Monday, October 31, 2011


Yes, that's right, the broadband is all used up and I'm on dial up speed until tomorrow. This quick note comes from the office.

I will return for Wednesday's in France to tell you about our few days spent in Honfleur.
I'm currently sitting at my desk at work watching the planes land and take off from Melbourne airport and thinking that next May is not far off and we will be landing in Paris for a month in France.

Tomorrow in Melbourne is the Horse race that Australia stops for, "The Melbourne Cup". Here in Victoria we have a day off work and many people venture to the track for a day out while many gather with friends in the backyard for a BBQ while watching the race on TV.

I must get back to work now, we'll catch up on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Satire

Clarke and Dawes are one (that's two really isn't it) of my favorite political satirists. No dress ups here, you have to imagine who and what they are on about. This little clip is about the plight of our farmers and the strength of the Australian dollar and how it affects their economy.

This weekend in Melbourne is starting out with a lot of moisture in the air - bloody down pour is closer to the mark. The garden had quite a watering last night. Not a lot planned for this weekend so it will be interesting to see what we post for Monday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food for Thought Friday

I drive home mostly on freeways - and each time, I pass by La-La who gives me this friendly gesture. He's right you know and I know why he continues to spread his message. I see so many accidents waiting to happen with the hours I spend on the road.

On this particular evening on the way home, the traffic was almost at stand-still which was probably due to a little altercation further up the road. But it did give me a chance to get up close and personal to La-La.
He offers some good advise and you can see that he's quite emotional about it all.
Maybe, just maybe he might have been an accident victim at one time.
Let's all Drive Safe as La-La urges.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arromanches in Normandy - site of the D-Day Landings

Arromanches les Baines is in the middle of the five beaches along the site of the D-Day landings when allied forces invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944. Where we stayed was designated as “Gold”. The other beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Juno and Sword. With mainly British, American and Canadian forces, there was in fact 3000 Australian amongst the 320,000 forces.

The first troop landings - the floating harbour arrive a few days later after troops secured the beach head.

Most Australian forces were fighting to protect home soil under threat from the Japanese in the south west Pacific.

Arromanches les Bains is the location of "Gold" beach and one of the sites of the successful D-Day landings.

It was cold, wet and miserable when we arrived but nothing compared to June 6. After months and months of secret planning the weather conditions might have cancelled the operation. The flotilla of 7000 vessels made their way across the channel to secure the beaches for a man made floating harbor to follow. Commissioned by Winston Churchill, two of these floating harbours, known as Mulberry A and Mulberry B were landed at code-named Omaha and Gold beaches. The Omaha Mulberry was unsuccessful due to it not being secured to the sea bed however the floating concrete structures survived at Gold (Arromanches) and serviced 500,000 vehicles and 2 ½ million troops in the 10 months of its use.

When we arrived there were very few locals about - mostly tourists like ourselves braving the winter like conditions even though it was spring. Is this what Normandy is normally?
As we came over the beach head on this cold and wet day, the tide was out and you could see the giant metal and concrete box-like structures. Pictures from the time show them as floating roads. We were told at the time of the landing that there was fog that assisted the Allied Forces from being visible. Thinking about the landing today, you wonder how the Germans didn’t detect the operation earlier. It wouldn’t be possible with today’s technology.
After walking out, all rugged up along the beach while the tide was out, we were able to walk around these huge structures that originally made up 15 kms of floating roadways. These concrete monoliths are now home to marine life.

I guess we may have been almost a kilometre out from the village at low tide - behind us was the remains of the Mulberry Harbour.

Look Sue, I don't believe it - they have named this car after me!!
No not the number plate, just above.
Part of the Mulberry Harbour is now home to marine life on the Normandy coast.

These huge structures - a floating roadway carried vehicles and supplies to the troops.
As we walked back we decided to enter the war museum overlooking the beach. We joined the rest of the tourists which seemed to ring with the accents of Americans and British. The museum gave a great insight to the history of the this amazing mission and one of the major turning points of World War II.
We only stayed one night at this little hotel on the beach – it was another “must-see” destination on Sue’s list. We ate at the Hotel that night, and there wasn’t much to do in Arromanches les Bains so an early night was in order.

We wandered the back streets of Arromanches with light drizzle falling on us for most of the day. Although the main focus is the beach landings of 1944, there were some interesting homes around the village.

This very fluffy cat was guarding our croissants.
The following morning after breakfast at the hotel, we wandered back towards the beach to discover that the remnants of Mulberry Harbor had all but disappeared with the tide in. How lucky we were to arrive at low tide.  

Our destination now took us along the Normandy coast to our three night stay at Honfleur.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Melbourne Weekend

The weekend for us has been fairly quiet with a trivia fundraising Saturday night and a Sunday BBQ with friends in the outer suburbs of Melbourne at the foothills of Dandenong mountain. Rather than post on our rather quiet weekend, I thought you might like some Melbourne news.

Friday night and Saturday morning started with heavy rainfall throughout most of Victoria. Although dry in our area as I left the front door for my morning ride, it wasn't long before the heavens opened once again.
Oh, how I hate riding in wet socks.

Melbourne started the weekend with a late week protest - quite nasty with police having to break up the protesters with force. I'm not sure what the protest was about, and I'm not sure if the protesters did either.
Something about the sharing of global wealth I believe. I happen to be up in the hills with work which was really nice to be away from the city.

NOTE: None of the photos shown did not emit from my camera but were stolen from the local newspaper websites, the Age and the Herald Sun as well as the Melbourne Festival website.
By the way, Queen Elizabeth II is in town later this week. I heard her speech from Canberra on the news. She really is a grand lady and very well informed. She arrives in Melbourne this week - hope we don't have protesters marring her visit.

I actually remember her visits before and during the Melbourne Olympic Games as she drove by our home on her way back from the athlete's village which was not far from our home. OMG, that was 55 years ago.

In entertainment, "RED DOG" a new Australian film has entered the records at number 21 highest grossing film to date. Others on the list are;
1. Crocodile Dundee (1986) — $107.13m

2. Babe (1995) — $54.36m
3. The Man from Snowy River (1982) — $51.54m
4. Crocodile Dundee II (1988) — $48.10m
5. Australia (2008) — $39.32m
6. Gallipoli (1981) — $39.06m
7. Alvin Purple (1973) — $37.76m
8. Mad Max 2 (1981) — $36.10m
9. Moulin Rouge (2001) — $35.71m
10. Happy Feet (2006) — $35.55m
11. Strictly Ballroom (1992) — $34.92
12. The King’s Speech (2010) — $31.05m
13. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) — $30.85m
14. They're a Weird Mob (1966) - $26.9m
15. Young Einstein (1988) — $25.82m
16. The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) — $25.46m
17. Phar Lap (1983) — $25.17m
18. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) — $24.38m
19. The Dish (2000) — $24.18m
20. Mad Max (1979) — $21.54m
21. Red Dog (2011) — $20.37m (to date)
Maybe you would like to add a comment as to which were your best and worst Australian Films from this list!

I mentioned last week that the Melbourne Spring Carnival racing season started and this Saturday the Cox Plate was won by Black Caviar, a horse that is being placed on the same pedestal as the great Phar Lap.

The Melbourne Cup is not too far off - being the biggest annual racing event, Melburnians actually have a holiday for it in early November.

October is Melbourne Festival time with a whole month of culture (Kultcha in Oz talk). My son Mitch went to his first opera, an adaptation of Mozart's Magic Flute.
The program described it as such.
"Thirty South African performers stage a stunning music-theatre adaptation of Mozart's greatest operatic work: an explosion of choral song, marimbas, drums and township-style percussion celebrating the spirit of contemporary Africa".

The boy is maturing....

On the financial side of things - our dollar is holding up OK with the US$ @ $1.02 and the Euro @ .74c.
These are important to us with our May 2012 trip back to France.

Well, that's about it for now - time to get ready for the BBQ - nice day for it too. A sunny windless 26 degrees is just perfect.
Talk to you next Wednesday (Wednesday's in France) as we reminisce our overnight stay in Arromonches les Bains, site of the 1944 D-Day landings.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Eurogliders - Saturday Song

Grace Knight headed up the Eurogliders in a typical 80s band with a number 1 in Australia. Later her interest turned to Jazz and acting. The first clip is of their Hit " Heaven".

And a few years later in her career as a Jazz singer.

Wet Friday

I often mention as I post that the sun is shining through the study window - not this morning. It's a very, very wet Friday here in Melbourne. The weekend may not improve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bayeux and the Tapestry

Bayeux on our way to the English Channel was a "Must Stop" for Sue. As a child she was aware of the Bayeux Tapestry and it was on her list. Leaving Alencon, we decided it was a motorway, get there quick drive to Bayeux to allow ourselves to spend some time there. Its not a big town with a population of maybe 14,000. We found parking quite easily and there were very few of the town folk out when we arrived. Maybe it was the weather that was keeping people indoors - mind you, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, or is it always like this in Normandy.
We consciously decided to start our 2008 adventure in the south of France expecting that the warmer weather would keep us company on our travels north. This was not the case on this day - it was very dark clouds that we drove towards.
Bayeux was probably not much more than 100 kms up the road from Alencon and we decided to skirt by Caen.

The river Aure divides within Bayeux creating a small island.
It is in this area we decided it was time for lunch.

What a perfect place for a cafe and our lunch.
The river Aure travels through Bayeux and gives it a peaceful feeling especially from where we decided to enjoy lunch at a cafe beside the banks of the river. I was taking a liking to crepes since an experience a week earlier and decided to again have the salmon galette with a glass of Rose. I'm not sure if it matched the one I had earlier in our travels but the view certainly enhanced the taste. Even though it was wet and a little cold, we had ice cream cones from a vendor perched on the river beside the cafe.

After a satisfying lunch we decided to walk off a few calories with no direction in mind. We had to kill some time before our turn to join other tourists to view the Bayeux Tapestry. Our wandering took us along narrow cobble stone laneways, beside half timbered buildings until we emerged in front of the Bayeux Cathedral.

Sue hides under a brolly as we walk the cobbled laneways of Bayeux.

Normandy seems to have its fair share of half timbered buildings
certainly the case in Bayeux.

Bishop Odo's Bayeux Cathedral.

It was here in the Bayeux Cathedral that the tapestry was rediscovered in 1729. It was displayed once a year before some scholars recognised its true history. As we entered the Cathedral a wedding party was starting to congregate at the doors. Sue and I slipped in and in my usual way with cathedrals, I took a bee-line into the crypt. I always find these areas the most interesting - its where the important people are laid to rest.

Its quite an impressive Cathedral. It stands (naturally) on the high side of Bayeux and like most French cities, the cathedral is the first thing you see on the horizon as you drive towards Bayeux. I remember a similar sight when we drove towards Chartre on a future trip.

Crypts intrigue me - you never know whom you'll discover.

Within the crypt I discovered effigies and fresco paintings.

The entrance to the Bayeux Tapestry museum is this craft used to cross the English channel by William and the Normans for the Battle of Hastings.

Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half brother of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy joined William in the 1066 Norman Conquest and fought with the best. Its believed that the Bishop commissioned the tapestry to commemorate the "Battle of Hastings" and was possibly made by William's wife. When we finally walked inside the museum we were handed headsets and listened to the English narrative of each section of the tapestry.
It truly is a masterpiece of history that was worth the visit.

While researching more about Bayeux, I found this great description of the tapestry on You Tube - it will explain it much better than I could.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A weekend of Events in Melbourne.

Melbourne has been busy this weekend with the annual "Around the Bay in a Day" cycle sportif event. With approximately 10,000 riders covering 200 plus kilometers, the riders contribute towards the Smith Family fundraising.
For the Professional Racing cyclists, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour travelled around Victoria ending in Melbourne today.
While all this pedal action was going on, Phillip Island was hosting the Motorcycle GP. Melbourne also hosted the Caulfield Cup, second only in prestige to the Melbourne Cup horse race to be held in November.

The Jayco Herald Sun 5 stage Tour.

Casey Stoner wins his 5th Australian Motorcycle GP and his second World Title.

The Caulfield Cup starts the Melbourne Spring Carnival Racing for 2011.
As for me - I slept in on Sunday and then Sue and I drove down to Mordialloc for breakfast. We've blogged about Mordy in the past.
It's two suburbs down the road from us and its creek flows out into the bay. Can't say that I really missed not being out on the bike or mixing with the crowds at one of the many special events in Melbourne this weekend. It was pleasant to relax and take in the atmosphere of Mordy village. The area has developed greatly in our time. Many cafes, restaurants and specialty shops give the main drag a really good feel.

Not that long ago, Sue received a book in the mail - naturally a cook book.
Titled "French Brasserie cookbook" by Daniel Galmiche, it was the inspiration of Saturday night's meal but I'll let Sue tell you more.

This book was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I respect so I wasted no time in ordering it.
I have made a couple of things from it to date and have been happy with them.

This dish was roasted monkfish fillet with saffron scented mussel and clam ragout.

I buy my saffron online and it's always much fresher and more aromatic than the stuff I can buy in shops here. Supermarkets anyway.

My fish monger had these clams. They are from New Zealand and farmed and already cooked. I have only bought fresh before, but as none were around, I thought it worth giving these a go. They were OK, but I would always prefer cooking any shellfish from raw.

No monkfish here. This is some of the hapuka I had leftover from last week. I bought a whole side as it looked so good, and I froze what I didn't use. It didn't seem to affect either the flavour or texture.

Lime zest and chives. The lime is from our tree which always overflows at this time of year. It is a Tahitian lime, on which the skin goes yellow as the fruit ripens. Same flavour as the green. It has limes on it for most of the year. (Unlike my poor sad lemon tree in a pot which had ONE sad lemon on it last year. )

The finished dish, served on steamed rice with a little asparagus. A very nice dish.

With the house to ourselves we decided to catch up on the more modern version of "Lion in Winter" after dinner.  A few weeks ago we saw the original version with Catherine Hepburn. Glenn Close had the starring role of Eleanor of Aquitaine in this more recent version. I felt that Close's acting matched that of Hepburn. Both versions mirrored each other quite well and it was interesting to see how the various actors portrayed their roles.

But you be the judge of which was best - here's a comparison of the same scene from both versions.

With all these events happening in Melbourne at the moment,
we might just have to get out more often.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Almost Summer - Saturday Song

6.50 am and the sun is filtering through the trees and then lighting up the study as I listen to Billy Thorpe.
Although Billy wasn't a Melbourne boy, I did see him play around our town quite a bit. He was very loud which might have some influence on my partial deafness although Sue calls it selective deafness.

I'm about to go and meet my friends for our usual Saturday morning ride along Beach Road which dances along the edges of Port Phillip Bay. I have a feeling that my fellow riders might just say "It's almost Summer".

Not sure what might be in store this weekend - I know Sue is considering a little bit of experimentation in the kitchen. We'll see what the outcome is by Monday morning.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leaving Chinon and the Loire

CHINON - a place to return - Goodbye Chinon till next time.

Sue said, "Can we return one day" and we did in 2010 just to say hello and we return to stay with our hosts next year. Chinon is a place to return, many times in a lifetime.

It was a little sad leaving Chinon – it entered our hearts as a place we would like to return to (and we did). Our hosts, Helene and Jean-Micheal were really lovely people and their little French Bulldog was a delight.

Our next stop was Le Mans so that I could see the motor museum on the racetrack. I can’t remember the route but it was most probably by passing Tours and directly onto Le Mans so I could have some time meandering around the museum. It was a good thing that we did leave early because as we drew closer to Le Mans, the highway became more and more populated by motorcyclists. As we drove down Mulsanne where the big Bentleys and later the D-type Jaguars won the 24 hour Enduro event, we felt that we were accompanied by a swarm of bees around us. It was in fact the coming weekend of the Le Mans motorcycle Grand Prix. Unbeknown to us at the time of booking our accommodation, we were now in the midst of this annual event.
The Blower Bentley's won Le Mans 5 times 1924/27/28/29/30. I read the book of Tim Birkin, Bentley driver of the era when I was younger. It was a dream to drive down Mulsanne on the Sarthe Le Mans 24 hour circuit one day. Although we couldn't get the the museum due to the Moto GP, I realised and fantasized that I was driving down Mulsanne in a Blower Bentley - OK, in reality it was a Citroen C4 and don't call me Walter Mitty.
When we arrived at our hotel, we discovered that our 89 Euro room was 5 flights of steps at the top of the building. The shower was previously a wardrobe and the toilet seat kept falling off from its hinges. The Museum was closed due to the Motorcycle Grand Prix so after a cup of coffee and much deliberation we decided to return to the hotel and and tell the concierge that we would prefer to move on. I’m sure he was rubbing his hands with glee so he could charge some GP fans twice the amount.

About 50 kms up the road was Alencon and Normandy. For the first time on our trip, we didn’t have a pre-booked room for the night. It was a gamble but there was no way were going stay in a cramped 5th floor dog box in Le Mans.

First stop in Alencon was the Tourist Information centre where the helpful lady secured what seemed to be the last hotel room in the town. Even Alencon was full of motorcyclists. After securing our accommodation for the night, a delightful, clean anywhere in the world motel room, we ventured into the streets of Alencon.
What a delightful town it was. We even did some souvenir shopping for family at home.

A little shopping for gifts in Alencon.
We had no knowledge of its rich history at the time but since researching Alencon while writing this blog, I learned that the town was invaded by William the Conqueror in 1047.
That night we ventured down to a small bistro within the Hotel for dinner – we were too tired and depressed after the Le Mans thing. The meal although not memorable was fun as the proprietor made us welcome and even managed to put a smile on our faces. We returned in the morning for breakfast not realizing that it was Mother’s Day.

It would have been rewarding to have spent more time in Alencon considering that it was only just by chance that we discovered it. A disappointment turned into a little adventure that was totally unplanned.

Entering Normandy, we were greeted by fields of poppies.
But leave we had to as we were booked for a night Arromanches, one of the sights of the D-Day Landings.
However on the way, Sue had a childhood dream to see the Bayeux Tapestry.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Leon was complaining that he hadn't caught up with my brother and SIL for a while, so we invited them around for dinner. As always when we get together it was a fun night with lots of eating, drinking and laughter.

The wine selected was from South Australia (Adelaide Hills)  - It was a Taylors Pinot Noir was a smooth light red, much in the French Burgundy style and we all agreed that it was an excellent partner to the fish due to the chilli. A white wine may have been better but there were no complaints. The Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon will be tasted with Sunday night's dinner maybe.
I decided to make a main I saw in a magazine I had just bought. Called Delicious, I get it each month as there is always something in it I want to cook. Plus it's Australian so the produce featured suits our seasons. The recipe was from a chef called Ben O'Donoghue.

As if she doesn't have enough cook books and magazines - Oh well, I guess I have to bare the consequences all this experimental cooking!!!!
 I bought Hapuka which is the NZ name for Grouper. A firm, thick, white fish. The marinade was yoghurt, lemon juice and rind, mint and chilli. After a short time in the marinade, it is wrapped in thin slices of zucchini and placed on parchment paper with another healthy dollop of the yoghurt marinade. Wrapped up tight and oven cooked for about 15 minutes. I tried it because it sounded interesting and unlike anything I had cooked before.

Preparation of the fish wrapped in Zucchini slices.

It was the best fish I've ever cooked and will definitely be a regular on the menu. It was moist, citrusy and had a definite hit of chilli (I used the dried flakes), although not enough to distract from the sweetness of the fish. We all really enjoyed it. With the fish we had green beans with roasted cherry tomatoes and chat potatoes rolled in butter and parsley.

Boy, did these go quickly - make these again PLEASE!!!!!!

As a starter I made three types of crostini. A garlic white bean puree with sweet chilli roasted tomatoes, broad bean puree with slices of fried chorizo, and ajvar (which is a roasted red pepper puree) with feta cheese. All very nice, but the white bean was a standout. Who doesn't love lemony garlicy tomatoey sweet chilli stuff? They were all done on slices of sourdough baguette which had been toasted, then rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Sue asked, "Are you getting sick of Panna Cotta yet"
I don't think so, not the way she does it.

Dessert was an orange and vanilla scented panna cotta with raspberry coulis and tiny crunchy wafer biscuits.
Followed with a delicious, Leon-made coffee and Leon-washed dishes who could complain? (Not me, specially about the last bit.)

Happy guests for dinner - John and Jan.
Wednesday's in France this week takes us out of the Loire to Normandy - see you then.