All 4 entries tagged France
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August 29, 2006
Sunday 20 August 2006
Been in France since Wednesday evening, staying in Ceret which is the town where my mum and Stephen have their studio apartment. This meant we had three full days before flying back to London Luton early (too, too, painfully early) this morning.
Besides wandering around Ceret itself and eating lots of stuff, we also visited Collioure, which is a small town on the coast, went to a tortoise sanctuary as well as a bird/wildlife reserve. Collioure is lovely, but very busy in August – still, at least it was warm unlike when I last visited in January 2003 (snow!). The tortoises were brilliant, especially the shagging ones with the "characteristic grunt". Disappointed with the bird reserve as didn't see any flamingos, but we did watch people kite surfing in the sea and along the beach.
Lots more photos online here
We also spent time in the Ceret art gallery, the musée d'art moderne, as well as looking around other private galleries in the town centre. Not to mention wandering around the Saturday market, eating out in the main square "Place des Neufs Jets" a couple of times, and eating chez ma mere et Stephen. It was a lovely few days and I'm feeling very close to Adam.
Today feels a bit like a bewildering yet lucid dream, from pulling open the shutters to discover it was still dark in the streets outside, the sun only beginning to rise above the foothills of the Pyrenees as we left our hotel room, the fuzzy blur of the drive to Girona airport (quite literally, as I was sans contact lenses), the two plane journeys, the brief time spent in Luton airport reminding us of the utter shiteness of Britain, meeting Mark and checking in for flight no. 2, the turbulence as we began our descent to Zagreb…
And then the pricey airport bus to the city centre, realising that we needed kuna (not euro) if we were to get anywhere, particularly if we were to get anywhere without getting ripped off, trying to figure out which direction to get the tram, where to get tram tickets, how to validate said tickets, whether we had got on the right tram anyway, where to get off, and why hadn't I printed out the map to our hostel in the first place?
Luckily we found the hostel without too much trouble, and the owner of the hostel was really helpful and even helped us order takeaway pizza and pivo. All of which slipped down a treat after a hot, cold, tiring, busy, confusing day which ended with me feeling somewhat helpless and disempowered by my inability to speak the language.
August 15, 2006
Adam and I are off to France tomorrow to “meet the parents” (well my mum and Stephen) for a 3 day holiday in Ceret, after which we are flying back to Britain briefly before heading out to Zagreb on Sunday, getting a bus into Bosnia to Brcko on Monday morning.
This is assuming that the plane works properly and nothing untoward happens and we don’t miss our connection and I don’t get too drunk on triple vodkas.
Assuming all that, I am actually quite excited now, not least because I’m off work from 3pm tomorrow for almost 2 weeks until Tuesday 29th – more leave than I’ve had all year!
Having said that, I’ve really enjoyed the past few days in my new job despite the steep learning curve. Getting my head round the whole project (along with everything else vaguely relating to it in other govt departments) makes me feel slightly frazzled, but I’m currently enjoying my job to the extent where I’ve stopped daydreaming about becoming a teacher… for now anyway.
Last weekend was really good too – besides meeting Anna on Saturday at the Tate Britain, Adam came down to London on Saturday evening, and we went out for curry in Tooting Bec (the “new Brick Lane”?) at a south indian restaurant. Very very taken with south indian food… and it was cheap… we had the vegetarian set meal for 2 for £20 which was absolutely gorgeous, and there was so much food we couldn’t finish it all.
Sunday we mooched – late brunch, trip to Sainsburys (always fun), before popping down to Elephant and Castle for a couple of hours to visit the Imperial War Museum with Rhiannon. I cooked fish red thai curry in the evening and we watched Delicatessen – now there’s a film I haven’t seen in a long time.
Now I must pack and get an early night. Yay for leave and holidays! (it had better be warmer in France/Bosnia than it is on this arctic wasteland). And I’m going to eat all the pies.
February 28, 2006
Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rosalindhook/gallery/sausses_february_2006/
Mmm… what a perfect holiday. 4 days of fresh air, clean water that didn't make my hair manky (since obviously that is the most important thing – priorities, priorities), stunning mountain scenery, excellent food, and being outdoors in the sunshine and cool (read freezing, at least in the shade) mountain air.
Anna, Leonie, Laurence and I stayed in the pink house pictured in the bottom left corner of the photo on the right, cunningly named "la maison blanche" in a bizarre attempt to confuse hapless tourists who make it that far up the Vars valley (Alpes Maritimes / Alpes de Haute-Provence).
I am fast developing les fesses de fer, not to mention les cuisses "de la mort"tm, as a result of morning runs up and down various big montagnes around Sausses, not to mention our hike to Castellet-les-Sausses where we were almost benighted thanks to an evil boil-ridden local farmer who had put up an "Accès Interdit" sign across the one track leading back to Sausses.
On our first day we explored the medieval village of Entrevaux, where we were mistaken for French language students at Nice University by the restaurant owner (flattering both because we can still pass for students, and because our French must have sounded reasonably plausible). I tried the local speciality "secca de boeuf", which consisted of wafer-thin slices of delicious dried beef served with lemon juice, olive oil and puy lentils. Given I don't normally eat red meat, I was surprised at how bluddy amazing it tasted.
On Sunday we got swept up in a local lemon festival in Menton (a.k.a. Chin), involving various citrus sculptures and other lemon-related activity. Unfortunately we never actually experienced any of this since lemon-lovers far and wide had pilgramaged to the Côte d'Azur to converge upon Menton in a frenzy of pressées, pulp and peel. There was literally nowhere to park within a 6 mile radius of the town, so we popped across into Italy for a pizza.
As we explored the old town of Ventimiglia, we encountered a Divine Sign from the skies, seven freaky felines, and a chain of 21 furry caterpillars wending their way along the pathway. And we were told by a car parking attendant not to leave our dog in the car in the midday heat (would have made sense… except we didn't have a dog, we weren't parked in his carpark anyway, and there was actually quite a chilly nip in the air). All in all Ventimiglia was a bit surreal, not to mention difficult to escape from. Pizza was excellent though.
Besides these day trips, most of our time was spent preparing and eating some very delicious food (e.g. Leonie and Laurence's goats cheese and mushroom risotto), walking /running /scrambling up mountains in an attempt to burn off the vast quantity of pains au chocolat consumed (it was a losing battle, the pastries were always going to win…) and simply breathing BREATHABLE AIR.
Much as I like the pace of life in London, indeed need the buzz of city life to prevent myself dissolving into tears and lethargy and boredom, at the same time I love open spaces and running/hiking and just being in a place that nature has so obviously shaped, a place where you can't help but respect its power. If nothing else a place free from the jaded office workers and the filthy air and – most importantly – the twatting northern line.
Right now I am very happy to be living in London, but at the same time I need to make sure that I take time to eat properly, to exercise, to read, relax and just spend time being, whatever that means.
Not to mention escaping to small french villages and remote mountain locations given every available opportunity.
February 21, 2006
Two more days of work and then it’s time pour partir en VACANCES!... I am currently suffering with a cold, generally feeling run down and knackered, have been struggling to get into work at a decent time, struggling to stay awake once there, and then leaving work dead on five o’clock for the past couple of days. I even missed French class last night because head was so stuffed up with cold, and all I feel like doing is lolling around in bed with a hot water bottle.
Anna sent us some info about the house where we’ll be staying this weekend. Being left in peace in the middle of some beautiful french mountains sounds bluddy lovely, and just what I need right now:
The village of Sausses is situated 75 km North West from Nice on the Alps Maritimes/Hautes Provence border in the upper Var valley. There are 80 inhabitants during most of the year and about 200 during July/August. The population is entirely French except one British couple that we virtually never see. There are no shops, (except a visiting shopping van) no bars or restaurants. The people are friendly but leave you in peace. The house is situated on the edge of the village and has South West views. The area is very beautiful. There are exhilarating walks straight from the house. Skiing is 40 minutes drive.
Very excited now. Just want to do lots of walking, drinking of nice wine and eating of delicious food. And not think about pensions or read the business pages or the FT for a few days.