Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Annual Melburn Roobaix

Yes, that's the way they spell it - it's a play on the classic bike race, the Paris Roubaix over the cobble stones of northern France. I know I can be boring about bikes but this Sunday was sooo much fun.

Here in Melbourne, our classic is run over the bluestone cobbles of the back lanes of Melbourne's suburbs and finishing at the old Brunswick concrete velodrome. The above pic is the promotional poster for this annual event - the third so far. It attracts a weird and wonderful group of cycling enthusiasts.

The real classic had been won by the Belgium rider Roger DeVlamnick several times under the sponsorship of his team Brooklyn Chewing Gum. My cycling buddy Dazza and I both have reproduction Brooklyn jerseys and we thought it would be fitting that we ride these in our cobblestone classic.
We even thought of entering under the name of "the Rogers"as a tribute.

Peter (Nancy Boy) and Lawrence were vying for the most interesting couple - I personally thought they would be winners. Kiwi was in charge of directions.

As it happened, Dazza was suffering from a HUGE hangover and forgot his Brooklyn jersey.
The boys, Kiwi (here's from NZ) and Al look over this year's instructions over a pick me up coffee.

It wasn't long before Daggy Dazza lost interest and took in a few ZZZZZZZs

No Aussie event is complete unless there is a beer bar available and this one was a mobile bar.

The cobblestones in the laneways of Melbourne.

And that's me in my Roger jersey.

The finish, just like the Paris Roubaix finishes on the velodrome.

Here we are at the finish with a few friends in the background. from the left - Kiwi, Leaping Leon, Big Al and Daggy Dazza. The old velodrome holds some very special moments for me in my past racing history but being so humble, I can't document them all here................

This couple won the prize for, well the Best Couple. I spoke to them at the velodrome and asked if "in those short sleeve JERSEYS were they FRESIAN in this cold weather?" And that's enough of my COW jokes.

My mate Phil was the "Hat check out chick" looking after our bikes as we enjoyed a few beers.
What a great Sunday we had on the cobbles of MELBURN.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Funky Friday

Yes, it's still Friday here (8.00pm) and I discovered this really funky singer and I can't get enough. Sadly she's no longer with us. Don't know why I hadn't heard her in the 60s/70s, but I didn't. Recently I was watching Elvis Costello and Elton John talking how this singer/song writer influenced them.
Her name you ask.

Laura Nyro

I watched a few you tubes of her and thought, I have to have some of her CDs. Well Amazon did the trick for me and before I knew it, three of her CDs were in the mailbox and in my car six stacker.
I'm hooked.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A new computer and SPECIAL dinner guests

Our old computer is ancient, a dinosaur - sooooo slow that it stutters. It was time to bite the bullet and upgrade. Sure, we had our laptops but there's something about a big screen desktop.
I wanted to look at a Mac or a touch screen. Why, can't tell you, it just seemed like a good idea, different, new technology. Nope, I was out voted, by the family - as always.

This is Gem checking out some new things in the house - she doesn't like to see changes in her environment. It makes her nervous and uncomfortable. She certainly will when I turn up the sound on this computer.

Check this out - it has big sound, it's really fast and it has a glass of wine as well. The Woofer and tower are hidden below the desk.

We had our old desktop for 4 years, maybe more. My memory is a bit like the old computer, full of trivia. It was sooooo slow that I gave up on it and used my laptop and the note book that we use for travelling.
We needed something that would store all our photographs and music. Oh yes and a sound system that would do the music collection justice.
Technology is a great thing - we have phones that play music, give travel directions, receive email, AND we can actually make and receive phone calls - how cool is that?

We had guests arriving Sunday night for dinner and it was for a very special occasion, but more about that later.
Sue can explain the menu for the meal.
Made some hummus to start with sumac dusted pita crisps for nibbles with our drinks.

Sue prepares the ice cream mix

We started with the same old garlic, chilli,ginger,lime prawns quickly char grilled with lime and sweet chilli sauce. Boring, but I love them and they look good on the slate plates.
Next I cooked a big leg of lamb for 4 hours on a low temp, nestled in a bed of diced potatoes and garlic, till it all went sticky and fell off the bone. I served that on a bed of rocket with an aioli sauce. Had some roasted cherry tomatoes on the top for a bit of extra flavour and color. The veges you see went on a separate platter, as did some french beans with a bit of lemon garlic oil on them. Garlic is a recurring theme in this house!
Dessert was a caramel, nut tart (walnuts and almonds) served with  salted butter caramel icecream. A flavour I love from France, and have been able to make here thanks to David Lebovitz. A little bit of cream, and just in case it wasn't rich enough, a sprinkle of praline over the top!
Our friends brought some lovely chocolates to go with coffee, and I cleverly forgot to serve them. I found them in the kitchen in the morning. AND, although I felt bad about it, the son and husband have been pretty pleased during the week!

One of our friends is not a big meat eater so we made sure that plenty of veggies were on offer.

The leg of lamb was sooooo yummy.

And looked so great on the table - not much left over for my lunch the next day.

The wine was flowing with an aperitif of Kir Royale. Progressing to the dinner table, the red was a Coonawarra Cabernet. To match the desert, we had a Monbazillac sticky which was introduced to us on our recent Paris trip by friends.

The door bell rang - our guests arrived for a Sunday night meal and also a celebration dinner. Al and Tracey are to be married soon in Thailand. We can't make the trip due to having our time in Paris last month so we thought that we would offer our good wishes with dinner. The other couple, Denise and Darren joined us as well.
Tracey and Alistair open their wedding present - take note of Al's plate, I think he licked it clean.

Dazza and Al will be sailing in the Australian Championships after Tracey and Al return from their honeymoon.
Alistair proposed to Tracey with a Van Morrison song. We are both rabid Morrison fans, that is until we saw him live. We both were at the same concert many years previous before we knew each other.
Al asked if I had many Van Morrison CDs, silly question!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rodin's Museum and Musee d'Orsay

For our second full day in Paris Sue wrote, “We slept well and rose early, left by 7.30 am – just before the dawn broke. Leon didn’t go for a run, poor boy has sore thighs. We had breakfast in a café at Place de Saint Michel, excellent and friendly. Went to the tourist office and booked a tour of Versailles for tomorrow.”

The Hop on Hop off bus is something you should do on your very first visit to Paris.
Discover the usual Tourist attractions and then go on foot for your own personal discoveries.

We decided that on our first trip to Paris, the hop-on – hop-off bus might be the best way to discover an overall quickie view of the city’s main attractions. It wasn’t to later visits to Paris that we discovered that the best attractions were the hidden, not so well known ones.
As a student, I was always interested in art and studied the great masters and also had a preference for the impressionists. We had our own impressionists in Australia but more about that at another time. Two of the Museums on my list were Rodin’s and of course the Musee d’Orsay.

After the bus took us by Place de Concorde, up the Champs Alysse and past the Eiffel Tower, we jumped off at Musee Rodin. Walking through the gates and into the garden, we knew we would be in for a treat. Rodin’s “The Thinker” was hit by the sunshine of midday and in the background stood beautifully manicured trees and further in the distance the gold dome of Invalides rose above the wall of Rodin’s garden.

This building where Rodin lived holds a most amazing collection of his own works combined with his personal collection of fellow artists and scupturers.

The Kiss and the Thinker - I'd seen pictures in books but to see the real thing required me to spend some time absorbing Rodin's great works.

The collection held not only the many Rodin masterpieces, but also item’s from his own collection gathered over the years. I’m not sure you can do justice to the collection in a short time but we had it mind to move on to Musee d’Orsay where I wanted to see the many artists that I had studied in my teenage years.

The Musee d'Orsay gold clock

In later visits to France I became interested in the history of Joan of Arc. Athough this statue is rather magestic, there is a most amazing sculpture of her in full flight on horseback in Chinon.

Just a few of the Art Nouveau settings at the Musee d'Orsay

They were all there, my very favorite, Toulouse Lautrec, Matisse, Monet and Manet. It also held the most superb collection of Art Nouveau furniture and accessories. Words can’t do the exhibition justice and only photographs come close – you need to be there.
And in fact, I can call this my first visit as I returned in 2009 and was even more impressed.
It had been a long day, so we caught a taxi outside back to our hotel and the ever friendly concierge Vincent.

At the end of the day Sue wrote in the diary, “The language is interesting. I don’t understand the words but I seem to get the meaning somehow. I love the music of French. Leon on the other hand doesn’t cope if people speak to him. He looks like a rabbit caught in headlights and I need to ride to the rescue. HOWEVER – he seems to know which way to go and we get there AND he carries the bag – what a team.”
Yes, that's Sue wondering which way to get back to our hotel.

And a word on the Parisians from Sue’s jottings for the day, “I am astonished by the charm, helpfulness and good humor of the Parisians. Definitely NOT what I expected. So far they have been uniformly delightful (except for the sullen boy with attitude at the internet café, but I think he’s just like that – poor soul).”

Next week – Versailles, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens and Dinner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Autumn Weekend

I always enjoy my coffee after a brisk morning ride but I think this cyclist is a little over the top.

Another busy weekend starting with a reasonably mild Saturday morning of 12 degrees. It warmed in the afternoon enough for us to have lunch on our decking in the dappled sun. Autumn brings those colours of orange, brown, yellow and rust. The trees are dropping their leaves while others retain their various greens to contrast with the colours of autumn. Its a pleasant time of the year and the living room open fireplace has already had its first lighting.
Rosie our Moggie basks in the Autumn afternoon sun - not many of these days left.

The colours autumn contrast with the greens of summer across the top of our garage.

Saturday night proved to be an unusual change for us as we were to travel back in time by a few decades. I remember as a teenager frequenting live bands playing in the alleyway warehouses of Melbourne in the 60s. I had the opportunity to see great Aussie bands in their infancy before they become both national and internationally accepted.
Our two son's, Andrew and Mitch have a post-punk band called "In Tongues" and they had their CD launch Saturday night. As proud parents, we decided to be there for this historic moment amongst a sold out crowd of 20 somethings. Now you might think that we would feel out of place with these youngsters but we were made welcome by the band's fans as several are close friends of our sons. Our home being a sort of half way house sometimes, we know their friends and so several made the effort to say hello during the night.
I must admit though that I was a little disappointed when they would NOT offer me a discount when I presented my Senior's Card.

That's Andrew on guitar while Mitch is hidden in the background - that's what they do to drummers.

Not wanting to watch the earlier support bands, we decided to have dinner in a nearby restaurant. By chance and being the closest to the venue, we decided upon an African restaurant. Neither Sue and I or our friends, Denise and Darren had tried African crusine before so we had the banquet as the introduction.

As we walked down Bruswick Street, Fitzroy - this was the first restaurant we came to, it looked busy and it was close to the venue, so by unanimous choice - this was it.

Spicy meat dishes with Cous Cous, rice, breads - tooooo much to eat, very generous servings.

I guess we are very fortunate in Melbourne to have so many choices of various crusines, and so many yet to try. Having said that, I still ejoy eating at home.

Needless to say after a late night out partying, a well deserved Sunday morning sleep-in was very welcome.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

French Adventures - Paris 2006

It was Sunday September 24, 2006 that Sue and I were driven to Melbourne airport for our big adventure to France and Italy. She had been to Europe in the 70s, me - I'd been to Fiji and the US also in the 70s.

We met in 1980 and with the process of buying a home and having two sons during those early years overseas travel never seemed like an option.
While sitting with friends one sunny Sunday with a glass of Chardy (Chardonnay), we decided it was time to travel. We were to go with our very good friends however our needs differed with the planning and so did the dates so we decided it would be just the two of us. We travel well together.
Our plan was to spend a few days in Paris before getting the TGV from Gare de Lyon to Avignon in Provence to pick up our leased Citroen C3 and then motor off to Arles for an overnight stop. We would then travel to our three level villa at Saint Chinian, not far from Beziers in the Languedoc region. But more about that in a later post.
Our method of travelling is to spend at least a week in one place at a time with a few overnight stays to our next “home” for a week.
Slow Travel is what we do and Sue was endlessly on the various travel sites and forums researching places to stay, travel routes and costs. She finds that the planning is half the fun.

Our hotel in Rue Gay Lussac for our first three days in Paris was comfortable and in an excellent location. You can see Sue looking out our bedroom window on the third level to the right.

We caught Paris Shuttle to our first night at Hotel Elysa Luxembourg on Rue Gay Lussac to be welcomed by Vincent at the front desk. Our room faced out to the street and we could watch the passing traffic.
To us, it was the perfect spot, not too touristy, yet not far from the usual tourist spots.
Sue wrote in our diary, “The hotel is in a lovely neighborhood. Went for a walk – lots of families, students, etc. Our hotel concierge Victor says that it is not polite to speak to strangers in Paris, except in this area because people are friendly."

For three nights, this was our hotel room, small but comfortable and clean.

And just across from our room we discovered that we were staying in Picasso's neighborhood.

After each day's discovery walks we would stop off at this Cafe Bar for a cool glass of Pelforth.

From our balcony window we could look down Rue Gay Lussac and watch the flow of the day. It changed depending on the hour of the day. The very early hours, street cleaners were getting the streets tidy for another day, and the workers commuted by foot or bicycle, an hour or two later.
Later in the morning you would see the flow of young children being taken to school by their parents and sometimes grand parents. While sipping on our cool beer after a days walk, we would watch the same young children being picked up from their day at school.

Not quite sure what this building was but we suspect it may have been an Ecole or primary school as we would see small children being picked up by parents in the afternoon as we had a cool beer.

Occasionally we would pop in for a light lunch at this sandwich bar in Rue Gay Lussac.

The following morning at 6.30 am I was out for a run, it was still dark and the street cleaners were preparing Paris for another day.
I ran straight down Boulevard Saint Michel to the Seine passing the fountain and onto Ille de Cite. There it is was as the morning light hit the Gothic architecture. Notre Dame.
I’d only seen it in photographs before and here I was, in “real life” gazing upon this amazing cathedral and mostly on my own before Paris was awake.

Taken later in the day on our walk but imagine this scene in the early morning light, and deserted of tourists. It had a an unexplainable aura about it.

I must have stood there for 10 minutes before running back through the laneways of the left bank before finding way back to the hotel for breakfast with Sue.
We had breakfast at the hotel but after that we decided to have breakfast in the many Cafes. One in particular was the Place de la Sorbonne where we were served by the same waiter two years later on our second visit to Paris.

Breakfast in Place de la Sorbonne in the cafe to the right.
From Wikipedia

I took Sue on a walk where I had run earlier in the morning. She wrote in the diary, “What a wonderful city to explore, Notre Dame is awesome in its majesty. There should be a God. We walked hand in hand beside the Seine (that’s French law) and people watched while sipping coffee and later beer in sidewalk cafes.”

Our first real dinner in Paris was over the road from the hotel at 3 Rue Gay Lussac. Brasserie Royal introduced us to two firsts that have now become common practice on our visits to France.

“A beautiful meal tonight, where I began what I believe will be a long term relationship with Kir Royale. I had the Confit de Canard for the first time” was the last jotting in the diary before we went to bed still feeling rather jet-lagged.
Next week Wednesday:
The hop on-hop off bus and Musee Rodin, Musee d’Orsay and some nice things to say about Parisians.