Friday, December 31, 2010

An old bottle

One of my pastimes (for I cannot give it more importance than that) is listing and cataloguing our wines accumulated over the past twenty or thirty years.

I don't collect wines as a connoisseur much less as any kind of investment but purely for the amusement of family members when, on the birthday or other special event, I can pull out the appropriate bottle.

Some of it now may be, I fear, "over the top," as we used to say when I was in the wine trade.  Meaning it should have been drunk a long time ago and is now on slow decline.  Reds are particularly prone to this.

Nevertheless we have been very pleased with a few old bottles lately, and I have some sparkling wines reserved for occasions like tonight such as a Blanquette de Limoux and a Clairette de Die.  We drunk the Clairette on Christmas Day to the acclaim of all—pity I don't have another like that one!

Today I thought I'd show you my oldest bottle—though admittedly not that old.  It will be Raphaël's "birthday bottle" I suppose and is quietly awaiting the right moment to get savoured.

Alas, the label has not stood up as well as I hope the contents has.  1978 was in good year in Bordeaux.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gift from Frederic & Regine

Our friends just spent a couple of days with us helping with crushing and pressing apples.  He is planning to start his own farm of buffaloes too so we have a lot in common to talk about.

They are a very nice couple and before they left they gave Raph & Camille this cheese—now we want to know where we can get it around here!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Professor Gums

Here's a picture Raph took of Ruben this evening after he'd suddenly grabbed my glasses. He balanced them on his nose, Raph called him "Professor Gums!" and grabbed his camera.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three old photos

Last week Sarah took down a small three-photo frame containing old family photos that has been sitting on the mantelpiece for some time.  Thinking it was time to change them she slid them out only to find three older photos underneath.

Here they are:

Your questions are:

1. Where were these photos taken?
2. What is the year?
3. Were they once all three part of the same, bigger photo?
4. What is Bryan laughing at?
5. What are Wendy and I looking at?
6. Give me the name of the cameraman.

And the bonus question is number 7.  Name the cat.


Thursday, December 09, 2010


While we were out sunning ourselves on our cruise we got this shot from Raph with the one-word title—apparently we finally got a dusting on the second of the month, just one week ago today.  Here's how the children upstairs received this news:

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Claire faithfully writing her log of the trip

We arrive in Genova

A narrow street

We didn't want to miss trying some farinata since today was the day!

Friendly wine merchant in the covered market

Monday, December 06, 2010

At sea

Breakfast fruits

Our Egyptian waiters

Napoleon at a children's party

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Horse-drawn tour

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Arrival in port
Oranges for Europe

Friday, December 03, 2010


On the rock

Barbary ape
Leaving Gibraltar for Tanger

Camel ride in Morocco

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

First stop: Barcelona

Arriving in Barcelona
Touring Gaudiland on the upper deck

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cruise II

Well, we're off tomorrow for Marseille on our second (annual?) cruise.  This time we're going down the west Mediterranean coasts and out to North Africa.

You may remember last year we found a deal we couldn't refuse.  This time it costs us half of that!  And children under 18 go for free.  So we decided to take Claire and Olivier, both of whom could afford to take a week off school for such a trip.

Claire has made herself a notebook for the occasion and plans to keep a complete log of the trip.  Here is her first page with an outline map of projected stops; Marseille, Barcelona, Alicante, Gibraltar, Tangier, Casablanca, Malaga, Almeria, Genova, Marseille.  Sounds like fun, don't you think?

Friday, November 26, 2010

No comment

Raph, with a smile, picks up a yellowing scrap of newspaper from the mantelpiece over the roaring fire this morning, and says "This come out of your office, Dad?"

Of course I've never seen the thing before.  I ask everyone there who had seen it and who had put it there... no one had.

It's dated Sunday, 20th of October 1968.  No comment.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

David with Mary and Joseph

David got a new rabbit the other day.  Before he ever got here he had decided he was going to call him Joseph.  Here they all are ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010


If you're ever looking for your name-tag bracelet (I don't know what it's really called) I've got it here.

Don't ask me who Isabelle is—I don't know.

Don't ask me how her bracelet got into the hidden drawer of my desk—I don't know that, either.

Don't ask me why she decided to hide it here / give it to me—I just work here!

Another mystery?  Well, I'm not going to waste too much time on it.  After what I've seen over the years here, this is small fry!  (Remind me to tell you sometime about the rosary and the five-franc piece I found in the front pocket of a suit I've never worn...).

Have a nice day, everyone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Louvre and England

We had only been back from the Netherlands for a week when it was time to be off again!  Sarah and I had planned a day at the Louvre a long time ago around the once-a-month free day (first Sunday of every month).  I couldn't decide what to expect: crowds due to free admission or the place to ourselves due to the season.

Nine o'clock opening?  No problem, we're ready!
Well, we were there standing in line a half an hour before opening time (nine o'clock) and we were glad we were because there was already quite a queue!  It's a good thing the Louvre is huge because people just kept coming until by noon there were thousands.  A little later we decided to pause for lunch after already a great morning seeing over some of the sights (we started out by touring the personal apartments of Napoleon III and went on from there).

Since we had planned to go over to England for a couple of days afterwards, at the last minute we had decided to bring both Claire and Olivier to give them a little educational break!  They enjoyed it a great deal and were so excited with everything.
We laughed so hard at this!  (You had to be there to appreciate it!)

It's always funny the things that children appreciate, when you take them on a trip!

Anyway, on the way up to Cheltenham we did a little detour by Salisbury plain to show the kids what they heard and read about before: Stonehenge.  We didn't bother with the official guided visit (£££) but made the trip around the area and found a spot where they could get out for a picture, then another road that brought us right up close, within metres of the monument, where we paused again for a quick look at the site.

Next it was up to Cheltenham where we spent a lovely relaxed time with Rosemary, and Peggy & Tony who took us out to a few of the local sites, like the quaint Bourton-on-the-water where, besides lots of interesting things to see and do, there is a complete model of the village itself (at 1:9 scale) which dates from 1937.

Olivier had to be there to give you an idea of the scale.
Of course, one of the first things we wanted to do was find the model of the model village   Well, we found it but the model of the model of the model village had been taken out that week for cleaning and maintenance!  Here's a shot for you...


Monday, November 01, 2010


My report last left you with our visit to the museum at Waterloo.  Before we left the town we had lunch there but were not particularly impressed with Belgian cuisine which, in a French-speaking restaurant turned out to be rather mediocre.

We had a good laugh, though, at a couple of misunderstandings we had with the waiter.  Olly ordered a religieuse for dessert.  The waiter fixed him a funny smile and tilted his head and said, "And just what do you call a religieuse?"  (After Olly described it, he said they called it a Choux à la crème—which it is, of course.  Sigh.)

It just occurred to me non-francophone visitors may not get the point here unless I show you what I'm talking about.  Here's a photo I pinched off another blog I found while googling a picture for you.  Behold a religieuse:

Next came Becky who decided on a Fondue au fromage for her main dish.  Instead of the expected delight she was amazed to find a couple of little pasty pastry balls which had a vague overtone of cheese (if you were looking for it, says Becky).  It was no use trying to explain to the waiter what we call a fondue this side of the border . . . .

Next stop was Amiens, just a couple of hours away.  As always, we headed off here with a clue as to what we would find—and we weren't disappointed!  The town turned out to be rich in culture and things to see.  How good it felt to be out of The Netherlands, through Belgium, and home!  (The road system in Belgium is disgraceful; we had expected far better!)

After finding a place to park we set out to explore and found we were right next to the ruins of a convent that had been built  in the 11th century for the Grey Sisters.  We were struck, once again, that so many wonderful old buildings were destroyed during the Second World War—not by the German occupiers but "friendly fire" from Allied bombers.  Anyway, this was almost completely demolished and now only the outer cloister remains which we visited.

We spent quite some time walking around the down-town area and reading all the informative signs everywhere (the city Belfry, the Cathedral, as well as a wall plaque commemorating the Peace of Amiens, which I vaguely recalled from my high school history class).

But the most fun we had was exploring the house where Jules Verne lived and which is now a bookshop (as you might expect) and a museum, each floor dedicated to displays and characters from his novels.  It was exceedingly well done and we could have spent a lot more time there than we did.

The mural on the side wall outside well reflects the fantasy world inside:

After lunch we continued our pleasant visit of the canal and decided to overnight there in a Première Class hotel (39€ for a room for three!) ready to head home in the morning.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


After spending three days at the Scheepens' farm enjoying their hospitality and touring their installation we left on Sunday the 31st — the last day of October.

It is quite amazing what Kees and family have done by creating a brand around their organically grown cattle and pork.  We tasted every day the difference that their care gives to the meat.  Also I was impressed with his many ideas to commercialize his installation; with the introduction of safari's, for instance.  Who'd ever have thought of setting up safaris around a cattle farm?  Kees did, and it works!  He says he has groups of twenty or thirty at a time from the city—people who have never seen a cow or a pig in their lives!

After a delicious breakfast on Sunday we took off with the idea of making it home by end of the day.  However Claire had a different idea and had her heart set on seeing the battleground around Waterloo.  So, since nothing couldn't be changed we drove there (just south of Brussels) for lunch intending to break our journey there and make it to Amiens for the evening.

Well, as you can imagine the tourist industry has not let this site stagnate and have found many ways to make a living from the way others made a dying.

Full of kitsch: the museum located right at the battlefield
More interesting was the museum in the inn having served as Wellington's headquarters

Commemorative plaque on the outside of the inn

If you're expecting a photo of the battlefield I suppose I'm going to disappoint you.  In order to get an overview you have to take the little tour and climb the Lion Mound that was apparently erected soon after the battle to preserve and protect and commemorate the battle site.

We are not in the mind to glorify war, fighting, or soldiers in any form.  We remain steadfastly opposed to any sort of unkindness to each other.  So this really wasn't our thing.  Historical events (like them or not) are one thing but the annual re-enactment that takes place here every summer seems a little overkill.  Apparently they are expecting a big crowd for the 18th of June 2015—the two hundredth anniversary of the battle that changed European history.

So having marked the spot we were off for our last outing of the trip—Amiens.  More tomorrow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We decided to overnight at Rouen and had such a good time wandering around the old streets and reading the old notices.  There was really so much to see and enjoy!  Yesterday I told you about the Joan of Arc memorial, which is the first thing most people know about the city.

Olivier and Christopher in front of the Gros-Horloge

Today while walking the pedestrian street to see the Gros-Horloge we saw a plaque erected to the honour of Louis XV (in Latin) and visited the enormous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen and saw the tomb of Richard the Lionheart who died in 1199 and wanted his heart to be buried in Rouen to show his attachment to Normandy!  Here's his gisant (recumbent effigy) and the inscription underneath it:

The heart stored here is of Richard King of England called Lionheart died 1199.

View of the pedestrian street from the Gros-Horloge tower.

There is more, folks, but it's going to have to wait because right now we're preparing another trip to Paris and England so this last one will have to wait for now!