was an enormous plateful!

For the main course I chose to have the red mullet. I almost always choose duck if it is on the menu, but decided to go off-piste! I like fish, but rarely cook it and even more rarely choose it in restaurants. It was very nice:

As you can see, it came with rice, and a medley of summer vegetables. I enjoyed it very much. Mr FD had the duck (he nearly went for the ris-de-veau (which are sweetbreads) but he backed out at the last moment.

Cheese followed – a selection of three

Oops! I forgot to take the photo before I started! A goaty-herby one, which I enjoyed, a slice of Brie, or something equally mild and creamy, and then the one in the centre,which looks innocuous but had a very strong, agricultural flavour about it. I left that one, as I didn’t find it pleasant at all. These were served with a slice of nut bread and a small salad, scattered with flaked almonds.

Dessert: What would you have chosen?

I decided to have the Mille Feuille Glacé Ananas et son coulis. It was very nice:

I was getting forgetful about taking photos by now!!

We finished with coffe-for-me-tea-for-Mr FD, and just as we were getting to the end of our coffee/tea, C&A phoned to say they were ready to be picked up. We drove back to get them, and were forced to be polite to some people we didn’t know for about half an hour.  Then a drive home through the rain.

It was a very enjoyable meal, so thank you C&A for that. Mind you, judging by this photo, I seem to be regarding my meal with some suspicion!!

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The Sound of Music

Last night we went up to Friend Cathy’s for apèros and music – in fact, we were there all evening, so I’m glad I’d had a substantial lunch! Despite that,  Mr FD and I did rather attack the snacks with gusto! We had a wonderful time.

There were three guitarists, and various tambourine/maraca players, plus those of us who did impromptu percussion on tables, or glasses!

David, (C’s friend from the Port), Martin (C’s friend, staying for a few days) and Gerome (Friend Alison’s Other Half) were our guitarists. Sue (Martin’s wife), Cathy and Mr FD were the tambourine/maraca players, I was the impromptu percussionist and Richard and Stefan just listened and sang. We sang (some of us better than others) songs – Beatles, Eagles, Johnny Cash, and many others – and generally had a great time.

Martin is also a talented songwriter and he played and sang some of his own compositions, which were lovely.

Later on, a storm arrived, so we decamped into Cathy’s as-yet-unfinished house. There is a roof and floor, with electricity in some of the house, and windows & doors not all fitted yet. But it was dry and we continued singing and playing until Friend Clare, who lives opposite, came & asked us very politely if we could stop as she had to be up early tomorrow. As it was 10.30 that was fine…the party broke up and we wended our way back home, or to our camper vans/caravans (depending on who we were, & where we were living!)

A really great evening…

Everybody needs good neighbours…

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Neighbours,
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

You may, or may not, recognise the lyrics from the “Neighbours” theme. Rather trite, but actually quite true. Good neighbours can make a big difference, and in France, there is La Fete des Voisins to encourage people to get to know their neighbours a little better. It was started in the 1990s, I think, by someone who lived in an appartment block in Paris, and had the misfortune to find one of his elderly neighbours had died, and nobody had noticed. He realised that there wasn’t enough “neighbourliness” and so the following year he invited his neighbours for a drink to get to know everyone better. It snowballed from there, becoming a national movement, and now a certain date each year is designated La Fete des Voisins. This year it was in May, but our part of the village Le Coeur du Village (the heart of the Village) had their Fete yesterday, on 7th July. Why not?

Everyone who lives in the centre of the village was invited – each paying 10€, and asked to bring something (a salad, a dessert etc). There were about 30 of us there this year, and we invited Friend Cathy along, as her part of the village don’t have a Fete. Mostly because she lives in a hamlet of 4 houses – one of which is a holiday home, and another of which belongs to good friends, so she’s often there for a drink anyway!

It started at 12.00, so we went round to the Place de l’Eglise at about 12.10, and were among the first to arrive, of course! French timekeeping can be very imprecise at these events! Slowly people gathered, and there were drinks, and nibbles – pizza, quiche, crisps, gougères and so we happily tucked in. Bien sur!

The Mayor was there – he attends all these kind of events, if only at the beginning. We like our Mayor, and are sad that this is his last term of office. He has been good for the village. I also think he is quite good looking!

M. le Maire opens the rosé. He knows how to attract the voters!

There were big pergolas/ gazebos set out, with tables and chairs underneath, which provided shade, and we stood/sat and chatted among ourselves. Photos were taken for the local newspaper, and then we were called to help ourselves to salads. There were lots of delicious things: green bean salad, tomato salad, pasta salad, grains with feta and cucumber, coleslaw, a vegetable terrine. I was loading my plate when a little thought occurred to me: Is this the starter or the main course? I asked Dominique, one of the organisers, and she confirmed it was the starter…OK, stop putting things on your plate now!

After this, we had barbecued sausages and brochettes. It struck me how, in the UK, one would normally have the meat and salads altogether, but here in France it is normal to have the salads as a starter and eat the meat unaccompanied. I went back and got some more green beans and coleslaw, as just meat was a bit much.

Cheese followed – just a box of Comtesse de Vichy, a local creamy cheese, and then desserts. The baker had provided a huge Tarte aux Pommes, there was chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and I took along a White Chocolate and Ginger cheesecake. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down, especially with its caramel-chilli topping, but it was very well received. Here’s a link to the recipeNote that in the recipe I said you can use sweet chilli sauce for the topping. That’s a bit daft really, as this sauce has garlic in…so ignore that. This time I used a prepared toffee sauce and just added about half a teaspoon of chilli powder.

After lunch – by now it was about 4 o’clock – we sat and chatted, and Cathy and I talked about how we could buy the Hotel Moderne (which was opposite) and turn it into flats…IF we had the money, of course! Nice idea!

At about 5 o’clock, we decided to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and were asked “Are you coming back this evening?” WHAT?! There’s more?! We diplomatically said “We’ll see…I’m a bit tired…” and left. We’d had enough food and drink to last until next week! And, actually, I was a bit too tired to be very sociable again.

It was a really enjoyable time though, and of course, it’s always good to be involved in village events, to show that we are happy to integrate and to be part of village life. We can now say Hello to more people.

Happy Retirement, M. Khodri!

I have worked for ILS for 9 years now. I remember my first meeting with M. Khodri, the director – previously I’d been working in St Etienne, at Wall Street Institute, and although I liked the people, it was a long way to travel (taking about 1.5 hours to get from door to door) and I wasn’t very keen on the method of teaching employed by the company. So one day, I took a few CVs and letters of motivation to Clermont Ferrand and decided to trawl round the language schools there. I called in at WSI, and had a slightly bizarre interview with them (they turned me down) and then I called in at ILS. M.Khodri saw me immediately and sat me down in his office for a chat – my French being even worse than it is now, and his English being practically non-existent, it may have been a little awkward at times, but after about half an hour he offered me a job with the company!

I was very happy teaching there – mostly in-company, but sometimes at the offices of ILS – and the majority of the work done was for Michelin, which is one of the biggest employers in Clermont. It was also the golden goose for ILS, with, I’d say, at least 85% of the English teaching work being done in partnership with Michelin. Unfortunately, with money-saving becoming more important, and technology becoming more prevalent, Michelin decided to move over to e-learning, which meant that ILS, who had put all their eggs into the Michelin basket, was a bit stymied.

For a few months, in 2012, it looked as though ILS might be going down the pan, and sadly this meant that 6 or 7 of the English teachers had to be made redundant. I was one of them. I remember that M. Khodri was so distressed at having to make me redundant, that he said to me that anytime I wanted to come into the office to use the resources, or to use one of the rooms for private telephone lessons, or to make photocopies for my private lessons, then I was welcome to do so!He was always very supportive, and so even when I wasn’t working for them, I still popped into the office from time to time.

Happily, the company survived, and I, plus most of the other teachers, were re-employed, but as “auto entrepreneurs” – that is, we are self employed and on a contract basis. It means ILS do not have to pay any of our social charges etc. Not so good for us (no sick pay etc) but better for them. I’m still happy to work for the company, however, as it is a real family company. We know each other, we support each other; the Head of English is a really lovely woman, the staff are friendly, the resources are plentiful. Even though we are not “salariés” – directly employed – we are considered as part of the team, rather than as sub-contractors, so our relationship with M.Khodri, and the other admin staff, is exactly the same. When I’ve got myself in a mess with French admin papers, M. Khodri has always been willing to spend time with me, helping me to complete the forms and calming me down.  And, most importantly, there is quite a lot of work!

Recently, M. Khodri decided to sell the company and retire, together with his wife, who is the accountant for the company. I have only met the new owners very briefly, but Claire, Head of English, assures us that they are dynamic, and forward thinking, and want to move the company onwards and upwards. As you can see from the photo of the offices above, it is looking a tad tired and old fashioned, and Melissa and Thomas want to modernise. I’m a little concerned, as I have to admit that I don’t take to change very well – especially if that change requires me to learn new technology & new ways of doing things that I’ve been perfectly comfortable doing “my” way for a while – but I’m going to try hard to embrace this. After all, I won’t have a lot of choice in the matter!!

So, on Friday, it was Monsieur and Madame Khodri’s retirement do. It was in the restaurant in Le Jardin Lecoq, in Clermont Ferrand, a lovely public garden not too far from the office.

I booked into the Holiday Inn, just across the road from the park, as I didn’t want to drive afterwards, and I didn’t know how tired I would be. I’m happy I did so, as it meant I could have something to drink, and I didn’t need to leave too early.

We gathered at 7.30, and stood around chatting, and at about 8.00, we were led to our tables, all set up outside. There was a four piece jazz band who entertained us

and it was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Christmas. We started with a glass of fizzies (I had some sirop in mine to sweeten it, so I could enjoy it) and we gave M & Mme Khodri their gifts: a voucher for a dinner in a very good restaurant, and a cave à vins – a temperature controlled cupboard to keep your wine in – plus some starter bottles. Note we didn’t actiually give them the cave à vins: Yacine, their son, who works for the company as well, had set it up in their house so it would be a surprise for them when they got home.

M. Khodri made a little speech and then we got on with the food!

Unwrapping their presents

We started with an amuse-bouche, (a little something to tickle your taste buds) which was a verrine of something – noone was quite sure what it was, but the general consensus was finally a cold pea-and-mint soup; it was okay, but as I’m not a great fan of peas, or cold soup, I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about it. Here’s the empty verrine, as I forgot to take a photo before I ate it! :

Then the starter arrived – a galette with roast vegetables and mozzarella, and salad in a lovely honey vinaigrette dressing

I remembered to take a photo halfway through!

A pause, while the jazz band played on, and then the main course was brought out:

I remembered to take a photo before I started eating!

This was delicious – white fish, chorizo and a scallop in a buttery sauce, served with polenta, roast tomatoes and a giant crisp thing. I’m not sure why the crispy thing was there, as it didn’t really add much to the meal, but it tasted fine! I’m glad I’m not vegetarian though, as their meal was peas-and-asparagus, roast tomatoes and potatoes. Not very inspired – as vegetarian meals in France so often aren’t!

Dessert was profiteroles – I couldn’t finish mine…which is unlike me. I’m thinking that the intake of my stomach has shrunk a little during chemo, as I’ve not been eating the same amounts. Perhaps I need to encourage this!

Claire, Head of English, clapping along to “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ ” We both started singing the lyrics soon afterwards!

M. Khodri boogeying on down with Alyssia, one of the English teachers.

And still the band played on… as it was getting on to 11 o’clock, and I was flagging, I decided to leave. Also, there were others going at that point, and as I didn’t know where the gate was, and didn’t want to be wandering the park in the dark, I tagged along with them.

It was a really good way to say “Goodbye” to a very kind (sometimes slightly incompetent!) employer. Thank you, M. Khodri, for the opportunity to work with ILS, and here’s wishing you a good and happy retirement.

Another voyage with the Cyclos

So on Friday we set off to go to Annecy for a short séjour with the Cycle Club. We left at 8.30, and drove via Lyon airport to drop off Friend Alison, who was going over to Liverpool to visit her mum. Her plane wasn’t until the afternoon, but this way it meant nobody else had to schlepp over to Lyon to take her to the airport. She had about 5 hours to wait, by the time we dropped her off, but she was well prepared with books and other amusements.

We met everyone at a service station for a picnic lunch, then drove the final hour to reach the holiday village. The cyclists got changed, and set off for their ride, the walkers set off for their walk, and I borrowed Louis & Odette’s room (our rooms weren’t yet ready, and L&O had stayed there the night before) for a snooze and a sit down, as I felt very tired. Later on in the afternoon, I had a stroll around the grounds, and discovered, to my disappointment, that the masseur wasn’t available that weekend, and the Spa wasn’t free.  There went my plans!

Never mind! Mr FD got back from his ride, a bit disappointed too, as his ongoing sinus problem meant that he hadn’t ridden too well. He also suffered from the heat; being a big lad, he finds it hard cycling in anything much hotter than 24°. It made us both think a little harder about how we need to change our eating habits. Then we went for a beer!!! Wry smile.

There was a deadly serious boules competition going on between some members of the party:

What an amazing backdrop

Serious discussion about which boule is nearest the cochon

After the match was finished, we trouped in for dinner – which was okay, but nothing special. Salad & cold meat buffet to start, folowed by tepid brochettes (very chewy meat), merguez, ratatouille, and new potatoes (again tepid). Cheese and then “industrial” puddings – certainly nothing home made. It was edible, but that’s about all you could say about it!

After dinner there was a meeting about tomorrow’s activities, and then we took some time to enjoy the evening sunshine, and take in the glorious view (and I don’t mean me!!)

Saturday was the day that I had planned to meet up with Chomeuse and her family, but due to familial reasons she had had to cancel at the beginning of the week. That was a disappointment, but it meant I could join in with the other activities, which otherwise I would have missed. Mr FD was still feeling a bit rough, and as the temperatures were due to be higher than yesterday, and the ride longer, he felt unsure about riding. He finally decided to be a non-rider for today, so he and I struck out on our own a little.

In the morning, we drove up to the Col du Forclaz, 1157 metres up above Lake Annecy, from where there were some amazing views.

 

It’s a favourite launch spot for paragliders too; here’s the take off point:

There were some rather lovely wood carvings there too. Here I am, sharing space with an eagle:

and here is a carving of a marmotte:

After this we drove on to La Clusaz, where we met some of our party for a drink in the sunshine. La Clusaz is more of a winter ski resort, as you could tell from the number of ski rental shops, bars, and après-ski snack bars. But in summer it is a very pretty village.

The plan was to meet everyone at the Col des Aravis (1487 m) for a picnic, so off we set, passing some of our cyclists en route.

This was the view from our picnic spot, looking towards the Massif of Mont Blanc:

This was lunch

a fairly uninspiring offering from the holiday village – a bit of salad, a ham sandwich, some crisps, a manky apple and some plain biscuits. Mr FD had been so unimpressed, he decided to buy himself a “proper” sandwich, and we supplemented our meal with a mini quiche and a raspberry tart each. That made it more enjoyable! And the view helped!

At the Col there was a little chapel which I popped into – dedicated to Saint Anne, the patron saint of travellers, or so the notice said.

 

Around the shops and restaurants, the Col was heaving – cyclists photographing themselves, thrilled to have cycled up so far, motorcyclists buzzing past, visitors and tourists all wandering round…but inside the little chapel it was peaceful and calm. I took a few breaths and relaxed…I was getting a bit tired by now, but the little pause refreshed me.

Mr FD and I decided to go back to La Clusaz and take the télécabine up to the mountain top of Beauregarde.

When we got to the top, Mr FD went for a walk while I sat, admired the view and did a very bad little painting (which I’m not showing you).

 

It was lovely, and the views really were spectacular. My poor photography skills do not capture their beauty. I sat in the warmth of the sunshine, listening to the clanging of the bells around the necks of a flock of goats, smelling the sweetness of the meadow flowers. It was a beautiful moment.

We left to go back to the holiday village, as Mr FD wanted to do a short, flat ride along the Piste Cyclable that ran alongside the lake. He got changed, and psyched up, but was thoroughly pissed off to find that whoever had the key to the garage where the bikes were stored had not left it at reception, but walked off with it. So he couldn’t get to his bike. Not a Happy Chappy at all. We avoided each other for an hour or so, while he calmed down…

Dinner was better than last night:  salad starter, followed by tartiflette, or quenelles de brochet (I had tartiflette), cheese and industrial desserts – but this evening there was also fruit, so I had a peach & some grapes. I was feeling really tired by now – it had been a long day – so an early night was in order. Just before I went to bed, I wandered to the edge of the property to deposit the remains of our lunch in the long grass “for the creatures of the forest”, only to be caught out by a man walking his elderly dog, who gave me some very suspicious looks as I tossed hunks of bread into the undergrowth. Oh well, Les Anglais do some strange things!

On Sunday morning, most of the cyclists were going to do a tour of the lake, but Mr FD had always planned not to do this, because of the changing facilities. As we have to vacate rooms by 10 am, and they would return after this, it had been negotiated that 3 or 4 rooms would be available for showers. But that would mean lots of people showering/ changing in the same room at the same time, which is not Mr FD’s idea of fun, so he almost always opts out of the Sunday morning rides on voyages. Instead he went with the walkers to visit a spectacular waterfall.

I stayed around the holiday village, reading, painting (an even worse picture!), chatting with an interesting American woman who runs writing courses, and going out for a short (1 km) walk. I felt relaxed and enjoyed my morning.

Lunch was the usual salad buffet, with a daube de boeuf, and boiled potatoes in a chive/yoghurt sauce. Cheese and more industrial desserts followed. I tried a piece of lemon meringue pie, but it was overly sweet, so I didn’t finish it. Mr FD wanted to leave immediately after lunch, but we had driven here with two other people who wanted to visit the beach, so I persuaded him to wait until 3 o’clock before leaving. I wanted to walk to the beach too, so I set off before the others, being a slower walker, and Mr FD followed me. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the way, but didn’t so we ended up going the wrong way – however, we found a very peaceful little spot at the water’s edge, which, finally, I think was nicer than a crowded beach would have been!

 

From our vantage spot we could see cormorants perched on the breakwater, and coots bobbing their way through the reed beds; there were birds calling and the sound of the water lapping against the bank. Much more peaceful than a municipal beach!

By the time I staggered back to the holiday village my pedometer told me I’d walked another two kilometres, making it a record three kilometres in a day! No wonder I was knackered! Vincent and Marylyn had found their way to the beach, but were at the car dead on 3 o’clock, as demanded by Mr FD, so we left on time, keeping our driver happy! We were home by 6.30, and were greeted, rather desultorily, by the cats. “Oh, you’re back, are you?”

 

 

Sweet treats and poetry.

Monique from across the road has just popped in with a little present for me

a box of 6 macarons, strawberry, pistachio, and lemon, two of each flavour. “Just because”, she said.  How kind!

I went to Charlotte’s exhibition of illustrated poems from her writing group yesterday evening – she invited me to the “opening” get together. Friend Cathy was going to come with me, but had an emergency with the battery for the electrics in her caravan; Mr FD was going to come with me, but he’d just got his new bike, and wanted to tinker with it. So I went by myself. I read the poems (needed Google Translate from time to time!) and chose my favourite few. I was introduced to various of Charlotte’s friends, and we all agreed she was a lovely, vibrant person. I took two sips of Cremant de Bourgogne (which tasted horrid) and then abandoned my glass. Then I went home again.

It was quite nice just being out by myself. I’m not sure I’ll make it to Church tomorrow though, but I am going to Clermont on Tuesday, to catch up with friends & colleagues at ILS. I might do a bit of unnecessary shopping too!

Get out your amethysts…

Apparently the 33rd Wedding Anniversary is the Amethyst Anniversary. And that’s what Mr FD and I are (not really) celebrating today.  “Not really” celebrating, because we’re not doing anything special, rather than because there’s nothing to celebrate!! We’ll have a special meal out when I’m tasting again, and that can then celebrate many things!

Here we are, on 25th May, 1985, coming out of Sefton Church – me with a hairstyle reminiscent of my Nana’s, and Deirdre Barlow spectacles! Our French friends find Mr FD’s outfit very amusing ( très Anglais, they say) and the top hats in particular elicit comments. My dress was made by my dear MiL, as was my bridesmaid’s dress, and her own suit! She was a talented dress maker.

Thank you Mr FD, for all your support during these 33 years. There have been many wonderful times, and a few rough patches too, but we’ve weathered them, and come out stronger. You are my rock, my dear T.

Once again, I link to a poem that I feel is “right”, and describes Mr FD’s love for me. I won’t post the whole poem here, for copyright reasons, but I urge you to click-and-read. “Atlas” by U.A.Fanthorpe

There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it…

…which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.