February 22, 2007

holidays.holidays.holidays

Montpellier here we come…

filles at 11:52 pm

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February 19, 2007

Records

Yesterday we had a record 16 degrees.
We went for dim sum, then took a walk along the canal St Martin back through Republic and then we followed the Chinese New Year parade down the rue Turbigo home again…

filles at 1:25 pm

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February 16, 2007

Good intentions

I started out with Pilates, cleaned the house, then went for a brisk hour and a half walk to the eiffel tower and back. I was all pumped up and ready to do the groceries for our invitees tonight. I started at the top of Rue Montorgueil. Pancetta from the Italian deli, strawberries imported from Morocco and handmade, home-fried chips from the cheese & charcuterie shop. I was passing by our local wine shope and I peered in (as usual) to say bonjour to JD – he motioned for me to come in, which I did, and that was the end of my nice light healthy story.

He called me in because he had just opened a bottle of Brown Bros. Australian wine to taste. He often has tastings in the back of the wine store when he gets a new wine in. It was a Brown Bros wine I didn’t know, and it was quite nice, but at €15 I’d rather drink a really good French wine (when in France..). I hung about a bit, chatted to the other guy in the shop from Corsica and mentioned we were hoping to go to Corsica this July with a group of friends and rent a house “did he have any some inside info?”.

At some point as I was leaving so was JD, we both hadn’t eaten yet and at 2.30pm figured it was probably sensible to do so sooner rather than later. He took me to a Bistrot a Vins he knew on the Rue de Richelieu, Juveniles owned by a Scottish fellow which was really rather pleasant. We had a nice lunch with a pichet of red, tasted a Spanish Cava and a special Cuvee of Australian wine he had by the pallet load called Torbreck, Cuvee Juveniles 2005 from the Barossa Valley. Very nice. A couple of hours later I returned home ready for a nap with the phone number of a friend of a friend who is renting their house in Porto Vecchio, Corsica.

Gone were the well laid plans of Scallops with Puy lentils followed by an ashen goat cheese to eat with the Banyuls we have to finish… and once again here I am rushing around while the cupboards are bare trying to find a restaurant to go to for dinner. Wine in the afternoon always does that to me.

filles at 7:20 pm

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February 15, 2007

Contact vs Coiff1rst

I have no new locations, no new cafes, no art shows nor any interesting observations to share today. I went to the hairdresser. I’ve been stalking hairdressers for a couple of weeks now, looking for one for both Michelle and I. Up ’till now we’ve been continuing to go to our hairdresser in Glasgow whenever we pass through, except for the one time last fall that Michelle tried the salon just downstairs, quite unsuccessfully I have to add, she had it fixed up when she visited me in Australia. So far my search has been a bit hit and miss. I’m going on a mix of gut feel, nose up to the window, customers inside and colour of the walls basically. That’s the criteria for Michelle. For me, I chose one because there was a picture in the window of someone with my haircut. How hard could that be?

Me: (in bad French)”Can you cut my hair exactly like that picture, and top it up with the same colour over the grey?”
Salon: (in very fast French) “Yes”
Sold.

I spent 3.5 hours in the chair, watching various people discuss my hair, fiddle with it, do things I knew weren’t exactly like the picture, nor the same colour that I already have and then €xxx later I walked out of there with too short and very stripey hair. Voila!

Hopefully Michelle will have better luck on Saturday morning in the salon with lovely orange walls…

filles at 6:24 pm

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February 14, 2007

Fete de la Saint Valentin

Roses at €7 each….
(they had better last longer than a day)

filles at 5:57 pm

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February 13, 2007

Today’s cafe

Today I discovered the very cool Cafe Beaubourg on my morning walk around the 3rd & 4th arrondisements. I must have walked by this cafe at least 100 times and never been in, thinking it was probably too touristy being so close to the Centre Georges Pompidou. But I was wrong, it seems Paris doesn’t necessarily work like that. It turns out that this is actually the first of the ‘Costes’ establishements, those same Costes of the Hotel Costes fame.

I sat down to a cafe creme while I read the International Herald Tribune and my copy of the latest Donna Hay magazine that I received this morning in the post. And if anyone was jealous of my time in Paris, you now have real reason. It was a lovely morning.

I’m sure I’ll be back, at €5 a coffee I won’t be a regular but whenever I can….

filles at 4:18 pm

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Cordoba

continued…

Saturday morning we took the train to Cordoba and made our way to our hotel the Reposo de Bagdad in the centre of the Jewish quarter. We checked in then headed out for a walk around La Juderia. The narrow lanes, streets and pathways were even smaller than in Seville and the majority of the buildings had boxes of flowers on their whitewashed windows. The highlight of Cordoba is the Mezquita, the Cathedral. Originally the basilica of San Vicente,it was expropriated and destroyed in 785 by the Muslims after the Islamic invasion of Cordoba. It was then that they began construction of the Mosque, a building that would come to be considered the most important sanctuary of Western Islam in a time when Cordoba was the capital of Al Andalus. The Mosque went through several stages of construction, initially inspired by the Mosque of Damascus but with a strong Hispano-Roman influence. When King Ferdinand III reconquered Cordoba in 1236 he had the mosque purified and returned into a site consecrated to Christ which included the removal of the palm trees from the courtyard and replaced with the orange trees which are still there today, and the present day tower was built over the minaret.

It was one of the most amazing, most beautiful sites I have ever visited.

The rest of the day followed much the same as the previous days. Stops for tapas and wine in restaurants. Stops for tapas and wine in a variety of bodegas. Stops for tapas and wine in the centre of large squares in the sunshine. We visited an old Synagogue, we stopped for mint tea and Moroccan pastries when we stumbled on a tea house, and we got lost over and over again in the maze of alleyways.

Cordoba’s historical centre is much smaller and it appears to have retained more of it’s Moorish influence compared to Seville. At only an hour or so away by train it is well worth visiting if for no other reason to visit the Mezquita. For dinner we found a fantastic restaurant and had our best meal yet, it was a reasonably early night for Spain and we were up bright and early the next morning for our return to Seville where we managed to take in a tour of what is considered to be one of the finest bullrings in Spain. The tour was quick and efficient, very un-Spanish with a quick tour around the museum housed in the depths of the bullring where stories of famous matadors, their colourful costumes and the stuffed heads of their conquests graced the walls.

It was a great trip. Maybe too short but a great way to whet our appetite to see more of Andalucia another time. The food was amazing, the wine as well and all up it’s only half the price of Paris. I had a fantastic time.

Cordoba pictures here.

filles at 2:31 pm

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February 12, 2007

Seville

Spain. I know. It’s been almost a month since we went to Seville & Cordoba with Roger. We had a fantastic trip, truly, I’ve just got to try and remember now what we did on it….

We took the Spanish national carrier’s budget airline “Clickair”. Move over Ryanair, you have a competitor in the smallest seats and tiniest legroom category. Unbelievable, but there you go. It could have been worse, we could have bought seats with Iberia and paid double and found ourselves on the same “Clickair” plane bound for Seville.

We arrived late at night which is perfect for Spain, 10pm just in time for an aperitif before dinner. Checked into the beautiful Hotel Amadeus which was a great location between the Santa Cruz neighbourhood and the Juderia on a very narrow lane way and then headed out for a wander into the barrio. We stopped for a couple of tapas & a glass of rioja at a little bar called Casa Roman in the plaza de Los venerables. It was so good we ended up coming back to this bar at least once a day for our fill of their jamon croquettes, chorizo, the most amazing olives and rioja. It was the find of our short trip. Right next door was a restaurant and hostel that I had seen on my web searches and that also got good reviews. Next time we’ll stay there, not far to walk, right next door.

We didn’t stop there though. Football was on, Real Madrid vs Betis so we found another local bar and watched the game with the regulars, downing beers, eating ham until the final whistle while trying to hear each other talk over the din. Next stop a restaurant, close to midnight we ‘discussed’ our way along the street poking our heads into one bar after another until we agreed upon a nice little cellar were we tried some more specialties and drank yet more rioja under the guidance of our french/moroccan/spanish waiter. It’s amazing how many Spaniards speak french, from our little trip I would say far more than those that speak English. On our way home to the hotel, we stopped in a small bar, really just a hole in the wall that was decorated completely with christian paraphernalia, and I mean completely. Every inch of wall space, table space, ceiling space, bar top was covered under the weight of christian effigies as well as a video on repeat of the Holy Week celebrations that occur every year in Seville. It was the weirdest bar I’ve ever seen, packed solid with men, who had a crazed look in their eyes. Michelle ordered herself and Roger a spanish cognac and me a supposedly sweet digestif- they were all undrinkable. The cognac was as rough as you could ever imagine and my so called sweet wine was salty….

The next day we took a walking tour of Seville with a young Spanish women who led us through the central city, the Jewish quarter and the santa cruz neighbourhood where the streets were full of orange trees and the scent of oranges were carried in the wind. The tour was brilliant. She was brilliant. It’s such a pleasure to hear about not only the history but local politics and expressions happening in the city today. I’m trying to find contact details for her and I’ll post them here for you to use in the future (the kind staff at Hotel Amadeus just sent me her site address). She even knew our little christian bar we happened upon the night before, it is a regular haunt of her Holy Week crazed husband. Apparently there are people that live only for Holy Week – it’s a big deal in Seville, the men get all dressed up in tunics with hats reminiscent of Klu Klux Klan pointy hats, while the women support them, cook and get themselves ready with the latest flamenco outfits for the Seville Fair two weeks later. When it’s over, these people drink in bars like the one we found – reminiscing, watching the videos and planning the following years parade. It must be an amazing time to visit with all street parades happening.

After the tour we lunched again at our Casa Roman, did a little bit of fan shopping, and then went on into the Cathedral where the remains of Christopher Columbus supposedly lay. Inside the cathedral is beautiful, full of gilt and spanish extravagance. We took our time walking up the Giralda, which in the time of the mosque was it’s minaret. The views over the city were superb. Next stop was a terrace bar on top of a hotel opposite the cathedral where we sipped sangria and watched the sun descend behind the city skyline before dashing home for a siesta (when in Spain….).

Friday night in Seville saw us heading to a flamenco demonstration at the the Casa de la Memoria de Al Andalus after a quick rioja and another tapas at another local bar (we did try and sample them all..). This was a fabulous show recommended by our guide as the place where dance afficionados from Seville go when they want to see flamenco being performed. Not designed solely for tourists it’s a learning centre and they put on a show once a day (or twice in the summer) for a reasonably small crowd of people (so get there early), of flamenco, singing and guitar playing. There is no meal, no drinks, and no cameras (except for a set 2 min period at the end of the show). It was brilliant. I have never ever seen a guitar being played as well as that, ever. It was so good. The guys fingers were so nimble, they had a life of their own, and the dancer was incredible. It was like watching a bull fight. She did several dances, in a couple of outfits – I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was. [Note: even the Sydney Morning Herald knew about this show!]

Another quick glass of wine at our Casa Roman before we found ourselves at a very posh restaurant, served by very posh staff and surrounded by tourists. Not the best choice of the trip but the food was fabulous, it was just the ambiance that needed some work. I would imagine in the summertime, when it was 40 degrees outside this place would be a haven of coolness and tranquility, but in the middle of winter it was just dead. Not to worry, a relatively early night was called for, before our adventure to Cordoba the following morning….

to be continued…

Seville photos here.

filles at 10:20 am

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February 2, 2007

an ode to Roger

We’ve come to the end of the road.

On Wednesday Roger finished the last item on an exhaustive list that we somewhat optimistically drew up when we first heard he was coming over to help us paint. Somewhere between that first call about 4 weeks ago and today, the list got longer and longer and included all the rest of the niggling little bits & pieces involving tools, drills and all the rest of the things that require a skilled and certified “handyman”. At the end of it all he went through all the tools with me, their storage, their uses, what can be returned and what cannot. It’s been an amazing three weeks. Not only has Roger managed to complete our mile long list of ‘things to be done’. But he also managed to keep us entertained, kept us sane, and his trip has allowed us to discover parts of Paris we never knew existed.

True, it was not a typical “voyage en France” for M. Marien, there was a lot more work, and a lot less play than he was probably accustomed to. We did manage to squeeze in some grand restaurants & brasseries, before we all agreed that home cooking is probably more compatible over such a short period of time. We managed some museums and exhibitions, some discovery walks visiting neighbourhoods, cemeteries, and markets as well as a quick sojourn to Spain between the endless trips to DIY giants like BHV and Leroy Merlin where we spent hours pouring over the different size screws and nuts and bolts and mirrors and paint and doorknobs and the rest….

For all the work he did here, for putting up with my bossy nature, and for just being the very cool, very laid back great friend he is, we truly owe him and Lorraine a great deal.

Thank you Roger. From the bottom of our hearts. We want you to come back soon and we promise not to give you any more work to do…. promise. We’ve got millions more walks to do, cards to follow, restaurants to try and neighbourhoods to discover and we want to share them with you & Lorraine.

Happy retirement from Honeywell. Take your time, enjoy the moments, and don’t be in such a hurry to go back to work….

filles at 4:56 pm

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