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After a long break……………………summer got in the way of blogging……….here are some lovely photos of our favourite gardens.  It was a beautifully hot  August day and the gardens were lovely.  We picnicked round the back of the house in the shade of the trees because, like most French places, they shut for lunch!  Because we got there just about 12 noon we got in before the gates were shut.  When they opened at 2pm we paid and went round the gardens, and here are some of the photos we took.



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When we visit France for a short trip we either fly or go by train and hire a car at the airport or station.  It’s usually very straightforward.  Since we have a 2 day car journey from here to the Auvergne which necessitates an overnight stop each way so unless we’re going for 3 weeks or more then it’s more cost effective to hire.  There are lots of websites where you can compare prices and pre-book so all you have to do is arrive and claim your car.

We book train tickets via the Eurostar website……. you decide which train from St Pancras and where you want to end up in France and they sort your trains for you.

A cautionary note however:  be careful which station you decide to use as not all will have a car hire place open when you arrive, though they may not tell you that.  In October last year we booked trains to Vichy (the nearest station to our house, about 25 minutes drive away) and paid extra so we could collect the car after hours (our train didn’t arrive till 9pm).  There appeared to be no problem.  The company was Europcar, a company we had used in the past with no problem.  However, a week before we were due to travel we got a text message to say we had to be there by 6pm because there would be no-one in the office after that time.

But we couldn’t change train times.  We rang the head office in the UK and got absolutely no help at all.  The upshot was that we had to take a taxi from the station to our house……48 euros!  bit of a shock that, and we had to get a neighbour to run us to the Europcar office the following day to collect the car.  We complained and eventually got the day’s hire and the taxi fare refunded but it means we cannot use Vichy as our station of choice.  Apparently Avis at Vichy will leave your car key with the station master if you are likely to be arriving late but it seems a bit dodgy to me so now we travel to Lyon where there are several car hire companies, in the same building, attached to the station and open from early morning to late at night.  It’s a much longer drive but the car hire is dependable.

This time we used Sixt, with no problems and excellent service.

All airports have car hire facilities and they usually ask for your flight number so there are no problems.

When you pick up the car they’ll ask if you want to have the insurance with excess waiver or not.  We didn’t use to  bother until our hire car was badly scratched, maliciously, whilst we were in the supermarket.  (6 cars were damaged) So that was the end of the deposit!  Now we take out an annual extra on our UK car insurance and it covers the excess on the hire car should it be necessary.  It is much cheaper than doing it at the hire counter.

One other little thing, if you pick up your car on a cool day make sure you check that you have a car with air conditioning if that’s what you’ve booked.  We didn’t notice once and had the hassle of taking back the car and getting one with the air conditioning we had ordered.  We also had to wait 3 days to change the car because the hire company didn’t have a suitable replacement till after the weekend.  We were not impressed and didn’t use that company again.

Trains in France are fast, clean and as comfortable as is possible in a moving tin can.  I really like travelling upstairs on the duplo trains.  You get a good view of the scenery.  Some even have play carriages where there are things for young children to do and space to move around.

You must validate your ticket before you travel.  There are machines before you get onto the platform…just slip in the ticket and it should stamp it with the date.

At the station there are always good sandwich and drink stalls and a proper cafe if you’re lucky.  Long distance trains have refreshment bars and they also have more luggage space than UK trains.  They often have them half way down the carriage as well as at each end.  Not all stations have cash machines.

If you use the loo at the station it will cost you 50centimes but they are clean and have proper hand washing facilities.  The attendant may be male or female.

If you have to cross Paris don’t be alarmed.  You can take a taxi……it will get you from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon  in 20 minutes or so and cost about 12 euros.  Or you can use the Metro.  It’s quick, clean and cheap.  Allow more time than you would for a taxi.

So there you are.  It’s really quite easy.

When we were living and working in France we used the internet in all its many forms to keep in touch and to keep up to date.  I found English lessons and ideas.  We kept au fait with the news in UK though we could get the BBC World Service on the radio and enjoyed that very much.  Mostly in France though you can’t get British TV and radio……not sure why but it’s annoying.  You can download podcasts but not until at least a day after the original broadcast.   So the internet is invaluable.

On a lighter note:

The French are really keen on their recycling and everyone sorts their rubbish and puts it in the correct bin.  Where our house is situated there are no recycling collections, just household non-recycling, so we have to take the recycling stiff down the hill to the recycling station.

I particularly enjoyed this story, courtesy of the internet.


Checking  out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags in future because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The cashier  responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right —  our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The  store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 2200watts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the  size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.  Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country.  We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world.  We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.
But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Posted by bakersroyale on June 23 2011 in Desserts, Featured, Recipe

We ESers like our whiskey combinations and we’re betting you will too. Never mindful of the rules, this week we created a blasphemous bartending nightmare by skipping the shaker for some rotating blades. Yep, everything is headed for the blender including the whiskey. Um, please muffle all outraged screams until you have tried this. Along with the whiskey are some sweet cherries, tart apples and a lime to create a popsicle that will assist you with obtaining your daily fruit serving.

So while we may not be rule-minded we’re a thoughtful bunch and giving you two options for your whiskey. Sip it in a whiskey cocktail or get a lick of it in these Cherry Apple Whiskey Sour Poptails. Of course we recommend you try both.

Since our French neighbours enjoyed Pimms so  much at our Ruby Wedding party I think I’ll try these when we’re there in May.  I’ll report back on their success.

Cherry Apple Whiskey Sour Poptails

Makes eight 2-and-1/4-oz. popsicles

· 3 cups cherries (weighing 1lb)
· 1 large green apple (weighing 6oz)
· 1 lime (weighing 3 1/2oz)
· 1 cup whiskey
· ½ cup of sweet and sour mix (homemade recipe follows)

1. Pit cherries; set aside. Peel away apple and lime skin and cut fruit into quarters.

2. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until mixture is pureed. Mixture will be thick.

3. Pour mixture into popsicle forms and freeze for about 2 hours or until mixture starts to solidify enough to hold a popsicle stick upright. Insert popsicle sticks and finish freezing popsicles overnight. To release popsicles run hot water on the outside of popsicle molds for a 2-3 seconds.

Sweet and Sour Mix

· 1/2 cup water
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1 cup lemon juice

1. Place sugar and water in a sauce pan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside to cool before using.

Find more super ice lollies at:


England is at its best in Spring.  We visited Bolton Abbey last week, the first cold day for a fortnight.  It was still lovely.

It’s sad to think that it was only 2 years after the roof was finished that the Abbey was dissolved by order of the king.  the Abbot did the sensible thing and took new vows and became the first parish vicar under the new regime.  Who can blame him.

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The present church is one end of the original abbey.  It is filled with interesting things and opportunities for prayer.

There’s a great coffee shop, really well designed and organised with delicious food and super coffee.  Children can put their own toppings on their ice creams.  The loos are clean and there are enough!  (Ladies take note)  Excellent access for wheelchairs and prams as well as lots of outside tables and chairs for the smokers.  The birds are very tame and will take food from you.

You can take several different walks and the leaflets tell you how difficult they are.  The Abbey grounds would be a bit tricky for wheelchairs but ther’s good access to the church itself.
The car park is a short walk and is run by the village but you can drive up to the Abbey if you are disabled.

Carnival in UK

This is the August 2011 West Indian Carnival, Leeds, UK. My husband took our number 1 granddaughter plus her swanky camera to see what there was to see.  What do you think??

Is there a West Indian carnival anywhere in France?  Or anything similar?

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