Sunday, July 29, 2012

Three Days in Queensland

Business this week took me to Brisbane and the Gold Coast this weekend. It was actually both business and pleasure by taking out some time to catch up with family members that have left Melbourne for the Gold Coast.

The business part was to visit our customers - we are contracted to supplying the merchandise for the Australian 2013 Scout Jamboree. 10,000 scouts arrive in Queensland in January 2013 for 10 days of activities and memories that should stay with the kids for a lifetime.

Both Friday and Saturday morning consisted of arranged meetings and then time was my own. I have my daughter who joined us in France during May, my 91 year old father and my sister all living on the Gold Coast now. They have all deserted Melbourne for the weather. If Saturday and Sunday are anything to go by, I can't blame them.
The weekend, even though we are in the middle of winter has been sunny, with cloudless blue skies. I even had to remove my pullover as it really was T-shirt weather.

Buildings like this are all along the Gold Coast - It's the glitz of the Gold Coast that seems to draw people here. Its why I would not consider living here however the weather, the hinterland out behind the coast at this time of the year is a great attraction.
The reflection shows main coast road - very Miami...
As luck would have it, the Gold Coast MG Car Club and their annual concours in the parklands overlooking the coast. I'd been reading the local newspaper when I read that the concours was on and so I just had to go.
My daughter Carly and I meandered down to the park and maybe sixty MGs across the many models were parked on the grass. Again the sun was shining, people were in shorts and short sleeve shirts. The sun bounced off the highly polished sports car of another era gone by.

The MGCC Gold Coast celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the release of the first MGB in 1962.
The lady on the microphone had some very unkind things to say about the Melbourne winter weather so I took her to task - I discovered she was ex-Melbourne. It seems that the Gold Coast might be a colony of Melbourne as I me so many people who had migrated from down south.

Later in the afternoon we had an invitation to visit some friends that had migrated from Victoria to the hills at the back of the Gold Coast. They sold their 1880s Melbourne two story Victorian Terrace Home and replaced it with a modern home on a huge block of land overlooking the city.

The husband is one of those engineering magicians that seem to put his hand to most things mechanical. You may remember me posting on my "MAN CAVE" but its nothing compared to his "Man Cave".

Barry and my father Jack stand by Barry's "Best in the World" Ford F100.
Barry's Man Cave - his Man Cave is 100 metres at the bottom end of his property.
The paint work on Barry's F100 is like looking into a mirror.
 His pride and joy is his unbelievably perfectly rebuilt Ford F100 truck. Now as you may know, my interests lean towards MGs and European classic cars however I was amazed at the detail and expertise that went to this restoration.

The weekend is coming to a close as a write this post and my time with family and perfect sunny weather will be replaced with the Melbourne winter and my office desk until my next visit.

This Wednesday's Post
During this week on Wednesday's in France, we go to Vienne - a city rich in Roman Architecture.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Medieval Fortified Hilltop Village

We left Bourg-en-Bresse for Vienne with a mid-day stop at Perouges which lays about 30 kms to the north before Lyon. We read about it in our trusty DK Eye Witness travel book which has never let us down in discovering the magic sights of France. It is old and dog eared with lots of highlight pen marks. Each highlight in the book brings back memories and Perouges is one of the many special moments.

This hilltop walled village has a population of only 900 today but back in the 13C it had 1500 people with a thriving linen weaving industry. By 19C it had only 90 inhabitants. An influx of artisans saw faithful restoration of the medieval homes in the village to where it has been used for the filming of several movies such as "the Three Musketeers, and Monsieur Vincent" which I must dig out now to remind me of Perouges.

We remember driving to the car park and on walking to the entrance of the village through its arched opening in the fortifications we were walking on cobblestone paths. You could feel each cobblestone through the soles of your shoes. Hob nail boots would have been better to wear.

Although Perouges was only about a quarter of the way to our next overnight stay in Vienne, there was no way we would have missed it. As with all the Beau Villages of France, you find a tranquil environment that is hard to drag yourself away from. Our short visit allowed us to have a decent wander through the streets, and a sit-down at one of the cafes under the spreading lime tree planted just after the revolution.

The first porte to Perouges

Followed by the second entrance which forms part of the fortifications and walls of the church. The steps to the left lead inside the fortified church.
Imagine walking on the roads within Perouges in your best leather high heels!

We spent time just pass the entrance to explore the church, then upwards to the main part of the village. It had a very authentic feel about it and you could see why it was used as a setting for movies of days gone by.
In the very centre of the village was Place de la Halle with this great lime tree as a centre piece supposedly planted in the very late 1700s as a monument to the revolution.

Some sections of Perouges is still being restored or are they still in a state of decay?
I did read somewhere there was a time where the village was being considered for demolition - glad it was saved.
It's not difficult to see why Perouges is one of the Beau Villages of France.
It is certainly amongst one of the "Most Beautiful Villages of France".

After leaving Perouges we skirted Lyon on the way to Vienne which was a little less than 100kms along the main highways. Situated in the Rhone Valley, Vienne attracted us because of its fantastic and well preserved Roman remains from the first century, but more next Wednesday.

I mentioned earlier that Perouges due to its authenticity to medieval times, has been used as a location for many films - the following posters are from the films that I found. Maybe you have seen one or two.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

a MUSIC and FOOD weekend.

On Friday I posted Funky Friday with a rather nostalgic memory of my time on the West Coast of the US in 79'. Music played a big part in my life since I started listening to my brother's Elvis 45s. It strange how music you never much liked when it was popular, opens up new experiences decades on.
I never had any interest in ABBA and yet, you might think they are more popular now than back then.

One band I could never take seriously were the Monkees, I'm not sure that I can now, BUT, I'm not that serious myself and they were just a good time group of guys having a good time. Now a band that I did really like in the 60s was Lovin' Spoonful - still do like them.

On the way home from work Friday night, I called into my usual Hi Fi shop, JBs. Flicking through the various CD bins I found this new series from SONY/Rhino Music with two nostalgia packs which include 5 CDs from the artist's collection. These are packaged in reproduction album covers which is great for authenticity but with my very average eyesight, I still need a magnifying glass to read the notes. Do remember coming home with that big vinyl 33 1/3 rpm album, then going to your bedroom and listening to your new purchase while reading the lyrics - and all the notes. Can't do that today.

While writing this I am in fact listening to the first Monkees Album - sorry, CD. I'm not sure if I have grown to like them any better but they were a part of our musical pop history and there are a few tracks that I think are quite good.
The other "Original Album Classics" set I've really enjoyed - The Lovin' Spoonful have always been a favorite and over the years, I'd lost, misplaced or sold off my vinyl albums of the band.

My Friday night treat was the purchase of two "Original Album Classic" five CD sets.
They sit here on my "Bible" of Rock Music. This book as you can see is well thumbed and highly treasured.
Another treat was that Sue had the weekend cooking bug - we had a guest coming for dinner. Her husband was up in Darwin, Northern Territory sailing in the Australian Championships and Sue thought she might enjoy both a dinner and some company. We could have ordered in Pizza or something similar but no, Sue had to satisfy that creative cooking bug I mentioned earlier.

I had bought some Yarra Valley marinated feta cheese and some baby beetroot, so that pretty much tied up entree for me. I think they are a match made in heaven. I put them together with some rocket and spinach leaves, toasted walnuts and a honey vinaigrette. Added a few slivers of roasted duck breast. It was very nice.

We had lasagna, which we were all too busy eating to remember to photograph. Not a bad thing. Salad was leaves, orange segments, spring onions, avocado and pomegranate seeds, cos they taste good and look pretty.

Dessert was me playing. Made some little tartlette shells, with bought shortcrust pastry. Three fillings. Our lime tree is overflowing at the moment, so I had lime curd that I made last week already in the fridge. A dob of cream and grated dark chocolate. Number two was vanilla marscapone with blueberries, and number three was salted caramel that we brought back in a jar from France, with some dark chocolate drizzles. All were good, but my vote was for the lime curd. I'm a sucker for fruit desserts, especially anything citrus.

The following night with some duck still leftover, we had the last portions over a risotto. Sue had a shopping spree during the week with a visit to a membership only warehouse called COSCO and later our favorite Italian supermarket, Mediterranean Wholesaler.
The result was some prepackaged interesting risottos which are great for that impromptu meal. This one was an Artichoke Risotto. Very yummy with three slices of duck over the top.

What the risottos are is a small portion of arborio rice that has dried artichoke pieces and some dried herbs added. You then add it with your normal risotto rice. Not sure I'd bother again. Still have a porcini one to try. Ho hum.
Leon: Well I liked it.

Much of the weekend was taken up with the final touches to the spare bedroom, well not spare for long. Our 24 year old son returns from Montreal after a five month holiday. It will be good to have him back home again although we think he may have gained a little independence and it won't be long before he heads out for other travel journeys.

Oh! just another thing - very impulsive really. We bought a bath and a glass shower screen.
Looks like a bathroom make over may take some blogging time soon now that I've finished the prodigal son's bedroom.
So!!! What should we post in the future - renovations or cooking?

TRIVIA: Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You" for the Monkees?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Funky Friday

It was one of those moments in life when it makes an impression for the rest of your life.
This moment was Stephane Grapelli. It was the summer of 1979 - I was living in San Francisco and training and racing on the West Coast cycle scene just taking in the life of a full time cyclist, reading, listening to music and generally having a great time.

I visited the many book shops and music shops there and I brought back a heap of books and LPs. One of them that I heard in a record shop was Uptown Dance by Stephane Grapelli. I had no idea of what or who was a Stephane Grapelli but I heard this great jazz sound filtering out of the speakers and had to know who it was. As it turned out, this LP was from the store owners private collection and was now out of stock in the US.

I returned home from the Californian summer  to Melbourne's summer with the sound still in my ears.
I was to discover that my subscription record club had Uptown Dance available in its monthly selections - it still brings back memories of that San Franciscan summer in 79'. Do you have any memories that ignite after a special song or piece of music. I'd like to know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Autun to Bourg-en-Bresse

If you remember from our last post, Sue wanted to visit Bourg-en-Bresse to see the blue legged chooks.
Poulet de Bresse are raised in the district, something that I had no knowledge of but my passionate culinary wife (take that any way you want) knew of this "appellation controlee" brand of chook.
She's (Sue that is) big on eating and drinking whatever is "of the region". Me, I just go along with her passion (take that any way you want).
So we left Beaune and took the road that led us via our overnight stay at Autun and then on to Bourg-en-Bresse after lunch. A coffee stop at Macon and a visit to the ATM which was the most exciting part of our visit to Macon. Not sure why that was the case. Maybe were were spoilt by the delights of Beaune. Macon seemed very grey, parking was difficult and so we moved on smartly.

Bourg-en-Bresse was a complete contrast in our eyes, colour seemed to jump out at us. Maybe the sun was shining but flower filled road side gardens are in my memory. The hotel where we we stayed was situated on an open square and the view from our window looked out upon the tree filled square.

We walked the streets with dinner in mind and we weren't disappointed after finding a very traditional looking restaurant French Bistro not far from the hotel.

The view from our hotel window overlooked the square and across rooftops.
We ate at this traditional French Restaurant in Bourg-en-Bresse. Definitely worth it for the food and the wonderful  old world decor.

Just north of Bourg-en-Bresse is a little village of St-Trivier-de-Courtes where Sue wanted to see the restored 17th century farmhouse "Ferme-Musee de la Foret". Along the way in a field not far away she saw a large group of very happy chooks madly running free range. I wonder how she felt seeing these happy feathered little fellows after having a meal of their cousins the night before.

We only spent an hour looking around the ancient farm house before heading to Perouges, a 13th century fortified hilltop village and on to Vienne for an overnight stay. Pop in next Wednesday for more news then.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Bastille Weekend in Melbourne.

Saturday was Bastille Day and Sue said, "What can we cook that is traditionally French". As you know after our five trips to France since 2006, we could take on the mantle of being Francophiles.
A bottle (or two) of Cote d'Rhone helped start the evening but I'll Sue explain how our Bastille night dinner went - at home, just the two of us in the kitchen.

I decided that with our cold weather coq au vin would be nice. There is an Australian recipe site I like called Taste, and they had a few different recipes. I wasn't after authenticity, just yumminess. Chose one I liked the sound of and we were off!

Leon has been having a go at helping in the kitchen in the past few months and it is great to have someone to do the prep. He did all the chopping, went outside in the cold to fetch the thyme and bay leaves and tidied the mushrooms. I, on the other hand swanned around the kitchen looking self important and drinking wine....a very good blend of talents I believe.

Served with garlic mash, with potatoes cut up by Leon it was delish!

Crepes, what could be more French? Not a lot I believe. So, orange liqueur crepes. Nice! I showed Leon how to make the batter and left him to it.  I cooked the first one, then left the kitchen to Leon. We actually had pancakes. They tasted yummy, but a little technique still required. I really am a nasty piece of work! He has to have something to aspire to after all!

Left Overs - the night after.

I made double the amount of sauce because I thought it would make an awesome risotto. I was right. I have done it before when I have cooked lamb shanks in the pressure cooker, so I couldn't see why this wouldn't work just as well. Sorry about the big pink alien hands in the photo! It was very nice and I always get a nice, warm, housewifely glow when I can make a second meal from not much!

I'm not sure if I'm cut out to being Sue's prep person in her kitchen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We left Beaune for our overnight stop at Autun. The weather was warming up with temperatures close to 40C. The comfort of the air conditioned car was welcoming for the 50 kms drive.
Why Autun did I hear someone ask? Well we read about it in our DK Travel Guide and it was a mid-way stop to Bourg-en-Bresse.
It was the history of Autun's Roman past that particularly interested me but there was much more to discover if the heat of the day wasn't so overbearing. On arrival at our hotel across from the station we unloaded our bags to our room which we can't remember much of except there was a bar downstairs and cold beer was the first thing we took the chance to enjoy.

Even after driving from Dijon, we hopped back into the "comfort" of the air-conditioned car to experience the Roman past of Autun. As usual we became a little lost and found ourselves driving around a roundabout where the local police were. We stopped to ask directions and after they discovered were from Australie, they were very helpful and even offered a smile. Not something we've experience from the French Police before.

These photos of Autun's ancient theatre, or what is left of it could seat 20,000 people which seems strange when today's population is just that. Our DK travel guide claims that Autun was founded late in the first century and at its peak had four times its current population - it was a centre of learning. It must have been a thriving city in its time.

During our one night stay in Autun, the streets were deserted. We seemed to be the only people in the whole town as you can see by the photos - maybe the extreme heat of the day had something to do with it.

After waking the next morning we organised ourselves for the drive to Bourg-en-Bresse and Sue's Blue Legged Chooks. This was Sue's choice, to sample the Bresse Chickens at one of the local restaurants.

We took the route from Autun via Montceau le Mines to Macon and then Bourg-en-Bresse - I didn't tell Sue why but the town had a Velodrome I wanted to see. Food is Sue's passion, mine is Velodromes - what can I say!!!

We admire the beautiful gardens of the French Chateaux but I find beauty in the lovely curves of the Velodromes - OK, I'm weird.
But, on the way way discovered a gem of a Chateau that just popped out from around a corner when we least expected it. I stopped to take photos when Sue said, "Look at the Squirrel" which I missed.
I tried looking this Chateau up on Google Earth with success - anyone been there before?
It is the Berze le Chateau and on the way to Macon after leaving Montceau le Mines. The Chateau had its beginnings from 991AD and fell into disrepair during the centuries but today, privately owned it has been beautifully restored and has award winning gardens. I'm only telling you this through what I learnt  by painful research. Why didn't we take the time to visit?

The trip to Bourg-en-Bresse will continue next Wednesday. See you then.