Wednesday 21 September 2011

Food For The Soul

Readers, get your paniers! Mornings like this call for some serious retail therapy. When its wet and grey, when an unexpected school run forces a very unpleasant contretemps with a rude and surly man in a van, when you've already drunk your daily quota of tea and feel like your never going to feel warm and dry again, a touch of shopping is just what's required.

No, we're not talking ordinary trundle round the supermarket, trolley, purse and reward card at the ready -

we're talking a gentle stroll through the Provencal streets that are so hot that you're grateful of all the dappled shade you can find. Reader, on a day like this, can you imagine that?

Against the sunbleached ochre walls of shuttered buildings underneath an azure sky, let's take some time choosing our meals today...

no need to hurry, time is on our side and there's always tomorrow as there's a market every day here in Aix.
A kilo of this and a kilo of that, a bunch of basil, multi coloured tomatoes,

baby aubergines, zingy zesty fresh mint.

How about some olives?


Even the peppercorns are colourful today...

Some crockery to brighten the kitchen table.

Sunflowers against Provencal tablecloths, carrier bags echoing their golden hue.
The summer sunshine increases as the morning progresses so we shall wander slowly, breath in the scents and sounds and savour the delights.

A gentle nod to Autumn as we discover the stalls of mushrooms, fresh and dried.
Nothing pressing to do, just wander and taste ... some goats cheese and figs for lunch perhaps?

Ratatouille and salad for supper maybe?

Definitely an ice cream on the way home...

But don't worry, we can do it all again tomorrow (and believe me reader we did! A morning didn't pass without a trip to the market) - now wouldn't that be nice ....

Monday 12 September 2011

Three trains, one underground & a whole lot of scenery...

We had to wait right until the end of the summer for our holiday this year, but it was worth the wait. Amidst much excitement, anticipation and adrenalin which covered how very tired we were at starting the day so very early, we set off to catch our first train. Up to London via train and underground (never a good experience with luggage) at the crack of dawn to catch Eurostar. Laden with luggage, books, magazines and croissants we boarded the train at St Pancras and before we really had time to adjust to French time we were in Lille.

Just enough time for us to decipher where we were to board our TGV southwards (we had forgotten just how stressful this bit can be). Searching desperately for your coach number, locating the boarding point along the very long platform, negotiating the stairs, lift and escalators with 100s of other passengers and somehow managing to watch aghast as our youngest daughter disappeared with her luggage in one hand down an escalator whilst we stood waiting for the lift. I will never forget the look of horror on her face as we set off as fast as our luggage allowed in hot pursuit of her!

Excitement over, we somehow managed to hurl ourselves and half of the girls' wardrobes onto the train and sat back ... and relaxed... and smiled ... and ate ... and smiled ... and read... and smiled ... and played cards ... and smiled.

And all the while the everchanging beauty of the French countryside surrounded us. Through flat green fields, lush green pasture lands, through rain showers, clouds and brilliant sunshine we headed south. The alps to one side the Massif Central on the other as the landscape grew more dramatic, the temperature rose. Medieval hilltop villages, olive trees, meandering streams, majestic rivers flowing through Provencal cities. Plane trees, poplar trees, cypress trees and olive trees.

When i was at University I spent summers driving up and down the length of France and had vowed to do the journey this way ... I think the other passengers could gauge by the squeals of delight coming from our table just how happy we were.

Five hours and hundreds of kilometres later we found ourselves on a blisteringly hot Provencal train platform, negotiating once more the stairs, lifts and escalators ... a quick bus trip took us to our final destination and after the obligatory "I think it's this way, no that way, no, this way" walk to our new home which took a good half an hour longer than necessary, we arrived at a huge 19th century wooden door that would be our front door whilst we were there.

We arrived to half locked shutters, with tantalising glimpses of the view beyond

Views to the left of an already setting sun from our terrace against the bluest sky I had seen in a very long time

And just looking to the right stood the most beautiful 13th century church that would waken us each morning and frame our glorious view across centuries old chimneys, balconies, shutters and weather worn and sun bleached terracotta tiles.