Posts Tagged ‘la maison blanche’

My 2 sons were bored with the same holiday destination year after year each Summer. “It has become too predictable“, they said.

My younger son whinged, “Why are we always spending our summer hols in the Provence? We’re becoming the real experts of South France and Van Gogh!” *chuckle*

Hmmm… true!

So, early this year, while planning our annual family summer getaway, hubby and I rethought our summer destination.

Hubby prefers to drive and rents a holiday cottage rather than flying and staying in hotels if the stay is a week or more. By excluding France in the picture, we went for the elimination theory. Germany is too near and the summer weather sucks! Just like Belgium and the UK! Luxembourg is too small. We have been to the Netherlands and they speak pretty much the same language (as Flemish), hence nothing new.

The weather played an important role in the choice of our holiday destination, too. It’s got to be warmer than Belgium!

Oh-kay! Got it!

Spain!

Si Señor(a)! España, por favor!

Mind you, it’s almost 1.5k km away! I told hubby to split our summer hols by staying a night or two half way through the journey somewhere in mid or South France and then to resume with the rest of the journey to Spain. Instead, hubby opted to rent La Maison Blanche at St-Rémy-de-Provence for the entire week and 2 weeks in Spain! So yes, we were back in the Provence … again! 🙂

Well, anyway we were super excited and my younger son was especially thrilled to learn about our NEW summer destination… finally! 🙂

We’re headed to Caldes de Malavella in the province of Girona, North East Spain. Very little is known of Caldes de Malavella. It’s a sleepy town, by the way. However, we found out that the place was formerly renowned for its thermal baths or spas!

The remains of the Ancient Roman Bath in Caldes, for instance. Photo credit to Josep Renalias (Wikipedia).

We have never got any closer to the city because the summer residence we’re headed for was self-contained, and very well connected to other cities in Spain. That’s a plus point for us.

By the way, our knowledge of Spain as a holiday destination was nil. Zero! Being first timers to Catalonia, our summer hols this year became more challenging. We have only heard and read about the popular coastal region of Costa Brava and of course Barcelona, so Barca’s definitely on our itinerary! Other than that, we knew the eccentric Spanish artist and surrealist icon, Salvador Dali came from that region.

From La Maison Blanche to Can Fonzo

After one nostalgic week in South France, we left La Maison Blanche en route to Girona. The GPS flashed a distance of ca 370 km, and ETA at around 2 pm.

It was late morning on a Saturday and with a heavy traffic from Béziers all the way to Costa Brava, our ETA stretched to almost 6 pm when we arrived at Villa Can Fonzo in Caldes de Malavella.

OMG! The house was huge! I did not expect that at all. It’s located on a hill slope.

According to Barcelona Life, “Caldes became a prosperous place and today around the outskirts of the town you’ll find plenty of attractive private mansions and summer residences, built in the Modernista – ie. Catalan art nouveau – style.”

So true!

When I entered the house, I exclaimed, “oh oh, I will have to remember where I place my handphone or cable or the charger or just about anything… ” Lol!

South East Asian Connections

The house is owned by a Dutch couple. It’s interesting to see their connections with Asia within the house.

I was looking for coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet, and found these mugs. Singaporeans may know this pottery factory 😉

And of course several memorabilia of Indonesia, being once a Dutch colony.

There’re many books of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the many book shelves in the house, too.

We have never met the owners, but they left a strong message behind 😉

First Meal in Spain

After exploring the house, I decided to cook us a simple meal of Fusilli all’Arrabbiata, with the fresh chillies, garlic and fusilli I brought from Belgium and red peppers, dried herbs, smoked bacon and tomatoes from the Provence in the kitchen at Can Fonzo.

A simple yet satisfying meal 😉

While enjoying my plate of Fusilli and a glass of rosé on the patio, I gazed ahead of me a vision of a new and exciting tomorrow 😉

Ah …. what Peace and Serenity …. until I heard the buzzing sound of mosquitoes flapping their wings!

Arghhhh!!!!

Have a Blessed week!

Cheers!

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 !

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 !

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!

A Summer in Saint Rémy-de-Provence

A Summer in Saint Rémy-de-Provence

As if there are no other holiday destinations – but really – we have been to France, in particular, southern France so many times that we could memorize some places along the road and highway quite well. Although we do not tend to visit the same place twice, we seemed to be re-visiting Saint Rémy-de-Provence quite often, at least four times since 2006!

We enjoyed the lovely Mediterranean temperatures that were not overly hot (August), the colours, the smell, la cuisine provençale (the Provencal dishes) and the many walking trails.

Last summer, I spiced up our Provencal holiday with this simple dish, which was… erm… planned at the eleventh hour

Baba's chicken curry with chickpeas served with stir fried chinese cabbage and steamed basmati rice

Baba’s chicken curry with chickpeas served with stir fried chinese cabbage and steamed basmati rice

The spice that bites the dust?

Well, almost 🙂

Actually, I got 4 packets of Baba ’s curry powder (2 meat curry powder and 2 fish curry powder) from a girlfriend who was going back to Kuching for her holiday and at the same time planning to replenish her kitchen pantry with new inventories. Lucky girl (if you are reading this post, kam sia, my dear):-D

Well, a month more to shelf life was not that bad. We left for Saint Rémy-de-Provence in the 2nd week of August and the curry powder expired in September. Perfect timing so to speak!

The White House

For the subsequent 2 weeks, we stayed in a lovely holiday cottage, owned by an English couple – La Maison Blanche (The White House). By the way, there were and are many English speaking ‘locals’ in Saint Rémy-de-Provence 😀

3. Baba's curry_La Maison Blanche

This was the kitchen that became my Provencal domain last summer *wink*

4. Baba's curry_French kitchen

While the guys were watching the 2012 Summer Olympics on the telly, the lady of the house (ahem!) slogged away in the kitchen with her creative throw-in-the-pot chicken curry soup dish. LOL!

WYSIWYG

That’s right, what you see is what you get!

These were the main ingredients I used to cook my curry dish.

5a. Baba's curry_ingredients15b. Baba's curry_ingredients2

You need the following –

(Serves 4-6)

4 chicken breasts (ca 695 gm)

2 small packets Baba’s meat curry powder

8 potatoes, halved

1 onion, chopped

Garlic – I used 4 cloves, minced with coarse sea salt

4 cm piece ginger, grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

3 cloves

6 dried chillies

2 green cardamoms, crushed

1 tsp fennel seeds

Curry leaves (I used the dried ones)

1 tomato (chopped)

Salt, to taste ( I also added 2 chicken stock cubes)

Black pepper, to taste (not in the picture)

1 can chickpeas

Cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 x 125 gm tub plain yoghurt (not in the picture) – I did not use coconut milk

Water

If you are wondering – yes – the spices ‘followed’ us all the way on the road for some 975 km! As I said earlier, it was a “planned but last minute packing” 😉

Method –

Very simple. Sauté the chopped onion, minced garlic and grated ginger until fragrant; add in the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, cardamoms and fennel seeds, stir frying for one minute before adding the chicken slices, yoghurt and chopped tomatoes. Add water, chickpeas, potatoes, dried chillies, salt and pepper to taste and finally the curry powder.

6. Baba's curry_curry mix

Mix well to combine the curried mixture. Simmer until the chicken pieces and potatoes are cooked and season to taste before serving. As you can see, my Provencal curry was not made the traditional way as far as sight (visual) is concerned, but the taste was 100% curry. My guys like their curries a bit soupy. I served the curry with steamed basmati rice and stir fried Chinese cabbage with green chillies and sun-dried tomatoes.

7a Baba's curry_curry chix soup7b. Baba's curry_closed-up

7c. Baba's curry_chix curry + basmati rice + chinese cabbage

By the way, curry has never tasted so good. I daresay, it was YUMMY 😉

Market Day

I love Wednesdays at Saint Rémy-de-Provence because it’s market day!!

The colours, the smell and the sights were just amazing….

8a. Wednesday  Market St Remy de Provence_Lavender8b. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Straw bags8c. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Garlics8d. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Confituur8e. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Fruits8f. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Spices8g. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Wines8h. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Cheeses8i. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Savon de Marseille8j. Wednesday Market St Remy de Provence_Canned drinks craftworkPicture 339 (Large)Wed mkt at St Remy de Provence_porky

Oh by the way, did you know that Saint-Rémy-de-Provence was the birthplace of Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus, the 16th century author of prophecies? We visited his birthplace which was not far from the Market square.

9a. St Remy de Provence_Nostradamus19b. St Remy de Provence_Nostradamus2

The Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh was voluntarily confined and treated in the Asylum of Saint-Paul de Mausole, near Saint-Rémy. It was here that he painted the two most remarkable works: Starry Night and Self Portrait.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry nights

During our many visits to the Provence, we have followed the trails of Vincent Van Gogh (including Arles). It was a real eye opener for us. We started to appreciate the man and his works even more.

Mossy Fountain with a spicy end

After spending the entire morning until slightly after noon at the Wednesday Market, we were famished. We drove to Salon-de-Provence, about 32km from Saint Rémy. The most striking landmark – which cannot be missed – in Salon-de-Provence is the Fontaine Moussue (Mossy Fountain), which is the real mascot of the town. Tourists and locals, especially children would throng around the fountain, which looked like a giant moss-covered mushroom 😀

11. Salon-de-Provence_Mossy Fountain

We did not walk very far and sat ourselves at a table for four on the terrace of a nearby restaurant. Strangely, we did not realize that the restaurant was not French. I guess we were too hungry to gallivant any further. The resto– can you believe this – was Indian?! I was over the moon 😀

For a price tag of Eur 20 per person, our meal included a starter, main course and dessert.

12a. Salon-de-Provence_Starter_Veg Pakora, lamb & chix samosas12b. Salon-de-Provence_Main_Lamb tikka12c. Salon-de-Provence_Lamb tikka on the plateLicking our platters cleaned

Conclusion: We licked our platters clean. A bargain meal, worth every penny 😛

A spicy Hat trick

Oh no, not again!

But, oh YES – this post would not be captioned “spicy” summer for nothing. Our curry treats for three consecutive days!

I bought some baguettes, sliced and served them with the leftover curry.

My husband and I had these –

Freshly baked baguettes

Freshly baked baguettes

Sliced baguette - soft and fresh

Sliced baguette – soft and fresh

Leftover curry with sliced baguette - a marriage made in heaven :-P

Leftover curry with sliced baguette – a marriage made in heaven 😛

My sons had equally delicious leftover curry meals, which I added  cooked instant noodles, hard boiled eggs, stir-fried french beans, chopped tomatoes and roasted chicken slices.

My younger son's plate

My younger son’s plate

My older son loves a soupy noodle :-D

My older son loves a soupy noodle 😀

This was one “spicy” summer adventure that will not be easily forgotten 😀

I am submitting this entry to Little Thumbs Up event with the theme “CURRY”, hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats well in Flanders, organized by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite D.I.Y.

Photobucket

By the way, I DID have some free moments.  While the boys patronised the swimming pool almost every day, I read Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s, fantastically intelligent literary thriller, The Angel’s Game. The year before, I read his mind-boggling, complex and absorbing novel, The Shadow of the Wind.  A talented writer.  I was totally gripped and could not put down reading his novels. If you like Dan Brown’s novels, you will like Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s 😉

A Summer in Saint Rémy-de-Provence. The boys enjoying a dip in the pool - EVERYDAY!

A Summer in Saint Rémy-de-Provence. The boys enjoying a dip in the pool – EVERYDAY!

By the way, I finished reading this book in one week ;-)

By the way, I finished reading this book in one week 😉

Have a great weekend.

Cheers!

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