Wednesday, December 29, 2021

As another year draws to a close

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership


Three years of owning my Brompton

Today I am celebrating three years of Brompton bicycle ownership and I’m still enjoying the fun, fitness and freedom that #KTTinyTourer has given me. Every year has brought new adventures and new places to explore, as well as seen me challenge myself to longer distances and harder mountain climbs. It is no exaggeration to say that owning a Brompton has changed my life for the better.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
January cycling


Despite turning fifty this year, I struggled to set myself cycling challenges for 2021. I would have loved a long-distance tour, ideally one that crossed France north to south, or east to west, or maybe from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean, but that wasn’t going to be possible. I did decide on a mini challenge, to cycle a minimum of 10km every day, during the month of January, which was a real success in terms of helping to beat the winter blues, so my plan is to make it an annual January challenge. 

 

Having cycled less than one thousand kilometres the year before I bought Katie the Tiny Tourer, in my first two years I’d clocked up almost eight thousand five hundred kilometres, so decided it would be a good challenge to reach fifteen thousand kilometres by the end of 2021. Sadly, I have failed, but only just. For a year where Covid-19 restrictions and work slightly clipped my cycle touring wings, I still managed to cycle further than last year and have reached the grand total of fourteen thousand kilometres since December 2019. I can’t be too harsh on myself. 

 

My 2021 cycling highlights 

We knew there would be no summer holiday this year, as I was working from the beginning of July until the end of October, but we did manage to squeeze in some unforgettable short breaks. 


French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Salers in the Cantal
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In May we spent five days cycling in the Corrèze, Cantal and Puy-de-Dôme departments, where the climbing rivalled that of the Pyrénees and the gorges of the Haute Dordogne were stunning. 


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Looking down on the Lot
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In June we returned to the Lot where we enjoyed cycling through vineyards and river gorges, as well as sampling lots of patisseries. It was only a five-day break, but we clocked up four hundred kilometres, including two 100km days. 


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne


In July we spent a long weekend in Chalais, in the south of the Charente department, where the weather wasn’t as kind and the accommodation was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. We still managed some lovely cycling through sunflower fields and along old railway lines, taking in pretty locations like Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, Riberac and Montguyon.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Summer in the Cognac vineyards


In September we celebrated my birthday with two 100km days, one to Jarnac, through the Cognac vineyards, and one crossing the chemins de Saint-Jacques pilgrimage route to St-Jean-d’Angély.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Autumn in Angouleme
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In October we had an autumn overnighter to Angouleme, a short and sweet escape where we avoided the worst of the wet and windy weather and dined like kings on local steak. 


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
My library commute


I also really enjoyed the seven-kilometre commute to Chef-Boutonne for the four months I was working at the library. As well as proving to me that commuting by bike, even if we live in a rural village location, is a viable option, it was also a great way to clear my head and shift my brain between French and English at the end of the day. I was impressed that for a short commute, I still managed to clock up over one thousand, one hundred kilometres, meaning a huge saving on fuel for the car.

 

I can’t deny that these last two months have been rather sparse in terms of cycling, but the weather has been pretty rubbish, yet again. Even as I write this, the wind is howling outside, and the rain has been falling steadily since Boxing Day. I am, however, extremely thankful that Christmas Day was bright and sunny and so much better than forecast, meaning for the third year in a row, we managed our Christmas Day bike ride.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Morning coffee on Christmas Day


This year we cycled a fifty-two-kilometre loop, stopping at a lavoir (stone wash house) for morning coffee and then on to our favourite covered picnic table (with restored bread oven) for lunch. The village of La Faye also provided us with a fresh baguette from a vending machine, and my first experience at using one.



French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Our Christmas Day picnic

 


We laid out our baguette, naan breads, humous, carrot sticks, pâté en croûte (like a cross between a pork pie and a sausage roll), coleslaw, tuna pasta salad, Pays Basque pâté, satsumas and mince pies, plus the bottles of beer, and then two friends turned up. With smoked salmon and prawns, oatcakes, sparkling white wine, sparklers and great conversation, they certainly added some sparkle to our Christmas Day.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Christmas Day blue skies and sunshine


The longer we sat, the warmer the sun got, and two hours had passed before we realised it. This was markedly different to last year when we got cold sitting for a quick picnic. Thanks to the great weather, we set off for a longer route home than originally planned, treating ourselves to hot chocolate, cake and pressies when we got home at 16h30. It was a lovely, relaxing but active day, with none of the usual stress of a big Christmas dinner.


 

French Village Diaries cycling recap 2021 three years of Brompton ownership
Our Boxing Day turkey meal

 

We did have a more traditional turkey meal on Boxing Day with Ed and Pearl, but even this was an easier option than a roast dinner. The slow cooker sorted out the spicy red cabbage and while the dauphinois potatoes were in the oven I cooked the diced turkey with lardons, onions, mushrooms, sprouts and crème fraiche.

 

Life seems to have developed a habit of throwing the unexpected our way, so I’m happy to let 2022 show me where it’s going to take us and our Bromptons. I know there is still lots of France to explore by bike and many adventures waiting for us.


This post brings with it my sincere wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all. 

   

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Celebrating the winter solstice

French Village Diaries winter solstice family health
The sun on the winter solstice 2021


Winter solstice bike ride

We took ourselves out for an afternoon bike ride today, to enjoy the sunshine and celebrate the winter solstice. Sadly, we hadn’t gone far, when we hit a strong and freezing headwind that brought with it a thick mist, that obscured the sun once more. This is most definitely not our favourite time of year, but at least from today the nights will slowly begin to shorten and our daylight hours will increase.


 

French Village Diaries winter solstice family health
The last of the blue sky before the mist rolled in


This year seems to have been even more disruptive than last year, to what we’ve always considered normal. While some disruptions, like working at the library and Ed and Pearl moving in to a flat together, have been happy ones, some have not. The beginning of December saw Adrian spend a week in the cardiology intensive care unit of our local hospital. 

 

French Village Diaries winter solstice family health
Adrian's bed in intensive care


A normal Monday morning, with nothing of interest on the calendar, soon became quite a drama when his heart rate soared to 210bpm, and two three-person medical teams arrived at the door on blue lights. While one of the SAMU doctors hooked up an ECG, inserted a drip and monitored him closely, the other one looked through the last cardiology report I’d got out and was on the phone to the hospital. Our GP has always had him checked out regularly due to family heart history, but nothing has ever shown up as a problem.

 

His heart rate stabilised, but they took him in, and it wasn’t long before he messaged to say he’d be staying overnight. By nine o’clock the following morning his cardiologist was at his bedside doing an ultrasound and reviewing the ECG. While most tests were coming back ok, they still had no idea what had caused the initial problem and the overnight ECG had picked something up, so a transfer to the main hospital was arranged, as was an angiogram to check out his arteries. It was only after he arrived that he was informed it was the intensive care unit and he wasn’t permitted to leave his bed. Scary, but not quite as scary as when he was asked about his resuscitation wishes.

 

Visits hadn’t been allowed at the first clinic, but I was allowed to visit the intensive care unit each day, and I did. Until you are in a situation like this, you have no idea how important being there is, for both the patient and the family. The angiogram showed no problem with his arteries and an MRI two days later was also clear of any issues. The weather on the Friday was wild and wet, but I was one happy bunny driving home with him sat beside me. January will bring with it more cardiology appointments, but in the meantime, we’ve been told to continue as before and keep up the cycling.

 

I’m not sure where the rest of December has gone; one minute I was catching my breath and relieved to have Adrian back home, the next, the kitchen was full of bags and guitars as Ed is back for part of the Christmas holidays. We are hoping this mist will have lifted by Saturday so we can continue our Christmas Day bike ride and picnic tradition that we began in 2019.


 

French Village Diaries winter solstice family health
Wishing you a healthy Christmas from Jacqui and Adrian


I hope this update finds you all in good health and I wish you as happy a Christmas as Covid-19 will allow. Let’s hope 2022 brings good health, happiness, and new opportunities for us all. Stay safe. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Book review of My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring

French Village Diaries book review My Lucky Night Olivia Spring
My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring


My Lucky Night: Romance Can Happen When You Least Expect It…

She hates Christmas. He’s about to change her mind…

 

Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of unlucky incidents during the festive season—including getting dumped—this year she decides to spend the day at home. Alone. No men. No complications. 

 

But then her nightmare boss demands she track down this year’s most coveted Christmas gift—and the only person who can help is an annoyingly sexy Frenchman she’s just met.

 

Nicolas might look hot, but Cassie can tell he’s also arrogant, irritating and in love with himself. Exactly the kind of guy she hates. Plus, he’ll only help her find the gift if she helps him with something in return... 

Could Cassie’s festive fortunes finally be about to change? Can she learn to love Christmas again? And will Cassie get lucky in more ways than one?

 

Set against a gorgeous London backdrop with sparkling lights, Christmas markets and mistletoe, My Lucky Night is a fun, sexy enemies-to-lovers romcom novella that will give you all the feels! Ideal for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Mhairi McFarlane.

 

Read as a standalone novella or as book two in the My Ten-Year Crush series.

 

French Village Diaries book review My Lucky Night Olivia Spring
My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring


My review

This book is a quick and easy read that took me to London for some festive fun, bringing back some lovely memories of enjoying the London lights at Christmas, something we’ve not been able to do for the last few years. Add a gorgeously handsome Frenchman to the mix of ice rinks, mulled wine, markets and grottos, and I was one very happy reader.

 

Cassie knows London and more importantly, she knows where to find all the magic and sparkle of Christmas, even if it’s not her favourite time of year. Despite her initial annoyance at bumping into Nicolas, she is determined (in the spirit of Christmas) to help him tick off his festive wish list on his short visit from Paris. Her story melted my heart and I really hoped she’d be able to find some Christmas cheer once more.


This book is a great reminder that we are never too old to believe in Father Christmas.

 

Nicolas has escaped his hectic life and after an unexpected meeting with Cassie, hopes they can help each other out – one impossible last minute Christmas gift in exchange for a personal tour of London. Let me just say, despite the chill in the air, temperatures rose, and things certainly got quite personal. 

 

This book was just what I needed to lift my mood during a particularly difficult week. I laughed a lot; I fell in love with both the characters, and it left me with a huge smile on my face. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but I can’t wait to read the next one.

 

As life gets hectic in the run up to Christmas, treat yourself to this romantic mini break in London, it will do you the world of good.

 

Purchase Links  



Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

 

Author Bio

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women's fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin, which was released in 2018, deals with being newly single in your thirties and beyond, dating, relationships, love, sex and living life to the full.


In addition to The Middle-Aged Virgin, Olivia has published The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, Love Offline, Losing My Inhibitions, Only When It's Love and the sequel When’s The Wedding?


Olivia’s seventh novel, My Ten-Year Crush, was published in September 2021 and book two in the series, My Lucky Night followed in November 2021.

When she's not writing, Olivia can be found enjoying cupcakes and cocktails and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!

 

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#MyLuckyNight



French Village Diaries book review My Lucky Night Olivia Spring
My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring


Friday, December 3, 2021

Book review The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr

French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girl in Paris Jina Bacarr
The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr


The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr

'I will never forget what the Nazi did to me. Never'

1940, Nazi-occupied Paris. A powerful story of love, tragedy and incredible courage, about one woman whose life is ripped apart by war and risks everything to seek justice. Brand new from the bestselling author of The Resistance Girl.

As Nazis patrol the streets of the French capital, Tiena is alone, desperate and on the run. After defending herself against the force of an officer, she must find a new identity in order to survive.

An accidental meeting with members of the Resistance gives her a lifeline, as she is offered the chance to reinvent herself as perfumer Angéline De Cadieux.

However Angéline will never forget what happened to her, and will do everything she can to seek revenge. But vengeance can be a dangerous game, and Angeline can only hide her true identity for so long before her past catches up with her, with some devastating consequences...

Paris, 2003. When the opportunity arises for aspiring journalist Emma Keane to interview world renowned perfumer Madame De Cadieux about her life during World War Two, she is determined to take it. There are secrets from her own family history that she hopes Angéline may be able to help unlock.

But nothing can prepare Emma for Angéline's story, and one thing is for certain - it will change her own life forever…

An absolutely heartbreaking, unforgettable historical novel of war, sacrifice and survival. Perfect for fans of Suzanne Goldring, Ella Carey and Catherine Hokin.


 

French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girl in Paris Jina Bacarr
The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr


My review

When journalist Emma Keane lands herself an extraordinary experience to interview Angéline De Cadieux, she has her own personal reasons for discovering the mysterious past of this grande dame of perfume. I took to Emma from the first chapter of this book. Her determination, eye for detail and the mystery behind her obsession with Angéline piqued my interest. I couldn’t wait to discover what would be revealed and where her story would go.

 

Angéline has reached an age where she is ready to open her heart and is unusually drawn to Emma, flying her back to Paris, she begins to tell her story before they have landed. From her Roma roots, her desperate need to escape her caravan, and her arrival in Occupied Paris, her life was full of danger and the necessary deceit for survival. Her life changed in an instant, but she has a remarkable sense of smell – the gift of being a nose, that she is determined to use to her advantage. I could almost smell some of the fragrances described as I was reading.

 

There were plenty of secrets to be revealed throughout this book and I really enjoyed the way it made me try and guess what would happen when the two storylines came together.

 

I do enjoy a good split timeline novel and this one was packed with intrigue and drama from the beginning. If you are drawn to historical fiction set during the Occupation, then this should be on your 'to be read' pile this winter.



 

French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girl in Paris Jina Bacarr
The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr

 

Purchase Link  



Amazon 



French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girl in Paris Jina Bacarr
Jina Bacarr


Author Bio   

 

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

 

Social Media Links

  

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Bookbub profile 

 



French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girl in Paris Jina Bacarr
The Lost Girl in Paris by Jina Bacarr