Saturday, 31 December 2011

'Chercher du pain' Paris, Christmas morning...

I was able to walk down to the boulongerie for fresh bread on Christmas morning as this part of daily life in France stops for nothing - indeed around about the apartment, we are spoilt for choice. I decided to take a walk down through the little park near us 'Square des Batignolles' and remembered doing the same walk on New Years day 2009 - and thought how lucky I was, yet again.

On my return through the park I was on the lookout for the little band of followers I acquired on that walk (although I'm not sure it was me they were attracted to!) but this time the park seemed devoid of bird life, I do hope it was not down to lack of food!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Oh carol ! - Christmas in Paris...

On Christmas Eve evening we wanted to experience the midnight service at the beautiful  Sacré-Coeur so headed up to one of our favourite areas of Paris - Montmartre. The service was to start with an hour long  organ recital at 10.00pm then an hour of carols followed by the mass itself. We decided we would try and slip in towards the end of the organ recital.

We went up early enough to stroll around the area and take in the atmosphere.
The photograph of the steps was also  taken here.

The Place du Tertre was unrecognisable or should that be recognisable as normally you can see little but throngs of tourists. We sat down at one of the pavement tables of the restaurant you see in the photograph above - after a few minutes we were approached by a waiter who had just finished explaining the bill to another couple  we asked what his price for a glass of wine was - 8.00 euros  - we thanked him and left, went around the corner and had a glass for 4.00 along with the company of a couple of charming Australian girls and a young American guy.

I took this shot of the Paris night skyline and the basilica itself before heading in to the sound of the organ.


Inside,where understandably, no photography was allowed, was jaw-dropping and packed, so much so, that there were large video screens set up to the side of the main altar so no-one would miss any of the 'action'. We listened to the last of the organ recital that had (honest) literally sent part of the audience to sleep before standing for the procession into the church. The procession consisted of a group of priests and nuns who would be the choir for the service. We listened to unfamiliar carols in French (obviously), although we had thought we might have had some in Latin to appease the international audience but no.. it was actually proving to be too 'high-brow' for us 'Philistines' so we decided to slip out and try and catch the mass at the  church local to Francoise and Richard's apartment.

                                              This pic. is from a visit last August.

Unfortunately this was further over our heads, it was a service conducted in Portuguese for the local community from that part of the world. There had been services throughout the day in different languages -  confirming what a cosmopolitan city Paris really is.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A walk around...

On a bright and crisp Christmas Eve morning we took our first stroll in this our favourite city. We walked down to the lovely little 'Parc Monceau' from where we caught a familiar site of one of Paris's iconic landmarks.

It was nice to be back and how lucky were we with the weather!

As  we walked back the streets threw up their usual host of delights - the 'Santa Voleurs' had even followed us. It was so quiet - as this slip road off the normally packed 'Peripherique' demonstrates.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

To Paris for Christmas...

Well did you guess? 
I am fortunate enough to have a brother in Paris who also has a lovely house in Provence, where this year he decided to have his family Christmas gathering. He was not alone as it appears the great majority of Parisians head out of the city at this time of year. This of course meant his Paris apartment was empty and he was more than happy to let Pauline and I use it for Christmas.

Rooms with a view - an expensive one!

We travelled up on the 23rd taking the N10 road via Vendôme, where we had lunch, Châteaudun and Chartres before heading up to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse from where we took the RER into the city (4.90 euros). We parked the car (9 euros/week) near the station where it will be (we hope) until we return. We were lucky enough to find a train at the station on our arrival.

Entrance to Vendome.

The very festive bridge over the Loir (without the 'e') in Vendome.
The imposing chateau at Chateaudun.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas...

Click below to see Jim & Pauline ...
Rockin' around the Christmas tree is even more fun when you rock with a friend! You know what they say, the more the merrier!

Check out the Scottish Production of 'The Snowman'

First French Christmas..

This will be our first Christmas here in France and the first time wait for 38 years, we have been on our own at this time of year - it will be different! We have also had 31 Christmases  with our sons and as I put up the tree for the first time here in France, I have to admit to having more than a touch of nostalgia wash over me - and this from a bah-humbug guy!

We have decided that due to my brother Robert's health issues that it is not really a time for much celebration - the tree is our attempt at acknowledging that Christmas will be here no matter what we do. Robert would probably tell us not to be so stupid and get on with it. He is still using his humour to help him through - he told us the other day the specialist has asked him to come back on the 9th January - to which he replied that he hopes it is an appointment he can keep! 

Friday, 23 December 2011

If there was a prize...

... for the most festive decorations on a house in Barrou then this would be it! It's on Grande Rue opposite the boulangerie. They haven't switched them on as yet so no night shot.

Have you noticed the French seem to have penchant for these creepy 'Santa Voleurs'

These are opposite the 'prize winner'.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Santa overdose...

On a recent walk spotted this gang disguised as Santas laying siege to a house out in the country.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Marchés de Noël - La Celle Guenand

At last, a nice day for it!

The Christmas market at the chateau  at La Celle Guenand on Saturday was the first of these occasions this festive season where we have not had to endure a rather dismal day weather wise. The château was resplendent in the winter sunshine  - what a change from the last couple of day

The English owners of the chateau do a great job of hosting events here, fully utilising all the resources at their disposal. We were here in September on Patrimoine day when we had lunch in the troglodyte caves behind the chateau, today they were used to host the local artisan's stalls in a unique setting. 
I was impressed by the wood-turner working away on his mobile wood lathe producing walnut cracking bowls.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Marchés de Noël - Descartes

There wasn't one...

As we were driving to Descartes to check out their Christmas market we were remarking on how it would be the first we had visited without the drizzly rain back drop. Ah well! 

In fairness to the organizers, we'd had a couple of wild nights and even this morning was bad but here we were in Descartes, on a lovely winter's afternoon - no crystal ball here then!

The town square has been covered in 'snow' under the careful watch of  René's statue ( which appears  to have had a paint job).
I don't suppose M. Descartes ever thought he'd be looking down on eskimos, igloos, penguins and polar bears but then I suspect he had other things on his mind!

Not wishing to waste such a pleasant afternoon, we decided to take a walk along the river and through the gardens, which are a delight at any time of year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Marchés de Noël- Ferrière-Larçon

Another damp and drizzly Marché de Noël last Sunday (11th) at Ferrière-Larçon but they do such a good job of using the church and its surroundings that most of the exhibitors were safely under cover.

The visit provided an opportunity to check out the new restaurant / salon de thé in the village. It's great to see the village getting some much needed commerce - the premises is also home to a small grocers

There is more to this little village than first meets the eye - more of this later. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Shelling out....

“Le Vieux Moulin de Noix”

We are always a little sad when we leave our Barrou house as it is here we consider as our 'home' but we have come to accept the our lives over here have to be different and anyway 'Les Balcons' is not so bad! Some of our friends refer to it as our 'grown-up' house, I suppose for us it will now be our 'winter home'.

We called our Barrou house“Le Vieux Moulin de Noix” as the room currently used as the lounge in the house, was formally a walnut mill and would probably have a set-up similar to the  photograph opposite. You can still see evidence of the collecting vats here plus partial grinding stones within the garden. The power would perhaps have been provided by an animal such as a donkey which would also provide a heat source rising to the accommodation above. We were interested to see if there was a local 'mill' that we could visit. The nearest was just outside Chatellerault. 

So last year we collected walnuts from local trees and we took our harvest to the walnut mill in the village of Availles-en-Chatellerault. We had spent a couple of winter nights cracking shells along with our French neighbour until we had what we thought was enough (4kg actually but that's a lot of shelling)) to take for crushing at the mill, to give us our very own Barrou walnut oil.When we arrived there were people there with giant sacks full - obviously a large part of their winter evening entertainment - nut cracking. Our  minuscule amount was put in with small contributions from other 'gatherers' and we were given some already bottled oil. We did watch other nuts being 'milled' and left happily with our virgin oil.

This year we are just eating our walnuts in various guises and replenishing our oil at a much reduced cost from the mill.

The Lepine family have been producing oils here since1810.The mill  is open all the year round Monday through to Saturday from 8:00 to 12:00 and from 14 to 18H00. You will smell it before you see it!


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Bursting banks...

No, not the money kind, although there are a few fit to burst around I'm sure, it's riverbanks. After the winds and rain of Thursday night we checked out the house, no obvious problems, just some garden furniture blown about.We also checked out the Barrou house and some houses of friends who are back in the UK.

As we drove around we were met by swollen rivers...  

At Barrou

At Lesigny

At La Roche Posay

At Vicq sur Gartempe

At Angles sur l'Anglin

 Where the clouds disappeared for a few moments.

The rain was back by the time we got back to Le Grand Pressigny.