Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ghana vs. Ausralie: LIVE on this blog!

I have decided to commentate the second half of the match Ausralie vs. Ghana. Here goes:

Yellow card on the Ghanian chap! Sensation! Can we get the goal? No!! Too high! Way too freaking high!

Another yellow card! No good though, no goal from thaty! Where's Harry when you need him?

Oopsies! Free kick for interference with the goalie. Pathetic! WHERE is the umpy's HEAD?

Ghanian free kick over the top of the bar!

Australie looking good in this second half.

[Tony reckons only 3 more minutes to go.]

Corner for Ghana! Booooo!

Save by the Australie goalie chap! Goodonyermate!

Up the Auralie end now. Last chance for Ghania, but no! Selfish shot WAY over the top of the goal.

Ghanian chap down. I think I see blood.

Is that Chipperfield CHATTING with a Ghanian? Surely not!

Three minutes of injury time left. CAN THE team of Green and Gold champions DO IT?

One-One! Can it be TRUE? Reminds me of last week's Maggies:Demons result. Good for the World Game, though.

Stay tuned to this blog for a ball-by-ball description of the next Ausralie match!



Friday, June 18, 2010

Final Night in Esvres

Sorry, can't blog right now, I need to dress for dinner. Yes, we are dining at Chateau de la Villaine ...

... Back again! Great night, let me tell you. Not a Frenchman in sight! Not tgat it would have been less than great with a Frenchman for company, no way! It's just that, of the 10 persons seated around the table, not one was of French extraction. The hosts, as already mentioned, are Dutch and the other couple was from South Africa. The two who came along later were visiting from Scotland. They appeared to be Scottish. They spoke with a Scottish accent. Plus the six of us. What jocund company it was! Joke (remember the pronunciation) and Adrien ("Arrien") took turns to explain each course as well as the origin and style of the wine. All exquisite decor, food and beverage. Tony played piano to add a touch of class to the evening. All round, it was another fabulous night in the Loire. Our last for probably quite some time.

Today was spent mostly at the Abbey Fontevraud, having driven in convoy to Saumur in the morning in search of ribbon (brocade) and lunch. Richard Le Coeur de Leon (remember him?) is buried here, along with his mum, Eleanor of Aquitane. Richard's brother John rests (let's face it, he's not resting; he's dead) somewhere in Britain, he, his brother and his mum having had an almighty blue and a falling-out of gigantic proportions. Apparently, Eleanor had conspired with her sons against their father (her husband) Henry II of England, but had failed to overthrow him. Eleanor spent two weeks in prison for her trouble. Just before she died (well after Henry, her husband), she became a nun and in all probability went to heaven. I believe there is something in this story we can all take away with us. But I'm not really sure what. Henry II is buried here as well (he's dead too).

What a day! Tomorrow we head to Paris for a couple of nights via Chartres. It should be a giggle, especially with all of us (yes, all seven) crammed into a unit that accommodates six. Should be a hoot, nonetheless. I'll let you know.

Enough Rambling news for now. I'll keep you posted.


Rambler Parking

I just squirted back to the 'Payant' car park here in Saumur ahead of the others because of an amazing thing about parking I thought I'd tell you about. It seems that in some towns (eg Saumur) that you do not have to pay over lunch time (1200 to 1400). Perhaps this has some relationship with the absolute sanctity that surrounds lunchtime. Persuing this line of thought, perhaps it is recognition by the local authorities (the Mairie) of the fact that no one can be seen outside a lunch spot (restaurant) anywhere in France. LEAST OF ALL YOUR PARKING ATTENDANT!

I'll leave that with you while I wait for the troops...



ABC and Football

The chateau at Chenonceau is a pretty big chateau. This whopping great castle was built over the Cher River. That's right, it straddles this huge river and the water gushes underneath it all day, every day. Catherine de Medici lived there and ruled France from a little room after Henri II, her husband, died. Catherine had five daughters, all of whom became queens. One of these was Mary, Queen of Scots. Now most of you will know this, but I thought I'd just run it by you in case you didn't.

5,000 people come through this castle on a quiet day. 20,000 hurtle through when it's busy. That's a lot of peeps! Not so many yesterday, but still a tidy few. Some rain about, but that made it an ideal time to 'do' our paying entry castle. Here are some other interesting things about the castle. In World War One it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Another interesting thing is that in WW2 it straddled the border between occupied France and Vichy ("Free") France. We are told that many hundreds of French made it into Free France through this chateau. But here's a question: How the he'll did the Nazis not twig to this? I mean, "Hullo!". Over there is a castle. It stretches from Nazi France to Free France. OF COURSE there are people scorching across of a night time. "HULLO!!!!". Anyhow, that's what happened. Appazzas, a great big gun (Nazi) was trained on this chateau for the whole duration of the war, in readiness to 'take it out'. Thank goodness that never happened.

It's a gorgeous castle (though not my favourite). Gardens magnificent, green frogs making a racket in the non-flowing, part of the moat. Extraordinary. Only time for one chateau in any case today. Too much time spent wandering around thisy... You know who would love it here, don't you: Marg Molloy and Fran Vaughan! Oh yeah, and Pete's duck Vic. He could gobble up all those frogs in the moat.

Arriving 'home' late afternoon we called in for a drink at a little bar near the station in Esvres-sur-Indre. The resident afternoon drinking team advised us that the Big Match was on at 8:30. We decided to join them later on in the evening.

So, after a lovely dinner at home in 'our' chateau we mosied on down to join the party. The first thing to note was the relative absence of supporters. No more than 30 really, if that. It wasn't that there were a whole heap of bars around Esvres. No. There just weren't the fans that we expected. And it didn't stop there! We arrived just before half time and Tony had struck up conversations with the chaps at the bar in his Fluent Fronch. Graz had whipped the pants off some little kid at darts and Jude, Liz, Andy and Graeme were lolling on the couch drinking alcohol in one form or another. Let's face it, everyone was drinking alcohol (except the kids).

Now here's the strange thing. When Mexico scored a goal, everyone in the pub cheered! This was a genuine cheer and not a glum face in sight. The second goal by the Mexicans BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN and soon after that people began to drift away home. "What is going on here?", I hear you ask. We did too. Apparently, the French in these here parts believe that the French football team is made up of spoiled, overpaid losers who fight harder for their club than their country. They were not well thought of here, let me tell you. [The situation was different in Tours, we were told by Andy and Graz, where the 0-0 score in their first match. Great French support there, apparently. Go figure!]

Gotta go on another Ramble

Hoo Roo,


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Avoiding ABC Rambling

Our pals The Cunninghams who refer to "ABC Syndrome". This phenomenon takes place within an Australian traveller's brain when he or she visits too many castles (or chateaux) in one day. They are heard to mutter, "Not Another Bloody Castle (or Chateau)!". ABC Syndrome is to be avoided at all costs. There are far too many gorgeous castles around the Loire to allow oneself to get cross at them. The Ramblers and their current companions-in-rambles, viz. Andy and Graz, Liz and Tony, have made the decision to limit such visits to two per day. One from the outside and one paid entry. This has worked a treat to date and each of these visits brings forth fresh gasps of astonishment and marvel. Not one sign of ABC Syndrome from anyone!

Take today's 'payent'. A much smaller chateau, to be sure, but easily the most 'liveable' and homely. We were greeted at the gate by the owner, a descendant of the Polish soldier who fought for one of the French kings (or maybe it was Napoleon) and who was given the chateau in gratitude for the fine job of fending off the Russians. This owner chap spoke Polish himself and he a d Grazyna had a jolly good 'mag' in that complicated-sounding language. He gave us a discount of 1 euro each and offered a genuine wish that we enjoy our visit to his chateau. And we did!

The highlight for me was a lovely spiral staircase that we were allowed to walk up (lots of these joints have barriers that block off the enthusiastic ABC Syndrome candidate). This one made enjoyment and direct experience almost compulsory. There were also some intriguing old family photos as well as some wonderful paintings on the walls. [There were some mounted heads of dead animals as well, but these should be overlooked and forgiven because of the wondrous nature of everything else.]

Yesterday's chateau was a 'pearler' as well. This one we accessed on bicycles we hired at Blois. Jude, Andy and I (Graz took the bus) struck out along a bit of a skanky track alongside the Loire. It turned out to be not quite so skanky near our lunch spot and got even better once we left the river and headed off to the chateau. It was along this road that Dear Jude came a cropper. She was having a 'sticky beak' at a building hidden behind a huge hedge, when BLAM! SMACK! WHACK! she embedded her handle bar into the indicator light of a parked truck belonging to the local council ("Mairie"). A sore wrist, a bruised tummy and a couple of finger-cuts resulted, but Dear Jude can at last be welcomed into the sibling-hood of cyclists having taken the obligatory fall. Welcome to you, Jude!

The Chataeu-At-The-End-Of-The-Bike-Ride had its own brand of charm, perched as it was in the middle of a paddock. For Jude and Graz this was a 'payant', while Andy and I were content to gaze from the outside and then to tootle off back to Blois on our bikes. [Fortunately there was a spot near the chateau where bikes could be dropped off.]

The ride back to Blois was much nicer than the rode there, with sleepy villages to hurtle through and bois (woods) and forets (forests) to capture our imaginations. Andy really pushes the high gears and it was a job keeping up with him. I told him about spinning and the virtues of low-gear riding, but he much preferred the big gears, complaining that these hire bikes could really do with one more higher gear. I gave up and did some high gear pushing myself. We only got lost once, but were put back onto the right path by a callow one-language youth, who pointed to the road we should have taken. He disappeared over his bridge, while we two headed to Blois along our ever-changing pathway to the carpark, the car, the trip back to the chateau, the girls and the trip back home to Esvres to meet up with Liz and Tony.

No ABC Syndrome as YET! We still have a couple of days in the Loire, however, and we shall need to keep our wits about us. I'll let youse know ...

Till then we remain,

Your Favourite Ramblers!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Lovely Chateau

Let's face it, all the chateaux in the Loire Valley are beautiful, wonderful and otherwise possess qualities of such headshaking beauty as to challenge one's sense of wonder - to the limit! Lovely, yes, but where is the historical PAIN? Not ONE Cathar in sight. No beheadings (that I can see). No burnings or even good old-fashioned hangings. Instead, we get treaty signings, garden plannings and tapestry weavings. OMG, how yawnsville!

Mind you, the company is fabulous. [Not that prior co-Ramblers weren't up to the mark, far from it!]. Andy and Grazyna seem to share our emotional attitude to chateaux in a way that no other person ever really could. For example, one chateau per day seems to be our absolute maximum. We headed off to check one out today, and it turned out yo be a real 'pearler'! It was called Chateau Villandre and it had, within its walls, a most agreeable garden. We spent most of the day there, if we came to think about it, and we just - well - Rambled through it.

The bottom part of this garden was full of veggies, all grown within spaces surrounded by box hedge. I know that this is not everyone's cup of tea, but I like it. Standard roses were planted randomly within these box hedge to give the allusion of monks tending to the daily chores attendant upon the gardening process. These roses did not look at all like monks to me, but I appreciated the effort of the designer. Up on another level was the herb garden. I got into serious trouble with Jude, supported by Andy, for crushing the TINIEST leaves from each of these spices and smiffing the resulant gooey mess. "what would be left of the garden if EVERYONE did that?", asked Andy and Jude in unison. Graz stood by me and joined kn the smiffing process in an attempt to identify each different herb. There were eight different types of mint - each with its own distinct aroma. Eight I tell you!

The next level of gardens was just as wonderful and the next even better (this whole garden is built into a small valley, don't you know). Included in it's design was a grass tennis court, a Children's playground, a maze, a pool garden and a garden with six or so love motifs represented in shaped box hedge. I hadn't been 'in to' gardens till now, but I could see what all the fuss was about. The best view was from the top of the castle keep tgat had been preserved since the time of Henry II of England who had signed some peace treaty here, having been trounced by the French in some battle or other.

One of the aspects of the time in this fabulous garden was that we did not have to be anywhere in any tearing hurry. It was a day of quiet, contemplative rambling, free from deadlines and any sense of rushing.

After this chateau we headed for another town with a chateau. However, on this occasion we bought icecreams (I chose a double boule of cherry and chocolate - eat your heart out) ) and contented ourselves with a walk around the town with the occasional peep into the castle grounds for free. No one felt the need to pay another 12 euros each to go through the gate. [My icecream lasted car longer than anyone else's, so I won!]

Home to (another) omlette for tea, a couple of wines and off to bed. Collingwood drew with Tge Dees but, hey, what better team to draw with? It had been yet another perfect day of French Rambling and I loved it!

Too Roo Blue!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Our" Chateau

The chateau where we are staying this week is pretty impressive. It has pointy turrets and it sits on a rise looking over the extensive grounds. Our 'gite' sits somewhat distant from the chateau, which is most appropriate since the 'hoi poloi' should really be permitted to go about their recreational activities without their day being spoiled by the Common Travelling Rambler (ie us).

It is evident that Dutch Adrien and Dutch Joke have a lot of work in front of them to get the somewhat decaying buildings to a state of non-decayingness. Not that they are atually falling down mind, it's just that everywhere one looks there is a job that needs to be done. Soon. No doubt Adrien (aged middle-to-late 60s) has a list on his fridge prioritising the tasks needed to be done 'tomorrow'.

On one side of the grounds below the chateau is a tennis court (a few puddles, a few weeds), doesn't matter. On the other side of the grounds is a huge windmill. This structure is of quite some hisorical interest as it was built in the late 19th century, but looks quite modern. It is made of metal and has a twirly-curly spiral staircase wrapped around the tower that the blades stand on. The rotating vanes are encased in a circle of metal such that they turn inside this frame. This is what gives it the 21st century look. Two bus loads of historical enthusiasts have come to have a look at the chateau and its windmill since we have been here, so it must be well known in the Right Circles. Adrien says that we can visit the windmill, but that we have to wait till after 6:00 pm. Not sure why ...

Anyhow, our current accommodation is quite special. Grazyna can take the credit for this discovery and has been awarded 5 points (from Andy) as a result! Congratulations Grazyna!

We think that Liz and Tony will arrive from their wedding (not THEIR wedding, but A wedding) in Munich last Saturday, but we have not had any news of times. I am certain they will turn up. They always do.

Better get back to my AFL app now, the third quarter must have begun and the Mags will have jumped ahead - of that I am quietly confident.



Rambling to (and around) Le Loire

Big day driving today. Lots of tolls equals stops to pick up tickets issued from automatic dispensers at random spots along the tollway and money drops at equally random exit points. The last one blew us away since both credit cards were rejected and all we had was a 50 euro not to cover a 12 euro fare. Imagine the trepidation of sliding the 50 euros into the note-receptical. Doesn't matter.

It turns out that you DO get change, but not in crisp notes. [Remember that we are sitting in a queue of impatient French tollway drivers, whose very existence turns upon their access to the tollway payment station for which we are the sole inhabitants, thus preventing their egress.]. You get change in 1-euro coins. Ching-ching-ching-ching-ching! Down pours the change in a cascade of chinging similar only to a win at the pokies at the Casino or the SS&A club. Fist-fulls of euros are retrieved before the way can be cleared and the traffic can flow. Such are the trevails of the inexperienced French tollway Ramblers.

It really was an eventless trip across La Belle France, but it did take all of 5.5 hours of travel, plus stops. We eventually arrived at our chateau in Esvres in good time for a wonderful dinner experience with our friends Andy and Grazyna and four new Best Friends.

Adrian and Joke ("Y-oak-e") - Dutch nationals - own the chateau where the meal was served. We four (Andy & Graz, Jude & I) inhabit the gate-keeper's cottage a few metres away. "Radar" (that is how his name sounded) and Beatrice were the other two (Swedish) guests who had rooms in the main chateau).

This was a meal to remember forever, with wonderful food served with matching wine and careful explanations/descriptions of both wine and food, interspersed with anecdotes and stories from all thereuntofore assembled. For, example, the Dutch Adrian and Joke described the process/problems associated with buying the chateau. It seems that it is not a simple procedure, as a whole range of people have to agree with all aspects oc the sale before it can proceed. Towards the end of the negotiations Adrian chanced upon a meeting with the 'notary' (solicitor) associated with the vendor family. "No", he said, "I have not heard from the family that a price has been agreed, and by the way, they could get a mch higher price from people I know in Paris." [This following definite acceptance of the sale price agreed by Adrian with the family.]. "Yes it is," countered Adrian ...As it turned out, according to Dutch Adrian, the family accepted the figure for which they had 'signed off' and the sale went through. Things do not always proceed so smoothly, apparently however.

Today was spent hurtling off to another market in another lovely Loire town down the road ('Amboise'). Another market (avec mattress man) produced another set of wonderful culinary and shopping delights. We bought a ready-cooked roast rabbit for dinner and a 'grande' paella for lunch.

A real highlight of the whole trip was a chance tour through the back garden of a lovely French lady from Paris who owned a cottage in the town. A cliff at the rear of the cottage garden contained a series of caves that had been inhabited by 'Troglodites'. These caves had been converted to modern habitable dwellings and were totally charming. The best aspect of the tour that this lady conducted (in French and English) was the obvious joy that she derived from showing her visitors around this wondrous facility. She was effusive on her descriptions of life as it had been led by these ancient people. She was generous in her sharing of her knowledge and understanding of these dwellings in her back yard. This lady even had a glass of wine for us to share at the end of her tour. ALL AT NO CHARGE!

Back at the chateau we ate our rabbit and drank our wine 'al fresco' in the little garden out the back of the gatekeeper's cottage. We flung ourselves into bed at the end of yet another day's fabulous adventures in France.

You all need to get over here some day soon, you know. There are far too many adventures to be missing out on, you know ...

Your Best Pals,

The Ramblers!