Friday, April 30, 2010


Dry those tears away dear, it's Funky Friday.
What will the weekend's delights bring?

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Long Weekend

This is our second weekend after returning from our trip to France and it has given us a chance to relax, well that is until we made a list of house jobs and added a little entertainment to the mix as well.
Just as well that we had a long weekend due to Sunday's ANZAC day. I was keen to get the outside in order with lawn mowing, weeding and pruning, that is between a few rides over the long weekend.
Autumn brings variable mornings. Saturday was quite warm where Monday's ride was quite crisp needing long finger gloves and warmer clothes for my morning ride.
After the warmish Saturday morning ride, I was instructed to be home by 10ish but I will let Sue tell you the rest of our Saturday's experiences.

The slate plates
I have been interested over the last couple of trips to France, particularly in the south, to have been served both entrees and desserts on slate tile plates. I have determined to do the same thing for here and finally got round to it this weekend. After a few rather awkward phone calls to slate tile outlets, I found a company that were helpful. Leon and I made the trek there this weekend and this is an example of the outcome! Even found this one complete with fossil. They were large tiles which they cut for me and I bought some rubber stick on dots to put as feet on the underside. Happy me!
The Entree
Prawns quickly marinated in garlic, chilli, lime rind and oil, then chargrilled and served with sweet chilli sauce and a lime cheek.  A very Australian starter. Looked great on the slate though. Tasted OK too.

The salad...was a salad

Sorry Sue, It was so inviting that I forgot to photograph our main course until we finished it.
 I don't know anyone that doesn't like lasagne, especially when the weather turns a little cooler.

Dessert...back to the 70's with chocolate mousse with a strawberry and a little crisp biccie.  Never out of date really. All washed down with a French sticky.

This tree started as a stick, a mere twig in its infancy. I transplanted fit rom the front yard to this semi-circle space near the garage and it went crazy. Every year I need to cut it back so it doesn't take over the back yard. In full leaf it is a great tree offering shade in summer and a home for nesting birds out of harms way.

As you can see I have been influenced by the French savage pruning of trees. Sitting in a French rural village, sipping on your expresso, trees in the square all have this type of pruning. Our tree may not be of the same breed but it brings back memories of our travels. Isn't that all matters, really?
 Our "stick" needs savage pruning as it grows unrestrained as is starting to lift some of our paving. I must attend to the paving next weekend.

Our lime tree has gone over the top this summer with a fantastic crop. Our Tabby cat Rosita (Rose really, but Rosita suits) enjoys the sunny Autumn afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ANZAC Day - this Sunday

This Sunday is Rememberance day for the ANZACS.
Australian and New Zealand forces that were commissioned overseas in WWI, but more about that on Sunday's post.
The picture above is of our Shrine of Remembrance where the Sunday's Dawn Service will be held.

Melbourne - Our Home
Melbourne Our Home, where to now? After just leaving Paris before airports in Europe were closed due to the Volcano ash from Iceland, we wonder where our blog will lead us to. Interest in our three weeks in Paris was appreciated and the number of hits increased, so as well as our Melbourne posts, we will include a weekly post on our travels through France from 2006. After four trips to France, we might have enough stories to take us up to our next trip in a couple of year's time. It will be Sue's 60th and I will have further long service leave so all is possible.

The Reuniting Family
During the week I had an appointment in the city which took me past a group of statues that I'd previously taken an interest in but never had the camera with me. This time I had the Canon in the pocket and snapped these.
The theme of the statues is of the husband and father welcoming his family to Australia after he had secured employment and a place to live. It was common for the bread winner to migrate to Australia and make a new life after WWII. He would save enough to establish himself and finance his family to follow later.

I tried to get an experience of how this family must have felt after being apart, possibly for several years by taking the photo over the shoulders of the husband and then the wife. He carries flowers in one hand while in the other he has his hat. The smallest child may not remeber his father, being born not long after he left for Australia. He seems a little afraid or shy.
I assume that mother and children have just walked down the gang-plank from the ship as they put their feet on the soil of where their new life would now be - Melbourne.

Recently one of our followers suggested that she would like us to post blogs of "just our day to day normal life" in Melbourne. Such things as home, food, wine, etc. We know that from the blogs we read, that we find these subjects of interest as well. Maybe its a bit of voyeurism in a way, but a after awhile these bloggers become cyber-friends and that's nice.
We are happy to accept any suggestions should you like to know more about Melbourne.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Just a few pics to finish off our Paris trip.
Been a busy weekend with bike (Velo) racing at the Australian Masters Track Championships. Picked up a bronze medal but I'm afraid that 3 weeks in France before a National competition is not the best preparation however we enjoyed our trip and friendships while in Paris.

So I thought I would just do a few last memories of Paris before returning to Melbourne - Our Home.

Looking from Les Halles across to Saint Eustace.
A water colour of the covered hallway at the end of the street. The water colour was in one of the shops at the entrance with many others.
Could be in any city but no, it was truly in Paris. To my mind, most of the dogs in Paris are well socialised, very well behaved and part of the fabric of French life.
Why doesn't Melbourne have such an efficient system as the Metro??
OK! It woudn't be Paris without this scene, and I still haven't been to the top, YET.
Some great tile work.
Parking at a premium in Paris.
Unless you own a bike.................
Would we return, yes but we might need an IOU to get the finance.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last Paris Walk

Saturday morning with Paris offering us clear skies and although a little chilly on the morning’s walk, people were shedding their jackets and scarves by mid-day. Now there's a thing with scarves here - they seem to be the big fashion item here compared to Melbourne. Scarves and man bags. Maybe even I can be a trendsetter this winter after Paris.
The morning walk actually lasted to mid-arvo. Although we walked several new streets, we also retraced some of the old familiar streets from past visits. So what’s wrong with a bit of nostalgia? As much as we know we will once again return to France, we don’t know when. Maybe Sue’s 60th in a couple of years.
Rembember the "On the Street where You Live" post, well this has been our home for the last two weeks. As you can tell from the shadows the morning promised another day of sunshine.  Rue Marie Stuart is tucked away around the corner from a Rue Montorgueil, a street full of food and wine shops, bars and restaurants, and a colorful range of pedestrian traffic.
Our apartment was very comfortable and quite economical for its size and location. The secret to renting is Paris is to be aware of the AUS$ exchange rate. At the time our $ was strong against the US$ so we booked through an American company.

Our morning coffee and the change we were trying to spend before leaving.
A morning walk will usually start off with a Cafe Creme at a local Cafe to watch the workers on their way to a day of drudgery - poor things. Did I say that, I'm back at work in 4 days at the time this was taken. Coffee is not just coffee here - a word of advice, don't ask for a Latte or you will get hot milk. I saw this happen on the Champs. Horrified look from the patron.
Prices of coffee - Hmmm, another horrified look. Sit at the bar and prices are OK. Sit out side to geek at the passing traffic, and prepare to pay up to 4.50 euro on the Champs, that's about $6.00AUS. Motto is to be aware where you buy coffee. Our experience has been that you pay more for Cafe Creme and less for espresso.

Part of the walk was a quest for birthday presents for my two daughters on the Gold Coast Queensland. It dawned on us that we were looking at winter presents until we realised that the Gold Coast doesn’t actually have a real winter to speak of. Poor things.
During the morning we could hear a brass band playing and amongst the tunes was the wedding theme from the Godfather so we decided to investigate where the sound was coming from. Just down from our street, Rue Marie Stuart there is a little square or “Place” where there is the local “hotel de ville” or town hall.
A wedding was being held and this zany brass band had attracted a reasonable size crowd amongst the wedding guests. After taking this scene in for a while we took off down Rue Montorgueil. Over the last two weeks we had met several of the local shop keepers. The boulangerie where each morning I would run down and get our baguette and crossiants, The poissoniere selling all manners of seafood would be starting his day as were the boucherie and the fruit and veggie stores. We’ll miss their familiar faces.

We were woken by the sound of a brass band on our last full day in Paris. The sound of the Godfather's wedding song wafted down the street to our bedroom window. We heard it again as we emerged from the downstairs door. We followed the direction that the sound was coming from to discover this zany French brass band playing to the wedding party and guests. Oh yes, plus us and other non-descript spectators. A bit like "hire a wedding crowd" in a way.

At the other end  of our street is this covered walkway - I've mentioned it in a previous blog. The square in the pic above this one is between our street and the covered hallway. Sue needed to visit a shop in the hallway to say hello to one of the shopkeepers. This person had been to OZ and mentioned she liked Vegemite so we needed to deliver our last tube to her.

These trees look bare but looking closely and you can see spring appearing as they bud and bare small green leaves. Previously our visits to France have been a little later, around late April or early May when the trees are greener. Autumn is also a great time to visit.
We disccovered a new "Place" or square where people congregate and buskers offer their talent for coins. I'm happy to chuck a euro or two into a busker's hat but I'm saddened when seeing beggars on the street with a plastic cup held out for a coin or two. I'm not sure how my emotions sit with this. Should I be concerned that the Government is not doing more, or are the beggars at fault. I can't answer these questions but I guess that all big cities are faced with the same dilemma.

I just love these Gazelle bikes, they are allover Paris, ridden by businessmen, mothers and dandies.

Jazz and blues clubs are big in Paris, and they get some great artists.

Down along the Seine there is a stretch full of florists and pet shops. It's always very crowded but worth a look. The French love their chiens, almost like their children. Dogs travel everywhere with them. On the Metro, in restaurants, dogs there are mostly very well behaved as are the children.

I did say dogs are "mostly well behaved", that is until they meet a "Chat" cat.
Is this an altercation?????

One of the flower stalls on the right bank of the Seine. I sometimes wonder what my readers think of our photos. Flowers, Food, Wine, Architecture, Museums, and of course Bikes. What can I say, these are the things that we enjoy. (Well, OK, I enjoy the bike part)

After leaving our little shopping street we took off towards to Rue Saint Denis where it’s a little seedy but fun as well, in day-time that is!!!!!
Rue Saint Denis took us to the Seine where we said goodbye to the grand river, Ill de Cite, and the flower and pet shops along the Seine.
Turning off the tourist main drag for an inexpensive light lunch, we found a little café that offered what we thought would be reasonable value - How wrong were we.
My salmon taglettelli consisted of possible tuna out off a tin and whacked in the micro wave and Sue’s veggie soup came out of a squeeze packet and again in and out of the micro. Oh well the beer couldn’t be spoilt and so we could look forward to our “last supper” before returning home.

Where we had lunch, non-descript, cheap prices, cheap meal - never to be recommended except for this poster. No smoking, no guns, Shhhhh and most definitely no underwear.

And if you want to entice birds into your environment, maybe I could offer you a bird chateau.

On the other side, that is the Seine side or in the case of non-pet owneres the "sane" side are the numerous book and poster sellers.

The two big M's of Paris, the Metro and Maccas. Maccas is where the toilets are clean but the food is crap (apologies but it's true isn't it?)

Yuuummmmm, Paris has the best in food, so far as we know (except Maccas).

This accordian player took an elevated view of his craft - we just had to chuck a euro or two into his cap. There are so many buskers around Paris that you need to stand out to be different.

We criss-crossed our way back towards home discovering new sights. Sue had discovered several foodie type shops she never knew existed and on our last day it was too late to spend time investigating their contents.

As we returned to our apartment Sue said she would like one last bottle of Pouilly-fume so I purchase a bottle but unknown to her, I also booked a table for two at Escargot, a restaurant with some history.
The last supper, in Paris that is. L'Escargot was the place for our last dinner before leaving. I have to say it was quite special. Really sorry that I didn't take better photos and actually before I started eating. It looked so great that I forgot to take out the camera.
At the end of the meal our waiter offered us a complimentary digestif. We shared a whole duck which came to us in two serves. I noticed other diners see our choice and request the same. The wine came from Auxerre in Burgundy where we had been on our last trip.

My desert was beyond description, Crepes suzete. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo until I finished it.

An early (for us) night with the alarm set for 7.00 am, would ensure we had a good night’s sleep with the long haul that lay ahead of us. The shuttle Taxi would pick us up at 8.00 am to get us to Charles de Gaulle for our mid-day flight back home via Singapore. The first and longest leg was fairly light on and we had a row of four seats to  ourselves which made things a little more comfortable.
We did have to contend with crying babies, nasty old men sniffing, (etc) but finally we arrived home to say hello to our boys and sleep in the next morning. Paris/France is magical but when it comes down to it, where ever home is, its home.
Paris reflections:
1. The city itself is romantically magic.
2. It has a fantastic history.
3. There is a lot less doggie poo thest days - I didn't see or step in any this time.
4. Yes the people are friendly and courteous, IF you are.
5. Riding a bike is not dangerous - if yummie mummies and grannies can do it, so can I.
6. You will never have time to discover all of its secrets.
7. The food and wine if chosen carefully is fantastic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saint Denis - cathedral of the French Kings and Queens

Saint Denis Cathedral from the square, not overly impressive from past catherals we have seen but the real jewels of history lay inside.

Saint Denis is on the outer limits of the Metro and has a university. It is largely a working class family district. Its main feature is the cathedral which is the resting place of the early Kings and Queens of France. It is said that Saint Denis after being beheaded near Montmarte, picked up his head and walked to the location of the cathedral where his remains are now buried. Denis arrived in Paris (Lutetia as it was then called) about 250 AD after being sent by Rome to convert the Gauls to christianity.

As cathedrals go, this one excited our interest as it is the burial  place of the first kings and queens of France, or what were the borders of France in the 400s onward. Clovis the 1st (465AD to 511AD) of the Merovingian period 400AD to 500AD. For me, its all too much information to take in on one visit but you can't help but be overawed if you have a sense of history.

The praying statues of Louis XVI and Marie (let them eat cake) Antoinette.

After the revolution and the magic of the guillotine had done it's work on Louis and Marie Antoinette, their bodies were thrown into a pit. At some later date, Napoleon decided they should be buried  in St Denis and ordered their bodies removed from the pit.  All they found were a few bones, and some grey matter attached to a garter, and these were buried with due pomp. Wouldn't the forensic specialists have a field day with that  today!

Louis XII and Anne de Bretange are pictured here in the lower part, dead, naked, with scars from being flayed. Above you can see them represented alive and praying.

Graffiti agaain, this time carved into this beautiful marble statue at the foot of one of the tombs - Graffiti from 1618. Spray cans of today to disfigure but paint can be removed.

Below Saint Denis cathedral are the original foundations of the original church and where the remains of Saint Denis and other Clergy of the time were buried. It was said that Saint Denis was not a very strong bishop and may have been subject to the human flesh himself. The street Rue Saint Denis is just around the corner from us and is populated with sex industry shops. Andrew Hussey in his book "PARIS the secret history" finds this ironic.

Saint Denis would turn in his grave if he knew the street dedicated to him was for the pursuit of human flesh.

You can't visit Paris without taking the trip to Saint Denis cathedral and for a night out, Rue Saint Denis.

As I write this post, we have returned from our last walk around the streets of Paris. Our next post will contain pictures of the walk and some comments. It was an intersting day as we again walked Rue Saint Denis, to Rue de Rivoli and along the Seine just for nostalgia. We spent a few Euro for gifts for family but very concerned with our luggage limit. I'm glad that I personally am not being weighed after all the Confite de Canard, cheese and wine.
Our friends in France have been the highlight of the trip. Carol and Mikee in the Loire were fantastic, despite me throwing up in their toilet bowl, Walt and Ken our blog mates, sorry we missed you Ken - maybe another time.
In Paris, my guardian angel Leigh and his wife Sophie, thanks for dinner and to an extra thanks Leigh for keeping me safe and "unlost", training with you has been a delight.
Michel and Danielle Briat are a couple that make you feel so welcome and have added greatly to our Paris memories for the future. They are a most generous and congenial couple and will be our email/facebook friends into the future.

Paris/France have a reputation as being cold and arrogant. It is not true. In most cases they way people treat you is like a mirror, a reflection of yourself. Be courteous and it is returned from our experience.
I'm told by our frien Walt, this his mate Ken says that people are like oysters, "Most are delicious but occasionally you get a bad one". OK, I might have got that only almost right but I'm sure you get the picture.
For my bike buddies

My mate, Michel's Merckx road bike supplied personally from the great man.

And my single speed steed that I rode in Paris for the last two weeks. I love it.

Next post in 2 days time of our last walk in Paris.
GOSH! its a long way home.