Why I LOVE the French! Train to Cannes

My first visit to France was in 1980 or 1981. I can’t remember the exact year, but it was magical. I had been married only four years and it was the first trip abroad with my husband. We got on a train in London, crossed the English Channel on a Ferry, and then boarded another train destined for the French Riviera. It was so exciting. The train itself was an adventure, with its bar and disco carriage. Have you ever tried dancing on a train?

We danced late into the night, and then slept in a ‘couchette’.  When we woke up the next morning we were served a very ‘French’ breakfast as we sat by the window viewing the French countryside for the very first time. When I first set eyes on the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean I was speechless. The scenery was breathtaking.

div_french_italian_04When we finally arrived in Cannes I was so excited I could barely move. Not having much money, we stayed in a moderate Bed and Breakfast. It was close to the beach with all of its style and beauty. If you look a map of the Cote d’Azur, you can see the attraction.

map.of_.the_.French.Riviera1

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the train to beautiful old town of Grasse, famous for its perfumeries. We wandered the streets of Cannes by day and by night. We enjoyed the food, the wine, the atmosphere, but most of all the people.

Eating was an incredible experience. On our ‘special meal’ of the vacation, the chef actually came out of the kitchen when he didn’t think that our choice of appetizer complimented our entrée. This was the first time I had ever tasted ‘bouillabaisse’. It was delicious and still my favorite French food.

Bouillabaisse

 

Most of our meals were not as fancy as this because we were a young married couple with a tight budget. We ate in small local restaurants, eating ‘a prix fixe’ menu, or simply buying seafood from vendors on the sea front. Fritti di Mare were delicious, tiny, deep-fried fishes and we ate them often, washed down with a cheap bottle of local wine and accompanied by French bread. Times were simple, we were young.

There was so much to take in, so much to see. I took hundreds of photographs, which I still treasure. Every night ended with a firework display, high over the harbour in Cannes. It was the perfect way to end each perfect day.

 

 

fireworks-in-cannes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER – Gunpowder Plot

As a child, Christmas Eve was my favorite night of the year, but Bonfire Night came a close second. We would build a huge bonfire, usually on the village green. There used to be a competition between neighboring villages to see who could build the biggest bonfire. We waited excitedly until it got dark, boxes of fireworks safely tucked under our arms. The bonfire would be lit, and the firework display began. Why did we do this? Let me explain.

In 1605, thirteen young men planned to blow up
the Houses of Parliament. The most notorious of these men was called Guy Fawkes and he became known as a traitor. 

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion because he had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant so 13 young men decided that violent action was the only answer.

These men decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists.

To carry out their plan they got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder – and stored them in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.

But as the group worked on the plot they realized that innocent people would be hurt or killed. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.

The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators.

Guy Fawkes was in the cellar with 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th. He was caught, tortured and executed.

Bonfire’s were lit across England to celebrate the safety of the King. The tradition continues to this day.

 

 

To me, November 5th was a time to get together with everyone in the village. Following tradition, we made an effigy of Guy Fawkes and put him on top of the bonfire, cheering as he burned. Of course traditional dishes were made for the occasion such as Parkin, Bonfire Night toffee, toffee apples.

 

 

 

Yorkshire Parkin Recipe

  • 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
  • 2oz / 55g black treacle/molasses
  • 7oz / 200g golden syrup/ corn syrup
  • 5oz/ 120g medium oatmeal
  • 7 oz/ 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preparation:

Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C/gas 1

  • Grease an 8″ x 8″/ 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
  • In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.
  • In a large, spacious, baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally add the milk and again stir well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
  • Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool store the Parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days if you can resist eating it, you can even leave it up to a week before eating and the flavors really develop and the mixture softens even further and become moist and sticky. The Parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.

 

Fire in Colorado.

JEFFERSON COUNTY – The Lower North Fork Fire – which started burning Monday afternoon – was 70 percent contained on Friday afternoon after authorities say they had another good day of work on the fire. The fire has destroyed several homes. Two people were found dead in a burned area, and a woman is still missing after her house was found burned to the ground.

Colorado is dry and hot in the Summer, but Summer isn’t here yet, we are only in March.

If so many wildfires are breaking out in March, what is the Summer going to bring? March is usually our snowiest month so where is the snow?

Almost one year ago to the date, I almost lost my home in a fire.

 

 

 

 

The burning tree fire in Franktown was scary. It was the first time I was faced with the prospect of losing my home of fourteen years. A home with a view of the mountains, a home I love.

Thanks to the brave firefighters, my home, and the homes of my neighbors were saved. Let this please be a lesson to everyone to be careful. We have not had much snow down here in the plains and the grass is dry and brittle. If you are grilling outside, BE CAREFUL. If you smoke, please EXTINGUISH your cigarettes.

Before we know it, July 4th will be here, and the fire risk will be tremendous. Please be careful with fireworks. Enjoy your independence safely and don’t burn down this wonderful state.