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A Restaurant with a View of the Seine

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River view in Prague

In Paris, there are not many restaurants with a view of the Seine, unlike Prague, for example, where you can sit right next to the river. Priority goes to the cars here! But there’s a big project underway to do something about it. In the meantime, we decided to try out a restaurant with a panoramic view of the river. We had to drive for about an hour from the centre of Paris to a town called Rolleboise in the western suburbs, not far from Giverny, nothing spectacular in itself, but there is a hotel with a restaurant up on the hill called Domaine de la Corniche.

Domaine de la Corniche on arrival

We booked a couple of weeks ago for our wedding anniversary in the hope that the weather would be fine. Of course, last week would have been ideal, but you can’t choose dates, can you? Black Cat reminded me that on the Big Day 14 years ago, it rained as well. Just during the apéritif fortunately and we had a marquis so didn’t get wet! But the kids’ new shoes were totally damaged from running around in the wet grass afterwards!

It was overcast when we got to the restaurant last night but we could still appreciate the panoramic view of the Seine from inside the dining room and the sun quite suddenly came out after an hour or so and cast a wonderful light over the valley below.


We appreciated the friendly service and the food even though I didn’t think there was a big choice. I was disappointed in the “amuse-bouches” which I thought were a bit dull even though they were beautifully presented. In fact, the presentation of the different foods was probably one of the highlights of the meal. Each dish was prepared with considerable artistic flare. Even the cutlery was original (though I must confess not very pratical!). I chose 2 different coloured tomatoes and mozarella as an entrée, mainly because I wasn’t attracted by any of the other choices. Relationnel took the poultry gallantine.

But I had underestimated the chef, Vakhtang Meliava. My entrée consisted of red and green tomatoes with two white puff affairs which turned out to be a delicious mozarella mousse. Relationnel’s gallantine with cep mushrooms (we swapped plates halfway through) was very tasty as well. I followed with the extremely tender veal (called quasi-veau!) and spring vegetables while Relationnel had the maigre (meagre), an unappetizing name for a fish, you must admit. For dessert, I had a green tea mousse with verbena sorbet and Relationnel had a very pretty strawberry and raspberry dessert.

We started with champagne and then chose the “tasting duo” selected by the wine waiter to match our choice of dishes. He let us taste the wine first before he told us what it was. I haven’t posted much on wine but we are actually wine buffs from way back. We started with a series of wine tasting courses soon after we met 16 years ago and have since spent many wonderful holidays, mainly in France, going from vineyard to vineyard and adding to our collection of wine. We’ve slowed down in recent years because we’ve run out of room in the cellar and have reduced our wine consumption.

View when the sun came out

However, I was extremely proud of myself last night because I was able to identify three of the wines (the grapes anyway!). I had a Saint Bris sauvignon which comes from a village near Auxerre in Burgundy where the whites are usually chardonnays. Relationnel had a half-sweet chenin blanc from the Loire (Domaine de la Paleine “Traviata”) that we have never tasted before. After that, I had a 100% syrah (shiraz) from Minervois while Relationnel had a red burgundy. He had to ruefully admit to the very friendly and helpful sommelier that he had got them all wrong! As he pointed out though, he’s still better than me at finding and identifying mushrooms …

Domaine de la Corniche, 5, route de la Corniche, 78270 Rolleboise, Tel 01 30 93 20 00,

Summer Mushrooms in the Loire

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We really have had a beautiful week in the Loire. Everyone in France this year, particularly in Paris, has been complaining about the awful spring weather and it was no better in Blois. But when we came back last week, the potatoes we’d planted in the rain two weeks before were looking very happy (and so were the surrounding weeds of course!) and the vegetation, especially the roses, was flourishing.

The good weather stayed with us and as a result, we were able to go cycling several times. Our last excursion was to the nearest village, Chouzy sur Cisse, about 5 kilometers away, in the opposite direction from the centre of Blois. Being on our bikes, we were able to take a dirt road running parallel to the main highway along the Loire, thus avoiding the 70 kph road I’m not so keen on.

The entrance to the village is not particularly attractive, but in the centre there’s a butcher (very handy for barbecues), a baker, a little supermarket and a hairdresser. I had seen a sign saying “plan d’eau” which generally means a small lake so we kept going and, to our surprise, came across a lovely little stretch of water next to the Cisse. The river itself is very picturesque with yellow waterlilies and water irises.

We followed the path along the edge and found ourselves cycling along the river past lots of small market gardens. One even had a whole row of lilies-of-the-valley. Relationnel consulted the map and said we could take Rue Beaumont. I groaned inwardly because the name means “beautiful rise” which obviously means cycling uphill. We were rewarded though because it took us onto a flat though bumpy road through the forest.

Suddenly Relationnel stopped and said, “Not sure what it is but maybe … “. I continued cycling but soon realised he wasn’t following. I looked back to see him waving frantically. “You should get out the camera”, he said as I got closer. What a find! Several large fresh summer cep mushrooms. Now one of the reasons we chose Blois for our retirement is its proximity to a state forest so we can pick mushrooms in the autumn, so finding such wonderful specimens in summer is extremely promising! We cooked them in the frypan and ate them with our côte de boeuf!

Our Pierre Ronsard Roses

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Yesterday, we went to visit Mr and Mrs Previous Owner in their new modern home about 20 minutes from Closerie Falaiseau and I learnt that the climbing roses on our original Renaissance railing are called Pierre Ronsard after one of France’s most famous poets who was born in 1524 and died in 1585 in the Loire Valley, the year after our house was built. One of his best known odes begins “Mignonne, allons voir si la rose …”

The yellow rose in yesterday’s post is called Madame Antoine Meilland developed by a French rose cultivator, Francis Meilland, in the late 1930s and named after his mother. It’s better known as “Peace” in English and is an interesting story. To quote Wikipedia:

In early 1945 Meilland wrote to Field Marshal Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke), the principal author of the master strategy that won the Second World War, to thank him for his key part in the liberation of France and to ask if Brooke would give his name to the rose. Brooke declined saying that, though he was honored to be asked, his name would soon be forgotten and a much better and more enduring name would be “Peace”.

The adoption of the trade name “Peace” was publicly announced in the United States on 29 April 1945 by the introducers, Messrs Conard Pyle Co.. This was the very day that Berlin fell, officially considered the end of the Second World War in Europe. Later that year Peace roses were given to each of the delegations at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco, each with a note which read:

“We hope the ‘Peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace.”


La Loire à Vélo – Loire by Bike #1

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Loire by Bike is part of the EuroVelo bike route from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. We’ve already covered quite a bit of the Loire route as well as a small portion in Germany, in the Rhine Valley, between Basel and Lake Constance, on our way back from Croatia last year. In another post, I talked about cycling around Angers and crossing the river on barge, which I thought was rather exciting!

Yesterday, we did a portion closer to home, setting out from Closerie Falaiseau and going as far as Menars, a 30 K round trip altogether. The first 7 kilometres are not too wonderful, as you have to take the main road that runs along the Loire Valley, with the first 3 K at 70 kph. After that, the speed limit drops to 50 kph but it probably takes the cars another couple of kilometres to  really drop speed. After that, you can take the “mail” as they call the esplanade used as a parking lot on the waterfront in Blois and Amboise.

Next, you have another couple of kilometres along a “shared bike/car route” with very little traffic, flanked by houses with climbing roses on one side and a grass verge on the other. Then once you reach the riding school, motorised traffic is prohibited and you cycle along a bitumen road mainly through a lovely shady forest. Next time, we’ll put the bikes on our Thule bike carrier on the back of the car and start at the end of the “mail”.

At one stage, we cycled under a lovely old stone railway bridge no longer in use (it’s cut off completely at one end) and many clusters of water irises in the little stream on the left of the cycle path. The path wasn’t over busy, but we still passed other cyclists, often with children and lots of joggers and strollers. There are also benches along the way to rest.

When we got to Menars, we rode into the village, which has a very large castle built in the 17th and 18th century with very dry looking grounds. Unfortunately, since it was Monday and a public holiday to boot, there were no bars open so we had to make do with our usual water and biscuits then ride all the way back to Blois for an apéritif at Le Penalty. After that, we rode home, stopping on the way at L’Embarcadère to reserve a riverside table.

When we got back, our first yellow rose was out!

Cycling Through the Forest in Blois

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Yesterday, we finally managed to go cycling despite the weather forecast. We took our capes but didn’t need to use them. I love being able to cycle straight out the gate and onto a country road. To go to the forest, you have to go up a little hill, but that’s OK now that I have a bike with lots of gears and suspension. Training helps too! I can still remember pedalling as far as I could beforehand to get up enough speed to save my knees.  But it’s worth it when you get up the top.

And you can take a break on this lovely bench surrounded with wild flowers – daisies, buttercups and clover.

There are briar roses out everywhere. Don’t you just love this bush that forms a natural arch.

Then back through the village past delightful little houses with roses over the front door. Can’t wait for our yellow roses to bloom too!

Small Town Fame

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I’ve finally cleaned up the honeysuckle that’s been nagging me since we got to Closerie Falaiseau in Blois. It’s just beginning to flower and is a wonderful complement to the climbing roses on the stair rail. We’ve had our barbecue and eaten outside in the garden comfortably for the first time since we bought the house. Well, comfortably except for the mosquitos who adore me. We’re going for an after-dinner walk so that I can show Relationnel how I want our front courtyard/garden to look in the future.

It’s still light, despite the fact that it’s after nine thirty. We’re walking briskly along the road, not a car in sight. We go round the bend and a large dog rushes out behind a fence, barking madly. I dutifully say “T’es beau, t’es beau” as Relationnel has taught me.  It seems that telling dogs they are beautiful is two syllables is what you do in France to calm them down. I’m not sure it works but I have no comparison.

Suddenly, we hear frantic yapping and a tiny ball of fur comes hurtling down the open sloping garden opposite and onto the road. A man about our age appears  lumbering after the dog, telling it to come back, to no avail. He explains that it’s a pup, only 6 months old.

“Oh, so that’s its problem”, I say. Relationnel introduces us as his new neighbours.

“Then you’re the people who’ve bought the big house around the bend.”

“Yes, do you know Mr and Mrs Previous Owner?”

“No, I only moved here two years ago myself. I only know the neighbours on each side of the house and across the road.”

“We’re not living here permanently yet. Relationnel isn’t retiring for another two years”, I explain.

“Yes, you’re going to turn it into a gîte or a chambre d’hôte or something”, he says to Relationnel.

“That’s right.”

And turning to me, “And you’re Australian”.

My fame has gone before me.

Sydney Writers’ Centre’s Best Blogger Competition Results

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Thank you everyone for voting for me in the Best Blogger Competition. I obviously did not win (I am very small fry compared to a lot of bloggers) but it was wonderful to be part of the competition. I hope you all found lots of other blogs to follow as well!

So here are the winners:

Yesterday, I met up with some of my favourite anglophone bloggers in France for breakfast at Angelina’s. I’ve already featured most of their blogs in my Wednesday’s other blogs post:

Fellow Australians:

And from the US:




Sunday’s Travel Photos – Zadar, Croatia

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Zadar is a fascinating mixture of old and new, including the Church of Saint Donat built in the 9th century, the remains of a Roman forum from the 1st century, modern shopping streets and the famous sea organ. The sea organ is a musical instrument consisting of tubes located under a set of large marble steps along the waterfront. As boats go by, the waves rush into the pipes and create random but harmonic sounds. It was made by the architect Nikola Bašić as part of a project to rehabilitate the waterfront and was inaugurated on 15th April 2005. It’s a very popular venue for the locals at sunset.

Sunday’s Travel Photos – Madrid

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The photos below are representative of my first impressions of Madrid – the Plaza Mayor, which is our neighbourhood for 4 days, long, sweeping avenues with enormous buildings, little shops and restaurants in the old quarter covered in ceramics, ceramic street signs and the Palacio Real, the counterpart of our own Palais Royal.

La Plaza Mayor

Bookshop in the old quarter
Typical Taverna
Ceramic street signs
Palacio Real


Bus 72 to the Eiffel Tower

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I had to go to the Australian Embassy today and the weather was so extraordinary – 8°C with a bright blue sky – that I took bus 72 in rue de Rivoli, just opposite the Louvre. I tried to use my iPhone app to see when the bus was coming but someone had tagged the little black & white thing so I couldn’t scan it. The bus didn’t take long anyway.


We went down rue de Rivoli, past the Tuileries Gardens on the left and some of Paris’ best known luxury hotels on the right – Le Meurice, the Saint James and Albany, the Brighton, the Régina – not to mention Angelina’s. The bus then stopped right on Place de la Concorde with a spectacular view of Cleopatra’s Needle, the Louvre, the Ferris Wheel, the National Assembly and the Arc of Triumph. It then swung left and right to follow the river down to the Eiffel Tower.


We went past the Petit Palais, the Grand Palais, the Palais de la Découverte and Trocadero. I got off at Pont Bir Hakeim, an elegant metal bridge built in 1905, to walk across to the Embassy. The bridge has the best views of the Eiffel Tower and is the most popular venue for seeing the fireworks on Bastille Day and heralding in the New Year. I had a real field day! The light was exactly right and I couldn’t stop taking photos.


After the Embassy, I walked down to the Eiffel Tower. I never cease to be amazed at just how big it is up close. We can see it from our living room window but it’s obviously much smaller at a distance. From there I crossed back over the river via Pont d’Iéna, a stone bridge built by Bonaparte a century earlier. More photos of the Eiffel Tower with Trocadero behind me. I took bus 72 again a few metres to the right after the bridge.


Further down, on your left, you can see the gold Flamme de la Liberté which is a memorial to Princess Diana who died in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in 1997. We continued down past Place de la Concorde with a wonderful view of the twin hôtels designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel (what a name!) at the same time as the Place, but the bus was rattling along at such a pace that I wasn’t able to take photos. I decided to get off opposite the Orsay Museum and walk the rest of the way, crossing over in front of the majestic end pavilion of the Louvre.

As I was walking towards the Arc du Carousel, I heard someone call my name. Amazing what a small world it is!



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