Au marché

I have been waiting patiently for market day to arrive. This morning when I opened my bedroom shutters, the square was buzzing with people doing their weekly shop. I didn’t make it out the door until after 11 by which time their were far too many tourists for my liking. I was horrified to hear Australian English from the people next to me as I bought some mackerel for dinner. Turned out my distraction meant I didn’t realise they were not cleaned, so I learnt how to gut a fish at dinner time. They were quite tasty in the end. I was also somewhat horrified by the pale, flabby pile of fish livers on display. What do you even do with fish livers? And couldn’t quite face the grizzly faces of the merlin.

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I came home from the first excursion with a basket full of bright red tomatoes, crusty bread, and some dark buckwheat bread, goat’s cheese, saucisson, paté de campagne and a bunch of enormous asparagus. DSC03307
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The kids were keen for a nibble!

I had to wait for a good 10 minutes at the charcuterie van as the lady in front me ordered a bit of this and bit of that and three slices of the other, oh, and I’ll just get a couple of those lamb roasts that need smashing and maybe some …  I do understand, though, as everything looked quite delicious.

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I had to go back for a second trip and red potatoes, veggies, and a punnet of lettuce that I’ve put in a pot in the courtyard. Can’t wait for them to be big enough to eat!

I’ve been eating and drinking with my lovely friends Helen and Guillaume who live around the corner. The weather has been gloriously sunny, so we’ve had lots of lunches in the garden. I am wondering if I’ll get a reputation for being the crazy lady who walks around town with a saucepan full of food. It’s easy to cook and my place and take it around to theirs for dinner, but have been attracting a few curious glances on the walk. They’ve stocked me up on wine and delicious olive oil from Ostal Cazes, one of the Lynch-Bages wineries.

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Stone walls and chandliers

We’ve made it to Pauillac, our home for the next three months. It’s in the middle of the wine region, and home to some of Bordeaux’s most prestigious labels – Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lynch-Bages, Château Latour – just to name a few. Sadly they’re a little bit out of my budget to drink on Wednesday nights (or ever, really). I’ve been coming here for my PhD research for the last seven years, so it feels a bit like my second home. It’s just a little town – a few thousand people – on the Gironde River, which stretches several kilometres wide at this point. The houses are mostly stone, including our three storey delight. Anyone popping in for a cup of tea in the jardin?

Grubby old Paris

After five days in Paris, we’re off on a train heading south. It’s Easter and the fast train tickets were exorbitant, so we’re on the normal train nosing out through the suburbs of Paris, past little villages and regional towns. Having caught the fast train from Paris to Bordeaux quite a few times, it’s nice to be on a different line and travelling at a speed where everything isn’t whizzing past in a blur. Strange that when you get outside Paris, the countryside is remarkable similar all the way south until you hit the wine country just outside Bordeaux.

We’re all quite happy to sit on the train today as we’ve walked our little legs off in Paris this week. Gabe has been horrified by the filth – bird poo, dog poo, chewing gum, urine – and the noise – traffic, beeping, trains, street sweepers, people and out of tune police cars (his words) – and is very happy to leave Paris for the country. Lucie’s tired face lit up when she saw the Eiffel Tower peeping over a building. Being Easter, there were a gazillion people so we didn’t go up it, but wandered around the area and saw it from different angles. As the photo below shows, sometimes we were very confused about where we were!

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We spent an interesting few hours at the Musée des Art et Métiers looking at all kinds of old telegraphic, photographic and recording machines. I dragged the kids through the crowds in the Galeries Lafayette (one of the original department stores with a coloured glass domed roof) up to the terrace for a view of the roof tops, and again to the top of the Institut du Monde Arabe. I was going to have coffee, but at 6 euro for an espresso, decided to descend to ground level where it’s only 1.50. We stopped at Les Arènes de Lutèce – a roman amphitheatre discovered in the late 19th century, where instead of throwing Christians to the lions, they now play pétanque.

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Around the corner we found the Paris Mosque, standing serenely in its aquamarine and white simplicity. We got a sneak peek at the courtyard garden, but it was closed to visitors, so no more than that.

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Paris is a very different place with children. I’ve only been once with kids – when Gabe was 15 months old – and every time since has a been a little escape from real life and responsibilities. Unlike all those other visits this one has been very subdued – no cocktails, no wine, no fancy dinners, no trying on pretty dresses, or late nights skipping around the city of lights. It seems entirely wrong to report I’ve been in France for 6 days and not had a glass of wine. A glass of Bordeaux this evening is in order!

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Little surprises

DSC03226If there’s one thing that characterises Paris for me, it’s little surprises hiding around corners.
Wandering down a street, suddenly Sacre Cœur popped into view for a few moments, sitting high above the city and beautifully framed by the buildings below.

Or visiting a new museum – today it was the Musée des Arts et Métiers (the Design Museum) – where we discovered that the first telegraphic machines used piano keyboards to type the letters in. Each key corresponded to a letter of the alphabet and the exquisitely crafted machine could send messages.

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