Postcard from Amsterdam

I could’ve said this was a postcard from EuroPerio9 but it doesn’t have quite the same ring does it? And, to be fair, I only worked three days at the exhibition giving my beloved a helping hand. It’s virtually impossible to set up, run and take down a stand single-handed. Fortunately, one of his German clients spent two days working with him leaving me free to enjoy some of the many delights of Amsterdam.

It wasn’t my first visit to the city, probably my sixth or seventh. My previous one was fleeting as we flew into and out of Amsterdam for Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2015 in Utrecht. Most of my earlier trips to Amsterdam have also been relatively brief and generally connected in some way with dentistry. However, back in the late 1980s, one of my husband’s clients, whom we’d known for sometime, invited us to spend a long week-end with his family in Amsterdam.

They kindly put together an itinerary which included all the well-known places, plus many favoured only by the locals.  My stand-outs from this trip are all handily located close to one another in Museum Sq: the Rijksmuseum (Dutch national art and history museum), the Van Gogh Museum (works of Vincent van Gogh) and the Stedelijk Museum (modern art). These are all well worth a visit.

On that trip we also learned something of the city’s history. Amsterdam was founded around 1250 with the building of the Dam that gave it its name. Aeme Stelle Redamme is Medieval Dutch for: Dam in a Watery Area. The first canals were dug both for water management and defence. As the city expanded in the Middle Ages, successive defensive moats ended up inside the city walls, losing their original function but acquiring a new one: local transport of merchandise.

rondvaart

The Dam is still there as the heart of the city. But today this former barrier between the River Amstel and the Southern Sea is one of the few places in the centre of town that you cannot reach by boat because there’s a subway line  being built in the old riverbed.

Amsterdam, known as “The Venice of the North” has canals and harbours accounting for over a quarter of its surface area. Amsterdam’s 17th century Canal Belt, built during the Dutch Golden Age, was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2011. Its medieval centre (its Red Light district) is still undergoing extensive renovation with Project 1012 which aims to reduce prostitution and to highlight the historical aspects of this oldest section of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the only city in the world where the medieval centre is a Red Light district. Ale-houses were established in the Middle ages around its first harbours, along with the first brothels, mainly in the Warmoesstraat and the alleys around it.

The Gentlemen’s canal (Herengracht) is considered the most important one in Amsterdam. Built for the city’s richest merchants and its most influential people who resided in buildings alongside it. An address on the Gentlemen’s canal is still considered prestigious today. The official residence of the Mayor is at number 502.

Keizersgracht Canal Beginning

The Emperor’s canal (Keizergracht) is the middle one of the city’s three main canals and was named after Emperor Maximillian of Austria. It’s the widest canal (31 metres) and its construction was also started in 1612.

prinsengracht

The Prince’s canal (Prinzengracht) is the third and outermost of Amsterdam’s main canals which together form the so-called “Fourth outlay” of the city, an four-time extension project started in 1612 and completed 50 years later.

Now, you’re not going to see quite as many photos as usual because I didn’t have my iPhone. If you’ve read my Monday post, you’ll know why. Instead, I had to rely on my ailing, soon to be traded-in, iPad. A wholly inadequate substitute as its battery runs out too quickly – built-in Apple obsolescence.

We were staying a short stroll from the centre, near the RAI exhibition halls in a charming residential area, well served by restaurants and cafes. Our trip coincided with a four-day celebratory festival in Amsterdam, so the place was full of exhibition goers and tourists.

Amsterdam’s a lovely city to wander around. I tend to stick to walking up and down the three canals mentioned above and the small alleys that criss-cross them, admiring their architectural heritage and finding lots of small, charming, independent boutiques, restaurants, cafes and food shops.

Amsterdam’s oldest building is the Old Church (Oude Kerk) built in 1306. The oldest wooden building The Wooden House (Het Houten Huys) is in the Begijnhof and was constructed around 1425, one of only two remaining wooden structures. In the 16th century, Amsterdam’s wooden buildings were razed and replaced with brick ones in the Dutch Renaissance style, recognizable from their stepped gable facades. Mostly built according to the principles of architect  Hendrick de Keyser. A fine example of which is the West Church (Westerkerk).

During Amsterdam’s Golden Age, 17th century Baroque architecture came to the fore most notably with the splendid merchants houses designed by Philip Vingbooms. Throughout the 18th century, Amsterdam like elsewhere was heavily influenced by French culture followed subsequently by Jugendstil or Art Nouveau though this was largely in the neighbourhoods around the city centre. However this apparent mish-mash of architectural styles is very pleasing to the eye.

As the commercial and cultural capital of the Netherlands, and one of the top financial centres in Europe, many large international companies have their headquarters here in Amsterdam. Consequently, there’s also a wealth of modern architecture in its business district.

If you like book shops, and who doesn’t? Amsterdam has plenty, many with English language book sections where I happily whiled away many an hour. Luckily I had space in my suitcase to take back one, or two, or three….I definitely need more bookshelves in the flat. A girl can never have too many.

As I wandered along, looking upwards at the decorative features of the buildings lining the canals, I had to be careful not to wander into the bike lines. It’s so easy to cycle everywhere in Holland, I’m very envious though I’m not a fan of their heavy sit up and beg bikes. I’d definitely go for a fixie. After all it is pretty flat everywhere, except in Limburg.

Amsterdam is also a very green city with many parks, open spaces and squares throughout. We were staying in Zuid, opposite Beatrixpark, named after the queen, through which we could easily walk to the Rai. Although the hotel where we stayed had food and drink on tap, we also investigated many of the neighbouring bars and restaurants. One of the best was just at the entrance to the park. A former chapel, it was now a restaurant and cultural spot and overlooked the wild grass lands bordering the park’s lake which was home to some large and noisy wildlife.

All too soon our little Dutch escapade was over and we were heading back home, footsore and a little weary from both the work and the sightseeing.

3,2,1 Tag – Let’s Celebrate Life

Full-time Mum and creative blogger HP Kahin tagged me for this interesting ‘3.2.1 Quote me’ tag! Thank you HP for thinking about me, and for the tag!

TOPIC FOR TODAY: Celebration of Life

HP’s favorite topic is ‘Celebration of Life’ so, let’s celebrate!

Come on now, celebration
Let’s all celebrate and have a good time
Celebration
We gonna celebrate and have a good time

It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?
Everyone around the world come on!

(Kool and the Gang)

Now, ABOUT THE TAG 🙂

The tag creator’s  A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip who says:

Everyone loves quotes right? So l figured to introduce a bit of light-hearted fun with this series. It’s simple. Every day l will pick a topic, post 2 quotes and nominate 3 bloggers, who in turn will post 2 quotes on that topic and nominate 3 bloggers of their own and let’s see how far we can take that topic for the day.

So here’s two quotes I really like about CELEBRATION:-

  1. Until further notice, celebrate everything.  (Anonymous)

I like the idea of celebrating everything, don’t you?

2. It’s another day and I’m alive and so are you. Isn’t that wonderful? (Wayne Gerard Trotman)

Life is wonderful isn’t it?

Rules

1. Thank the selector and do not forget to tag/create a “ping-back!” DONE

2. Post 2 quotes for the dedicated ‘Topic of the Day.’ DONE

3. Select 3 bloggers to take part in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’ DONE

In turn I’m tagging DippyDottyGirl, Cheche Winnie and Rose Marie

Friends and fellow bloggers, let’s celebrate life and enjoy every single moment to the max. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Remember, we tend to regret what we haven’t done, not what we have done.

I don’t like Mondays

“I Don’t Like Mondays” is an old song by Irish band The Boomtown Rats about the 1979 Cleveland Elementary School shooting in San Diego. My Monday wasn’t bad enough to take such measures though I’m just going to vent a bit here and then I know I’ll feel much better.

I don’t mind Mondays usually but the one last week started badly and just got worse. We had a flight back from Barcelona and wanted to get to the airport early as my beloved had received an email from BA advising the flight had been cancelled. However, checking the airport site, all seemed well but, just to be on the safe side, we wanted to be timely.

We woke at 04:00am, an ungodly hour at the best of times, and drove swiftly to the airport using Google maps on my iPad. The hire car office wasn’t open, so we dropped off the keys and the duly annotated booking paperwork in the letterbox provided and proceeded to departures where all hell appeared to have broken loose.

Our airline uses DIY labeling and printing of boarding passes. We managed to navigate the tortuous procedure but others were not so fortunate. We were soon thankfully seated eating breakfast in the lounge. We could only assume that the email had been some sort of computer glitch at BA. They’ve had a few of those recently. As we boarded the bus for the plane I reached into my bag for my iPhone to put it on “flight mode.” It wasn’t there!

I visualised what I’d done with it after I’d last used it and could clearly see myself switching off the Google route nap and putting it into its pocket in my bag. I also recalled hearing a metallic clang as I got out of the car but, at the time, had dismissed it as the seat belt springing back into place. It probably wasn’t. It was more likely my phone falling from my bag and into the well of the passenger seat. I tried ringing the hire car company while on the bus but the office was still closed.

I contacted the company as soon as we landed, after successfully navigating their answering system. Press the wrong button at your peril! I was advised by the call centre that they’d email the hire car office in the airport and get back to me shortly. Two calls later in the day and I’d been twice advised that the procedure was to get back in touch with the customer within the hour.

It was now well past any deadline so I decided to cancel my phone which you can only do on-line but there was a problem with the system and, despite my best efforts, nothing happened. I tried ringing Orange which has an automatic answering system whose main goal is to prevent you talking to any humans and I was quickly going round and round in circles, orange ones.

My beloved sensing I was on the edge of a precipice kindly suggested dinner out. A large glass of chilled rose, a generous salad and I was feeling much better. Still no word from the hire car company but my beloved had received confirmation of my line cancellation. An early night followed as we were off to Amsterdam the following morning. I decided to email the hire car company in my very best Spanish. Twice. Still no reply.

My phone is insured so I can get a replacement but I need the hire car company to confirm they can’t find it. Given that I know where I misplaced it, if they can’t find it, has it been stolen? In which case, I’ll need to contact the Spanish police, report the theft and get a reference number for it.

Finally, today I sent an email of complaint to Avis HQ and received an automated response – progress. I have peered into my crystal ball and I foresee a possibly frustrating trip to the Orange shop. Start praying for me now!

Postcard from Montmelo

The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in Montmelo has hosted a Grand Prix every year since it was first included on the calendar in 1992. It’s a superb track, with great facilities, well-organised, and the parking is free. It’s about 25km to the north of Barcelona and is the home venue for many of the sport’s biggest stars including reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, former world champion Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Vinales – surely the best name ever –  Dani Pedrosa and the Espargaro brothers Aleix and Pol. Fortunately, the race falls in June, a great time of the year to visit this beautiful region.

It was as if we’d never left French soil. Everyone seated around us in the MotoGP grandstand  was speaking French and, as we strolled around the circuit, our ears were naturally tuned into all the French voices. Still, it’s easy enough to just pop over the border, though the French number plates in the car park came from all over.

Between sessions, we like to wander round the stalls, see who’s buying what and look at the various edible offerings. Apart from us, everyone seemed to be wearing an item supporting one of the teams or riders, usually a cap or t-shirt. Some were impressively decked out head to toe in support of their favourite rider, often along with a tattoo of the same. In fact, tatts were very much to the fore. The two of us were a small tattoo and endorsement free zone.

This MotoGP was sponsored by Monster Energy who put on an impressive display of trick cycling, wave boarding, a DJ and lots of lovely ladies in skimpy outfits, frolicking in more water – or was it Monster Energy? – with whom you can have a selfie.

Aside from the circuit, the French had also invaded and taken over the hotel where we were staying. They came, they saw, they conquered on their powerful motorbikes, all 1000cc. That’s a lot of throbbing power and gleaming chrome between your legs. I wouldn’t know as I have never been on a motorbike. That’s not a proud boast, rather an if only………..maybe one of these days!

The last time we attended the MotoGP in Catalunya was back in 2013. I’d purchased the trip on one of those cut-price sites. It turned out to be the bargain of the century. We had a fabulous time, including a day sight-seeing in Barcelona gorging on Gaudi and jamon. This time we stayed up the coast from Barcelona, just 30 minutes from the circuit, and airport.

We flew over on Thursday morning. The flight took less time than the wait for our luggage and car! But, finally, we were speeding along the motorway to the hotel chosen by my beloved (and approved by me). The boy done good! I like to think that after 40 years together he’s finally learned something.

We stayed in the coastal resort of Mataro, which has a rich history dating back to Roman times. Aside from its marina and wide sandy beaches beaches, there’s a number of archaeological sites, including some Roman remains. But that’s not all. The first ever railway line to be built on the Iberian Peninsula in 1848 linked Barcelona to Mataro.

Mataro’s Old Town is partly ringed by a 16th-century wall, within which is the 15th century Basilica of Santa Maria. La Wrier and La Rambla are the town’s main arteries along which lies its 17th century City Hall and, where the two roads converge, in Plaza de Santa Anna, there’s a lovely pink Baroque church.

It’s interesting to wander around the narrow lanes of the Old Town, wondering what you’ll find and/or see. We chanced upon Spain’s answer to Green Day conducting a sound check in one of the town’s many squares, plus some oddly dressed characters. Were they connected? Who knows! More importantly, we found an impressive cake shop and enjoyed its wares in its sunlit garden.

We combined the MotoGP with watching some of the World Cup football, including the opening match, plus Ronaldo v Spain. We missed France’s first game, as we were at the circuit, but much enjoyed seeing Mexico get the better of Germany. I also got to celebrate World Lobster Day, albeit a day late, with fried lobster – a first!

The sessions at the circuit kicked off early with Moto3 whose engines sound like pesky mosquitos that you’d like to swat before the full-throttled and ear shattering MotoGP engines take to the stage. Your entire body seems to throb in time with those revs. Friday is typically quieter in terms of spectators, building to capacity on Sunday. But whichever day, VR46 or Valentino Rossi fans outnumbered all the others combined.

We were in Spain but, Marc Marquez aside, fans of the other Spanish riders, including former world champion Jorge Lorenzo, are very much in the minority. Not so French rider Johann Zarco who mustered an impressive fan base. We’ve met his Dad who lives in Cannes and rides for one of the local cycling clubs.

I like to watch all the action at the circuit, not wishing to miss any of the Free Practice sessions, nor Qualifying or Warm Up. Throughout the three-days, there were thrills and spills, plus one bike combusted. Importantly no one was seriously injured. Unusually, three different nationalities topped the podiums in their respective classes including, for those sitting around us, a Frenchman in Moto2.

Funnily enough the least interesting race was probably the blue riband event, as the podium was settled fairly early on. But the week-end was nonetheless extremely enjoyable and, should we decide to go again, we’ll definitely stay in the same hotel.

 

Things I’ve done: drank way too much Sangria

We’ve all been there! Drank way too much and lived to regret it. I should add this incident occurred back in the late 70s while on vacation in southern Spain staying at my parents first apartment. The memory was triggered by reading that Kenny Dalglish had been knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours. There’s a connection, I’ll explain.

My parents had just agreed to buy a second apartment, this one was in a prime position overlooking the beach. During the two weeks we were on vacation in Spain, the developer of the second apartment threw a party to which we were invited. It was a mid-afternoon cocktail party and Sangria was on offer. I’d had it before and it was mostly red wine watered down with soda water and orange juice. It was a warm afternoon and the drinks just kept on coming.

There had also been a large amount of spirits on offer but no body was drinking that so the bar staff just poured it into the Sangria. It’s taste was masked by the fruit and fruit juice and it’s effect muted as we were all sitting down in the shade.

During the afternoon, we’d gotten chatting to another couple who’d also purchased a property. The wife turned to me and asked if we’d met Kenny Dalglish who was staying on the development with his family? I said “No!” but was contradicted by my beloved who reminded me of an incident earlier that day when I’d turned abruptly in the supermarket and had sent some wee chap flying. My beloved had realized as he’d helped the unfortunate chap to his feet, that I’d knocked over none other than King Kenny, then at the height of his powers playing for Liverpool FC.

As an aside, it just shows you how footballers remuneration has changed. Kenny was renting an apartment for his family (and mother) just outside of Marbella. Today, he’d either have his own multi-million pound pad or at least be renting a suite of rooms at the Marbella Club. But I digress………..

As we left the party I was swaying on my feet and admittedly not feeling too good (huge British understatement) so decided to go back to the flat. My beloved said I was wandering all over the place and that it was a miracle I didn’t fall into the pool though that may have sobered me up. I woke the next morning, vowing never to drink Sangria again – and I haven’t –  to find the room was still spinning. I didn’t reappear until very early the following morning when I went down to the pool to watch my beloved swimming laps in the empty pool.

There was an elderly lady sitting in the shade beside the pool. We struck up a conversation, she had a strong Glaswegian accent, and she told me she much admired my beloved’s athletic prowess and had watched him swim most mornings while on holiday with her son and his family. It was none other than Kenny’s mum which I found somewhat amusing. My beloved confirmed she’d been beside the pool most mornings with her knitting. This is not the first (or last) time my beloved has had an elderly groupie!

 

Father’s Day: remembering my Dad

My beloved and I have been trying to sort the best moments from our 40 years of marriage and I’ve turned them into posts called “40 years of Memorable Moments.” Many of these moments have included trips with my parents, some of them on Father’s Day. However, this is one moment my beloved missed out on due to the pressures of work.

To celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday, we went en famille to Chicago for a long week-end in October 2001. My Dad’s birthday was in November, but we wanted to go before it was too cold and he chose the first week-end in October. Before we’d booked and paid for the flights, my beloved said that week-end was no longer possible because he had to attend an exhibition. We took an executive decision to go without him as the dates suited everyone else.

My parents wanted to stay in The Drake hotel, a Chicago institution, which overlooks the lake at the far end of Michigan Ave. I would’ve stayed there too but my youngest sister was on a limited budget so I agreed to share with her. A huge sacrifice as I hate sharing with anyone other than my beloved though she’s infinitely tidier than my other sister, who came with her husband. The four of us stayed in a less expensive hotel opposite The Drake.

Travelling by taxi with six of us would have meant using two taxis every time. I had however thought of this and contacted a limo service so that when we needed a taxi, we could take one all together. I’m not sure it was any cheaper but it was certainly more fun!

The limo picked us up from the airport and dropped us off at our hotels mid-afternoon. We agreed to unpack, freshen up and meet in the bar of The Drake for cocktails and plan what we were going to do. We had no intention of spending the entire time in one another’s pockets. My two sisters were intent on shopping ’til they dropped. My brother-in-law, who hates shopping, preferred to do some sightseeing, as did I and my parents.

We had pre-organised several things for my parents, including a boat trip around the lake, a guided tour of Oak Park and, for Dad’s birthday dinner, I had booked a table at Charlie Trotter’s. My beloved and I had eaten there on a number of occasions during the Chicago mid-winter dental meetings and knew he’d enjoy it.

Again, we went there and back by limo. I had advised the restaurant we were celebrating my Dad’s 70th but he didn’t want any fuss – no desserts with candles or waiters singing “Happy Birthday.” We had a simply wonderful meal and Charlie dropped by with an autographed copy of the menu for my Dad and gave him a personal tour of the kitchens and wine cellar which certainly made his evening all the more special.

Of course, my Dad loved celebrating en famille but my parents found the trip quite tiring. Indeed, they’d only recovered from jet lag by going home time. Now that my parents are no longer with us, we look back on occasions such as these and appreciate the time we spent with them.

The Musette: beignets de fleurs de courgettes

Went down to my local market this morning and all the vegetable stall holders had beautiful golden courgette flowers. I first ate these stuffed many, many years ago at a Father’s Day Luncheon at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons – such a delight. Since moving to France this is one of my favourite summer treats, despite them being deep fried! I bought some and rushed home to prepare them for lunch.

 

Ingredients (12 pieces, starter for 4 hungry cyclists or main course for 2)

  • 20g (3/4 oz) aquafaba or 1 large egg yolk
  • 125g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 175ml (3/4 cup) ice-cold sparkling water
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • pinch sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 courgette (zucchini) flowers

Method

1. Firstly, if necessary, separate the flowers from each courgette and check them for insects, remove the stamens, cut any large ones in two, and set them all aside. Save the courgettes (zucchini) for another dish, another day.

2. Heat a 10cm/1 litre (4 cups) depth of oil in a suitable deep, heavy-based saucepan until it registers 140°C (285°F) on a frying thermometer.

3. In the meantime, make the batter: sift the flour and  turmeric together and add the salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the aquafaba, olive oil and sparkling water. The batter should be quite light.

4. Cook 2–4 courgette flowers at a time, depending on their size and the diameter of your pan: dip the flowers into the batter to coat, then carefully lower them into the hot oil. Deep-fry for 1– 2 minutes, until puffed up, crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with lemon wedges and, if you like, a spicy sauce. I love Sriracha mayonnaise (vegan mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha sauce)!

Bienvenue Patrick Vieira and Danilo

The season had barely finished before there was the usual speculation as to which players OGCN was going to lose. Having missed out on European football by a measly one-point, it was inevitable that some of our more talented players would be on the move. We already knew that after two very successful seasons our manager Lucien Favre would be moving to pastures new, back in Germany. However, we have already managed to secure his replacement, a certain Patrick Vieira who hails from just down the road in Cannes.

His appeal, particularly for OGCN, is his desire to play attractive football and his experience of working with youngsters, thanks to his time looking after them at Manchester City where his path would’ve crossed with that of Super Mario. Obviously, he’s played football at the highest level but has been involved in coaching for a number of years. OGCN are hoping he’ll be able to install that winning mentality in its players, particularly the younger ones. This means Vieira will leave his position as coach for MLS side New York City mid-way through the season.

I’m hoping that Vieira will convince Super Mario to stay. Allegedly, Olympique Marseille are the only team to have shown any interest in signing him. However, he should stay as his career has been revitalized at Nice where he scored 26 goals last season – his best ever strike rate. Vieira has revealed he’s spoken to the 27-year-old Italian and expects the forward to be present for pre-season training. He confirmed:

I called Mario Balotelli to wish him a happy holiday and also to tell him that we would see each other on 2nd July for the resumption of training.

Meanwhile, just one day after the transfer window opened, the club signed Danilo, a Brazilian who previously played for Portuguese side Braga. In line with its stated philosophy, the club had targeted a youngster with great potential whom it had been following for several seasons.

A defensive midfielder who is capable of driving forward and a member of the Brazilian international youth set-up, 22 year old Danilo came through the ranks at Vasco de Gama and has already acquired some solid experience of European football. He then signed for Braga and played a full season for them in 2014/2015 before being loaned to Valencia where he’s played in La Liga, the Champions League and the Europa League. Further loan spells ensued before he returned to Braga last season.

That’s two incoming but what about potential outgoings? It appears Manchester City is interested in our Ivory Coast midfielder Jean Michael Seri who comes with a €40mn. price tag though many other teams including Chelsea, Napoli, Arsenal and West Ham are also keen on the 26 year old. Though I don’t expect anything to happen until after the World Cup.  West Ham have also been eyeing up 21 year old Allan Saint-Maximin and Brazilian Marlon, on loan from FC Barcelona. However, there are more rumours about Alassane Plea who could follow Favre to Borussia Dortmund.

Of course, I might bemoan that our brightest and best may be off to pastures new at OGCN but don’t get me started on Aston Villa. My beloved boys in claret and blue are in all sorts of hot water since failing to gain promotion to the Premiership via the play-offs.

However, let’s put all that to one side and focus on the FIFA World Cup which kicks off today in Russia. Who’re you putting your money on? Obviously, I’d love France to win and I’ll be fluttering my tricolor flag, courtesy of having watched France v Italy at the Allianz Riviera stadium two weeks ago. However, it’s hard to look past the holders Germany and the mouth-watering array of talent on display from South America. Having the benefit of an enforced period of rest due to injury, I fancy Neymar for the golden boot as he’ll be fresher than most. Bring it on!

 

 

Trip to Cros de Cagnes

One of my favourite markets is held every Tuesday and Thursday at the nearby fishing port of Cros de Cagnes which has narrow streets, colourful fisherman’s houses, bars and restaurants spread around the distinctive yellow Clock Tower, part of the church of Saint Pierre.  The market is arranged up and down its main shopping street, avenue des Oliviers, which also has a number of fantastic shops, including a fromagerie, a quincaillerie (hardware store) and a fishmonger.

The area was first populated by Italian fisherman back in the early 19th century, around 1813, when most of the area was still under Italian rule. The first boat builders settled here around 1860. The marine community adopted Saint-Pierre as their patron saint and built the chapel Saint-Pierre in 1866. Around 1920-30, the fishing port was extremely active with 200 or so fishermen making their living there. The sheltered port was built in 1939 but today hosts only a few remaining fishermen. Cros de Cagnes is home to the oldest coastguard station of the SNSM Alpes-Maritimes.

Unsurprisingly, Cros de Cagnes is home to some excellent fish restaurants such as the family-run Charlot 1er.  Also, there’s our favourite local Italian restaurant Gusto, just a few metres further on. Both restaurants do a mean spaghetti with lobster! There’s also a good seafood restaurant in avenue des Oliviers but it doesn’t benefit from a seafront location like these two. Equally important, the seafront is home to my local bike shop.

And, talking about the seafront, there’s nothing better than a stroll along it whatever the weather!

The Musette: white Gazpacho or Ajo Blanco

In last year’s post for traditional gazpacho, I promised you recipes for white and green ones too. Following hot on the heels of yesterday’s recipe for green Gazpacho, here’s my recipe for the white version. It’s deliciously refreshing and aside from being a great starter, it also makes a wonderful canape  – so beloved of the French. The combination of cucumber, grapes and sherry vinegar is perfectly balanced while the alliums add sharpness, but mellow if you refrigerate the gazpacho overnight and serve it the next day (which I recommend). This is another perfect summer soup. And it’s so easy to make.

Ingredients (Serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 cups cubed stale white bread from a sourdough type loaf (crust removed)
  • 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) cold filtered water
  • 1/3 cup whole, blanched almonds, toasted 
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, roasted and crushed 
  • 2  finely chopped salad onions (scallions)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup green grapes
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  •  chives, finely chopped, to garnish 

Method

1. Place the bread cubes in a bowl and pour 120 ml (1/2 cup) water on top to soften them.

2. Place the toasted almonds and roasted garlic in a blender and purée until finely ground. Add the onions, cucumber, grapes, oil, vinegar and softened bread to the blender along with the remaining water.

3. Purée until smooth. Taste and season as needed. If necessary, add more filtered water (or yoghurt, see below) to the soup to achieve desired consistency.

4. Serve chilled in bowls or glasses garnished with chives and a swirl of fruity extra-virgin olive oil.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. As mentioned above, this soup benefits from a night in the fridge to allow the flavours to deepen.

2. if you prefer a smoother, silkier textured soup, just sieve it and then froth with a stick blender.

3. You can make some substitutions but remember the soup needs to remain a pale green colour!

4. Instead of thinning the soup with filtered water, you can use yoghurt. For a vegan version, use almond rather than coconut yoghurt.