shewhomust: (bibendum)
...just before the beginning of the next.

Our last day in France in 2007 was a Sunday, and the hunters were out in force. Men in orange high-visibility jackets lined the forest edge, rifle under one arm, horn in the other; men in twos were scattered through the fields. Autumn sunshine and mist combined in odd patterns; I could see the border of the mist edging forward over ploughed fields, heavy mist pooling under the motorway viaduct.

ArchWe lunched in Dieppe, which I had remembered as the most attractive of the northerly Channel ports, and which turned out to be more attractive than that faint praise suggests. And after a few false starts, we found a restaurant which would serve us moules frites for our last lunch in France.

The afternoon was a reductio ad absurdum of the 'let's take the coastal route' strategy, only partly because it was a sunny Sunday in autumn, and half the population had had the same thought. There were road closures in both Le Tréport and Saint Valéry, as well as crowds and heavy traffic - so much for any thought of staying in the B & B cum antique shop there - and in each case we ended up doubling back the way we had come. Le Tréport also had a massive flea market filling the entire seafront area. I wished we could stop and play, but we really did't have time.

Which is how we ended up going through Mer-les-Bains - once more, there and back again because of road closures, but almost without resentment, the town was so full of amazing art nouveau buildings. It's easy to tell when this coast was fashionable. In Berck Plage (where we finally, in desperation, booked into a plastic business hotel) this was played up for all it was worth - even the Cybercafé sign said 'Cybercafé' in art nouveau script.

And that was the evening we walked down to the front, and made the acquaintance of le Welch, about which I have already posted.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Still in France, two years ago, but by now very much homeward bound. At this stage of the holiday, everything is a last chance: last day, last chance to go shopping, last picnic. When the whole holiday stretches ahead of you, a dull lunch doesn't matter, because tomorrow will be better; now it's... not a catastrophe, even now, but a disappointment, a lost opportunity. And the good things are something unexpected, we may be on our way home, but we are still on holiday and having a good time.

That's my excuse, anyway, for this loving photograph of my lunch:

Still life


We had bought bread and goat's cheese and figs, and to wash it down, bernache (a harvest-time treat, grape juice just beginning to ferment; I've met the same thing in Germany as Neuwein). Since I declined to drink the bernache out of the bottle - it is cloudy, and throws a heavy sediment - we had bought cheap tumblers to drink it out of, too (my favourite kind of holiday souvenir). Following the signs to the picnic site brought us into Cinq-Mars-la-Pile. where we spread out our haul on a picnic table half in sun, half in shade and wondered a) what was the Gallo-Romain pile which had given the village its name? and b) what was that brick tower over beyond those houses?

A short after-lunch stroll (past a wall on which lizards scampered away as we passed revealed that, of course, these two questions shared a single answer.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
There's nothing linear about this journal; or perhaps the opposite is true, that this journal follows not just one but several lines of thought. Almost a year ago, I compared its structure to the opening of multiple browser tabs; it's that season again, within the month we will slope off again for a short holiday, and yet another set of photos will be abandoned half-sorted, another set of posts interrupted in full flood. This cannot be! I must get a grip...

Autumn hedge Very well, then, it's October 2007, [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I are in France, on our way back north, having spent the night in Chinon at the Hotel Diderot. We had arrived late and optimistic, and been found a room not in the historic and picturesque hotel itself but in the annex round the corner, quieter and less fancy, but that has a certain charm, too.

The following morning we breakfasted in the dining room. Jam, as I have remarked before, was a recurring theme of this trip, and the Hotel Diderot specialises in jam; they have published a book called Jam in the Cupboard, and sure enough, there is a large dresser packed with jars of home-made jam. Each table bears a generous selection of jams: fig & toasted walnut, quince jelly, rhubarb & strawberry, rhubarb & raspberry, Dundee marmalade, pêche de vigne (bush peach, according to my dictionary, but it doesn't mean anything to me), pêche de vigne & greengage, vine fruits, rhubarb & candied lemon: "And if your favourite isn't on your table, " read the label, "visit the other tables until you find it."

After this Gargantuan breakfast, where else could we go but La Devinière?
shewhomust: (Default)
At the very end of our last trip to France, I started to notice that the roundabouts were sporting rather - umm - ambitious decorations. Instead of the familiar arrangement of, say, rowing boat at a fetching angle with bedding plants spilling out of it, one roundabout in Wimereux displayed a miniature hot-air balloon, in what looked like topiary. I was fascinated, but since the roundabouts tend to whizz past the car at great speed, there were no photos.

This year, however... )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Last autumn in Chinon, passing the Mairie on the way back from the pizzeria to our hotel, [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler asked: "Did it ever occur to you that France was the first country to have a mission statement?"

Bonne fête, tout le monde! And liberté, égalité, fraternité for us all!
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Company


I wasn't planning to post about the next stop on our journey north through France. It was Angoulême, and a piece of silly self-indulgence that didn't quite come off; a familiar stop, whose main purpose was to visit the excellent shop at the CNBDI (comics museum). Only they turned out not to open until midday, and we couldn't afford to linger so long. Instead we visited a perfectly adequate bookshop in the new mall under the Champ de Mars - what have they done to the Champ de Mars? - where I found some comics, though not all I'd hoped for, and the diary which continues to give me such pleasure throughout this year (a lighthouse for every week of the year), and the briefest of strolls around town on the pretext of buying a picnic. That's when I took this photo, which [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler - the Man in Red - demands I post here.

Today's news is that we have booked the final B & B, the last jigsaw piece of our next holiday: we are now all set to spend the first half of May in the Northern Isles, in the company of two separate friends who don't LJ (but are in all other respects excellent people). We drive up to Orkney in the company of friend number one, for a couple of days based in Saint Margaret's Hope, three days on Hoy and a couple of days on Mainland. Then we put her on a plane south, and take ourselves to Shapinsay for a couple of days before catching the overnight ferry to Shetland for a book launch, and the best part of a week based in Lerwick with friend number two. And back to Aberdeen on the ferry.

When I say "all set" I mean, of course, nothing of the sort. My preparations so far amount to making all the bookings, and persuading [livejournal.com profile] samarcand to give me a tutorial in the use of the mp3 player, onto which I am now loading music selected not quite at random but certainly at whim. If you're reading this, [livejournal.com profile] samarcand, I'm enormously grateful for your help, and may need further tuition: how did you do that trick with capturing audio from YouTube?
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Les amis des chatsWe ate our picnic at a pleasant picnic site thoughtfully provided by a major road junction, then drove on, hoping to find a café. A handwritten sign promised coffee up a minor road, doubly mysterious because - we realised later - we had taken a wrong turning earlier, and were not where we thought we were. Nonetheless, we followed it, and found ourselves in the hilltop village of the English. The café was run by English people, and round by the Mairie we found "Les Amis des chats" - a charity shop selling bric-a-brac and English paperbacks to raise funds to neuter the local cats.

So far, so English; but the village has a shop and a café, and derelict buildings were being renovated.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Pieces of skyMoissac is on the pilgrim route to Compostella, and we'd passed through before, but always passing through, arriving late and leaving early, never visiting the abbey. This time we would see the Romanesque cloister, and the famous sculptures: but first we made a detour to the edge of the town, and stopped to admire the aqueduct where the Canal Latéral crosses the Tarn. There's a tiny parking space tucked in beside some steps which climb up to the canal; I couldn't see the river at all from ground level, just the lush green of the flood plain contrasting with the red brick (the "local stone" of the region) of the aqueduct. Up the steps, and the perspective shifts to a pleasant canal-side walk; it was sunny and lazy and we had the place to ourselves - it was tempting just to stroll on along by the glassy water.

Roger and the DamnedBut we carried on into Moissac, parking by the railway line which divides the abbey buildings into two groups, and is itself lavishly decorated with colourful tags, and made our way to the abbey. The porch and the cloister are so famous that I didn't expect much of the abbey church itself, but it was - "delightful", say my notes, brightly painted, and that's what I remember, a general impression of light and colour. There were also two charming fifteenth century polychrome wood sculptures, one showing the flight into Egypt, Joseph leading a donkey on which his diminutive wife grapples with a baby, the other Christ being lowered into a coffin by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, while Saint John and a gaggle of Maries look on.

By the time we had had our fill of the porch and the interior, the cloister had closed for lunch; and the supermarket was about to close too, but we had just time to stock up on a picnic lunch, and to admire a mural tribute to artist Firmin Bouisset, whose works are more familiar than his name.

Maybe next time we'll visit the cloister.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We first stayed at the Hôtel de l'Horloge in Auvillar years ago, walking the Chemin de Saint Jacques with accommodation booked for us by La Pèlerine. Auvillar is a pretty little town on the pilgrim route, birthpace - it claimed - of the troubadour Marcabrun, and the hotel won our gratitude by serving us a white beer produced locally, which we drank sitting on the shady terrace after a hot day's walking. I was less sure about the restaurant: the food was good, and I loved the local wine, Côtes de Brulhois, but there was something that didn't quite click. A couple of years ago we returned to the region to buy the wine. Now, on our third visit, we decided we would not only visit the Cave Co-op, we would stay at the hotel - and since this time we weren't on a packaged holiday, we would indulge ourselves in the restaurant.

The key is Frank


Our room was all we could have hoped: the miniature soft toys attached to the room keys may have been a gimmick, but I liked them, and room 9 (the goat) was large and comfortable. We visited the Cave Co-op, told the nice young lady about our previous visits and enjoyed tasting the wines which she opened for us. When we made our purchases, she slipped in a bonus bottle, of the wine which she had maintained was not yet ready to drink, but on which she had been overruled by her superior: "Put it away and forget about it," she told us, "then, when it turns up in a couple of years time, you'll see that I was right. And then it'll be time to visit us again."

Which put us in an expansive mood for dinner, ready to be pleased: and once again, something didn't quite click. There was nothing terribly wrong - a limited choice of menu, perhaps, but choice isn't an unmixed blessing - and I don't now remember much about it, though that in itself is not a good sign.

The following morning in the bar, there was jazz for breakfast, under the not-so-watchful eye of a member of staff who was reading the paper, but could be prevailed on to top up the coffee when required. And there were a variety of jams, identifiable as home-made by the variability of their set, if nothing else. Home-made jam seems to have been a recurring theme this holiday: we'd met it before at Les Genêts Fleuris, and were to meet it again in Chinon.
shewhomust: (Default)


It seems perverse to be thinking about last autumn in France; on the one hand the next holiday is beginning to take shape very nicely, thank you - and on the other, it seems to be spring in England, unwary daffodils buffeted by sudden blasts of bitter wind, cold showers and warm sunshine taking turn and turn about.

But there you are: all the time we were in France I was seeing the fall colours, particularly as we drove the long miles of motorway with no chance of photographing the multicoloured curtains alongside. Sometimes it was just one branch catching the sun and flaming bright against the dark green of the tree, but as we turned northwards the colour began to dominate. Great swathes and folds of gold and orange hung against the dark evergreens which lined the hillsides.

The vines too were shifting to their autumn plumage, first peach and apricot, then pink and red.

They were vinifying in Maury as we drove through; we didn't have to leave the car to smell the headiness of the wine to be.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Having been frustrated of a stay by the Canal du Midi in Homps, we emerged from the Gorges de Galamus and headed for Castelnaudary.

A sign at the entrance to the town announced that Castelnaudary is the world cassoulet capital. I was convinced that I'd read somewhere (and I'd assumed it was in Elizabeth David) that cassoulet has six authentic birthplaces, but I can't pin that down: the best I can do is a trinity of cassoulets - from Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, with this last being acknowledged as the first and original. We strolled along the canal from our hotel into town, and found ourselves a restaurant where we could eat our beans in the authentic manner.

Grand bassin

The next morning we investigated the canal further. It's an extraordinary piece of seventeenth century engineering, making a waterway from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 150 miles from Sète to Toulouse, where it joins the Garonne. An artificial lake in the center of Castelnaudary powers a staircase of four locks, and we explored this on foot before driving west, turning homeward but also trying to follow the canal. We weren't vert successful at this, but we did find the Seuil de Naurouze, the watershed which was such a challenge for the canal to cross on its way from one sea to the other. There was little visible sign of this - except the obelisk to Pierre-Paul Riquet, who is given the credit for overcoming this obstacle and making the canal possible (If I understand this correctly, he found a spring which rose near the watershed and divided, flowing half in each direction; is that possible?). The obelisk itself is in a walled enclosure, but rises above it, built on a rocky outcrop.

On the road again, and then back to the canal at Port Lauraguais, which turned out the be a halt on the canal combined with a motorway service station. A shop selling edible souvenirs, including glass jars of cassoulet, tins of confit, baga of beans - I restrained myself, and bought an illustrated guide to the canal. Then we lunched at the café, eating our salad by the window looking out at the water. They order [...] this matter better in France.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Part of the plan for last autumn's holiday was to visit the Cathar castles - some of them, at least. On a previous visit to the region we had sat at the foot of the crag, gazed up at Montségur and decided maybe not, today. On our way south, the low cloud had chased us towards the coast, so now, as we turned back towards the north, we were ready to try again.

Queribus )

Peyrepertuse )

The Gorges de Galamus )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Memo to self: When you say "This French loaf is nice enough, but it is not a real French baguette," bear in mind that nor is the average French baguette. Even in France, a baguette is now a stick of close-textured white bread which toughens when it looses its freshness, rather than the coarse, open-textured, slightly sour loaf that you remember, which had to be bought fresh for each meal because it was rock-hard when stale, and stale within hours.

Having made this note after breakfast, I mentally revised not its content but its tone at lunch time: it's true that the baguette is no longer what it was, but nor is it these days the only bread available. Our lunchtime picnic included delicious organic wholemeal rolls which we had bought at the Carrefour hypermarket on the outskirts of Narbonne.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The hill between Narbonne and Gruissan is the Montagne de la Clape, which we already knew as a wine-producing area, but only because of the corny joke, that we might have a bottle but at least we didn't have a case of La Clape (thank you, D.).

Naturally we wanted to become better acquainted. With nothing better to go on, I had picked up a leaflet at the hotel about Château l'Hospitalet, where we would allegedly find not only a winery but also various artisans and a second-hand bookshop. We had a little trouble locating the place, but eventually pulled off the road and down a drive to a large car-park; below us were a cluster of buildings which had clearly once been a large farm, and above us the vines rose up the slopes. Tractors with huge metal teeth were bustling too and fro among the vines, stripping off the grapes, but the little shops around the farm yard below us were all dark and still; at the very beginning of October, the tourist season was over. On the far side of the courtyard the barn sheltered the great stainless vats, and a door beside it let into a great showroom, where wines from all parts of France were stacked high. A member of staff greeted us politely as he passed on his way to somewhere else, so we wandered around reading the labels and decided that no, there really was nothing here that interested us enough to try to catch someone's attention, and left.

Further research suggests that the wines might actually be worth a try, but that we can get them in Tesco's.

La Clape in the mistNever mind; as we drove away we passed the cheerful red sign of the Mas du Soleilla. It looked individual, characterful, and it looked welcoming, so we turned in, parked by the vines and rang the bell by the garage door. At first nothing happened, then the little dog came running up, followed by his owner who unlocked the up-and-over garage door to reveal a little tasting room with a counter at the far end. She openined bottles, we tasted, we commented on the wines, and on the basis of our reactions more wines were opened - and we came away with five bottles of an extremely agreeable table wine called Jason (it's a moth, apparently) and, nestled in among them, one bottle of their AOC La Clape, wonderful and rich and complex.

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that sometimes it's right to be swayed by first impressions.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We came to the Mediterranean at Gruissan for no better reason than that once we had made our way through Narbonne, that was where the road took us. I almost said that it was straight ahead, and it was, but, in some five miles between the city and the sea, the road looped through genuinely mountainous country, all rocks and scrub and heights, before depositing us on the flatlands of the coast, beaches and lagoons and sandspits, and the tower at the centre of the old village the only vertical.

Gruissan is a small resort, but still manages to be three places, continuously built up yet quite separate; there is the old village, the modern port and then, separated from these by a mile of causeway along which the road and the canal run side by side, there is Gruissan Plage, row upon row upon row of chalets, holiday homes almost completely deserted on this grey Sunday on the cusp of September and October. Several of the hotels were closed, but the one which was open - the Accueil de la Place, Welcome on the Beach - was delighted to see us, and we were charmed by the warmth of our reception (and by the way their sign had the 'welcome' message carried on the image of a seagull dive-bombing anyone who lingered in the doorway).

Accueil - Welcome!


The old village )

The modern port )

The Cimetiere Marin )

Of the two restaurants open near our hotel, on the first evening we ate moules frites at the one with the maritime theme; on the second, we ate crudités which included bulots (right, I've done that now, I won't need to do it again...) at the Spanish restaurant, while Francis Cabrel's almost-Dylan played in the background.

All the photos of Gruissan
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Caution - grape harvest!
I would never have guessed that I'd still be writing up holiday posts (and still sorting holiday photos) into the New Year. But here we are...

Sunday morning in Talairan was grey and misty; we weren't really tempted to go for a walk, even without our host's warnings that the waymarked path was unsafe on Sundays, when half the village went hunting (English hunting is an aristocratic ritual; French hunting involves bringing home good things to eat). The route we had planned to drive took us up into the mountains, and bad visibility made that seem less inviting, too.

So we kept to the lower slopes, among the vineyards. Road signs warned us that the harvest was in progress; there were groups of grape-pickers with their heavy baskets, and tractors laden with grapes trundled along the roads. As we left each village, more signs thanked us for tolerating these slow vehicles: "Les vignerons de S. Laurent vous remercient de votre comprehension."

We stopped in the little town of Lagrasse for a stroll through the old streets and across the river to the gate of the abbey, then back past gardens to the main street. A shop specialising in local produce kept us entertained with olives to taste and wines to buy until it was time for lunch at the café.

In the afternoon we drove on, and, almost without meaning to, came down to the Mediterranean at Gruissan.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
It's ten to four, and dusk is well advanced; outside it is either raining or snowing or sleeting, or a mixture of the three. Naturally, I want to write about our autumn holiday.

We found a bed and breakfast in Talairan, in the heart of Corbieres country. The other guests, two American wine enthusiasts, had been guided by the proprietor, and had booked into a very grand restaurant a half-hour's drive away. We had driven far enough for one day, and wanted to be able to relax with a bottle of the local wine, so we settled for dinner in the café.

It's a real village café; there's a group of men watching the sport on television (though the main event, the rugby, hadn't started yet), and a small child riding a bike with training wheels round and round the billiard table. Along one wall are strung the pages of an old calendar, on which vignerons pose naked with strategically placed bottles and barrels, WI style.

We chose a formica topped table as far from the television as we could, and the young proprietress came and told us what was on the menu; then sent a man to advise us about wine. With his help, we opted for a Domaine Serres-Mazard Cuvée Henri Mazard 2003 (which we later realised could not have been more local - the round wooden door of their chais was next door to our B & B.

More to the point, it was delicious, with all the up-front fruit of a New World cabernet, but rich and complex. It accompanied us happily through a salad, steak and chips for [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, rabbit and chips for me, and cheese. There was nothing grand about the meal, but everything was fresh and perfectly prepared. The rabbit was excellent, golden outside and taut, juicy white flesh within.

Next morning over breakfast, our fellow quests asked nervously about our dinner: "We saw there was rabbit on the menu... Was there anything else?"

Unplanned

Dec. 3rd, 2007 09:27 pm
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Over breakfast we planned out our day, using the paper tablemats with the gaily coloured tourist map on them. Inevitably, the things we ended up doing were not the things we had been planning to do, and vice versa.

Dolmen des FadosWe set off for Siran, where there was alleged to be a "Maison du Minervois", which we hoped would allow us to sample and then purchase a selection of the local wines. But on the way there we saw a signpost pointing off the road to the "Dolmen des Fados" (fados = fées = fairies, of course), so we swerved off the road into the car park: sunshine, sandy slopes, pine trees, no-one there but us and, on a low hill, the dolmen, a long passageway leading into an antechamner and finally an inner chamber, 24 metres long in all, walled with great stone slabs. Even if we had known it was there, it would have been exceptional, one of the major stone-age monuments in France, but to be there on pure impulse was magical.

Of the Maison du Minervois, on the other hand, there was no sign. It may have been in the hotel, which was closed, and may have been for sale.

We stopped in La Livinière to shop for a picnic lunch*, and in the little supermarket picked up a leaflet about L'Ostal Cazes: a winery situated in the former tile works, with a discovery trail around the olive plantation. This sounded good, and how hard could it be to find: the tile works had to be pretty visible, with that chimney. We drove three times round the village looking for it, then gave up, and, on our way out, drove straight past it. We tasted a couple of delicious, but not cheap, wines, and dipped bread in olive oil, and decided that we could maybe afford one bottle of wine and one of oil, especially if we were going to walk among the olive trees. And then we went and did so.

OlivesI'm not blasé about vineyards: that moment on each trip when you realise that you are, at last, driving between vines, that still thrills me. But olive trees are even more exotic than vines, and I loved that walk among the little trees with their grey-green leaves and their fruit.

The plan was to stop for the night in Homps, where the Syndicat de l'Appellation Minervois has a cellar, by the side of the Canal du Midi - a chance to make those purchases we had missed earlier, and to stroll by the canal. But the hotel was full, we knew when we were beaten, so we drove on south, out of the Minervois and into Corbières.




*We also bought a copy of the Guardian which carried the story that researchers had decoded the genome of the pinot noir grape. Inevitably, let a bunch of oenophiles research the genome of a grape, and they're going to choose pinot noir - whose genome turns out to be by a clear margin more complex than that of human beings.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
South of the Montagne Noire is a rocky landscape dotted with villages, with vineyards and with olive groves. The rivers run dry in the summer, but their valleys are deep cut, so the village (the use of the word "cité is a tribute its age, or its beauty, but not to its size) at the confluence of the Cesse and the Brian huddles high on its rock surrounded by a sheer drop on all sides, linked to the valley side by a single narrow bridge.

The name Minerve reflects this lofty position (Menerba in occitan, the root men, as in menhir) rather than the patronage of Athene, Despite which we spent two happy nights at the Relais Chantovent, flinging the window wide open to look across the roof of the restaurant opposite to the vines across the river, crossing the street to dine in the restaurant under the guidane of the smiling maître d'hotel with the Vercingetorix moustache.

The old pressBetween those two evenings was a busy day. We followed the waymarked walk, crossing the river bed and climbing to the plateau, making a wide loop around the village, enjoying the sudden shift in the vegetation. At Nasbinals we had walked through broadly familiar plants, but now we were among Mediterranean scrub, scented garrigue of wild thyme and spiky thistles. We saw vines, and the first olive trees of the trip, and a rusty old press to confirm that we had identified them correctly.

In the afternoon we drove to Saint Jean de Minervois in search of the muscat we had drunk as an aperitif the previous evening, with no more to guide us than the name "Barroubio", but found it, triumphantly, after several false turns, a property several miles out of saint Jean, along minor roads between the glaring white soils that produce the muscat grapes. We tasted a variety of wines, the dry white and a pleasant, easy-drinking red, but when we reached the sweet muscat, Madame removed the bucket into which we had been emptying our glasses: "This one," she said, "you will drink." She was right; we emptied our glasses, and would have licked them if we could.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Among the many charms of Minerve is the Librairie Paroli, a bookshop with chairs outside, and a couple of tables inside, where they serve tea and coffee. Like the little town, it is on several levels, with steps down from the reception area to a larger bookshop space on the right, and even further down to the tiny room where the proprietor sits at the back.

After nosing around the obscure poetry and the collectable and very expensive comics, I selected a book published in 1951 as the second in a series of illustrated guides to the regions of France, their scenery, cookery and and traditions. This was the volume about the south-east (the south-west, where we now were, had been volume 1) and it cost 20 euros, which was more than I'd usually spend on a whim - but perfectly reasonable, and it was a very charming book. The lady who took my money made polite conversation, asking me "Vous aimez cuisiner?" I said, yes, I did like to cook, and I also liked old books. So she leafed through it, and conceded that yes, it was a nice book, it had pretty illustrations. She called down to the boss: "The lady is buying Recettes et Paysages." The answer came back up "Oh, that's a nice book." I felt quite vindicated.

It is a nice book, too, as I shall explain at length - and illustrate - behind the cut. )

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