Friday, June 11, 2010

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Here are some short blasts on stuff I have been meaning to impart:

1. Rubbish (and rot)

Throughout France, the rubbish tins are communal. Take your rubbish , wrapped in a new black purpose-built bag and drop it in the bin at the end of the street on your way to work/school/shopping. Some towns have separate recycle bins, others don't. Bottles get dropped into bins with found holes: kerrsmash! I am not sure how Brenda and Mal McKay and other residents of Haute Waldara would think about SHARING rubbish boxes!

2. Kissing

Everybody kisses when greeting/departing. Not on the lips, but into the air on each side. Now I know that you know this, but what you DON'T know is thdt the number of fresh-air shots DIFFERS from town to town.

Paris is definitely a 2-kiss city. Down south in the Dordogne (and also in Mirepoix), the 3-smooch variation came into play. Somewhere in our Rambles there was a 4-side variety (not sure exactly WHERE. [This may very well have been on the Azure Coast, and included man-on-man kiss greetings - A-sgusting!]. Back here in Annecy we are back amongst the "One Each Siders".

There must be adjacent towns/cities all around France where different kiss-greeting systems exist. Woe betide anyone who stuffs up! Especially for the man-on-man variation! Could get quite tacky! For the Sister City arrangement between Annecy and the Rural City of Wangaratta, I propose a 17-side variation, including men. This COULD test the counting ability of some Wangaratta Rovers supporters, but all-in-all it would be great for World Peace. "Think about that one, Tony".

3. Fluffy Man Scarves

It is Verair Frairnch for men to wear fluffy scarves with their jackets and collarless long-sleeved t-shirts. My new friend Stefan in Juan-Les-Pins had a string of scarves in his office. I can only imagine that he chose one or the other depending on his mood. I can't see this fashion taking off in Wangaratta. How long do you think one wound last standing on the hill at the Norm Minns oval with a fluffy scarf around one's neck? Probably only till 10 minutes into the second quarter! One would probably only last that long if the Maggies had got off to a good start!

That's it for now. You've had enough! Anyhow, I've heard that there are buckets of snow on the mountain. Get yourselves up there and strap on your skis! No time for blogging -there's skiing to be done!

Hoo Rooster!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lyon Rambling

On Wednesday we piled into Megan and headed off to Lyon, the second biggest city in France. The GPS provides a great deal of confidence to our street negotiations and location of parking areas.

Lyon lies about 1 1/2 hours away in normal driving conditions (ie 130+ kmph on the tollways) and we arrived in good time for a solid Ramble. Parking right under the Hotel de Ville (town hall), we emerged into the centre of the city and headed for the 'Office de Tourisme' (guess what that is ...). Then straight to the Museum des Beaux Arts for look around and squizz at some of the beaux arts that were inevitably displayed there. Now I've seen some beaux arts before, but these beaux arts were REALLY beaux.

One section of the museum consisted of scraps of silk fabrics that were made YONKS ago when Lyon was the silk weaving capital of Christendom. There were ancient tapestries as well. To DIE for! Dear Jude was rooly taken by the display in the next section of the museum where 20th century costumes from operas and such were interspersed among 17th/18th century displays of furniture and other 'sorts of shit'. Dear Jude really loved this part of the museum. Dear Graeme caught up with the continuing tale of woe of his racehorse Dash on Over, who always starts slowly, then realizes there's a race on and charges home, only to be squeezed/bumped/interfered with and written up in the Steward's Report as to why he failed to make it to one of the places that doesn't pay out any money. The great thing is that Jude loved this museum AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS!

Next we Rambled off to a wonderful abbey. Here found that a not-so-wonderful funeral was jus about to begin, so we weren't able to go in. So there is nothing more to report on it. So there!

Bateau Rambling next. Yes, that's right. A boat trip. It was included in our tourist pass/museum entry deal we picked up at the Office de Tourism. We hopped on board with all the oldies and set off. Down the Saone river to begin the trip, then up and down the Rhone river for the middle bit and then back up the Soane river to finish off. Much is made of the confluence of these two rivers because there is a big new development happening there. The guide book says it is due for completion in 2010. All I can say is that the builder chaps need to get a wriggle on (much the same as Dash on Over, but much less immediate).

Hopped off the boat, along with the oldies back where we started and headed for the fenicular that was to take us up the hill to the cathedral. Oopsies! Fenicular not running. Broken. Under repair. Not to worry, we hopped on to the other fenicular that took us up the hill, but in another direction. Walk to the cathedral past (another) Roman Amphitheate, through some lovely gardens and past a toot-whistle-plunk-boom music school right to the cathedral at the top of the ridge looking over the town. Quite impressive, the cathedral. Quite impressive, the town. We could see the Rhone and the Saone running ever-so inevitably to their confluence. We could see the building site. We could see the boulevards and byways of Lyon right there at our feet. It is a lovely city and we must come back to it.

Time to head for home now, we Rambled back to the Hotel de Ville, into Megan and off to the 130+ kmp tollways. Oopsies! Traffic jam! Going Home time for commuting Lyonnese folk. Hold your place in the line time! Don't let anyone in to your line if they haven't spent their minutes in the queue. No PUSHING IN!

After inching our way forward for about 5 km in about 3/4 hour we were again winding up to 130+ kph eastwards towards Annecy and home. Yummy pizza for dins (guest book recommendation) and then hit the hay. Sleep within nanoseconds. Wonderful!

Annecy Youth

We are yet to see one youth in Annecy DOING THE WRONG THING. Not one. The closest I came was to observe one chap of youthful appearance ride his bike across a grassy patch that was clearly identified as a picnic area. (I mean, "HULLO00!")

At the movies the other night, no alcohol, no screeching, no shiakking. Nothing. Just good natured 'having-fun-edness'. This is an attitude that the youth of the Rural City of Wangaratta could well emulate. Especially at 'The Pubs' of a Saturday night.

Youth across France are much the same as Youth anywhere. Of course they are 'out there'. Isn't everyone who is a Youth? Of course they are Different (isn't Kip Frawley, isn't Charlie Blanch isn't Jonno Vaughan?).

Youth observed in the possession of skateboards are all intent on perfecting the trick of stomping on a corner of the skateboard, spinning the skateboard and jumping. The object is for the Youth in question to drop back down onto the skateboard and continue his journey seamlessly. THIS ALWAYS FAILS. The Youth resumes his (mostly his, not 'her') journey without acknowledging his miscalculation of the physics of skate-board spinning, only to repeat the failure some time later. I have YET to see this trick performed perfectly. I reckon Jonno could do it.

Anyhoo, that is all I have to say about the Youth of Annecy.


Rambler 1 (as distinct from Rambler A)

Annecy III

What a day this has bin. What a RARE MOOD I'm in!

This was the Big Ride day we just had to have. Back along the bike path, past where we first tentatively rode out on our second day. Past where we joined it at the top of the lake after our Round The Lake in a Day jaunt, where that path joined the Rail Trail.

Yep! This is a rail trail similar to the one that eminates from the fabulous Regional City of Wangaratta. The Annecy equivalent has a tunnel, however, and a couple of cute pedestrian overpasses. Apart from this, the idea and the cycling experiences are very similar. It could Very Well Be that a sister city relationship could be formed between Annecy and Wangaratta that created a fusion of cycling affectionados and share a system of intercity tours/races/campings and other similar 'sorts of shit'. Of course this will require lots of between-city communication and cross-city travelling, but I know a couple who would be great ambassadors for Wang! Yes - the Minns! Prue and Ian Minns should be the ones who come over here and haggle a place in Annecy folklore! [Of course Les Ramblers would step in if Les Minns were unavailable].

One of the necessary preconditions fo a successful Annecy cyclist is for a person to sport a magnificent moustache. Those who flick past on our left (remember left/right-hand driving - it's the same for cycling), can be seen with curly-twirly moustaches of some disinction. They are most impressive - on some of the blokes, as well! [Gavin Frawley sports a moustache from time to time, but he would have to get serious if he wants to mix it with some of the Annecy boys!].

Anyhoo, back to our trip today. Our destination was a little puddle, the size of a titchy lake at a town called Marlens ("Marlonn"). This 'lake' measured only about 200X50 metres, but looked to be very deep. The water was very clear, with a deep blue hue to it. Jude was the first to spot it at our picnic spot - a whopping great big fishy something that slowly glided by. It would have weighed in at about 3 or 4 lbs! Later, a school of about 8 fishies of about a "pound, maybe pound-and-a-half" drifted nonchalantly past. Fisher Heaven! There were a couple of Simple Fisher Folk trying their luck in the pond, but didn't seem to be doing much good. Not to worry - there's always tomorrow!

Having finished their lunches, The Rambers hopped back on their bikes and began the return journey. They were tired. They were happy, when they arrived home to their appartement-by-the-river. They had had a swim in the lake to freshen up and they had downed a couple of scotch-and-cokes. Doesn't matter. They were ready for a scrummy meal bought from the amazing charcutier downstairs.

It is nearly 7:00 pm, but the sun is still blazing outside. Jude is looking forward to catching up with Andy Stewart ("Sing us a song, Andy") and I am looking forward to a Huge Hug from Grazyna Kulig. On Saturday. Doesn't matter.

Take care, youse!


Lapin a la Moutade III

It was delicious. Get into it!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Annecy II

I think that Annecy is the destination that gets the Most Liveable Award of all the places we have visited on our Ramble. And that's not just because there's a huge animated film festival on here at the moment (although it must be included as a factor).

The other night we took ourselves down to the park by the lake by the canal at about 9:30 pm. A sizeable crowd was building in front of a huge inflateable movie screen. A crowd-warmer-upperer was teaching the crowd a mass dance that appeared to be the 21st century equivalent to line dancing. Lots of arm waving, moving to the side, moving to the other side, clapping and then more arm waving. All this accompanied by a pop song in English. The warmer-upperer really had that crowd pumping!

After an hour or so that activity ended and a group of honchos from the film festival hopped up on stage and talked about its goings on. In French, of course. Then an American chap explained how good it was to be in France (in English) and introduced his new animated movie about clocks in a shop at night. One of the clocks was always running 10 minutes late, which really got up the noses of all the other clocks. Now one night a robber came to steal clocks just after midnight so that he could do his robbing after all the chiming had finished. However, the little clock chimed his usual 10 minutes later, thereby alerting a police officer and aborting the robbery. Well, you can imagine what a hero this turned our little running slow clock into! The other clocks stopped bullying him and the clock maker fixed him right up so that he always ran on time. No need to examine the logic of this short movie. The animation was fabulous and it was a cute story. The American chappie assured us that this was the VERY FIRST TIME that this film had been seen in public! Wowsers!

The Ramblers were rather bushed, so we left our rather ideal spot in the crowd after the clock movie and left the crowd to watch the main feature (in French) to the unbelievably well behaved crowd (no alcohol anywhere to be seen). There must hace been upwards of 2000-3000 people there! It was FAR too late for The Ramblers, whose bottoms were getting cold sitting on the concrete light pole base anyway. We choofed off home to bed to prepare ouselves for a Lyon Ramble in the morning. The moment had been magical with the lake-side setting, the well-behaved crowd of mosly young people (20s to 30s, with some young families mixed in), the fading light, the beautiful lake and the fabulous mountains. I shouldn't wonderthat the lake freezes over completely in winter.

I do know that there is lots of great skiing to be done in the colder months, both downhill
and cross- country. But then again, the city is ideally situated, isn't it, with the French Alps glowering in the background and Switzerland only a stone's throw away it is all way too perfect! Add to that the water sports, walking and cycling in warmer months and Hey Presto, ideality! Wangaratta with a lake!

Nighty-night, y'all!

The Ramblers

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Here is a link to the recipe for 'Lapin moutarde':

Here us the recipe for boeuff borgignon:

Have go and let me know!

La Groombler!

Shopping Annecy

Heading out to the other bike hire shop (theirs was closed on account of it being Tuesday), it started to rain. Not heavily, but a few large drops. Graeme glanced skywards and then across at Jude. No good beating about the bush here, it was time for some decisive action.

"Looks like rain," observed Graeme, pulling out his green rain jacket.

"It sure does," replied Jude, wondering why such a gob-smackingly obvious statement needed to be made at all.

"Let's call a lay-day on the cycling and take a day orf," offered Graeme. "You could go shopping."

Jude's reaction could only be detected by the keenest observer of Shopper Begaviour. Her eyelids gave the merest flutter. Her nose shifted slightly in an upwards direction (as a fawn snuffing the changing wind direction in the first days of spring). Her eyes took on a glow that revealed her innermost delight. She feigned nonchalance, "I suppose the weather does appear a little on the inclement side," she offered, continuing the pattern of stating the bleeding obvious begun by Graeme. "It COULD be a good day for a little shop." [You will note here the clever use of the word 'shop' in the form of a verb].

On their return to the apartment to change into shopping clothes, the threat of rain had completely disappeared and the sun was out. Nearly. Doesn't matter. After a little nap/read of her book, Jude left Graeme to blogging and preparation of his dish of 'lapin moutarde' with Zara Annecy and Galleries La Fayette firmly in her sights.

The seasoned observer of shopper behaviour (viz. Graeme) stood aside and LET THE SHOPPING BEGIN!

The River

The river ("Le Thiou") that flows out of the lake and past our joint looks more like a canal. It is concreted/enstoned. It runs right up to and past the buildings on each side. It is about 10 metres wide, but its depth varies. Little bridges dart out from between the Very Old buildings and a family of 11 ducks (ie nine chicks) skitch busily around and about. [Pete's duck Vic would love it here in spite of the obvious language barrier.]

When I say the water depth varies, I mean that it varies from day to day, and not from spot in the river to spot in the river. The other day a hunky young chap waded into the river to retrieve some token that a jeune fille had dropped off the bridge. He waded in at top-of-leg level. The next day he would have done it in ankle-level. The lake seems to be kept at some optimal level and there is some mechanical device or other that appears to facilitate adjustment to it. All part of a Cunning Plan, I bet!

The clear water rushes past us at a great rate. Downstream it passes under a church and here you can observe hundreds of little fishies swimming about, pointing upstream in search of food. You can bet that most of them will grow to be big fishies and be caught and eaten by the Simple Fisher Folk who can be observed in their boats or on the banks with their long fishing poles and loads of optimism.

Jude and I have just returned from having hair cuts - "Rambler Cuts". Jude's is 'Verair Frairnch' and looks smashing. Mine looks as it always does after a cut, but with a certain 'Rambler' touch. It has its own brand of grouseness.

I'll leave you to ponder how we look as we go off on another cycling adventure ...

See yas!


An Email! II

The email I received from Ford was titled "Les Froggies". Now I have never heard of Les Froggies. Maybe he played on the half-back flank for Williamstown back in the sixties. [That's how far Fordy's memory goes!]. Maybe Les is a distant relation to the former Australian fast bowler Froggy Thompson!

Anyhow, it got me thinking again as to why we have seen not one reference to frogs' legs as a 'delicacy' here in French-people's land (ie France). Not in a resaurant. Not in a charcuerie. Don't they eat them any more? I ate some when I was in Nanjing a couple of years back, but not a whiff of their presence here.

OK, another Cherry Ripe for the person who can provide more information about either frogs' legs as a delicacy OR about Les Froggies himself. [Did he win any best and fairest awards, for example].

I'll leave it with you!


An Email!

I just received an email from John Ford (two in fact). This person is a reprobate, but is "mostly harmless". He barracks for Essendon (or "Essedden" as followers of that club are wont to call it).

You have no idea how good it is to hear from someone who is following the blog. It is grouse. The email address is:

Love to all!


Monday, June 07, 2010

Annecy Rambling II

This city/town has been greatly influenced by the nearby mountains in its architecture. It became apparent when we were cycling round the lake yesterday. The stand-alone houses, especially the older ones, were very reminicsent of the Swiss chalet style with which you are no doubt familiar. Souvenir stalls around the city sell the clanking cow bells for you to take home and hang on your wall to remember your trip. I looked at the map the other day and, blow me down, there was Switzerland! Seemingly just a stone's throw away from Annecy! [There is still enough un-Swiss-ness here to remind oneself that one is still in France, however. It's not all THAT freaking Swiss.]

Grassy parks and gardens surround the lake making it a wonderful place for a holiday. Many camping parks along the shores are testament to the fact that the old 'lac d'Annecy' is a popular tourist summer destination. [There are plenty of vacancies in these 'campings' at the moment, though, summer holidays are still a good way off.]

Apparently the lake wasn't always as pristine and clear as it is today. In the early 1950s the decision was taken to clean up the cesspool and rubbish dump that the lake had become (YUCK!). Today, the travel book tells us, more than 20 million holiday-makers come to Annecy to buy cow bells to help them remember their trip. That's a lot of cow bells!

The hire bikes on which we rode around the lake were brand new tourers. Quite light and, overall, very impressive. It took us 4 hours to circumcyclate the lake, including a perfect lunch stop beside a chateau. [Bloggs 'pinged' us with news of a visit to the Blanch household of Georgia, Banjo and Hugh. He had missed them though and was kicking himself.]

The total distance around the lake was just over 40 km, so it wasn't a huge day on the bikes. It did serve as a gentle reminder of just how unused to cycling our bottoms had become, however. Not to worry, there are lots of dedicated bike tracks (as well as dedicated cyclists) around and about these here parts. It's a sunny day AGAIN here today and we shall be venturing even further afield on our bikes.



Lapin a la Moutade II

One of the amazing things about the French is their tendency to offer edible creatures with their heads attached. In fact, the recipe on which I am currently working list (as per previous blog) as: "one ... rabbit, with head on, if possible".

Now take yourself down to any butcher, charcuterie or supermarket and you will see the little dudes all tied up, skinned, with their heads still quite firmly attached: chooks, ducks, pigeons (these may well have been quail) and rabbits.

Now this observation may well be more revealing of us as descendants of the Anglo cultures. Perhaps we are way too sensitive to the death that is attendant upon the consumption of our daily repast. Even so, no permission to cook 'lapin' was forthcoming till I had found two hind quarters of rabbit nicely presented in plastic wrapping.

'Moutade' is mustard, and the two styles of it prescribed in the slow-cook recipe should make for a delicious meal tonight. I'll let you know ...



Lapin a la Moutade

I am having a go at cooking rabbit (French: 'lapin'). The ingredients list, as number 1 item: "one rabbit, wild or farm-raised". I was left wondering what other sort of rabbit there could possibly be in this world. I puzzled and puzzled, and then it came to me. There IS another category of rabbit: "pet". For the recipe, I have gone for rabbit bought at the Carrifours ready-wrapped in a plastic container.

I'll let you know how it turns out...

Your Favourite Blogger,


Cathars Were Gnostics

I have been puzzling as to why the Cathars got up the noses of the Catholics at SUCH a rate of knots. It seems that they were a brand of Gnostics. That is, they reasoned that if God made the world, and that world contained imperfections and other not-so-wonderful, even yukky, things (eg death, mozzies and funnel-web spiders), that God wasn't so wonderful and pure as was believed by the Catholics. God was a mixture of good AND bad. This, for the Catholics, was herecy and anyone who believed it deserved no less than to burned alive in the public square.

The Cathars, armed with this world view, believed that they should lead a 'good', pure life. They should do so in the quiet of their own homes and not bother other people with their ideas. The book I have been reading (The Cathars, by Sean Martin), suggests that they had attitudes very much like Buddhists. They did not build churches and they left very little by way of literature. We know about them today mostly due to the evidence they provided to the Inquisitors, who took committed their testimony to writing before hauling them off to the stake.

Here is a link to guff on Gnosticism (just for interest, not for conversion):

There seems to be very little reason to dislike these good-living, peaceful folk. Sure they had some funny (by today's standards) ideas, but that is not reason enough to set fire to them. Here are a few of these ideas/attitudes:

1. They did not approve of/believe in marriage(!)
2. They believed that Jesus was not a man, but rather a spirit who entered Mary through her ears. [I am not making this up - though Sean Martin MAY be doing just that]
3. They followed the teachings of Jesus' brother James (as distinct from Jesus' pal Peter, who was the first Pope of Rome)
4. They believed that women were part of the evil of the world that God created. [Confusingly they also believed that women were equal to men and they were able to occupy high office within the church.
5. There was a process by which certain of them could achieve high office within the church and become Perfects. This process was called the consolomentun. This process could only be administered by other Perfects and it was also given to those about to die, after which no food was to be eaten by the dying Cathar. The consolomentum was often (according to Mathews) the prime cause of the believer's final demise.
6. Cathars were often pals with lordlings who controlled tracts of land desired by larger forces such as kings of England, kings of France and Simon de Montfort. They didn't have a stray dog's chance.

These were seriously weird people. However, it is my strongly-held view that they did not deserve the obliteration, anniliation or genocide that was visited upon them first with a Crusade and second with the Inquisition. Nonetheless, deservous or not, it DID happen and no Cathar is left to put his or her side of the story.

I'll leave you to ponder this and to see if there are some lessons we can all take from this story. [For example, it is best to be a Geelong supporter in 2010 since they have the strength and power necessary to take out this year's Grandy - even though the Mags still have a good chance.]

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Annecy Rambles

Having dropped Susan and the girls off at Avignon (Sooz to begin her live-in homestay French course and Steph and Jenna to fly back to London), the Ramblers pointed Megan northward and choofed off to Annecy. I had never heard of it before, and neither had you, in all probability. Let me tell you though, that there are hundreds of thousands who had! And they were all downtown in the city when we arrived. Saturday night was THE time to hang out. The place was jumping! The crowds were seething! The parking was IMPOSSIBLE! Our apartment is located in the central part of the old town (vieille ville), so skinny, windy streets were in abundance. Visions of multiple bag-hauling relays over huge distances filled our hearts with dread. But wait! Isn't that smart red sports car about to leave that spot a mere 40 metres from our front door? YES! That smart red sports car IS about to leave that spot 40 metres from our front door! Yippee! Another miracle!

Half an hour later we are fully settled into our apartment on the tippy top (ie third) floor. No worries about parking until Monday because Megan is 'sauf' in a 'non payent' (ie free) street park for all of Sunday.

Massive loads of people surged through the streets, alleys, restaurants and bars in Annecy of a Saturday night. It is a resort town. Beautifully situated beside a huge lake, it is a fresh water Byron Bay, but a bit bigger. Our apartment looks out onto a river flowing out of Lake d'Annecy, coursing its way north to the coast (as rivers around here have a habit of doing). People are engaged in all manner of lakey activities: swimming in it, sailing on it, fishing in it, restaurant-on-a-boat eating on it, hang-gliding over it and (as we did on Sunday arvo) riding bikes around it. As well as a swim. 30+ degree temperatures made for a great wind-down after a frightfully long day of driving.

Sunday morning was market day and all the usual suspects were in attendance. And yes, over in a corner amongst the clothing stalls, the peeling fruit knife man and the hat stall was the - you guessed it - the mattress man! I think we are being stalked! We bought the ingredients for Sunday night's omlette (no, NOT from the mattress man, give me a break) and stuff for the rabbit mustard stew I am planning for Monday night. I'll let you know how that turns out ...

Gotta go and attend to more lakey things.

See youse!



I know that barrackers of teams other than Collingwood are great in number (probably almost as many as there are Collingwood supporters), and it is youse to whom I address my comments.

How many of youse (other than Footscray followers) wanted the Doggies to catch up to the Mags in the last quarter and then kick a slightly higher score prior to the sounding of the siren? ALL of youse, I bet! Well it just DID NOT HAPPEN, did it? Suffer in your jocks! Th Mighties hung on for all they were worth and hung on to their well-deserved place high on the ladder. What a team of awe-inspiring CHAMPIONS!

Go the Mighty Magpies!

Your Best Pal,