French Holiday Part II

We have spent the weekend extending the patio in our garden. There is dust and cement everywhere, all over my poor flowers. I am escaping from the chaos for half an hour to write another blog post!

After our amazing but very tiring week on the side of Alp d’Huez watching the giant cycling spectacle that is Le Tour de France and all that goes with it pass through (see previous postย https://lickingtheplateagain.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/im-back-french-holiday-part-i/) we headed to a gite in the Indre region of central France for a week of relaxation! (cue lots of eating, reading, eating, sunbathing and a bit more eating).

The gite, in a 200 year old longere in a rural hamlet surrounded by rolling fields, was the perfect spot to wind down following the madness of the alp. I was also rather glad to get out of the campervan, despite all my initial excitement about hiring one. We were both sporting numerous impressive bruises after a week in it! We didn’t venture out to eat too much during this week as we were mainly just too happy pottering around our lovely little gite and garden pleasing ourselves. We did have one special meal in a local restaurant (which I will tell you all about in my next post!) but mainly we enjoyed lots of barbecues, big hearty rustic salads and picnics!

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Warm potato salad with chives and piles of lettuce with liberal lashings of mustard salad dressing

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Delicious saucisson with a bit of a kick, juicy tomatoey marinaded chicken, charred courgette slivers

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Juicy barbecued prawn and cod skewers with a buttery basil sauce

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Tasty breakfasts (some healthier than others!)

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Perfect lunches

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Is there much in this life better than a wodge of gooey brie and couple of tomatoes shoved into a chunk of baguette? Biting into it and letting the juices from the tomatoes run down your chin? I think not.

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Peppy espresso served with little sweets

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Treats from the local boulangerie

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Lakeside picnics following a refreshing swim

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What do you do when you have a stale baguette to use up and a heap of very ripe tomatoes? Make a tomato sauce, slather it all over the bread, top with ham and generous amounts of camembert (perhaps I was a little too generous, this was pretty filthy! Sooooo good though!) and grill! Et voila! A French bread pizza!

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Moreishly plump pungent olives from the local market

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Late afternoon sunlounger snacks

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Barbecued burgers on toasted buns with grilled tomatoes and yes, more camembert (spotting a pattern here?)

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Rich and luxurious chocolate to accompany evening card games. This year’s favourite was Cote D’or’s dark chocolate with caramelised pistachios. Seriously good.

P1040635Bright happy flowers

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Field upon field of sunny sunflowers. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to look at a field of sunflowers and not smile.

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Pink skies

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I’m back! / French Holiday Part I

Eeeeep! It’s been rather a while since I’ve written a post on here! In my defence, I’ve been rather busy finishing up at one job, spending two weeks in France watching boys on bikes and eating oodles of cheese and bread (more on that shortly), and then starting a new job! So the last month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind to say the least! But I’m back now! And ready to talk about France!

France has long held a special place in my heart, ever since our annual camping trips as kids to grown up holidays in rural gites and city breaks in Paris. The food, of course, plays a significant part in this, but so too do many other things. One of the other many things I love about France is Le Tour, La Grande Boucle, the greatest and most difficult sporting endurance event known to man. Boys on bikes. Brilliant scenery. And a whole country gripped with velo fever for three whole weeks, every year. What’s not to like?! (Some of said boys on bikes are rather pleasant on the eye too, it must be said ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). This year, for the first time, the OH and I were going to be watching a stage of the tour in France at the side of the road as opposed to on the TV in our living room! We had been planning this for a whole year and were beyond excited by the time the trip came around.

We had hired a campervan in Lyon and a after a few days in an Alpine campsite, we headed further into the mountains in order to stake our place on the side of the infamous Alp d’Huez with its 21 hairpin bends and vast backstory of cycling history. And this year, to mark the 100th edition of Le Tour, the riders were to climb the mountain twice. In one day. This was definitely the stage to watch! As the stage was expected to draw several thousand fans, we ensured that we arrived a few days before to guarantee a spot – and we only just managed, bagging one of the very last spaces!

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The drive to the mountains!

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We were parked up between hairpin four and three (number one being nearest the top), around 4km from the summit. Each morning, before it got too hot, we would walk up to the top, to the little town. Here we were greeted with ever increasing spectacular views as well as some tasty patisserie and espresso for our efforts.

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On the morning of the actual stage, the owner of said boulangerie loaded up the boot of her car and drove slowly down the mountain selling freshly baked – still warm – pain and croissants to the (rather damp – the day started off rather wet!) campers. For next to nothing. At home here in the UK, vendors would take advantage of that situation no end and hike prices sky high. Another reason to love France. Freshly baked warm bread in the morning is a basic need not to be messed with! ๐Ÿ™‚

After our morning walk in the days leading up to the stage, we would spend most of the rest of the day sitting outside our campervan watching the world go by. And there was so much to see! As well as the hordes of serious lycra-clad cyclists taking their own go at the legendary ascent, there were plenty of novelty acts to watch pass by, not to mention the increasing numbers of team cars and busses in the day before the stage – very exciting!

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The atmosphere was brilliant and incredibly international, it was like being at one giant party all week. I even grew to embrace the Europop being blasted out of neighbouring campervans. It was great to see people from all over the world united by their love for cycling. On the day of the stage itself, everyone cheered on every single person that cycled past them, regardless of nationality or team. These guys are all heroes and it felt like an honour to watch them pass so close by!

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One of my favourite moments was when the little girl who had been camped opposite us with her grandparents went running inside to grab her dolly so that she could watch it too!

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I will refrain from posting too many cycling photos, but here’s just a handful!

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Tejay van Garderen leading the way!

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Thomas Voeckler (one of my all-times faves!) and Pierre Rolland

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Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana

IMG_4950Va Va Froome!

IMG_4952Alberto Contador and his Saxo Tinkoff team

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Jens Voigt (possibly the tour’s most popular cyclist?!)

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Sylvain Chavanel

IMG_5187Peter Kennaugh giving a Manx flag the thumbs up!

All in all, it was a spectacular and incredibly memorable experience – I really hope we can do it again!