Messages From France (If You Think I’m Calling This French Letters You Can Just Go Home Right Now)

Last night I dreamt my Niece was running wild.  She’s just three and a half, but in my dream she was brandishing a full table’s worth of shiny silver knives and forks, as if she planned on eating my eyes for dinner.  I’d had enough and went to remove the cutlery from her tiny hands before catastrophe hit.  Instead of being congratulated for stepping in, I was berated by an army of invisible in-laws for not letting her play.  As the shaming continued she moved on to swirling wine glasses around by the stem in a manner that defied all known physics.  Again I tried to intervene sensing noting but a waterfall of tears when the glasses smashed.  Thankfully they did not.  Sometime later I woke up. 

Ok, This Was Pretty Potent Chocolate

Today seems like the perfect day for writing, I have the flat to myself and six hours of music lined up.  I’ve already enjoyed a tasty chicken dhansak and in an hour or so it will be time for an energy boost from a hot cup of coffee and some high strength chocolate.
Sometimes it’s hard to say what’s on your mind for more reasons than stars in the galaxy, but occasionally you feel compelled.  It’s a undisclosed Friday in March when the story begins…

XX March XX 201X

Hey!
Don’t know why but I was thinking about this Japanese pop art t-shirt I used to wear with the slogan, “That Great Let It Ride Sound” plastered across the front. It came from what used to be my favourite clothes shop that had the wonderful slogan by the till, “Let my karma drive over my dogma”. It probably explained why the service was often appalling.  Why am I telling you about this T-shirt, well normally nobody would bat in eyelid at its nonsensical slogan but when I was in France everyone would try and read it, confused at the meaning. As far as I’m aware there was no meaning to it. Let It Ride was just the brand.   I know I’ve been going for so many years now, but this t-shirt makes a good metaphor for 17 years’ worth of travelling to France and of course a few of the meltdowns I’ve shared with you since we’ve been friends.   13:15

If Only I’d Listened To That T-Shirt…

Soooo anyway… It’s just becoming one of those weeks.  Someone mistakenly thought I’m good at organising social events and as you know that’s definitely not my  forte at all!  I don’t think the leaving do I did counts.  Anyway, that plan for a Wednesday reunion turned into an epic fail, I’ve got a better chance of starting an introverts anonymous group then getting this event to take place.  Though in the spirit of giving a crap and trying hard to be a better person, I’m going to give it another go after I come back from France. But really I’m not convinced and look forward to being proven wrong.  I was also supposed to see my old Uni friend on Monday as well. That went to pot as well for reasons I don’t fully understand but will no doubt tell you when I find out all the facts. 

So in the end I tried the old fun Friday trick but in all honesty sitting here in front of my laptop with a piss weak coffee and a crappy panini you’ve probably already worked out I messed that up as well. Last night I’d even put in an extra hour or two of work so I could enjoy a coffee from this hipster Japanese coffee outlet, Ometesando Koffee (Don’t say anything, you know I can’t help myself). Sure enough things began to unravel. My train into London was late, I took a wrong turn off of Oxford St and ended up in a litter strewn back alley where I’m sure we’ve also ended up in whilst engrossed in conversation. However, I was by myself this morning so that excuse doesn’t wash one bit.  Second time around I manage to find my Koffee. The shop looked great, though I had to step back a moment so as not to look like I’d entered with some random dude on the street who just so happened to be going exactly where I was going. Argh!!! Inside it definitely felt a lot like a little slice of Japan, from the shiny and impressive La Marzocco coffee machine to the minimalist wooden decor. I ordered my usual and some of the famed kashi (or custard filled cubed cakes to you and I). The coffee guy warned me that my custard filled delights would be hot as they’d just left the oven. Excitement soon turned to disappointment. The coffee was only a one shot americano and really needed that second shot the way my day had been going. You know how cranky I get in the morning without my coffee. My beautifully packaged custardy treats looked closer to being carbonised than caramelised. They did at least taste good and I’m pretty sure you’d like them too as they were sugary as hell.

The disappointment did not end there. I was supposed to meet a colleague for lunch but in the end she was working from home. 

Right back to work, catch you later.  13:24

Coffee and Cake, Japanese Style

So, work did not go to plan either. The case I was working was way more complex than I’d anticipated due to the sheer fantastical range of wrongdoing I was looking at and that I’ll spare you from as we no longer work together.

Anyway.  I’m on the tube and off to meet T for a stupidly early dinner at Chipotle (yes, not my usual choice of place) but T wanted me to go there and to be honest something quick, cheap & early was perfect for this evening as after I’m meeting Anne-So and S, the three of us are going to the theatre as part of the trio of birthdays.  I have a horrible feeling that despite working my hours this week finishing at 4:30 today is going to come back and bite me!
Speak soon 🙂 16:44

XX March XX 201X

Morning!

Hope all is good. 

I had a good catch up with T last night. Though I think we both realised once again that we can occasionally be a little too guilty of oversharing on WhatsApp. I should probably save WhatsApp for those crazy conversations, the ones I know you love 😉 about time travel, rabbits going to university and whether or not ducks should be allowed to stay up late on a Saturday night and keep the actual news for our meet ups. It was still great to hear about the hen do she saved and her upcoming Egyptian expedition (OK, holiday, but expedition sounds better, right?). Missed having you with us, it’s always so much fun when the three of us get together.

After we went our separate ways I got lost again as rather than send me to the theatre, Google maps had me doing loops of Leicester Square to the point where it was becoming embarrassing. We went to see All About Eve and had the highest seats in the house but hey, they were only £15. It was a really great play about a famous star growing old and being replaced by a younger model. By the end of the play that same thing happens to the younger model.  I wasn’t fully convinced of the ‘filmed’ parts taking place backstage but they might have worked better in the good seats rather than from our birds eye view.  The one thing that cracked me up was that Anne-So was on a mission last night. Once the curtain came down I’ve never seen anyone move so fast without actually running!  She really wanted to get Gillian Anderson’s autograph. Like me, tonight was not her night as Scully had vanished into the night air like the cigarette smoking man into the shadows of an FBI carpark. 

Today we’re meeting some other friends and going to Greenwich, hopefully it will be a nice day! 09:45

Hey!
Well that was an interesting day.  More emotions than the British weather. 

I better start at the beginning… So I told you earlier that we were going to Greenwich, we were supposed to meet our two friends, S’s cousin and our other friend D.  I think I’ve told you before how we always have a nightmare going out altogether as at least one person will get in a mood about the food, but anyway, that was later.  Our friend D is always, always late, whatever time we give her, however far she has to travel she’s never on time.  Today, however her lateness made the day come close to ruin.  We told her in no uncertain terms that if she was late we’d go to the planetarium without her.  She was late, she didn’t answer any of the calls or texts we’d sent her and after 20 mins grace we headed up the hill toward the observatory one friend down. We’d still not heard from her by the time we arrived, and with an intentional signal black-spot at the observatory we were unlikely to. As promised we kept a look out and left her ticket at the box office.

Once we were inside, the lights dimmed and the cool, calm Scottish accent of our host lulled us into a beautiful and occasionally nauseous dream state. It did get kind of freaky when the stars began to move around. It was definitely an entertaining 45 minutes and I don’t just mean the presentation! There were also lots of young children and it was great to hear the excitement from this miniature society, even if some were a little bossy, others ran away and a couple forgot to go to the toilet meaning they missed the whole thing.  Have you ever been?  If not I’m not sure you’d enjoy it right now, but definitely one to do in a few years if you know what I mean!

Anyway…  Surprise, surprise after the show we found our friend waiting outside for us. Even now, we still don’t quite know how she made it. She was soon pissed at us again, as she didn’t like any of the food from Greenwich Market, or perhaps the idea of buying from the market full stop. That said my jerk chicken was a touch disappointing, I know I should probably give up with jerk chicken as it always ends up being full of bones, under seasoned or otherwise really expensive.  The one from this stall was just a bit bland and boring, I wanted the flavours of Caribbean excitement in my mouth, not a cloudy London afternoon.  I should have stuck with my favourite Ethiopian box of delights or joined Anne-So with her roast beef which was really delicious. Our grumpy friend went with fish and polenta chips.

After lunch we did the Astronomy Photographer of the Year retrospective. I’m sure you would have loved it, so magical.  From the Earth to the Moon, planets and out into the galaxies beyond, those photos took my breath away! I hope you get the chance to go and see them.

After this was the point in the day where I should have just called it quits.  As you may recall my favourite things in Greenwich Market are the delicious handmade churros and the great little coffee cart.  How could such awesomeness go wrong? Well, in the hands of a true professional f**K up artist, in spectacular style.  The wait for the churros was far too long and even the usually smiling churros lady was doing a fine impression of your old disciplinary face, but hey, my churro still tasted good.  Anne-So and the others were waiting with the coffees as I wondered what was dripping on to my foot, as clearly it was not raining and I was undercover.  The small brown puddle on the toe of my shoe was not promising, nor was the uncontrollable drip that was now making its way down the leg of my jeans.  I could end it here and say I was not impressed, I wish I could say that, but it would be a terrible lie.  I can only say I performed a newly invented Churro Meltdown Dance where I stomped up and down making a terrible racket whilst everyone stood and laughed at me getting more and more worked up and more and more covered in the
chocolate sauce leaking from my churro . 

Did anyone come to my rescue? Not until the damage was done. Once I’d calmed down we made a leisurely walk to the shiny glass towers of Canary Wharf. It was a nice walk but too leisurely for me, as you know I like to walk at speed. We said goodbye to S’s cousin after the ladies exchanged birthday gifts as she had a longer journey home than the rest of us. We then took a pre-dinner walk through Selfridges’ food hall on the lookout for toaster tongs and then headed down towards Soho taking the back streets.  After walking these paths that you and I have trodden over the last few years the fact that I’ve hardly seen you these last six months, let alone had a conversation worthy of the name kicked in.  But hey, it is what it is and I’ve had this train journey home to reflect on it some more. 22:16

Anyway, getting back on track…  

Anne-So wanted to celebrate her birthday with Chinese food, our friend Sian wanted to go back to Berenjak, the same Berenjak I went to for my last birthday (gutted you couldn’t make it). I was a bit disappointed, not because it was a bad place to eat but because we’d already been and there are potentially so many other places to try. But you know what, the meal was pretty damn good and the birthday girls enjoyed it.  After all, isn’t that what matters in the end? There was also some interesting Franco/English conversational eavesdropping going on with our neighbours frequently switching languages of which neither seemed to be their first. Sorry guys we understood most of it anyway! 22:18

XX March XX 201X

Hey!

Hope your weekend is going better than mine. Is it this grey and nasty where you are? 

So today I went out to pick up Anne-So’s present from the collection point.  First off the road was closed causing me to walk 20 mins out of my way.  Then they couldn’t find the bloody parcel.  And to top it off, on my way home I got absolutely soaked and battered by the wind.  I then watched too much football and felt like utter crap.

At least I did some writing for my site and ended the day feeling proud for finishing my post, it was one of those stories from France I shared with you but never published. I’m finding a style I’m happy with and I’m quite pleased with how my site is taking shape.  I still need to get my Instagram going for it and a couple more bits up and I’ll be quite content. I’m glad Anne-So’s home. 16:35

XX March XX 201X

Happy Not Quite Friday!

I don’t know what happened to this week but I’ve had so much work to do and time just ran away with me from Monday morning to Thursday afternoon.  You know how I have terrible timing and I told you that hour last week was going to come back and bite me. 

So we’re off to France tomorrow and as we could only get an 8 a.m. flight we decided to stay over at Heathrow as the Premier Inn was only £28 for the night (bargain!) Originally I was going to work from the office today and get the train over to Heathrow, meet Anne-So there and go out for some proper West London Indian Food!  However,  Anne-So talked me out of going into the office and by the time I had finished work we ended up leaving home much later than planned. My tasty plate of Indian food became a Pret ‘bang bang’ chicken wrap, ‘enjoyed’ on the train to Heathrow and even that wasn’t the one we were supposed to take as the Piccadilly line was having more meltdowns then I’ve been of late.

Well, we’ve finally arrived at the Premier Inn, it’s after 10 p.m., the self-check in machine confused the crap out of me as I didn’t have a car and we have a 5 a.m. wake-up call tomorrow.  22:24

Anne-So Says Hi!

XX March XX 201X

Morning from the Airport!

Which one I’m not sure. I know I told you about the time we were in India and we got what can only be described as the Oberoi Mumbai’s Executive Wake-Up Call, where we were serenaded by a full on military marching parade after only a few hours’ sleep. 

Well it was not the coffee or a marching band that woke me up this morning…

Oh no…  At 6 a.m. I can tell you the last thing, and I mean the last thing I would have expected to happen when leaving the hotel was running headlong into a giant Mr Strings (aka the Cheestrings mascot) and Fred the Flour Man, famous for his Homepride sauces (surely you remember seeing him on TV as a kid). Whilst I do not have photographic evidence you’ll have to believe me that this nightmare was incredibly real and will most likely haunt me for many hours to come… 

Apparently our hotel was where all the stars of the Special Olympics were staying. Thankfully we left just before the entire Olympic delegation descended as if we had not, the only thing special that would have happened would have been my Olympic meltdown for getting stuck in that delegation when I could have been enjoying myself in the lounge.

Anyway, I’m now in my Heathrow happy place, the Cathay Pacific Lounge enjoying dim sum and champagne for breakfast with Anne-So.  I also had room for a small plate of sausage, bacon and eggs and then some fruit, the vanilla poached pears were excellent, oh and some pastries too.  I’m so stuffed. 

Anyway, gotta go as we have a flight to catch! 07:25

Flight: BA360
Depart: 07:55
Arrived: 10:35
Seats 11 E and F – Euro Traveller
Aircraft A320 NEO GTTNG delivered November 2018

Hey!

We made it to France! 

Ok, maybe you’d like to hear that as per usual there was someone sat in our seats, but unusually for a France trip it was on the plane…  So we were about to settle in on our exit row seats when we spotted at least one of them was occupied. I waved my boarding pass forgetting the offender was sat in Anne-So’s seat not mine, no wonder she looked at me funny! Apparently our offending lady realised she had reserved this seat on her last flight.  We settled in and I became increasingly irritated and most likely irritating for the person in front of me trying to stuff my camera, iPad and newspaper into the various seat back pouches.  I miss being able to hide everything under the middle seat drinks tray that was sadly lacking as we were down the back today.

The pilot promised us turbulence but thankfully there were only a few bumps. Instead we had an overcast view from the window with only the occasional exciting cloud formation for company and a nice view of Lyon on our final approach. So sorry, not many pretty pics this time. 11:25

So you know me, I love teachnology but sometimes technology doesn’t love me. We were soon off the plane and it was our first time using the E-Gates at Lyon. There were two flaws, the E-Gates queue looked longer than the non-EU queue and I don’t really do well in queues and the instructions screen telling you to look at the camera required you to look away from the camera to read it! You know how much I love reading a good set of instructions, so naturally it took me three goes before my face would scan (don’t say anything!). In another shock of epic proportions our priority bags were amongst the first off which has never happened to us in over a decade of travelling to Lyon. Normally getting my bags quickly ends up bringing bad luck elsewhere, after that one Christmas in Paris where I nearly got stuck at the airport on Christmas Eve just like in those terrible Christmas movies I love. My bag was second off that day and from then on luggage has been one of the few things I’m always happy to wait for!

So as is often the case we’re stuck here killing time at the Brioche Doree as we’ve never been able to find the Paul. Anne-So at least enjoyed a second breakfast.  I’ve just finished lunch and it was pretty grim.  It was a raclette burger baguette, it had the slightly sickly McDonalds burger smell and a nasty taste of warm, wilted lettuce.  My apple pie (or chauson pomme seeing as we’re in France) wasn’t much better.  The pastry was limp and it wasn’t sweet enough. 

I’m pretty bored here.  How are you doing? 11:45

Evening!

We made it to the in-laws! This time we’re staying in Le Cheylard with Anne-So’s Sister rather than in Valence with her Dad.  Our train was fine and the coach was a pain as always. The kids nicked all the good luggage space before us and the only person willing to offer any assistance was a man who at best was intoxicated and at worst thought hanging round a bus station with a half drunk can of lager was a good look.  I also was left alone with Anne-So’s Dad for 10 mins and after “How are you?” and “I hear your fridge is not working” and “The weather is changeable” we were done with conversation.  Apparently he had left the house keys with the repair man who was alone at his house.  Oh well…  Hopefully nothing gets stolen.  Thankfully there was only one stinky teen with BO on the coach unlike my last memory of taking it.

G and Tamam, our in-law’s wonderful dog met us at the bus stop and we went back to theirs to settle in. Expecting to have to share a room (which between the farting, snoring, sneezing and burping would have most certainly led to arguments – I’m not saying who was famous for what, feel free to use your imagination) we found G’s uncle who lived next door had a spare flat going and luckily we’d be able stay there instead.  His uncle seemed like a kindly time capsule of a man, with an air of cigarette smoke and a face that has lived a thousand lives.  The flat he lent us for the week, and it hurts me to say it, felt like a scene on TV where the detective visits the home of a family to reopen a long forgotten cold case and everything had been left untouched. I just started thinking, who lived in this flat and who died there? Apparently there was actually some truth in my wondering but seeing as I’ve been assured there are no ghosts I’ll spare you the details. Apart from a small infestation of insects that we quickly cleared from the window sill, the place was clean and dust free, but it still left me feeling uneasy with its many secrets.

We settled in and then headed over to our in-laws for dinner.  We had a monstrous amount of raclette (you know the thing with the little frying pans that you use to cook mini eggs and cheese (quails eggs obviously, not Cadbury’s!)) with soft potatoes and delicious charcuterie.  I’m about to go to bed and I have to confess that the volume of cheese I consumed is bound to make for an interesting night.  At least the wine was flowing, my sis in law and her partner are nearly always good company. 

Right time for a coffee and off to sleep.

BTW make sure to wish T safe travels for tomorrow 🙂 22:42

XX March XX 201X

Hey!
You’d have been relatively proud of me yesterday.  Not only I did I cook an aloo saag for everyone at lunch without complaining too hard about the wrong ingredients, or having even the slightest hint of a kitchen nightmare, I also went to my brother in laws family gathering where I ate too much food (though other than the chocolate cake and a tuna pie I’m not sure you’d have been able to eat much of the food) and drunk way too much rose wine.  But I hardly complained at all other than getting a numb bum from being sat on a hard chair for too long.  I have to confess I was glad when come midnight it was time to leave.  Weirdly enough in that room of almost complete strangers I felt less awkward than at most of the gatherings from Anne-So’s side of the family.  G’s sister got stuck with us most of the night, which may have made it easier as we had someone to talk to.  It’s her birthday tomorrow which is the day before Anne-So’s which is the day before her Dad’s.  You still with me?  I’m not sure I’m with me.  Today we’re headed to the Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc.  It should be epic and I can’t wait to tell you about it. 09:18

XX March XX 201X

Hey!
We’ve had a great few days.  Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc was amazing.  I hope you get to see it one day (even if it’s only via the amazing Werner Herzog Movie, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  Despite the vomit inducing route by road, it was a beautiful car journey to where the replicas of the caves were constructed, I’m not sure what happened to my sister in law but since she’s decided to start her own business she’s become like a bad caricature of an Apprentice character, from the slightly erratic driving to constantly talking into her phone on loud speaker I’m not sure what to say, let alone if they even have The Apprentice in France. I’ve been really tempted to tell her she’s fired but I don’t think it would go down well at all.

Anyways, Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is basically a full scale replica of the caves were the oldest known cave paintings in Europe were discovered in 1994. The originals with their 36,000 year old galleries of early art are rightly sealed to keep them preserved.  Even the lunch here was excellent at the onsite canteen, not the kind of thing we’d get back in the UK.  I want talk more about the caves but I don’t know how to do them justice, I hope you get to watch the film, I can always lend you our copy if you like.

I loved the journey home and I know it’s anti-social but I plugged in my headphones and tuned out, enjoying the hills and valleys as the houses began to twinkle, the crescent moon high in the night sky. It was at this point it all began to make sense, I can’t apologise to you again, but now it makes sense why I got so mad at you and I can’t believe how stupid it was.

Yesterday was the first of three consecutive birthdays. My brother in law’s sister hit the famous Jesus age of 33. We visited the beautiful modern house where she lives with her partner and their twin girls, enjoying a few drinks and their hospitality.  Other than that I did a pasta for lunch and once again not kitchen nightmare in sight!  My niece calls her other aunt Tati Choux (Tati means aunt and choux means cabbage in French – it cracks me up every time, as you know, ‘Tatty Shoe’) 21:10

XX March XX 201X

Soooo, today was Anne-So’s birthday.

It started off pretty well, we slept in and keen to practice my French I headed out to buy morning pastries. Not only did I find the boulangerie on my own, but ordered in French like a pro. The regular croissants here are about 1000 times better than all but the most expensive ones in London, threatening to be dry but giving way to a buttery goodness.

And now I have a confession to make, going three for three with cooking lunches was too much to ask, even if my third meal was a simple Keralan cabbage curry – I was happy with the crappy substitutions as to be honest you’re not going to find curry leaves in a mountain town in the South of France. Just as I was finishing up a cacophony of noise soon followed, my niece and father-in-law had arrived.

I got annoyed with my sister-in-law, yet again she failed to understand that I am not her (and I guess you could also say vice versa). For me cooking for others is the joy of recreating a favourite recipe as closely as possible, so cooking from the heart is not serving a Keralan cabbage curry with the wrong kind of rice, a full bodied red wine, and certainly not with an apero of rustic homemade pate… I love all these things, but in all honesty they do not go together. Throwing a bunch of crap together on a wing and a prayer is not my way of saying thank you, as I’m bloody awful at it. I already know making Indian food here requires making substitutions but when you end up subbing out more than half the ingredients, is it still the dish you meant to cook? I needed to have 5 mins of calm but that just involved more ridicule. Don’t call me grumpy and definitely don’t sing the grumpy song to me (I have my own grumpy song now as my moods are clearly far too common an occurrence), just let me ride it out and continue on, I’ll get over it.

The mood changed for the better with another episode of F Does The Funniest Things
(F is Anne-So’s Dad in case you’d forgotten). Picking up my glass of muscat from the table, I thought he was putting me in my place (as perhaps I’d stolen his spot at the table) but no. His failing eyes thought the glass was empty and he decided to put it back in the cupboard flipping it upside down like the others. This did not end well! The sticky sweet wine went everywhere…

That afternoon we went on a bizarre bike ride, well a special bike at Les Ollieres. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. There were a couple of interesting notes, it felt like our initial route was downhill thanks to an optical illusion we saw demonstrated by a certain Mr. Portillo whilst travelling across America. Whilst taking a break from the peddles I received a call and a couple of messages from work via my personal phone. A strange and normally unwelcome intrusion actually turned out to be good news. It looked like my job was going to be made permanent and I’d not be left in a state of uncertainty come April. After 4 years of various temporary roles it’s going to be nice to hopefully settle down for a little bit. You know how crazy I get when I know my secondments are up for renewal and how you’ve been an amazing friend to see me through each time. Hopefully it’ll be a while before you have to do so again.

We enjoyed the ride back downhill and continued to receive the same puzzled stares from walkers and regular cyclists as we were the first riders of the season. Actually it was not the season at all, but we all thought it would be fun and other than a bit of saddle sore it was.

We drove back home and it was slightly slower and less vomit inducing than on the way down. That evening we had a birthday meal for Anne-So. She finally got the Chinese food (though in France it’s nearly always Vietnamese done as Chinese) she wanted which was plentiful and tasty, though by no means best you’ll ever eat. There was also a rather delicious birthday cake that we’d ordered for her the day before. Wine and champagne were consumed, chocolates were shared and presents dished out. It was a lot of fun and I hope she enjoyed her day. I think she did 🙂

How was your birthday in the end? I know it was a while back but I’d switched off my social media and missed whatever it was you did or didn’t get up to. 22:05

XX March XX 201X

Evening!

Today was my father-in-laws birthday and we planned to take him out for a nice lunch at Les Estables. 

As we drove up into the mountains the snow began to fall, a light mist filled the valleys and there was thick snow atop the peaks. It was quite beautiful. Our restaurant La Maison Forestiére did not look like much inside or outside.  However, the simple menu read like the hearty, tasty mountain fare we were expecting.

First up we were thought we were getting a simple charcuterie plate, what we got was a nicely chopped salad, cheese, cornichons, potato salad, a slice of quiche, as well as the charcuterie. What the picture won’t tell you is how the sour tartness of the potato salad and giant couscous was balanced by the simple undressed salad leaves and the salty charcuterie. In fact they acted like a dressing. The flaky leek quiche was also very tasty.

The children’s meal, was similar to what we had for our mains just on a smaller plate. It was a beautifully presented and well seasoned pieced of chicken that felt wasted on kids.  As our little niece didn’t want to eat all her meal we shared her leftovers and it was one heck of a good kids meal. Next time maybe we should have saved a few Euros and just ordered a kids meal for everyone!

Our mains came a little while later, and with the size of the portions we were glad of the pause.  We split evenly between the veal, fish and pork.  I choose the pork but the sous vide veal looked very interesting, my chop was just moist, perfectly seasoned with a small thick sauce. The caillette was soft, packed with flavour and just the right balance of herbs and garlic. The vegetables were cooked perfectly adding bite and texture. The carrot puree was rich beyond belief and the cep infused mash gave a bit of earthiness to the plate. In all it was delicious, my plate was clean afterwards.

We washed it down with a few glasses of a local red.

We had a simple dessert plate. Pear and chocolate tarte, sorbet and an almond milk dessert infused with a local medicinal flower which cleansed the palate beautifully. It was one heck of a meal and the view from the window was quite stunning. Hopefully one day we can share these wonderful spots with you and your family. 17:23

So we clearly needed a walk to clear our stomachs, quickly deciding it was too snowy atop the mountain, we got back into the car, stopping only to say hi to the huskies hauling their sledges and to see the authentic source of the Loire River. Initially we planned some more walking but it was too cold and instead we went for coffee at G’s parents place.  I zoned out on my phone as his Dad continued to say, “Le Brexit” and pull a big Cheshire Cat grin in my direction.

We headed back to the in-laws for a light dinner of salad, later joined by my father in law who had previously been held captive. After dinner I enjoyed some Masterchef and Race Across the World which I’m becoming quite addicted to, apparently they have the same show in France but they go to Hong Kong instead of Singapore. Whilst I was watching TV the French had fun reading a book about poorly answered children’s homework that contained puns a level above my French comprehension. 17:35

XX March XX 201X

Hey!
Not been up to much now the birthdays are over.  The other night was crepe night (Yay!).  As G was running a crepe van till last summer it was obvious they were going to be amazing. They were, first up was a classic lardons, onion and emmental , then a round of goats cheese and Roquefort and finally chocolate, not a cheap chocolate spread but fresh melted organic dark chocolate.  It was a good day.

Yesterday afternoon we walked through a ghostly village outside of the tourist season, finishing by throwing stones in the river with our niece. We practised some of my French in the car before driving to Y et C’s place for an alcohol induced light dinner, including some homemade (and obviously potent) eau de vie to finish the meal. Thankfully we left at 10 p.m. before we all got tired of each other which would have soured their hospitality unfairly. 22:31

Today we drove back to Valence.  I was happy as I’d managed to snag 1D and 1F, our favourite seats for the flight home.  We also had F’s English friend over with her husband.  She’s my sister-in-law’s best friend’s mother.  It was nice to be able to join in the conversation a little more both in English and in French as she speaks a lot more slowly and clearly than the native speaking French and is happy to go back into English for me when nobody else wants to.  N cooked us a nice dinner, I had plenty of wine and it wasn’t so bad.  Looking forward to coming home now.

How’s things been with you, hope we can catch up soon?

Night xx 22:47

Flight: BA363
Depart: 13:05
Arrived: 13:45
Seats 1 D and F – Club Europe
Aircraft A320 CEO G-EUUF delivered July 2002

XX March XX 201X

Hi from the airport, we’re coming home at last!
So today my bad karma is catching up with me for sure.  We set out this morning in a needlessly mild panic as for some reason Ouigo wanted us to arrive 30 mins early for our TGV. I’m not sure the reason. Though I did get excited for a brief moment at the new ticket gates they’d installed at the station (this is where my life is at).

So we got on the TGV only to find a half finished McMuffin breakfast and a brown handbag at our seats. Apparently the train conductor had told two young ladies to sit there and we’d ended up missing them as they had gotten off for a quick cigarette when the train stopped.  It was looking like one of those days again…  Ok, for me every other day is one of those days but what can you say, at least I’m all the more fun for it.

We’re currently sat in the Salon Mont Blanc Lounge, which looks like a cross between a ski lodge (complete with what I will incorrectly dub its own ring of fire) and a fancy hospital waiting room.  I mixed myself an obscenely large gin and tonic and got pretty pissed as the glasses were dishwasher warm which wasn’t great for a refreshing cold drink (mentally refreshing that is before you ask).  The food here has also improved from our last visit from downright disgusting to barely edible.  I ‘enjoyed’ some freshly microwaved pizza and samosas (yes, samosas in a French airline lounge!).  At least I had Anne-So and the gin to keep me company.

Anyway, our gate is showing so we better head off.  See you on the other side! 12:20

Argh! 
***Overly entitled Rant Alert***
So, we were in Group 1 for boarding which normally means being first on the plane (yay!) Today that meant we got to wait the longest in the corridor for the bus, and longer still to get off the bus as half the plane got on with us.  The pain, the pain!!!
***Overly entitled Rant Over***

Anyway, we actually had a pretty good flight in the end.  We left early for once despite not being best day for flying.  O.k. not the best day for looking out the window, due to the thick clouds.

For reasons unknown I stupidly chose to have champagne with my lunch.  I forgot how gassy the Castelnau was and with my inability to burp (do people in the posh seats even burp anyway) it was a struggle. Business Class world problems I know…

The food at least was surprisingly good. Our last run of Club flights was during panini gate, with our worst being a horrific half panini and salad leaf…  Today we had what I can only describe as a Coronation Chicken Caesar Salad and despite being a touch heavy on the sauce it looked and tasted great.  It was also distinctively British which when flying home on BA is what you want. The bread rolls were warm, the celeriac side salad was tasty as well.  However, that deep and dark Do & Co chocolate dessert was a real winner to finish the meal.  I did order a coffee to cleanse the palate but sadly it still tastes like utter crap.

We did at least luck out on the approach to Heathrow with glorious views across London and the Thames.

Anne-So got stuck at boarder control for a bit…  luckily no drama in the end, just the egates being cranky.  We’re now on the Piccadilly line headed in the direction of my Grandma. 14:45

Hey,

That was a really fun afternoon/evening.  We had a good conversation with my Grandma, she was pleased to see us.  She’s 87 now, I can’t believe it.  If I make it that far along I hope I still have her lust for life.

We headed out for dinner to Meridinale, the last of the remaining Italian restaurants in Parsons Green we had to try.  I have to say, although the faux rustic décor and the service was not quite to my taste, the food was really good.  Really loved our pizzas which put the ones across the road to shame.  Dessert was also amazing, alcohol drenched cake with chocolate.  Oh wow! So addictive and so good, worth every penny.  One last confession, I still don’t understand anything about Italian wine, hopefully one day I’ll learn.

We finished the evening with Race Across the World which I have now become completely addicted to.  Much better than the celeb driven travel shows and a little more fun and urgent than Portillo’s rail journeys.  We then watched some of Romesh in Haiti before foolishly switching to Joanna Lumley in India which we realised we’d seen before and that she annoyed us as much then as she did now.

Back at work tomorrow and I’m actually looking forward to it.  Have a good night and hope to hear from you soon

XXX 23:07