Thursday, May 29, 2008

Long Weekend in France

Vince's mum's  farmhouse in the Loire Valley, in the area called La Guyardiere just outside of the village of  Mansigne about 45 km from Le Mans.  This tranquil place was a treat at the end of a somewhat troublesome journey from Paris. 

On Thursday afternoon, we caught the Eurostar from King Cross, London to Gare de Nord, Paris and stayed overnight in a dodgy room, which was the only one available close to the station.  The next day we visited Vince's mum to collect they keys to the farmhouse (by taxi after being advised we could walk to our to the Metro stop, but the destination was confused by our pronunciation of it and it turned out to be a 30min taxi ride, we should have just stayed at the station and caught the metro, we will know next time) about mid afternoon we boarded the slow (and much cheaper than the TGV) train to Le Mans. 

Fortunately we got there just in time before the Avis office closed and we where able to hire a car to get to Mansigne.  We finally arrived, after many a few wrong turns, entirely due to our miss-interpretation of the directions we were provided.  We arrived in Mansigne only a few km from our destination, but couldn't find the way, so we stopped a number of times  to ask for directions from locals, but could not communicate due to our lack of French.  With the sun going and still not in a warm room settling in for the night, we stopped again to ask for help, but this time with a trusty pen and paper in hand and we received a map which we followed and found the house,  just before darkness fell at 10pm.  It was very generous of Vince's mum to have a cold bottle of wine in the fridge which was opened with some relief.     The trip was well worth it though.

The next day we woke ready to explore the area.  We got back in the car,  feeling  more accustomed to driving on the right hand side of the narrow country roads, we set out toward the town of  Le Lude and visit  Chateau Le Lude.

 Chateau Le Lude

The chateau was amazing.  On the way back to Mansigne we stopped into the local butcher and grocer to get dinner.  Noran lit the fire, over which we cooked our steaks, then sat down to a tasty meal.

The next day we decided to venture further, in the drizzling (much to Noran's delight) rain we drove to Tours and onward to the Loire River in search of more Chateau's.   After a few wrong turns we were rewarded with a view of the Chataeu De Legende in Usse.  Safely parking the car we wondered back in time to explore this 15th Century building.

Chateau De Legende in the town of Usse

We jumped back in the car and following our trusty map, promptly got lost but found at treat on a narrow road following the Loire, the village of Brehemont.

Driving though vineyards we found our way back on the road to Mansigne for another night in. The next day we headed back to LeMans and then after dropping of the car got on the train back to Paris to visit some friends of Norans.  

We mastered the metro and saw some tourist sights of Paris.

Back on the Eurostar we headed toward London after a what turned out to be a fun experience in France.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring in the Gardens

It's Monday night after a weekend of weather we would never have expected this early in the year, lets hope it stays like this throughout summer.

On Sunday I went for a walk to Victoria Park in Hackney, then back through London Fields with the rest of East London enjoying the sun and open spaces.

I missed my model this day and found it a bit weird taking photos of strangers in the park, when do you ask permission without wrecking the scene that a few moments earlier looked interesting.  So I stuck to the wildlife.

Day at the Markets with my favourite model

These photos are of  Broadway Market one of the many streets in London that appear out of nowhere and once found we keep returning to.  Stoke Newington is another area in the east we came accross by accident and were rewarded by funky pubs and the first Dosa we found in London.

Once again Noran's patience shines through, firstly food market shopping (which he does give into without too much effort, particularly given the lure of french soft cheese and parma ham) and then agreeing to be my trusty subject matter.

Happy Birthday Noran

Lunch at Spurstowe, a pub Andrew chose for it's well deserved reputation for excellent pub food, in Hackney near London Fields for Noran's birthday.  Just don't have the wood pigeon if you aren't prepared for the taste.  

Some photos of with friends and some others who joined us from the US.

Then back on Broadway Market at the Dove Kitchen & Freehouse which has a huge range of beers (Strawberry beer and Hoegaarden featured here).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Day at the Football

It is pretty much impossible to get Liverpool tickets so we chose this game to see what Premier League football is like live. So Saturday of the Bank holiday long weekend and Noran and I holding tickets  to the Fulham vs Birmingham City relegation battle headed off to Craven Cottage near Putney in London. But first we needed to eat to give us energy for the match ahead, so it was hamburgers at a cute pub on the Themes, with a number of other fans.

The local security were out in large numbers and there were no major incidents, with unruly fans, they left this one alone.

We took our seats in the neutral area behind the goal and had a great view of the pitch as the game kicked off.

Half time found us with a plastic beer bottle in hand and the score 0-0 hoping the game would improve.  As we headed back in it was a good thing N didn't have to line up in the boys que, which for once was significantly longer than the women's.

The second half brought two Fulham goals and none to Birmingham, steering Fulham away from relegation and a stadium full of mostly happy fans.  

London From the Thames

The Gurkin ...

and the Onion (Boris's new home)

next to somewhat older architecture of Tower Bridge

I took these photos on a weekend we spent looking at areas to live around London Bridge, but luckily now we are going to move into Andrew's place at Belsize Park.   So instead of small studio in an area where you pay heaps to get something small, we will share a terrace house with two bathrooms, a back yard and a great living space.  Yay!   We are moving in on 17 May.