I love Paris!  It’s one of the best “walking” cities ever (second only to Rome, I think!)…..and one of the few that I can get around pretty good without a map!

We arrived at Gare de Lyon just after noon.  Grabbed a taxi and headed to our apartment.

The apartment we rented on Rue St Denis, on the border between the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, was through Airbnb.  It was on the 5th/6th floor with NO ELEVATOR!!  What were we thinking???

We left one suitcase at the bottom while we both carried the other up and up and up….with stops on the second floor and 4th floor landings!!  It had a nice-ish little balcony that overlooked the street and with pretty good views of the Paris rooftops and the Pompidou Centre.  Small and compact but had two bedrooms and all that we needed……and more because Olivier, and his little family,  lived in the apartment!!  We had guessed this from the pics on the website so were prepared.  I have stayed in a couple of other places similar where the owner just simply moves out (somewhere???) while the apartment is being rented by tourists.  Not my fav type of vacation rental because I generally find the place cluttered, crowded and just weird with someone elses “stuff” in closets, the fridge, cupboards etc.  However, the price was right and so was the location so we booked it.  It was clean-ish but again because of “stuff” all over, including a kiddy pool still filled with water on the balcony, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is old versus what needs a good scrubbing….that said, we had clean sheets and a clean bathroom, which were the main things…..and a coffee maker!!

The location,  just a few blocks up from Rue de Rivoli and one or two blocks from Les Halles shopping centre, and close to two metro stations,  was handy for going off in different directions each day to explore.  Rue St. Denis is a busy street….day and all hours of the night.  That is not a bad thing except at 3AM!!  There were kebab shops below us open 24hrs!

We only used the metro a couple of times (Pere Lachaise and Montmartre) but otherwise walked and walked….with café and/or wine stops along the way.  For the metro we bought a book of 10 tickets, which we shared, and worked out to be the perfect number of tickets we needed.

One of our first stops was to Dehillerin

I didn’t buy anything this time because I just did not have any room to carry it home!!  Brenda ordered some type of linen cloth for making bread.  If anyone loves to cook and loves pots, pans, spatulas, whisks etc. this is the place to visit!

I won’t go into great detail of the places we visited but suffice to say we covered a heck of a lot of Paris in 5 days!!  A second visit to Pere Lachaise cemetery for me…..and I think I’d even go again!!  I’m sure Brenda though I was crazy when I said we should pack a picnic and have lunch there…..we did and she thoroughly enjoyed it!  That was one of the highlights.


Pere Lachaise….incredibly beautiful and peaceful.


One of the tombs that I really wanted to see was that of Oscar Wilde.  When I was there a number of years ago, it was covered with red lipstick kisses….and because it was Gay Pride week while we were there I thought for sure it would be red kiss overload…..but was not to be!  They had cleaned it up and put a plexi-glass barrier around it…..I do understand but it was rather disappointing 😦







Museums, due to our limited time, were not a high priority.  Brenda had seen Mona so we skipped the Louvre.  She hadn’t been to the Musee d’Orsay, which is always worth a visit (my 4th!!), so off we went.  They had a ticket special…..the d’Orsay and the Rodin for the price of one so that’s what we got.  The Rodin is about a 15 or 20 minute walk from there.  We also went to the Pantheon.  We walked down Champ De Mar to the Eiffel tower but didn’t go up or for that matter even stand under it due to all the tight security in that area now….too bad but we still got some great pictures.

One day, walking along the quay, we heard a commotion behind us.  Turning around we saw a cyclist that had somehow fallen off his bike and was clinging to the edge with both hands and still managing to hang on to his bike with his foot around the handlebar!!  We ran back to help……he wanted us to grab his backpack, which he had somehow gotten off with one hand.  Luckily a couple came along and assisted with the rescue….the guy was able to lift his bike, with his foot, up far enough for the man to grab  and then pull himself back up onto the quay.  The quay, eventhough there was no railing or barrier, was pretty wide along there so how he managed to get himself into that dilemma, I have no idea!!  Thank goodness it all turned out OK.

Montmartre….so, so touristy and crowded now…..unless you head away from Sacre Coeur and Place due Tertre.  We did have lunch at one of the little cafés facing all the artists in Place du Tertre, which was not terribly good and overpriced.  After lunch we wandered away from there…’s quite lovely and there are much better restaurants with better prices!!  But be warned there are no ATMS….you would have to go back down the funicular to find one.

When we arrived in Paris, unbeknown to us, it was the last couple of days of Gay Pride week!!  Lots of parades day and night, music….and great people watching.  Also tons of security everywhere.  The best part was that many of the streets were shut down to traffic through the day and early evening, which was nice.

Paris was also bidding on the 2024(?) summer Olympics so some sort of promo thing going on with lots of mini Olympic venues set up along the left bank of the Seine….high jump, long jump, hurdles, marathons etc.


Mini-Olympic venues across the river.  Pont Alexandre was closed to traffic for a couple days.


This also meant a couple of the bridges were closed to traffic. For pedestrians it was necessary to go through security check points before crossing the bridges.  All very interesting and totally understandable because of what has happened there.  That said, it was all done rather low key so not noticeable until you came upon one.  The rest of the city was pretty much as it was the last time (2012) with maybe a bit more of a police and military presence at key areas of the city.

Shopping….some but not much, mostly because of the space available in our luggage.  We did visit Galleries Lafayette, BHV and lots of wonderful little clothing shops selling some of the most exquisite scarves… day I will get that Hermes!!

Even if you don’t plan on buying anything it’s still worth a visit to Galleries Lafayette….the entire basement floor is all shoes!!

It’s also fun to visit the flower and bird market  (Marché aux oiseaux) on Ile de la Cite (between Notre Dame and St Chapelle).


Food…..lots of it, some good, some not so good.  After a couple days of typical French cafes we tried Thai and Japanese and an English style pub….all very good.

The weather was perfect until the last day….rain, thunder, lightening etc. but that didn’t stop us, it just meant more coffee/wine breaks.


Lucky we had decided to sit inside for our Japanese lunch….!!!


I’ve been to Paris a few times now…..the first trip was just Ken and I.  We covered an incredible amount of the city on foot.  We visited all the major museums and sites, found some wonderful little cafes and thoroughly enjoyed our few days there.  The other times I’ve gone it’s been with people who hadn’t been there, or were there 20 – 30 years ago.  I don’t know why but I feel like I have to be the “tour guide” and as a result end up going to the same places over and over again and again.  I am museum-ed out in Paris!!

There are some things though that you just have to do no matter how many times you’ve been there….a walk along the river looking at the bouquinistes ….stop for a glass of wine at one of the cafes along the Seine and watch Notre Dome light up at sunset…..walk through the Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens.  But the best thing really is to just wander…..we did this our last day this time, rain and all, it was one of my favorite days.  So many little alleys and narrow streets that open onto a beautiful little square with cafes and unique shops….and a great, off the beaten tourist path,  little English pub for lunch!

Less than a month until my trip to India!




Food and Wine in Burgundy

You cannot go wrong in Burgundy for food and wine!!  We did not have one bad meal anywhere along the route, including breakfasts!

The hotels we stayed in all had pretty good breakfasts….European style continental ones.  Breads, various types of spreads (confit) and cheeses, usually an assortment of cold deli type meats, fruit, yogurt, cereal (some hot too), hard/soft boiled eggs that you did yourself in those neat little machines.  A good way to start the day.

Lunch was usually a salad, something quick that we could gobble down and get back on the road/trail before the heat got to be too much.

Jambon Persille and a salad…..another day salad nicoise….yummy!


It was a little embarrassing stopping at nice places like this…..with our lovely padded biking pants and really bad hair (from the helmets!!) .

Dinners were all really good.  A couple places we stayed were out in the middle of nowhere ,which meant eating at the hotel…..certainly not the cheapest option but the two dinners we had were so good…..the food, the service, the ambiance etc.   I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten in a Michelin star restaurant but I do think these meals were close to what and how that would be.

We came across, in Prisse, the French version of a “strip mall”…..if only ours were like this!!  No McD’s or Burger Kings here!!  Everything you could possibly want or need.  Amazing cheeses, a bakery with incredible breads, pastries and pre-made baguettes, a wine store with all local wines.  Everything is presented so beautifully!We had a great little lunch at a table outside after wandering through all the shops….


Wine…..what can I say???  Amazing wines, all for one fifth (or less!!) than what a bottle would cost at home….even in restaurants.  Besides the famous burgundy wine (pinot noir for red and chardonnay for the white) we had Aligote,    which we found very drinkable….a nice “patio wine” (good with or without food on a nice warm summer afternoon!).    And the burgundy sparkling wine, cremant.


Our route was from Beaune (Cote de Beaune area) to Macon (Maconnais).  We stopped for lunch or a drink in a few of the towns on our route….all lovely!  If it hadn’t of been so hot, we probably would have headed to a few more of the places a kilometer or two off the trails….

Burgundy Wine Map by Wine Folly

The hotels we stayed in were all really quite lovely….two that sort of stick out though are:  This was in the middle of nowhere…..up a huge steep hill to end our second day of biking!  It is pretty much a self contained resort where people go to get away from the cities….lots of hiking and biking and of course vineyards to visit.  It has everything you need (except air conditioning in the old building…where we were!!).  We arrived fairly early in the afternoon and after cleaning up we immediately hit the bar!  Instead of wine we had a good old Canadian favorite to quench our thirst….the lady in the bar knew about it from other Canadians!


Beer and tomato juice….known as a Calgary Redeye!


Then, with some energy restored, we had a good look around the place….the spa, the pool, the grounds and the little church in the hamlet.  The rest of the afternoon was spent just relaxing on the beautiful outdoor patio with a nice bottle of burgundy.

This place was where we had one of our best dinners…..I forgot to take pictures of the main course and the dessert/cheese plates.  The other thing that we had here, and just about everywhere else, to start our meal was an “amuse bouche” or an “amusette”.  Usually it was a small taste (think large shot glass size) of a cold soup….here it was a celery and pea puree with cream…..sounds odd but was incredibly delicious!

Our appetizers…..goat cheese wrapped in marinated thinly sliced beets and mussels in cream….


The other “in the middle of nowhere” place was  Lunch and dinner here!  Fantastic service and food, beautiful pool and grounds with many little places to sit or wander around….. and a great outdoor bar area.  Thank goodness the cost of the hotel was included in our package because our bill at the end of this stay was almost $200 each!!  Not cheap but so, so nice to splurge a bit after a hot day of cycling.  After lunch we hit the pool and bar with our books for a great relaxing afternoon.

Dinner appetizers…..crab cakes with smoked salmon and a “stew” of frogs legs and escargot

Dinner fish (bass if I remember correctly) and duck…

And last but not least…..the cheese plates (hardest part was deciding which 4 cheeses from a trolley of about 50!!) and dessert.  We picked 4 different ones each then shared!


We started this trip in Beaune,  which is lovely place with lots of history (and good wine!).  I’d been thru Beaune years ago but didn’t really spend a lot of time there to explore…this time I had a day and half so took in as much as we could.

Lunch in Beaune after our first half day of cydling was a little hole in the wall bistro down the street….no menus here!  The plat du jour is what you get…..a salad, a beef burgundy type stew and dessert!  Absolutely delicious….so famished forgot to take a picture!

Our tour ended in Macon   ….definitely a place to go back to.  It’s on the Saone river and has an great waterfront area with tons of restaurants, bars, various outdoor entertainment venues and a wonderful old historic centre.  A great dinner to celebrate our accomplishment of biking thru Burgundy!

A burgundy cremant and my fav dinner, moules et frites to finish off the trip!

My only advice for Macon is to not expect to get a taxi on a weekend!  Headed down to the lobby early Saturday morning to order our taxi to the TGV station….only to be told there are no taxis on the weekends!!  Ack!!!  The gal did manage to round a driver up for us, which was a good thing as the station is not within walking distance and it was already too late to try to catch the bus!!

It was on to Paris for our last week…..


Excellent Cornbread!

It turned out really good!  Much more successful than my gluten-free/non-dairy butter tart squares!


It was a little more cakier, or denser, and drier than the regular cornbread but a lot of the cornbread I’ve had is the same texture.  I also reduced the butter a bit because it just seemed like a lot (4tbsp instead of 6)  They also didn’t tell you where to add the honey, so I added it to the wet ingredients.  I would definitely make this again and even give it a try using almond milk (for my gluten-free, non-dairy DIL).

That and the cabbage roll soup made for a great dinner last night.  And the wine……OMG, this is the best Riesling I think I’ve ever had.  I picked up this bottle on our trip up to Naramata last month….I liked it then but often you kind of get caught up in the moment when doing these wine tastings…..everything tastes good…..but I will actually go in search of this wine!  It’s not available in our local government liquor stores but I’ve managed to track down a couple of private, specialty stores that I can get it in.  I’ll have to drive into Vancouver but it will be worth it.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before!  The winery will gladly ship some to you…..but you have to order by the case.  It’s a minimum of 2 cases for them to pay the shipping.  I like it but not sure I like it THAT much….that would be a lot of wine to go through….although….



This wine is fantastic!  It went really well with the cornbread…that little bit of sweetness.

Speaking of Naramata….it’s in the Okanagan Valley which is where some pretty darn good wines are made.  It’s our version of Napa Valley I guess….at half the price!  It’s an absolutely beautiful area in the summer and fall.  There are tons of wineries for tours and tastings…..based on my experiences up there visiting 5 a day is about the max…..yes, it is possible to get “wined out”.  You start to lose track after a the first couple of tastings….I try to remember to grab one of the business cards and make a note of the wine I buy or taste and like or don’t like.  Some of the wineries also make cheese….one especially has really good cheeses (Upper Bench).  If you head up there for 3 or 4 days you can cover off at least 2 of the different areas.  The Naramata Bench, which is where I’ve stayed the last two times, the Golden Mile, which is a bit south and the area across the lake which is Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna are easy to do in a day.   But there are so many more it could keep you busy for days and days!!  And on top of the wine, the area is pretty beautiful too.  It’s also where most of our local fruit is grown, so depending on when you go, you could come home with not only cases of wine but peaches, cherries, pears and apples of every kind.   Wine tasting (and buying) is not the only thing to do up there….in summer there are lots of lakes for fun and fishing and in winter, some of the best sky slopes in BC…also lots of restaurants…even at a few of the wineries.  Just a great place to visit year round (in winter it depends on the roads though….).


A few pics from that girls trip….the house was huge and gorgeous!  And the views were spectacular.

The house…..

Some quirky, fun stuff at many of the wineries…

And of course, grapes galore!

Tonight I’m off to dinner with the India trip girls….Brenda, Cathy and my daughter.  We’re of course going out for Indian food!  I’ve been to this restaurant before and it was really good…..looking forward to it.  Lots of yakking, planning etc…..just a fun evening.



My first sighting of the year.  I know they’ve been around but I hadn’t seen one until last night.  And not only one but two!!  A mama and a baby.  It was pretty cute watching them work their way around the cul de sac, starting at my house.  They toppled green bins, which I’m hoping were either empty (mine) or locked so they couldn’t get into the food waste, as they went along.

Gym day today….that’s my plan.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday….at least 3 times a week.  My legs are still sore from my “orientation” on Monday so not sure just how many squats I’m going to be able to get in without not being able to get back up!!  The good news with my orientation was that I’m not in as bad shape as I thought!!  Still not great but I was pretty sure all the measurements they do were going to be in the “red” zone.  Luckily all, except the hydration one, were in the yellow….so I’m your average sort of unfit person!  I can easily deal with the hydration….I will consciously now drink more water….at least for a while!

It was kind of a neat thing they use to measure all this stuff……how accurate it is, I have no idea.  You take your shoes and socks off an stand on this thing that looks like a scale.  Somehow it can figure out how much fat you have versus muscle, whether or not you are hydrated enough, bone mass, BMI etc….and your weight, of course.  This is a freebie that they offer as often as you want to have it checked.  In theory within the next month or so all my measurements will move to the lower “yellow” zone or hopefully into the “green zone.  Regardless of the mid yellow ratings the summary comes out that I’m “overfat”!!!

They also offer nutrition/dietary consultations….for a fee.  They seem to be pretty good and certainly didn’t push too hard but their goal is to get you hooked up with a personal trainer for a about $99, which I think was good for 4 sessions or something….I told him I just wasn’t into it that much, which he accepted no problem.  I just need to do something to keep me in reasonably good shape for my age…..which is  a great excuse to use when something is too hard, heavy, active etc. that you don’t want to do!!

Yesterday Bev and I made our cabbage roll soup.  It was pretty good….missing something but just not sure what……I think bacon!! (so much for heart health!!).  We had a nice big pot of it,  a little thicker than we’d hoped but can easily be thinned down with a bit more tomato sauce or even water….lots of flavor.  Tonight that is what dinner will be….and gluten free cornbread.  A recipe I’m going to try out using up some of the gluten free flour that I’d bought a few months ago.  It’s not dairy free, so no good for my DIL….but will maybe give that recipe a shot if this one works out.


Managed to get 4 of these containers out of our pot of soup.  There is easily enough for 2 meals in each one.  One of mine will be for tonight and the other will go into my WELL ORGANIZED FREEZER later today.


I have to admit that the days I go to the gym I have a lot more energy…..assuming I can still move when I get home today, we’ll see if that holds true this afternoon!  I have my freezer to finish and a number of other things on my lists.  Winter is such a blah time for me.  It’s not really winter yet but if it’s not hot and sunny, it’s winter to me!  The last couple of days were really quite pleasant with lots of sun…I could handle that all “winter” but I’ve lived here long enough to know that won’t be the case so I just have to suck it up and make the best of those blah days….wine goes good with those days 🙂


The Weather…..Soup Days!

A good bowl of hot soup is one of the best comfort foods at this time of year.

Rain, hail, thunder, lightening and wind……


I like making soup….it’s easy and always good to have a stash of it in the freezer for one of those days that you need something warm and simple for dinner.  Bev and I have talked about getting together and making a big pot to divvy up…..the plan is to do it soon, maybe one day next week.

I certainly won’t be making any green pea soup….I have enough of that to last the winter I think.  I still have a container or two of chicken/turkey noodle and one of butternut squash.  I’ve made “cabbage roll soup” before and it was really good and it’s really easy to make…..Bev’s likes it too so that’s what we’re going to do.  I think it’s a recipe that she got years ago from a restaurant that she used to go to for lunch when she was still working.  More stuff to go in my freezer….which will be all organized by then (hahahaha).


Having small containers of soup on hand is a good thing for one person.  Those one person meals still challenge me…..unless I’m really craving something it just seems like too much work to prepare the whole nine yards of a meal for one person.  Having my daughter here definitely makes a difference.

I’ve joined a different gym, which I’m hoping I’ll go too way more often than the one I was at before.  I did pretty good before we went on holidays…..had no choice really because I had to get myself into some sort of reasonable shape to do the bike ride.  But after I came back……..hmmmm.

My friend Brenda also joined the same gym.  She is much more motivated than me so I’m hoping that rubs off…..having someone to go with makes it a bit more fun too.  This gym is one of those big nationwide places.  It’s just opened in the last few months and of course is offering to waive certain fees so I thought I might as well take advantage of that.   I can walk to this place from my house…..I probably won’t though, at least not if it’s cold or raining.

All summer I seem to keep myself way more active….all those outside jobs, whereas come winter you just want to cocoon yourself or hibernate (with a bowl of soup!).  At this age I’m not so worried about being all “buffed up” but just need to get into some reasonable shape….it’s the “heart health” that needs to be considered….and that type II diabetes that seems to creep up on people when then get to this age. This gym also offers tons of classes (all included)…..spinning, zumba, yoga (hot and normal) etc., monthly weight/fat measuring, meal planning and help from a personal trainer (for a fee!). So maybe, just maybe….I can get myself into a pattern or routine of going at least three times a week and maybe even hitting one of two of those classes they offer.

I hesitated to move to this gym just because it sort of has that reputation of being for all those muscle men… know the ones that grunt and groan lifting a 1000 pounds.  There are a few of them but luckily this place is huge and has a bunch of different areas that you can work out in.  I find in the mornings 90% of the people there are women of all ages and sizes.  They even have a womens only area if you’re not comfortable in the main parts of the gym.  Tomorrow I go for my orientation and setting up my plan of attack to get fitter……

My daughter has lost a ton of weight over the last couple of years and she’s done an excellent job of keeping it off.  She still manages to eat junk and fast food but also eats pretty healthy, limited fat and certain carbs etc.  When she gets on one of her healthy eating kicks it help me too.  It doesn’t last but I figure it’s at least helped….we’ll work on that too!

The other night we had “BLT’s without bread!  We added cheese, so not sure we saved a lot calorie wise but they were really good and along with some beans (protein….probably not the good kind but oh well) we had a great dinner that was surprisingly satisfiying and filling!


The lettuce leaves are the bread….a bit of mayo and salt and people (lol….) pepper and you’re good to go!


We won’t even talk about what we ate the next few days… day at a time, one step at a time.

Sechelt friends are here for a couple of days so off to do fun things this afternoon and dinner at one of their favorite Chinese restaurants later.


Re-usable Grocery Bags….


I have a lot of them… I remember to take them with me when I go shopping????  Most of the time NO.  Besides the ones above I have at least 3 or 4 in my car….which I also never remember to take in.  I do have good intentions though and grab one as I’m going out the door when I’m going shopping….unfortunately it just gets added to the ones already in the car.  Once a month or so I bring them all back in the house and try the whole process over again the next few times I go.

Finally last night while having one of my tossing and turning moments, I came up with a brainwave idea on how to make use of some of them.

Does anyone else’s freezer look like this?


It’s been a while since I cleaned it out….goodness only knows what I’ll find on the bottom!!


My plan was to get a new one….an upright one that you don’t have to unload and root through to find the one thing you are looking for.  I’m just not sure where I’d put an upright one.  The one I have is a good size for me and it fits nicely right under the window in the garage.  I clean it out once a year or so and it’s always fun and exciting (not!!) to find those prawns or package of ground beef….dated from the prior year or two…. or a lone freezie/popsicle on the bottom….and then there are the buns and loaves of bread….all put there with the good intention of actually using them one day….maybe for bread crumbs or stuffing or ?????

I have these hooks, which I love….they’re everywhere…..all different sizes.  Behind doors, in my laundry room, in my ensuite bathroom….stuck around the side of the vanity which is where I hang my necklaces.  Anyway they are handy dandy things to have around.


SO…..I am going to attach them to the inside of my freezer, then hang a bag on it.  There will be one bag for beef, one for pork, one for chicken, one for fish and if I have enough room one for frozen veg and other miscellaneous stuff (like those bacon wrapped scallops I’d forgotten about that I found lurking on the bottom!).

I will have to defrost it or chisel away at some of the built up frost first but this is a project for the next couple of rainy days to keep me busy.

This all sort of started last night when I’d gone looking for the prawns that I needed for dinner…..after pretty much emptying the entire freezer (and a few choice curse words….) to find them…I thought I really had to deal with this.  So much food either ends up getting wasted, or tasting (and looking) freezer burnt, it’s crazy.  What to do, what to do…..obviously my mind was working last night when the brainwave came to me.  And possibly because I went grocery shopping and again did not take in my re-usable bags and came home for another 5 or 6 plastic ones….they do get used for kitty litter, so not a waste, I guess.

Dinner last night was yummy again….two nights in a row!!  Simple pasta tossed in butter/olive oil that herbs and garlic had been sauted in, with some diced tomato and a handful or two of spinach all topped with some fresh parm cheese!


Found this recipe on a weight watchers site….meals that are 7 points or less.  That doesn’t include the prawns or the cheese!

Tonight will be different.  My daughter has a dentist appointment after work and won’t be home for dinner….hmmmm.



More Food In Italy….

I should have just posted from my journal….although that might have been a bit TMI!

We really ate well…..the food markets are the highlight of the week in town!  Besides the food, lots of people just congregate in the piazzas… and adults on scooters (seems to be the latest craze there), the men while the women shop etc.  The cafes also get crowded with the shoppers stopping for a coffee, or if it’s close enough to noon an aperitif or a glass of wine.  It’s a fun, festive atmosphere.  Parking can be a bit of a challenge though and often rather than trying to get as close as possible we’d just grab the first spot we came hoping that we didn’t have a big hike, or worse still a big uphill hike to get to the market.  Not that the walk didn’t do us good… excuse to be able to eat and drink all that we did!


The house from the driveway….behind us was the olive grove and off in both directions were the hilltowns which at night were so pretty all lit up.


Our house was really well equipped, which is a good thing if you are planning to do a lot of cooking.  We didn’t think we’d eat in quite as much as we did but due to the lack of restaurants in our immediate area.  It was fun though…..we all enjoyed the prepping with our glasses on wine close at hand.  Not sure that it was porcini mushroom season but someone at the market had beautiful ones…..we bought a few and made a great risotto one night.

We’d bought a lot of fruit one day thinking we have it for breakfast every day…..the melons were so delicious and peaches, firm and so flavourful….they even smelled like perfume!  One night Rae, who is the baker of the bunch, used up all our fruit that was slowly starting to ferment and made a great crumble dessert……this was after we’d finally figured out that there was a plug for the gas stove….it was rolled up and tucked under it!  We’d been using matches to light the burners and couldn’t figure out how to get the oven to work!  Just by chance…..dropping something under the stove….did we discover the cord and plug!  Good thing we did because besides the dessert we did a leg of lamb, eggplant parm, bruschetta etc.


Having dinner at home was one of the best times of the day…..just sitting around, chatting, laughing, going over all our adventures for the day and also catching up on phone calls or facetiming home.  One night a friend called, after a few glasses of wine I think….the only problem was it was evening for her and 4AM for us!!

Enough food I think….next I’ll post about places we went.  Le Marche is really a very beautiful and diverse part of Italy.  I would definitely go back again.  Other than it not being touristy in some areas and having the amenities that go along with that…..not a bad thing for us….it made for a great relaxing, laid back part of our vacation.  In hindsight, we should have done our planning so that this part came after our bike trip and the hustle and bustle of Paris.  Something to think about for the next one!

Today though back to reality……looking at the pictures kind of takes you back…those “ah sigh” moments.  The grass needs cutting…..what was I thinking when I put that moss control and turf builder stuff on it????  It’s still a bit sad looking with black patches (dying moss) and bright green new grass popping up in clumps here and there.

I’m surprising myself in that I really don’t mind cutting the grass…..kind of one of those therapeutic type of jobs.  I should have fired my grass guy a long time ago….it would have caused much less aggravation when he didn’t show up when he was supposed too!  Next on my agenda will be weed control…..we’ll see how that works!

I also managed to finish the walkway at the side of the house that I started last year….it’s terribly crooked but oh well….it’s in now with grass seed around it that I’m hoping will sprout soon.  The soil is so dry and dusty I’m not sure it’ll take root.  I’ve had to water it a couple times a day because it’s been so hot and sunny.  We’ll see.  These were never my jobs before and I can’t say I’m doing any of it the right way but it’s getting done and I guess that is what counts.  Being retired certainly has helped in doing all this…..pretty sure this just would never have happened if I’d still been working.


Ah Italy….Some of the Food!

I don’t know why but we seem to eat so differently when we’re away.  Because we’re on vacation I think it’s the concept of keeping the food prep simple and fun.  Often this happens because you don’t have all the same “stuff” in your rental kitchen that you do at home….knives are often the issue.  That wasn’t the case this time which made prepping everything more fun as opposed to fighting with a dull knife or as happened once having only a bread knife period!  You also don’t want to spend half the evening doing clean up either, so the less dishes, pots, pans etc. used the better!

Also because you’re not there for a long time you tend to buy only what you need for a day or two and of course with the markets there everything is farm fresh.  It’s fun to shop at the markets….just looking at the displays of produce, cheese, meats etc. makes you hungry!

One off my favorite things in Italy is the porchetta….it’s the crackling that makes it.  Probably so bad for you but hey…..everything in moderation, right?


There is always at least one porchetta guy at the markets.  Depending on  the space they have it’s usually a whole pig that is on display.  They lop off hunks of it along with a good bit of the crackling…’s absolutely delicious hot or cold, as long as the crackling is crispy.  You throw a few pieces of it into the bun with the pork and it’s fantastic.  That and a salad and some local wine made a great dinner one night.Al

Al fresco dining is great…..during the heat of the day at lunch we’d move the table under the mulberry tree (yes they are trees, not bushes…) and enjoy the food and views.  Not so much the sticky mulberries that would fall off every now and again.  In the evening the house was our shade and again we’d sit an and enjoy the food, the wine, the views and the company!

I have to go to work today 😦  .  I really shouldn’t complain see it’s only a couple of of hours two days a week or so…..but really I’d much prefer to sit here and carry on with our Italy adventure…oh well.  More soon.




There might have to be a few parts to this…..just so much there to talk about!  Food, wine, people, beautiful countryside, beautiful villages and towns….the list just could go on and on!

We tried to find where the local farmers markets were each day and then plan our outings based on that.  Le Marche, the area that we stayed in, is not the tourist mecca like so many other parts of Italy.  As a result it’s kind of a catch-22 situation……you don’t get the touristy type services (ie lots of restaurants) and at the same time because there aren’t that many tourists, there really isn’t the need to have all those restaurants, shops etc.  Not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Their economy does struggle, which worries some people, but then we talked to others who were more than content with their way of life….sometimes a lot of work but so worth it to them to retain.  Very interesting!  Siesta is also a big part of Italian life in Le Marche…..just about everything closes around noon and reopens late afternoon, 4:30-5ish often, depending on where you are restaurants and cafes!  We learned to do our “shopping” earlier then search out one of the restaurants that was open and have a long leisurely lunch!


The Sunday market in Arcevia!  Not many food stands….mostly a market for household goods, clothing (including polka dot bras!!), tools, etc.  They don’t have any of the big box stores nearby so the weekly markets enable people to get what they need without having to drive for miles or hours.  Some of the clothes and shoes were pretty darn nice…..lots of scarves!!

The market in Gubbio (Tuesdays) was the best ever…..we remembered that from our last visit here so made the trek (a good hour or so drive).  It’s a huge market with lots of everything……beautiful fresh produce, the porchetta guy and clothes and shoes galore!

What surprised me more than anything was the number of young people in these towns.  Young as in their 20’s.  A lot of these places have only a few hundred people so it seems incredible to me that so many of the younger people remain.  They work in the shops but more often than not they work on the family farms and vineyards.  On the outskirts of many of the towns there are some large industrial complexes as well (tires, farming/vineyard equipment, cement works)…maybe that too keeps them close to home.  We’d see them in the cafes and bars in the evening (having a glass of wine, not beer!) chatting and visiting with their friends as well as all the oldies that would come out for the evening passagiata.

Little Apes (pronounces aa-pay, which means bee in Italian) , are in abundance and the best way to get around on the many narrow little roads.  We seen a lot of “souped” up ones driven by the young guys racing around in the evenings… Ferraris for them!


lots of little “apes”…..the kids spiff them up with fancy paint jobs and race them around the streets in the evening!



They really do have their priorties right……family is probably the most important, or maybe it’s the food… would be a pretty close second for sure.  Everywhere we went all food, even just a pizza, is served with care.   Most places the servers are very attentive….not for tips, which are not the big thing there like they are here….round up the bill and that’s it.  You never get just a glass of wine or a coffee, it will always come with a little cookie of bowl of nuts or olives…..sometimes a few little pieces of cheese.

The place we stayed was fantastic! Here is the link to the rental through airbnb Huge….especially loved the big kitchen with lots of room…AND the best part, good, sharp knives!!  The white stove at the end of the table has now been replaced by a lovely 6 burner stainless steel gas stove.   The ground floor was still somewhat in it’s original state….the barn.  We had fun looking around down there finding all the old troughs, stables, storage areas etc.

Italy is all about food to me….buying it, preparing it and then the best part….eating it!  I was going to try to get lots of foodie pics but unfortunately often I’d remember the picture halfway through the meal!

Food and cooking…..and wine of course….seemed to be on our mind all the time!!

All of us prepping away for dinner was one of the best times of day…..and then of course eating whatever we’d prepared and sitting around talking about our day.

I could go on and on……and will in the next post.




East End Foodie Tour

What a great day this was!!  The east end is an up and coming neighbourhood….in the  transitional stages….a mix of old and new, trendy and trashy, traditional British food markets and an ethnic mix from the Middle East, North Africa and even the Caribbean!!

We started at Spitalfields market… of the oldest in London.  Tons of “stuff”….new and used (sourvenirs and flea market combo), household goods,  fresh veggies, flowers, meat shops, cheese shops and take out food stands galore……the food all smelled delicious and looked amazing and incredibly appetizing.  We had a coffee and croissant while waiting for our guide….Harry.

He was a young guy (25) kind of a hippy and right into food, which made him a great guide.

We tasted everything from bread pudding to beer and cider.


First stop for a “Bacon Buddy” and a glass of wine!!  Apparently the best bacon buddies in London….definitely good.

Next stop….one of the oldest pubs in London for bread pudding with that decadent white sauce that Brits put on everything!!

Cheese! A transplanted Frenchman that knew his cheese!

Poppies fish and chips….supposedly the best in London.  Very good.


That’s Poppy in the background in the striped shirt….he’s had the business since the 50’s.  Now ran by his sons but he still goes everyday to sit and visit with customers.

Another “oldest”…..tasted a couple different beer/ales and ciders, which is apparently what everyone is drinking these days.


Harry in the white shirt telling us all about the pub, which was packed at 1PM!

Signs…..old and new buildings and Truman, the original brewery in the area.  Has been brought back to life by someone that seen the potential during the transition of the east end.


A big gin sign on Bacon street!  Two of my favorite things 🙂



Still a soup kitchen today…..this one is relatively new.  This area has always been a “foodie” place going back a few hundred years when it was outside of London city proper…..there was always food for the working poor.

Our last stop of the day was for Pakistani food…..I was so excited I forgot to take any pictures!  We basically had a whole meal….I think there were six different dishes and breads, all were delicious and beautifully presented.

We also visited one of the first and oldest bagel joints in London……no pic 😦

The tour was not cheap at 69GBP ($110CDN) but well worth it.  We were absolutely stuffed by the time we finished and had learned so much about this relatively unknown, to us, area of London.  It lasted 4+ hours and I can’t even begin to think how much ground we covered.

We finished in Shoreditch (not sure where they came up with these names….all meant something in their day I’m sure!).  Another trendy area where they’re using old containers for shops and old buildings and businesses are being converted into trendy and modern new restaurants and bars, all while keeping the original facades which is really great.

The whole area is amazing and part of London that up until recently most people didn’t explore…..but like everywhere, things change and in this case I think for the good.

This was our last day in London.  Off to Italy bright and early the next morning……