Cee’s Flower of the Day #166

I much enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Wordless Wednesday #98

Here’s another photo from one of our many #adventuredownunder. Goodness knows when we’ll next be able to visit……but I have plans…….big plans……….

 

 

 

 

 

Where to visit in France this autumn

French Tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne recently proclaimed that health measures and French holidaymakers had “saved the summer”, and called on people to continue to support the tourist industry by taking holidays in September and October.

We’re hoping for an Indian summer. That means weekends, and an end to autumn which we hope will be positive with the revival little by little of the events industry, which is very important to Paris for example, and groups of senior citizens who weren’t able to travel last Autumn.

Following a summer dominated by health concerns and bad weather – though not in the corner of France where I live – many people will be hoping to take a more relaxed break in the autumn, away from the peak-season crowds. These are some of the areas in France which are particularly lovely in autumn. I am, of course, hugely biased and would say anywhere in France would be lovely for an autumnal break. But these seem to be the places that pop up most frequently in lists.

Côte-d’Or

When most people think of autumn, they imagine red, orange and yellow leaves, so where better to spend the season than the only département named after this phenomenon. The Côte here does not mean “coast” but “hill”, since the area is situated in Burgundy in eastern France, far from the sea.

Many people believe the d’Or in the name means “golden”, and refers to the spectacular colour the vineyards turn in the autumn. This is not so, since local paper Le Bien Public reports that the second part of the name is actually short for Orient (east). But the fact the first explanation is considered plausible gives a good idea of what to expect, and after a long day spent walking or cycling through the countryside, you can relax in the hotel with a glass of local Pinot Noir.

Morvan regional park

Le Parc naturel régional du Morvan | Bourgogne Tourisme

Remaining in Burgundy, just to the west of the Côte-d’Or (although the two do overlap) is the Morvan regional park. This sparsely populated part of France shines in the autumn. Take a stroll through the forest, breathing in the fresh air, with the only sound the crunching of leaves beneath your feet. It’s the perfect location for taking long walks, hunting for mushrooms and relaxing in front of a wood burning fire once the sun goes down.

Carcassonne

Hôtel Carcassonne : réservez votre chambre au meilleur prix | Kyriad

Autumn is a great time to visit this fortified city in the Aude département in the south west of France. Not only will there be fewer tourists, so you can avoid the crowds in this popular destination, but temperatures are usually pleasant throughout September and October. Just as in Côte d’Or, you can also take stroll through the local vineyards and enjoy the changing colours of the foliage.

It’s a bit of a drive from Carcassonne, but the village of Castans holds an annual chestnut festival at the end of October, where you’ll also find other regional products, in case you want that real autumn feeling.

Similarly, this is a good time to visit larger southern cities, such as Marseille and Nice, which are swarming with tourists in the summer months.

Cordes-sur-Ciel

https://images.ladepeche.fr/api/v1/images/view/5dedc9dcd286c27df42c01ed/large/image.jpg?v=1

A couple of hours to the north, in the Tarn département, is another elevated town. It was originally called Cordes, but the poet Jeanne Ramel-Cals took to referring to it as Cordes-sur-Ciel, and the name was officially changed in 1993. That’s because of a phenomenon which local weekly Le Tarn Libre so eloquently describes as follows:

Early in the morning, especially in the autumn, an intense mist covers the Cérou valley in a translucent veil. Only the summit of the medieval city emerges from this sea of clouds. Splashed by the rising sun, the town’s silhouette breaks away and appears to set forth proudly towards the sky, beyond the clouds. They say Cordes is above the sky…

Ideal for early risers, then, but even if you don’t catch the clouds, you can enjoy strolling through the narrow streets and admiring the medieval architecture.To be honest, the whole area is positively charming and delightfully rural.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley in central and western France is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. As well as an 800 km (500 miles) wine route, which can be discovered on two wheels or four, the area is home to some beautiful, historic villages. But this stretch of the Loire river is perhaps most famous for its dozens of châteaux and you know how much I love a spot of property porn!

Walk around the grounds of the châteaux in the morning mist, and if it gets too chilly, pop inside to discover what France was like back when the châteaux were inhabited. Many of the parks turn glorious shades of orange and yellow in the autumn. The area is also easily accessible from Paris, making it perfect for a weekend trip.

Every year, during the school holidays at the end of October, the Château of Chaumont-sur-Loire opens up its garden for an event called ‘The Splendours of Autumn’, featuring a range of activities including tastings of seasonal products from the garden, and walks where you can admire seasonal flowers and stagings of pumpkins and other autumn vegetables.

The Pyrénées

The mountains on the border between France and Spain proved incredibly popular over the summer as many opted to holiday close to home. There were 24% more visitors there this summer, according to the tourism minister. I suspect the same could probably be said of the southern Alps as many from the French Riviera also enjoy their charms during the summer months.

All the more reason to visit this Autumn, when there will be fewer tourists, but the weather should still be pleasant. At this time of year the forests turn a mix of yellow, orange and green, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in New England. Lakes, mountains, and the prospect of spotting wild animals such as the Pyrenean Chamois – a trip to the here will leave you refreshed by nature and ready to face whatever winter brings.

You may be wondering where I’ll be visiting this autumn……..you’ll find out in due course!

Image of Morvan courtesy of its Tourist Office

Cee’s Flower of the Day #165

I much enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Musical Monday: Debbie Harry

I’m conscious that fewer female artists feature in my musical posts so I’m going to rectify that omission over the next few weeks.

This week’s track is from Blondie, a US band fronted by striking, blonde, punk-icon Debbie Harry (1945 – ), born Angela Trimble. Blondie released their self-titled debut album in 1976 which peaked at No. 14 in Australia and No. 75 in the UK. Their second album, Plastic Letters, garnered some success outside the US, but their third album, Parallel Lines (1978), was a worldwide hit and catapulted the group to international success.

It included my featured track, the global hit single Heart of Glass, written by Harry and guitarist Chris Stein. Riding the crest of disco’s domination, the track made No. 1 in the US and sold nearly two million copies. It also reached No. 1 in the UK (and several other countries) and was the second highest-selling single of 1979.

In December 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 255 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It was ranked at number 259 when the list was updated in April 2010. In 2018, Heart of Glass ranked at number 66 in the UK’s official list of biggest selling singles of all-time, with sales of 1.32 million copies.

The band’s success continued with the release of the platinum-selling Eat to the Beat album (UK No. 1, US No. 17) in 1979. Autoamerican (UK No. 3, US No. 7) was released in 1980. Blondie had further No. 1 hits with “Call Me” (American Gigolo soundtrack) (US and UK No. 1), Atomic (Eat to the Beat album) (UK No. 1), The Tide Is High (US and UK No. 1), and Rapture (US No. 1).

Harry was immortalized by Andy Warhol in 1980, who produced a number of artworks of her image from a single photoshoot at the Factory. The artist created a small series of four acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas portraits of the star in different colours, as well as Polaroids and a small number of rare silver gelatin prints from the shoot.

The band have split and reformed several times while Harry has enjoyed success as a solo artist and as an actress.

In August 2020, Harry and Stein sold the rights to the song, as one of 197 Blondie songs, to investment fund company Hipgnosis Songs Fund.

 

Cee’s Flower of the Day #164

I much enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

French Fancies: Souleiado

If you’ve been to France, you’ll have seen typical brightly coloured Provencal fabrics everywhere. But where did they originally come from?

If you’ve read any of my posts about the places I’ve visited in south-east France you’ll know that it has been attacked by Greeks, Romans, Goths, Franks, Vandals and Saracens. Indeed, British writer Lawrence Durrell wrote:

Every variety of invader seems to have subjected it to the extremes of pillage, destruction, naked war. It was as if its beauty was too much for them and they went berserk.

Traders followed the invaders. In the early 1600s Portuguese and Dutch ships put in at Marseille with, among other exotic imports, calico, chintz and printed cottons from India. Known even in English as Indiennes, the gaily coloured prints were immediately embraced by Louis XIV. In 1664 he had his minister Colbert form the Compagnie des Indes Orientales to import Indian fabrics and goods. The company sent spies to India to learn the secrets of printing and dyeing the cottons.

The nobility adopted the colourful Indiennes prints for court dress. Molière satirised the vogue in his first production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in 1670, outfitting his hero in a rainbow of printed Indiennes, intentionally worn upside down.

French textile producers set up workshops to make Indiennes and began a thriving business. They carved flowers, arabesques and other motifs on laminated blocks of fruitwood, then applied the blocks to the cotton by hand, one colour at a time, using natural dyes made from plants and minerals.

Fichier:Indienne Souleiado.jpg — Wikipédia

The colours were strong and vibrant: blue the colour of a Gauloise cigarette box, mustard yellow, terra-cotta red and raspberry pink, lavender and bright green.

Over time new motifs were incorporated including local vines, flowers, insects and herbs. Indiennes were worn in layers, as scarves, aprons, blouses and long quilted skirts. Men wore vests and doublets. In Provence one could determine people’s social rank by the style of Indienne-bedecked clothes they wore.

By the late 17th century French-made Indiennes had achieved such popularity that jealous wool and silk makers persuaded the government to ban their production in France. Though unevenly enforced, the prohibition endured from 1686 until 1759.

After the royal ban Provençal manufacturers moved to the Comtat Venaissin, a part of France near Avignon that was under the jurisdiction of the popes until the French Revolution, and thankfully flourished.

The 7 exclusive journal Souleiado de 1950 à 1990, 40 ans de collections ! - The 7 exclusive journal

Souleiado is not the only producer of such prints today, but it is the oldest, established in 1806 in a former Capuchin convent near Tarascon, an ancient Roman city on the banks of the Rhone. Under different names the company has been owned by just a handful of families for over two centuries, never ceasing production despite wars and revolutions.

Le Musée du Tissus Provençal, indiennes et cotonnades • Souleiado - Mode femme et art de vivre provençal

In 1916 it was bought by Charles Henri Demery, who passed it down to his nephew Charles Demery in 1937. In 1939 it was named Souleiado; the word in old Provençal means ”a ray of sun shining through the clouds after a rain.” The printing workshops were installed in a 17th century limestone hôtel particulier (a mansion situated between a courtyard and a garden) in the centre of Tarascon, where it remains today.

Silent Sunday #79

This year all my photographs are of France.

The Musette: Spicy Cod Fritters

Although I eat some fish, I don’t like a lot of typical white fish such as cod, haddock, plaice, whiting. I prefer less fishy tasting Mediterranean fish like sea bass. However, I do enjoy both brandade de morue (emulsion of salt cod, olive oil and potatoes) and accras (salt cod fritters) which are both made with salt cod – fresh cod preserved in salt.

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I generally no longer serve a traditional starter at dinner parties, preferring to offer a selection of nibbles to enjoy with a welcome glass of champagne. Often these are cold, and generally homemade, but I enjoy making “hot” nibbles too and will frequently make these.

Ingredients (makes 40 small fritters)

Spicy mayonnaise:

  • 1 tsp spicy red chilli paste or fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 organic lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 large organic egg
  • ½ tsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 240ml (1 cup) fruity olive oil
  • 240ml (1 cup) grapeseed or rapeseed oil

Fritters:

  • 565g (1¼ lbs) pounds bacalao salt cod
  • 565g (1¼ lbs) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 small garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 45g (1/3 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 large organic eggs

Method

1. Make the spicy mayonnaise ahead by zesting the lemon and adding it to the blender/liquidiser with 1tbsp lemon juice, red chilli or paste, egg, vinegar, mustard and salt. Blend on low until well mixed.

2. Gradually raise the speed to medium and add the oils in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. As soon as the mixture is thick and smooth, turn off the blender (over-blending can cause the mayonnaise to split).

SALTED COD: legend and how to prepare before cooking

3. Desalinate the cod by placing it in a deep dish and cover with cold water. Cover the dish with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 36 hours, changing the water at least three times in the process. Drain well and cut a small piece to taste. It should taste like salted fish, but not excessively salty. If it does, recover with cold water and soak for another 6—12 hours, tasting after 6 hours to test for readiness. Drain well, remove and discard any skin and bones and cut into chunks.

How to make salt cod at home

4. Put them potatoes into a large saucepan and add enough cold water, bring to a boil over high heat, then boil until a cake tester or thin- bladed knife slides through easily, about 10 minutes. Avoid overcooking them; if they are soft they’ll become watery. Drain well.

5. While the potatoes are boiling, place the salt cod/bacalao in another saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, remove from the heat. Set a strainer over a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl and pour the cod into this. Reserve the drained cod and 160ml (2/3 cup) of its cooking water. Discard the remaining cooking water.

6. Combine the oil and garlic in a large saucepan set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and just turning golden, about 4 minutes. Immediately add the flour and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 1 minute. While stirring, pour in half of the bacalao water in a steady stream. Stir until smooth, then add the remaining water in the same manner. Stir in the parsley/coriander and remove from the heat.

Brandade: The Dish That Will Teach You to Love Salt Cod

7. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, along with the drained bacalao and potatoes. Beat on low speed until well mixed and slightly cooled, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, waiting for the first to be fully absorbed before adding the second and scraping the bowl occasionally. As soon as the eggs are fully incorporated, stop mixing. You want the mixture to include some chunks of potato and cod. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the mixture and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. It will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Epicurus.com Recipes | Bacalaitos (Salt Codfish Fritters)

8. Line a wire rack with paper towels. Fill a large saucepan with oil to a depth of 3 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until it registers 180°C(375°F) on a deep-fry thermometer. Scoop up one heaped tablespoon of the bacalao mixture before carefully dropping it into the hot oil. Repeat with more of the bacalao mixture until they form a single layer in the saucepan without crowding. Fry, turning gently, until puffed and evenly golden brown, 1–2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fritters to the paper towels to drain. Let the oil heat up again and repeat with the remaining mixture, working in batches as necessary.

9. Serve them warm with skewers to dip into individual servings of spicy mayonnaise and some lemon wedges.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. If you don’t have time to make the mayonnaise mix some Sriracha into a good quality mayonnaise with the juice of half a lemon.

2. I will often bake the potatoes in their skins and then remove the cooked potato as this tends to be much drier.

3. Any excess cooked fritters can be kept in the fridge for a few days and re-heated quickly in a hot oven.

One from the Vaults: The Basque Country- Vitoria-Gasteiz

Yes, I’m still wallowing in the Basque Country, this time I’m in its Green Capital Vitoria-Gasteiz.

We’ve been visiting the Basque country at least once every year since 2010, but not this year. I’m finding it hard to come to terms with this and keep looking at our respective diaries to see if I can squeeze in a week-end here or there. So far I’ve not had any luck.

It’s a poor substitute, but I decided I should write a few more pieces about the area and where better to start than Vitoria (Spanish) – Gasteiz (Basque), capital of the Autonomous Region of Euskadi which provides a heady mix of nature and culture, history and modernity, sports and gastronomy.

We’ve never stayed in the town but have often visited it during either the Vuelta a Espana or Vuelta al Pais Vasco, two professional cycle races. In fact, the first time we visited in 2011, the race finished in the newer part of town – rather less impressive – and we never saw its magnificent medieval Old Town until a subsequent visit.

Vitoria’s shield-shaped Old Town is surrounded by a fortified wall, set on a hill, that is the only elevation in the plain of Álavasits which probably gave the city its name. After being a Basque settlement first, then a Roman one, Vitoria was abandonned until more than eight centuries ago, when Sancho VI “The Wise” of Navarre  – I rather like that title – founded the city, which is a jewel of medieval architecture. In addition to the old timber-framed houses, there are superb medieval and Renaissance palaces, such as Bendaña, Casa del Cordón, Escoriaza-Esquivel, Villasuso Palace and Montehermoso Palace and it has not one but two cathedrals!

The treasures of the medieval centre are undoubtedly the Santa Maria cathedral, and the church of San Miguel, which presides over the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca (header photo), the city’s patron saint. Here some of the most typical streets of the old town converge with city’s 19th-century city expansion and it is surrounded by old houses with glass verandas. At its centre stands a monument commemorating the Battle of Vitoria, one of the more famous events of the Napoleonic wars, to which Beethoven dedicated his Opus 91.

The Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria is not just any old church (Ken Follet researched scenes for the sequel to Pillars of the Earth here), it’s a 14th-century Gothic building with a 17th-century tower. Under the portico are three open doorways decorated with statues and reliefs. In the interior, chapels containing Gothic, Flemish and Italian Renaissance images include paintings by Rubens and van Dyck.

Visiting is a fascinating experience due to a unique “Open for Construction” project. Closed in 1994 because of serious “structural problems” someone came up with the idea of offering guided tours of the restoration process. Visitors don hard hats and follow the extremely knowledgeable guides along scaffolded walkways via serpentine stone staircases, from the crypt to the bell tower, where you’ll find marvelous 360 degree city views. If only I could find the photos I took on Dropbox!

Designated “The Green Capital of Europe” in 2012, Vitoria boasts the largest number of square metres of green space per inhabitant. A natural habitat that can be enjoyed by walking the Anillo verde, (the “green ring”), an extensive network of 47 km of green paths connecting the six major parks of the city, including the Florida Park, a beautiful urban garden just a few steps from downtown, and the wetlands of Salburua, a paradise for migratory birds.

Vitoria-Gasteiz will also delight art lovers. The city has several major museums, including the Bibat, which houses the Fournier Museum of Playing Cards. The city is known for the manufacture of playing cards and more than 6,000 cards are displayed in the museum.

There’s also the Museum of Archeology at Bendaña Palace, and the Artium, whose permanent collection is considered one of the best and most important contemporary collections of Basque and Spanish art (Miró, Picasso, Dalí, Chillida etc). Art also ventures into the open air, with gigantic frescoes that adorn the walls of some buildings in the medieval district.

In Plaza Arca, on the Calle Dato, half-way between the Plaza Nueva and the train station, there’s a bronze sculture called  “El Caminente” (the walker) which for the Vitorianos, is a symbol of the city. Created by Juan José Eguiazábal in 1985, it represents a person who’s arrived on foot in the city and likes it so much that he decides to stay.

Vitoria-Gesteiz, like everywhere in the Basque Country, is a gastronomic tour de force. In 2014 it nailed the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy award – no mean feat! Its cobblestone lanes are lined with a plethora of bars displaying a selection of the irresistible bite-sized creations (pintxos = tapas) which run the gamut from a humble tortilla to gastronomical mini-bites such as a coddled free-range egg with shaved truffles, which pair perfectly with an aromatic Rioja Alavesa or Txakoli, the indigenous young, fruity and sparkling white wine.

The city is also the capital of Alava which is home to Riojan wines. Indeed, the city’s a good starting point to venture into Rioja where you’ll find world-renowned wineries paired with impressive architecture, such as Ysios (by Santiago Calatrava) and  Marques de Riscal (by Frank Gehry), plus lovely old towns such a Laguardia, which we visited last year. There are further heritage sites including the Neolithic remains of Aizkomendi, Sorginetxe and La Chabola de la Hechicera; Iron Age remains such as the settlements of Lastra and Buradón; antique remains such as the settlement of La Hoya and the salt valley of Anana; and countless medieval fortresses such as the Towers of Mendoza and Varona. You know what, I think I need to plan another visit sooner rather than later!