shewhomust: (bibendum)
Before we had booked our October break in Brittany, while I was still trying to decide how to play this - very short - holiday, one option I considered was taking one of the shortest Channel crossings and spending a few days in the Somme. It's an area we have enjoyed in the past, as we drove through on the way to and from the ferry, and I'd be happy to look around. In the end we decided that it was worth taking a little longer over the journey, and visiting Brittany.

Almost as soon as we had that settled, the Guardian travel supplement, which must have been reading over my shoulder, published a double page spread on the Somme. And, as proof that we are on the same wavelength here, their recommendations include not only one of the hotels I had been considering (as recommended by my Routard guide, and, indeed, illustrated on its cover) but somewhere we have actually stayed in the past (and for which I had only a broken link). So that's all useful.

No, I'm not having second thoughts - but there will be other trips...

All at sea

Sep. 17th, 2015 10:33 am
shewhomust: (bibendum)
A year ago, I wrote up the last post of my previous trip to the US on the way to Edinburgh to fly the Atlantic again. A year on, I'm doing much the same: on the ferry (on the ferry and online, living in the future) sailing out of Poole towards Cherbourg, writing one final post about the last time we spent any time in France, returning home from Italy.

There's not much to say. From Champlitte, it was two days driving, north to the Channel ports. Other than lunch and overnight stops, the only interruption to our northbound progress was a pause to follow signs to the source of the Marne: a couple of years earlier we had holidayed along the course of the Meuse, and learned that it and the Marne rise quite close together, so to shun the source of the Marne would have felt like failing to visit a friend. It was, anyway, only a short diversion, a brief stroll in sun-dappled woodlands to observe a rock from which dampness emerged, a gated culvert and an information board which told us "La Marne est la plus longue rivière de la France." Wait, what? Surely the Loire is the longest river in France? The board explained, and I learned, what I had not previously known, the dirrerence between a 'fleuve' and a 'rivière': a 'fleuve' flows into the sea, a 'rivière' flows into another river.

We spent the night, according to my notes, "somewhere in the Aisne" actually, at Le Clos Chéret:

Le Clos Cheret

I forget how we found it: we were quite disgruntled to spot the sign proclaiming it an Alistair Sawday recommendation, but it was not, in fact, overflowing with English people (it wasn't overflowing with anyone, as far as I recall). The room with the double bed has a nautical theme.

Next day, we took our lunch break in Arras, in the place des Héros, which is a fine and striking space despite the cars parked on every inch of ground not actively being ripped out for and roadworks. La cuisine des ch'tis was much in evidence: my dessert was a layered confection of cake and cream called 'ch'tiramisu'.

One last night, in Loon Plage - presumably at the Campanile hotel there, as it's a handy just over the Channel standy. But why did we not eat at the hotel? There must have been a reason. Instead we did the best we could in the town, which meant the pizzeria: pizza here in the north comes in two varieties, à la tomate and creme fraiche (but if I can decipher this schema, both have olives and oregano. Did I eat, or merely marvel at, the antillaise, cream with chorizo and curry?

The following day's ferry crossing seems to have deposited us in London on the day of one of the Bears' summer singarounds - no notes, but photographic evidence. Ending a holiday with friends and music, what could be better?

Now it's time for the next adventure.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
A month ago, I wrote about the last time we were in France, expecting to return to the topic within days, and to tidy away the end of the story not long after. But that was a month ago (to the day). Ah, well.

My notes for the next stage of the joutney say only two things. Firstly, without explanation: Haute-Saône celebrates 20 years twinning with Mexico. This disconcerted me so much that I initially attributed it to the previous post, but on reflection it belongs here, with the record of a night in the department of Haute-Saône (and a quick search doesn't explain how this area came to be twinned with Mexico, but at least confirms that I hadn't imagined it).

We had come to Champlitte without knowing anything about the town, having picked up a list of Logis de France hotels at the tourist office after lunch, and decided that there was only one on our route north and within an afternoon's drive: I think it was this one, which seems to have the right location opposite the town's little château (now museum). This website explains (in French) how historic the place is, and how diminished from its days of glory: click on its postage stamp images to see photos of its most picturesque sites on a sunny day. Which is fortunate: I have the happiest memories of our explorations before dinner that evening, following whichever street looked most tempting, peering into courtyards and taking many, many photos. But when I look through those photos now, the ones I am happiest with show neither the castle nor the river, and the sun isn't shining in any of them. In fact, this is not atypical:


And there's more where that came from. )

We didn't ask, but returned instead to our hotel, and dined there. With a bottle of organic rosé Pascal HENRIOT VdP Champlitte, although I don't remember anything about the wine, but it's the second thing in my notes. Presumably this winemaker, and we would have chosen it as being the most local option, and I must have liked it, or I wouldn't have made a note of it.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The Guardian travel supplement last Saturday offers a guide to Sardinia, ostensibly about the beaches, but with alluring descriptions of the nearby villages, because you've got to eat, haven't you? Naturally I want to go there - it's an island; I want to go to all the islands - but not this year.

Because this year I want to go to France. We are almost - but somehow, mysteriously, not quite - at the point of booking the ferry. It's too long since we have been to France. If you don't count a brief foray into the Pyrenees, during our Spanish holiday (and I don't see why I should count it, we spoke to no-one, we didn't even have a cup of coffee while we were there), then it's five years since we were in France, on our way home from the Villa Saraceno. We paused for a couple of days on the way home to do some walking in the vineyards of the Rhône valley - but in Switzerland - which I don't seem to have written anything about. Perhaps I will, one day, or perhaps not, but in any case, not now.

We left Switzerland at Le Locle, which proclaims itself "Cité de la Précision" That is, it's a clock town, industrial and slightly grubby, but with some quirky, interesting buildings, altogether more appealing than the smugness of ski towns like La Chaux de Fonds, which we had just passed through. The road took us through a cleft in the rock, and then forked, following the valley edge, with a statue of a cockerel in the V of the fork. Then left through a rock arch held together by metal bolts, wire mesh and something I can't now decipher -

- and we were in France, land of the elaborate horticultural sculpture on roundabouts:


This was in Villers le Lac (Doubs), where we lunched at Le Caméleon. My tarte à l'oignon was a thin, crispy pastry base, covered with cream and scattered with bacon and onions, served very hot - a kind of Alsatian pizza. For dessert I had the 'tourbillon des sapins', a whirlwind of pine trees - expressed by pine bud flavoured ice cream ('bourgeons de sapin') with a shot of sapin liqueur: it was ice cream rather than sorbet, freshly minty and faintly medicinal. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Edited (for once) to remove: a final paragraph which belongs in the next instalment.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
It's a sunny Saturday evening and I feel a little lazy, a little unfocussed - maybe I could tidy up the old travel supplements that are littering my desk: nothing as demanding as making travel plans, but dream a little of places we might go, sometime... And idleness has been rewarded, because underneath the newspapers I found a book I've been meaning to return to A. next time we see her - and we will see her on Monday, and I would have forgotten it was there. Does that in itself make the process worthwhile? No, on with the links:

The Centre de l'Art et du Paysage is on an island in a lake in the plateau de Millevaches, in the Corrèze (a thousand springs, etymologically, it seems, and not a thousand cows): you reach it by crossing a footbridge. Its website is uninviting, but if you read the Guardian article first, you have some idea what you are looking for, and the Bois des Sculptures soundslike my sort of place (there's an Andy Goldsworthy, which is always a good start).

I can't really see us taking a holiday to savour slow food in rural Turkey: but it does sound good...

Why do I have a copy of the books section here? And why do I not have last week's article about wine tourism in Sicily? (Never mind, I found it!)

This isn't much to show for several months worth of weekly supplements. Most of what they publish just isn't for me: skiing holidays, cycling holidays, how to amuse your children, city breaks... And sometimes I may be a bit dismissive of this material. "Hah!" I might say. "Who on earth plans a trip around recommendations for an outdoor cinema?" Let this be a lesson to me not to be so hasty - because the Cromarty Film Festival sounds rather wonderful: outdoor screenings in Scotland in December night be a challenge, but "Join the audience near the shoreline for mulled wine and watch the opening film as it is projected on to the lighthouse..." (mulled wine? the Festival's own website talks of Glen Ord...)

And one that's not from the Guardian: Britain's most northerly accommodation property (it's on Unst).
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The clocks went forward overnight: another sign of spring. But after several days of sharp, cold showers, today we have mist. Whatever happened to spring? A rhetorical question to which I know the answer:

Spring in the orangery

Spring was on Monday. Luckily we didn't miss it, but took the day off and went to Gibside. It was so sunny that I decided to leave my waterproof in the car - and didn't regret it, my jumper was warm enough.

There have been changes since we were last there: the new car park is now open, much closer to the entrance and down by the river. So our exploration of the grounds started with a stiff climb up, past the new ticket kiosk, then through the walled garden, now completely dedicated to garden plots but with not much happening at the moment (that is, a stretch of fallen wall is being repaired, but there's not much growing). The orangery was a blaze of daffodils. We tried to strike down through the meadow to the river, and were rewarded with some dramatic silhouettes of the orangery against the sun, but hit a dead end, and had to retrace our steps to the junction of the paths, and reach the river past the ice house. We had soup for lunch at the café in the stables, which has moved across the courtyard, been spruced up and lost its second-hand books (they will be back, elsewhere in the stables, later in the summer, apparently). We looped round the monument but didn't detour, paid a brief visit to the old house, and returned along the avenue to the chapel.

I wonder why John Bowes decided to make so complete a break when he built his new house / museum by the Tees?
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
The process of Moving Stuff About continues. The resultant changes are probably invisible to any eye but my own, but I do have a sense of stuff moving, heaps being dispersed, things finding their place. It won't last, so let me enjoy it - and record it - while I can.

I have a new monitor. I have for some time been saying to [ profile] durham_rambler that we need to be able to check what our websites look like on a variety of screen widths and devices, and that given modern standards one of us, at least, ought to have a monitor that is wider than the 1024px we were both using (I remember how big that seemed when I finally relinquished my 800px screen). He finally found time to set up [ profile] desperance's widescreen for me, and I am trying to get used to it. The good news is that I haven't (yet) had any really unpleasant surprises from any of my sites - though I am tweaking margins as I go! The bad news is that some of the software I use results, at this definition, in very small print (I'm using some very old software). As I suspected, my old screen rendered things very dark, even when adjusted to maximum brightness, and the brightness of the new screen is even more disconcerting than its width; I could turn it down, but the risk is then that I underestimate the brightness of my designs and images, so I'd prefer to learn to live with it.

The old monitor sat on a pedestal (alright, then, a box file) on the desk: the new one sits on the desk itself. And did I mention how very wide it is? So there has been some shuffling of things around the desk. Some of them - little jars of paperclips, seashells, a box of postcards, some notebooks - will need new homes, but I have filed and discarded a quantity of paper. Why had I written the name 'Amanda Popham' on a paper bag? The internet tells me that she is a ceramicist: there's a selection of her work here and another piece here. I'm not sure whether I like it or not; I think I'd like to see the real thing, not photographs, and I think this means that I haven't actually seen it. But in that case, where did I get her name from?

No mystery about why I printed off a copy of John Stump's Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz (from 'A Tribute to Zdenko G. Fibich'), an 'unplayable score' with instructions like "Slovenly", "Tune the Uke" and "remove cattle from stage". Even though the paper copy is coffee stained, and I have tracked it down online, I am reluctant to discard it.

Naturally, the paper is fighting back. Last Saturday's travel supplement has made its way onto my desk, open at the page about wine tourism in the Corbières. Not for this year, but next year I want to go to France, and to the wine-producing south-west in particular. I'd been thinking Minervois, Madiran, even Irouléguy, but a few addresses in Corbières might come in handy...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Until I read this, it had never occurred to me to wonder about the etymology of the French word septentrional, northern:
...the edges of every map are inscribed with the stations of the sun's daily journey rather than the points of the modern compass: Couchant (the setting sun, west); Orient (the rising sun, east); Midi (noon); and Septentrion (north, from the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major).
Isn't that lovely? The north, the land of the seven stars...

The information comes from Simon Loftus's book Puligny Montrachet, and the maps he is describing are those contained in Le Terrier de la Seigneurie de Puligny, a detailed registry of land holdings in that village in Burgundy compiled in the 1740s. Two huge volumes of lists of who owns what, and a third of maps - very pretty maps, to judge by the portion reproduced on the endpapers, with the coloured strips of the vineyards dotted with the houses of the village, with crosses and ponds and other landmarks. I can't think why the internet doesn't know about it (or, if it knows, isn't telling).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
It's the pre-digital equivalent of closing some tabs, disposing of old newspapers I've put aside as containing something of interest. It isn't always obvious what:

Romania, fair enough. But did I really think an article about cycling in the Carpathians would be useful? Apparently I did.

I don't expect ever to visit the salt flats of Bolivia - but isn't this an amazing photograph?

Though I obviously hung on to that issue for this article about wine tourism in Savoie.

(Over the page, their intrepid explorer Kevin Rushby goes looking for wildflowers in Weardale - and very nice, too).

Wales has a Coast Path, it seems; well, I should think so. It has a bilingual website, of course. We never go to Wales, I don't know why. We should...

Why did I save that one? No idea. Next!

Ah, here's Kevin Rushby again, in Yorkshire this time, where Simon Armitage has been carving his poems onto rock faces. Should this sort of high-class cultural graffiti be encouraged in wild places? Don't know. I have a soft spot for graffiti - and a scepticism about the kind of public art that carves poetry on things. Maybe I'd need to visit to find out what I think.

Blue Cabin by the Sea, somewhere totally impractical to stay on the Berwickshire coast - lovely pictures, shame about the website (wouldn't take much to make it function as it's obviously meant to). Or for somewhere totally impractical in the opposite way, how about the house Pugin built for himself in Ramsgate: "The house has a private chapel and a tower, from whose roof Pugin trained his telescope on ships in distress," and which now offers a view of more modern shipping from the freight ferry terminal.

Walking the Rhine gorge

Cycling along the Canal du Midi doesn't sound much fun: the cycling is painful, and the level, tree-lined canal becomes monotonous eventually. But I'd like to see more of the Canal by other means, and the article does suggest some hotels.

The Guardian seems obsessed with bikes: this time it's wine-tasting in Croatia - Istria, to be precise - which sounds good, except for the bit about the bikes. And a couple of days later, more about Croatia, in the news section this time, as they enter the EU.

And that's the last of that pile - but there'll be another supplement in tomorrow's paper (perhaps it won't be very interesting...).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
On the domestic and electrical front, we are reminded both that things fall apart and that sometimes they can be put back together. [ profile] durham_rambler found an electrician who declined to tamper with the television aerial, but has replaced the light-fittings in the kitchen and in my study. Then the washing machine went dead in mid-wash, but [ profile] durham_rambler worked out that it had blown a fuse, and replaced said fuse. Ah, but why had the washing machine blown a fuse? It has been astoundingly reliable for twenty-odd years, and each time there's a problem I think it will be the last.

I seem to have done something to displease Google (fair enough - it's mutual) which refuses to show me its doodles on the day; I have to wait until each one is archived. So I saw this tribute to Maurice Sendak the day after the rest of LJ. It is very charming, but the text explanation sounds rather odd: it doesn't seem to know that Sendak died last year (but surely Google knows everything?).

I was complaining that the Guardian's series on wine roads was sticking to very well-trodden routes. This week's is a bit more interesting: where to go in Corsica (For what it's worth, that's just a set of suggested locations, this is a wine road).

Driving into Darlington last night, we passed a notice of which I only had time to read the first line. It said, in large pink letters: BABY NEARLY NEW SALE.

On the subject of signs and portents, seen on the Westray ferry:

Washing instructions

The sign on the door (for those whose eyesight is no better than mine) says "Please do NOT tumble dry other people's boiler suits". These mysterious glimpses of other people's lives...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
You'd think, wouldn't you? When I picked up Saturday's travel supplement and read "Need inspiration for this year's summer hoilday?" I sneered. No, I don't, nor for next year's either. And after that I've still plenty of ideas, it's which one to pick that's the problem...

Despite which, the first suggestion in that article is rather tempting: Jacqueline Mirtelli of Atout, the France Tourism Development Agency recommends Corsica, and specifically the Cap Corse, the promontory on the north of the island (map) - not a tourist area, she says, but very mountainous, very wild and beautiful, with tiny, sparsely inhabited fishing and mountain villages. In the middle, there is a walking trail called the Chemin de Lumière: eight chapels that helped medieval travellers cross the Cape through the mountains. I suspect that the walk is more challenging than that suggests: this detailed description, for example implies that the chapels are not strung out along the route but cluster in the villages at either end. But Corsica is somewhere I'd like to visit, and this corner of it sounds worth the detour (as the green Michelin guides say).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
[ profile] weegoddess has lured me onto PINterest. She makes use of the social networking potential of the site to promote her business making ethical wedding dresses; LJ gives me all the social networking I need, but I was interested in the potential of PINterest as a visual way of saving links, specifically to pretty pictures - the sort of thing I do occasionally post here, but a more suitable way of saving links about which I have nothing more to say than "Ooh! Pretty picture!" Getting the thing set up was a bit of a struggle - all the names I could think of were either taken or invalid, and it insists on connecting to a FaceBook or Twitter profile, which makes me uneasy - but such as it is, this is it, and having trawled through some past LJ posts and pinned the links, this evening I'm working through some back issues of the Guardian travel supplement, experimenting with pinning suggestions for places to visit. Just to be on the safe side, the text version follows (because words are words, and you can't trust pictures).

A slightly irritating article about the Montagne Noire (which we crossed when we visited Minerve) contains the information that Montolieu in the Aude is a book town - or rather, a book village. (Here's the Aude tourist office, just in case.)

I hadn't expected to find much to tempt me in an issue devoted to Turkey, but this article about walking in the north east is magical.

And that's as far as we go, because I seem to have broken it - a pity, because this article on short walks in Corsica (the Not the GR20 option) looks seriously good. Oh, well, another time...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I don't watch much television, and what I do see tends to be a little random - which is the best explanation I can offer for why I am watching the BBC's Raymond Blanc: The Very Hungry Frenchman.

The basic premise is: here is Raymond Blanc, very famous French chef whose career has been built exclusively in England: why not send him to cook in France? I wonder whose the original idea was. Did Raymond Blanc say "I could take a paid holiday at home, if you will fund me to make three programmes in French locations of my choice"? Or did the producer offer the choice of locations to persuade the chef into the semblance of a reality show (chef takes over local restaurant and cooks one gala dinner: but will the locals be impressed?*) If the whole thing were funded by the French Tourist Board, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Sam Wollaston, over at the Guardian is not impressed: "It's lovely – for Raymond," he says. "I'm a little bored, to be honest. And do we really need another, self-indulgent, celebrity chef food programme?" Which is entirely fair - and yet, it seems, I do, because I am enjoying it. Admittedly, it's an enjoyment seasoned with a fair amount of irritation: there's a narrative voice - an Englishwoman - which I find patronising and rather repetitive. Blanc's persona has genuine charm, but does he have to lay on the Gallic charm quite so thick (I'm prepared to believe that he does naturally say "Oh, la la!" all the time, but the choice of a 2CV for his travels - a different one with local registration plates in each of the two episodes I have so far seen - is trying too hard)?

It's my constant complaint of tv documentaries that they are too superficial, that they are afraid of boring their audience and so they refrain from going into the level of detail that is precisely the thing I find interesting. Since I'm interested in France and its food (and wines), in this case, the information withheld is quite often something I know, so there's quite a lot of heckling (which is an irritation, but part of the fun, too). Raymond Blanc's twist on the Franche Comtoise speciality of rabbit with mustard is to cook it in the local vin jaune - but they don't mention what that stuff costs**. The rhapsody about the charms of Beaune doesn't mention the city's best known feature, the hospices - but wait, that shot of typical Burgundian roof tiles, isn't that...? And so on.

I don't mind. I'm happy to sit back and watch the 2CV bouncing through the vineyards, the racks of maturing comté cheeses stretching away to infinity in the Fort Saint Antoine (scroll down), the elegant little black pigs, the two trainees from Blanc's restaurant in England who accompany him and help with the cooking, exclusively English-speaking apart from the "Oui, chef" with which they receive his instructions, the mustard seeds pouring into the mill...

The first programme took Raymond Blanc home to the Franche Comté, which is less over-exposed than - well, than Burgundy, say, scene of the second programme. There were scenes with his mother which were not as cloying as they might have been (or perhaps my tolerance is high). So on balance I liked the first show better. The third and last takes us to Lyon, to the big city, and I'm not enthusiastic about this prospect. But I'll be there.

*Well, what do you think? Of course they will.

**I've never tasted vin jaune: the Wine Society lists only one example, which at £34 a bottle is out of stock.
shewhomust: (Default)
In 1942, commercial artist Raymond Peynet went to Valence, making a delivery in person, waiting by the bandstand in the park for the person he was meeting. He began sketching the bandstand, with a long-haired young man playing the violin, and pretty young woman listening, enraptured. He drew the rest of the band leaving, and the violinist saying "Don't worry, I'll finish on my own."

Peynet titled the drawing 'The Unfinished Symphony'; it was the magazine editor who called it 'Les Amoureux de Peynet' - Peynet's lovers. They were an immediate success. Throughout the 50s and into the 60s, Peynet carried on drawing the lovers: in the rain, in a boat, on a park bench, flying into the blue sky of a Chagall painting; charming, slightly saccharine, France's image of itself as the country of love and of art.

It's a very marketable self-image: A Google image search finds the lovers on headscarves, petit point patterns, postage stamps, certificates to be given as wedding gifts. Not all of these are period pieces: the official website (scroll down) lists such recent products as perfume, and a wedding dress embroidered with one of Peynet's drawings.

You have to sift through this abundance to find the lovers as I first met them, in the early 60s, as a series of dolls: about the size of Barbie and Ken, but made of some soft plastic or rubber, not jointed but bendable. Postcards show some of the many collectable variants: there were brides and grooms, naturally, there were modern young people and couples in retro swimwear, there were couples in the traditional costumes of the regions of France, or representing the signs of the Zodiac - has a fine selection (though if I were actually buying, I'd probably forget about the dolls and go for the set of fèves, charms for baking in the Twelfth Night galette, for the sheer complexity of its cultural import).

I'd say I hadn't thought about them for years, and that's almost true: but in fact the lovers in Georges Brassens's song Les amoureux des bancs publics, who sit kissing on public benches, always takes on in my mind the appearance of Peynet's lovers. I thought that was just me, but no, it seems, they really were the inspiration for the song:

What brings them into my mind now? Who do we know who's in love, in Paris, and sending dispatches home about it?
shewhomust: (bibendum)

So, as I was saying, we spent a night in the little town of Charmes, in Lorraine, north-eastern France. Wikipedia says "It was extensively destroyed both in the First and Second World Wars. A pleasant stop for mobile home owners and canal boats", which is odd, but true enough. Lorraine lies between France and Germany, and the town is dotted with war memorials - as well as other decorations, like this mosaic from the wall of the school.

More pictures of Charmes.

We stayed at the Hotel Restaurant le Carpinien, and were very comfortable there. Our room was simple but well arranged: the space was well used, as if someone had actually thought about what you might want to do there.

We ate in the restaurant, and both chose the cheapest of the set menus, because that was what we fancied, the 'Menu Lorrain' - but first, an aperitif: the 'apéritif maison' was a kir-type mixture of white wine and mirabelle liqueur. Mirabelles, little yellow plums, are a big thing in Lorraine, and when I commented to our hostess how much I like them, she told us that in that case we were just a little too early: the mirabelle season starts on August 15th. I'm sure there must be a use for that piece of information somewhere.

First course was a salade vosgienne, a green salad enlivened with bacon, boiled eggs and sour cream.

Main course: pork chops with mushrooms, chips and a salad garnish.

Cheese course: a small slice of fresh, creamy cheese, served on a small plate with a little heap chopped herbs - so you could combine the two in your preferred proportions - and a taste of sweet sauce (mirabelle, probably).

And finally the dessert, a mirabelle sorbet, pleasant and refreshing but a touch bland. We both declined the offer of whipped cream with it, and I for one was glad that I had - but I would have welcomed a shot of the mirabelle liqueur in its place. Never mind, plenty of time for alcoholic ices later in the holiday...

We drank a white wine from Alsace (the neighbouring region), a pinot gris, rich and fruity. And we began to feel that despite the day's hectic driving, we really were on holiday.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
First, one for [ profile] samarcand, overheard at the self-service breakfast buffet. Son of English family at the next table, baffled by the variety of teas on offer: "They've got all kinds of tea...
"Dad, is Yellow Label normal tea?"

Dad isn't rushing to answer. "Is Yellow Label normal?"

Dad obviously has no idea. "Yes, it's normal."

Outside the hotel, the floral Eiffel Tower on the roundabout is looking even better than when I last saw it, greener and bushier. But there's better still in store, on the road in to Loon Plage itself:

The beekeeper and the bee

I spotted - and was charmed by - the beekeeper, on the traffic island as we approached the junction. But it was [ profile] durham_rambler who noticed his bee, on the roundabout across the way.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
But not before extracting all the juicy goodness from them! So we have:

All of which is irrelevant to our immediate plans: on Wednesday we set off for the Northern Isles - train to Aberdeen, overnight ferry to Lerwick, smaller ferry (the Good Shepherd) to Fair Isle. I should have internet access some of the time, but I may not have much time to use it...


Apr. 20th, 2010 10:34 pm
shewhomust: (Default)
I don't really remember how earlier volcanic outbursts from Iceland were reported. I've been thinking that surely there was more coverage of the eruption itself, this extraordinary, fascinating, frightening thing, and less complaining about how inconvenient it is. But that's probably just the tendency to think that things were better in the past. I've seen wonderful footage of volcanoes (some of which, like this report on Surtsey and Heimaey, has ended up on YouTube), but it isn't necessarily news footage.

Perhaps I'm just disproportionately irritated by the refusal of radio and TV even to try to pronounce Eyafjallajökull. The Grauniad, being the Grauniad, can't make up its mind how to spell it, either, but I have more sympathy there. Not that I can pronounce Eyafjallajökull myself, either - I was hoping to learn from the radio. But the BBc has resources I don't have: these are broadcasters who pronounce the names of Sri Lankan cricketers, for crying out loud, with aplomb if not with precision, surely they must be able to do better than "the Icelandic volcano"? Set some researchers onto it! There's something dismissive about the formula "the Icelandic volcano", as if we really can't be expected to concern ourselves with such trivia as what those northern barbarians call their geography. As if Iceland had only one volcano! But then of course they're stymied when they want to report the concern that the eruption of Eyafjallajökull may be followed by a larger one from Katla - because to name Katla would be to admit that these places do have names, we're just afraid to use them. So Katla becomes "another Icelandic volcano". As [ profile] janni says: "I picture it off in the corner, muttering, 'You want a volcano you can pronounce? I'll give you a volcano you can pronounce ...'"

So thank goodness for the internet which brings us our news: that same post of [ profile] janni's has some fine links. People are posting photos to Flickr: this set has some great ones. Via [ profile] makinglight, the Boston Globe's Big Picture collects some more amazing images: I particularly like the one of the farmers working to dust-proof the barn in time for lambing, while the barn door frames a view of the plume of ash rising serenely from the volcano. But there are some dramatic night-time views, too: the National Geographic answers my question: why is there so often lightning in these pictures?

Against this degree of upheaval and risk, the inconvenience of the flight ban is secondary. Which is easy to say, since I've not been personally inconvenienced. It crops up in unexpected places: an author friend reports back from the London Book Fair that it was "very odd this year. Like a ghost town." She had a day's schedule of meetings booked, but only her French editor actually got there. Sad tales of rose-growers in Kenya say something about the madness of the market economy. And the Poet Laureate has written a poem.

I came to the Today programme this morning halfway through an item about a family who had managed to make their way home from holiday - I suspect in Spain, though I missed that. Since they couldn't fly (and, as I say, I only heard half the story) they had hired a car. They'd clearly been unlucky: French railways were on strike, they said, and the main road through the Pyrenees was closed, they'd had to find their own way through. But it had been a revelation: France is a big country, they said, when you're driving through it, much bigger than it seems when you're floating above it. And it would be pleasant to drive through, if you were on holiday and could take your time... Well, yes. I wonder if they will, next year?
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  1. Thanks to [ profile] lamentables for telling me about a project to photograph all of China's ethnic groups: wonderful formal studio groups against carefully arranged props. It's impossible not to imagine the photographer in Victorian dress, with a big plate camera - except that oh! the colours! There's an article about it here in English, but for bigger pictures go to this Chinese site.

  2. Cooking like a moomin: SelfMadeHero are planning to publish a recipe book containing all the secrets of Moominmamma's kitchen. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if what they plan is a collection of Finnish recipes, including things mentioned in the books, and with Tove Jansson illustrations. Still sounds irresistible. (More information on the Forbidden Planet blog, including a picture of a gingerbread moominhouse).

  3. Sunday's walk took us from Sunderland Bridge along the Wear almost as far as Page Bank, then turning uphill to Tudhoe, where we had lunch at the pub - and back along the bridle way. (map). The morning was a long haul, partly because some of the paths, particularly through the woods, didn't exist, or weren't where we expected them to be. There were patches of snow on the ground from Friday's fall, but the sun was bright; a tiring walk but an enjoyable one.

  4. Saturday's Guardian magazine was a food & travel special. I particularly enjoyed Jeannette Winterson in Mantua (picture gallery here) and Matthew Fort following the Ancien Canal du Berry.

  5. And in the Travel section of the paper, this Spanish holiday sounds wonderful (the Casa Olea has a web site, with very pretty pictures which are a bit slow to download), and so does Macedonia: so many places to go!

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