Posts Tagged ‘France’

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23 July 2017

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Kowloon Skyline

Well that was money worth spending.

By the time most of you get this, we will be in the air, winging our way home…. Hopefully. Sunday morning, we had a note stuffed under our door which advised us of the potential scale 8 tropical cyclone passing right over us.  By breakfast time, the local government had issued a warning and posted that the cyclone was indeed hitting level 8. It advised that all shops would be closed (V is most upset) and that all public transport would be shut down (that is how we would get to the shopping so V was now distraught!).  A whole day in our room or get soaked wandering the streets like some homeless person looking for Housing Corp housing (oh, that’s another story).

So it gave us time to reflect on the last 5 weeks.  Hong Kong is a tale of two areas and some more.  There are Dings and Dangs, Wings and Wangs  and of course Pings and Pongs everywhere.  Anyone with a name with more than 4 letters is foreign …we almost pass as locals if it wasn’t for our civilised non-Mao Tse Tung look alike hair doo’s and our odd shaped eyes. This is both a vibrant modern city and a dirty, smelly and backward facing one too.  I’m just not into millions of hobbits with almond eyes in my personal space.  The woman and girls have no sense of respect and are only interested in holding up everyone as they worship the mobile phone like some deity. At dinner last night we watched three early 20’s woman eat their dinner with 1 hand and phone in the other so they could take photos of each mouthful they and the other two took.  Knives should be deleted as necessary items of cutlery as forks will lift the food to your mouth and you either stuff everything into your mouth or you nibble like some rat to get it into your stomach.  We were astonished at the supercar per population ratio. McLarens, Lambos and Ferraris everywhere. But the transport system is to die for.  They tunnel and bridge everything that can’t be driven easily….brilliant.

The Dutch and their fucking bicycles!  How they ride them as stoned as most seem to be is a skill to be harnessed but they are a danger to everyone else.  Trained by the Japanese, these Kamikaze pilots ensure they have your undivided attention as their attention span has been artificially mellowed. Walking home from the Red Light district one evening, a tram stopped beside us and as the doors opened, a fug of dope smoke fell out and crop dusted our fellow pedestrians in a 15 metre radius.  Those on the train be they smokers or not were just sitting there with a silly smirk on their faces….probably thinking of snacks.  We loved Amsterdam and everything was a pleasant surprise, even the cannabis Trumpets/Cornetto’s in the ice cream freezer in the various shops.

France is fantastic, even those that live in Paris were lovely and tolerant folk.  A bit dirty but nothing that a little Cif (French Jif) and a waterblaster couldn’t fix.  If only Britain could purge themselves of some of the twats that call themselves British, it too would be a paradise.  Those reliant on handouts (including government supplied cars) need a reality shot as they (mostly) are a blot on the landscape.  The Eastern Europeans scare the bejesus out of me.  They look like fattened Russian spies and they wear too much cologne and gold jewellry to be trusted.

We have loved our time, loved all those that have helped us and interacted with us especially our new emergency taxi driver Simon.

See you soon….we hope

V (Ping) and Me (Pong)

 

 

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14 July 2017

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Check out those Prices

Another day, another wine. Another wine always means another cheese

Rather than be seen to be taking advantage of the well-priced wine and goodies, we like to think we are trying hard, exceedingly so actually, to support the local growers and producers…le vente directe or du Producteur au Consommateur.

We have visited a lot of markets and supermarches and been buying up a storm….. to keep the locals in business of course.  At an average €3 a bottle (NZ$4.75), we are having to up our fluid uptake to help the local economy.  But even at those prices, the red wine is still more than drinkable….so we do.  Vanessa picked up a litre of Rose the other day for less than NZ$3 and pronounced it to be better than wines at home costing 5 times that.  Then there are the comestibles from the local boulangerie, fromagerie and markets where a baguette will cost you less than a Euro.

Of course buying all these delights forces us into having gourmet sessions to reduce our growing stockpile and to also discuss the merit of a particular $4 wine versus another of similar value.

So determined are we to understand the back story and history of our food, we chose to drive for 2 hours the other day (admittedly, 40 mins of it was when we got lost) to learn about the art of gavage or force feeding ducks and geese so you can produce the king of pates, foie gras.  The brochure said ‘degustation gratuite’ and we have learned quickly that whenever you see that it means free tasting!  So we lined up with 20 or so others to be enlightened when this charming young man I recognised from the brochure turned up and commenced the lesson … in French. Completely in French. La petite histoire was a waste of time except for the degustation gratuite.  My finely tuned French language skill could pick out words such as duck, goose, foie gras, wine, walnuts and acorns (duck food).  The wine was terrible, like some 70’s Lincoln rd Dally plonk dad used to drink.  Vive la France.

Vanessa has taken to the Confit Duck, even having the confidence to order it at restaurants (using her newly found French speaking skills).  When done poorly it is like KFC for duck, when done well it is a crispy leg and thigh of soft ducky greatness and mostly served with salad (lettuce) and frites (chips).  An epicurean delight. We are still over ordering on the baguette needs of the group, feeding the local chooks most days with our superfluous daily bread.

On a Tuesday and a Friday, a little French woman beeps and toots her way up the hill in her van, stopping to tempt us with her freshly baked goodies.  You can buy any number of varieties of bread but we have a liking for her croissants and pain au chocolat.  This morning V and I had one of each because we could, because we hadn’t had breakfast and because they are about €1 each!  Washed down with a coffee and a glass of Pamplemousse (grapefruit juice). Not sure if the juice was local.

Today is Bastille Day, a day our family has celebrated since my sister was born (July 14).  So this evening, we are off to the local village hall for a soiree to celebrate both.  It includes free wine to go with the €12 BBQ.  There is a trend.  They butcher animals from this rural town and the town pitches in to feed everybody. The horse from the paddock next door has gone this week….just wondering.  V has an extra zing in her step today as the posters promoting the event make a big point that Rose will be available and free. Let’s support the locals!

 

Next time we speak, V and I will probably be in Amsterdam as our English and now French sections are coming to an end.

V and Me (Jean Pierre)

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10 July 2017

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Somewhere to stay in France

Another day, another train.  Another train, another destination.

This time, we are heading for the south of France and our booked gite in a wee small town called Cahus.  A long story cut short, but the owners are old work colleagues and rellies of Debs Moffatt.  It should be a 2-3 hour journey then a couple of hours (note: this does not factor in potential got lost delays) in a rental car and Bob’s your uncle.

 

It was sad checking out of our Parisienne base, we have had a hectic but enjoyable 4 days exploring the city and avoiding the major tourist spots and the annoying crowds of rude people however we did relent by spending a day at Disneyland Paris (no longer Euro Disney apparently). Spaniards and Italians with their booming voices, the Japanese with their fucking sun umbrellas, stupefied looks and complete disregard of others around them and lastly those overly tattooed Pommie woman and their boyfriends/husbands all dressed up in their ‘leisurewear’. All ready to take the pitch and represent their favourite team, regardless of their physical unpreparedness.  I have yet to work out why the woman have tipped out their scrapbooks all over their bodies and had the mish-mash of drawings and sketches permanently inked for all to see.  No themes, no stories being told; just 10s of unrelated pictures in the loudest colours like some form of graffiti.  I don’t get it. Disneyland had 4 or 5 really good roller coasters and the queues were no bad at all with only 1 ride taking more than a half hour wait.

We managed to get lost every day.  Incomplete and erroneous maps are blamed but by asking/pleading for help, we managed to find most of the sights that needed to be seen.  A cultural day was had at the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay where we were able to see the famous paintings and sculptures on offer.  Very impressive.  The afternoon was topped off by getting lost for 2.5 hours trying to find the Hard Rock Café.  In the end, we stopped walking and took to the Metro but even then, we had to ask the Chemist for final directions.  The trip home was a lot smoother by sticking to the subterranean methods rather than legs up on the surface.

We went on a small tour party (3 of us and a driver) to the Palace of Versailles and then the afternoon in Giverny in the north to revisit Claude Monet’s home and garden.  We both enjoyed those and even though there was lots of walking to be done, sitting in an air-conditioned van in between was pretty good.  The van had a mechanical issue coming home where the cover that sits under the motor etc came off after a previous off track excursion had done some damage.  This meant a very slow trip home whilst the cover rubbed on the road sounding like a locomotive more than a diesel Mercedes van.

So we are off to the French wop wops; taxi to the train station, train to Limoges (about 3 hours), taxi to the airport because on a Sunday there is only one place to pick up the rental car …half a bloody hour out of town, source the car ….a bubble car (Holden Trax) then a 2 hour drive to our place …saw lots and had a ride that was as challenging on the neck and senses as anything Disney could fling at us.  Never mind, wine and smelly cheese saw us in bed at midnight.  Look out rural France, we have arrived and looking for some of that €3 wine we like.

 

V and Me (Jean Pierre)

26 June 2017

At home at Taittinger’s

It was out with the full noise ‘bonjours’ again over the weekend when we took the car on the train to Reims and Epernay. This part of the world is famous for just the one thing….Champagne!  The first day was on the train at some ridiculous hour before breakfast and 30 mins later, we were driving off in Gloria the Golf heading to a large Supermarket in Calais.  They do cheap booze and wonderful French food.  No other reason.

Arriving in Reims (pronounced with a Gallic throat clearance at the beginning) and the house of Taittinger where we indulged in a champagne or two and also squeezed in a tour of the caves.  Veuve Clicquot, and a reckless 30 minute downhill walk to find food in a typical bistro before a small Champagne house near where we parked called Martel beckoned and was answered.  Whilst we had consumed baguettes by this point, we had not purchased one despite the temptation on most corners.

Then it was in the Gloria and off for the half an hour to Epernay (pronounced in an outrageous French accent … ep  PEAR  nay.  Pretend you are Renee from ‘Hello Hello’, it comes naturally). After circulating the town several times trying to find the hotel parking and this after checking in and receiving instructions, we could settle her in her accom for the night.  Parking and hotels being adjacent is a foreign concept here.  Epernay was ours to explore all arvo but Saturday after lunch means most things are closed until this evening if at all. Dinner was sourced at a typical restaurant on a busy roundabout within spitting distance of Moet and Chandon’s ‘house’.  On the menu along with all the normal French fare was horse meat. I let this opportunity go as much as I despise Cheval and chose to munch on bobby calf and V dined on pasta. V told us she liked this ‘Franch’ food…her first public attempt at speaking French whilst under the influence.  She has now ordered many things and purchased much in the country now, relying on lots of gesticulative movements and what she can read.  We re now at the same level!

With a little bit of wee leaking out, the morning saw us pacing up and down Avenue de Champagne waiting for our appointment at Moet and Chandon at 8.45am. Perrier and Jouet and Pol Roger are neighbours and we could have continued but just seeing them just cements the street dripped with my kinda class. The French accent what not as strong as the man yesterday and therefore V was able to understand more of the process on the tour even having the courage and knowledge to answer a couple of the questions… with confidence.  Mind you, the subject was Rose Champagne and V has been paying attention.

We then headed for Dunkirk.  A place I am drawn to for no personal reason but for the history and the significance of the place.  We arrived early afternoon and set about finding parking in a town where restricted access was the order of the day. A stroll up the promenade with restaurants, cafes and carnies in front of some magnificent beach homes that had survived the war on one side and tacky beach huts on the other side, blocking the view of the sea.  Fat and tanned retirees were spread out at the back of the huts, sheltering from the wind just made my thoughts of the place so, so wrong.  My ideals were shattered.  This was not a memorial, a sanctuary to all those that lost their lives, this was a cheap and shoddy ‘Hi De Hi holiday camp’.  Disappointed but happy that the place was heaving with people and fucking dogs, we stopped at a waterfront café for Moules et frites (Mussels and chips) and V had a Salmon Lasagne.  I’m glad we made the effort, I just couldn’t imagine how different it must have been back then.  We’ll have to wait for the movie which is due out next month.

 

Bonjournee …. V and Me