30 September 2020
A gîte in Vouvray in the Loire Valley
29 September 2020
Those shipping crates
In the late '70s, Jean K. and his wife went on a long driving trip in North Africa (Morocco and Algeria). Somewhere along the way, they were involved in a terrible car accident. Mme Kientzy was killed, and Jean was seriously injured. He came back to live here in the house we've lived in for the past 17 years. He recovered from his injuries. Sometime in the early 1980s he got involved in a book club that had weekly or monthly meetings. At one of the meetings, he met a divorced woman named Josette who was originally from the big town of Châteauroux, 45 minutes south of Saint-Aignan. Jean and Josette ended up getting married in about 1985.
When Jean and Josette were married, Jean told his new spouse that he didn't want to live in his retirement house any more. He said the winters were too damp and gray here, Josette (who sold us the house) told me when we got to know her between 2003 and 2005. Jean wanted to live in town, so he bought an apartment in Saint-Aignan and they lived there. They kept the house, and they would come and spend a couple of months here in the summer to take advantage of the good weather. Jean had a dog, and he would come out here (the house is just 2 miles from the apartment they lived in), park his car in the driveway, and go for long walks with the dog in the vineyard.
What I think is that Josette felt no particular attachment to this house. It wasn't hers, but belonged to Jean and his first wife. Besides, Josette was alone again, and she had a daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter who wanted her to come live in Tours, in the neighborhood where they lived. Josette ended up moving to Tours in 2004 or 2005. We helped her move by packing up our car and driving over there. We once invited Josette and her family over for a Sunday dinner so that they could see what we had done with the place. The granddaughter had good childhood memories of summer vacations she spent here. We enjoyed having them over, and we tried to stay in touch, but as the years went by we eventually drifted apart. Here's a post I wrote about Josette's 80th birthday party in 2007.
28 September 2020
Le nouveau matelas Actiflex
And here's a link to the same information in French on Amazon France.
27 September 2020
Appartement, rue de l'Université, janvier 2000
By the way, Walt just pointed out to me that he has photos of our 2003 gîte in Provence, which I posted about yesterday, on his blog in three posts here.
26 September 2020
Staying in Paris apartments and gîtes ruraux
(I hope this post featuring photos from Paris in 1999 but a description
of our 1993 vacation and rental in Provence isn't too confusing.)
The kitchen could be closed off by a big folding door.
I know there was also a full bathroom too, but I don't remember what it looked like.
looking down from one of the front windows.
25 September 2020
Thai basil chicken
2 Tbsp. oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 bell pepper (red, green, or yellow), trimmed and sliced
10 oz. ground chicken
6 bird’s eye chilies, or 1-2 fresh jalapeños, cut into slivers
1 carrot, cut into slivers or coarsely grated
4 or 5 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar (or more to taste)
½ tsp. sweet soy sauce
1 big bunch Thai basil leaves, lower stems removed
a grind or two of black or white pepper, to taste
When the chicken is pretty much cooked, add the chilies, fish sauce, sugar, and sweet soy sauce to the wok. Stir to combine well. Put the stir-fried vegetables back into the pan. Add in the basil leaves and do a few quick stirs until the basil leaves are wilted and fragrant. Add the pepper and do a final stir. Serve immediately over steamed rice.
P.S. Don't be afraid to add other vegetables to dishes like these. I put in some blanched Swiss chard ribs that I had in the freezer. Some sliced celery stalks would add good flavor.
24 September 2020
The new mattress
The reason this is such a big event for us is that our old king-size mattress is one that we bought in California in about 1995. So it's pretty ancient. We had it shipped to France in 2003 when we moved here from San Francisco. It's an Eastern king mattress, which means it's not exactly the same size as a California king-size mattress. We bought an Eastern king mattress in California because we already had a king-size platform bed. We had bought it in 1983 when we lived in Washington DC. The bed-frame is modular so it's easy to take apart, move, and put back together. It measures, if we've measured it accurately, 200 cm wide x 203 cm long. It's a very big bed. The old mattress itself measures 193 cm wide by 202 cm long. The new mattress is just as thick (25 cm) as the old one.
If you want to see how complicated all this can get, have a look at this Wikipedia page on mattress sizes in different countries. Here's an excerpt:
- 150 cm × 200 cm (59 in × 79 in) in the UK.
- 165 cm × 203 cm (65 in × 80 in) in New Zealand.
- 180 cm × 190 cm (71 in × 75 in) in Portugal, but is also available in 195 and 200 cm (77 and 79 in) lengths.
- 180 cm × 200 cm (71 in × 79 in) in Indonesia.
- 183 cm × 191 cm (72 in × 75 in) in Singapore and Malaysia.
- 183 cm × 203 cm (72 in × 80 in) in Australia.
- 183 cm × 216 cm (72 in × 85 in) in India.
- 193 cm × 202 cm (76 in × 80 in) in the US.
23 September 2020
Sausages and peppers...
The sausages also came from the supermarket. They're basically saucisses de Toulouse, which are plain (not smoked), plump pork sausages. These had herbs in them. Walt cooked them on the barbecue grill. The tomato sauce is not home-made, but store-bought. It's purée de tomates — just tomatoes, salt, and citric acid. I had bought some when it wasn't clear how large our garden tomato crop would turn out to be this year. The herbs are dried oregano (from our yard) and dried thyme from the store.
22 September 2020
Focaccia bread with toppings
½ tsp. honey
1 cup water, warm... not hot
1 tsp. instant yeast
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
A cup of flour weighs about 120 g, so that's about 330 grams of flour for 8 fl. oz. (240 ml) of warm water. Be prepared to adjust the amount of flour or amount of water slightly to make dough that is neither too dry nor too wet and sticky. All the other measurements work internationally, I think.
Mix the honey into the warm water. Separately, mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in a bowl (the bowl of a stand mixer is good.) Add the wet ingredients, including the olive oil, to the dry ingredients and stir well (again, a stand mixer works great — you could certainly use a bread machine to do the blending and needing for you) to form a nice dough ball. Then knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes.
Put the dough ball in a lightly oiled ball and cover it. Let it rise in a warm place (I favor using the microwave oven but don't turn it on!). I also put a cup of very hot water in the microwave with the dough for the heat it releases and for the humidity it adds to the air in the oven.
After a couple of hours, when the dough ball
has doubled in size, punch it down and put it into a lightly oiled baking pan or dish (a lasagne pan...). Using your fingers, spread the dough to fill the pan. It should be about ¾" (2 cm) thick. Cover it and let it rise for another 15 minutes. Put on the toppings and bake it for 15 to 10 minutes in the oven at 180ºC (350ºF).
- 6 or 8 small tomatoes (20 pieces of tomato) — you could use cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 slices of boiled (sandwich ham, called jambon de Paris here in France)
- fresh or dried herbs and hot red pepper flakes à volonté
- 1 onion and 2 garlic cloves, sliced and "sweated" in olive oil
- 12 black olives (pitted or not)
- 125 grams (4 oz.) goat cheese (or use whatever cheese you like)
You could use chicken, turkey, or bacon instead of ham. And vary all the toppings as you please. Drizzle on some good olive oil at the table.
21 September 2020
A Notre-Dame slideshow
20 September 2020
More about blogging issues, and more about Notre-Dame de Paris
This morning I'm trying to figure out how to do one of the slideshows I've been posting for a couple of year now. I first upload the slideshow, in mp4 format, to YouTube, and then YouTube gives me some code I can use to "embed" the video in my blog post. Or that's how it used to work. In the new Blogger interface, it doesn't work any more. There must be some other way to include a slideshow in a blog post...
19 September 2020
Notre-Dame de Paris — maybe my final post on this blogging service...
Today I'm posting a few more photos of Notre-Dame de Paris before the 2019 fire.
Tomorrow, we'll see if I can post anything at all. See my explanation below.
I'm starting to wonder if it is worth it to try to continue blogging using this Google/Blogger service. I'm not at all sure what to do next. I remember companies in Silicon Valley that went belly-up when they introduced new versions of software that were not reliable or did not give predictable results. Blogger may well be going down that path right now. I hope somebody from Google is reading this and will take it seriously.
18 September 2020
Pauvre Notre-Dame de Paris
But that was 2019. These photo are some that I took in 2007 when I went to the cathedral with my sister and a good friend of ours. This was the last time I went inside Notre-Dame.
In 2007, you could still get close to the cathedral and go inside. Now it's closed to the public and reconstruction and restoration work is ongoing. It's all fenced off. I haven't been to Paris to see it in about two years now. Above, that's saint Denis de Paris holding his head in his hands. According to legend, he walked several miles north carrying his own head and preaching the gospel after he was beheaded in the 3rd century.
I'm so glad our friend from North Carolina really wanted to walk through the cathedral that afternoon in September 20076, even after we had spent eight hours walking through Paris starting at 7:00 a.m. The line to get in was long. There were hundreds of people inside the church. My sister took a pass and said she would just sit outside and rest while we walked around inside.
I don't know who this statue represents. The woman actually looks a little like Judy Collins, if you remember her. By the way, the beautiful south-facing rose window in the photo above survived the fire at Notre-Dame, I understand. I published a series of posts about the cathedral in April 2019, in the aftermath of the fire. Start here and click Newer Post at the bottom of each blog post to see them and a lot of photos.
Even since the fire, when you look at the west-facing façade of the cathedral — the two tall bell towers — you can't really tell how much damage the main part of the building behind them suffered in 2019. By the way, my first trip to Paris was in 1970, and I lived in the city for several years way back when — 1974-76, 1979-82, etc. I certainly never expected to see Notre-Dame suffer such horrible damage in my lifetime.
17 September 2020
Five more Eiffel Tower views
We left the Mont Saint-Michel at about 7:00 p.m. and drove the fastest route to Paris. That would be the autoroute that goes from Avranches past St-Lô to Caen, and then on to Rouen and Paris. I figured it would take us at least three hours. What with stopping to pay tolls at several booths along the way, and a couple of rest stops to get a cup of coffee and make a phone call home (not to mention my getting lost in Avranches at the beginning), it ended up taking us exactly four hours.
One Paris monument that my sister really wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower. She wanted to see it lit up and sparkling on the hour after dark, and she wanted to go to the top during daylight hours. I wanted us to do both also. I had been 10 years since my last trip to the top.
As we approached Paris on the autoroute from Normandy, I was watching the clock on the dashboard of the car and wondering whether we might arrive in time to see the 11:00 p.m. Eiffel Tower light show. At one point I decided just to drive around the boulevard périphérique (the Paris ring road) and go directly to our hotel, which was on the other side of the city. That meant putting off the Eiffel Tower light show until Friday night.
Luckily for us, as it turned out, the south- and westbound lanes of the boulevard périphérique were closed for maintenance work that night. I had no choice but to go north toward the Porte Maillot, an exit I know and which leads to the Arc de Triomphe. We drove around the arch and down one of the broad avenues to get to the Place du Trocadéro, where you have a clear view of the tower.
We pulled up at Trocadéro at 11:00 on the dot and the tower started twinkling. It was perfect. While the light show continued, I drove around the Palais de Chaillot and down to the bridge that crosses the Seine at the foot of the tower for a close-up view. Then we drove around to the Place de l'Ecole Militaire and along the boulevard that passes in front of the military school at the top of the Champ de Mars for one more look. At about that time, the light show stopped, but that was fine — we had seen it.
It was midnight when we finally got to the hotel and got checked in. I found parking. The next morning, we got up at 7:00 and headed out on foot up to the Place d'Italie to catch the métro. It was direct from there to the Bir-Hakeim station just down the street from the Eiffel Tower. We were going to the top, come hell or high water.
The Sunday before, we had gone to the foot of the tower, but the ticket lines were just too long. We needed to get on the road and back to Saint-Aignan that evening, and we were all exhausted. I asked a guard what time the tower opened on weekday mornings, and he said 9:00 a.m. So our goal was to get there by 9:00, and we did. We were extremely goal-oriented that morning. We even found a street toilet along the way and were able to be sure we would be comfortable standing in line for an hour or more if that's what it took.
When we got to the tower, we queued up with the other tourists. The line wasn't as long as we had feared it would be. It was a beautiful morning. At 9:05, the line still wasn't budging. I left my sister to hold my place and went to check the sign above the ticket windows to see what time it opened and how much it cost to go up. The sign said 9:30, not 9:00, and the price of admission was 11.50 euros.
Nine-thirty came and we were soon in the elevator on our way to the top. It hadn't taken long at all. Even on the second level, where all the visitors coming up from the ground on different elevators in the four feet of the tower have to line up again and get on a different set of elevators to continue to the top, the wait wasn't more than ten minutes.We had made it... and had it made.