Adventures in Paris

More summer memories… in late August I went to Paris for work and the meeting times were so arranged that I actually had a few hours spare to explore the city a little bit.  This never normally happens on work trips, so I made the most of it!  I have not been to Paris for years and so asked my very good friend Emily, who lived there for a time, where I should go to occupy a couple of hours in the sunshine.  She suggested the Rodin museum and gardens, which was a wonderful idea.

It was difficult to photograph the sculptures while avoiding everyone else who was doing the same, and in any event I would never do them justice, so I humbly photographed my ice cream instead.  (This was more to record my wonder at the fact that, on a work day, I was in Paris eating lavender ice cream, than any aspirations to photographic excellence.)

I also came across one of the bridges with locks attached to it- a new custom sparked by a recent Italian novel, I understand.  They were quite unexpected and picturesque, glinting in the sun.

 

I walked to le ‘Relais de l’Entrecote’ for dinner (another Emily recommendation) which, apart from the company, was as good as I remembered it being when I went there with her a few years ago.

After dinner I walked back along the Seine to my hotel enjoying the late-evening warmth (not a common occurrence in England) with a stop to take the obligatory photo of the Tour Eiffel.  A good day at work.

 

 

Summer memories

Looking back through my photos, I’ve found a few from this summer which I never shared at the time.  The photos seem to indicate more sun than I remember having, but probably because I prefer to get the camera out in the sunshine for obvious reasons!

We were so excited to finally have a garden when we moved to our house in the countryside, and we have really enjoyed having a bit of outside space this summer.  I can’t say that we’ve made huge inroads into the world of ‘proper’ gardening but I bought a few seed packets and herbs and things and put them in pots.

Here they are newly planted in July: parsley, mint, lavender, chives and tarragon.  The slugs seemed to love the parsley and the chives, and the latter is now unfortunately defunct.  The tarragon also probably got more rain and less sun than was good for it.  Still, it was nice having green things growing and I’ve moved the pots into the porch now for the winter so I can still pick mint and parsley, and look at the lavender.

We also grew lettuce and radishes, which both we and the slugs found very tasty.

A blueberry cake from the ever-present Hummingbird Bakery cookbook- very moist and yummy, especially with the fruit.  It was an enormous volume of cake though- I think it actually took more than a week to eat up, even with visitors helping.  Unprecedented!

Mark found a milk churn behind the shed one day, and we put it by the back door as a little resting-spot for things like bags and travel mugs of tea for when one needs to fish around for keys to get in or out of the house.  The churn was apparently from the days when the house was a farmhouse for a dairy farm, so is properly authentic!

We also walked up to the top of the hills behind our house one late evening, to watch the sun set over the valley.  It’s the kind of thing we continually said we should do, but it took us a little while to get around to doing it.  It was lovely though- a very peaceful way to end the day.  The light on the grasses were gorgeous as the sun slanted across the hills.

It all seems a long time ago now, as we face floodwaters on the roads and read news reports of accidents caused by the heavy rain and gale-force winds.  Perhaps it is nearly time for a bit of christmas cheer to lift the gloom…

 

Very belated birthday cupcakes

It was my sister’s birthday this week, and since she is now all the way in Australia (sniff) I cannot make her a birthday cake.  When I go to visit her I will make one to compensate, no matter how belated it is!  Which brings me to very, very belated photos of my own birthday cake(s).  My birthday is in July, so these are fairly out of date, to say the least, but I’ve just realised I never posted them.

I am firmly of the opinion that one can never have too much cake.  I also have a baking reputation to uphold at work.  I therefore turned to the trusty Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ cookbook for some cupcake recipes- I made hot chocolate cupcakes to take into work during the week (and even had the forethought to acquire some very miniature marshmallows with which to decorate them), and vanilla cupcakes the following weekend with my sister.

Needless to say, both were excellent, as I find is always the way with Hummingbird recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in the Loire Valley

We spent a lovely week in the Loire Valley at the beginning of July.  It was sunny and warm, the countryside was beautiful, and the food was scrumptious!  We stayed in a lovely gite which meant we could cook our own food (or rather, eat bread and cheese and pate and red wine for dinner).

Here it is:  Annie’s House near Saumur, run by a lovely English lady and her equally lovely French husband.

 

 

 

 

All the gardens seemed to be just soaking up the sun and bursting with the most gorgeous colours.

We visited a few chateaux, including Chenonceau which I saw in a book of chateaux of the Loire Valley once and have always been transfixed by.  It was magical to see it in person.

 

 

There was a glimpse inside of how the floor must have looked before it was worn away over the years…

 

 

and some really incredible copper pots!

 

 

We also visited Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and was buried.  It was covered in scaffolding so not the most picturesque in places, but this gargoyle was quite charming.

 

 

 

And of course, we stopped for refreshments a fair few times.

 

Our final day we spent in Honfleur, which is a lovely seaside town on the coast.  I cannot imagine the kind of weather they must get sometimes, as the houses are commonly tiled with slate all down the sides.  Not a good sign!

 

It is a very beautiful place though, and these days is quite bijoux and expensive.  We had some very expensive drinks on the waterfront and watched the world go by, but they were worth it.  Vive la France!

A walk on the wild side

This morning, spotting a gap in the persistent rain, we put on our ‘technical trousers’ (similar to Wallace’s techno-trousers but sadly, much less whizzy), grabbed the camera and headed out for a walk up the hills behind our house.  We paused momentarily in the garden to document the lovely roses which have just appeared.

Every week something new unfurls, and I am just observing and trying to work out what is a weed and what is not.  Dandelions I can spot, but there are quite a lot of other mysterious things which require identification.  If they all keep popping up with pretty flowers, though, that will help!

We marched up the hill, and eventually found a view of Blagdon Lake.

I think there’s a little bit of blue sky in there somewhere…

We carried on and all of a sudden, in a gap in the hedge, some sweet little woolly faces appeared!  I tiptoed over and tried Mark’s patience for about 15 minutes while I took photo after photo of the lambs.  The below is only a small selection.

Posing up like a natural!

And then mummy came over to investigate.  I have not met such photogenic sheep in a long time.  Heading back down through the woods the path took us across a field with a small group of what I think were bulls, rather than cows.  (I am not very knowledgeable about matters bovine, but have no doubt I will increase my awareness living here…)  They were certainly not too pleased to see us, and even though we gave them a very wide berth, they glared and glared at us as if to say ‘what on EARTH do you think you are doing in our field’.  I managed to get a couple of shots of them before we felt like it was probably time to move on!

“GO AWAY.”

I especially love the sly one peering over his mate’s back…

It was a lovely walk and we ended up in the village of Ubley, which is just down the road from us, gawping at some beautiful cottages with lovely gardens, roses spilling over the front door, and everything perfectly picturesque.  I was so inspired I came home and started trying to tackle the garden, but the weeds won and I had to break for a nap in the end!

Country life

We now reside in the countryside…. it is lovely.  Blissful.  There are birds tweeting, and cows just over the back fence.   Really.  We live in the Chew Valley, which is just south of Bristol and seems to be a thriving area with lots of lovely villages, and copious amounts of cows.  There is a dairy in the village (I haven’t investigated daily milk deliveries yet but it’s moving up the list of things to do) and the Yeo Valley dairy company is based two villages over.  I have been a devotee of Yeo Valley yoghurt for years, so I am inordinately pleased that one of my favourite food items is now officially ‘local’.

This is the view from just over our back fence.  I took this a couple of weeks ago when the sun was actually shining, ahem, and for the last week there have been lots of what I think are teenager cows in the near field.  They seem to be quite bouncy and mischievous, and also not that big, hence my teenager theory.  When the weather stops being atrocious I will see if I can get some photos of them.

The sun setting over the Mendips.

We also have a garden, an actual garden with proper plants in it, about which I am clueless.  I think I can handle herbs in pots, so I am planning an expedition this weekend to get some of those.  For the rest, I think I need to make friends with the neighbours and get their green thumb advice!

There is also quite a bit of lawn, which has necessitated the purchase of a proper lawn mower (American readers will not know that there is any other kind, but yes, here in England you may purchase electric mowers, i.e. with a cord attached, and yes, even human-powered mowers.  I had never seen such things before I moved here) and the building of a compost bin in which to house the grass clippings and other organic waste.

This compost bin was built by Mark from some obliging site waste material, and is standing proudly in the garden looking incredibly fit for purpose.

It is also designed with spiky residents in mind.  The hedgehog population is in decline in the UK, which is very sad, as hedgehogs are wonderful.  You can read all about them in the Guardian here.  In addition to residing in hedges (obviously), hedgehogs also apparently are quite keen on nesting in compost bins, and it is important to leave a gap to allow them access to this most ideal of habitats to encourage them to move in.

As you’ll note, one panel of the bin has been deliberately left out so as (all being well) to act as the hedgehogs’ front entrance.  Now all I need is some bunting to welcome them in….

Floral bounty from the allotment

I know there have been lots of posts about flowers recently, but it is summer!  Last weekend my aunt, uncle and cousin came down from Yorkshire to take part in a cycle race with Mr. Meg (who has blogged about it here).

My aunt is an amazing gardener and has a beautiful garden and a very productive allotment, although I think it suffered this year from the total and utter lack of any rain during the entire month of April.  However, lovely flowers abound still and she brought a gorgeous big bunch of them down with her:

 

Aren’t they stunning?  Thank you Philly!