Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Juillet - July 2015

July - Juillet 2015 

We had two celebrations of Independence  this year. One for the 4th of July and the other is the 14th of July (Fêtes d'indépendance here is called the Fête Nationale).
Actually, we celebrated the 14th on Saturday night the 11th. Messanges had a large Saturday night fete with the fireworks, light works on the plaza, a band, and beverages.

We had a nice dinner, talked leisurely over some Crémant and then went to watch the fireworks ( feu d'artifice).

The show ended in splendor, and people went back to the plaza for an evening of conviviality.

Keith and I left for home just before midnight. Too old to party all night long!

A note on french holidays, when the holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday, the Monday or Friday are called "pont" days, or a "bridge" for a long weekend. So the 14th this year landed on Tuesday and many took Monday off for a long 4 day weekend. Same as the US, but it has a name here.

The next day, Sunday, we decided to go out for a picnic. With no destination in mind, we wandered through the countryside. The sunflowers were in bloom.

Taken through the windshield..Keith does not always stop to
indulge me and my photos...well perhaps we would never
get anywhere if he did!!
Keith thought of a few places, but since it was a holiday weekend, others had arrived before us. So we drove on and finally took the next place we found because it was 1pm and we were getting hungry. Not the scenic overlook I had envisioned, but it worked.

There he is...we have bread, cheese, salami, fresh tomatoes
cucumbers and cantaloupe (of course water and wine too).
I have not been on any walks lately. We have had a lot of weather over 90° with humidity!! Now, we are in drought conditions. Yes, although the humidity was 40%, nary a drop of water on the ground. In June we had several days without water, then a couple days of rain. Now it has not rained since mid June! It is very very dry, and fires have broken out here and there in the woods around Dijon, and some worse around France.
Yesterday morning there was some rain, but not even an 1/2 inch! Not enough to change anything.
Our front yard!! A little sad..and it crunches too when
I walk on it. We lost one bush, hoping not to loose
more of the bushes or our trees!
We have water bands in place (by the Prefecture), so I only water my tomatoes, which is allowed after 7pm. The rain barrel is empty and has been for a while. Burgundy is one of the wet areas of France, but not now. The whole east side of France has been under a "watch" because of the extreme heat.
The last few days it has cooled down. Temperatures are back to normal, warm days, and down to about 60-65 at night. Finally can sleep again.

This month I met Chris (our english friend) on the west coast of France. She came through the Eurotunnel with car, and I arrived by train. We headed about 1 hour south for the Baie de Somme.
We stayed at St Valery sur Somme. The Baie is known for its birds. I had arranged a guided tour of the park Marquenterre at 9am Saturday. I am going to bore you with photos I took of our 2 day visit. It is truly a remarkable place to visit. Will have to go again another time.
There were so many birds, over 400 photos to plow through, but I will not put more than 15 photos here. Note that these were taken with a telephoto perched on my walking stick or the small cut out of the bird blind!
View of one part of the Park Marquenterre

Starting our hike with our guide at Marquenterre

Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
So many to birds...
These are Hansen horses, a breed special to the Baie
It was bred from a french horse and the fjord horse of Norway

Grande Aigrette ,Egret (Ardea alba) at the park

This may be Aigrette garzette (Egretta garzetta)
Taken from my bedroom window on the bay
at St Valery -note black beak


Geese -Oies cendrées ( Anser anser) 

Great blue heron- too bad the sun was so strong
it really washed out the color of the bird,
and he was really a long distance away...note the duck too
Storks- always thought of them in the north east of France in the
Alsace.. White stork : Cigogne Blanche

White stork : Cigogne Blanche
White stork with baby in nest and Spatule Blanche(Common spoonbill)
Now just a few photos taken in St Valery...really, only 3 photos.
B&B Boisfontain in St Valery..pretty old rue
no cars allowed on this very old passage

old boat...been there a long time!

tide is out
Now just a couple of photos more..we passed through Amiens, Reims ("ran se" - have no idea why is is pronounced that way), then Epernay for some Champagne, and Troyes ("twah"  like trois -3 in french). In Epernay we stopped at one place for a glass, then decided to go to Mercier for a tour. We bought the tour with tasting of 3 champagnes- yikes it was 3 glasses of champagne! We took our time, looking at the gift shop and finally finished. Luckily we were on foot. The tour at Mercier is down in the caves and it is a train ride. As for Amiens and Reims, both cities have extraordinary cathedrals, both on the UNESCO list. The kings of France were crowned at Reims. We had lunch at Troyes on our route to Gevrey. Nice few day trip.
Speaking of UNESCO, the vines of Gevrey-Chambertin ( well actually the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune) are now UNESCO sites. So I practically have a UNESCO site in my backyard. Not sure of all the details, but it does mean that vines can not be dug up for parking lots!! Also, old walls can not be destroyed ( some old dry stone walls were taken down in one of the villages for parking spaces, that can no longer be done). So it does guard some of the patrimoine (heritage), but I do not know the implications for the vignerons.
OK back to a couple more photos...
And it looks like rain! at Amiens

Face of Mary at Amiens

The crying angel- Amiens

This is a statue from the cave at Mercier. It was made
to advertise Mercier Champagne...but note the
scantily clad caused a "scandel" and she
was put in the caves hidden away from the public!!!
I did not have my camera at Reims. The stained glass windows by Marc Chagall are very interesting. If you plug it into the internet, there are lots of images.

That concludes my brief tour of a few places in France. Always more to see.

Keith? He is doing his own tour this week and next. This week he is riding his bike (with all his camping equipment) to the Semaine Federal. What is the Semaine Federal? It is a week schedule in a different region of France each year exclusively for bike riding ( I guess I could go and there is some hiking, but I will be ___&é#_ if I will sleep in a tent). About 10,000  riders come from around the world to ride at this event. This year it is at Albi ( department of the Tarn). He might write a journal when he returns.

That is all for this month.

Recipe of the Month

It is July and the cherry tomatoes are ripening. So sweet. So one hot night I threw the following together. Not much is measured, just toss together. It is so refreshing with that sweet taste of the little cherry tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS      ( for 2 or 3 )

  • about 3 cups cherry tomatoes -fresh from the garden
  • handful of basil
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 1/4 - 1/3 olive oil
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • pasta
  1. Grate the cheese
  2. Cut one half of the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters
  3. Put other half of cherry tomatoes in blender with oil
  4. Blend until smooth
  5. add cream and blend
  6. add salt to taste
  7. Boil pasta (I used angel hair)
  8. Toss pasta with cold sauce, cheese and fresh basil

Friday, July 3, 2015

Juin 2015

June 2015
Happy 4th of July

This has been an incredible month.

Today, 3 of July it is a little hot!! The temperatures this week has been hovering around 100°. And it is humid here too.
We are under a weather warning, or heat warning. In France a heat wave is called a "la canicule". Looking at the forecast, there does not appear to be an end in site!

At the beginning of the month I went for a few walks in the woods. I organized one walk for photos of flowers. Also worked on another window dressing for the Office de Tourisme in Gevrey for the Assoc. The theme was the old train that was called the "Tacot".

Here are a few photos of flowers.
Ancolie commune
Walking up the hillside

Limodore (rare orchid)
Then Keith and I packed our bags and headed to Greece. We took 11 days and picked Athens, Olympia and Delphi. There was an extra day and we stopped at Loutraki.
I am at a loss for words, the tumble back in time and history is amazing, mind-blowing, incredible....

To see things that are 5,000 years old, to see the site where the oracle spoke, where the Olympian games were played, where the Trojan war was started; the experience can not be put into words. And even though we went to these sites, we saw so little of what Greece has to offer.

We started in Athens, and of course the first thing that comes to mind is the Parthenon. Of course this was the "wrong" season to go because of the crowds, but who knew it was going to be so bad. From the ticket place, you have to climb up more. Here we were herded like cattle! Thick crowd all moving up, and you pass a few structures, but you can not stop!! Once we were on top of the Acropolis, it was not bad, it is a huge space.

 We visited other sites and museums! Other sites were not crowded at all. Of course a few cruise ships had come into port and the Acropolis is probably the only site they see. The National museum is fantastic. Some of the pieces there are truly amazing. I had not heard of the Antikythera mechanism, but there is was, not totally whole, but it has been x-rayed and studied for years (analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes from about 200 BC)! Also, a helmet from the Persian war at Marathon (Keith corrected me and this is at the museum in Olympia)!

Theater of Dionysus (large photo much clearer)

Temple of  Hephaistion

Evening at the Monastriraki place.. Acropolis in the background
 As we walked around this plaza, there were vendors selling fruits, vegetables and trinkets of every kind, and restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream vendors. On the balcony of the building on the right, suddenly a scene from the opera Carmen broke out. What a treat! The soprano was excellent.

Tomb of the Unknown soldier

After Athens, we rented a car (with GPS ) and head to the Peloponesse. It took forever to exit Athens. I knew there were mountains, but only one passage brought me to my knees. The road was hardly wide enough for goats!!( OK a little exagerated- but just a little). It is listed as a passage through one of the prettiest villages, but I have no tales to tell. A tear in my eye, lump in my throat and Keith drove on with in spite of my moaning! It was about 30 minutes of terror. After that the other mountain road were a piece of cake!

Finally we arrived at Olympia. Our hotel (Best Western Europa) was spectacular! It was up from the village, so we ate dinner there under the olive trees. Gorgeous view and wonderful setting, who could ask for more!
Dinner with a view

We visited the historic site, and it is huge. There is the site and then the museum. It takes a good couple of hours for each. So we had a lunch break in between.
The Olympian stadium....600 feet exactly. We walked it, did
not attempt to run it! It could hold 40,000 people sitting on the
hill side (men only were allowed). The line you see if
the starting line. On the right midway are the judges seats.
Not much has changed
Athena from the temple of Apollo

Olympia_Hermes Carrying the Infant Dionysus
by Praxiteles_ 4th century BC
After Olympia, we went to Delphi. The oracle was not there unfortunately, I had so many questions!
Delphi is perched on the side of a mountain. In fact all of these sites demand a lot of walking, and many add climbing.
Temple of Apollo
Delphi mountain view

Looking down from further up the hill..

Delphi_ sunset view from restaurant
This was about the end of our explorations. Sunday night we stayed in Loutraki at a seaside hotel.
Then we had a night near Athens so we could fly out early Tuesday morning. Since we had time on Monday, we went to Mycenae.
Mycenae looking towards Argos and a view of the sea.
Did Helen launch 1000 ships?
It was here, Agamemnon lived, brother to Menelaus.
Menelaus was the husband to Helen.
Ah , Homer
Probably too many trip photos already. It can be a bore, so I tried to keep it to a minimum. I took over 600 photos!! I do have 58 photos here if interested ...some are the same of course.
Flickr :

So that is how the month ended. It was our anniversary and it was a special way to celebrate.

Recipe of the Month

I made this the other night for chicken on the grill. It was very good! For 2 chicken breasts, I halved the recipe.


YIELD 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion


  1.  Mix together all the marinade ingredients, I used the small chopper/blender so it was almost a paste.
  2. Rubbed on the chicken breasts that I had cut to open (butterfly style and flattened) and let set for 2 plus hours. The chicken was thin, so about 7 minutes on a hot grill.