Posts Tagged ‘vincent van gogh’

Have you heard of Sel de mer La Baleine or Le Saunier de Camargue?

When we had one of our lunches in Arles, Le Saunier de Camargue was seen placed liberally on every table alongside a bottle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Mind you, this sea salt is not some cheap table salt. It’s one of the finest, produced in Camargue, or more specifically, on the salt marshes in Salin-de-Giraud, situated just next to the River Rhône. By the way, Sel de mer La Baleine and Le Saunier de Camargue are the salt brands from the production of sea salt at Salin-de-Giraud.

And that’s where we’re headed to.

Our GPS navigated a distance of 98km from La Maison Blanche with an ETA at 1.05 pm (ca 1.5 hours).

Last year, I bought some 2 kg of Le Saunier de Camargue. It was good to be back to actually visit the less known side of Camargue, id est, visiting the salt marshes or salt flats of Salin-de-Giraud. ‘Salin‘ is saline in English meaning a solution of salt in water.

When Blue becomes Red

The normally blue water turns red under high salt concentration, thus making the blood red water landscape phenomenally striking. Nothing we have seen before.

Curiosity killed the cat. We had to get closer to the bloody water pan.

If you are wondering, actually the red or pink colour of the salt flats is due to the presence ~ in large quantities ~ of microscopic algae (Dunaliella Salina), rich in beta carotene and antioxidant activity. Got this info from the instruction board, here below 😉

It is, however, unclear how often the phenomenon occurs, but we’re lucky to have experienced the most picturesque sight where salt has been the lifeblood of the region for years!

Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer

The temperature was at its highest at 38C! We left the salt pan of Salin-de-Giraud at 1.30 pm to Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. It’s interesting to discover that the town is named after three Marys (Mary of Clopas, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene), who were said to have arrived there by sea.

It was also at Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer, that Vincent Van Gogh made several paintings of the seascape and town, the famous one being the Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer in June 1888.

With the scorching sun above our heads, we found the best place to shelter and take comfort at Bistro La Mama Sita. Being so close to the sea, the seafood salad was spot on. And so was the entrecôte of bull steak. It was a huge portion, especially so when the bulls have the predominant presence in the Camargue! Hubby had the famous local specialty dish of Camargue called La Gardiane de Taureau (slow-cooked Camargue bull stew) served with Camargue rice. I must say all the dishes we ordered were mouth-wateringly sublime.

With all the dishes we had consumed in such hot weather, we made a short stroll along the Promenade Charles de Gaulle.

The beach was packed with very tanned looking locals and holiday-makers. We felt out of place and at the same time, I could feel the blazing heat penetrating my skin, so we left Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. The boys were looking forward to taking a dip in the pool back at La Maison Blanche .

While I walked around the house taking snapshots of what became a chronicled narrative of our Summer getaway in the Provence 🙂

A Blessed Sunday!

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!

Related Posts –

“An introduction, a slogan, a statement of inclusion, and a physical icon – I amsterdam is the city and its resident’s collective catch cry”.

We all know Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands but wait till I tell you this. I have never visited our northern neighbour until early last week! After residing for more than 15 years in Belgium, I decided to make a trip up north with my other half and 2 boys. I have read a lot (I thought!) about Amsterdam. The sad truth about what you have read may or may not depict the entire picture of the city, as with a million and one things you read in the newspapers everyday!  Drugs, Red Light City, Skinhead, Homosexuals – all rather perverse or negative syllabuses typifying the city of Amsterdam.  These are, but, mere fraction of the truth…

By the way, have you seen this movie, “Good Will Hunting”?  One of my favourites. Here’s one of the best quotes of all time from the film coming out from the mouth of Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to Will Hunting (Matt Damon).

Quote, “So, if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny…on every art book ever written.  Michaelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations. Him and the pope. Sexual orientation. The whole works, right? I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at the beautiful ceiling…Do you think that I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been – how you feel, who you are – because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because – you know what? I can’t learn anything from you… I can’t read in some fuckin’book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I’m fascinated. I’m in” Unquote.

Seeing is believing. You have to be there first hand to experience the truth, and let the truth be told…

Canals and bridges

Amsterdam has been called the “Venice of the North” for it’s more than one hundred kilometers of canals.  We stayed at the 111-room Rembrandt Classic Hotel which was located along one of the major canals, the Herengracht, an excellent location to exploring Amsterdam in 3 days!

Breakfast

We had a generous breakfast – English plus Continental breakfasts all-in-one of omelette, sausages, bacon, baked beans, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cereals, mini pancakes, breads and buns, tea, coffee and juices, cakes and apple pie – à volonté, of course 😛

A Hearty and Healthy Breakfast which came in handy as great energy boosters!

Bicycle, Bicycle, I want to ride my Bicycle!

Forget your car.  Leave it at home, or let it park somewhere stationary for as long as you are (still) in Amsterdam! Rent a bike or better still, WALK, like us 😉 We explored more of Amsterdam walking during our 3 days there.  After all, the Netherlands is a rather flat country.  “Nether” means low, hence, “Netherland” is literally translated as ‘low country’. Walking is easy peasy, free and of course, a healthier option! If you rent a bicycle, you need to park your bike somewhere.  The railings or banisters along the canals and bridges are common resting places for bicycles. The bicycles came in all forms, sizes, colours.  Here were some of the many examples of how the bicycles were parked in Amsterdam.

Here’s a bicycle parking area.  I’ve never seen anything like this before and it all happened in Amsterdam, just outside the Amsterdam Central Station.

A Canta, anyone ?

I have never seen a Canta in Belgium, so seeing a closed-up of one was an odd and unexpected treat. You see these mini cars a lot around Amsterdam. Let’s picture this. Statistically, the tallest people in the world, as measured by country, are the Dutch, so imagine a Dutch driving in this teeny-weeny ‘bean’ mean machine. A geek or a genius? You decide. This little car was initially manufactured for the less abled people, but more and more abled “Amsterdamers” are driving these “genius cars” around every nook and cranny of the little one-way streets in the city centre.

By the way, the Canta is manufactured in the Netherlands by a small company called Waaijenberg.

Here were two of the many Canta’s we saw – the red and the white.

Metro

Besides renting a bike or walk or drive a Canta in Amsterdam, the next popular mode of travel in the city is the metro. Normal cars and trams crisscrossed the same roads. Hmmm…. not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

Rembrandt Square

To exemplify our stay at the Rembrandt Classic Hotel, a visit to the Rembrandt Square was a must.

The Rembrandt Square was originally known as the Botermarkt (Butter Market). As the name suggests, the square was initially used as a dairy market, but as years went by, hotels, restaurants and shops burgeoned with entertainment and bustling activity. In homage of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt, the square was named after him – the Rembrandt Square.

Say Cheese!

I have always associated cheese with the Netherlands (or Holland as she used to be called).  But, lo and behold, it took us almost the entire day to discover the first cheese shop. What disappointment as the Kaaskamer van Amsterdam (Cheese Room of Amsterdam) were displaying imported cheeses, from Italy – the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

We did find another cheese shop on our third and last day in Amsterdam!  I was so excited with the display of the many varieties of the shaved try-me-out cheeses. I believe I must have tried every single cheese, or rather, cheeses, on every platter, with the embarrassment of my other half and my boys! LOL!  What did you expect?  They – I mean, the shaved cheeses – were simply DELICIOUS: natural, herbed, spiced, curried, chillied, smoked, barbecued. You name it – I tasted ‘em all 😉

Well, of course, we did not leave the cheese shop empty handed. We bought the goat Gouda, a smooth, velvety and tasty cheese. I’m not a big fan of goat’s cheese, but this one was a winner.

Coffee Shop

Read my lips: “This is NOT the usual kopitiam we know of in Malaysia and Singapore or anywhere else in South East Asia”

You will not find your favourite menu of kaya toast and a cup of kopi O, or kopi peng. The “menu” in a Dutch coffee shop is er… quite something else.  Although I have never been to one (and probably, never will), I have heard about a fair bit of what is being served there.

Van Gogh

I am sure you will have heard or read of Vincent Willem van Gogh and his iconic Sunflowers, and that he cut off part of his own ear with a straight razor during a fit of madness. However, a team of German historians has published a book arguing that the whole tale was untrue.  According to the historians, the story of van Gogh’s madness was part of a cover up by none other than van Gogh’s friend and fellow artist, Paul Gaugin.

Well, I’m not going to delve into all these arguments. Whatever happened, let us all remember that Vincent van Gogh was little appreciated during his lifetime but he left us his gift of great paintings years after his death.

A visit to the Van Gogh’s museum helped us understand and appreciate the master’s works, a huge transformation from when he first started his early paintings and sketches.

From a dark, dreary and somber earth tones, “The Potato Eaters

To a more vibrant and colourful self portrait of the master himself –

During one of our many trips to the South of France, we visited Saint Paul de Mausole at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, originally a monastery, but was transformed into a mental asylum, where Vincent van Gogh incarcerated himself from May 1889 until June 1890, just before his death.  It was here that Van Gogh painted the beautiful “The Starry Night”, which was made popular by the American singer-songwriter, Don McLean. Here’s McLean’s version of Vincent”.

Anne Frank’s House

Do not leave Amsterdam without visiting Anne Frank’s House. Anne Frank’s House was just a stone’s throw from our hotel.

One disappointment though.  We were  not allowed to take any pictures in the house.  I managed to take just this one.

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was a renowned and most discussed Jewish victim of the Holocaust. Her legacy was her diary, which documented her experiences hiding in the “Secret Annexe” (Achterhuis) during World War II with her family and family friends.

We visited Anne Frank’s room where she shared with Frtiz Pfeffer, a dentist and family friend of the Frank family.

Here was where it all started, where the diary of Anne Frank became a classic tale of the life and times of the teenaged Jewish girl.

Food

There were more than enough restaurants to choose from; however, I noticed the influx of Argentinean restaurants and many Spanish-speaking tourists in Amsterdam. Could Princess Maxima be the reason for this thriving success?

Wagamama

I was really excited when I found Wagamama! I have heard so much of this eatery from fellow bloggers to the point that I promised myself that should this noodle bar crossed my path; I would just stampede into the restaurant.  Yep, that desperate!  I was NOT disappointed with this action at all.

I was not the only one; my three guys thumbed up to Wagamama!  LOL!

I had the Chilli Beef Ramen.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Yum yum!!

The Seafood Ramen was doubly superb.

My younger son chose the chicken katsu curry from the kids’ menu. He literally licked his platter clean, a great effort for a small eater. He must be very hungry from all the walks…

The desserts at Wagamama were very limited.  Only 5 on the menu card, but if you chose the correct dessert, it’s like winning the jackpot.

My dessert was a winner. I had the banana katsu served with yuzu (deep-fried banana coated with crispy breadcrumbs served with Japanese vanilla and orange ice-cream). It was absolutely divine.

The guys had the wagamama moist chocolate fudge cake served with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

Wagamama = positive eating +  positive living!

Memories of China at Mr Tong’s

We had our “last supper” in Amsterdam at Mr Tong’s.  One thing we noticed in Amsterdam was that the restaurants came to live from 3pm onwards.  None of the eateries were opened at noon, at least in the Leidesplein area. Very Spanish, we thought, with the siesta et al.. ??

When the clock struck 3 in the afternoon, we stood outside the entrance door of Mr Tong’s. We were lucky to be there at that hour as it was the Happy Hour with a 20% discount 😉

As we did not have lunch, we were famished. We chose the menu “Memories of China” of mushroom soup, roasted duck, sweet and sour chicken, spicy crispy beef, Shanghai prawns and roasted pork.

And desserts of Java Dream, which turned out to be “pisang goreng” (banana fritters) served with vanilla ice-cream.  Frankly speaking, I preferred the one from Wagamama.

Something Flemish. Something Belgian…

Only in the Netherlands, are the fries called “Vlaamse Friet” (Flemish Fries)

Then there’s the Belgian Beer, the Kriek (Cherry Beer).

Basking in the Sun

We were lucky with the weather, id est, no rain, but the northern winds were extremely chilly.  Here were some of the pictures of the guys basking in the sun, with their coats on! This is to give you an idea of how weak the sun was…

I’ll be back…

Hasta la vista!