31 December 2010


On our wedding anniversary we went to L’Ardoise in Chinon for lunch. Very good it was too; 17 euros for three courses, all quite delicious and served perfectly.

After lunch we went for a walk around the town. It was an extremely dismal day, cold grey and drizzling. Actually it was similar to the weather on the day we were married 16 years ago, although the rain was less persistent on that day and stopped for long enough for the usual photographs to be taken. I seem to remember there was a strong and chilly breeze that made the photos quite interesting.

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We have been visiting Chinon regularly for those 16 years and it has changed steadily year by year. Shops and cafes come and go, change hands or disappear.

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My favourite shoe shop was selling comfy slippers instead of its usual selection of summer sandals.

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This smart gallery used to sell interesting underwear of the very expensive and impractical kind.

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Very smart dwellings are often right next to places that have been unloved for a long time.

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There are always plenty of places for sale.

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I remember this building being gutted and restored a few years ago. It has housed various enterprises since and now seems to be selling fancy scarves and ornaments.

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This is one of those doorways that fascinate me. I wonder if what is inside is just as grand as the outside, although it still suffers from unwanted “PUB”.

28 December 2010


Chinon still remains probably our favourite town in France. We never tire of it and although we don't live there, knowing it's almost on our doorstep is good enough.

Today is our wedding anniversary (16 years) and we will be celebrating at one of our favourite restaurants, L'Ardoise in Chinon, with one of their super special lunches. Then maybe we'll take a walk along the bank of the Vienne afterwards.

25 December 2010


The Christmas lights were already up in Le Grand-Pressigny on the weekend of my quick trip for the 12th December. Any minute now we will be setting off again and will soon be enjoying them for the New Year.

Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all.

21 December 2010


On 7th December I set off from home at 11.30 pm headed for Le Grand-Pressigny. I travelled with my friends and neighbours Mike and Jackie and the purpose of our trip was my having a stall at the Marché de Noël at Ferrière Larçon, a village a few kilometres from ours.

Coffee break on the motorway at 3 am.

We had debated at length whether or not to go at all. The snow in the UK the previous week had made travelling very difficult and dangerous. By now some of the snow had melted and no more was forecast for the UK but a band of snow was showing up on the Meteo France website, just north of Le Mans. But, with Mike driving and in their car, we decided to risk it.

The weather deteriorated near Gacé.

We made it to the tunnel with no problem and started our journey through France as it was just beginning to get light. There was no sign of any snow for the first couple of hours and I sent Nick a text to say we seemed to have got away with it. But then, north of Le Mans, things deteriorated and it started to snow. I had spoken too soon !!

I wouldn't like to be on a motorcycle in this blizzard.

For a couple of hours we drove through a blizzard. Mike just ploughed his way through the snow, saying that so long as the tyres were cutting through it to tarmac, we would be fine. Just south of Le Mans the snow finally fizzled out and we arrived in Le Grand-Pressigny in light rain. What a hero !! I could not have driven like that myself and would have been tempted to give up and wait at a convenient services for the weather to improve.

We spent the next few days having fun, eating out, winetasting and being tourists. I also sent Mike and Jackie out for a couple of days to enjoy themselves while I put together the last minute preparations for my stall.

Nicole had booked the table at the market for me, but it had not been easy. She contacted the organiser of the event several times and only at the eleventh hour did she receive a reply. Finally she was able to email the application form to me and I sent off my cheque, for the princely sum of 10 euros, and waited.

Nothing happened. I had no contact at all from the market organisers and by the time I set off for France, the cheque had not been cashed. I had no idea whether my application had been received and therefore whether I would have a table at all.

There were lots of outdoor stalls at the market, mostly selling food.

But, the train was booked and paid for so we decided to chance it. The market was taking place at the church and we turned up at 9am on the Sunday, loaded up with boxes of beads, display stands and gift boxes. Because I had had no contact at all from the organisers, I had prepared myself for disappointment - turning up to find no table for me at all.

The indoor stalls varied enormously. This one was in a tent attached to the church.

But, the system worked !! As we opened the boot of the car a man with a clipboard and a list approched us and my name was on the list. What a relief. He told me I would be inside, in the entrance to the church so off I went in search of my table.

The atmosphere was very jolly and festive inside the church.

It was now 9.15 and the doors opened to the public at 10.00 am. We had practised setting up the day before using my dining table at home, so were able to get the stall up and running in no time at all. I was pleased with how it looked and we sat back and waited to see what would happen.

There were all kinds of fun and games to entertain people. This young man was making things with balloons, including his own hat.

We were not very busy. Nor was anyone else. Most people seemed to have sold hardly anything from their stall by the middle of the afternoon and it was freezing, literally, all day. Mid-morning, Simon and Susan of Days on the Claise turned up to give their support and fetched a couple of glasses of warm mulled wine for Jackie and myself. We were most grateful !!

This young man was dressed as a Christmas tree. I think that's his mum straightening a decoration !

I talked to my fellow stallholders and we came to the conclusion that this particular Christmas market was more a place to meet your friends and have a glass of mulled wine than a place to actually buy anything.

The lady with the stall next to mine seemed to have an eclectic assortment of things for sale.

But I did sell some things and there was a lot of interest in my wares and lots of compliments made about it. Lots of people took my business cards - not that they were much use except for the little 2011 calendar on the back. If anyone went in search of a shop in Le Grand-Pressigny selling jewellery afterwards, they would have been disappointed !!

My little stall.

But it was an interesting and valuable experience. I was pleased that my limited command of the French language was enough to enable me to talk to my customers and that none of them seemed at all perturbed or surprised that I was English.

I would certainly go to the market at Ferrière Larçon myself in future - but as a visitor, not a vendor. It was a super event to go to for entertainment on a Sunday before Christmas. But it was so cold in the church that by the end of the day my whole body was shaking. My table was in the coldest part of the church and it really was very helpful to have the mulled wine available to warm us up !!
If you are interested in reading more, I have written about it here.

6 December 2010


A while ago I was breezing past the section in the supermarket where they sell off items near their sell-by date and spotted some boxes of cranberries which were ridiculously cheap. Having never used fresh cranberries before I decided this small investment in money would be a good idea so I could experiment with them.

It was a daft idea really. If I had thought about it for a second I would have realised that we had so much on at work and at home that anything other than essential cooking was out of the question at the time.

Then the snow came.

Towards the end of last week the two boxes of cranberries were still lurking at the back of the fridge. I found them when I was looking for something we could eat that would go together, having not been able to get to any shops for several days. I looked at them and thought they would be no good by now but to my surprise they looked fine. Closer inspection revealed one or two that were a bit wrinkly but otherwise they seemed in good condition. So I decided to look on the internet for a recipe for cranberry sauce, preferably one that used ingredients I already had in the house as going to the shops to get anything different was not an option.

This is what I did:


Put two boxes (about 450 grams) of cranberries in a saucepan with 10 tblsp water and cook gently until the berries have burst.


Add the juice and rind of one large orange,

120 grams granulated sugar,

6 tbsp red wine,


Simmer until the sauce thickens


I then put it into ramekins of the size I would serve the sauce in to cool and put them in the freezer. It tasted good when cooling so I hope it freezes well so we can serve it with the bird at Christmas.


By the way, it’s –10°C this morning and the snow is still here, but at least no more is forecast for a while.

3 December 2010


This much snow is unusual in Derbyshire. At least, not until January or February anyway. We often get an inch or two at this time of year then it is gone a few days later. This snow is set to stay for a while, I think.

Nick has been digging out the drive every day. Each time he got down to the tarmac, more snow fell. We had no more overnight last night so this morning he decided to bite the bullet and get the car out so that he could go and check on my Dad, who has been managing very well with the help of the contents of his freezer and some caring neighbours.

The car thermometer read -8°C as he set off.

I'm staying here to see if our new router and welcome pack arrives. According to the Royal Mail parcel tracking service it was delivered on 1st December, which it wasn't. I hope that means it is still on its way in the chaos and not that the driver dumped it in a hedge bottom somewhere.

1 December 2010


These photos were taken around the house at about 11am today. No caption is needed I'm sure !! The snow is over the top of my new wellington boots and is about 15-18" deep.

The last time we had this much snow was in 1990. That year the water was off for 3 days and the electricity for 5 days. My elderley neighbour had no power for nearly two weeks as her house is on a different circuit to ours. At least this year we have been spared that particular difficulty - so far anyway.

We are up and running with our new internet provider. The welcome pack and new router should have arrived yesterday but so far it hasn't appeared. It's no doubt in a van stuck in a good Derbyshire snow drift somewhere. But we have got the old router working again for now.

I don't know when we will be able to get out in the car again as more snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow.