Monday, July 23, 2012

Gullible's Travels pt trois - Oyster picnic in the Grass

Here we are just sitting down to a little al-fresco lunch, when in walks a long-haired Dachsund wearing a rather garish yellow & black swimsuit and a collar. By collar I don't mean the dog variety, this is a starched gingham button-down shirt collar with pearl-capped snap fasteners.

I dont know whether to call the SPCA or the fashion police.

My first bite is stalled as I wonder how the poor thing takes a leak? In the absence of opposable thumbs and longer limbs than this little sausage can ever hope for, theres no getting out of those frilly knickers without some serious and careful assistance. :0/

Poor pup, some dog owners should be impounded.

Not to be put off my lunch, with the miss universe swimsuit contestant parked under the next table, my focus returns to an enormous platter of my favorites: oysters as freshly shucked as they get, prawns, sea-snails, a pot of pate and a basket of fresh-baked baguette chunks. Oh and a carafe of chilled Rose. Mmmmmm.

Welcome to L'Herbe's degustation d'Huitres. (The Grass's oyster tasting) This used to be more of an under-the table affair, back when local restauranteurs had a stranglehold on local dining. The oyster sellers where allowed to do only that, with a little 'tasting' offered, which mostly and discretely, included a sneaky carafe of wine and some bread, maybe even frittes, on the side.
The rules have relaxed a bit now that the local restauranteurs have eased up on the reins. The weathered decks, held together with fishing nets, old marine rope and draped in dried seaweed overlook row upon row of oyster beds, but now bear a closer resemblance to restaurant terraces. I still wouldn't invite an OHS officer to lunch here, but if the facades of these tiny quasi-cafes still arent their best endorsement, brightly coloured garden umbrellas, flags and menu boards announce their legitimacy in a festive kinda way.

It's simplicity only adds to the pleasure; no phone-book-fat menus, no multiple courses, no pretentious waiters, no frills at all. Just jovial oyster sellers and, as per the deal struck with the local authorities, oysters, prawns, bulot (sea snails), terrine du compagne (pork pate), fresh baguettes and either rose or white wine. Rule is, if you want red wine, dessert or coffee you have to go to the big-menu boys with the table cloths and pay the premium.

But the little guys dont just beat the restaurants on price, (€60 for four people; food & wine) they are all over the views and ambiance. Long stretches of golden sand with each oyster 'park' marked out with multitudes of tall twisted driftwood spikes. Taking in a bit of sun, the breeze is cool and salty and the decorative bits of marine flotsam make for some quirky works of art. A bicycle rests against a wall almost entirely given over to an invasion of crustaceans; no tour de France for this little velo.

As we leave I gaze around at the assortment of pooches, Lolita still hiding in her cossie under the table at her masters feet, and I wish I could have taken a photo. It's something else I love about France - gratuitous canine inclusion, even if the couture could do with a solid re-think and most of them haven't seen soap & water for a loooong time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gullibles Travels -haute couture in a sandy slop bucket

When dining out in France, in 35C, you might feel inspired to wear something strappy. Something cool & elegant, something very un-mummy. Just don't forget; the necessity to crawl around under the table, retrieving cutlery, dinner rolls, crayons & toys, remains.

All in all, I think I'm better suited to cooler climates. Baking heat makes me cranky & tired and besides that i'ts so much harder for your boozies to slide out of a polo neck sweater...

Well here we are in sunny.. (where are we again?) oh yeah France - near(ish) Bordeaux. Actually my iPhone GPS tells me it's Aquitaine, near Le Porge* (*where the in-laws live) which has a beach.

We actually visited the beach but unlike the French girls I wasnt letting my 'girls' out for public perusal. Motherhood and stretch marks have humbled my self-image somewhat. ok' I dont have stretch marks, but since my six-pac turned into a slab I keep my wobbly bits to myself if you dont mind.

After our lovely sweaty lunch with my father-in-law at a favourite restaurant in the region we shot into Bordeaux centre for some sweaty power shopping. Lucie had been nagging for days of her need to add to her Barbapapa Book collection. But somehow after trawling FNAC (a chain store cross between Borders & Dick Smith) she decided that she was in far greater need of a toy Noddy with his little yellow car. She'd been on about these books since we left Sydney-now she didnt want them. Kids huh?

Her new K-mart sandals turned out to be an epic fail, hanging off her feet at all angles like wet lettuce, so, another sweaty stop in Zara.

I was so hot I actually lost the will to shop - and in my favourite shopping Mecca, can you imagine?

The weather's cooled somewhat and we've had some less hot-and-bothered trips to a charming little seaside (?) town called Andernos.

Andernos actually sits astride 'le bassin' (the basin) which is kind of a bay but being so shallow, when the tide goes out, it's a big sandy slop bucket...with the most amazing shops!
Andernos is also home to Lucie's second favourite carousel in the region, and there are many of those; two in this town alone. She scored no less than eight rides: five we paid for, two comps from a greatful operator (business was slow & Lucie somehow attracted a crowd) and then another comp when she caught Micky Mouse's tail; the kids equivalent of the brass ring.

For a reprieve from the giddies, we scoffed the most amazing ice creams that tasted of real peach, real mandarine and dark chocolate loaded with cocoa. Oh and I bought a fabulous all white designer dress for €29 in about 70 seconds; holding it up against me and going "yup". I used to wonder about mothers who wore all white, but it's been a while since Lulu threw up on me. Anyway I hope it fits 'cos I still havent got around to trying it on :0/

Lucie also has a new designer frock and matching head-band which cost as much as mine but hers wasnt on sale - bummer.
It's an odd place, Andernos, kind of like Cowes on Philip Island at first glance, but it has two long pedestrian plazas full of tiny cafes and shops filled with real-life innovative designs, like you see in boutiques in Sydney's Double Bay (only a tenth of the price).

So shopping and icecream fix taken care of it's back to base camp to put our little poochie to bed and slide our weary feet under the In-laws table for some restaurant quality food. I'd seriosly consider stealing my mother-in-law's recipie book, but I know most of the flavour comes from talented improv.

Sunset is at around 10pm... No wonder my body-clock is trippin' and my brain is addled. It doesn't help that we're sleeping in the attic bedroom and in my sleep-deprived stupor I keep standing up in the wrong spot and smacking my head on the ceiling beam. I'll knock myself out one of these nights, although that might be a blessing really, I could do with a really good night's sleep.

Nighty-night. "OW! Shit, again!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gullibles Travels - off to the In-Laws

Just the sight of an empty suitcase waiting to be filled makes me hyperventilate. Filling suitcases fills ME with dread. Especially for five weeks worth of clothing & shoes.

I tell myself "it's summer in Europe, therefore lighter clothes, less bulk" Then my evil twin reminds me of MY bulk; I've gained 6kilos since last summer & I probably wont have anything that fits anyway..thanks for that timely reminder.

Digging around in the wardrobe I break out some early pregnancy Supré baby-doll dresses. Supré actually saved my pregnancy with all their stretchy business trousers and fab loose dresses, so they deserve a plug here.

And Hey, it seems I'm having a food-baby; looking about about seven months along, so empire-line tees, A-Line EVERYTHING, and lots of loose soft floaty stuff purchased more recently during the down side of my ever fluctuating weight.

After sitting on my suitcase & dragging at the zip- I feel.. what? Exhausted? Relieved? Wishing I could have stuck with Atkins this time? All of the above. But I know that when I unzip it at the other end it will spew crushed clothing 50 feet into the air like a not-so-ready-to- wear volcano.

Lucie packs her own case;
The full cast from Barbie's Mermaid Tale 2; (from left to right); Hadley, Kylie Morgan, Merlea Summer, Fallon Casey, the doll that looks like Barack Obama & Ken. (isn't it bad enough I'll have to try not to loose my own sunglasses do I really need to keep tabs on this lot's teeny tiny specs as well?)

Ok, Then we have the Wall-E plush, Puss-in-boots & Kitty-soft-paws. Sleepy toys Bobo bunny & Flat Felix, the new Repunzel play kit (Also paranoid re a potential loss of Pascal- who is the size of my well-chewed little fingernail)

Also she's packed Charlie, Lola & Sizzles, a happy meal Shira (character from Ice Age 4) and the mandatory random elephant.
Basically every character from every DVD we've brought along and could expect to see on Krisworld's movie channels.

I'm grateful we're flying Singapore Airlines & not Qantas: the planes are better, as is the consideration for tired parents in need of their strollers right up to the boarding gate & right there on the bridge at the other end.

This is our first attempt to fly straight through (no stop-overs) & in hindsight it wasn't too shabby. Thanks to a little bribery (another Polly Pocket to move into the dolls' house-gonna need some bunk-beds soon), and 7mls of Valergan boarding the midnight connection, Lucie was positively cheerful throughout.

The toughest part of the journey was waiting 6 hours around Paris airport for our connecting flight to Bordeaux because Air France wanted to gouge us triple the fare for an earlier flight-1300 euros for a 45 minute flight- stick that up your bums you opportunistic evil airline.

Lucie, having slept in the pusher for 2-3 of those was again an angel. We sat in a cafe for a couple more hours & Lucie played with her surfer Barbies & completed a world of colouring.

Air France is not an airline you want to take most of the time but even less when you are tired. They thoroughly enjoy taking their time, blowing their schedules to hell, and treating their passengers to their special Air France brand of arrogance & contempt. After creating a snaking queue 50 metres long, 10 minutes post scheduled take-off, instead of letting people getting on the damned plane, I was close to throwing a tantrum. Hate Air France-horrible, satanic airline.

Another 'Mother of' invention, the way Daddy person is breaking Lucie's neck is going to as well..

The beach at La Porge (45klm from Bordeaux) unlike many local 'ladies' neither Lucie or I of went topless

One of Lucie’s favourite places; Bordeaux centre has the most wonderful carousel.

A new addition to the tiny village of la Porge; Intermarche supermarket! (and they sell Barbies)

Where's Bambi? La Porge's beautiful pine forest, this goes from the back of Grandma's house for another ten kilometres to the beach
Something else that runs along the road to the beach are the most wonderful array of roadside wildflowers

Still on the forest trail, looking for Bambi. We saw him on our last visit; a tiny little fawn and his mother. :0)

Inspired by the forest walk Lucie and I make a table center-peice which after dinner is donated to the fairy garden.
Every trip into Bordeaux centre means several more turns on the carousel...

let's see how many we have at the end of the trip?!