Rabu, 31 Maret 2010

Sketch for the Day
An elderly couple walked down the cobbled street rugged up against the cold but as the sun peeped through the clouds, their bodies cast shadows behind them.

The Morning Walk
Tuesday saw me, at Sue's request to once again run down the street to purchase the baguette for brekkie. I refrained from the vegemite this time opting for jam.
The weather here is still, well spring coming out of winter with the day being unpredictable. Sunshine, rain, sometimes windy - much the same as Melbourne. If you don't like the weather, wait a moment and it will change.
We decided on a relaxing start to the day leaving at 9.30 am for our discovery walk of Paris. We had planned to discover one of the covered hallways at the end of our street. We have them in Melbourne and we call them arcades. This one had interesting little shops with some esoteric art being displayed.

Covered hallways of inner Paris "Passage du Grand Cerf"

Some of the most interesting sights are above eye level.

One door knob is just a door knob but a basket full, now there's a different concept.

It's always good practice to draw the shades before putting on your jewellery.

Fathers and sons - an exhibition in the underground of Les Halles

In the atrium of Les Halles this sculpture appeared - I stood studying it for a while and took a different view of it in this next pic.

I guess it is all about just how you view life generally, oui!!!

What is graffiti and what is street art?

This cat appeared in various locations on our walk - could it been the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Johnny Depp seemed to be on posters allover Paris.

A couple of years ago I bought one of these guys in Rocamadour in the Dordogne. Now he has a new team member.

The Arvo (afternoon) Bike Ride
In the mid arvo, the weather was looking good so I chucked on the lycra for a ride around town. It's not too hard to ride around Paris, it's just that I get so bloody lost all the time. I have no idea where I went or how I got back home. You see, I have a southern hemisphere internal GPS. I have never been lost in Melbourne. Here in Paris, everything is upside down. Yes, I know, it's us who are from a land downunder. I did happen to stumble across a Fixie and Classic bike shop which we found last year. It serves hot chocolate.

When I first started racing a bike with Zeus equipment was common.

Shopping and the Evening Meal
After a big day, it was nice to relax in front of the tele with a few vins, a great meal finishing with a brewed coffee. Our apartment is very comfortable with a few DVDs and on this occasion we watched a French movie that we had seen at home. In English, it was called, "Welome to the Schticks", in French, "Bienvenue chev les CH'TIS" with an actor we enjoy, Dany Boon.
Last time we saw it was with sub-titles but not this time. Regardless, it was no less enjoyable and we found ourselves laughing.

Three wines from the regions of the Longuedoc Minervoir, Bordeaux and Cahor in the Dordogne. It's fun to taste the wines from the various regions of France.

Sue's new toy - a julienne cutter

Blood red oranges that Sue used for the sauce with the canard. These are not common back home, certainly not in the usual Marche.

What more can I say but, Magnificent - check out my plate below, and I ate Sue's left overs.

Sue has her say!!!
Things I have discovered or rediscovered about Paris

1. Bring a good hair conditioner - the water here is so hard it turns my hair to steel wool, and gets very big, as in 80's "big hair"
2. People are generally very helpful. If you stop on the street to look at a map, someone will offer you assistance.
3. It's just as easy to get lost here as it is at home - bugger! Still no sense of direction.
4. Although a big city with it's share of big city problems it is a very beautiful place to be.

Rue Montorgueil is an amazing foodie street. Several boucheries, boulangeries, wine shops, fromageries (you can smell them from a distance - in a nice way, kind of), as well as flower shops and a few smallish supermarkets. The fruit shops have amazing displays and the produce looks great.
It has been fun to decide what to buy.
Prices vary greatly, but to us Aussies, always on the side of expensive.
I looked to buy duck breasts yesterday. From  the butcher, they were over 22 euro per kg, and as they are large that was a bit ouch.  At the superU, they were on special in a pack of 3 for under 7 euro the lot, which is a huge price difference.  That meant one each for dinner, cooked with a blood orange sauce, yum, and one left to make into a warm salad another time. Can't argue with that price.
The weather here is unpredictable as Leon said, but unfailingly cold. We have been caught in the rain a couple of times, and this morning I got caught in a short but heavy hail squall. In between times the sun comes out and you can be fooled into thinking it's fined up. Wrong though. Very much like Melbourne in that respect.
Today is Leon's last day at 59! Poor old codger. Oh well, I'd better go and find his slippers and warm shawl. Take care.

Leon goes for a ride with his two Paris friends and then Sue takes Leon to Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis

Selasa, 30 Maret 2010

On the street where we live - apologies to Vic Domone

I've missed a few days posting as its been full-on since arriving. So from today on I hope to post daily.

After arriving in Paris on Saturday Arvo, Sunday was a short walk to become familiar with the the street where we live. Weird, wonderful, strange, different, yes - all of those. Although staying in rue Marie Stuart, we are just around the corner of Rue Montorgueil which is closed to through traffic. It’s a foodie’s heaven.

Chocolatiers, Cafes, Bars, Brasseries, Restaurants, Patissiers and of course the Boulanger, they are all there. Add a few wine shops and why would you want to stay elsewhere.
The 2nd arrondissement of Paris is on the right bank of the Seine river. We've previously stayed 4th, 5th, 7th and the 11th so we've now experienced a few Paris districts. They all have their own charm but living closer to the Seine allows for better access to the main tourist and shopping attractions. And if you are a little further a way, the Metro is always there to get you where you want to go. I bought a Carnet of 10 tickets costing less than 12 euro.
Sue sends me out in the mornings to the Boulangerie to get the baguette and croissants -I actually find this more frightening than riding the streets of Paris (more about that next post).

Bonjour Madam - un baguette, deux croissant, si'l vous plait. OK, she understood that, now ask "combien?" How much? Check out the cash register coz no way will I understand her answer. Yep, I got through that OK.
Croissants with Vegemite for brekkie
On the way back to the apartment, I couldn’t believe that there in the window of a clothes shop in the street was a Fixie. Now for those not bike savvy, a fixie is a track bike or a bike with only one gear. The pedals keep going around with no freewheeling. This fixie had a set of late 1960s Campagnolo cranks. Could I smash the glass and run away with the bike - stop dreaming Leon - there are bars on the windows and Sue is waiting for breakfast.
Heaps of Fixies in Paris, a craze that seems to be sweeping the world - and to think that I was a trendsetter with all my cycling mates back in 1962.
After breakfast it was time for a short walk up “the street where we live” and then on to rue du Rivoli to do some shopping. Cuisine items for Sue and shoes for me. On previous visits to Paris, Sue has bought Laguiole cutlery and so the collection is now growing. As for me, the shoes come from Rudy’s. A long walk for the day and so a taxi was hailed for a fairly inexpensive trip back home.
I have never eaten snails before, frog legs yes, calf's head yes, but not snails - maybe this time.
Mmmmmm, lots of cheeses. Might need to pop another Lipitor tonight with the red wine.

Was it the bar or the cute Vespa out front - this pic is for Debbie at work who rides a scooter.
Yes, graffiti is world wide and hasn't this bloke got attitude!!!!

As a CHOCOHOLIC, what more can I say. The street is littered with shops selling chocolate.

Market day and the flower shops line the streets

Can you see the pig's trotters. I used to love these as a kid when Mum cooked them.

You've heard of the "Where's Wally" children's books - this Pic is called "Where's the Wally".

St Eustache Church - building began in 1532 and completed in 1637. On our walk there was a service in progress with the organ booming but not drowning out the choir. Quite an experience.

Can I take this, can I, can I, can I pleeeeese. Sue's new found Foodie shop.

She knew it existed, Dehillerin was on Sue's tourist list - she even formed a close relationship with our salesperson Kim who recognised our accent as Aussie.

I think this door led to an artist's colony within the building - I remember seeing a program on tele at home which was on the strange and unusual of Paris.

Sketch for the day - sometimes I see something I'd like to sketch in pencil. I'm a little rusty these days as my camera is my pencil now. Maybe I'll try a few more sketches while I'm away.
I saw the old lady waiting for her daughter who went into the Chocolatier. She waited patiently for quite some time. Her face showed no emotion and looked if anything, a little sad. I wonder what was going through her mind.
I know what was going through her mind. She was trying to signal the shopkeeper to call the Gendarmes, cos there was a wild eyed foreigner staring at her.  I felt a little concerned myself. Sue

See you all tomorrow.`

Minggu, 28 Maret 2010

Three Days with Friends in the Loire

My apologies for a long blog this time around - with three days without internet access, the experiences multiplied.

Remember those oysters at Montparnasse - NOT a good idea. More about that later.

We decided on staying at Montparnasse as it was close to the station for the TGV taking us to Tours. The TGV or fast train travels at speeds in excess of 300 kms. As we were sitting in the carriage we were unaware of the speed as it is quiet and smooth. It’s not until you see a motorway beside you that you realise the speed. Cars travelling on the motorway have a speed limit of 130 kph and we are leaving them behind as if they were travelling at only 60 kph.

It wasn't long before we found ourselves walking out from the Tours station and on our way to the Hotel Du Manoir at 2 rue Traversiere. Well worth the stay with an excellent breakfast and marvelous hosts. If ever in Tours, book in.

The breakfast room - Monsieur makes an excellent apple crumble.

On arriving at Tours the first thing we saw was a sign at the concert hall advertising the "Australian Pink Floyd Show". The tribute band had travelled a long way.

We located our hotel, unpacked and decided to explore the old city of Tours. Most of the grand cities have preserved a section of the early parts of their cities. You just have to find them.
Tours is part of the Indre et Loire department with a population of over 400,000. It is famous for its wines, the battle of Tours in 732, and of course the Paris-Tours classic road race which was first run in 1896. In 1906 it became an annual event for professionals and is considered a “Sprinters Classic” due to the flat terrain.
Pretending to read the sports pages at lunch - bit like reading the Herald-Sun really (a Leon OZ joke)
From Wikipedia
In Gallic times the city was important as a crossing point of the Loire. Becoming part of the Roman Empire during the first century AD, the city was named "Caesarodunum" ("hill of Caesar"). The name evolved in the 4th century when the original Gallic name, Turones, became first "Civitas Turonorum" then "Tours". It was at this time that the amphitheatre of Tours, one of the five largest in the Empire, was built. Tours became the metropolis of the Roman province of Lugdunum towards 380-388, dominating the Loire Valley.

Tours Cathedral
Half wooded house of Tours old centre.

Being tired from the long walk we decided to purchase a bottle of Chinon Rouge - at the time we didn’t consider that this would be our dinner. We were too tired to go out for dinner.

Many of the half wooded commercial establishments would have wood carvings of the produce that we were associated with. Wild boar, fish or vegetables for example.

Through an open gateway while walking the old centre.

Our Korean Chevrolet - What am I looking at? Amazing what you find while "Slow Travelling".
A Prieure du Lauroux under restoration.
Next morning was the grand adventure in picking up our hire car and taking in the Loire countryside to visit friends met and unmet. The first stop was the village of Le Grand-Pressigny. Why? Well we read a blog by Jean who has a holiday home there and her stories intrigued us so much that we thought it would be worth a look.

It is a lovely village with great history.
Feeling a little peckish, we stopped in the village square where the travelling Foodies sell their wares. There was the usual French fare, pate, a multitude of cheeses, various sausage of duck, pork, rabbit meats.
As we left this smallish village we passed by the sports ground where I said to Sue, “I’m sure I saw and old Velodrome to the right.” I had to turn back and there it was, a flattish velodrome that had seen better days.
Couldn't help myself - finding a velodrome in Le Grand-Pressigny is like finding one in Poowong Gippsland Victoria. Come to think of it, Poowong may have had one once.

Next stop was Preuilly Sur Claise to visit Bloggers as yet unmet - how does this happen you ask. Well I read this blog regularly of an Australian couple who lived in the UK and then decided to purchase a property in the Loire to restore. One day they blogged on their 1953 Citroen Traction Avant, Celestine. Having own several of these in my past, I made comment that we would be in France and could we visit. On exchange of gifts, Simon and Susan took us for an enjoyable drive through the undulating roads and through several little Loire villages after they offered us lunch.

Simon and Susan's Celestine emerged from her covers and shed to brave the rain over the underlating hills of Preuilly sur Claise.

Look what just popped up during our little drive.

Back into La Petite (female???) Chevrolet  it was time to make our way to our hosts for the next two days. We met Carol and Mikee last year when we rented their stone cottage in Thenay. They jokingly suggested that we could come and take care of their cats next time they went on holiday. When we said we were returning to say Bonjour, they wouldn't hear of us staying anywhere but with them. It was actually Bonsoir as we arrived late arvo!

The home of our warm hosts Carol and Mikee. Many thanks and apologies for the oyster thing. I missed enjoying Carol's wonderful cooking.

On arrival I was starting to feel a little off-colour but thought it was jet-lag and general tiredness. It wasn’t till almost dinner was about to be served that I realised that I was really feeling ill. Next thing I knew my head was in toilet bowl.

Yes, it was the oysters from Montparnasse.

Having partially recovered the next morning, we took a drive to Saint Aignan for coffee and lunch with another friend met from last year. Walt is an ex-pat American living in St Aignan sur Cher.
We never really explored the village on our visit last year so we had a quick tour in the car due to heavy rain before meeting Walt.

Saint Aignan and the Chateau from across the Cher river.

Meeting Walt again over lunch at a little restaurant called le Mange-Grenouille was most enjoyable and our friends, Carol and Mikee had the opportunity to meet him as well. They only live across the Cher from each other and had never met, yet Carol follows both Walt and Ken’s blogs and felt that she almost knew them. The power of the internet.
Walt in his Walt T-shirt taken by Walt for Walt's Blog - a gift from us. Check out Wlat's blog and you'll see what I mean - it's linked to ours in the sidebar. You'll enjoy his great photos and whimsical humour.

Carol, Mikee, Sue and Leon - taken by Walt and stolen from his Blog site. Thanks Mate.

The next morning saw us packing La Petite Chevrolet and heading back to Tours and on the TGV back to Paris for our two weeks in the 2e. I must admit I’m missing my bike so to my cycling friends, I promise some experiences of riding in Paris traffic, Paris parks and hopefully that Paris velodrome.

Just an arty-farty pic that appealed at the time.....