Ile de Re

I must start with an apology, I’m getting a strong sense of Deja-vu with this post. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Ile deRe before, but on a quick scan back through old posts couldn’t find one. It’s possibly on my old blog? If it does turn up it would be interesting to see if I’ve written the same things and used the same photos? A pretty high chance I think.

Why today? Well quite often on sunny days, and today had been very sunny, I’m struck by the similarities between  it, and “my” island.

We have the same sort of small white cottages, though ours were built to house slate miners. There aren’t miners anymore but you can find  fishermen (yes it is always men), here. We even have oyster beds, Ile de Re is famous for oysters.  But lobsters, crab and langoustines are dominate here.

Both islands have lots of lovely summer flowers.

And both  are on the Atlantic coast, connected to the mainland  by a bridge.

Our trip to Ile de Re was quite a while ago, 2013 and it was our first trip abroad with DogS. And because of that, also the first time we crossed the channel using Le Shuttle.

First impressions weren’t great. We couldn’t even see the island as we drove onto the bridge . There was a fog worthy of an Edinburgh haar*

Luckily the weather improved, most days were nice and sunny.   We had a lovely time exploring, eating seafood, shopping in the market, even the odd drink.

Oh and cycling. Well sort of I had a tricycle.

And though she wasn’t keen at first, DogS came to love the box. Specially when  I picked up speed, and she could enjoy the wind through her fur.

She made friends too

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DogS is the very hairy one on the right

but was less keen on “Les Chats”.

We were based in St Martin de Re which is the capital, and that’s where the differences start. There’s a fabulous local shop here,  but not the kind of designer boutiques you find in Ile de Re. None of our three villages could be called the “capital”.

And we don’t have donkeys, and certainly no donkeys in stripy pyjamas.

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this one is “au naturel” but traditionally they wear stripy PJs to protect their legs from salt and beasties when they work in the marshes

There’s no point in my giving names of bars or restaurants that we liked, seven years on so much may have changed. Even without Covid-19.

One recommendation, we visited in June and our accommodation was almost 50%  cheaper  than it would have been in the peak months (mostlyAugust when Parisians visit). And it was still a nice buzzy place in the slightly off season. It would be interesting to visit in the off season, but I imagine a very different experience.

Oh and a warning, it was the place I took this photograph.  While it was easy to eat out, visit the shops and even some of the monuments, many of the beaches were off limits for dogs

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So on  a lovely sunny day at home it’s been  nice to remember another pretty island and a happy holiday.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

*Haar – a sea fog common on Scotland’s east coast, usually in Spring.

Feeling slightly sad at seeing my former favourite Sonia Rykiel top. Repurposed last year when it became too holey to wear or repair.

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Gardens

I’m not much of a gardener but love visiting and being in gardens. My mother filled her small terraced garden with blooms

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and my sister has inherited Mum’s green fingers and has a lovely garden,

but I’m usually having too much fun to take photos which do it justice.

I’m lucky to have two beautiful open gardens right on the doorstep and another just a short drive away.

 

We can’t visit them at the moment but will be back before too long.

I’ve enjoyed the cool of beautiful gardens in hot places, like these in the Philippines

 

and the Jardin Botanico  and Parque del Drago in Tenerife.

 

And then there’s the formal  French splendour of Villandry in the Loire valley.

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“I be a bit worried ’bout what he’s planning”

Or this at the Casa de Mateus  in Portugal.

 

This French garden at Varengeville- sur Mer in Normandy was less formal.

As were these glorious borders at Dyffryn gardens in South Wales

 

But there then there are places that have it all…..

Dumfries House in Ayrshire, possibly my favourite garden ever*.  All my favourite flowers, delphiniums, cornflowers, poppies, lavender, it was absolutely gorgeous. The house is beautiful too, it’s a great day out.  But the joy of visiting gardens is that DogS can come too**. That’s why we chose Villandry as our Loire chateau.

Like many others we’ve been spending quite a lot of lockdown time in the garden. But it’s still very much a work in progress.  And of course at the mercy of bambi and the  bunnies.

Until tomorrow,

Marina xx

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Bringing the garden indoors***

 

*to visit.

**all the gardens mentioned in the UK or mainland Europe were dog friendly at the time of visiting

***that’s from last year, the sweet peas are at least a month away from flowering

Towns that smell of chocolate*

To be honest I think I’ve only ever been to the one, although both Edinburgh, my home of nearly thirty years, and Carlisle, smell of biscuits.**

The chocolatey town? Oloron Ste Marie  in the south of France, where we visited the Lindt factory. Actually that’s a bit misleading, I don’t think you can take factory tours. What you can do is visit the FACTORY SHOP.

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chocolate similar to that available

A bit of a disclaimer, that bar of chocolate was not bought in Oloron. I mean really what were  you expecting? That I’d saved a bar of chocolate for over six months? I think I do quite well giving it up for the six weeks of Lent.

And I wrote about what happened to my virtuous plans of avoidance yesterday.

The pretty bag on the other hand is genuine. You can buy Lindor boules in a huge variety of flavours. More than shown in that link. Arrayed as a massive Pick’n’Mix. And then there were the boxes of chocolates, bars of all sizes, bags of rejected misshapes, and end of line flavours that didn’t fly.  I really was quite good, several boxes of chocolates and most of the pick and mix came home with us. And a fair quantity of that made its way to others as a gift. But I did enjoy a “lucky dip” into the misshapes as we travelled about.

There’s a lot more to Oloron than chocolate. It’s a pretty place to wander around with its two mountain rivers or “gaves” which merge to form the “Gave d’Oloron”.

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this is the Gave d’Aspe

And the church of Sainte Marie d’Oloron is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit when that’s possible.

 

It’s also one of the few places where traditional French berets are made. We found them in this beautiful traditional shop, Souviron Palas.

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I decided against a beret but we found some good Christmas presents there.

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The weather wasn’t so great on the day of our visit to Oloron-Ste-Marie,  but we did enjoy some Autumn sunshine while we were in the area. And glimpses of the Pyrenees.

 

A demain

Marina xx

*It really did

**Edinburgh’s Sighthill district is home to Burton’s biscuits and the smell of shortbread often fills the air. In Carlisle the scent is  Carr’s water biscuits

 

Stopping for lunch

These days I start thinking about lunch pretty much right after breakfast, certainly no later than mid morning.

Who am I trying to kid?  This is normal , not lockdown behaviour for me.

I have to be very, very busy or ill,  not to have at least part of my mind on my next meal.

That’s today’s lunch by the way, cheesy beans on toast. Nothing fancy but quite delicious.

Anyway, lunch at home might be important, but lunch on the road?       Well…….

On our October trip, yes that again,  I planned our pitstops around nice breaks for lunch. And the chance of a bit of sightseeing. We were doing far too many miles to rely solely on the delights of the motorway service station*  And  they are rarely dog friendly**

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“Dunno why. I has luvverly table manners”

So,  on the road in October. Our first stop was  The Fleece Inn in Lancashire. Not only a pub and place to stay, it was also a shop and community hub. I hope it’s surviving the lockdown.

The book has been great way to find off motorway stops but it’s not infallible. We once drove miles along twisty car filled roads in Surrey to find a place that was dog friendly only on its very small terrace. Luckily it was a sunny day.

On the way  to Saumur we stopped off in Angers, to view the Tapestry and eat crepes in a cone. And in a damp Pamplona,  with MrS feeling a bit ill back at the hotel, I trudged around trying to find somewhere I could get a waiter to serve a crazy lady outside***

Street scene in Angers, my lunch in Pamplona.

On our return through France, away from the motorways we found a couple of towns that would have been fun to explore.

We made a planned stop in Rodez as it was convenient for our route between Albi and Le Puy . It looked interesting with a fine church and a fancy new museum****. But we just stopped for a quick lunch in a tiny cafe and filed it away for “future visit”.

We stopped a bit longer in Laon, unplanned this time. It  happened along conveniently at lunchtime. It was a bit like Le Puy, though not so far off the beaten track. Obviously hugely important in the past,  a stop for pilgrims along  the Camino.  As so many of our stops had been, though mostly by chance.

Its fine Cathedral was visible for miles, high above the otherwise flat countryside.

The empty streets were being prepared for Christmas and there seemed to be a municipal rollercoaster. This turned out to be a funicular, which like too many of the shops, had been closed for a few years.  Our first choice restaurant wasn’t dog friendly, not common in France, but we didn’t go hungry.

Rainbow drops and our robust lunch

It had a melancholy air.

Wandering about, eating lunch in a cafe, being among people.

Life enriching things.

Missing things.

Things I hope will return.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

 

*there are some really good ones, check out the Westmorland group

**Cairn Lodge on the M74 is an exception, there is an indoor dog friendly eating area. Best if you are travelling with someone as you can’t take them into the food service area.

***we found very few places where DogS was allowed inside in Spain, so it was tricky alone on a wet day.

****where we parked, it seemed secure and I’m quite paranoid about parking when we have a fully laden car.

Le Puy en Velay

I’m back with the armchair travel. In Le Puy. A stop on our return through France in October.

And at first I wasn’t sure whether I did like it.

Actually it was strange and beautiful on first sight.  Approaching from the hills we could see its stripy cathedral, and  weird volcanic toadstools, those topped with churches and statues instead of pixies. Then as we spiralled down towards the town,  it looked a bit sad, and more than a little rough around the edges.

It didn’t help that I missed the entrance to the hotel parking on my  first two, was it three? passes.  But it is best that I’m driving in these circumstances. I’m much less law-abiding than MrS, and happy to simply stop in the street.  And MrS, has far better language skills. So off he went to the hotel and got directions. And in fairness  he was told that no-one ever found their way into the carpark without help.

So we set off for a little explore, and gradually my opinion and spirits improved.

Le Puy sits not quite in the centre*of France, but feels as if it is. It’s roughly equidistant from Clermont Ferrand and Lyon, just under two hours by road from either. And it isn’t on a major motorway route. Because of all that volcanic activity the approach roads are  scenic but not the easiest drive. And like many provincial towns in France its economy is a bit depressed. It used to make money from tanning and lacemaking. There’s no tanning any more, but you can buy and watch lace being made by hand in the traditional ways.

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It’s gorgeous but sadly not as fashionable as it once was.

Le Puy is known for its green lentils, but less so for another green  “foodstuff” – Verveine. Nope I hadn’t heard of it either but it was everywhere. It used to be made in a beautiful distillery** in the centre of the town. It’s still distilled locally but out of the centre.

 

It did seem to be a popular digestif, and not only in the more touristy restaurants.

We ate well in Le Puy;  dinner at the traditional and historic Tournayre,  lunch at a friendly bistro near the cathedral, and dinner again at Brasserie 912  which had great  vegetarian options. And yes, that is a lentil burger.

 

And of course, we visited that amazing stripy cathedral  the top of the town.

So yes, I did like Le Puy.

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“I liked it too”

A demain

Marina xx

 

 

 

*that’s a service area with a fantastic view, this was taken in February on a different trip. P1010856

**I haven’t many photos from Le Puy although I ‘m sure I took lots. You can find out more about Verveine here.

Travelling, but is staying at home*

*Well apart from our permitted hour of outdoor exercise*.*

So with plenty of time on my hands I’ve been looking back at some photos from our trip to Europe in the Autumn.     I last posted in November. Back then my main worry was the effect Brexit would have on future trips.  And I was sad that it might not be easy to travel around Europe in the same way again…..

France.  And DogStarke

How things change.  At the beginning of March I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh.  MrS was busy with some research at the Archives. I had fun, meeting a couple of friends for lunch, spending time  with Master S.,  and treating myself to a new phone.

Then the world began to shrink.

Mid March I had a hair appointment, we were being discouraged from too much contact and large gatherings had been banned so  I rang ahead to check my stylist was still happy to see me.  As I sat in foils under the heater my phone beeped with notifications.  Business after business announcing their closure, pubs,  restaurants, small shops.  The cinema had closed the day before. By the end of that week we had Covid locally and pretty much went into lockdown,  lots of my friends went into shielding isolation. Lockdown became official policy the following week.

Spain and DogS again

Our days changed.  Normally I walk to our local shop while  MrS takes DogS for  her walk.  But I’ve cut those trips down to once a week and  instead we go out for our hour of exercise together. We have a route that avoids livestock*** (completely) and people (mostly) and gives DogS a chance to walk off lead.  After that we’re home where MrS has been working in the garden, aided or otherwise by DogS. I’ve been catching up on reading, trying to write, and failing in my attempts to draw trees****  We do a weekly trip to town***** to go to the supermarket  or Food Hub.

Portugal, an apposite caricature we saw there, and you know who.

It’s hard not to see friends, difficult not to go out on a sunny evening and scary to hear the news each night.   But I’m lucky, I have a house,  garden and live in a beautiful part of the world.   Tonight there was some good news, a relaxation of restrictions in Austria, a slowing of the pandemic in Spain, and a downward trend in Italy;  but still too much grim news.

views from our walks*****,* my attempts with pencils, and DogS

 

What will life be like after?  Different,  probably for quite a while.  Relaxation of restrictions will be gradual and perhaps not the same everywhere.  Many businesses won’t have survived to reopen. There will be hardship and recession.

And too many people missing their family and friends.

 

 

Here’s hoping that even though things change, so the good things stay the same.

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And looking forward to being with friends again.

 

Marina x

 

 

 

**permitted at time of writing,  and hoping it continues.

***although we are rural we can’t walk in the fields as it’s lambing/calving season

**** you might imagine I’ve never seen an actual tree

***** it’s about 12 miles to our nearest town

****** we’ve been doing much the same circular walk most days, but in different directions.

(still) being European

Don’t misunderstand, I’ve nothing against the other continents, I’m just delighted that we’ve got a little reprieve and still belong to the EU and all the benefits that brings. We’re just back from a three week trip through France, Northern Spain and Portugal, taking advantage of DogStarke’s pet passport for what may be its last outing.

DogStarke on tour

(and a couple of friends she made along the way)

 

We all did lots of walking, and MrS and I did lots* of eating and drinking.

 

Discovered that we’d planned much of our journey along the ancient pilgrim routes

And visited lots of Cathedrals…..

 

I’d intended to blog as we travelled but we all know what happens to good intentions on holiday.

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Now I’m trying to get back into blog mode.

So this is just a taster,

Until next time.

 

 

                    Marina x

 

 

*too much in my case.

Exploring festivals abroad

Not the musical variety, in fact I don’t  think I’ve ever been to one of those home or away. There were Glasgow’s Big Day concerts in 1990, somehow I got into the then Copthorne hotel to watch the George Square gig and then went down to Glasgow Green in the evening (that was the time Sheena Easton got booed* for her Mid Atlantic twang); and I was at the Nelson Mandela Tribute concert at Wembley the same year,  but the full mud and music experience?  No.   The festivals I mean are the holiday ones, Christmas, New Year, Twelfth Night, Thanksgiving. The latter one first, but far from traditionally when two of MrS’s American colleagues invited us to celebrate it with them in Curacao, instead of turkey we ate curry.

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the beach in Curacao

Then in 2016 while we were in the throes of building works we sought out some Christmas sunshine in Lanzarote

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Festive cactus in Arrecife

And last year we welcomed the arrival of the Kings in Tenerife

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waiting for The Kings

This year we spent New Year or Saint Sylvestre in France.

Of course there were still signs of Christmas

 

 

and portents of L’Epiphanie

But the main event was New Year.

Restaurants offered festival menus

st sylvestr menu

This is ours from Augusto Chez Laurent

Here are those puds

augusto pudding

and yes they all contained lobster butter!

But it seemed lots of people would be enjoying seafood platters at home

preparing seafood platters

hard at work at the fishmarket

Midnight and the arrival of 2019 was a low key affair. We headed to the Mairie

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to watch the clock.

midnight

But missed the crowds you’d see in Scotland

It was a little livelier at the casino

where we could hear a party. But we just enjoyed the lights and headed back to our hotel.

Where we might* have had a kiss under the mistletoe**

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of course we couldn’t fit under it here

Best wishes for 2019 and Happy New Year to anyone celebrating it tonight.

Marina xx

*and worse

**we did

***”gui” in French it appeared in the shops on New Year’s Eve

PS Almost back home I became “King” of the day when I found the bean in our pie

 

Keeping track…..

What will I write in my diary tonight?

Last Thursday in Deauville was mostly about food!

later breakfast

Breakfast at Eric Kayser*, Deauville

It might have been a tad chilly outdoors but this was our favourite cafe and we didn’t want to leave @southfieldchat   (aka B) behind. That would have added insult to injury. Thursday was “le vet” day, she had to go for her mandatory examination and worm treatment before travelling back to the UK.

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Place Morny from the cafe (not as cold as it looks, that’s fake snow on the trees)

After breakfast we had a little urban walk,

 

made a note to buy our Gallette du Roi,  and stopped  for another coffee.

looking out from cafe

View from Le Cyrano**

After that it was time for “le vet”.  Now we’ve been to France twice before with B and had two very different experiences at the vets. First time in Ile de Re was great with a nice young vet who did a very thorough examination and was kind and gentle; second time around in Bergerac, mmm a little less so, the vet had a  blood spattered tunic and did a strange “flip” manoeuvre to check B’s bones. She was very much less than impressed. Happily Mme le Vet. in Deauville was lovely and certainly came top in B’s book. She hid the tablet in cheese! B would have stayed there all day.

 

“What?  That was medicine?!?!?”

Wormed, passed fit and with all her papers signed (in all the right places ****) B was legal for re-entry to the UK  and we were all free to enjoy the afternoon.  So we a took little drive along the coast to Villerville where we popped into a Brocante and took B for a walk on the beach. Because that’s her favourite thing,  home or away.

 

And well, we might have had a spot of lunch……

Villerville was the location for the 1960s movie un Singe en Hiver  (in English “A Monkey in Winter” or  “It’s Hot in Hell”) and the Cabaret Normand is a restaurant still, but we ate galletes in the creperie across the road.

 

Now you might think that after all that we’d be done with food for the day, and you could be justified in thinking that. But you’d also be wrong. Very, very wrong.

This was our last evening after all!

We’d booked at one of Deauville’s Michelin starred restaurants***:  Maximin Hellio.

I don’t have many photos of the food, we were too busy enjoying it.

 

We’d chosen our menu when we booked but hadn’t realised it would be at the “chef’s table”,  actually a very comfortable banquette looking into the kitchen. Normally that wouldn’t be my choice but this was interesting, and as things got less busy M. Hellio chatted to us, well mostly to MrS.  I’m fairly proficient at reading menus and know more food vocab. than any other type but struggle with anything more than basic conversation. But even with my poor language skills I could appreciate the care and pleasure he put into his craft.

We left clutching our loot, boxed up petit fours we were too full to eat and an autographed Michelin guide. Stopping off in the Place for one last look at the Christmas lights and then back to the hotel and our beds.

 

 

A Bientôt

 

Marina xx

 

 

 

 

*Eric Kayser, Place de Morny, Deauville

**Le Cyrano

***the other is L’Essentiel (more about that later)

****VERY IMPORTANT, we’ve seen dogs turned away at Calais even though they’d been to a vet but their passports had been stamped or signed in the wrong place.