Tag Archives: Holiday

I Went To France And It Was Closed

29 Aug

Some things I learned on holiday

Six Word Saturday


French People Take Holidays, Too

A Jock-in-the-bush

A Jock-in-the-bush

I went to visit VivinFrance and her lovely Jock – as in Jock, her delightful Scots husband, not jock, her meathead athlete; though he could have been a meathead athlete in his day, I suppose: he did once play ice hockey in Canada.  

The trip was organised fairly last minute but Viv had some ideas to entertain me: a poetry workshop with two of her writer friends; a meal at the excellent restaurant in the village; shopping on Saturday.  

Unfortunately (for me, not them; I have nothing against the South of England, honest), her friends went to Cornwall as I arrived in Europe; the restaurant closed so the owners could take a holiday (at the height of the summer season: the French have their priorities right); and Saturday was a public holiday, therefore many shops were closed.


My hosts are lovely people

I didn’t really learn this on holiday but I need to shoehorn in the fact that when I went to bed, I found a box of fudge under my pillow, called Mrs Tilly’s.  

I was too tired from the drama of flying alone to take a photo of my delight that night, but here’s a dramatic re-enactment from the next morning:



I like to go with the flow

France being closed didn’t bother me – I was with my dear Viv and we read poetry (some), talked poetry (more), critiqued poetry (a lot), wrote poetry (a little).  We managed visits to a supermarket and a hardware store that I thought was a supermarket (schoolgirl French never covering le tool shop), as well as the fulfillment of a childhood dream when I entered a pretty boulangerie-patisserie straight out of a French text book drawing.  I bought elephant ears, a French biscuit.  First introduced to me by blogger Laurie, who sent her home made version from the States, I have long wanted another go at them.



Nostalgia is weird

On our daily walk into the village – There was fighting on this street during the war, Viv casually threw out; as if the French also have lots of history.  I thought it was only us Brits – we popped into a corner shop and I spotted and had to purchase a box of Maizena!

If you don’t know, I lived in South Africa for fourteen years and learned to make gravy with cornflour – Maizena, a popular brand.  If there was any other brand of cornflour, I never saw it nor bought it.  Even now, nineteen years later and back in the UK, the grocery list often says ‘Maizena’ instead of ‘Corn Flour’.  Of course I had to buy a box.  Probably the oddest souvenir I’ve ever had.  But I don’t care – Maizena!


French folk are funny

DSCN3782Viv, her lovely friend Annette and I rested during a trip to the seaside (I don’t think France wanted to meet me – even the tide was out).  A man on a bike shouted as he passed, A kebab of old people!  It was funny once translated, until I realised that I was part of the kebab.

I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think he was really French: he was on a bike but he had no garlic, onions, beret, baguettes or striped shirt.


Goats and lemurs get me going

DSCN3828We had a trip to the zoo: Zoo Champrepus.  Say it aloud; it’s fun, especially with the French rising inflection.  I haven’t stopped saying it since I got back. It’s up there with ‘giggle’ and ‘hitch’ as one of my favourite words.

Our first stop was to feed popcorn to the goats and I was chuffed when a goat stood up against me to make sure he got his fair share i.e. all of it.  It was the highlight of my day until we visited the lemur enclosure at feeding time.  The animals wander around amongst the visitors, who are not allowed to touch them. However, they are allowed to touch us.  One cutie pie, deciding he hadn’t been given enough, stood up against my leg, wrapping his adorable little paws around me and giving me his best Puss in Boots from Shrek impression (previous post refers).  I’m in love.  I haven’t felt that aglow since my wedding day.  In the zoo shop afterwards I bought a lemur cuddly toy, lemur keyring and whatever lemur else I could find to remind me of my new favourite animal.


The little fellow who won my heart

The little fellow who won my heart

French food is the best

Viv and Jock fed me well, including Jock’s homemade Waldorf salad and Viv’s (drool) garlic lamb; but the culinary highlight had to be a trip to their favourite restaurant with some old friends and a bottle or three of good French wine.  

Viv translated the menu (which had no prices listed; need I say more?) but I had no clear idea of what I was ordering; I just trusted it would be good and it was, more than good, viz. photos below:


DSCN3800DSCN3806Talking of wine, I couldn’t drink when I first arrived in France (surely a crime against nature?) because I was on antibiotics for an abscess, but I made up for it come Saturday-Wednesday and spent a lot of my time tipsier than the hour before a flight.  I don’t think my hosts noticed, apart from the night I sprawled across their couch, giggling uncontrollably at re-runs of M*A*S*H.


Flying ain’t so bad if you know the pilot

I’m terrified of flying.  Mostly, I’m afraid of take-off; once I’m up there, I’m committed and, as a pragmatist, I relax enough to loosen my seat belt to Victorian corset strength.  Due to the aforementioned antibiotics, I was unable to have a fortifying beverage on either of my outward flights (to Exeter and then Deauville).   I compensated for my unusual sobriety by taking deep breaths, praying really hard, and singing hymns quietly (don’t want people to think I’m nuts; terrified is enough) in the spirit of Whistle a Happy Tune and I Have Confidence.  Musicals are good for more than Saturday nights in bed, you know.  I could have sung Nearer My God To Thee but I opted for Lord I Lift Your Name On High; it seemed appropriate.

It wasn’t so bad coming back because I still had my pickle on thanks to Jock’s single malt; and on the Exeter-Manchester flight I was delighted to find myself sitting next to a FlyBe pilot (one of six dotted about) who had been on a course, and who flew the route regularly.  I bombarded him with questions – How can this thing even take off?  What happens if one engine fails? Why don’t we crash?  When you’re a passenger, do you judge the actual pilot on his technique? – and he gently slapped me about the head with facts, figures and common sense.  He added to his goodness by pointing out landmarks I’d never have spotted, such as Blackpool Tower (you know, that great big pointy thing with delusions of Frenchness) and allowed me to enjoy the first flight I’ve ever almost enjoyed.  And I was sat by the window – not a matter of choice; I always ask for an aisle seat so I can be one of the first off the plane when we inevitably go down.


Families suck

TB: Did you miss me?

Hub: No, not really.

TB: Why not?!?

Spud: We didn’t have one cross word while you were away; and everything got done.

Hub: Yeah.  We came to the conclusion that you’re a stress head.


I was going to tell you about the romantic thing the Hub wrote to me while I was away, but I don’t think I’ll bother now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll pay my own way to the moon, thank you very much.  When it opens.


24 Dec
christmas tree

christmas tree (Photo credit: peminumkopi)










Spanish Fly

17 Feb

Saturday was going home day.  Alison and I tidied, cleaned and shut up the villa after a brunch of bacon, egg, beans, sausage and baguette.  We returned the neighbours’ much-loved oil heaters, and then it was time for Lyn & Sue, who were staying a little longer, to drive us to the airport, via another beach and bar.

The barman didn’t speak English so Alison had to use sign language to indicate that the first glasses he brought out were too puny.  And the second.  The third lot of glasses satisfied her stringent requirements; I almost fell into mine.

We arrived at the airport in good time: enough for me to be prepared, but not enough time for reflection i.e. panic.  The Ryanair gate queue had formed by the time we got there.  Boarding was slower than on the outward flight, but better organised: people were allowed on two at a time.  The problem this time was not the crush, but the flush – it is still winter in Spain and the heating was on in the airport.  The disadvantage of cheap flights is the one piece of hand luggage rule: you wear anything you can’t carry in your bag.  I was layered up with shirt, cardigan, jacket, scarf & gloves; I was topped up with one rather large glass of wine; I was anxious about flying.  How I didn’t pass out, I’ll never know.

Once in my seat I couldn’t wait to take off, because I knew they’d be serving drinks soon after.  I bought a bottle of water and I had finished it before the steward had taken Alison’s order.  I spent most of the flight walking up and down to the toilet.  A big step for me, because I usually cross my legs on short haul journeys – normally, nothing short of gastroenteritis gets me to unbuckle my seat belt.  I am one of the few people who actually listens to the safety message; watches the steward mime, and studies the safety card.  I count the number of rows from my seat to the nearest emergency exit, and calculate the number of heads I may have to step on if I climb over the top of the seats instead of crawling on the floor (in the unlikely event of fire on board).  I know where the life jackets are stored and always make a mental note to clip it into place before inflating.  When travelling with children, I am probably one of the few parents who likes the idea of putting on my own oxygen mask first.  I’ll tell you this much: if I die in a plane crash, it won’t be because I wasn’t paying attention.

Hub, Spud and dogs were waiting at home for me, and we swapped gifts: I brought them Spanish eats and they had been shopping while I was away and filled the freezer with all kinds of marked-down goodies, like steak, joints, fish and pork.  It was nice to come home to some good British food.

I have spoiled you with lots of photos, but here are a few more:


Life In A Spanish Cooler

16 Feb

Friday was our last full day in Spain.  The villa had heated up to comfortable so I could get out of bed without losing a toe to frostbite.  I woke early, made a cup of tea, and got back in to bed to read for a couple of hours.  What a treat!

Sue & Lyn collected us at ten for a drive to Torrevieja.  The beach was pretty but we didn’t go on it because of the sand.  I did pose with a sculpture, at Lyn’s suggestion:

This young lady waited every day for her father to come home from fishing, and one day he didn't. I suppose she pined away. They didn't have comfort food in those days.

Lyn & Sue wanted to visit a golf shop on a golf estate.  We stopped at a rather swanky golf club to use the toilets.  Did you ever feel grubby just by being present in a place of swank? 

Reading yesterday’s comments, I suddenly realised that, sadly, I did not eat any Spanish food at all while I was away; but I did walk past the tapas bar in the golf club mansion.  Does that count?

As we pulled away, Sue said in a ‘don’t panic’ voice, ‘Lyn, stop the car.  Alison, get out slowly, carefully.’  Alison had a bee on her back.  It stung her just as Sue spoke.  She was relieved to have been stung, for two reasons: one, her husband had told her if she was ever stung she would cry, and she could prove him wrong; and two, it wasn’t another heart attack, as she had first feared when the pain shot down her arm.  We were all pretty relieved about that second one.

After a lunch of baguette and other nice food, Alison and I sun bathed again.  No top removals this time: I had to fetch a duvet because the breeze was so cold.  It didn’t spoil the fun.

Inviting me to a restaurant with a name like 'Let's eat'? I'm much too polite to refuse.

Alison took me out to her favourite restaurant for dinner: Let’s eat, in Benimar.  Talk about yummy; I forgave them the lower case ‘e’ on the strength of the starter alone. 

Fanned Melon with Serrano Ham. Drool.

Pork Loin on a bed of Cabbage, Mash, Bacon; with Lemon Wedges and Vegetables. Double Drool.

Profiteroles (minus chocolate sauce - yeah!) on a Vanilla Ice Cream bed. Alison had the Lemon Cheesecake.

We waited a while between courses but that was okay because they plied us with strong wine; so strong, I may have been extremely tipsy, which I haven’t been since 2005.  Not drunk, of course; I only had two large glasses. 

We walked home, uphill, stopping three times to rest, and once to repatriate neglected lemons from a deserted garden overflowing with lemon tree.  I was the lookout.  I saw nothing, double.

I think I may have got things backwards: some Brits escape a life of crime by fleeing to Spain.  I went to Spain to start mine.

The Wages of Sin or, If Life Doesn't Give You Lemons, Steal Them

Three Green Tomatoes As The Wind Whistles Through Spain

14 Feb

Wednesday dawned bright and warm, once I’d thought to open the bedroom window shutters.  Lyn & Sue collected us at ten for a trip to a local market, but not until I’d had a thorough tour of Alison’s villa.  Gorgeous, with a capital just.

The front door is at the back. Must be a Spanish thing.

Alison said we didn’t need our coats on such a nice day, so we left them at home.  To quote the prettiest prostitute the other side of the pond: Big mistake.  Huge.  It was warm in the car, in the sun, but the wind had come via the arctic, I’m sure, having first stopped off in Siberia for an ice cream, and we shivered our way past sumptuous fruit and accordion players in San Miguel market, until I could stand it no more.  I bought the first coat that fit me, splashing out a massive two Euros.  Look at the relief on my face:

I think I had just been goosed by a brass monkey…

It was worth going to the market, despite the frostbite, because I got the Hub some mouldy sausage I knew he’d love; a butter dish (two Euros – the cheapest we’ve seen in the UK is £10); and three green tomatoes:

The crumbs on the stove top are the Hub’s and Spud’s. I would never allow that if I was home, honest.

You might think a) Those tomatoes don’t look that green and b) Why’d she buy them, anyway?  I might answer a) They were all green when I bought them on Wednesday but turning red by Sunday, when I took this picture and b) Because the Hub loves firm, just ripening tomatoes and they are almost impossible to buy in the UK, being stuffed as they are with additives and colouring and having spent three weeks in a greenhouse/a truck/cold storage.

More shopping ensued at the Chinese Bazaar (they are everywhere and really cheap, rather like our pound shops), Lidl (they are everywhere and really cheap, rather like our Lidls) and Consum, a spacious and spotless supermarket.  I bought Spanish cold meats, Spanish sausages and Spanish sweets for my family.  I also bought some Spanish sponge cake which Alison assured me wouldn’t make it back to the house unsquashed, never mind the UK; and she was right and it now resides in a Spanish dustbin.

Lyn & Sue took us back to their lovely villa for a delicious lunch of baguette (I ate baguette with everything and would now resemble one if baguettes were short, stocky and round), cold meats, salad and massive strawberries for afters.  As I had only had a breakfast of a big bowl of cereal and fruit two and a half hours earlier, I was starving, as you can imagine.

The view from Lyn & Sue’s back door.

Lyn & Sue rent out their apartment at reasonable rates.  You can find the details and more pictures at http://www.apartmentatlafinca.co.uk/ It is on a golfing estate but there is plenty to see and do if you don’t golf.

Pudding! Yum. But I had to share. Glum.

We got back to Alison’s at three, having first stopped at another Chinese Bazaar.  They stock everything you might ever need, and I could have spent a fortune there if I’d had space in my case to take everything back.

Alison’s villa is on a hill but the wind had died and we were able to sit out in the sun, reading and chatting.  Then it was time for a siesta.  I rather like Spain: shopping, eating, sunbathing, reading, sleeping.  What’s not to like?

We had a Lidl lasagne and baguette for dinner (delicious) and settled down with some wine (59c a litre and even more delicious than the lasagne) to watch a couple of movies…once we’d borrowed a couple of oil heaters from the neighbours, filled our hot water bottles and snuggled under spare duvets.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more home sick for South Africa.  Winters are COLD, but mercifully brief.  Alison had warned me, hence the thermals I wore to death while out there.

Part of the view from the patio.
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