Sunday, December 26, 2010

Joyeux Noel! Happy christmas

Christmas in St Saturnin- always our favourite place!

Out for a 'Boxing day walk' blue skies, cold crisp air to blew away the cobwebs!

One of our favourite spots, walking up to the chateau overlooking the ramparts of the village.

Recent temperatures of minus 11 have frozen the water to this shrub creating an ice sculpture.

The church, Marie's office and Luberon beyond.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

En Vacances!

One of the reasons we love Goa, and in particular the Taj Exotica is the sheer peacefulness and relaxation. 

The hotel is set in beautifully kept grounds which are passionately cared for by an army of friendly staff. There are ample sun beds with staff on hand to offer towels , chilled water and water melon. 
The pool is usually deserted as is the beach which gently slopes into the warm sea. 

The beach today
And the food is too our taste, especially with Karen a non meat eater. Each day the fish is caught and includes Lobster, Snapper, Prawns, King fish, crabs to name but a few. Cooked as you like, our favourites being  on the bbq or in the Tandori oven. 

One of the many beach shacks 

There are endless curries to suit all tastes, as hot as you like (or not). 

Star fish
A large kingfisher will set you back 70 Rupees (a UK Pound) and a bottle of Indian wine, which really is good stuff including Sauvignon & Viognier at 675 Rupees, abt nine Pounds. The perfect time to visit is November to end of March .

Fishing boat heading home

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A little travel log of our journey to Goa

What we thought would be a straightforward trip to Goa became quite a challenge!

We were due to take the Easyjet flight Thursday from Marseilles to Gatwick, so we could then fly to Goa Friday morning.

Hearing Wednesday that Gatwick was shut with more snow forecast we had to make a quick decision between  taking the train or flying to Heathrow as we had seen on TV it had no snow. With Kent badly hit we were concerned about getting stuck and  so booked a flight to Heathrow via Paris.  And so we grabbed the last few items into our bags and set off.

Our flight to Paris was fine, although as we arrived there it started snowing. The incoming aircraft  was delayed so we boarded late, at 8pm for our 7 pm flight. We then sat on the runway an hour watching the snow build up before spending another hour queuing to get through the deicing process. Eventually we landed at Heathrow just before 11pm.

Karen all togged up for Reigate

Our friend Martin kindly picked us up to take us back to his house in Reigate, as we left Heathrow the further East we traveled the snow was getting harder and harder with little evidence of gritting taking place. As we left the M25 motorway at the top of Reigate Hill we witnessed lorries unable to get to the top and starting to slide back down! Scary stuff as was the drive we had to do down the hill into Reigate which was actually closed off by Police with several inches of snow  compacted and frozen.

A week day in the park, Reigate

As expected the snow continued Thursday , falling heavily. We had managed to get the last room at a hotel next to the airport for the Thursday night ready for our 5am check in Friday morning, although we were highly doubtful the flight would run  let alone be on time.

So our spirits were raised when we checked in at 5am to be told we were going to be delayed until 9.15 instead of 7.55. We must have been amongst the first people to go through security which took all of 60 seconds! No queues , no shops open , still a ghost airport! Most flights were  still saying cancelled.

After a couple of hours they shifted the departure time to 12.15. So we sat and chatted with fellow frustrated passengers in the bar - where else!  As mid day  neared we began to get concerned and requested what was happening as one or two other flights were departing .

Airport information had, well no information, just wait we were told an announcement would soon follow. And then 13.15 came up on the board. We were told the plane was in , but the Apron was frozen so they were working to clear this and with in half an hour we would be boarding.. An hour later no news, fellow passengers were becoming angry and frustrated with the continued lack of info. Then we were told 14.15, the plane was now being deiced. We were becoming less and less convinced. The staff from the information desk fled! 15.15 departure came on the board at which time we were beginning to lose  hope, passengers began demanding their luggage back and all sorts of strange demands were being shouted ‘my children are starving - we want vouchers!’ seemed strange to us as they appeared to have no children ! ‘Where is the boss of Thomas Cook - get him on the phone’ yes , right highly likely - not!

Any way we sat and considered what we might do, go home, a fortnight in the UK, not appealing with a suitcase full of summer gear, and suddenly it came up - board gate 15, you can imagine the stampede.

On arrival at the gate , the problem became more evident. There was our aircraft, covered in snow and icicles, serious amounts, another passenger witnessed one man standing on the wing trying to sweep the snow off! The de icing unit arrived and started trying to spray off the snow and ice, and cover the aircraft in an anti freezing agent. The airport by this time was covered in freezing fog and darkness was falling. Not a good sign. We boarded.

The captain informed us the plane had sat on the ground since Wednesday morning when the airport was first closed. The towing ‘tug’ was left with it. When they had tried to bring the aircraft to the apron  it was completely covered in snow and ice, as was the towing truck, Gatwick had at least 10 inches of snow. And there were barely any resources to deal with it. The Captain announced  the runway was  now closed again as it was freezing but they were hoping to re open it for us to take off.

The deicers dispersed! We were ready - but there was much activity ‘up front’ with  ground crew coming and going. By now we could see it was dark and very foggy and below zero.  Everyone was very nervous we were going to be off loaded. Then the captain announced the plane had  starting freezing over again and another round of de icing would have to be done. You can imagine the mood in the aircraft.
As this was completed the Captain announced that we would taxi to the runway and see if we could take off. Nervousness and excitement! This could be it - in all sorts of ways!  As we prepared for a short and fast take off the captain announced that the runway had been cleared just for us to take off and then it would be closed again for the rest of the day. Despite a day of frustration and waiting we were finally heading for Paradise……. I should mention how much we appreciated the crew, who had been bussed down from Manchester the night before and like us spent the day hanging around at Gatwick and were well over their rostered hours. After 9 hours we landed in Goa, which had not changed since our last visit 5 years ago, the Leyland buses which must be 40 years old were there to meet us.

Our villa at the Taj (bottom right)

And the oh do busy pool!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gorgeous Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The fruits of our labour! 47.6 litres of first pressing Extra virgin Olive oil with a retail value of 700€


Another new Restaurant Find

Always considering my stomach some say, I consider it part of our role to search out new restaurants to recommend to our guests.
'The Lupin blanc', at Revest des Brousses, 
It is a lovely drive passing Simiane La Rotonde & Banon heading towards the Southern Alps, 
about 35 kms from home . Perfect for lunch (a little twisty at night!) run by an English Chef and his French Fiancée. 
Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winters coming

The first sign of winter with temperatures set to fall to minus 6 this week and snow could soon follow.

Time to wrap up those plants which create interesting statuesque shapes which one cannot help think might  move around in the night!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Glorious Olives!

Our Faithful Olive Pickers taking a mid morning break.

Back to work - Karen with her new collecting bag all the way from down under.

Whilst I use our Kiwi collecting bag from New Zealand.

And Kevin uses his home made collector.Sticky back plastic and washing up bottles come to mind - but it worked well.

Keeping the team fed and watered (wined) is important!

As light fades and the temperature drops we prepare to take our haul to the Moulin

Delivering to the Mill where the Olives are pressed into Extra Virgin Oil.

And the final way in, incredibly exactly the same as last year - 245 Kilos.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Olive Picking

This is one bin that Karen and I picked from just one tree yesterday weighing almost 20 Kilos.

Our Fifth Olive Harvest.
In our first year we collected 19 Kilos of Olives.
In year two this increased to 45 Kilos and then 66 Kilos in our third year.
In 2009 we collected 245 Kilos for which we received 42 litres of superb quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil at a very advantageous price.

The increased crop is because we have been managing the trees by pruning heavily and treating with copper sulphate.The garden at Les Cypres has 9 fabulous trees which are over 100 years old whilst this year our 
crop will be increased by the Olives from our own trees which are now settling after we moved them during the construction of our house.
Of course the other key ingredient is people to pick , which we do by hand, no shaking trees, no nets, just friends and family rewarded by hearty food and drink!

This years target is 300 Kilos.

Contrasting Weather

After a glorious weekend bathed in autumn sunshine Monday was so different, torrential rain and then we were engulfed in mist, fog and bitterly cold temperatures.
And just two days later we are back to this, our more normal Autumn weather.
November really is a fabulous month in the Luberon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jazz in the Luberon

Whilst the tourist season might have ended there is still plenty of life going on in the Luberon.
La Bergerie, in Maubec, a popular restaurant organise regular Jazz evenings.  
The proprietor is also a talented musician playing trumpet and on vocals.
45€ buys you cocktail and appetiser, a three course meal and all the wine you can drink!
A full house and good time was had by all.

Walk on the wild side

There are so many walks in the Luberon. Today we joined some friends setting off in Murs and covering about 15 kilometres. The amazing thing is how the scenery changes every time you turn a corner.
Something you do not see very often in this valley is animals grazing so we were quite surprised to come across these farmers getting ready to round up their sheep.

The Autumn sunlight lightens our pathway!

To the  village of Murs.

where the last of the red  leaves hang from the cherry trees.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Perfect Autumn day

We awoke to blue skies and a hot air balloon in November! and 21 degrees.

Perfect weather for Olive picking, planned for next weekend.

Last year we picked 245 Kilos - this years target is 300!
Any volunteers to help welcome!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Berlin, November 5th to 9th.

Autumn in Berlin. 

Part of the former Wall in Berlin

Against dramatic skies the tallest building in Berlin, at 365 metres the Fernsehturm.

The Berliner Dom, a cathedral dating to 1747.

The Reichstag  was built to house the German parliament , around 1884, and paid for by the French!
It was badly damaged by fire in 1933, and not restored until the 1950's. More recent modernisation is the elliptical glass dome designed by Norman Foster.

The Brandenburg Gate , the quintessential symbol of Berlin. Erected around 1780 it stood in the East until the wall came down in 1989.

How the Brandenburg gate sat behind the wall.

The Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the German President, badly damaged in World war II, and now restored.

The Triumphal column was built in 1864 to celebrate the Prusso - Danish war in 1864. It was actually moved from out side the Reichstag in 1938.

Outside the Bauhaus Museum with our friends Roy & Andrea who live in Handorf, near Hamburg.

Berlin has many fine old monuments and buildings , as well as many modern buildings.
This is the renowned Sony Centre.

And the amazing new central railway station.

The interior, a hive of activity. Note the train on the lower floor and the Warsaw express on the top floor.

Covering over 4 acres , 2711 concrete slabs were built as a Memorial to the murdered Jewish people of Europe, very moving.

Berlin has a lighter side though, 

This is its pedestrian crossing symbol , the' ampelmann' originally used in the East it is now in the West too.

Some highly imaginative buildings!

And it has to be said , Germany is always ahead of technology.

And as for the shopping, KaDeWe is simply wonderful, a cross between Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis under one roof. Heaven!

Well , we liked Berlin a great deal and would recommend it and go back. History, culture, galleries, shopping, nightlife and great restaurants. We ate Italian, Indian, Thai and traditional German , all superb and good value.
It was interesting to see the locals going about their weekend, Large breakfasts, afternoon tea & cake are certainly order of the day, they love to shop, dress smartly, have an incredible choice of quality merchandise whether it be cars, coffee machines or clothing.
It was also interesting to see how busy the city was, and also that almost everyone we came into contact with spoke English.