Tuesday, January 31, 2012


A HUGE day by any one's standards but we're only there for one week and wanted to see as much as possible. Then again, we're Aussies - like Americans distance is no problem - we are accustomed to jumping in the car and taking off.  Just hop in the car and go. First on our list was Richelieu. We left from Thenay at 8.00 am to Montrichard and crossing the Cher and later the Indre. We stopped along the way to the turn off junction at where we filled up the car with Gazol. There's a follow story there but more later.

The Cardinal's Town - Richelieu

The drive to Richelieu wasn't overly stressful, the roads were quiet as was Richelieu. What drew us to this town you might ask? It really doesn't have a lot of charm but if you take in its history it starts to bloom in your imagination. It's a little down in the tooth but quite a bit of restoration is going on and I'd like to return in 10 year's time.
Cardinal Richelieu being a most influential and rising nobleman was able to build his "perfect village" in a twelve year period. In a previous visit to the Loire, we passed by the great stone walls hiding the Cardinal's forest that seem to run for miles. We didn't know much about Richelieu at the time but vowed to return when we had more time. This time we did have time - we walked the streets of this town built in perfect squares. Not a curved piece of road did we see. We took the time to enjoy coffee and a nibble at a couple of the cafes, just taking in the atmosphere of town. To think this "housing estate" began being built in the 1630.
We parked the car at the end of the Grande Rue at the square, place du Grande Marche.
The Cardinal's grand chateau no longer exists. It was located in the park lands just outside Port de Chatellerault. I've read that it was so grand that only Versailles rivaled it. I learned later that the relatives of the Cardinal sold off the stone and other materials after the Revolution. A great loss today but rather ironic when you consider that the Cardinal used materials from Chinon's Chateau.

The Place de Grande Marche
One of the sad old buildings - Maybe the Cardinal had his carriages serviced here!
It was so quiet that we had no difficulty in parking within the main square.
Amongst the buildings, you discover the most ornate pieces of architecture.

We had planned to visit Azay le Rideau later in the day but lunch time was drawing close and we thought of staying a little longer in Richelieu. That is until I discovered I didn't have my credit card. When did I last use it, that's right - back at the junction where we filled up with petrol. I still had the receipt so we phoned ahead and sure enough, they had my credit card waiting for me. No time for lunch at Richelieu so we sped back to pick up my card.

This little Renault 750 sat in the main drag by the Vienne River.

Behind the door was the surprised and smiling face of our hostess Helene who instantly recognised us from the previous year's stay. We are going back for two nights in May this year. It will be good to say hello once again.
 Rather than going direct to Azay le Rideau, we agreed on having lunch at Chinon to renew our memories with one of our very favorite French villages. We even had lunch at the Italian Restaurant in the main square.
Later we took a stroll up to the B & B where we stayed previously.
"Shall we knock on the door", I said to Sue. "yes, why not!" she replied. Helene answered the door and she instantly remembered us - how nice of her. We were invited in for a cup of tea and we chatted on for quite awhile before excusing ourselves for the drive to our next destination thirty kilometres further up the road.

There's not a great deal of words can be used to describe the chateau at Azay le Rideau. None can do justice to the sight before you - it takes your breath away. The reflections of the Chateau mirrored in the waters that surround it invite you to take constant photos from all angles - fairy tale stuff, really!

As we entered the gates of the Chateau,
I turned to see where we came from and took this shot.
Passing through the out building to pay our entrance fee,
the Chateau invited us in.
Sometimes less is more - I like the way the Chateau seems a little shy hiding behind the trees.
The views from inside looking out are magical.
Another shot looking from the inside outside.

It certainly was a long day - not quite sure how we put so much into one day. We arrived back at Thenay by 6.30 pm and Sue prepared a simple dinner of pate, cheese, salad and bread, washed down with some wine from the Touraine. A day to remember for years to come. Trouble is - Sue only reminds me of how dumb I was to forget my credit card on that day!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Word or Two on Blogging

Not sure how this all began - I do know that Sue started reading blogs before on of our trips to France, maybe 2009. Many of you read "Living the Life in Saint Aignan" and "WCS - Another American in France".
We'd been reading these blogs prior to the trip and made contact with Ken and Walt. I think maybe this was when we first started blogging.
A friend helped me set it up using both Blogger and Word Press. I found Blogger the more friendly of the two but also the most frustrating at times.
As we blogged our way through France on that trip, our intention was to keep family and friends informed. Several became followers and comments occasionally would flow.
Later we started to discover further interesting blogs to read, many recommended by serial blog reader, Nadege from the west coast of the US.
On our return to Melbourne we renamed our Blog to "Melbourne - Our Home on the Bay". We started to become tourists in our own town. Sue's passion for cooking added depth to the posts which was littered with the odd story on a weekend away, house renovations and of course my occasional cycling adventure.
Some unashamedly self promotion - come and say hello.
A while back came "Travelling through France" which has developed into a diary of travel memoirs. Only this year - January 1 in fact, I set a task to post one photograph for every day of 2012. I was inspired by a South Australia Blogger, Dianne who has recently ran out of photos for her Blog, "All Things French". You can enjoy her other Blog though - "Adelaide and Beyond".

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, we received an award for "Melbourne - Our Home on the Bay" from fellow Blogger Jean of  "A Very Grand Pressigny". Its proudly displayed on our side bar. The Liebster Blog award requires us to select another five blogs with less than 200 followers that we enjoy reading. I can see that I need to increase my blog reading as the ones I wished to pass on the award have already received it or are so popular that they have more than 200 followers.

So here are my selections for the Liebster Blog award.
1. First there is the bloke who set up our first blog, Leaping Leon's French Fancies before it became Melbourne Our Home on the Bay.
Eger Eyes posts a sometimes daily photo - he's really a bit slack but by offering this award he might just renew some enthusiasm with some comments from my fellow bloggers.

This is Eger Eye's Man Cave.

2. I mentioned Dianne of Adelaide and Beyond being an inspiration of my New Year resolution to post 365 photos of France for 2012. For this and her great photos on her blog, she gets my second award. When I last looked she had 199 followers but only this morning when I looked again, she had 202 - I'll ignore this because I decided she was on my list earlier.

And while you're at it - check out her popular "All Things French". 400 plus followers, how popular is that. Currently its in recess until her next trip to France.

Most of the blogs I read are well over the 200 followers so now it becomes difficult. How do they become so popular, I have to say on most days after getting home from work the first thing I do is check emails and Blogs.

3. Eminence Rouge is about the Loire town of Richelieu, a place we have visited a few times now. Cardinal Richelieu had the town built on his own plans - we've blogged our visits there in the past.

4. Jim McNeill's blog, a Social History in the Touraine is only a recent addition to our sidebar but a most interesting Blog. I keep going back to it through his past posts just to increase my general knowledge of this wonderful region of France.

5. Another recent blog addition to the side bar is Sir Lord Thomas, a very quirky Blog on sixties music and lifestyle. Some of the music posts are quite obscure to say the least.

So that's my five selections for the Liebster Blog award - if you haven't already caught up with these blogs, then off ya pop and have a bit of a gander. Till next post, toodle pip.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phriday Nite Philosofee

Live life to the full - It's Phriday and we have a phull weekend ahead of us. Live life to the phull.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today is Australia Day

It was 1788 when the Poms sent their convicts to New Holland, well they lost their colonies in North America - something to do with tea wasn't it???? Where else could they send them. Then they remembered bloke who navigated New Holland called Jimmy Cook.
Anyway, these convicts in England were sent to Australia as punishment. "For the term of their natural life". That's right, they were banished to the sunny south with acres of land, pristine beaches, clean air and the chance to form a new life in the land of plenty - poor souls.

They made the best of it and now every year on the 26th of January we celebrate Australia Day - some call it Invasion Day - that's what our Indigenous brothers call it today and they have some just cause for that.
But then it's happened in many countries.
Look at the Americas - Spain invaded South America, the English and the French invaded North America.

The first official celebration of the First Fleet landing in Sydney Cove in 1818 - thirty years after. There were earlier unofficial celebrations  by the emancipated convicts in the form of "drinking and merriment".
It was Governor Macquarie who proclaimed a holiday on this 30th year of the landing for all Government workers and they also were given a pound of fresh meat. Hence the BBQ tradition of Australia Day - I imagine but that's just my theory.
It was on the 50th Anniversary of Foundation Day that it was officially proclaimed an annual holiday for all.
1988 we all joined in to celebrate 200 years of white settlement in Australia with a re-enactment of the First Fleet arrival on Sydney Harbour.

What will most Aussies do to celebrate Australia Day - I suspect there will be many BBQ's lit, several beers consumed and the odd bottle of rouge'. Maybe a visit to the beach for a swim on a lovely summer day.

Whatever it is that we do, is mainly due to those very persecuted convicts condemned for the rest of their natural life to live in this southern land.

I might just chuck another shrimp on the Barbie - nope, I'd prefer lamb.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hello Leonardo

We woke early, had breakfast and headed for the Amboise market.
Our host, Carole recommended that we get there early as it is supposedly the largest in the area. We arrived at 8.20 am but we were too early. Store holders were only just setting up so we wandered over the road to a Patisserie.
A coffee and a little quiche each became our second breakfast for the morning. Sue said it was the best she had ever tasted.
Back to the market and before I knew it, Sue had the ingredients for the nights dinner. A rabbit, some tiny green beans and a mountain of white (albino) asparagus.

Certainly the market was on our agenda but the main reason to visit Amboise was to say "Hello to Leonardo". Ambroise was the home to Leonardo da Vinci in his final years.
The Manor House Le Clos-Luce was a present from Francois I to Leonardo as an enticement to live in France where he could live out his final years.

The grounds abound with images and models of Leonardo's amazing inventions as does the basement of the Manor. The visit took up much of our day that we missed an opportunity to see the famous Chateau d'Amboise - oh, well maybe next time.

It had been a long day and Sue was looking forward to the comfort of our cosy cottage and cooking her bunny. We returned by way of Montrichard to find some Wifi to check our emails. It was Mother's Day and the boys left messages for Sue.

The rabbit was braised in a white wine with thyme and rosemary and served with sauteed potatoes and green beans. While in Montrichard, we found a patisserie where we purchased some lemon tarts for afters.
We most probably also drank too much wine but that's not unusual when you have such a wonderful choice in the Loire. Chinon, Samur, Vouvray, all lovely wines.

It was a big day out - it wouldn't be the only one. We had some big plans to see as much as possible while in the Loire.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Impromptu Dinner and a Perfect Sunday

She can't help herself - an impromptu dinner by phone call late this week to friends to join us and she makes what I call a big production.Well really not for her!!!!
Me, I can hop on the bike for a casual 100 kms with my mates - for Sue it's hop into the kitchen to entertain friends with a fabulous meal, in my opinion anyway.
But really, its about enjoying the company of like minded people. Without mentioning names (Darren. Al and Tracy - shhhhh, I didn't say that) we started the evening on the deck in the backyard with nibbles, olives, dips and the odd beer and wine - sparkles and rose. Very nice on a balmy summer evening.

The wind came up a little so we adjourned to the dining room for the mains.
Oh, by the way, my tall friend brought the most magnificent Coonawarra Cab Sav/Shiraz/Merlot blend, 2002, a very special red. My other friend, not so tall brought a delightful Rose. (how do you do that thing with the apostrophe for Rose?)

I'll let Sue as usual describe the meal as I'm now in the middle of clearing the debris - remember the rule in our household - The Cook, Never Washes.
Oh no, she's gone to bed. OK, she'll post in the morning.

Our dear son when in Morocco this Christmas sent me this wonderful tagine. Some postage bill!! It is the sort you can cook in. The brightly coloured ones have lead paint and can only be used for serving.
One of our crew only eats fish so I decided to try a fish tagine. Most of the recipes I found were very Angloish (?) so I kept looking. I love the internet. Found a moroccan based site and a recipe on it for a fish tagine with chermoula, potatoes, tomatoes and various other veg.
I didn't feel very confident as it called for the lot to be cooked over a low to medium gas flame for 1 1/2 hours! Still, in the spirit of following a recipe for the first time you use it...off we went.
I had previously seasoned the tagine, by immersing it in water for 24 hours, airdrying it, painting the unglazed surfaces with oil and leaving it in a coolish oven for an hour. We were ready to rock.
I bought some thick pieces of rockling and a few prawns from my wonderful fish man. Made a chermoula paste from the recipe and slathered it over the fish and popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours. A bit of olive oil on the base of the tagine, and then layered it with carrot batons, sliced onion, fish on top. Potato slices sprinkled with more spices then go around the edges to be overlapped with tomato slices. Remaining chermoula over the veg, salt and pepper, then slices of roasted red capsicum, olives and preserved lemon, lid on and on the heat. Fingers well and truly crossed! Popped in the prawns with 15 minutes to go. They weren't in the recipe and I couldn't imagine prawns after 1 1/2 hours! By the way the pic is before it was cooked. There was a heap of liquid after. (Just right for sopping up. Mmm)
Roasted some red onion, sweet potato and pumpkin, and later put that through cous cous with more of the capsicum and preserved lemon and lots of coriander. Made a salad of red onion slices, fresh tomato, chick peas and lots of parsley. Slices of sourdough baguette and ready to go.
When we took the top off the tagine the smell was amazing! Looked great too.
Well folks, I have to say the recipe was right. The fish was moist and delicious. Spicy, but not overwhelming flavours. I was thrilled it had all worked out so well. I now want to know Why it works. Can't just be the shape surely? Anyone know?
Anyone interested in the site with the recipe, let me know and I'll look it up again. I didn't keep it. Duh!
We finished with chocolate meringue nests with cream, strawberries and blueberries. Nice.
We have guests coming over on Wednesday night and I feel a tagine coming on! Mmm...maybe lamb with apricots and...something. It's so exciting to discover a new cooking medium that is not only easy but delivers such great results and LOOKS terrific too. OK Leon, I'll stop now. I know I tend to get a little over excited about these things.
By the way, we still have a cooking pan unwashed Mr Perfect!

My mate - the tall one said he'd bring a special bottle of red to dinner - he loves Sue's cooking and this was agreat way to show his appreciation. With a little age on it (2002), the Jamieson's Run Cab Sav/Shiraz/Merlot blend was decantered and allowed to breath for some time - It was beyond description. Sorry we couldn't share it with you.

Sunday's Ride
After Saturday night's dinner be agreed a late morning start to roll the legs was a good idea. The day was a most pleasant summer Sunday morning with people enjoying our Bayside Playground. Walking, cycling, sitting in cafes and watching life go by.
We rode down to our local bike shop/cafe. A coffee to start the morning was agreed by the five of us and then we decided to head north towards the city along Beach Road, taking in the beautiful views of Port Phillip Bay.
As we arrived at Port Melbourne we discovered that a huge cruise ship had docked - its passengers about to enjoy a few days in Melbourne.

As you can see - just a picture perfect day. Seagulls are well fed, people take a leisurely stroll along the St Kilda pier to the cafe at the end to enjoy a meal and possibly a wine.

It burnt down in the early 2000s and the Government made good to rebuild it as it was.

Palm trees, street lamps and a cruise ship at Victoria Dock.
Station Pier Port Melbourne 2012

And 1871
As I write this the day is still in the 20s and not a cloud in the sky. The thought of fish and chips on the beach sounds very inviting.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One of those "lets do it moment" things

It was one of those, "lets do it moment" things. Sue and I have been members of the MG Car Club since 1982 but the last 12 years we have been involved in other things.
The Club mag advertised the mid-week lunch run, something that started as we were changing our life. I'd retired from Club committee work after 12 years and returned to my cycling passion.
We rang a few lovely friends who were still heavily involved with the Club and I said, "Let's do it" and they agreed. We felt a little uneasy with our rest from Club activities. We need not to have been.
We renewed friendships as it was only yesterday.
Some were a little rickety and a decade had caused them a little discomfort but their passion for Mg's still burned fiercely.
It was a good day.

The MG Car Club entered our life in 1982 - we even spent our honeymoon on an MG Car Club National Meeting in Hobart, Tassie. Now that's passion......

The lunch run attracted 70 people - mostly retirees with a love of MGs.

MG's both old and new, much like the drivers.

The odd infiltrator joined us but Oh sooo gorgeous, who could say no to such a curvaceous beast.
I wonder what our weekend will bring - there's a long slow ride down along the peninsula Saturday morning, dinner at home with friends and household jobs on Sunday - must be some blog material there.
Catch ya Monday AM readers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thenay and New Friends met!

Sue found Thenay on the Internet - it wasn't a tourist destination, in fact far from it. Many of the places are "out of the place" places.......That's what makes them so memorable.
This little cottage in a pretty much unknown village came with some extra delights. It's owners, a couple of ex-pat "Poms" (said with affection) were to become good friends. The cottage itself was a delight, clean, comfy and just a great place to come home to after a day of sightseeing.
Thenay is just a few kms from Pontlevoy and another 15 minutes down the road was Montrichard. You are in the centre of all the grand Chateaux of the Loire in Thenay.

A very unusual structure was this windmill,
never seen anything like it in my experience.
Can anyone enlighten me of its origins.

Faded signs make the drive more interesting - don't you think?
The secret is to never be in a rush.

Travel slowly and all manner of doorways open to you.

We drove out of Chartres with the expectation of calling somewhere home for the next week - the weather was a little overcast and there was a drizzle of rain. We decided we would make a lunch time stop at Macca's - I don't believe the French have succumbed to this fast food establishment but it did have WiFi and we were able to send news home.

We arrived at Thenay too early to meet our hosts so we took a drive around the village - well that didn't take long!!!!  Then off to Pontlevoy and that also seemed very quiet. Somehow though these seemingly quiet villages hide some wonderful experiences not evident on first appearance.

Our cosy cottage for the next week - a central place to explore the wonders of the Loire. This we did - Amboise, Pontlevoy, Montrichard, Montresor, Loches, Chambord, Cheverny, Richelieu, Chinon and much more in the space of a week.
Some notes from the Diary.
"Arrived back at the cottage to meet Carole and Mikey, very nice English couple who love a chat (so do we). They were able to offer lots of good local info and they kindly left us two local bottles of wine.
The house is compact and just perfect for the two of us and excellent value. Spotlessly clean and thoughtfully equipped as well for someone who enjoys cooking.
As our hosts were about to leave a cat sauntered over and I said to Carole that I missed our cats. Turns out she has five. They have rellies in Australia and I mentioned that if ever she required a house and cat sitter we would be most happy to offer our services."

Our huge garden

The bedroom

Many a great meal was cooked and local wine was enjoyed here.

And after a long day out enjoying the sights that the Loire had to offer, we would relax in the living area looking out to the garden outside.

It's not a large village but it had a certain charm and a few hidden treasures that didn't present on first encounters.

Such as scenes like these - not obvious unless you left the car in the drive and walked the streets.

And I finally had the chance to unpack the bike
and enjoy riding for the first time on this trip.

Prior to leaving for this trip, Sue had been regularly reading a blog that many of you are already familiar with by two Americans living only just across the river from Carole and Mickey - we were fortunate to have the opportunity to say hello. What a small world it is.

Sue bought some mussels to cook with pasta for our first night at Thenay. We finished that off with fresh bread with a Brie Margeaux and apricot tarts and way too much wine. How good is life.