Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I was completely engrossed in the third of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, when my 13 year old son (K) reached out for my right hand and tucked a pen between my fingers. He was trying to get my attention away from the book, but I was unreservedly enthralled by the adventure of Daniel Sempere and Fermín Romero de Torres that I hadn’t the clue that my boy got me to leave my signature on a piece of paper he had been holding all the time.

That evening, while preparing for dinner, K came up to me, and here’s our conversation …

K: Mama, so finally we are going to Japan!

Me: Huh? What are you talking about? When?

K: Ha ha … you promised to bring me to Japan.

Me: Say what? I never promised anything …

K (with a cheeky grin): Too late, Mama….you just did; this afternoon while you were so buried in your book. See, here …

He showed me a small piece of paper which was neatly handwritten with a sworn statement or an oath, swearing my promise to bring him to Japan for a holiday. My jaw dropped and my eyes goggled reading the troth with my signature on it, dated 1st May, 2014. I wanted to take the paper from his hand and ripped it off and thrashed it but he was too swift for me. He has the signed oath carefully hidden under lock and key to this day!

All things Japanese

K loves Sushi, all kinds of Sushi (and ramen). When he had his braces removed in July 2014, the first thing he requested was ~ yes ~ Sushi!! What else??

And here’s his portion! For a 13-year old, that’s one BIG portion and he walloped all 36 maki-zushi or nori-maki + uramaki + nigiri-zushi!!

Sakura Restaurant, Leuven

 

Kuching 2015

It doesn’t matter in which continent we are headed to, this young lad would sniff his way to a Sushi bar or resto anywhere in the vicinity. 

Sakae Sushi, Kuching, Sarawak

Summer 2016

When Pokémon Go was initially released in some countries in July 2016, K was adamant to download the App on his smartphone asap. His summer hols last year saw him so carried away with the new game craze and, boy was I glad that it was over in August during our annual family Summer Hols in the Provence in South France. I asked him why he was not ‘catching’ his Pokémons anymore. He said the holiday home we stayed in, sucked. The internet connection was so bad, ie almost no wifi and the place we stayed was rather deserted with no ‘active’ or ‘new’ Pokémons to catch. And so the game faded to oblivion, sooner than expected, much to his parents’ relief. Whew!

This was the photo he took in Carpentras, South France, to remind himself of the game that came and went …

Hand-painted boulder of Pikachu, Carpentras, South France



Christmas 2016

When my younger sister came to visit us recently, she spent Christmas and New Year with us. My boys have always been very thrilled to have their youngest Aunt around. For K, that would mean visiting places of interests and doing things out of the norm. Yup, we went to Paris for 5 days! Christmas Markets are BIG in Paris, especially along the mega long Avenue des Champs-Élysées, however, it was the Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower that bewitched K!

Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower, Paris


While sipping the warm Parisian Glühwein (vin chaud) and munching hot roasted chestnuts and admiring the magnificent wrought iron lattice tower from near; yes, very, very near, K was captivated by one of the booths a few steps down. The open booth was manned by one person, who seemed to be an Artist, but he was no ordinary Artist or Painter. He drew names and translated them from Roman to either Japanese or Korean. 
Guess what K chose to have his name translated into? 

No marks for guessing. Japanese…. Of course!!


By the way, the ideographic meaning of K’s name is translated to mean, Good Health and Happiness. The picture is now framed and hanged in his room next to his bed. As for his mother, she’s hoping that each morning, her son wakes up to the rising sun and the spring bird singing to good health and happiness 🙂

February 2017

K turned 16 on the last day of Feb this year. He had also been invited to a Sweet Sixteen celebration of friends who became 16 in January. When his turn came, he hinted on a small do. For me, a special cake for a 16-year old should do the trick.

Now, what cake should I order for my 16-year old?

K likes to construct things. His legos kept from yesteryears are being used at the max during school holidays. The most recent construction was a sweets or candy vending machine. I thought that was one of his coolest constructions. He made a slot machine type lego construction making sure that only the size (and weight) of a 2 Euro coin could vend a sweet or candy out from the ‘machine’ he made. And seriously? It worked! Anything less than 2 Euro would not ‘spit out’ any candy. So you can tell he’s thinking BIG, monetarily speaking, too! 😉

Hmmmm… I thought a Lego Cake would be a fantastic idea!

Looking for the person to make the cake was not a problem. He’s a colleague (CP) who works in the same building as I. Last year, CP was nominated and won the vote to represent our Region at our Company’s Got Talent Show. He’s a self-taught (hobby) baker who learns his tips and tricks of cake baking and decorating from watching the YouTube Channels. 

I lunched out with CP one lunch break and asked if he was willing to take my offer. It was the early week of February and we still had time until the actual birthday on 28th Feb. I discussed if it was possible for him to make a Lego Cake for a 16 year old. No probs, he said

A few days later, I kinda changed my mind about the lego theme and thought of a Book Cake. Why? Because K does not like reading and a Book Cake was a subtle message to him. To make it a more special book, I was thinking of getting 2 edible images (made from wafer) of him when he was a baby and one of him, now, hence at ages 0 and 16. I was quite excited about the idea but I thought it was rather selfish of me not to ask the birthday boy what he actually wanted. After all, it’s his birthday and not mine. BUT, I wanted it to be a surprise …

Again, my mind went back to the Lego Cake. Lego? Book? Humph! What’s it going to be??? Help!!

The calendar days went by one by one and I had not even finalized the theme of the cake to CP. The theme is important for him to check if he has sufficient inventory to come up with the final result, otherwise, he needs time to shop for the items

On the other hand, February was also a busy month for both CP and I at work due to the Budget and I was not sure if there was going to be a cake at all

That would be very sad, indeed … 😦

The Clock Ticked …

3 weekends in February had passed by. Still no concrete decision made. 

Then I told myself, “If I can’t decide this myself, the best help line is the person who knows best” And that person happened to be the Birthday Boy himself. 

On the evening of 22nd Feb, I asked K if there was going to be a cake for his birthday, would a Lego Cake be his thing. He said, “ No way! That’s too childish.” Er ….. okay. The Lego Cake theme was scrapped. I did not even bring up the Book Cake theme when he mumbled something about Japan!

Okey Dokey! Got it! Why didn’t I think of it at first ??? I was probably focusing too much on his past and what I want him to do, rather than what he wants. 

And by the way, I had the answer all the while. K wants to go to Japan! So of course, it has got to be something Japan-related.

And here it was! The best Sushi Cake (minus the chopsticks) for a mighty happy 16-year old. Happy 16th Birthday, K!


K wanted chocolate cake and he got the most scrumptious chocolate cake. Your wish is my command, my boy, but only for this time. The magic wand would not work after 28th Feb 😉



The nori-maki and nigiri-zushi nesting on top of the cake were filled with cake pops, cut from the bumped topside of the main cake, hence, there was no wastage at all. CP did a fantastic job in skillfully molding the icing fondants to a 3-D cake with nori-makis and nigiri-zushi’s complete with wasabe and gari (sushi ginger).


CP had the weekend of 25th and 26th Feb to complete the Sushi Cake and the Cake was delivered exactly on the day I requested, on 27th Feb.  K shared his cakes with some of his good friends and I shared some with my girlfriends. Everyone thumbed up to the tasty choclatey Sushi Cake


I’m glad I’ve made a special someone happy. It’s not Japan, but very close 😉

More Sushi 🍣 

I took a day off on 28th Feb coinciding with the school’s carnival break. I brought K to one of his favourite Sushi restos to celebrate his 16th birthday, thus concluding a plethora of Sushi and ramen bingings.

Sikinoya, Leuven


If you don’t already know …

25th March is a special day, too, because it was the date given to me by my gynaecologist 16 years ago. She estimated my baby would be born full term on 25th March. She was not totally wrong, because, baby K arrived almost 4 weeks too soon! You can read about his special birth on this post, “A special day that does not occur every year“.
 

K with his ukulele singing Ed Sheeran’s songs

Good Health and Happiness, my boy. God bless *heart*

Cheers! 

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

Friday, 19th August. Our last day in South France.

The night before, I told hubby that I would like to re-visit an outdoor Friday market before we wrapped up our Summer hols this year. By the way, we had been to 3 this Summer: the Tuesday market at Vaison-la-Romaine and the Friday market at Carpentras. We had also done the Saturday Flea Market and Antique Fair at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

We never do the same market twice, hence, Carpentras was out. Fortunately, there were 2 other locations of Friday outdoor markets in the Luberon region of Provence. We chose Bonnieux. Bonnieux Friday market was not new to us. We had been there in one of our Summer trips. Loved the charming little village a lot!

 
Bonnieux

We left our holiday home earlier than usual at 8.30am. The distance to Bonnieux is 88 km. 

Bonnieux is one of the many historic “hill villages” in the region. Erm …. did I just say “hill”? Yup, Bonnieux is built on a plateau above the valley. It rests on top of the Luberon hills with a view of the rest of the valley. The first thing we noticed when we reached Bonnieux was the view of the church tower.


And that’s where Bonnieux market starts; around the new church at the base of the village on the small square, the Place Gambetta and extending mid-way up the village. Like all outdoor markets in the Provence, the Bonniuex market is an important weekly event for local residents who come to buy fresh seasonal produce. It’s also an important social centre, ie, a place where the locals meet up with friends and get caught up with the tittle-tattles. On the other hand, for tourists like us, we relished the opportunity to – occasionally – find exceptional deal.


I was happy to see a stall selling olivewood-carved pieces. By the way, I bought my first olivewood piece – a soup ladle – at a Christmas market some years back in Leuven. It was from Greece and I fell in love with the wooden ladle instantly, which my older son fondly called, ‘The Hobbit Spoon’. LOL!

While perusing the many different carved olivewood pieces, I sensed the guy manning the stand was gawking at me. Well, of course I felt stressy. And then I heard him talking, in almost perfect English! That’s the best ice breaker to start my morning.

Hello ma’am, do you need help?  He asked.

I asked if he was the master crafter. He said, “I wish, but all what you see here are made by a good friend. If you noticed, not a single piece is the same because every piece is uniquely hand-carved“. I was sold immediately by that remark. I bought a rolling pin, a spatula, a slice and two cooking spoons to add to my olivewood collection! *wink*


The guy told me that olivewood could last a lifetime. Olivewood is a hard and non-porous wood that will not absorb flavours, odours and it does not stain. A final word of caution from him,” You can use any type of oil to polish the wood but never use olive oil.” Out of curiosity, I asked him, “Why?” He said, “olive oil is the only oil type that will penetrate the wood, hence the grain pattern may fade.” 

Okay, Roger that!

Before I left his stall, I asked his permission for a photo. 😀

Next to the olivewood stand was a couple selling artisanal Provençal’s pistous, crèmes, confits and tapenades.

We walked slowly past their stand but the lady was very persuasive.  She hurriedly smeared some pistou on a little piece of bread and insisted we tried. And then the crème and the tapenade and the confit! We must have tried almost all the spreads given to us.

To be honest, I did not like everything I have tasted. A bit too salty for my liking.  I’m glad hubby and I agreed unanimously with the choice of spreads – crème d’Ail, crème printanière and pistou rouge. The three jars travelled with us some 1,000 km from France to Belgium.

In 2012, hubby bought a fedora at the Wednesday market at Saint Rémy de Provence. This year he bought another felt hat at the Friday market at Bonniuex. The lady manning the booth claimed  the hats were from Panama. The price per hat was surprisingly on the cheaper end tagged between Eur 5 to Eur 50, compared to what we saw at the flea and antique Saturday market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with price tags of above Eur 70!! The hats were also from Panama! 


Bonnieux outdoor market is a lot smaller compared to several other markets we have been to, but, nevertheless we loved the colours, smells, sounds and the busy, social environment interacting with the traders, most of whom surprised us with their almost flawless English. 


Curious 

Bonnieux’s steep and narrow streets are lined with renaissance old buildings, most of which are built on top of even older structures. 

We made a curious stop. We saw many people going in a small shop. There was no one manning inside the shop. All we saw were hand-made figurines dressed in period costumes placed on different miniature location replicating an era of Bonnieux

Seconds later, a guy came in the shop and asked us if we understood French. Someone replied ‘yes’, so the guy babbled in French which I could understand a little bit here and there. I later learnt that the guy and his late father hand-built the miniature replicas. Absolutely brilliant!


What’s Up Yonder?

We thought Gordes was high and steep, but Bonnieux was even higher with steeper steps! We seemed to be climbing up and up endlessly. We felt we could reach for the stars! It was amazing to see how the little enthusiastic boy was climbing the stone steps. I couldn’t help taking a snapshot of the lil lad. He seemed to be enjoying the climb tremendously, leaving his Mum, Dad and sister far behind. 


The kid (like my kid) was probably curious to see what’s up yonder! The last 86 stone steps led to “Vieille Eglise” (old church) and the magnificent old cedar trees.

If you are wondering if the church is being used. The answer is “Yes” and it’s opened occasionally for tourists visits, marriages and funerals and special services such as the Christmas Eve Mass. Unfortunately, the “old” church was closed that day because there was a rehearsal for a matrimonial service. Ah well … too bad.

Anyway, we enjoyed the view from up yonder looking down the beautiful view of Monts du Vaucluse, and the villages of Gordes and Roussillon


By the time we got down to road-level, we were famished!

We left Bonnieux and drove 30 minutes farther to Lourmarin.

Lourmarin was such a hustle and bustle little village with its several wonderful cafes and restaurants. It was probably the best place to have lunch after the market. Oh by the way, Lourmarin’s open market day was also on a Friday!


Every restaurant was full house. We were lucky to find a table for 4!

With such a hot day, our colourful summer salad plates were to die for. We licked our platters clean!

Gorgeous!


Reality 

With holidays, it seemed the days were too short! I wished the days would drag longer, because I knew our lunch at Lourmarin spelled our final eat-out in the Provence. And then reality folded in! *sob*

Another reality was, I had achieved climbing up 64 flights of stairs (not steps), walked a total of 49.33 km with a total of 82, 804 steps in 2 weeks (including sedentary days). Yay! Thanks to an App I had on my iPhone 🙂

TGIF !

Have a fantastic weekend!

Cheers!

In part 9, I wrote about our laid-back, relaxed and lazy day which wrapped up in a lovely find almost in the middle of nowhere. 

The following day was a complete surprise for me and the boys; an unplanned trip. Hubby kept mum all morning and did not want to tell us where we were heading to. Well, I love surprises, so no complaints there! All I saw was the journey had a distance of 77 km on the GPS. It could bring us anywhere…

While I was dozing off, I suddenly woke up and found that hubby was driving on a long and winding road…

Huh? Are we driving up Le Mont Ventoux again?

Erm… wait a sec… it looked as if the long and winding road followed the line of shady bulwarks.


And then we saw the most appealing vision of a very charming fortress perched on the edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse

The alluring fortress is called Gordes, a hilltop village crowned by its Renaissance castle. 

By the way, Gordes is ranked as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France‘.  

Houses are built on slopes and narrow cobbled streets that coil through the town leading to steep steps. 

To be honest, I had not been walking so strenuously in a long while and climbing up the so many steps was the best work out ever! 

It was such a joy strolling around the narrow streets that climbed up between tall houses. 

The best discoveries were the perfectly restored dry-stacked walls built from years gone by and the panoramic view of the valley and mountains of Luberon

Breathtakingly stunning!

And by the way, Gordes is one of the “in” villages of Luberon where many movie stars and artists have made their home. We found that out when we walked back to the foot of the hills. After the long walks and sweating buckets under the glaring August sun, we were in dire need of something cold and refreshing to rehydrate our body. 

We stopped at Le Renaissance. Because it was such a hot day, we headed for the shady terrace. A butler stopped us and asked if we were there to eat. We said, “no, we just want to drink“.  He replied, “sorry you can’t sit here“. He sent us away and pointed to the tables and chairs in the open space under the glaring sun!!

My sons and I ordered fresh juices while hubby had his pastis. When we were done, I goggled at the price tag in disbelief! 

What?! Eur 45 for the drinks?!!  That’s a lot of Euros to impart for just 4 drinks. That’s daylight robbery.

We ain’t no movie stars or famous people and we certainly felt the pinch immediately.


After paying the bill, we left and walked downhill along the narrow streets of cobblestones and found a crowded little terrace or patio (shaded) . I was attracted to that restaurant because of the sound of one of the set lunches. It was roasted chicken legs with lavender honey,  for only Eur 16.50 plus dessert. Hubby and I went for that.

The boys had à la carte of Salade niçoise and Salade gourmand. 

In hindsight, after ogling at my older son’s plate of Salade niçoise. I should have gone for that!

Too late!

If not for the lavender honey, the roasted chicken plate was nothing at all. There was not much finesse in the presentation with dollops of mashed celeriac and mushy courgette at the side. The dessert was one miserable scoop of chocolate ice cream served in a small air-tight jar.


We left Gordes at 3 pm and was home by 4 pm. The boys went straight to the pool while I tried to align the photos on my iPhone to document some memorable moments of our sunny Summer hols in the Provence in this post 😉

I was looking forward to the next day as it would be our last and final shopping day…

Cheers!

Yes I know, the Summer Holidays are over. Hubby and I came back to earth ~ abruptly ~ to work; as for the boys, it’s the start of their new school term, one of them at least (the younger one).

Geez… Time flies!

Anyway, I’d like to relive that holiday mode in this post. After all, it’s a continuation of the last few days of our recent Summer hols.

<< Flashback…

17th August. Three more nights in the Provence and back to reality. Yikes

Nope! I tried to shake my head off the reality because I was very much in my holiday mode.

However, with almost back to back activities we had had the past days, we tried to have a more relaxing time at our holiday home. Since we arrived at Lagarde-Paréol, almost 2 weeks earlier, we had not got the chance to explore the surrounding. So near and yet so far …

By the way, 17th August was declared a slow and lazy day. While hubby was e-reading a book on his iPad and my older son was watching a film on dvd on his laptop, I turned to my younger son and said, “Let’s go for a walk and explore our neighbourhood, you and I”

I was lucky my younger son was game with the decision as he had intended to make a video of our summer hols. Any new photos would be great material for an amateur video.

Lagarde-Paréol

Lagarde-Paréol is a tiny village with a population of ca 300. The nearest biggest city, Orange, is 12 km away where most of the inhabitants commute to work there. 

If you’re looking for a shopping holiday near where you live, then forget Lagarde-Paréol. There are not many shops nearby and there are very few organised events. In other words, it’s a rather laid back location. But we loved it there. The peacefulness, tranquility and serenity… and lots of fresh air, away from the maddening crowd!

The place is rich in flora. I loved the smell of nature and the colours.

It was so still and quiet that my son just lay down on the deserted narrow street (can you spot him?). I wasn’t panicked at all because cars passing by were really sporadic.

There are a few winegrowers in the area and they bring a bit of life to this little village. 

The wine grapes are deep purple in colour, very heavy and dense to the touch. Although I was tempted to pop a grape in my mouth, I shrugged the thought off. 

In hindsight, I should have tried at least one grape. Now I haven’t the notion of how wine grapes taste like versus table grapes 😛


My son and I walked for more than 2 hours and we suddenly felt peckish. By the time we got back, it was 5.30 pm. I realised we did not have any proper meal that day. We only had brunch at 12’ish.

There was nothing much left in the fridge or the pantry, so we decided to have dinner in the nearest bigger town.

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

We left the house at 6.30 pm and drove 5 km to Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. It’s the nearest ‘biggest’ town from Lagarde-Paréol. The village has a spectacular view of Le Mont Ventoux as backdrop. 

It’s amazingly quiet in the early evening on a weekday. Looking for a restaurant was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We found two restaurants, but they were closed and there were 2 pubs opened, however, they did not serve decent meals.  So we walked on, hoping to find that ‘needle’…

And then … Eureka

It was NOT a restaurant, but a little pizza stand, adjoining a private residence. Interesting!  

We immediately walked in the patio or terrace area and found enough chairs and tables for us to dine on.

And dined we did! It was one of the best pizzas I have tasted. Why? Because it was home- and hand-made, from the dough to the toppings.  

And you know what? There was no cutlery! So we became complete philistines and ate our pizzas with our fingers. So what?!

They were seriously supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Suddenly, Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes came to life. We heard ceaseless mobile phone calls and orders kept rolling in. People came by and picked their orders. 

And here’s the one-man show chef who made it possible. 

A simple smile creates its own message without words, but action with superb execution. 


Happy mid-Week!

Cheers!

We left home exceptionally late and had a late breakfast. I was excited about the trip that day because I had pre-warned hubby about a sought-after kitchen item I wanted months before the Summer hols.

We left for La Camargue at 12.30pm. The GPS calculated a distance of 106 km from our holiday home.  It was the farthest distance  we’d travelled from origin to destination yet.

When we reached the Camargue, it was 1.30 pm ~ in the nick of time for some local dishes of the region. Lol!

What better way to indulge in moules et frites (mussels and fries) and le steak de taureau (bull steak) ! 



The Camargue
is home to black Bulls, prevalently white horses, migratory birds and pink flamingos. 

We were at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the capital of the Camargue. It’s a coastal town  situated in the Rhône river delta, hence, our lunch of mussels and bull steak befitted our trip there excellently. 


Walking in the centre of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer reminded me of some coastal towns in Belgium. 

It’s a charming little town, very clean, with touches of Spain; after all, the Camargue almost bordered Spain.

This floral corner was a popular photo shooting spot. I had to take several shots before I succeeded in getting the view without earthlings *big smiles*

My Quest Ended …

I know we could find this salt in some of our local supermarkets, but, it was not the same as buying it in the manufacturing town itself.  La Camargue

The trendiest salt used in most health-conscious kitchen is fleur de sel (flower of salt).  

My jaw dropped looking at the many types, colours and flavours of the salt displayed. It’s definitely not the cheapest salt type around. The fleur de sel from the Camargue was priced at Eur 2.50 per 100 g. I bought the big pot of 1kg, which was slightly cheaper than buying in break-bulk, plus a pot with a personal label!

I was a happy bunny 😉


Before leaving the town, we strolled along the coastline, which I later learnt about the close link with our next stop. 


Arles

We left La Camargue at 4 pm for Arles. Like the Camargue, Arles is a city on the Rhône River in the Provence region of southern France.

Arles is famed for inspiring the paintings of the Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. That was precisely why we visited Arles that late afternoon. We headed for the Fondation Van Gogh where contemporary arts are displayed. 



Vincent Van Gogh 

The story of Vincent Van Gogh is rather poignant. He had not known fame or fortune during his lifetime, but he left a legacy of his thousands of artworks for us to appreciate. By the way, he sold only one painting during his lifetime, and became renowned after his suicide, at age 37, which followed years of deprivation and mental illness.


I was so glad I found this painting of the fishing boats on the Beach of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. We were just there that afternoon! 

Vincent Van Gogh painted this painting in 1888 when he lived in Arles and took a trip to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

As you can see, the painting of the fishing boats became a centre of attraction that afternoon. Lol!



Same Theme, Different Colours, Same Painter

If you noticed, the early paintings of Van Gogh when he was in the Netherlands, were always dark and bleak, as can be seen below (top left) of the Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, painted in 1884 in Neunen

When he moved to the Provence, his paintings were more colourful, as depicted on the painting of Pine Trees in the Garden of the Asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 1889.

On the other hand when he was in Paris, he painted the Blossoming Chestnut Trees in Auvers-sur-Oise (1890) with minimum colours, ie, mostly greens and blue/purple. 

Vincent Van Gogh was considered a lunatic and a failure or loser in his lifetime. He exists in the public imagination as the exemplary and misunderstood genius where insanity and artistry converged.

Le Café La Nuit Vincent Van Gogh, Arles

One must not leave Arles without visiting Place du Forum. That’s where the painting of Vincent Van Gogh’s yellow café came to life! 

And by the way, the song, ‘Vincent’ (Starry Starry Night),  by Don McLean was written in tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. The painting Starry Night over the Rhône was painted in Arles in 1888.


We walked away from the hustle and bustle Place du Forum glancing back at the yellow café for the last time. 

We left Arles at 8 pm. Unfortunately with the longer hours of daylight, we did not experience a starry night. 

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

15th August was a bank holiday in France. The plan was to leave early to catch the annual parade at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence which ended at 12 noon.

We left at 9.30 am in the hope of reaching Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at 10.30 am. Saint-Rémy is 69 km from our holiday home at Lagarde-Paréol

While driving 42 km, we were -literally-stuck in a traffic jam. Our GPS did not forewarn us of the stagnated traffic, bumper-to-bumper kilometres long! It happened just before 10 am. We thought it was just the usual traffic; after all, it was a public holiday and we suspected that most people would be heading for the grand parade at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

However, the clock on the GPS ticked … 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes …  We still had 27 km to go and the cars did NOT budge an inch!  And then we saw cars winding down their windows and human heads popping out and necks stretching out as far left or right to take a glimpse of what lay ahead. 

At about 20 minutes, we heard the police siren and then the ambulance. 

After a while, we saw people – restless people – getting out of their cars. I jumped on the bandwagon and got out of the car. Below were some memorable photos I took on the A7 highway of the mega long queue of cars on 15th August, 2016. Our GPS confirmed an accident had occurred that morning. I could only guess that it was a serious one as the highway was immediately cordoned off. All cars behind us had to drive an alternative route. 

Honestly I felt quite agitated with the long wait….there goes our morning and our plan to be at the parade on time ...😏

After 40 minutes of being completely traffic-immobilised, we finally progressed. Geez!

The Carreto Ramado of Saint-Rémy de Provence

We finally arrived at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at 11.25 am! With about half hour  of what’s left of the Parade, we actually managed to watch the grand finale, the Carreto Ramado, an enormous float, decorated with the flora and vegetation, symbolising the farm and produce of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and the region.  

The huge cart was drawn by at least 50 draught horses, splendidly harnessed one behind the other. It was a sight to behold! 


I smelt lavender everywhere! And a bit of garlic and horse manures. Lol!

The Carreto Ramado procession is one of the most important events of the summer festivals.  

Despite the heat, the crowds were thrilled to relive the tradition of the northern Alpilles since the 19th Century. 

These sweet looking girls and handsome boys paraded with pride wearing the costumes of the Arlésiennes from 1900. 

The carts, horses, floats, costumed ladies and gentlemen paraded around the town all morning until noon. We were glad to experience that moment, albeit our tardy show up.

By 12 noon, the crowds dispersed, and suddenly, the streets became more fluid.

After the repugnant lunch experience we had at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we vowed to have a more decent meal. 

Honestly it was easier to find Gault Millau rated restaurants at Saint-Rémy than most of the neighbouring towns in the Provence, meaning, we’re assured of the best dishes being executed in relation to what we were willing to pay, of course😁

And I had one word for our lunch deal. Exquisite!

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is one of the towns in South France that has the most English-speaking tourists. 

By the way, we had frequented Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in many of our trips and have always loved it there, so much so that we stayed there during 3 consecutive Summers in the same holiday villa owned by a British couple.

We left Saint-Rémy driving along the most spellbinding avenue of trees which were synonymous of the town. LOVED it!

Eygalières

Before driving home, we stopped by at the address which was once upon a time a 2 Michelin-star restaurant owned by a Belgian couple, Wout and Suzy Bru. 

4 years ago while we visited Eygalières, the restaurant was called, Maison Bru. 


This Summer, the Maison Bru signage was replaced by a new owner. 

I read that the Bru’s moved back to Belgium and opened a Brasserie-type restaurant in Antwerp and Wout Bru is no longer a Michelin-star chef. 

With 5 days left of our Summer hols, would we be relaxing at the poolside or exploring for more adventures?

Stay tuned to find out 😉

Cheers!