Thank Goodness for Friends and Neighbours


The weather is revolting. When it’s not raining, it’s grey and overcast and I can’t remember the last time we saw any sun.  The adjustment to retirement is proving far more difficult than anyone imagined so I am truly grateful for any distraction that will take us out the house and into the company of others.

Dull grey weather typical at the moment

Dull grey weather typical at the moment

The first distraction on the programme is a gougères and mini-croissants workshop at Martine’s in preparation for Christmas. We tasted both these goodies at her place recently when she held a book signing.

Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise

Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise

The gougères are a speciality from Burgundy, where Martine hails from. They are little puffy cheese things, light as a feather, delicious and surprisingly easy to make. You can also freeze them for later use (as in Christmas).

Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up

Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up

Next come the mini-croissants filled with ham and cheese, salmon, goat cheese or whatever else you think will taste good. You start with store-bought flaky pastry and use a little cutting wheel to make sixteen wedges. You cut the filling to size, roll up the wedges and pop them in the oven. Hey presto! Perfect as an apéritif with vouvray sparkling wine.

Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire

Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire

The second distraction is lunch with the girls from Françoise’s gym. I’m not really into gym but I like meeting all the participants. Sixteen of us, including one game husband and the gym teacher, have a most enjoyable lunch in the Initiation dining room of the local catering school, where we’ve already eaten a couple of times in the Brasserie.

A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right

A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right

For 14.50 euro, we have an apéritif, eggs Benedictine, poulet chasseur and flambéed bananas which are prepared at the end of the table, together with a local red and coffee. As usual, good value for money. The young apprentices are very serious and do a good job under the attentive eye of their supervisor.

The view from the dining room - grey as usual

The view from the dining room – grey as usual

On Saturday, a local caterer, Eric Bacon, is holding an open day where you can taste and buy various Christmas foods, such as foie gras, salmon, snails and a selection of tarts. Around six, we walk up the hill with our four neighbours from Les Grouets to Eric’s place where a large tent is keeping everyone nice and warm to the sound of the accordéon. Our local biscuit maker, Damien, is also there as well as a representative of Daridan vineyard near Cheverny.

Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon's tent

Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon’s tent

We taste their cheverny, cour cheverny, sauvignon and « fines bulles » (natural sparkling wine with fine bubbles) and choose the sauvignon to go with the appetizer platter we’ve decided to share : shrimp, whelks with herb mayonnaise, foie gras and wild boar pâté.

Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat

Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat

Going down the hill is much easier particularly as Liliane has invited us all to share a duckling that has been simmering on the side of the wood burner all day accompanied by chanterelle mushrooms that Jean Michel and Alain went picking the day before while Françoise and I were enjoying our lunch!

The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made

The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made

Halfway through dinner, Alain brings out a surprise. It looks like a large tobacco tin and turns out to a Mikiphone pocket phonograph patented by a Swiss firm in the Jura mountains in 1924, the smallest talking machine on the market. We watch as Alain puts it together, then gets out an old vinyl record. The sound isn’t brilliant because the stabiliser is missing but the songs are still recognisable!

We walk home feeling warm and fuzzy at the thought of having such wonderful friends and neighbours to help us through this period of adjustment to togetherness as one of our Australian friends so aptly described it.

Posted in Blois, Food, Les Grouets, Life in France, Mushrooms | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Mulled Wine and Chestnuts with the Locals


It’s one of those dull and dreary rainy days in December with little motivation to venture much further than the fireside but our local association, Les Amis des Grouets, is having its annual mulled wine and chestnut evening just down the road at 6 pm and we missed it last year.

This year's Christmas cake

This year’s Christmas cake

The Christmas cake is in the oven but this year only Jean Michel was able to stir and make a wish in person. Black Cat and I chatted on skype while I was making the cake (she was ironing in New York!) and she made a virtual wish.

So, umbrellas open, we call in to collect Françoise and Paul on the way. As we get close to the church, we can hear accordion music and see fairy lights.

We pay our annual dues and buy a ticket each. Fortunately, there are a couple of tents (no doubt the same ones that were used for the bread baking day in May when it was also raining …) but surprisingly, the rain lets up completely.

Accordian player

Accordian player

We are given a white paper bag to collect our chestnuts and raffle tickets to get a plastic cup of mulled wine. We’re allowed refills, we’re told.

Quite a few people eventually arrive but very few children which is a pity. However, the ones that are there have a lovely time roasting marshmallows over an open fire.

The chestnut burner is manned by Norbert, who was the baker on bread baking day, and the postman who doesn’t actually live in Les Grouets but likes the neighbourhood so much that he comes back after work.

Roasting marshmallows over the open fire

Roasting marshmallows over the open fire

We are starting to recognise a few people. Françoise introduces a neighbour who is a retired mason and once did some work on our house, but he can’t remember the details.

I explain to his wife how to make foie gras au sel as we spent a fun day last week with Françoise and Paul and Susan and Simon from Days on the Claise teaching them how to devein foie gras ready for Christmas. For a detailed description of our workshop, I suggest you go over to Susan’s blog.

Françoise, Susan, Simon and Paul tasting the vouvray used for the foie gras

Françoise, Susan, Simon and Paul tasting the vouvray used for the foie gras

In return, the mason’s wife promises to send me her kugelhof recipe. I’m not a great kugelhof fan but it seems this is a variant so I shall try it out for Christmas. Which reminds me that I should also make Liliane’s gingerbread cake as well.

Posted in Closerie Falaiseau, Cooking, Food, French customs, Les Grouets | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Friday’s French – poil, cheveux, hair, fur


You may remember a discussion about poêle a couple of weeks ago. Now there is another word that is pronounced exactly the same way (unless you come from the south of France and pronounce the “e” at the end of poêle) and seems to have resulted in a few embarrassing situations for some of our readers!

Poil, from the Latin pilus, means body hair and applies to both animals and humans. In the case of animals, of course, it’s what we call fur. Un chien à poil ras = A dog with short fur. It is also used for a man’s beard, what we sometimes refer to as bristles in English.

It is NOT used for the hair on your head which is cheveu in the singular and cheveux in the plural. J’ai trouvé un cheveu gris sur ma tête – I found a grey hair on my head ; il a des cheveux bouclés = he has curly hair.

But back to poil which is far more interesting because of all the many expressions that exist.

Etre à poil means to be stark naked, as in, you can see all the person’s hair.

Avoir un poil dans la main (literally, to have a hair in one’s hand) = to be lazy. Now why is a complete mystery.

Reprendre du poil de la bête = to pick up again, to regain strength. For example,  j’ai eu la grippe pendant une semaine, mais j’ai repris du poil de la bête : I was down with the flu for a week, but now I’m on top of things again.

The expression literally means to take fur from an animal because people believed that the fur of an animal that had just bitten you could be used to heal the wound. It seems there is an English expression “the hair of the dog” that means an alcholic beverage consumed to cure a hangover, but I have personally never heard of it !

Another expression is s’il avait un poil de bon sens :  if he had an ounce of good sense.

C’est pile poil ce que je voulais:  it’s exactly what I wanted. This comes from tomber pile (au) poil from the expression pile ou face which means heads or tails (or more exactly tails or heads) and au poil which means exactly, that is, to within a hair’s breadth.

Do you know any other expressions with poil?

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Weekly Blogger Round-Up; Ice Skating on the Eiffel Tower – Blogger Highlights 2014 – French Holidays and Traditions


I missed last week’s blogger round-up from lack of organisation and general post-move sluggishness but this week I have three great posts to share with you. First, Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris takes us ice skating on the Eiffel Tower and I’m very jealous not to be there myself! Next Anda from Travel Notes and Beyond has published her blogger highlights for 2014 (including my tips and tricks for cycling in Germany) so you’ll have lots of new blogs to discover, from stunning photos of Yellowstone National Park to surreal places you never knew existed. And to finish off, our gifted storyteller Margo Lestz from The Curious Rambler has just published a book on French holidays and traditions, month by month. Enjoy!

Ice skating on the Eiffel Tower! One of the coolest experiences in Paris

by Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris, an American by birth, Swiss by marriage, resident of Paris with a Navigo Pass for the metro that she feels compelled to use

out_and_about_eiffel_tower_skatingOne of the coolest winter activities has returned to Paris — ice skating on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower! In between your camel spins and double Axels, warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or sip a glass of champagne while admiring the view of the Champ de Mars and the golden dome of Les Invalides. For an extra special evening, time your visit to coincide with the twinkling of the Eiffel Tower’s lights. This magical sight happens every hour on the hour, for five minutes.

If you’re in shape, take the stairs to the first floor 57 meters (187 feet) above the city of Paris. Admission to the rink and the use of skates is included in the 5 euro ticket price. Otherwise, you can take the elevator to the second floor and walk back down to the first floor. Read more

Travel Blogger Round-Up: Highlights for 2014

by Anda from Travel Notes & Beyond, the Opinionated Travelogue of a Photo Maniac, is a Romanian-born citizen of Southern California who has never missed the opportunity to travel.

rhein_radweg_2_mapHello everyone and welcome to my 2014 Travel Blogger Round-Up. Another year has passed in tumultuous and competitive world of travel blogging. While there are thousands of wonderful posts out there that stimulate your curiosity and spur your desire to travel, I’ll introduce you to some that have caught my eye in 2014. Read more

French Holidays & Traditions

curious_rambler_new_bookby Margo Lestz from The Curious Rambler, who lives in Nice, France where she likes to bask in the sunshine, study the French language and blog

If you are intrigued by French culture and curious about the history behind French traditions, this book is for you. In it, you’ll find a selection of short stories, written in a lively style, which often reveal little-known, but always fascinating facts about French customs. If you have ever wondered how French Easter eggs are delivered, or why the French walk around with paper fish taped to their backs on the 1st of April, you can find the answers to these questions plus much more in this book. Read more

Posted in Blogging, French customs, Paris, Weekly Blogger Round-Up | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

A New Wave Cuisine Anniversary Lunch in Vendôme


We wake up quite late and realise we’re going to have to hurry up a bit if we’re to go to the market and still arrive at 12.30 in Vendôme for our anniversary (of-the-day-we-met) lunch at Pertica, an up-and-coming success that Jean Michel has read about in the local newspaper La Nouvelle République – the one we starred in recently!

Saturday market in Blois

Saturday market in Blois

At the market, we spilt up to get some money out of the D.A.B., buy the oysters for Sunday, then the rabbit and chicken, followed by eggs, fruit and vegetables, coffee, more vegetables, local Les Grouets biscuits and cheese. The market is packed so it takes a good hour. At least we don’t have fresh pasta, fish and scallops to buy as that would have meant another 3 stalls.

The all-important oyster vendor

The all-important oyster vendor

We go home and quickly sort everything out. I change my muddy shoes so I won’t look too countrified while Jean Michel phones the restaurant and says we won’t be there until closer to one, but they are fine about that.

When we arrive in Vendôme, we park right in front of the restaurant which is in the main shopping street, since everything else is closed for lunch.

Natural and modern interior

Natural and modern interior

We enter and wait for about 5 minutes before anyone greets us. There only seem to be two people serving and they are both giving their undivided attention to the patrons already seated. That could be positive or negative. The décor is a stark mix of modern and natural.

Eventually we are seated and the menu is explained to us. There are three possibilities :  entrée, main and dessert for 32 euro, entrée, two mains and a dessert for 45 euro and a six-course meal for 70 euro, but no indication of what we are going to eat. We choose the 4-course meal and are asked if there is anything we don’t like (I say turnips and offal). It’s now up to the chef to decide what he is going to give us.

Jean Michel orders two glasses of champagne and we get ready to celebrate.

Parsnip bechamel mousse

Parsnip bechamel mousse

The amuse-bouche arrives and turns out to be parsnip mousse with an aniseed-type spice. Hmm, I’m starting to wonder about the rest of the meal. Serving parsnips as an appetizer suggests that the rest might all be based on those “forgotten vegetables” that no one (understandably in my opinion) eats any more.

Baked celeriac starter

Baked celeriac starter

The starter arrives and my suspicions prove to be grounded. Baked celeriac (a bland root vegetable) and thin slices of pear with some sort of edible grass. Groan. It didn’t occur to me to mention celeriac. I don’t mind if it’s drowned in remoulade sauce but baked, on its own, is not brilliant. Jean Michel, who eats everything, agrees.

Mackerel and old-style pears

Mackerel and old-style pears

The fish course comes next, with two tiny pieces of mackerel and old-style pears i.e. the sort that aren’t sweet. Yes, well. Also, pears are not among my favourite fruits.

White beans with pork

White beans with pork

Next comes the meat course. OK, I forgot to mention that I’m not that keen on white beans either, especially if they are not cooked properly.  The two small pieces of pork are tasty enough, as are the slivers of chestnut. I’m not convinced that the little puddle of passionfruit purée ressembling an egg-yolk enhances anything though. It’s marginally better than the other two courses.

By now, Jean Michel is apologizing for such a bad choice. It’s hardly his fault – the article in La Nouvelle république gave a rave review, and talked about a new take on traditional cuisine … I’m wondering what the dessert is going to be.

Pumpkin purée and vanilla ice-cream

Pumpkin purée and vanilla ice-cream

Pumpkin purée and a little biscuit-like cake each. Tasty enough but the lemon cream squashes out the side of the cake which requires very careful eating.

I have to say that this type of food is not my scene. It definitely doesn’t not flatter the taste buds.  Les Hauts de Loire can run rings around them all.

You might also be thinking that there are a lot of things I don’t like. Well, it’s not true – it just happened that every single one of them (with the exception of frogs’ legs) was on the menu!

Our clock dresser with its new plates

Our clock dresser with its new plates

After walking around in the cold for a while, we wander into the covered market where there is a second-hand fair and pick up 12 plates for our clock dresser. “Why twelve?” asks Jean Michel. “Because I counted them. That’s how many our dresser takes”. He can’t get over the fact that I knew how many we needed! At 10 euros, they’re a real bargain.

Rodolphe's which looks as though it might be the best pâtisserie in town

Rodolphe’s which looks as though it might be the best pâtisserie in town

Then we go to Rodolphe’s to pick up some nice traditional French pâtisseries made of chocolate to eat in front of the fire when we get home ! None of this new wave cuisine for us.

Tea and pâtisseries in front of the fire

Tea and pâtisseries in front of the fire

Posted in Food, Restaurants | 12 Comments

Our New Office


It’s not really an office. That’s the word Jean Michel uses in French; it means a place next to the kitchen or dining room in which the table service is prepared. Well, it’s sort of that.  I would call it an upstairs kitchen but Jean Michel has names for all the rooms so I’m happy to call it an office. The bureau is downstairs.

upstairs_door

Closerie Falaiseau, our late 16th century house, has a funny layout. Despite its 200 square metres, it only has two bedrooms. The upstairs living room is where our Renaissance fireplace is and it is probably the most pleasant room in the house. It has large proportions, lots of light (and it will have even more when the solid door becomes a glass door), a view out the mullion windows and, of course, the fireplace.

day_bed

When we first saw the office, it was a sort of museum for musical instruments. There was also a daybed. Jean Michel thought of turning it into a small kitchen early on, when we turned the bottom floor of the house into a gîte, but I couldn’t see the point.

However, after we renovated the fireplace and started using it to cook côte de bœuf, it seemed it might be a good idea. One thing I was certain about though was that we’d block off the really low opening between the living room and the kitchen where I nearly killed myself the first year. We used a wrought-iron and glass console which doubles as a serving hatch.

Looking from the office into the living room with the console protecting our heads

Looking from the office into the living room with the console protecting our heads

Then we used that neat Ikea on-line software to work out where to put all the kitchen appliances and cupboards. We finally fitted in a normal-sized fridge with a freezer, a dishwasher, a sink, a two-ring induction plate and a microwave with enough room on the table top for our espresso machine.

Jean Michel putting the cupboards up

Jean Michel putting the cupboards up

We found some second-hand oak kitchen cupboards on Le Bon Coin to suit the style of our living room furniture because you can see them through the hatch. We picked them up miles away but it was difficult to find exactly what we wanted. I also spend quite a while removing decades of accumulated grease.

The induction plate also came from Le Bon Coin (never used) and we bought the sink from Leroy Merlin because the size meant it wasn’t standard and we didn’t want it to be chipped or anything.

To bring water into the office required drilling through 70 cm walls

To bring water into the office required drilling through 70 cm walls

Jean Michel then started working on the plumbing, wiring and lighting. The plumbing was complicated, as usual, by the fact that the walls are 70 cm thick and the lighting by the visible beams.

Extinguisher at the read just in case the insulation caught fire

Extinguisher at the read just in case the insulation caught fire during soldering

He spent quite a bit of time in the roof space doing the wiring for the little spotlights we finally decided upon. At one stage, I had to hold a torch and be ready with a fire extinguisher while he soldered the pipes in the attic on the other side of the kitchen.

Little fridge and dishwasher in place

Little fridge and dishwasher in place

All this was done last winter while we still had the gîte and had the major advantage of providing us with a dishwasher. We used a small fridge we picked up at Troc de l’île while waiting for a larger one after we moved. But the final touches were still missing.

Normal fridge in place with sink induction plate and of course the espresso machine

Normal fridge in place with sink induction plate and of course the espresso machine

Yesterday, Jean Michel finished it completely. He combined two corner shelves to provide somewhere to put the jug and toaster and made a wine bottle stand to put in the recess which now also houses the bread board & bread, the water jug and teapot.

Niche with wine racks made by Jean Michel

Niche with wine racks made by Jean Michel with our Australian lithograph above

We have a chest of drawers for cutlery, utensils, tablecloths and teatowels and use the cupboard above the induction plate and sink for important things such as nibbles, tea and breakfast food. The glass-fronted bookcase in the living room takes the plates, cups and glasses.

Looking from the living room into the office

Looking from the living room into the office

So now we have the perfect place to prepare breakfast, apéritifs and coffee. We also have everything we need to have a barbecue in the fireplace.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. I framed and hung up the lithography that our very first home exchange guests from Australia brought us as a gift.

Who wants to join us?

Posted in Blois, Closerie Falaiseau, Renovation | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Friday’s French – poêle, poeliste, fumiste, fumisterie


I would just like to point out straight away that poeliste is not a real word but it amused my Solognot neighbour Alain no end. We are thinking of putting a wood-burning stove in our downstairs living room (as I mentioned earlier this week) and the stove installer recommended by Alain came round to give us a quote.

One of several porcelain stoves in Meissen in Germany - un poêle.

One of several porcelain stoves in Meissen in Germany – un poêle.

The French for wood-burning stove is poêle from the Latin pensilis, meaning suspended, from the verb pendere, to be suspended, which gave pendent and pendulous in English. Pensilis may seem far removed from poêle, but remember that an ê in French often indicates that an “s” dropped out. In this case, the “n” got lost as well.

Initially it designated baths suspended from vaults and heated underneath in all those rich Roman villas. After that it meant a heated chamber and eventually the cast iron or earthenware stove we know today.

When poêle means a stove, it’s masculine. But listen to this. When it means a frying pan, it’s feminine. Same spelling, same pronunciation and everything. But it doesn’t come from pensilis. It comes from patella meaning a small dish. Patella first became paielle then paele and maybe poesle (1579) which would explain today’s poêle. A small frying pan is a poêlon, which of course is masculine. How we’re supposed to remember that I don’t know.

Une poêle à crèpes

Une poêle à crèpes

I based my use of poêliste on fumiste (from fumée, smoke) which means heating mechanic and also chimney sweep, although the more usual word is ramoneur.

But fumiste has another meaning – a shirker. I asked Alain why but he didn’t know. Good old Wikipedia came to the rescue. Apparently it comes from a vaudeville show called La Famille du fumiste about a heating mechanic who wasn’t the sort of person you could really count on!

The noun fumisterie whose real meaning is a heating mechanic’s workshop now has the same derogatory meaning as fumiste. C’est de la fumisterie means it’s a fraud. So I’m hoping our poêliste is not a fumiste or I am going to be cold all winter …

 

Posted in French language, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Weekly Blogger Round-Up: Interview with Aussie in France – The Greek Island of Anafiotika – Spending Christmas in Europe


All my posts are a little late at the moment but here is my Weekly Blogger Round-Up starting with an interview by Anda from Travel Notes & Beyond our Eastern Europe expert with yours truly! Next the ever dynamic Jo from Frugal First Class Travel takes us to a Greek Island in the foothills of the Acropolis called Anofitika.  To finish off Carolyn from Holidays to Europe has lots of suggestions for spending Christmas in Europe. Enjoy!

Interview with Rosemary Kneipp from “Aussie in France”

by Anda from Travel Notes & Beyond, the Opinionated Travelogue of a Photo Maniac, is a Romanian-born citizen of Southern California who has never missed the opportunity to travel

travel_notes_blois_with_boatThis week I am starting a new series of interviews with some of my favorite bloggers on the Internet. This is not a new concept, but I am following in the footsteps of other bloggers ahead of me who came up with this bright idea. I believe these interviews are a helpful tool in getting to know each other better and establishing new relationships with like-minded people.

I wanted to start this series with someone who served as my inspiration for my own travel blog, Rosemary Kneipp, the creator/writer/photographer of Aussie in France. Read more

ANAFIOTIKA: A GREEK ISLAND IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ACROPOLIS

by Jo Karnaghan from Frugal First Class Travel, an Australian who loves to travel – especially in Europe – and who has gradually learned how to have a First Class trip on an economy budget, without missing out on anything!

frugal_anafiotikaWhen I visited Athens recently I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to fit in a visit to the Greek Islands.  I’d sailed in the Cycladic Islands many years ago and had fond memories of those glorious blue and white houses festooned with bright bougainvillea and geraniums.  Then upon studying my guidebook (you can pick up a copy via the link) I discovered Anafiotika, a little slice of the Greek Islands right in the heart of Athens….

How to find Anafiotika

Anafiotika is on the north eastern slopes of the Acropolis, not far from Monastiraki and the Plaka.  Having said that, it is much easier to find from the main thoroughfare of Dionysiou Areopagitou.  Turn right at Thrasyllou (just past the Tourist Information centre) and just keep walking. Read more

Experiencing a White Christmas in Europe

by Carolyn from Holidays to Europe, an Australian based business passionate about sharing their European travel expertise and helping travellers to experience the holiday in Europe they have always dreamed of

holidays2europe_german-christmas-marketMany Australians dream of one day experiencing a white Christmas and there’s no better place to do so than in Europe.  As well as its famous Christmas markets, the snowy scenes and festive atmosphere make a European Christmas something really special. With long-practised traditions and traditional festive foods to enjoy, Christmas in Europe is very different to Christmas in Australia. Read more

Posted in Blogging, Greece | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

News on the Home Front


It’s now four weeks since we moved to Blois. All the boxes are unpacked (except those in storage such as Christmas decorations and things that we’re not sure where to put or may never use again). I finally found the exercise book with the contents of the first lot of cartons by which time it was a little late.

Our half-timbered walls - not easy for paintings

Our half-timbered walls – not easy for paintings

The only thing we haven’t put up are our pictures but I now want to proceed one room at a time for the final decorative touches. Our half-timbered walls are not as easy to accommodate as our painted walls were in Paris! They are also much thicker which means you can’t just hammer in a picture hook and move it a couple of days later.

Full door in the office on the left

Full door in the office on the left

We have three major projects this winter. The first, which is the simplest, is to replace two timber doors with glass doors to let in some much-needed light (especially on a rainy day like today), one in the upstairs living room where the Renaissance fireplace is, and the other in our office downstairs. It’s wonderful having a 400-year old house but back in those days, the fewer the doors and windows the better because of the heating (and taxes).

The downstairs living room fireplace in which we want to put a wood-burning stove

The downstairs living room fireplace in which we want to put a wood-burning stove

The second is to put a wood-burning stove in one of the downstairs fireplaces. At present, we have gas-fired central heating with radiators downstairs and floor heating upstairs giving us a steady 19°C. That is fine if you’re physically active but if you spend a lot of time working at a computer as I do, your fingers start to get a little chilly! Last week, we went to Tours to buy some Damart thermal underwear and mittens but a stove in the next room is a more inviting proposition.

The peeling paper in the guest bedroom with its very high ceiling

The peeling paper in the guest bedroom with its very high ceiling

The third, which is my project, is to strip the paper off the guest bedroom which has one of those attic ceilings and paint it instead. Apart from not being particularly attractive, the current paper is starting to come unstuck at most of the joins. The only problem is the height of the room in the middle and the possible state of the walls behind the paper …

The Renaissance fireplace we renovated in the living room

The Renaissance fireplace we renovated in the living room

So much for the practical side of things. On the emotional front, it’s proving far more stressful that I thought. Chronic fatigue, of course, probably doesn’t help. Although we have already made good friends here – and are continuing to make new ones – it’s not the same as being surrounded by the friends I have known and felt comfortable with for years. Jean Michel and I also have to find a new modus vivendi which is proving difficult for both of us in different ways. I don’t know if it would be easier or not if I was retired too but I still have another 4 ½ years to go.

Second page in La Nouvelle République!

Second page in La Nouvelle République!

However, two things happened on Friday that have bucked me up no end. The first is that thanks to another “city daily” blogger, Stuart, from Amboise Daily Photo (Amboise is a half an hour down the river from Blois), the local paper, La Nouvelle République, interviewed us for Loire Daily Photo and the article was published on the second page under the title (in French of course) of “Rosemary’s Blogs Capture the Region”.

Closerie Falaiseau, with the two full doors from the outside

Closerie Falaiseau, with the two full doors from the outside

The second news was a phone call asking me to confirm my address to receive an invitation to be sworn in as a “traductrice assermentée”. In France, the translation for administrative purposes of many legal documents such as birth and marriage certificates as well as court rulings, judgments, etc. must be carried out and stamped by a “legal expert”. I first applied in the greater Paris area nine years ago and was refused, despite the fact that I had all the required skills and experience. However, I decided to apply to the local courts in January this year in view of our move and this time, I was successful.

It’s certainly a good start to feeling part of the local community.

Posted in Closerie Falaiseau, Country living, Renovation | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Weekly Blogger Round-Up: Public Art on the French Riviera – Liguria in Italy


The weekly blogger round-up today takes us to the French Riviera, with an excellent report on public art by Australian Phoebe from Lou Messugo (which is your favourite?) while another Australian, Chrisse from Riveria Grapevine takes us across the border to Liguria to the Olioliva festival where everything tastes better (what do you think?). Enjoy!

Public Art on the Côte d’Azur

by Phoebe from Lou Messugo, a traveller, francophile, expat, mum and foodie now living in Roquefort les Pins where she runs a gîte after many years of travelling and living in Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia.

lou_messugo_public_artPublic art is everywhere in France, whether it’s a temporary installation for a particular occasion or something permanent, it’s all around.  Most towns no matter how big or small take pride in making their public spaces attractive; you can usually find fountains and sculptures alongside well tended flower beds and attractive borders even in the tiniest of villages.  There’s even art on the side of the motorways to brighten up your journey!  And it’s not all old by any means.  New commissions go up regularly, I’m forever spotting something I hadn’t noticed before and then realising that it’s because it’s new and wasn’t there the last time I passed by. Read more

OLIOLIVA, IMPERIA

by Chrissie from Riviera Grapevine, a Sydney girl living in Nice with an insatiable thirst for the wines of the Var, Alpes Maritimes and Liguria. She happily sells, drinks and blogs about wine.

riviera_grapevine_OliOlivaA Made-in-Liguria Celebration

Everything tastes better on the other side of the border.

It’s an opinion I formed pretty early on and one which really shows no sign of waning.

Granted, there are some things the French do better, like rosé (of course), but, as a general rule, everything tastes better in Italy.

I’m not just talking about the stereotypical things like pizza and ice cream, either. I mean everything, especially the basics like a simple green salad or tomatoes. Don’t get me started on them. I’m obsessed. How good are Italian tomatoes? An amazing bright red and so flavoursome. Read more

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Posted in Art, Food, Italy | Tagged , | 6 Comments