Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family cycling in Charente Maritime

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes river Charente Saint Sevinien
River Charente, Saint Savinien

Yesterday I was treated to morning coffee in one of our favourite bars and lunch in another, as we just couldn't make up our minds which one to go to. I had to work for my treats though, with a 25km hilly bike ride to coffee, another 15km to lunch and then 18km home. Some may say that following 58km yesterday, the last thing my legs wanted today was another 40km ride, but some may say that was just what they needed. All I'm saying is that it's not often14 year old Ed actually asks to spend time with us on a family bike ride, so I was going no matter how tired my legs were.

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes river Charente Taillebourg
Taillebourg Charente Maritime

We live ten kilometres from the Charente Maritime border and whether we hit the coast or stay inland we often enjoy a day out there. Today we cycled a relatively flat 40km circuit taking in small towns and villages with Romanesque churches, ramparts and chateaux, including Saint Sevinien, Taillebourg and Fenioux. We cycled through vineyards, poppy fields and wheat fields just beginning to turn yellow. We traced the banks of the river Charente and cycled through marshlands where storks were nesting. We had sun, cloud and at our beer stop, a bit of drizzly rain. It was a lovely day and we even met a few fellow cyclists.

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes Taillebourg
Taillebourg Charente Maritime
The first one was a Frenchman with a very old bike who flagged us down at the side of the road to borrow a pump. Next we saw a very Parisian-looking couple effortlessly whirring downhill on their electrically assisted matching bikes, as we struggled up hill with nothing but tired legs and orange flavoured sports drink to power us. Then there was the sleek real cyclist, wearing the Lycra strip of a local cycling club, who breezed past with a courtesy ‘bonjour’ as I was puffing up another hill. But I was quick. I leapt on his back wheel and used his drag to power me up the hill, overtaking Ed and Ade with ease. Well, OK, I'm lying. I spluttered a bonjour, but before the thought of tagging behind him had entered my weary head, he'd gone to catch up with my boys. Oh well, I can but dream and anyway I'm sure he only had the power to overtake as he'd been using my drag to climb most of the hill.

Tomorrow I will not be on my bike, but it won't be a day of rest as the lawns need mowing and the car needs cleaning.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My turn for a bad day

French Village Diaries life in France
Tap water should not look like this!

Top tip of the day – if the water coming out of your tap looks like the contents of the glass above, do not put on a wash containing all of your husband’s white work shirts. They will reappear looking like you have been tie-dying with rust, trust me! Although in my defence I didn’t know there was a problem with the water until after I’d put the machine on and then noticed the watermen and their little van working outside the house.

This was just one thing that I could have done without yesterday, especially as I’d completely run out of washing tablets, so in order to attempt to re-wash them I had to go begging to the neighbours. I’m really not usually this disorganised, but as I had been housebound for almost two days, waiting in for a seemingly elusive courier delivery, I hadn’t been shopping.

Added to this, Adrian was getting itchy feet, the sun was out, but we were in (desperate not to miss the courier) and his bike was calling. He was also under stress as the work shirts I was trying to wash were for a job in London next week and there was a UK rail strike planned for just when he needed to get from Stansted to London, London to Reading and then Reading to London. Following on from Mini's bad day earlier in the week, yesterday it was our turn.

Thankfully, the second wash of the work shirts resulted in a line full of bright white washing, phew. Just as I finished hanging it out, the courier delivery arrived, yippee and then the news on radio informed us that the rail strike had been called off, hooray! I decided a celebratory meal was in order and loaded up the bread machine with the pizza dough ingredients and spent some time working in the garden while it did the hard work for me. However, all was not well. The paddle had jammed solid, so all that had happened was that the ingredients had been heated gently but not mixed. I rescued the dough and kneaded it by hand while Adrian set about fixing the jammed mechanism. The pizzas were delicious and the bread machine lives to mix another day, but I was glad to get to bed last night and I’m rather glad it isn’t a Friday 13th today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book review of Clancy Goes To France by Emma Kate Herbert

My review today is for Clancy Goes To France: A Mother and Daughter Take On A 3,000 Mile Road Trip In Continental Europe With A Vintage Car (Travels With Lola On The Back Roads Book 1) by Emma Kate Herbert. This memoir about an unusual road trip in France ticked so many of my boxes I couldn’t wait to start reading it.
French Village Diaries book review travel memoir Clancy Goes To Europe Emma Kate Herbert
Clancy Goes To France

We join Emma, her 3 year old daughter Lola and their 40 year old Peugeot (Clancy) as they make a 3000 mile road trip around France, recording what they see every day to share with Emma’s father whose MS and cancer mean he is unable to return to France. I felt it was a lovely thing to share her experiences while fundraising and raising awareness about MS along the way. I loved the author’s passion for her subject, her determination and her honesty about the ups and downs she experienced and although I’ve read many travel memoirs in France this one really does offer something a bit different.

The responsibility on Emma’s shoulders as the only adult in charge of a vintage car, a three year old, plus all the driving, route planning and decision-making made for an exhausting challenge where she often struggled to live up to her own expectations of her dream trip. I think she did a marvellous job and really shouldn’t be disappointed at what they failed to see, as from personal experience no matter how many road trips you take in France, there is always more to see.

The pace of the book was good and her descriptions of France kept me interested, but I did struggle a bit with the flow, as I felt there was a lot of unnecessary repetition in the narrative. While this never stopped me wanting to read more, I would have had a more enjoyable read without the sense of déjà vu.

What I loved more than anything was Emma’s attitude of seizing the moment and taking the adventure and I couldn’t help feeling Lola is one very lucky little lady to have a Mum like Emma and I hope they continue to travel and make memories together. I also hope that through this book she is able to encourage others to make their own memories.

You can follow Emma and Lola at their website and on Facebook where she shares plenty of photos. Emma is an active fundraiser for the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society and will be making donations from the sales of this book to them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mini the dog has a bad day

French Village Diaries dogs animal tales
Mini the dog

Mini is a rather spoiled seven year old black Labrador cross who has lived with us since she was a puppy. She has a choice of sleeping spaces in the lounge, her bed, complete with cosy, duvet base, or two fleece covered sofas that she prefers to stretch out on rather than share with us.

She is groomed and walked every day, gets to play ball whenever she demands and is much loved. She adores and is adored by Ed, who walks her regularly and happily shares a sun lounger with her.

When we go out, she has a safe space in the front courtyard with access to sunny spots, soft grass, water and a shady, sheltered area with her outdoor bed. However, all was not well when we returned home this morning. Mini didn't run to the gate, keen to greet us, instead she was stood by her bed and wasn't happy. An intruder (who I've nicknamed Goldilocks) was curled up in her bed and was showing no sign of fear (or desire to move) despite a large black dog bearing down on her. In that very snooty way cats have, she just ignored the fuss going on around what she feels is now her new bed. Goldilocks please go home, Mini isn't the friendliest of dogs when it comes to sharing and I'm sure you must have a far less smelly bed at your home.

French Village Diaries cats animal tales
Goldilocks the intruder
This blog is linked up with the Eco-Gites of Lenault Animal Tales blog linky.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

My patisserie challenge, tartelette aux fraise

My patissiere challenge, tartelette aux fraises

Welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself.

My choice today, the tartelette aux fraises, just screamed the arrival of summer and if I'm honest looked almost too good to eat, almost. The crisp pastry shell is home to a pool of crème pâtissière which is then topped with a tower of fresh strawberries that are glazed and finished with an artistic swirl of cream. 

Difficult to eat daintily, but oh so worth the mess, I loved the combination of fresh strawberries with cream and crème pâtissière. The sweetness was just right and my only complaint was that it didn't last long enough, but there is always next week. This made me smile when I saw it at the boulangerie this morning and I was still smiling when I finished eating it.

Something else that made me smile this weekend was the HOPE book sale. With thousands of books to rummage through, I can always find something on a French theme that I've not yet read and here were my lucky finds today.

HOPE book sale