Archive for the ‘Provence’ Category

Our holidays in the Provence were coming to an end…

Arles

We returned to Arles, but again and again, what a surprise… we discovered a new location that we had not been to in our previous sojourns in the Provence! It’s a drawbridge which was a subject of several paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. It was the replica of the original Langlois Bridge (Pont de Langlois) or better known as Pont Van Gogh.

Walk

Nearby the Pont Van Gogh was a lovely walking trail that seemed to run to infinity. The surrounding flora were very simple; dried thistles, wild berries, shrubs and bushes, fathomless stream and dusty trails.

We seemed to be walking for ages until thirst and hunger got the better of us 🙂

We returned to the car and drove back to the centre of Arles. We found a good spot under a shady tree but had to walk quite a distance passing deserted alleys and back lanes.

We finally stopped at the first resto we saw, Le Bistrot des Artistes. Surprisingly, the choice of dishes were fab, but the service was quite slow, despite the fact that we did not order a set lunch for once. From too much of walking, we did not feel like eating too much variety of dishes, but were definitely more parched. Or perhaps we wanted to save space in our tummy for the much talked about artisanal ice-creams in Arles!

Last year my friend and her family stayed in Arles and she recommended an ice-cream parlour that served only artisanal ice-creams.

We thought we found it. It’s located just outside Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles de Vincent Van Gogh (once upon a time a hospital). Whew! It’s a bit of a mouthful, innit?

It was there that Van Gogh was admitted after cutting his left earlobe. The Hospital of Arles is the subject of Van Gogh’s 2 paintings; one of them was the painting of the inner courtyard of the hospital called Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles (Courtyard or Garden of the Hospital in Arles).

Oh by the way, the pink-coloured ice cream parlour we went to (Glacier Fraîcheur et Délices) was not the one my friend mentioned. She went to the yellow coloured ice cream shop called Soleileis. Anyway, there were several artisanal ice-cream makers in the vicinity of Arles. We just found one that succeeded to ‘cool’ us down on a hot day and both parlours were in close proximity to Place du Forum.

Unfortunately, the day was still young and there were no stars in the sky! Sorry, no starry night, Vincent 😉

Finally at Le Bistrot de La Galine!

It was Friday and our last day at La Maison Blanche. We were to check out the next morning.

Before wrapping up our stay at La Maison Blanche, we were looking forward to lunch at the nearby Le Bistrot de La Galine. We had missed that place just a week before because it was closed on a Sunday.

I had the Bistro menu of smoked duck salad and the local specialty of Camargue, Gardiane de Taureau à la Provençale served on a bed of tagliatelle. Both the starter and the main course were good until the house dessert came. The banana chocolate tart was an anticlimax, for me at least. It was just not my favourite, however, my younger son hit a home run with his choice of dishes; ravioli, burger and fries and tiramisu!

Back for the Muscat

Last year our trip to Beaumes-de-Venise was extraordinarily special with a hint of nostalgia. This year we only went to the wine tasting cave of Coyeaux. Yes, we came back for the muscat Beaume-de-Venise! After tasting 4 different Muscats, hubby bought the muscat Beaume de Venise rosé (2016). The 3 bottles followed us back some 1k km…

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

We headed back to La Maison Blanche and guess who came to visit us?!!

Yay!!! Our friend came back! He may not have the friendliest of faces, but I guess for a dog’s expression that would probably be translated as his sensing our imminent departure from La Maison Blanche, hence the sad drooping look through the glass door of the back yard.

By the way (not in the photo), before the littlest hobo scampered away, he peed on the shrub bed, as if to tell us that he’d be back.

I’m sure he would or did, but with new tenants to pick up where we had left off…

Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir!

À bientôt!

Until we meet again!

From Bonjour to Hola!

We checked out La Maison Blanche at 10 am and left St-Rémy-de Provence in South France direction Girona, North East Spain!

Thus, ended our Provençal vacation, and the beginning of Catalonian summer escapades!

From Bonjour et Au revoir France to Hola España!

Spain, here we come !!

To be continued…

Enjoy the rest of the week. TGIF!

Cheers !

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It’s Wednesday and it’s Market Day at St-Rémy-de-Provence!

Boy was it crowded that morning AND the searing heat of the sun did not do justice.

As usual, there were lots to see but we ended up buying a few Savon de Marseille 🙂

I wished I could buy everything, however, we had to be very selective with things we bought in order not to overload the car in our succeeding journey 😦

Feeling Nostalgic

We suddenly felt peckish and parched in the sweltering Provençal summer heat. What luck when we saw the same resto we went to last year! We knew immediately what Brasserie La Maison des Varietes at Boulevard Victor Hugo would offer… Sweet memory of a delectable dining.

Loved the Café gourmand!!! The mignardises or petit fours were exquisite!

Musée Estrine

After the satisfying meal, we needed a good stretch while walking down some quiet and almost deserted alleys that were obviously very welcoming after the maddening crowd earlier in the morning.

We stopped at Musée Estrine, the museum that features the history of the eccentric Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh exhibit, although a small one, features the chronology of his life and the hundreds of letters he wrote to his brother, Theo. The short video was well made aligning his paintings to the beauty of the Alpilles and the region.

Mas de la Dame

We left the museum and headed for Les-Baux-de-Provence.

By the way, hubby’s intention was to go to the winery of Mas de la Dame meaning ‘farm of the lady‘. What a proper name for a winery owned by 2 ladies, Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe 😉

Hubby bought 3 bottles of their white wine. And yes, there was wine-tasting 🙂

Save the Best for Last!

So true! We saved the best of our last few hours at Les-Baux-de-Provence by immersing in an impressive exposition of lights and sounds by the creative and imaginative renaissance painters, Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo.

The moment we stepped inside the former quarry, now called Carrières de Lumières, we entered into a magical world of entrancing images and music.

Fantastique et merveilleux!

We enjoyed the different genres of music, while our eyes were transfixed on the immersive paintings of the trio on all the limestone walls and floors in the quarry.

One word? Spectacular !

The Carrières de Lumières is one of the most amazing things we have experienced during this Summer trip, thus far …

Could anything else top this up the next days?

I wonder …

Cheers!

Cock-a-doodle-dooooo!

Although I have never seen the neighbourhood cockerel, he seems to know when to crow at the precise time daily. I was awoken by his crow at exactly 8 am. I know it would be a rather late wake up call for those who have to get up to rush to work, but hey, it’s my holiday and I didn’t mind the 8 o’clock morning call one bit.

With the heatwave the past 3 days, it finally rained at St-Rémy-de-Provence. With a mild stroke of mistral, it was nice sleeping through the night without the fan on for once. The rain and wind cooled down the temperature giving way to gloomier skies. I didn’t mind a bit because it was our stay-at-home day.

Home-working

I shouldn’t be doing that during my vacation but I had to do it as there were some unfinished tasks that needed to be completed. I was working in the living room but the table was too low, so I had to improvise by stacking enough books to elevate my laptop. It was not the most comfortable position to work, but it was a temporary solution …

Spagbol

While working at my laptop, I was juggling with my tasks in the kitchen. Remember I had to rush down the aisles with the shopping trolley at Intermarché because we were short on time on a Sunday morning?

<< Flashback

It was 11.39 am. We headed straight for Intermarché, not realising that it was closed at 12 noon. We were dilly-dallying along the aisles browsing through some stuffs, until an agitated looking duty manager rushed us for time. If only you could see how I flung the shopping trolley down each aisle, grabbing items while picturing spagbol in my mind! Okay, I believed I had everything, or did I??!!

>> Fast Forward

Oh kay! Home-cooked Spagbol for lunch it was!

And by the way, I did forget the grated cheese! Ah well, we didn’t miss it as it’s not THE main ingredient in the making of spagbol. 😉

A Visitor

The spagbol went down very well, so much so we had a “visitor” at our door that afternoon. He must have sniffed the bolognese sauce from afar and walked his way to the front yard. He reminded me of The Littlest Hobo.

And then he left the compound in a mysterious way …You know what? He’ll come back for sure because he had just given us the signal “this is my territory and I’ll be back!

We shall see …

Cheers !

We had a good night sleep despite the heat (36C). It must be because we were dead tired from the super lengthy journey under the blazing heat of the Provençal Summer.

Sunday, 6th August

We were looking forward to the most unique annual Floating Market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which takes place for only one day on the 1st Sunday of August! We wouldn’t miss it for the world because we missed that last year as we had special friends over at our holiday home that day. You can read the post here.

So we got up early in order to catch the supposedly unique and spectacular floating market on time. After all, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is dubbed as the Venice of France and we came this far not to miss the eye-catching event. I was super thrilled!

By the way, it was drizzling that morning, hence, it was a welcoming feeling. The cooler breeze was an excellent change from the blistering heat the day before.

We reached L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at 10am. The morning Market went in full swing… BUT where’s the Floating Market ???!!! Nothing’s floated while everything’s grounded!

Wasn’t 6th August, 2017 the first Sunday of August ?? We were conned!! Darn!

The market was the normal weekly Sunday morning market so typical of the Provence.

What a shame… No Floating Market. No spectacular nego chins but just this lonely vacant boat berthing on one of the water canals.

Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

We did not stay long at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue as it was a Sunday and our pantry at La Maison Blanche was as bare as stone.

It was 11.39 am. We headed straight for Intermarché, not realising that it was closed at 12 noon. We were dilly-dallying along the aisles browsing through some stuffs, until an agitated looking duty manager rushed us for time. If only you could see how I flung the shopping trolley down each aisle, grabbing items while picturing spagbol in my mind! Okay, I believed I had everything, or did I??!!

We drove back to La Maison Blanche and hurriedly filled the kitchen pantry and the fridge before stepping out of the house again.

4 Rumbling Tummies

We had not had any decent food since we arrived the day before, hence, we were in dire need of FOOD!

It was 1.15 pm and hubby wanted to bring us to Le Bistrot de La Galine, which was not far from La Maison Blanche. Hubby had good memories of a fab meal there when he and his brother and our older son went there in 2014 while our younger son and I went to Rome when my Mum and older sis came to visit us that year.

But…. alas! Le Bistrot de La Galine was closed on Sundays!!

Our tummies! Our poor rumbling tummies! I told hubby that we should drive to the centre of St-Rémy-de-Provence as chances are high that the restos are opened on a Sunday. Fingers crossed to that!

Phew! What luck! A few cafés and brasseries were still in business at that hour. It was 2 pm and Brasserie de L’industrie at Boulevard Mirabeau saved our bellies!

I had a superb meal of pavé de thon (grilled tuna) with sautéed carrot, courgette, aubergine and tomato and some rice. The boys had a hearty men’s meal of hamburger with fries. Ironically, our dessert was îles flottantes (Floating islands)!!!!

The service was fast, precise and friendly. The dishes were simple but superb, and the price tag was correct. What could I say more? Bullseye!

Happy Weekend!

Cheers!

Hey folks! I’m back!! My blog has been in comatose status for quite a while, I know. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, most unfortunately 😦

By the way, this is a scheduled post 😉

Friday, 4th August

Hubby, my boys and I were counting down the days to our annual Summer hols! We were to leave on Saturday. I wish I could say TGIF, but it’s still a workday for me. I told my colleagues that I had to urgently WFH that day due to too many last minute activities. Besides my office workload, I had made an appointment with my bank to pick up my new Silver Credit Card. The old one was expiring soon.

Good thing I had pre-packed my clothes the evening before. I was hoping for less stress, unlike last year! You can read it all here 🙂

I had to take care of the foods, drinks, snacks and our lunch boxes for our impending lengthy journey of ca 1k km. Travelling super light was not possible as there’re 4 of us, all grown ups. My hubby’s car boot was packed to the gills!

Like last year, I asked hubby what our ETD was going to be. He replied, “when everyone feels like waking up

That made me even more nervous as I hate being late or being caught in a traffic jam!

Okay, our ETD strategy changed completely, which, surprisingly, worked a charm! You’ll find out why …

No waking up time was mentioned. No ETD was broached. No alarm was set. All we needed to do was to sleep through the night and woke up according to the inherent timing of our biological clock!

By the way, I was awakened by my biological clock at 5.20 am. The guys were still in deep sleep. So yes, I was the first one to get up, as usual 🙂

Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain …

How could this happen? We’re in the midst of the Summer season and it’s raining cats and dogs! We have never left for our Summer hols on a rainy day. Anyway, the sounds of the raindrops were hypnotic and relaxing at the same time. But what a damper to having to drive on an extremely wet day. Now I understood why hubby said to wake up when we felt like waking up. We have all gone through our deep, light and REM sleep cycles, and we were all completely awake. Cool!

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, here we come … AGAIN!!!!!

With a total distance of almost 1k km, our ETA was 3.55 pm. We left at 6.47 am.

Rain, rain go away, come again another day! The combination of the soothing heavy rain on the highway with the monotonous sound of the windscreen wiper were amazingly mesmeric. Everyone was as quiet as a church mouse in the car which was a perfect mode for hubby to traverse the wet and dreary roads of the Belgian highway with full focus.

When we finally reached Luxembourg for gasoline, the skies were a lot bluer but cloudy.

We know we have reached France when the inescapable sign “péage” (toll) is posted on the French “autoroutes“. Good thing we have the BIP&GO pass which is an electronic toll payment badge that allows us to travel on the entire French motorway network. It is the most convenient way to travel on the European Motorway, meaning as our car approached the tolls, the barrier will automatically lift, without us having to stop and pay at the toll booth. Shorter queues and a time saver!! We need only to pay at the end of our trip(s) where direct debit payments are made at the end of the month.

The cloudy skies made way for clear blue skies and suddenly we felt a ray of sunshine.

And then the voice from the GPS chanted, “There are traffic disruptions on the route. An alternative route cannot be recommended.”

Oh-oh! Time to have a break before being trapped in the gridlocks from Valence to Montelimar to Orange. Yup, we know the Black Saturday drill by heart 😉

We stopped just a bit after Lyon at 10 am for brunch and left the highway rest area at 11 am with the soaring temperature at 35C. With such heat, every single car leaving the rest area was given cold and refreshing Volvic fruit juice water. Precisely what we needed!

And so we were caught in the traffic jam for more than 2 hours under the scorching sun of 39C!

Finally the last leg of the traffic jam ended at 6 pm. Our ETA shifted too. We finally arrived at Saint-Rémy-de Provence. The familiar avenue of trees so typical of that region was a welcoming sight.

We reached La Maison Blanche at 7.11 pm and sweated buckets with the mercury level of 36C!! I quickly checked the temperature at home and it was only 17C! Wow! What a difference, eh? We didn’t feel like going out with the heat that evening, so the guys ended up dipping themselves in the swimming pool while I had a cold shower. I remembered La Maison Blanche, as it was not the first time we were there. It was my second stay there and the third for hubby and our older son.

The house has not changed since my last stay there in 2012 (you can read the post here). Just that we have become 5 years older 😦

What’s in store for us the next days were memories that would remain pristine in our psyche. And I wonder what’s coming up next? Stay with me in my new adventure to the unknown …

See ya …

Cheers!

When my 2nd year University son came up to me in Feb this year, here’s what happened.

He walked towards me holding a scruffy looking piece of paper.

Me: What’s that in your hand?

Son: Er….nothing

Me: Then why are you coming to me when there’s nothing?

Son: Ah…. actually there’s something I want to tell you…

Me: Yes, go on…. I’m listening

Son: Me and my besties are going for a holiday this summer… to the Balkans, at least 5 or 6 countries..?

Me: What?!! That’s still 7 months down the road and your final exam’s in June. Shouldn’t we be discussing that first?

Son: Well, we’re in a planning stage ….

Me: That’s a good plan, son, and who’s going to pay for your holidays?

Son: Erm…..that’s what I’m here for ….

Me: OH-KAY! Then I know what’s best for you. If you don’t get through your exams, there will be no hols for you. If you get through your papers, papa or mama will not pay your hols, but you have to earn it yourself. Get a summer job! Okay?

Son: Ok, mama *big smiles*

And by the way, he got through all his papers and did his summer student job at the company I work with, but working at the most unaccomodating graveyard shift. You can read it all here: A Mother’s Insane Sacrifice 

But hey, wait a minute! Isn’t this post about 7 girls? And why am I chewing over my son’s story? 

Well, to be honest, there’re some similarities and dissimilarities on both sides of the narratives. 

Ready?

Se7en!

My son left for Skopje (their first stop) with 6 buddies, all boys, in September before the new semester began! The weather was a bummer, with some waterlogged days and some, sunny days. The boys were away for 2 weeks.

I left for Porto with 6 friends, all girls, recently in Oct. The weather was a bummer, with one day when we were completely soaked! We were away for only 3 days!

My son and his mates planned their holiday destination early this year and came to a unanimous consensus to visit the Balkan states plus Budapest since February. They met regularly at one of the boys’ houses to discuss the details of the trip, places of interests, budget, mode of payment etc. 

My girlfriends and I talked and planned about an all-girl getaway via whatsApp, with several destinations mentioned, but no mutual consensus to any one location. It was just a plan, so it seemed …

Our girlie conversation started in March. One of the girls, AO, was pregnant with her second child. Her baby was due in May. For her – inititally – it was a no go as she said she would be in a breastfeeding mode, depending on the date of our trip.

So with the 6 remaining heads, the topic was cooled down for a while and was again brought up in April. That time, AO was in Kuching with the intention of having her baby delivered there. While AO was updating about news and foods in Kuching, the 6 of us decided to go on with the trip plan without AO, hence, on 26th April, C sent out a doodle poll to gather a unanimous and compromised date of our inaugural all-girl weekend getaway. 

Lo and behold! We had a date!!! Amazing… considering it came from 6 double X-chromosomes Homo sapiens. LOL!

The weekend of 22nd October it was! Brilliant, and wait until you hear this…. because we wanted to stay 2 nights, those who’re working had to take a day off on either a Friday or a Monday. We all decided to take Friday off to fly to our chosen destination and came back on Sunday. Yup, it’s a short trip but for goodness’ sake, we are all married girls with and/ or without kids (yet).

Doing Our Own Things

Since the doodle poll in April to secure a date (which was brilliant), we went on to do our own things. Nothing was discussed anymore about our trip, except at fleeting moments when one of the girls, AM, brought up the subject but only to be swept under the rug or fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, AO had given birth to gorgeous baby Z. Due to work, business trips, kids’ activities, football season, exams and the summer holidays, our intended all-girl getaway appeared to be just an ambitious and far-fetched idea/ plan.

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies had settled some prepaid expenses of their pending trip and he was showing me the places and locations they would cover and visit. Mum could only admire…

Midas Touch

August arrived. My family and I went for our ‘ritual’ South of France trip. While enjoying the sun, great food, sceneries and fresh air, I was showing my girlfriends some photos of our Provençal summer getaway, despite the sporadic internet connections at our holiday home in one of the remotest parts of South of France.

 

That was probably the photo that Midas touched. Suddenly a trail of chatty girls started to re-open the conversation that was held back frozen some 4 months before ….

Thursday, 11th August … Full Steam Ahead!

After the girls saw the photos I shared in our group chat, the conversation went full steam ahead …

And here’s how 7 girls made the decision in one evening ! It was a vivacious and animated conversation…. but darn the internet connnection!!

AO: Yup … we really should plan a trip next time

X: We have our trip in October!!

AO: Where you girls going again?

D (with very limited internet connection): Our trip in Oct? Not even planned anything yet! (suddenly, no internet connection/ out of conversation)

AO: Oct will be pretty cold already, unless we head South… Spain/ Portugal

X: That’s the plan, somewhere South. Corsica?

AO: I wanna go, but baby Z has to tag along

X: Where’s AM, our organiser?!!

AM: My questions: Are you still keen on our all-ladies’ trip? If yes (in Oct), (1) where? (2) flying or taking the train? (3) who are still keen to go?

AO: Yes (1) anywhere (2) anything (3) me

C: If weekend, we fly

X: Corsica? Flying… if Corsica. Me

C: We talked about Porto. Corsica is also OK. Flying is best if long weekend. Me, depending on date.

X: C, we had the doodle poll, remember? We had a date… the weekend of 22/10

AO: Are we doing Fri-Sun or Sat – Mon?

AM: First, how many of us going or rather who are confirmed going?

AO: Me, you, X. C maybe. G? O? D?

AM: Also need to confirm if 21/10 to 23/10 or 22/10 to 24/10 or 20/10 to 24/10

X: Let’s wait for G, O and D to respond

AO (deflecting her thoughts): If we go to Pisa from there, train to La Spezia and then Cinque Terre! It’s soooooo gorgeous!

C: I have been there but don’t mind going again. Very beautiful. Italy’s always a good destination. Pisa/ Verona/ Bologna

AM: Are we going for food, sight-seeing, walking or shopping or all three?

AO: I don’t really shop. For me it’s food and views (preferably ocean/ sea)

C: If it’s a long drive to Cinque Terre, then we will need an extra day …

AO: Plus anywhere next to the ocean, is bound to offer fresh seafood

X: It is a short trip, so I would recommend to keep it simple

AO: You’re right…. just saw Pisa’s airfare was soooo cheap, I lost my mind

AM: We go for all – sightseeing, walking, some fun/ excitement, food and some shopping

AO: Ryanair is pissing me off. Their website is ridiculous; no matter which destination I clicked on, it always directs me to Berlin!!! Easyjet is having a sale now…. lemme search..

AM: If I’m not mistaken, D has mentioned no France trip for her

G (just joining in the conversation): I’m going to Napoli on the cruise after our all-girls trip, so no Napoli, please 

AO: Grrrr…. OK no Easyjet

G: Milan, I don’t mind

AO: OK, I don’t either. Any destination for me is good. I haven’t been many new places, always the same few drivable cities

AM: Before we look at air tickets, we still have to decide 1-2 destinations and the 3 dates I mentioned that we are all OK with. Only then can we talk about air tickets

C: I stick with Porto. I don’t think we should spend too much time again on destination. We know we do not want to go too far and make it too complicated. Italy or Portugal. No one mentioned Spain but that is also good. Alternatively, Edinburgh? Or Ireland? Please be quick as some of us need to apply for leave. And make sure kids are taken care of

G: I agree with C on this matter. Ireland is pretty boring. I have been there a few times and no Edinburgh please ‘cos I plan to go there to see my sis in Glasgow.

AM: Does D have wifi or internet access at her holiday villa?

D (back in the conversation): Argghhhh!! Issues with internet connection. So slow. It was fine when we arrived but not anymore.

X: So ladies (1) Porto (2) Bologna (3) Naples

AM and AO: Porto looks OK to me

D: OK with location (I assumed, Porto?), but no France please. Have we booked the hotel yet and what’s our budget?

AO: Take an apartment from AirBNB? Much more fun? Can cook too…

AM: Hah … we are on holidays. Also wanna try the local foods.

D: We all need a holiday! No cooking please. I wanna see places. Move around.. a bit of shopping (souvenirs) and Port wine!!!

AO: Agree! Agree! No cooking …

D: Need to check location to/from airport. Is the place too remote? Walking distance to city centre? Places of interest?

X: Single room or twin sharing? Best to stay around city centre

AM: Twin or triple sharing? Do we need to rent a car?

X: I don’t think we need a car

AM (summarizing): Destination = Porto. Meals = No cooking. Transport = no rental of car. Accom = Hotel

D: Please book accomodation first before booking air tix

C (suddently sidetracking): My initial idea was to go and book into a spa in Germany!! We drive there in 2 cars, then save on flying cost and just spoil ourselves and baby Z in a spa

AO: I would love to be pampered!

C: No need to buy air tickets. Then go out eating in the Mosel area and have a great time

X: I’m easy …

C: Not sure about Germany as well …. Heard some good ones in Austria but that is too far

AO: Aiyah, me anything anywhere anytime OK

C : Are we back to Lisbon??

AO: No, I’m exploring German Spa hotels now …. cos I do love German food

C: I can drive and take 3 more persons. Driving there is approx 3 hours

AM: Please no Germany or Austria, please, please !!!!

C: Why not???

AO: Ok ok AM …. let’s find a spa hotel in Porto?

X: Ladies, are we going to Porto to stay in a spa?

AM: I do not necessarily need a spa hotel in Porto. Depending on the rest, I go with the flow

X: We go there for sightseeing so let’s get a decent hotel

AO: I definitely wanna go out sightseeing, eat local food, then go back spa a bit before sleep

D: Are you sure all of us want spa hotel? To be honest, I don’t like to be cooped up in the hotel. I want to walk and see places …

AM: We really need to come to a certain decision …

X: I’m with D

AM: I’m with D and X

AO: I think it’s safe to say we’ve settled on a destination

X: Let’s park the spa trip another time, ok?

D: Brilliant! (and suddenly no connection …)

AM: How many of us for Hotel? Apartment?

X: AM, D, are you into hotel or Air BNB?

AO: I’m still pinning on AirBNB because much cheaper and allows more camaraderie. With the savings, can splurge on food, shopping …

AM: Hotel and in the city, if possible. I’m not much of a spa person – does not work for me

X: OK

AO: Ok lets do hotel

C: Best hotel in the city …

AO: Yay! Let’s book

X: Lets wait for G and D. For D, it’s definitely no cooking, I know …

AO: Cooking is for future trips that are weeks long

C: I’m a light sleeper, so can’t share room

AO: Ooooh… are we all taking single rooms? I’m OK with sharing or single

AM: I guess it depends. If anyone wants to share rooms, can share, otherwise, she can also decide on a single room

AO (feeling excited): I’m just excited we agreed on a destination. LOL … And I’ve not been to Portugal, so extra chuffed

C: Yay!

D (back in the conversation): Just reading your messages. Catching up. So hotel, OK for me ..

X: We need to book the flights to enjoy the rate

AO: Yes, agree,must get flights asap

D: Once we have agreed on location and place, only then can we proceed to book the flight. But must be unanimous

X: How do we manage the flight booking? Book individually?

D: Not heard from G or O ..

G: Sorry ladies, my phone battery died last night when I was out so only saw messages now. Yeah, I’m fine with Porto. Twin sharing is fine with me. Think I can share with AM since she asked me. As for flights, best we book ourselves, no? Just send the appropriate itinerary to all and we book ourselves

X: I have the flight itinerary. SN Brussels

G: Email or in this whatsApp? So many messages, I will need to read through …

C: Email the definitive is best

G: So Fri to Sun, I’m OK with that

AO: Its only G who needs to get home before Monday is it? Would anyone mind if I stayed one extra night on my own (anyone is welcome to join me, of course). If I’m alone for extension, I can visit my friends in Faro

G: Anyone can stay as long as she wants. I can still come back on Sunday

AO: I understand that majority needs to work Monday. The non-workers are welcome to spend an extra day there with me, optional.

G: I prefer to come back earlier cos Thursday early morning we are leaving on an 11-day cruise. A lot of travelling…

AM: I do not mind coming back on Monday, too

AO: Great AM, we stay an extra day, k?

X: O, are you joining?

O (just got a new job and busy with her work, just joined in the conversation): Read through all the messages… Yes, joining! Sorry, can’t chat long. Need to work.  I go with the flow …

X: Are you going to take with you hand baggage or check in?

AO: One small luggage

X: Please note tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable

D: Hand baggage. Check and go. I’m doing that. Faster.

C: Me, too. Pack light …

D: Wear something warm on and carry light. October will be quite cool

C: Agree with D

AO (the first to book): Wow, me plus baby only Eur xxx total. Cheap cheap cheap! Booked and paid…

AM: Air tix and hotel booked! Yay … our tour begins…

D: Did we all book flying the same hour?

X, C, G, AO: Yup!

AM: Thanks to X who had us speeding up with our booking

AO (sidetracking again …): I’m going to get dining tips! I want that portuguese egg tart …pasteis de nata!!! Seafood!

G: Re the rooms, we have 2 twin sharings and one triple. Since I will be sharing with AM, my guess is that D, X and C will take the triple, right? The extra nights, those who will stay behind can bunk in together. Then rooms issue settled

AM: I have 3 sizes hand carry luggages at home, all Samsonites. Which is the standard size??

D: Check Brussels Airlines website. Allowable carry-on baggage Check&Go is 1 piece, max dimensions 55x40x23 cm with max total weight of 12kg. Note Size and weight apply hand in hand. If size is OK but weighs a ton, you cannot hand carry

X: AM, check the dimensions of your baggage. We are taking the Airbus, so it should not be an issue if you sticked to the dimensions as per D‘s guidelines. I do face issues at times when on biz trips, where they put your luggage away because of the size of the plane but it’s rare..

AM: Thanks X, so far I got checked before because my carry on looked bulky but it fitted to their measurement basket.

D: Again, suggest you carry light and wear warm clothings on with good walking pair of shoes. That should solve the carry & go baggage dilemma. Read its cold in Porto even in the Summer esp at night !!

All Settled and Ready to Go?

Phew!!! The double X-chromosomes managed to agree in record time … in one evening’s conversation!! One summer photo snowballed the effect with X speeding things up. Thanks, X! Note, there was no face-to-face communication, but only text conversation via WhatsApp. Thanks to cyberspace and 7 thinking heads ‘brainstormed’ by a Marketing & Sales Manager, a Communications Manager, a Lawyer, a Business Finance Controller, a former Nurse, a Food & Beverage Expert and a former Flight Stewardess cum Restaurant Manager. We were such diversed personalities, and strong-headed, too, that we even managed to come to a decision, was utterly amazing!

Oh by the way, did you manage to count the number of cities and locations in our conversation?

In case you lost count, at least 13 destinations were hinted at! Corsica, Lisbon, Pisa, Porto, Verona, Bologna, Naples, Edinburgh, Mosel, Nice, spa in Germany, Ireland, Austria… It was a LOOOOONNG list. But Porto was the winner!

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies returned home from their trip from the Balkan Peninsula plus Budapest on 20th September before the new University Semester started. Their 2 weeks hols saw their friendship grew even more. The group was made up of the following students: 2 Civil Engineering and 1 Business Engineering students, 1 Sports Science student, 1 Business Management student, 1 student of Architect and 1 IT student.


Now, how will 7 girls and a baby fare after the weekend trip of 2N and 3D in Porto?

We shall see…

Stay tuned *wink*

Porto, here we come!

 
While waiting for the next part, please hop over to this post: When 7 girls decided to meet …

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!