Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tours in the Loire

We'd never been to Tours in previous trips to the Loire, we always had a car and drove to the Loire.
On this occasion we were just visiting friends for a few days with an overnight stop in Tours before picking up the car. We decided on taking the TGV to Tours, and picking up the car the following morning.

Catching the TGV from Paris seemed to be the easy way and by booking three months out from Melbourne, we were able to buy at heavily discounted prices - just one of the tricks Sue has learnt by experience.
Tours Station - our first view of the city.
We didn't realise though that the Tours TGV station is not in Tours and you have to transfer to this little dinky train that takes you into Tours proper. I love French stations, they ooze of historic architecture.
Tours has one of those stations.

As we walked from the station, we were confronted by one those beautify manicured squares that the French do so well. Across the road from the square was a concert hall and it welcomed us with a little bit of home. An Australia tribute Pink Floyd band were booked to play there after our departure. I'm a bit of a Pink Floyd fan and have met a car owned by the Drummer Nick Mason who has a marvelous stable of classic cars. His ERA has visited Australia, but I digress (again).
Aussie "Pink Floyd" tribute band playing at downtown Tours.
Our B&B for our overnight stay was nothing short of perfect and only a short walk to the historic part of Tours. Had we been a little more savvy, we would have picked up our rental car first instead of lugging our bags to the B&B first as the office was closer.

After picking up the car, we parked at the B&B before taking off for our discovery walk of Tours historic town - That comes next week in "Wednesdays in France".

Our B&B entrance - how could you not want to enter.
The B&B window ledge.
The breakfast room
Join us for our walk through Tours next Wednesday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Melbourne Weekend

It wasn't that we didn't do anything interesting this weekend - it just got away from us.

The usual bubbly Friday night to welcome in the weekend and a lovely French movie on the DVD machine was a good way to start. The movie was "A Distant Neighbourhood" and rather than explain it - check it out here.

It was a very intriguing movie and just with enough quirkiness. Saturday morning loomed and I dragged myself out of bed for our usual "Weekend Warrior" ride along Melbourne's famous Beach Road with thousands of other cyclists except this Saturday the clouds looked menacing so I turned in the other direction with the rain chasing me for the next 5 kms. Overall after the clouds moved on, I enjoyed a 70 kms ride and a well deserved coffee afterwards. Have I mentioned that Melbourne is the Coffee Capital of Australia - it's true.

I was home in time to shower and get ready for Sue's niece's birthday but with lots of food (and wine) it was an early Saturday night.

With a very heavy workload in my job lately, things at home have fallen behind so Sunday started with Sue's list of jobs (and mine). We are currently catching up with all those maintenance jobs that fall behind until you decide that not too far in the future, you will downsize and the house needs to be in a respectable condition for sale. Well I do have a few years to do that but NO, Sue says. So, painting, lawn mowing, weeding, etc.

After these jobs were ticked off, we visited friends for a glass of white wine in the Melbourne spring sunshine while we watched them paint - now that's what I call entertaining.

But I needed to get home as a friend had invited me to a concert of a past successful pop artist that now does stripped down versions of their past hits on electric acoustic guitar. This bloke was one I had no memory of but was pleasantly surprised. He was one of the singers of an 80s band called the Go Betweens.

That was our weekend in Melbourne - what did you do?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Funky Friday on a Saturday

One night this week I called into my favorite CD shop and I was looking for something new - new music at my age is hard to find.
Well not hard to find but hard to like. I don't listen to the current music stations anymore. Way, way back I had a momentary interest in Jazz and also remember that we had a few albums hanging around the house of Miles Davis. My son's have also been listening to some Davis so I bought three CDs to get into.

While I write this, I'm listening to his "Sketches of Spain". I really like it as I look out the study window watching the gentle breeze move the new spring growth in the garden.

Maybe some of you out there in Blog land could recommend a favorite CD I should listen to.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Montparnasse - Paris - March 2010

Flying in to Charles de Gaulle has become like walking through the great mouth of Luna Park - the delights of another trip to France waiting to be experienced. Never thought we would look upon an International Airport in that manner but its what lay beyond the airport that fills you with anticipation.

Even waiting for Paris Shuttle has become a familiar experience now. I remember our first experience of arriving at CdG and Paris Shuttle. Where do we go, will Paris Shuttle be there - panic, panic. Now its just matter of course.

This trip would hold no surprises, no dramas - France had become familiar to us. Plus it was the year of my 60th birthday, a present from Sue. Not a long trip this time, only 3 weeks, with two weeks of living in a Paris apartment.

Paris Shuttle took us to our hotel which was almost across the road to Gare Montparnasse. This is where we would catch the TGV to Tours for an overnight stay before meeting with friends on the Cher river in the Loire.

The view from our hotel room. Montparnasse Tower lurking.
Bringing the bike with me, I was looking forward to doing the same as this fellow, riding the streets of Paris and getting lost.
I'm not sure if we were jet lagged or not but we did wander down the road from our very average hotel - as I said it was close to the station being the only reason we booked it.
There it was, just on the main drag - Le Montparnasse 1900 on Boulevard Montparnasse. We thought, "that might be a nice place to try for dinner".
The decor is Bell Epoque and the menu was mainly seafood - I had oysters!!!!!!!
I do remember that I enjoyed the meal, the wine and the general experience but it's now over two years ago to give you an informed critique. I did look it up on a few forums and noticed mixed reviews.

Scenes from a restaurant. le Montparnasse 1900.

Reflections in a mirror.
Even the toilets are worth a visit.
For us, breakfast is always a street cafe.
Traditional French breakfast - Petit Dejeuner but at home its probably a cup of tea with vegemite toast.
The morning of our train trip to Tours loomed and so we needed to have an early breakfast. We tend not to eat at the hotels, preferring to find a cafe and watch the Paris life go by. Much better than sitting in a hotel with other tourists or business travellers. Petit Dejeuner of juice, coffee, croissant or a bread stick is our choice.

It was time to get back to the hotel, collect the bags and get the TGV for Tours. See you next Wednesday.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Blues Brothers of Bikes...

A sunny Sunday Melbourne morning was just perfect for a Father and Son ride. The last time we did this, Mitch was 12 years old, me 50. Hope we don't wait that long before our next ride - I don't think I could keep up.

This Sunday was the running of the Annual 220 kms Round the Bay ride. Some 8000 riders of all ages, sizes and physiques were out today. Mitch and I were just doing a casual ride to Frankston and back, not much more than a casual 50 kms spin with a coffee stop half way.
Sitting down for coffee we watched the 1000s of riders heading off for the epic ride, many on bikes that I would not even consider using. Very brave people but all with a purpose in mind and the fact that much of their entry money went to charity was good to see. I wonder how they will feel Monday morning.

Cool Dudes - Blues Brothers of Bikes.

Many of you who read this blog will know my passion for the bike. Its a great way to meet people and to absorb the local scene at a more leisurely pace than from the inside of a car. I like to chat to the riders we meet on the road, make contact in some way. I saw a chap on a uni-cycle and gave him a thumbs up - he did the same back to me.
The bikes we rode today have only one gear - Beach Road, Bayside is flat so we don't need lots of gears.

As we sat having our coffee, one could wonder what this bayside town may have been like way back during the early years - well not so early in context of European history. Frankston was an early fishing village in 1850, reached only by boat from Melbourne. Later a dirt track was opened up that today is a busy thoroughfare. A freeway bypassing the many beach side suburbs was opened up for those that were on their way somewhere else pass Frankston.

Frankston was the site of the first Australian Jamboree in 1935.
Gregory Peck starred in "On the Beach" filmed in the Frankston area. Ava Gardner, not that impressed said that if you were going to film the end of the world, then Melbourne would be the place!!!
Frankston was the location of the film, "On the Beach" made from the book by local writer Neville (Shute) Norway. It was also the home to Graham Kennedy, an early pioneer of Australian live Television.
Here's a skit he did in the early years of Australian television, only months into a long running variety show, "In Melbourne Tonight".

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'd Rather go Blind - You Send Me.

Many years ago, friends introduced Mary Coughlan to us. We bought the CD they played for us that night and then every CD before and after that one. Mary is Irish and I have to admit to being partial to Irish singers. Van Morrison, Luka Bloom, Mary Black are all amongst our CD collection.

 Mary Coughlan came to Australia - she came to Melbourne to a venue called the Malthouse in South Melbourne. We had tickets, I bought them early as I didn't want Sue and I to miss out.
We need not have bothered - we were amongst no more than twenty people in a venue of possibly of 200 seats or more.
I felt sad at seeing so many empty seats but Mary gave us a great show. Here's a You Tube Clip but please don't watch it with your morning cup of tea - Wait until late at night, grab a coffee, a glass of your favorite liquor and get into a mood where you may have had a special person in your life jilt you - and then listen to Mary sing. Tell me that just a little tear didn't fall down your cheek with a memory of a lost love.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to France - 2010

In 2006, we took what we thought would be our "Once in a Lifetime" overseas trip. Sue had just retired due to health issues, we paid our the mortgage and put some cash aside for that trip to France and Italy.
Little did we know that 2006 would be followed by France in 2008 and 2009. Wednesdays in France finished last week with our return from Paris to Melbourne for that 2009 trip. It was one where we met some really nice people along the way, saw some great scenery and architecture while experiencing markets and culinary delights of France.

You dream that you might travel back but its not a certain. 2010 was to be my 60th year and Sue asked what would I like to do to celebrate this milestone. Would I like to have a party and invite all my friends , so I rang them both and they were busy on that occasion. Sue had another idea - would I like to celebrate my 60th in Paris. Fantastic, yes please!

So Wednesdays in France returns next week with our 2010 trip. It was a shorter one this time but no less enjoyable with two weeks in an apartment in Paris and a few days in the Loire staying with friends.

I also had my bike with me again and had the chance to ride with two of my cycling friends in Paris.
We see Wednesdays in France as a bit of a travel diary and YES, a little indulgent. BUT isn't that what blogging is? We enjoy all our favourite Blogs and hope you enjoy our travel experiences.

But more next week - 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meeting an old Friend

I heard that the Citroen Classic Owners Club of Australia was having their annual concours and they could not have wished for a better day. A very pleasant spring day - cloudless sky - about 24 degrees, perfect.
In the late 60s, early 70s I was a member of the Citroen Car Club of Victoria. Most of the members were of a rather mature aged and owned the more modern D Series Citroens but us youngsters were more interested in the Traction Avant and 2CVs. Anyway we were seen as those kids that drove those old cars. We were at the time keen to preserve the Classic Citroens and trying to keep them on the road by stockpiling spares. The Club didn't see this as part of their charter so there was a parting of the ways, hence the "Citroen Classic Owners Car Club of Australia".

Sue and I owned a 1951 Slough built Traction Avant. It was our first but in a previous life I'd owned several Citroens and as a young girl, Sue's father owned a Family 9 or in French, a Familiale.

I've called this post, "Meeting an old Friend" because that Citroen Traction Avant just happened to be on display on the day. Three of its previous owners just happened to be there on the day. The son of the people I bought the car from, and the person that currently owns the car - it still has its original number plates.
So Bob, Steve and I had a good old chin wag.

The Citroen Classic Owners Club of Australia logo has not changes since its inception during the 70s.
Sue and I purchased our Traction Avant sixteen years back when I had a payout from a company that I worked for. It was probably the fifth that I've owned since my late teenage years. I have to admit that I was feeling a little nostalgic.
Now this it what most Citroen Traction Avant enthusiasts would want in their garage.
If you're looking for a bit more power, how about a Maserati engined Citroen SM.
Or maybe the Citroen CX?
Then there's the D-Series 
But the cutest of all the Citroens is the 2CV, Deux Chevaux

This sign that you see on the side of the 2CV above was from the RAID. What's a RAID - well its when these crazy 2CV owners travel some ungodly distance through Australia, from the big cities to the outback and through deserts and over the alps. Brave people indeed.
So that was the feature of our "Weekend in Melbourne". After meeting an old (Citroen) friend, Sue and I with our son Mitch traveled into South Melbourne market to have lunch. Bad mistake, Sue's favorite kitchenware shop (one of many), The Chef's Hat was just across the road.
After Flathead, chips and a white wine it was off to The Chef's Hat and some spending.

Overall, its been a great weekend - hope yours was too.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Friday Fotos - Faded Signs

Traveling home Friday from work, I stopped in the little shopping village of Surrey Hills. Well, its not really a village as such but it does have that small town feel. For how long is anyone's guess.
Why? Well some buildings have been demolished in the quaint shopping village and I expect that something modern will go up on this now vacant plot. There is however a positive aspect to the demolition.
I would guess that this might be the third building on this plot with the first building being single story, where this last one was maybe two story because behind its walls are some partly very well preserved signs.
The signs have been hidden from the elements over many years - they tell a story within themselves.
Two of them were rival tea companies - Robur and Bushells.
Another faded sign is Orlando Wines of the Barossa Valley in South Australia, one of the biggest exporters of the Jacobs Creek label.

Orlando wines are some of the first wines that I enjoyed in my 20s. An Austrian immigrant, Johann Gramp planted vines on the banks of Jacob's Creek (1847) in the Barossa Valley. His first vintage was in 1850.
Today the wine that bears the name of that first planting is one of the biggest exported wines of Australia.
Signs bearing the remains of Nestles, Robur and Medallion.
Alfred Bushell opened his first Tea Shop in Brisbane 1883 and his brand became an Australian national tea.
Kodak - Did they wait too long too join the digital revolution.
Kodachrome - a faded memory of the past.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Goodbye Paris

Our time in Paris was drawing to a close - we'd been here for a week. It was a good way to unwind after exploring France for the last month. Our apartment was delightful with the intimate outdoor courtyard where each evening birds would come to get a free feed from us. We'd seen sights that we had missed from our previous times in Paris like Montmartre, the inside of Palais Garnier and Pere Lachaise. We revisited Galleries Lafayette for lunch and I took my bike this time and rode with other cyclists at Vincennes parklands and the Velodrome within the parklands.
We experienced marvellous food and wine of the various districts. Starting from Charles deGaulle airport, we picked up our lease car and drove to Senlis, Chantilly, down to the Loire and across to Burgundy over a five week period. It had been a trip of meeting people and forming friendships that still are very special to this day.

We walked the canals of Paris.
And the boulevards - our visit was coming to an end.
Bastille was familiar to us during our 2006 trip. This time we stayed close by, enjoyed the district  like locals.
Ashley, Our Son's girlfriend found time to visit in Paris - and have lunch at Galleries Lafayette.
Chocolate and Bicycles - where else but in Paris.
But don't leave your bike unattended otherwise you might end up with a unicycle.

The owl of Dijon and the Eiffel Tower.
France - for us is a home away from home.
The trip back home is never a pleasant one - almost a whole day sitting a metal fuselage with a heap of people you don't know or not really wanting to know. At least I have Sue beside me and for six weeks in France, sitting cramped in cattle class for over two days of coming and going is worth it.

This was the end of our third trip to France - back in 2006, we thought it would be our once in a life time trip with Sue's retirement. It wasn't and now we are planning our sixth trip back for 2014.

See you next Wednesday where will tell you of the next visit to France - Our fourth.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Dinner for Two - Home Alone

Yep, home alone. Just Sue and I. Our son Mitchy was out doing Karaoke. Sue has this new oven, hot plate and exhaust extractor installed earlier in the weekend and she wanted to cook. We went shopping on Saturday arvo, she who must be obeyed "invited" me along. Le Mule, that's me - she shops, I carry.

The new oven and le Mule.
Now I'm not complaining (too much), I do reap the rewards. Oh! I must say I do select wine to match the meal. I selected a Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon. It actually has a romantic significance. Not long after we met, Sue bought me a wonderful wine rack with a dozen bottles of wine in it. Six of them were Taltarni.
We separately bought the wine, Sue the bubbles, me the red. without knowing we had both bought wine from the same maker. Taltarni has always been our favourite.
That's a huge piece of Rib-Eye. 

Potatoes cooked in duck fat - all crispy and golden.

Cherry tomatoes with garnished garlic mushrooms - a meal on their own.
Good wine, great food, candle on the table and home alone.
SUNDAY and daylight saving. We did move our clocks forward and I did get up to go for a morning ride however winter returned this morning with wind and showers so it was back to bed for a sleep in.
We had been to join friends from the MG Car Club to join them to enjoy their company and to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of what is now the Bathurst 1000 - a Supercar event run at Mount Panorama, Bathurst New South Wales. It originally started way back in the 60s at Phillip Island raceway in Victoria.

Mount Panorama was used as the venue for the 1937 Australian Grand Prix when Peter Whitehead from the UK came to Australia with his ERA racing car and won the event. The venue had been used again for the AGP and also for motorcycle racing. These days it is mostly a battle between Ford and Holden and the various devotees set up camp on the Mount in their specific groups to cheer on their favorite drivers.

We enjoyed the event in the comfort our friend's home with a spread of food and wine supplied by us all.

Bathurst in the 1960s.

Our friends from the MG Car Club together for the Bathurst 1000.
Our host Fritz in costume with the same MG TC he had as a young fella...
The helmet and the clothes he's had all these years and they still fit.
That was our weekend - hope yours was fun as well.