Tuesday, June 24, 2008

more from the countryside

Tom and the boys at bacon & eggs brunch

My trail running shoes after a walk in the woods with the dogs.

Dessert last night, Mirabelle pie.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rural France

Welsh rarebit brunch at home.

St Christophe town hall

Market Vendor at Bernay

Cats on the roof, a typical Normandy decoration in roof tops.

Market place at Lyons de Floret

Dining area at a hotel in Lyons de Foret.

Main Street, Lyons de Foret.

Music Festival all over France, here is a small town close to St Christophe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

St Christophe, France - first weekend.

 Although the French school is new and situated in the city of Rouen, the house I am staying at is outside a tiny village called St Christophe . It is about a 40min drive from Rouen using both motorway and windy single track country lanes.

It’s the best of both worlds. Tom and Eleri, with whom I stay work in town, yet have a real country getaway so close by.

The house, which is in the traditional Normandy style, is set on a rural acreage, with enough space for the 3 horses, 3 cats and 2 dogs to live in, not to mention the bountiful garden patch, Japanese garden and fruit trees. Cutting through the middle of the property is a crystal clear spring, the water from which is piped directly into the house for first use drinking water.

The property is set in green leafy undulating ground and looks over a lush small valley. Much of the time it is blissful silence, save the birdsong and distant farming sounds of tractors or children playing in the adjoining acreage. It’s a joy to sit reading in the sun, breathing in the clean air, looking skywards at the big sky, or out to the horses grazing in the paddock, whilst the sun kisses the neglected skin which has previously been cooped up in airconditioned confinement.

The house pets are constant companions and will follow you around all day long or be seen lazing around on the tiled terrace. The sound of trotting dogs, with their collar tags is reassuring and pleasing to the ear. Though not a cat person, the harmony of the house pets has found me enjoying their company too, and some nights one of the cats will even steal into my room and sleep at the foot of my bed.

Eleri has taken the time to let me into her kitchen and learn many dishes, but using local ingredients and also other faire. To date we have made from scratch, chicken liver pate, cream of vegetable soup and magret du canard (duck breast) with apricot sauce. Most ingredients purchased at the local markets.

The first weekend saw us travel a short distance to the market village of Bernay. It was market day, and we purchased the famous Neufchatel cheeses and Camembert. The cheese is "Au Lait Cru" (Non pasteurised) so has a particularly stronger taste. We purchase a farmers loaf of bread, in season cherries, which are so sweet and ripe, as well as purchasing vegetables, lime coloured beans which I havent seen before, and taste delicious. After the purchases, we have some time to stroll the cobbled streets and take in the quaint biscuit tin architecture and atmosphere.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rouen, France


French In Normandy - School

The Paddock, at the Conde Farmhouse

The House





5hrs sleep, and I am up at 6am packed and stumbling towards Heathrow. Terminal 5 is home of British Airways. My boarding pass comes out on thermal paper, the same kind you get receipts from Tescos on, not such a bad idea, I suppose.

Bag weighs in at 24Kg and the woman does not bat an eyelid, which is great for me! I take the time to take in the architecture of the new Terminal, but really...its not that impressive at all. Inside the feeling of space is not as grande or impressionable as HK or Beijing 3, which are just massive to behold. No, Terminal 3 has the modern big glass and huge bolts and shackles of painted exposed metal inside, but it does not feel like a statement, which is what I expected. More just a functional new building. It also feels chaotic in some ways, not so calm for the tourist to wander through, or relax whilst waiting for flights, or a place to have some quiet whilst wishing away your hours til your delayed flight or transfer flight.

Boarding is ontime, but they do not let anyone onto the plane. Instead we are all backed up and cramped on the escalators and bridge walkways. The take off is delayed a futher hour and basically people are not impressed.


Touch down in Paris. Immigration is very informal, the yawning French officer waving his hand under his chin a far cry from his British and Australian counterparts. Charles De Gaulle's old terminals are quite tired aged hippy looking now.

I am stopped by customs who ask me some questions, go through my things and wave me along.

The Roissybus service takes you straight to Paris past some very pretty areas of 17th and 8th districts before landing you right in the heart of the Opera district. Its a short walk from there to Gare St Lazare for the 1hr train to Rouen.

But, today its strikes, so I have to wait some 3hrs before I can leave Paris. I take the time to read a book on D Day and relax, its summer after all.

A few train changes and running along platforms with 35kg on my back later, I am sharing standing space only in a non airconditioned space with a local family and their screaming baby. Bliss.

The final arrival at Rouen is much welcomed - its great to finally hit my destination,put the feets up and even have a rare beer!!

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Back on the Tube

The view from Sunny & Cora's flat in Marylebone

Baker Street area shop

Daunt's, my fav book store, amazing travel section

The new smoking laws have brought these clever bins to each wall

My first meal back in Blighty!

Marylebone High Street

Street based electricity point for electricity cars, in Mayfair

Brunch in Mayfair

Joe's garden

Hackney corner shop

Joe @ home

Letter boxes

Hackney street

Dalston Lane market

Columbia Road Flower market

South Kensington

Natural History Museum, South Kensington

Sally @ cofee

The gang on Monday night dinners

I start my first day back in London in my old local neighbourhood of Marylebone. Its so homely for me, yet some form of bizarre cultural shock of being back in the UK. Things are so familiar yet somehow it all feels so odd being suddenly back, odd in a good way.

Marylebone High Street has not changed in the year since I have been there. I enjoy browsing my favourite shops, Daunt's Bookstore and Skandium Furniture. I pass the many cafes and restaurants. Good memories on every corner to keep me cheerful!

Its 11am, and I opt for a massive full cooked English breakfast at Ponti's Cafe, washed down with a big mug of Coffee. I enjoy watching the Londoners walk in and out, the sounds of their melodic voices a sharp contrast to the Cantonese I had been used to.

The night is spent with a tapas dinner closeby in St Christophers Place, then a stroll around Mayfair. Much of which I never knew existed! Such a very classy area, and there is something special about wandering around on a perfect summers day in the twilight at 9pm.

The Next day its brunch, again in Mayfair, then off to East London to hang out with other mates, in their new flat in Hackney. Its a new area of London for me to discover, quite different to West London, literally the other side of the tracks.

The canals remind me of Holland, in some places edgy, in some very pleasant, new buildings mix with old, its a nice 30mins from Angel to Hackney. The markets are a pleasant surprise, lots of lovely fresh organic produce, and great tasting too! Its true, sometimes there is a real taste difference!!
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