Monday, April 30, 2012

Two Horses in my Driveway

A little bit of France entered our driveway last night. I made contact with a friend whom I had not seen in 20 years. Chris and I met through the Classic Citroen Owners Club of Australia when we were in our mid 20s. We both owned classic Citroens, mainly 50s Traction Avants.
The Club was running Raid 2012, an event open to Deaux Chevaux or 2CVs. Chris drove his from Adelaide to Melbourne to meet the ferry to Tassie where the Raid was to begin before returning to Melbourne and then travelling north to the bush.

I rang Chris to meet up after 20 years to say hello and invited him to stay the night - a fine bottle of red was waiting and we talked about old memories and how life had changed over the past two decades.

Anyway he parked the 2CV in the driveway overnight and I wonder what my neighbours thought when they saw this delightful little vehicle decorating our driveway behind Sue's Peugeot.
A little taste of France in Mentone.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I've been reading about the NEW BLOGGER thing and for an old bloke like me, change can be a traumatic thing. My Dad is 91 - he has no concept of computers or even mobile phones. He lives a simple life. Maybe, just maybe - he's got it right.
He's bright as a button, cheeky with all his facilties and still very mobile. He just doesn't want to complicate his life.

So, I thought I might just post some pictures from the past in our "Home on the Bay", here in Mentone.
With only three more sleeps before we take off to Paris, things are getting a bit urgent. My work, Sue's packing - organising all those other things - pet food, kitty litter - the bins.

AND YET - there's all this socialising before we go away. We are so fortunate to have such great friends and family.
Friday night Sue was thrown a pre-birthday get together with some of our special friends and her brother and sister in-law.
She was given lots of Pressies, not expected but truly appreciated.
Then Saturday she was off with the girls to an extremely decadent luncheon and Hubby (that's me) had to get his own dinner of fish and chips - poor, poor me!!

Sunday saw us join some friends we met in the Languedoc in 2006 outside a super marche at a little village of Saint Chinian. They live no more that three kilometres from home. They love travel as much as us and have had some great adventures.

So now with only those three sleeps to go - it's time to anticipate the experiences to come for our "In France for May" trip.
Keep tuned.
Back in the 50s, Mentone had its own grand theatre. It no longer exists so that the road junction could be widened.

We even had our own skating rink - also gone to make way for something else which no doubt, has been also replaced by something else.

Paddle steamers would ferry people up and down the bay - gone, to be seen no more.
The structure to the left of the photo is the now defunct Mentone sea baths.

This is the intersection (5 ways) near our home in 1951. You can see the grand theatre a little back from the junction. Our street is a little left on the opposite side. There's a lot of empty land compared to today.
Check out our other blog - Every day in France.

A photo every day of French Memoirs

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Day Walking in Dijon

Halfway through our week in Dijon we were starting to get the feel of a town that the locals were most proud of. You could tell by the cleanliness of the streets and the helpfulness of people as you walked the streets regardless of the time, especially in the area we were staying.

On our first encounter with our host, Coco - she introduced us to Dijon's owl and "le Parcours de la Chouette" or the Owl's Trail. There are 22 points of interest which are marked with small brass owl plaques. We found several but if you were to do all and spend some time at each point of interest, it would take all day. We took in many of the Owl's recommendations over the days we stayed in Dijon.
The Trail starts outside the Office of Tourism.

There are 22 spots in Dijon with a brass plaque with the impression of an owl to point out Dijon's major attractions.

One of the attractions on the Owl's Trail is the Moutarde Maille shop that Sue needed to explore - As can be seen on the side of the building, Antoine Maille founded his Mustard business in 1747 after running a vinegar business in Marseilles. Folklore has it that Maille encouraged the locals to rub his vinegar on their bodies to protect themselves against the plague.

As you walk the Owl Trail you note the various centuries of architectural change from medieval stonework and half timbered buildings.

The Burgundian nobility, Dukes of Valois established the Palais des Ducs with it's high rising tower. We were fortunate to be in an apartment in a street that led into the half circular "square" and it was one of the first sights that you would be confronted with each morning.

And if you were foot weary, you could always take a little bus to the various Dijon sights.

Another view from inside the gates of the 15th Century Palais des Ducs - a place to watch the passing parade of locals on their way to work or school - or in the evening when they come out to play.

As we turned into a small curving back street we were confronted by this structure - I wish I could tell you more of its history.

The ornate gates as you enter Palais des Ducs.

Coco told us to be bold and if there was a gate or door slightly ajar, then walk in and you might discover a grand home. She was right on many occasions.
The Place Francois Rude is named after Dijon born sculpture Francois Rude.
There's a statue in the middle of the square of a naked man squashing grapes which I was told was one of his works.
Leaving Dijon for Paris to study further, his works can be seen in the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay. His statue of Joan of Arc stands in the Luxembourg gardens and he also contributed to the bass relief on the Arc de Triomphe.

During our walk we wandered into this wonderful building with the gorgeous staircase. BUT, note the building peeking at you from the left of the picture.
Here's a full view - how different is it from it's neighbour?
During researching our time in Dijon, I came across this etching from days gone by of the same two buildings. Nothing much has changed when you study the picture very closely.
If ever you find yourself in Dijon, you'll discover "le Parcours de la Chouette" a great experience. Like us, don't rush it and maybe break it up over a couple of days if staying for a full week. Dijon deserves it.
Next Wednesday we'll show you the village of Dole, not far from Dijon and then our last full day in Dijon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

ME Cooking?, That's a joke

She's got this thing about me cooking - remember the birthday present recently, a cook book she presented me with.
All I can say is, "suffer baby".
This was my second weekend experience of cooking - she said,"What would you like to cook?"

Well there's that black pasta stuff in the pantry I thought I'd like to try. I think she had been hiding the squid ink pasta from me on purpose............
So in defiance of her dislike of squid ink pasta, she found a recipe on her iPad.

Can't cook with out some wine - Tahbilk Marsanne into the pan and the glass and then some Cote de Rhone later.
At least I had the right plates
While I was cooking up a storm (read that as fumbling in the kitchen), Sue whipped up some chili prawns.
Calamari, tomatoes and all those other thingies in the recipe just simmering away - excuse me a moment, my glass is empty again - Hic!
Just look at those great colours, red, black and white - oops, I forgot to wipe the edges of the plate - Sue will never forgive me for such sloppiness.
The success of any meal is what is left in the plate - Mine is on the right, Sue's is on the left which I had for lunch today.
By the way before she puts her two pence in - I always thought the rule was that the cook doesn't wash up - well guess what??????

Alright, but I didn't eat it, so I didn't think about washing up....and....I made the entree....and found that putrid recipe. Oh...did I say putrid out loud? Silly me.
Let it just be put on the record that it wasn't a resounding success.
Sorry for the lip curl, but I am restraining a shudder at the memory. Cooked beautifully of course by my talented husband, who is an excellent bike rider!

Squid-Ink Pasta with Calamari
Squid-ink noodles are now readily available from many shops. If you cannot find them, use penne rigate - short, lined tubes which are readily available in 500 g (1 lb) packets. Or you can make your own pasta using the homemade pasta recipe.
Serves - 4 (generously), Preparation time - 1 hour, Cooking time - 1 hour

4 medium-sized calamari
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons or more of extra virgin olive oil
50 mL (1½ fl oz) white wine
2 cups peeled tomatoes
1 small chilli (fresh or dried)
salt and pepper
finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
500 g (1 lb) pasta

Clean the calamari and cut the tubes into rings. Cut the tentacles into smaller pieces if you like.
Fry the onion and garlic in some olive oil until translucent. Add the calamari and wine, and allow the wine to evaporate. Add the tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper, and cook until the calamari is tender, 30-40 minutes.
Finish with parsley, more oil if needed, and the lemon zest.
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and combine with the sauce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Everyday in France Soon

Yes, that's it, soon after another 15 sleeps we hop on the big silver bird for Paris and Sue's 60th birthday dinner in Paris.
Did I hear you ask where? Well we have family joining us and we thought that a place where we ate previously would be nice because of its location. Its next door to Shakespeare and Company which in it's evolution has a great history for english speaking writers. James Joyce and Hemingway to name two.
Afterwards a walk across to Notre Dame with the lights shining down should be a highlight, and then a walk back to our hotel in the back streets of the left bank.

Back to Paris - our 10th time if you count coming and going - we do!!!
We meet with my Daughter and Sharn at Changi airport, they come from the Gold Coast and fly into Paris for the first time in their life. Our son Andrew and his partner Ashley join us on May 4 at the hotel du College de France recommended to us by fellow bloggers, Ken and Walt.

After Sue's birthday dinner, we catch the morning TGV to Marseille for two nights. Never been there over our previous four visits to France, should be fun - any suggestions?
Pick up the hire car, some cheap buzz box I suspect to take the coast road of the Cote d'Azure to Frejus, then Vence in the hills behind Nice. Sue wants to visit Grasse to make her own special perfume.

It was me who talked Sue into to seeing the Canyon Verdon, supposedly as impressive as the Grand Canyon in the US. We stay a night in Castellane before beginning our journey on a road that I imagine Sue would describe as terrifying, way above the river flowing through the canyon.  After a day trip through the Canyon Verdon we have a night in Aix prior to a whole week in Saint Remy de Provence - home to Nostradamus and Vincent after he left Arles.
We've been to St Remy before. The rented cottage belongs to a delightful couple, Josianne and Louis whom we look forward to meeting again. We've sent several friends to them since our first visit.
We have memories of our nightly walks from the cottage to the square where we would enjoy an espresso and a digestive and then walking back arm in arm for a good nights sleep before another hectic day of sightseeing.

The cottage in Saint Remy where we meet up with family and friends.

Carly and Sharn meet us at Avignon where we show them Provence and the Languedoc over the week.
Le Baux, Arles, Nime, the Luberon, a quick trip to Carcassonne, Narbonne and Minerve, a Cathar stronghold - so much to see within such a short time. During the last two days in Saint Remy, friends from Melbourne, Jenny and Bob will join us at our cafe in the square.

 At the end of our week in Saint Remy we drop Carly and Sharn off at Orange to pick up their rental car as they drive to Champagne and we drive to the Loire. Aaah, the Loire Sue says. It's her favourite part of France and well, it is her birthday trip. Two nights in Chinon, again to revisit past memories with owners Helene and Jean Micheal and their French Bulldog Albert in their medieval B&B.

Helene and Jean Michael's B and B in Chinon.

After those two nights we move to the east of the Loire to stay on the Cher with our friends Carole and Michael whom we rented their cottage in 2009. Maybe we'll catch up with a few more blogging friends while there as well.
We'll let you know in our blog as we go.

My bike outside the cottage we rented from Carole and Michael in the Loire.
Then its back Paris via Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte because "she who must be obeyed" wishes to go there.
Six nights in Paris and if you count our coming and going, it will be our tenth time there. It's almost like home now. We have two couples living in Paris to say hello to, the boys both being cyclist.
We are so looking forward to this trip, yes to see wonderful sights but more so to meet and greet people met on past trips and to show family our second favourite country.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


There's always different ways of looking at our surroundings - sometimes ways that we take for granted.
Like looking into a mirror or looking through a window. Sometimes we only see ourselves, our own reflection.
But look at it from a different angle - take ourselves out of the picture.
Being undecided what to post, I took the camera around our home on the bay and looked at the reflections in our mirrors and our windows - this is the result.

We like to entertain. The house has a dining room, but look past the Champagne glasses and there are Sue's collection of cook books that add dimension to her passion for entertaining.
Dingos and Wombats - uniquely Australian, but hiding behind our Dingo is a Citroen Traction Avant (very French) .
Our home sits somewhere in a fusion of Australiana, Cal/Bung, Art Deco and Art Nouveau. Maybe a bit of Edwardian could be thrown into the mix.
The doors in the reflection are from the Art Deco period and the copper jug between our Australiana friends is certainly Art Nouveau.
There's that little bit of Edwardian sneaking in - a dressing table and lace curtains.
Looking in from out - Next door's chimney rises above our dining room window.
White jugs and an Edwardian dinner set left to Sue when her Mother passed away.
Do you have reflections in your daily life?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Fought for Fwyday

I should put my teeth back in after that.
Melbourne is about to experience a perfect autumn weekend. We are in April and Al Jolson told me that this time of year brought the showers and so did Gene Kelly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Abbaye de Fontenay - a Day Trip from Dijon

Although not religious, the history of religion does interest us. The Abbey of Fontenay is located within a forest not far from Dijon and was on our list of Day Trips. On arriving at the car park of the Abbey we were absorbed by the feeling of peace - we seemed to once again have the place to ourselves except from a few other tourists, maybe no more that half a dozen. We parked along side a vivid pink Fiat Bambino and while wandering the grounds of the Abbey we came across the owners but more later and how we recognised them as the owners of the Bambino.

While parking the car we were greeted by this cheeky Fiat Bambino that had travelled from Italy for a  Fiat Rally in France.

The entrance to Abbaye de Fontenay.

The austere church within the grounds.

And within. Note the group of people at the far end.

Abbaye de Fontenay became a UNESCO heritage listed site in 1981. It was founded by Saint Bernard in 1118 and is claimed to be one of the oldest Cistercian Monastries in Europe. During the revolution it was sold off and became a paper mill. Some of the old buildings from the paper mills still survive however restoration to bring back the Abbey to its original state began in 1906 and continues to this day as it reaches  900 years of existence. The gardens and buildings seem perfect and invite you to slow down, sit and take in the tranquility of the place. Having driven 80 kilometres from Dijon it was well worth it.

The setter enjoys a wander throughout the Abbey's Cloister.

From memory, the Monk's dormitory.

We entered via the main building and towards the Abbey Church. Plain in its appearance, the late morning light bounced off the stone walls and added contrasting shadows to the textures of the stone and carvings.
The church is connected to the Monks dormitory and one could imagine how cold it must have been in winter in such an open huge long room. From their dormitory was the cloisters where we took some time to  take in the beauty and as we did we came across another couple with their Irish Setter. We would meet them later, well the setter really.
Leading out of the Cloisters we walked through the Chapter house to the huge herb garden to meet up with another couple whom I guessed may have owned the vivid pink Fiat Bambino. How you might ask.
Well "She" who owned the car was dressed in vivid pink as well and being the forward person that I am, inquired, "Do you own the pink Bambino?".  The answer naturally was yes and so we struck up a conversation with this Italian couple who were on a Fiat Rally with people from all over Europe. Both her and her husband were typically outgoing Italians and we walked and talked with them as we strolled to a building that was the Monks forge. This where I imagine they would produce implements required to work within the gardens and on the buildings. Its possible that this building may have been used during the property's time as a paper mill.

We were both most impressed by the Abbey's building where the forge was housed.
Many of the original equipment still on view.

This hammer head is linked a huge water powered wheel - Note the next two photos.

Beside this building was a huge rectangle pond filled with many fish and this is where we came across Setter we had previous met at the Cloister. He (or she) was having a great time in the pond chasing the fish but not quite catching one. No one seemed to mind and eventually he became bored, jumped from the pond and shook the water from his soaked coat. Funny how these sort of memories stick in your mind.

The Setter is called from the pond by its owner.

Peace returns to the pond - in the far background can be seen the circular Dovecote adjoining the kennels where the hunting dogs belonging to the Dukes of Burgundy were housed.
To the forefront of the Dovecote is the Abbot's lodgings and beside the pond was a visitor's hostel for weary travellers.
So Abbaye de Fontenay will be remembered by us for a fish chasing setter, a vivid pink Fiat Bambino and its eccentric dressed Italian owner.