Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's on your Walls at Home

Haven't been out of the house much this weekend - hot/cold, a bit the same at the extremes. We've had high 30s this weekend but fortunately we are air conditioned.

Not moving from the house this weekend had me thinking about what we could post. Sitting with friends who called in today - they are from Paris visiting family in Melbourne - I looked at our walls with pictures and maps from our travels.

We've been in 1929 Californian Bungalow in Mentone, Melbourne for almost 30 years now. You look around at the walls and see many things that probably should have been replaced with something more modern or relevant to today's living. But these things blend into your history and become part of your overall life.

We bought this print when we discovered Sidney Long, an Australian painter during the time of the late 1800s.
 Maybe in a few years, we'll consider a move and replace everything for a new lifestyle as we draw towards retirement - that would be a major project when I look around at "what is on our walls", cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and let's not even talk about the garage.

I'm actually a little afraid to put a caption to this wall hanging - so I won't.

I've always had this passion for Citroen Traction Avants since my father bought one when I was a little tacker. Since that time there's probably been four of these in our garage over the years. These days other than a few miniatures, this postcard is all I have to remind me of these great automobiles.

The caption on this drawing is POVERTY/RICHES with the woman holding the baby being the latter.

OK, that's us 24 years ago.

My Dad as a child to the left (he's 91 this year) and my mother as a young woman to the right.

Several years back I had these photos of Sue's family framed. Her mother and father as children and later their wedding photos.

Travel memories also hang on the wall like the Tuscan village we stayed in back in 2006.
Looking down into the valley from Monticchiello.

Then there's all this other junk that we've collected over the years that's sat on mantles and shelves around the house.
If we move, we're not quite sure what will come with us after almost 30 years.
What's on your walls and have you ever had to do a big move and change of lifestyle - we'd like to hear!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can you offer any Advice?

An interlude for Wednesday's in France
Looking at our diary for the next post of Wednesday's in France, I felt a little daunted. It was going to be another HUGE day with a visit to another two Loire Chateaux and arriving home late tonight, I didn't think I could do justice to the great day we had.

So, I thought I might let you know more about our impending trip in May to France for Sue's 60th Birthday.
I was actually hoping that we might get some advice from readers about places we might visit along the route we are about to take. This will be our fifth trip back to France and it seems to be taking on a bit of a "Hello there - we're back" theme. - visiting familiar places and meeting friends.

First of all we hop on a Singapore Airlines flight and at Singapore we catch up with my daughter Carly and her partner Sharn who live on the Gold Coast Queensland. We all seem to live near water, don't we?

So we arrive in Paris as a foursome - stop, there's more; our son Andrew now living in Leeds and his partner Ashley are booked into the same hotel and we become six. Hopefully our other son Mitchell will fly over from Montreal and we will all go out to dinner on May 5 for Sue's birthday dinner. First question:
Where do we book for a nice family birthday dinner in Paris for seven.
(remember, Dad is paying)
After two nights in Paris, just the two of us jump on the TGV to Marseilles for another two nights - not been before.
What should we see?
After picking up the rental car, we take the wiggly road along the coast to Frejus for an overnight stay before another night at Vence inland from Nice. The reason for travelling down the Cote d'Azur was to go inland from Vence to drive through the Gorges du Verdon. I've read and researched the Canyon Verdon and it seems quite exciting. We stay overnight near the start of the Verdon at Castellane to the east.
Has anyone been there?
The next overnight takes us to Aix au Provence before taking on the whole week at St Remy de Provence at the same cottage as we stayed on a previous trip. We love St Remy and we meet up with Carly and Sharn with the intention of sharing our past memories with them. We also plan to make an overnight stay in the Languedoc to visit Narbonne, Carccassone, Minerve and Pezenas. While in St Remy, places such as the Luberon, Les Baux, Avignon, Arles and maybe the Camargue where Sue really wants to go.
Maybe someone could suggest some nice cafes along the way or a place to enjoy a light lunch.
Now just quickly as it is getting past my bed time, just Sue and I take off alone and head towards the Loire - but not before we traverse half of France, with overnight stops at St Etienne, Moulins and Bellac. We are hoping to see the WWII ruins of the village, Oradour Sur Glane. I'm sure it will be quite emotional.

Next stop is Chinon staying at the same B & B we stayed previously with great hosts, Helene and Jean Michell. We mentioned this B & B before and they have some great eating places in Chinon. After two nights we join our friends Carole and Michael further to the east on the Cher not far from Bloggers, Ken and Walt.
We are currently posting Wednesday's in France during the time when we met Carole and Michael. they own a great cottage in Thenay. It was so central to all the fantastic Chateaux of the Loire.

After leaving the Loire, we travel back to Paris for five nights in an apartment where we catch up with another two couples we know living there - AND the boys just happen to be cyclists.

I expect that our Wednesday's in France for the month of May will become "Everyday in France".

Sue and I are hoping that readers (We know you are out there somewhere) will offer some advice, maybe places you have enjoyed on your travels through these regions. Its so easy to miss something and when you return home, someone says, "but didn't you see such and such when you were in such and such".

Wednesday's in France returns next Wednesday with Chambord and Cheverny Chateaux, some great food and a new handbag for Sue.

And also a daily picture of France at
For a long message - you might like to email me

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Bush and our Saturday night dinner.

We finally finished burning all of our CDs on the the external hard drive on Friday night. Now we have music playing through our Apple TV thingy. While I type away, I'm listening to a 60s genre with Buffalo Springfield - clever thing that does genre, composer, artist, album and probably many other things I have yet to discover.

Last night was a pleasant balmy night and so No.2 son - (that's Mitchel who is off to Canada soon), Sue and I decided we would enjoy the weather with a meal on the outdoor deck. We'd been shopping in the afternoon and bought some salmon for a mains and yabbies to try for an entree.

I'll let Sue explain more about that.

Yep, that's her with a Yabbie. She's learn't how to hold them now, although this one is dead. Is there still some fear in that smile?

"The bush" means something quite unique to Austalians, I believe. The bush means beyond cities, beyond suburbia, beyond a reasonable expectation of comfortable, usual expectations. My father's siblings lived "in the bush".
Redbank in Victoria is now a place that makes very nice wines. In the 50's and 60's it was very much in the bush.
My auntie had the general store (read only store) in Redbank and our family used to make an annual trip to visit.
This is where I learned to love eating yabbies and rabbit. With difficulty! My cousin Darryl, a few years older than me took me yabbying in a local dam and taught me how to pick up yabbies "by the claws". No!!!
Ouch!! However, I also remember a big cooking pot and eating them. Yummy.
All the blokes (very Aussie word) in the family would go out with their 22's and shoot rabbits for dinner. They only took me once...I was far too soft hearted and when I spotted a rabbit, I would yell and point in the opposite direction...never stopped me eating them though. I don't know why they never let me go with them again.
My favourite fishmonger had yabbies last week. I know they are now farmed in places but I hadn't seen them before.
They are a sort of fresh water crayfish I guess. That's what they taste like. Yet they aren't the same as marron, which is our other sort of fresh water cray. Just yabbies, I guess.
They were already cooked. We just needed to get the meat out. The tail, just like lobster, and Leon cracked the claws to get out the tiny bit of meat so strongly defended!
It was certainly delicious, but very expensive for a small reward.
Leon said he felt like eating fish, so I bought salmon for our main course.It was cooked in parchment paper with lemon, white wine and butter to make its own sauce and was very nice. A potato bake and fresh asparagus finished it. Plus Mitch bought a lovely bottle of rose to go with it.
Figs...I love figs...until a few years ago we had a neighbour with a big fig tree who was good at sharing. Have to buy them now though. Boo Hoo.
Just pressed them in a little brown sugar, then cooked them in butter and served their caramel goodness with a little marscapone. Oh yum.

Before cooking

Entree, Yabbie, Avocado, Cos lettuce and a sauce that Sue made up.

Salmon hiding in the foil and lemon, with asparagas, and tatties.

Our son, Mitch's choice of wine - a very sophisticated young man.
It's from the King Valley and a very local Victorian Rose.

Figs and Mascarpone cheese - delightful.
Coffee and a muscat wine. Perfect.
And why do I eat here, guess!!!!
Looking out on the backyard during dinner - on a summer night.
A little bit of our iTunes music wafts out to make for a great night.
It's 10.30pm Sunday night and time for bed before another week of work - we'll catch up next Wednesday in France, won't we?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Morning in Pontlevoy

A morning in Pontlevoy, lunch in Thenay and dinner with new friends.

We'd had a few huge days absorbing the delights that the Loire had to offer so we though a quiet day staying close to home might be nice for a change - it was grey and overcast. The weather is very similar to Melbourne at this time of the year. One day in T-shirts, the next in pullovers.
Sometimes the morning is glorious and as afternoon comes it's quite humid and then the storms roll in.

A spot of coffee at Cafe de Sports before wandering around Pontlevoy
So on this day we took a short drive to Pontlevoy - short it is, less than 5 kms. Pontlevoy is one of those villages that you drive through on the way to somewhere else. The really weird thing is that about two months before leaving for France I popped into a bookshop and there in the bargain bin was this book, "A Village in France" which just happened to be a photographic portrait of daily life in Pontlevoy, 1902-1936 by
Louis Clergeau. Louis was a watchmaker and jeweller but his hobby was photography. His many photographs were of this village that we were to experience and what he photographed 80 to 90 years ago.

Photographs from the book "A Village in France" have been attached to various walls in Pontlevoy to show how it was during the years 1902 to 1936.
 Driving through Pontlevoy you would never know the lives of the people of those days, but we did through the book and we were amazed. Our first stop was at Cafe Sport. Not a lot of people in the rural districts speak English and that is my loss because I have nil French. But the man in the cafe saw my interest in his little miniatures of the Citroen Traction Avant or in English, Citroen L15. I asked him why he had these little models with Sue's help and discovered he had a Classic Citroen of his own. (Simon - a friend for you and maybe Celestine too)
After the coffee and a little chat and we were off for a stroll of discovery.

Pontlevoy's local Museum in the main street. Not open when we were there unfortunately.
This building features in the book possibly as an old blacksmith business. Now its someone's home.
After a little more research on Pontlevoy, I found this excerpt from Wikipedia:

The battle took place near Pontlevoy on the River Cher, between Blois and Tours, not far from the large Angevin fortress of Montrichard. Odo had ravaged most of the Touraine during Fulk's absence on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After Fulk's return, Odo, with a large force and many siege engines, attempted to besiege Montrichard, but was intercepted by Fulk just north of Pontlevoy. Surprised by Fulk's preparedness, Odo was forced to give battle without putting his troops into formation. This was his disadvantage. The opening went in favour of Odo, however. Fulk was unhorsed and his standard-bearer was felled. Fulk may have even been captured briefly. At this juncture, Herbert intervened, attacking Odo's flank from the west. Odo was routed and fled, leaving his infantry to be massacred. There were over 42,000 men killed.

Pontlevoy had suffered many ravages of war over the centuries right up to WWII - and yet today it has such a sleepy hollow feeling about it.

We left the cafe towards the Abbey after our espresso - for some reason we have never had a great Cappuccino or caffe latte in France, only in Italy and Australia.

Some folklore on the founding of Pontlevoy's Abbey:
It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.
Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels. There is a gravel courtyard where it the nave should be.
Yes - Wikipedia again.

Outside the Abbey's walls - I wonder what this hole in the wall was useful for?

The gates took us to the Medieval Chapel, damaged over the years from many wars.

We were quite taken by the grounds of the Abbey - it had a long rich history and had endured several wars and many uses over the centuries. These included a monastery, a school, a truck driving school and a convention centre. The grounds are peaceful and we spent all morning there before driving back to Thenay to take the washing off the line - clouds were brewing as they did on the odd afternoon.
I always need to post either a car or bicycle photo. This delightful early Peugeot was in great condition except for the layer of dust.

We decided to lunch at the local cafe in Thenay, not that we had noticed it before but most days we were somewhere else. There was no choice of menu - you had what was being cooked on the day and all for 12 euro. There was a salad bar for your entree, a jug of wine with a main course of braised duck and pasta. You had three types of cheese before the desert of a banana and chocolate gateau. We finished off with coffee and a walk back to the cottage.

Our hosts Carole and Michael had kindly invited us for dinner that night to join their friends, Katherine and Alan. I believe they were past renters of the Thenay cottage and have joined their circle of friends. It was a lovely night and we all had an enjoyable night comparing our different parts of the world. Mikey and I discovered we came from the same town of Preston, his in England, mine in Melbourne.
What a fitting end to a day of discovery, surprises and new friendships.
We headed back home after 12.30 and wondered how we would wake for our big day to see Chambord and Cheverny in the morning. But more about that next Wednesday.

A photo every day of our travels in France

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I sometimes wonder where my weekends go - don't you?

It seems that some weekends fly by and I wonder what we did. Do I have anything interesting to post?
Now let me think this one out!
That's right, Wednesday night I had an MG Car Club meeting to attend, Thursday was a night at a Tapas Bar with Sue and friends to see a Van Morrison tribute band. We saw the real thing several years back - good sound but no personality from Van the Man.
Oh yes, and Friday night was the "FILUM CLUB" night with more friends, well several of the same really.
FILUM is Strine for film, and Strine is Strine for Australian. Bit like Emma Chissit for "how much is it!!!!"

The film was the Rocky Horror Show. The Filum Club had some huge devotees of the Rocky Horror Show but believe it or not, and they didn't - I'd never seen it before. People dressed up and sang the songs and I just sat there eating my Maltesers and Jaffas.

So the weekend started with me exhausted but the lawns were mowed, the garden beds de-weeded and I managed a bit of catch up on my work-work.

But the big project is reinstalling all our CDs to an external hard drive attached to my lap-top in the iTunes program.This gives us the advantage of adding music to our phone, iPod, iPad and even sharing it wirelessly through the Apple TV device we bought recently.
I did this once before but on another program so it was incompatible with all this new Apple stuff. So while I work, I just chuck in another CD and before you know it I'm almost finishing off the W's (alphabetical order - who's anal then?)

From this

To this
 We bought two new CD's to add to the collection recently so I thought you might like a listen. They are both new Australian talent and their videos are quite interesting.
I've played the Gotye one before and the other by Kimbra has a friend of our son Mitchell playing a part. He's the dorky looking 50s bloke that just poses through it most of the time.

Also bought some el cheapo DVD's for those quiet nights at home.
Hope we have some quiet nights this week.
We also did some more planning for our trip to France in May which was exciting. Incidently we have friends from Paris here visiting their family so I'm hoping I might get some kms on the bike with him. He's been my guardian angel on my past trips riding the streets of Paris.

Well that's our weekend, but hopefully we can bring you more of what is happening in Melbourne next weekend.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Loches, Montresor and Drinks with a couple of Bloggers

The day started cold and foggy as we eased ourselves into our little Citroen C3. Today we decided to visit the market at Loches.The road beyond Montrichard took us by the most amazing Chateau that sat on the very edge of the road surrounded by a forest. Montpoupon Chateau pounced upon us as we turned the bend into a valley. We were almost going too quickly to stop and admire the building.

Chateau Montpoupon on the road to Loches.

Found a parking spot at the very popular Loches market.

Wall art in Loches - Jacques Villeret, comedian.
The trouble with packing so much into one day is that you can't explore as much as one would like and the Loches visit was a prime example of this. The market was fun and we even bumped into some other tourists that we had seen elsewhere - and it wouldn't be the last time while in the Loire.
While at the market, Sue bought a beautiful pot of tyme as a present as we had arranged to meet a couple of serial Bloggers that evening.

The Loches market was quite large and had a delightful atmosphere. There were little nooks and crannys in the laneways that I would wander up to take the odd photo. At one time we lost each other because of my meanderings - thank goodness for mobile phones. "Leon, where are you now?" Sue would exclaim on the phone. Loches was too interesting for such a short visit but we were on a mission to see Montresor. We'd read about it as being "one of the most beautiful" French villages. Not only was it pretty but we enjoyed two unusual experiences while there. We arrived in time for lunch at the one cafe in the village - it was quite pleasant and we sat in the open and watched life go by (slowly).

This little stone bridge led us towards Montresor.
The Chateau of Montresor hides behind trees of the opposite side of the small river bank.

But as you drive into Montresor, the Chateau emerges.

The first unusual experience was at the gate when we paid the entrance fee. We were asked by the gentleman, "What nationality?"
Australian..  "Oh! My favorite film is an Australian film - Crocodile Dundee", he said with a chuckle.

Through the gates we went, into a most secluded and peaceful setting. We were the only visitors. No one else was on the property, well not tourists just staff.
We were allowed to wander the grounds and the Chateau totally unattended. We sat on the chairs, admired the paintings, furniture and all the decorations. Whether they had any security cameras was unknown but we felt that the owners seemed to be most trustworthy of us. It did seem strange.

The place was so peaceful that we actually took the time to just occasionally sit and take in the ambience of the property. I took the opportunity to climb the protective walls and walked where I imagine knights of old may have been on guard, centuries before.

The second unusual experience was a portrait that hung in one of the reception rooms. It looked awfully familiar and I couldn't understand why initially. I called Sue over to ask if she knew the painting. No she didn't. Then it occurred to me where I'd seen the face of this portrait before.
It had an uncanny resemblence to the gate keeper with a liking for our Crocodile Dundee movie. On the way out Sue asked the question and we were told that it was the gatekeeper's great grandfather.
We could quite easily return to Montresor Chateau and the village to spend more time within its protective walls.

We arrived back at the cottage mid afternoon with Sue having a little nap while I took the bike out to discover some close to home sights. We were to meet a couple of fellow bloggers that most probably don't need much introduction but if you haven't read their blogs - you will find them on our sidebar.
Ken and Walt kindly invited us over to meet and we sat in the garden sipping local wine and watched Callie play. It was a great way to complete the day. We arrived back home at 8.30 well and truly looking for a peaceful night's sleep.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Ride, and a Party.

Our weekends start on Friday night with that stress relieving bottle of bubbly and a light movie of whatever is on Telly. Then with a slightly heavy head on the odd occasion, I'm out with my friends on the bike for a brisk Saturday morning 80 kms along Beach Rd by Port Phillip Bay. This Saturday morning where you look across a glass like surface of the bay with only a whisper of wind and a cloudless sky. Mind you while I'm writing this (Sunday morning) its windy and overcast. A piece of our gum tree has fallen into the yard, another job to do today.

The Bayside Bandidos - Mid Life Cycling Club.

Is there room left for MY bike??? 10s of thousands of dollars hang here.

Taking over the local Coffee Shop. Check out the smiling faces.
Amazing what some exercise does for your humour.
We were looking forward to Saturday night with an invitation to help celebrate a friends 30 years of service with his employer. I'll call our friend Nico, why, well that's his name. Just a country boy from rural Victoria and a bike rider in his younger days and now a "has been" like the rest of us, just enjoying a life time passion.
His employer opened his home to Nico's family, friends and many work colleagues over the years. The house backs on to the Yarra River which divides Toorak on one side and Richmond on the other.
In days gone by, the residents of Toorak most probably were business owners of the manufacturing that went on over the other side of the river in Richmond. The shoe industry was particularly big and the Yarra was littered with Tanneries and other river polluting industries. As in most cities today, subsequent governments have set in motion projects to beautify the rivers.

Twickenham Ferry on Melbourne's Yarra river (est 1880) prior to its demise 1930.

An etching of Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra and its namesake on the Thames.
St Georges road off Grange Road where the house is situated meanders down towards the Yarra and the road crosses via a bridge to Burnley and Richmond. This was not always the case as the bridge is relatively new as it was built in 1934 or thereabouts.
Prior to that a ferry was used to transport people across the river. It was known as the Twickenham Ferry. It was established around 1880 and continued in service up until the MacRobertson bridge was built.

Anyway - back to Nico's milestone celebration. It's not overly common these days that people work for the same company for that long but the Nico family, we learnt on the night have a history for loyalty and longevity in their working life. His employer obviously appreciated his loyalty and the growth be brought to the company to open up his home to us all. The suburb of Toorak has changed over the years as most suburbs have. In the past it was the home to the establishment, old money and many grand homes were built here. Many have disappeared and been replaced by "new money" houses. To walk the leafy streets some of the older homes still hide behind big brick walls. Its well worth your time to travel on foot or bicycle through Toorak.
Twickenham Ferry was most likely not far from this section of river bank.
Looking down from the house towards the river is this stepped garden.
Looking up to the house from the river bank.

As night fell, the place took on a magical look on a still warm evening.

And the guests dance through the night.
The party was stunning with great finger food, a superb a Sauvignon Blanc called Mud House ( I must look for it) and a fantastic live band. Lisa Edwards supplied the music. She's been in the industry and like Nico, has a history of longevity. As a session singer, she's supported Daryl Hall and John Oates and even Stevie Wonder along with the Australian giants of the music industry.
Lisa Edwards with Stevie Wonder.

Lisa with the Hall and Oates Band

The cover from one of her solo Cd's
 But its back to reality with a Sunday of food shopping, re grouting of the family room tiles, maybe some gardening before going back to work Monday Morning.

Here's a You Tube clip of Lisa Edwards - a little of something we had the good fortune to experience in the atmosphere of an intimate private function. Thanks Nico.