Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feb 2013

This month my Blog is not about France, much.
I do have to add a small complaint, The bakery truck that has stopped in front of our house for all the years we have lived here, has stopped! ZUT! It was so easy to get fresh bread daily just a few steps from the front door. Oh well, we will survive, I am sure of it!

ISLAND OF MALTA  122 square miles...
Maltese boat-  called a Luzza. Look carefully at the eye in the
yellow at the front of the boat.

What to do in the middle of a very cold and wet winter. Go somewhere warm.

Keith went out and booked a trip to Malta for a week. Went through an agent so hotel and plane were all arranged and prepaid.
And then just before we leave, we both get the flu. After discussion and the problems of trying to cancel, we decided to go ahead with the trip, sun had to be better than the cold damp weather here.
Our plane left late afternoon from Orly airport in Paris. It is only about 2 1/2 hour flight, but we did not get into Malta until 10:30, then by pre-arranged transport were taken to out hotel at the north end of Malta.
The island of Malta is only 122 square miles, so not very big (Long Island is about 1,400 sq miles). The ride, winding through all  the villages, took a while and it was 11:30 when we arrived at the hotel. Also since it was dark, we had no idea of the counntryside. We stayed in the village of Mellieħa.  If you do not know anything about Malta, it had been occupied by the British for many years, and everyone there speaks english as a second language. Tourism is their trade.
The actual history of Malta is very very old. First known people to inhabit the island arrived about 5,000 BC, and stone temples were built around the islands 3500-3000 BC, 1,000 years before the pyramids of Egypt.

Although not in great shape health wise we did our best to see some of the important sites. The local bus runs to most of the villages on the island, you just have to have a good map and willingness to try to figure it all out. Very cheap method of transport. Yes a car would have been a whole lot easier, but as the english had occupied Malta for many years, they drive on the other side of the road, or in the middle or whatever! So neither of us wanted to try driving. Roads are not in the best of condition either ( I thought some fillings would be loosened by the rattle of the bus )! Our bus was crowded at times, standing room only, and yet this is not high season. I can not imagine what one does in high season! But it worked for us while we were there.

So on with the trip. We bought tickets to the Hypoggeum in January, only way to get in because only  10 visitors an hour are allowed. This is an underground site, from around 2500 BC. Original purpose not known, but in the end it may have served as a burial site (it is estimated that there were 7000 skeletons in the necropolis).  No photos are allowed, for the protection of the site.  So glad we had tickets. Very interesting. A small statue of a reclining woman was found on the site. It is only about 6 inches in length. .

A few blocks away is one of the temple sites, Tarxien Temple. Again, the age of the structure, 3000 BC. The roofs of the temples are thought to have been stone, none exist now. This "little" lady is at the Tarxien site. There are other examples of the ample ladies at the museum in Valetta. There is no information or explanations, all is speculation.

We visted a couple of other temple sites, one on the island of Gozo. It is thought that the huge stones were quaried and then rolled into place on stones that had been rounded, like ball bearings. However they did it, it is utterly amazing. Then around 2500BC, this population disappears totally and the islands are not inhabited.

So on to other sites around Malta.  We took a harbor tour on Wed, probably the coldest day we had. It was a bit chilly!!
St Julian...harbor tour. The number of large yachts tucked into the
harbors is unreal.  Lots of money sitting there!

How the villages rise up from the coast...lots of stairs!
The cat...Notice the dormers/balcony on the houses.
The photo  was taken on Friday on the way to Gozo. Gozo is a small island just north of the main island. Again the attractions are old temples and some churches, beaches and other sites. We had a gorgeous day, and used the Hop On Hop Off bus system. We did not get to see everything, but had a good day.
Not the best photo, a little hazy too, but look at the color of the
Mediterranean...beautiful blue
Ulysses et Calypso..standing at the cave site where
Calypso held Ulysses captive. That is what they claim.
 Again look at the color of the sea!

As you can see, we had some wonderful sunny weather. It was so good to be warm and bask in the sun.
Photo  from Mdina walls at the countryside

Again just a photo of the countryside...stark! But always the sea :)

I took 399 photos. Do not want to boar you too much, so I will quit the travel log here.Just a few last photos of Mellieħa.
The church at Mellieħa
View from the plaza of Mellieħa

Last evening looking up at Mellieħa from the beach
Our plane from Malta was to land at 6:30pm at Orly airport. Then luggage and transport into Paris, not sure how the connections would all work. So Sunday night we stayed over in Paris. I had booked a hotel not far from the Gare Lyon. We had a nice dinner at the restaurant (Keith was into oysters) and we knew we were back in France. And the wine was so good too. It was a nice evening in spite of the snow and cold.

What is happening here? Not a lot right now. We are in our winter pattern, Keith to Bligny on Saturdays and I have french class, pottery and photo club.
Have to make one comment here, since the horse meat scandal has appeared all over the news, I was shopping yesterday at the store for dinner. In the frozen food section was a note that some food could contain horse meat, but it is not harmful to your health. By choice, I do not choose to eat horse meat, but it does seem to be a huge waste to throw all the food out! Let people make the choice? That is just my take on it.

A very easy apéritif

1 endive
Bleu cheese
walnuts chopped ( or pecans)

  1. Carefully pull the leaves off the endive and set aside
  2. Crumble the bleu cheese
  3. Add honey and nuts to your taste (not too much-careful
  4. Place a spoon full on each endive leaf and "artfully" arrange on a platter

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jan 2013

Galette des rois
  JANUARY 2013

It has been foggy, rainy, blustery,and a down right miserable month! A little boring for the most part too.

It is the month of the Epininay and it is celebrated with the Galette des rois. The bottom and top are puff pastry with an almond paste filling. Both my Photo Club and the Assoc de Histoire celebrate the first meeting of the year with Crémant and Galette des rois. I am almost positive that there are no calories in a piece of this!!

My Photo Club also takes it annual photo, and some members come in costume. If you want to see this photo: click here: photo .

To get ready for the Association (history, heritage  genealogy....), I had to get the budget report in order and also prepare a video of the work done by the Flora and Fauna subgroup. Marie Therese and I put in time getting it all ready.

So although the weather was ugly outside, there were a few chores to be done inside. But that said, it also means that I did not take many photos.

The other project however is the Photo Club. We have to have our photos ready this next week for the Exposition in May!! The theme this year is Form. I have put together a few ideas, trying to pick the finals. I am only going to submit 2 this year.
spring color


Different forms...know what they are?

I did end the month on a fun note, however. I have mentioned before the Saint Vincent ( pronounced more like- van san). He is the patron saint of the vines. His feast day is Jan 22. Here in this region of France there is  always the BIG celebration, always in a new location (this year north of Dijon at Chatillon sur Seine). Paper said there were 30,000 people there this last weekend.
But each wine village also has a small celebration. This year Marie Therese is the "guardian' of Saint Vincent for the village of Messanges. So of course we celebrated in Messanges (Messanges and the village of Curtil celebrated together). We started with Mass at 10am, then the procession to the community room of Messanges ( not that far), and we were served an apertif (Crémant, Kir, juice, and snack..gougeres, of course, were included).
After the apertif at Messanges, we went over to the community room at Curtil and had a delicious lunch ( lunch is a misnommer actually....we had paté for the 1st plate, a fish -2nd plate, a dinner-3rd plate, a cheese -4th plate and dessert -5th plate and somewhere in between a trou bourguignon, and fancy candy nibbles with coffee!!!!!oh la la la la la) . The weather was supposed to get nasty, so when it started to rain at 5pm, a few of us took off. All in all, a fun day and a great way to spend a dreary Sunday afternoon.
Carrying St Vincent

Lining up for the walk over to the Salle de Fete. St Vincent of Curtil in front
Everyone lined up for the photo

And now "lunch"

That is about all, really.

Recipe of the Month
Chicken Girard Gaston

I decided to pick a recipe that originates in Dijon. It is a great winter recipe.

The recipe was prepared by the wife of the mayor of Dijon, Girard Gaston..
Today it is a very Burgundian recipe.
So have a glass of Kir ( to celebrate the mayor Canon Kir of Dijon) while making this recipe to celebrate this mayor of Dijon. 

Serves 6
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts.. traditional recipe uses chicken from Bresse
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion sliced
  • ½ teaspoon  mild paprika ( no hot paprika here in Dijon!)
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup Crème Fraiche 
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère Cheese or Comte
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
 2. Add the butter and oil to the frying pan large enough to hold the chicken and heat on medium high.
 3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
 4. Add the chicken breasts to the hot butter and brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
 5.Remove the chicken  to a baking dish
 6. Put the baking dish in the oven to finish cooking the chicken ( 15
minutes, but it will depend on the thickness of the breast)
7.In the same skillet turn down the heat to medium and add the onion slices and sauté the onions until golden brown.
 8. Stir in the paprika and add the wine. Let the wine reduce by half.
 9. Stir in the Dijon mustard and then the crème fraiche. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes and then pour over the cooked chicken.
10. Add tge  Gruyère cheese on top of the chcken and sauce and then place back in the oven to warm the chicken and melt the cheese.
Et VOILA.... a great chicken dish.  What is there not to like...chicken, butter, creme fraiche, and cheese!