April 29, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS



We are unlikely to be able to watch the royal wedding on the TV, mainly because we haven't got one.
So we'll have to make do with this preview instead.
I hope the real event will be just as much fun and we will toasting the happy couple later with our best bottle of Loire fizz.

Thanks to Craig, who published the clip a while ago and from whom I pinched it !!

April 22, 2011

A NICE SONG



I like country music and am quite a fan of the dishy Tim McGraw.
I keep hearing this song on the radio and I have decided to post it for no other reason than that I really like it. Ms Paltrow has a surprisingly good voice in a country genre, I think.
It's from a film called "Country Strong" which I haven't seen advertised in the UK yet.
But then I wouldn't as I never go to the cinema !! I would make the effort to go if I saw it was being shown locally.

Happy Easter !!

April 19, 2011

SIXTEEN WEEKS

That’s how long it is since I was last in Le Grand-Pressigny.  It’s the longest time I have ever spent away from the place and It seems like an age – almost like forever. 

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I am looking forward to seeing the château and that fabulous Loire blue sky again.

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Also to getting lovely bread, croissants and pastries from the boulangerie in the village. 

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To eating on our little terrace overlooking the village, listening to the church bells, the birds and the chatter of village life.  To hopefully sitting out until the birds go to bed and the bats come out to entertain us.

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To having more time to play with Lulu and take her for long and leisurely walks, not just of the usual quick dash to the fields and back that she often gets at at home.

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To apéros in the village square and meeting up with friends.  To watching the world go by from our usual place at the PreHisto. 

We’re hoping that the good weather continues – but it hardly matters – just being there will be great.

April 15, 2011

LUNCH AT L’ÎLE BOUCHARD

After all the talk about food hygiene I thought it was time to remind myself of one of the main reasons why we love the Loire region so much.


The wonderful food.


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Last summer, Nick and Alex went for a day’s fishing down by the river at L’Île Bouchard. Nicole and I had a girls’ day shopping and joined them for lunch at L’Auberge de L’Île.


We found the restaurant in a booklet we got from L’Office de Tourisme in Le Grand-Pressigny a couple of years ago and it featured lots of really nice restaurants in Touraine. We were gradually working our way through them when we realised we had either lost or given away our last copy of the booklet and they had stopped producing them. Quel dommage !!


The restaurant looks nice but ordinary on the outside but once inside you immediately have the impression that this is going to be a good experience, and it was.


It was a warm day so we opted to sit indoors. We were the only people indoors that lunchtime. To begin with we wondered if we had made a mistake but as more and more people passed our table to sit outside overlooking the river we decided we were ok where we were. Outside was getting busy and noisy under the umbrellas and we were all cool and calm in the restaurant.


We went for the “Formule Plaisir” at 35€ each for three courses. The slightly cheaper menu included either starter or dessert and as we love our puddings we thought it was good value to go for the full monty.


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The most spectacular starter was the prawns in a slightly curried sauce.


For mains some chose fish, others duck. Everything was beautifully presented and served perfectly with just the right amount of discreet attention from the restaurant staff.


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The desserts were worth the modest extra cost. The chocolate fondants looked fabulous but I chose the rice pudding – a beautiful light and creamy rice with strawberries on top.


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All in all, it was a great lunch. Eating at lunchtime is a very good way of sampling what is on offer at a good restaurant if you are unsure about lashing out on a pricey meal in the evening. Personally I often prefer to eat something absolutely delicious but lighter at lunchtime than have a rich and heavy meal in the evening.


Afterwards, Nick and Alex went back to their fishing while Nicole and I carried on with our shopping. We will be visiting the restaurant again for lunch some time this year, for sure.

April 12, 2011

TINY BUT DEADLY

Salmonella

This is a picture of the organism responsible for so much misery in so many people – salmonella.

The answer to the question I posed yesterday is :

Yes, we ate the cooked meat and enjoyed it.  I didn’t tell Nick about my misgivings until the next day when any risk of illness would have passed.

There has been paranoia about food poisoning in the UK ever since the South Derbyshire MP, Edwina Currie, announced on TV in 1988 that the whole of the British egg production was contaminated with salmonella.  Food poisoning has to be taken seriously as it doesn’t just cause a few hours’ misery – for some it is deadly.  Every so often there are reports in the media about scores of people dying as a result of eating contaminated food.

I was prepared to take the risk with my cooked meat on that day as I feel the problem is largely due to a combination of provenance and bad practice.  I guessed that the likelihood of a village butcher poisoning his customers was probably quite low.

On the other hand, if you get chicken from an unknown source you can’t be too careful, so if I buy supermarket chicken I stick firmly to the recommended rules.  Looking like a nerd who’s paranoid about food poisoning is one thing – looking like death with awful diarrhoea is worse.  But it’s all a question of balance.

The fondness of the French for raw or partly cooked meat is slightly unsettling, as is the general impression I have that some shops and restaurants don’t always seem to follow the practices that are very visible in the UK to prevent food poisoning.  We once stayed in a French hotel where there were two large tarts, one sweet, one savoury, on a side table in the restaurant all afternoon, uncovered by anything but the little swarms of flies that visited every few moments.  They were on the menu for dinner that evening.

Yet at an event I attended in the UK not long ago, all the food on the buffet was removed and disposed of once it had been on display for more than two hours.  The sublime to the ridiculous in terms of food hygiene but somewhere in between lies common sense.  Or is it training?

But then, even places that seem to have followed all the rules and regulations to the letter still poison people if something goes wrong.  And life is an adventure or nothing.  If I had never taken any risks in my life, I would not have had half the fun that I have so far.

On the other, other hand, it’s not  worth loading the odds against ourselves either.  So what ever seems right on the day is fine by me and if I come unstuck, tant pis.

April 11, 2011

FRENCH FOOD HYGIENE

butcher

One of the blogs I enjoy reading recently had a post about whether or not anyone should consider moving to France.  You can read the original post here.

The writer suggests a few things you have to learn to live with if you are going to survive in France, one of which being the raw food handling practices in the boucherie, charcuterie and poissonnerie.

I have witnessed for myself all over France the relaxed hygiene practices that I sometimes feel slightly unsure about.

On the middle Sunday of a gloriously sunny holiday I popped down the hill to the butcher’s shop in the village to buy something for dinner.  I asked for two pork chops and whilst I was at it, as they would be closed the next day, asked for two veal escalopes as well.

The butcher’s shop in Le Grand-Pressigny is run by a delightful couple, M. and Mme Poupeau.  They are always friendly and helpful and their meat is top quality and delicious. 

On this occasion, whilst M. Poupeau was busy wrapping my meat, I glanced at the cooked meat section and had a sudden fancy for a couple of slices of roast pork for our lunch.  I asked for these and M. Poupeau obliged, pulling the pork joint from the cabinet and slicing two tranches, moving seamlessly from the task of weighing and wrapping our raw meat without apparently stopping to wash his hands.  It took a moment for this to register and it also occurred to me that he could have handled the till, knives, scales, and goodness knows what else immediately after handling raw meat.  Hmmmm……

I paid up and left the shop.  What to do …..?

On the way back up the hill I had a minute or two to think about it. 

  • Their meat is probably local and from a good source, not like the supermarket meat we sometimes buy at home, which comes from heaven knows where. 
  • This was obviously standard practice in France – we had seen it before. 
  • Cross-contamination of food must be so common that if we were really at risk, so many people would have been poisoned by now that most boucheries in France would have been closed down if there was a serious problem.
  • Wouldn’t they ??

Should I tell Nick?  We had both had nasty bouts of food poisoning in the past and Nick is particularly paranoid about it.  I could say nothing and put the cooked meat straight in the bin. Or I could just let us eat it and wait and see what happened.

What would you have done?  And what do you think I did?

April 10, 2011

LE LAVOIR OF ST-RÉMY

As we drive around the villages of the Touraine, a common site is the village lavoir.  In Le Grand-Pressigny we have found two; one by the river and a long way from the main road, and a smaller one on the road to Le Petit-Pressigny. 

This one in St-Rémy-sur-Creuse is right by the road through the village.

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Usually it is decorated with flowers in hanging baskets suspended from the beams.  Obviously when I took these photos the flowers had given up.  Perhaps the task of watering them was just too much by the end of the summer.

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Lavoirs were used for the public washing of laundry before dwellings had their own water supply and are usually sited by a river or spring.  Here in St-Rémy you can see the pump so presumably there is a well or spring nearby.  The river is quite a distance away.

Our little cottage in LGP has its own well in the back garden.  There is a right of access along the passage between our house and the neighbours and three dwellings share the use of the well.  It’s completely dry now.

The lavoirs in Le Grand-Pressigny are a fair distance from the house and the walk back from either of them is up a steep hill.  I often find myself wondering what life was like in previous centuries – pretty hard, I think, and especially on wash-day.  Mme André told me that she moved into her cottage the year after piped water arrived, which was in 1955.

April 8, 2011

ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER

spring in LGP

While we are away from Le Grand-Pressigny, Nicole and Alex look after the garden and keep an eye on the house for us.  They do a brilliant job.

Nicole sent me this photo of our little garden today.  Such sweet torture – still, not long now until we will be sitting on our little terrace overlooking the village, sipping a glass of something appropriate and enjoying the view.

I only hope the tulips last until then !!

April 7, 2011

L’AUBERGE DU ST-RÉMY

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No, this is not my motorcycle parked precariously pointing slightly downhill. The owner was probably in the bar having a drink.

On the day I took this photo, lunch was being served.  There were a number of cars parked nearby and couples and workers were piling in.  It was a Friday lunchtime and I caught a whiff or two of something tasty as I walked by.

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I had just dropped Nick off for a few hours’ fishing down by the bridge at Descartes.  He likes it there by the fishing café – all the facilities a fisherman could need are on hand.

I was therefore off the lead and tempted to indulge in lunch myself.  But then I thought I would save the experience for us to enjoy together another day.

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In any case, I was enjoying my walk around the village, taking photos and seeing the sights.  Green is one of the colours approved for doors and windows in the region.  The greens used vary enormously from a very pale pastel green, which I like, to this dark green, which I am not so fond of.

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That day, I broke one of my own personal rules – “strike whilst the iron is hot”.  We passed by the auberge many times after that and it never seemed to be open for lunch.  Then last year scaffolding appeared and subsequently the whole building has been gutted.  The front has been completely done up and the interior stripped.

I couldn’t tell what the building is going to be last time we drove by.  There were traffic lights allowing only single-file traffic past the site so we could only get a glimpse of what was going on.  I’m hoping it will be another restaurant but it could just as easily be a large house.  Now I’m annoyed with myself for not trying out the old auberge while I could. 

April 5, 2011

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

We do quite a bit of our shopping at Descartes which is about 15 minutes from Le Grand-Pressigny along the main road.  Instead of going the quickest way, through Abilly (pronounced “Abee-yee”), we often go “the back way” which takes us across to the other side of the Creuse river and through some pretty villages.

One of them is called St-Rémy-sur-Creuse.  Late in August last year (or possibly the year before), instead of just driving through, I stopped for a look around and took some photos.

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I wandered up the hill away from the main road and discovered a charming church, perched on the hillside with a lovely view over the valley below.

As you can see, it was one of those sultry late summer days.  The sky was heavy with a storm threatening and it was very warm.  It didn’t rain in the end, I seem to remember.

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A wedding had recently taken place at the church, just a few days before judging by the freshness of the confetti scattered in the doorway.  What a lovely and romantic setting for a wedding.

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At the back of the church is the old well, in its own little house.

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There is so much to discover in our little corner of France.  Each time we visit we see things we have driven past so many times but not really noticed before.  It is a delight to get out of the car and have a proper nosey round.

April 2, 2011

GARDENING LEAVE (NOT)

spring view

The view from our terrace in Le Grand-Pressigny last week.

I am taking a break from work, due to having had a minor operation on my hand.  However, as you can see, it resulted in a large bandage with a high sympathy factor !!

handIt really isn’t as bad as it looks but having a week at home unable to do gardening, baking or beading presents a challenge.

 

 

 

Mind you, I have to keep it dry so no cooking or washing-up either, so it’s not all bad nows.  Luckily I can still use the computer – although my typing is a little hit and muss !!