Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

Let’s get one thing clear from the start.

I am an adventurous, free-spirit who travels light on this Earth and can pick up a rucksack at the drop of a hat and set off to explore pastures new.

At least, that is who I was when I was born and who I remain inside.

However, accidents and misfortunes have rendered my poor old frame injured, surgically altered, immune constrained, chemically sensitive with food allergies, and recently diagnosed with cancer.

So, that poses a teensy problem when travelling to somewhere like China.

It took me seven months to make the necessary preparations which was frustrating in the extreme, but proved wise in the event.

If you are interested I explain here what is recommended and what precautions I took: if you are not interested, please just skip:)

Now a lot of advice is geared towards people who are independent travellers and/or who are up-country: for my own safety and for the security of an established umbrella organisation I had decided that I needed to be sensible and go with a well-known travel company.  This I did and although it meant that the trip was rather too organised and over-sanitized for my liking, and most of the other people, although very pleasant were not my type, it was a good choice and also meant that our visits to many sites were stream lined, trouble- and queue-free.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travellers to China:

Adult diphtheria and tetanus (ADT) : Hepatitis A : Hepatitis BMeasles, mumps and rubella (MMR):  TyphoidVaricella If you haven’t had chickenpox.

The following immunisations are recommended for travellers spending more than one month in the country or those at special risk:

Influenza : Japanese B encephalitis : Pneumonia: Rabies : Tuberculosis 

In China there are day flying mosquitoes and night time flying mosquitoes: both carry diseases. – Dengue Fever and Japanese Encephalitis.

First of all my doctor was adamant that I should have most of these immunisations:   as I have severe chemical allergies to 40% of modern pharmaceutical drugs this necessitated arranging a session in hospital while I was ‘challenged’ with minute amounts to see whether my system could cope with them.  This took months to arrange, and when it did take place I collapsed, so no immunisations for me.

Although water quality in many of China’s major cities is now much safer, the delivery system is not, so non-Chinese are not advised to drink the water, although washing and brushing one’s teeth is OK.  However, since I need to change surgical dressings on a regular basis my doctor wished me to use only bottled water both for drinking, teeth brushing and wound cleansing: after washing my hands I was also to use hand sanitizer and follow the recommendation to wear long-sleeved tops, trousers, and socks to avoid mosquito bites.  Also to use mosquito nets and apply insect repellents.

Now I am fairly sensible so I chose dates for this holiday that fell as nearly as possible into times when mosquitoes would be least abundant.  However, since we are visiting both warm southerly places as well as chiller northern ones this was slightly problematic.  Being on a river for six days in warm areas was also thought provoking!  Unfortunately, I cannot be around most sanitizers without collapsing and the same effect happens with anti-mosquito preparations.  So I had to spend some time trying to track down things that I could take that would not affect me. The Cruise ship sprayed the cabins each day but I had to ask them not to do this in my cabin and also asked them if it would be possible for them to provide a mosquito net.  Look for the photo of my cabin later in this diary to see how they responded to this request.

Finally, I found anti-bacterial wipes that I could tolerate and took long, light-coloured, loose cotton clothing to help prevent disease-carrying insect bites (none of which I have in my wardrobe living in the north of England, of course!!).  My holiday was to be constant hand washing followed by hand wipes, and brushing my teeth in bottled water.  Also, no salads, peeled fruit, or cold dishes: in some parts of China human waste is still a standard agricultural fertiliser!  If I get any kind of stomach upset it can be extremely serious within a few hours leading to extreme dehydration and collapse.

So far, so good. Although my doctor was not overjoyed at the prospect of this trip, or me going unprotected.

Lonely Planet Medical Checklist

Recommended items for a personal medical kit:

  • Antibacterial cream, eg mucipirocin
  • Antibiotics for diarrhoea, including norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin or azithromycin for bacterial diarrhoea; or tinidazole for giardia or amoebic dysentery
  • Antibiotics for skin infections, eg amoxicillin/clavulanate or cephalexin
  • Antifungal cream, eg clotrimazole
  • Antihistamine, eg cetrizine for daytime and promethazine for night-time
  • Anti-inflammatory, eg ibuprofen
  • Antiseptic, eg Betadine
  • Antispasmodic for stomach cramps, eg Buscopan
  • Decongestant, eg pseudoephedrine
  • Diamox if going to high altitudes
  • Elastoplasts, bandages, gauze, thermometer (but not mercury), sterile needles and syringes, safety pins and tweezers
  • Indigestion tablets, such as Quick-Eze or Mylanta
  • Insect repellent containing DEET
  • Iodine tablets to purify water (unless you’re pregnant or have a thyroid problem)
  • Laxative, eg coloxyl
  • Oral-rehydration solution (eg Gastrolyte) for diarrhoea, diarrhoea ‘stopper’ (eg loperamide) and antinausea medication (eg prochlorperazine)
  • Paracetamol
  • Permethrin to impregnate clothing and mosquito nets
  • Steroid cream for rashes, eg 1% to 2% hydrocortisone
  • Sunscreen
  • Thrush (vaginal yeast infection) treatment, eg clotrimazole pessaries or Diflucan tablet
  • Urinary infection treatment, eg Ural

I did not take all of this but I did take the few items I knew that were safe for me and also covered most common conditions: clove oil, T-tree oil, homeopathic kit, soluble ibruprofen, dioralyte, codeine phosphate, buccastem, anti allergy tape, cough tablets, and my regular prescription items.

Tips for Packing

  • Pack medications in their original, clearly labelled containers.
  • If you take any regular medication, bring double your needs in case of loss or theft.
  • Take a signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications (using generic names).
  • If carrying syringes or needles, ensure you have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.If you have a heart condition, bring a copy of your ECG taken just prior to travelling.
  • Get your teeth checked before you travel.
  • If you wear glasses, take a spare pair and your prescription.

In China you can buy some medications over the counter without a doctor’s prescription, but not all, and in general it is not advisable to buy medications locally without a doctor’s advice. Fake medications and poorly stored or out-of-date drugs are also common, so try to bring your own.

So, I heeded this advice, followed it, and for good measure had my prescriptions printed out, dated and signed by both my Doctor and Pharmacist: I was anticipating problems with Chinese officials: as it turned out this did not happen, it was the English officials who behaved like little Hitlers.  (More on this next time.)

I also discovered that the flights to and from the UK to China were fumigated with an insect killer which I could not tolerate.  It took all seven months to track down a face mask and filter combination that I could wear on the plane for 40 minutes while this took place.  The company also recommended that I took charcoal masks to cope with the common problem of air pollution in many Chinese cities, and other chemical events that I might encounter.  Very helpful of them.

It was suggested that I should contact the airline for two reasons: one to ask for oxygen to be available in case of some kind of chemical exposure during the flight (oxygen is the only thing which brings me round) and secondly to explain my need for medical equipment because in that case my luggage would not be weight limited.  Given the weight of the mask and filter alone this was a tremendous help.  Apparently only one passenger per flight is allowed oxygen.  I was on four flights with British Airways: Manchester to London, London to Shanghai, Beijing to London, London to Manchester. (I could not manage to discover how to make this arrangement with the three different Chinese Airlines we also flew on.)  Gods be praised, but no other passengers on my flights had asked for this concession, so after several doctor’s letters and filling in loads of forms, my medical allowance was given the go-ahead and my oxygen request accepted by BA.

Are you bored yet? I was.  Bored and fed up and frustrated  Image result for frustration   and getting more depressed by the day as the complications of my medical situation were brought home to me.  Of course we were preparing for all the worst possible scenarios which is highly unlikely, but in the circumstances the doctors thought it necessary.

Then I got the diagnosis of cancer and my surgeon wanted to operate in July/August: I refused as the operation will make me immobile for at least three months.  Not until after China I determined.  But it was more pressure. Oh yes, and now I have very little hair.  For some reason it has been falling out at a rate of knots, either from the shock of the cancer diagnosis or the various interventions I have tried.  Very good for morale.

As a little extra soupçon a few years ago I badly re-injured a knee joint: exercise, diet and pilates have transformed the joint but it is still ‘iffy’ so that meant taking two hiking poles and a knee-brace to use on the Great Wall at least.

Did I mention that I like to travel light?         Image result for travelling light

Because of surgery I do not absorb or metabolize nutrients well, so that necessitated taking supplements that I needed.  Also the few usual drugs that I can tolerate in case they are not available where I would be – all of which have to be prescription items for me.  It was brought home to me that since some of these contain codeine the Chinese Customs might not be happy: so that entailed getting print-outs of all my prescription items, listed, dated, and signed by my dispensing Chemist and Doctor.

I was told that I MUST carry all my medical items in my hand luggage so that I could not be parted from them. Because of lots of major surgery in the past I have to wear an appliance.  That is normally no problem.  But with skin allergies there are only certain types of appliance that I can tolerate: these are not available in China.  So I had to take everything I might possibly need for the whole stay, plus extra in case of emergencies.  This involved pastes and powders.  And, you guessed it, no Security in any Airport lets you go through with large amounts of pastes, liquids and foreign looking powders.  More paperwork, this time to present to Security: this paperwork was approved, dated and signed by British Airways Medical department and also the relevant NHS departments.

You may have noticed that so far there has been no mention of guide books, normal day clothes, diaries, pens, sun hats, underwear,  – the usual things people consider when packing.  Not relevant so far.

Since I cannot eat gluten or dairy products, I had had translated and printed off, a sheet that I could give to restaurants, cafes and chefs: I also took some gluten-free crackers and a few other dried emergency items – just in case.  All triple wrapped in case of sniffer dogs at Chinese customs.  Oh yes, and a bar of 90% dark chocolate for when everything just got too much!!           Image result for emergency chocolate

By now you would imagine that all possible eventualities had been researched, discussed, and dealt with.

Oh no.

One week before I was due to set off I felt that I had crossed every T and dotted every i.  I had printed paperwork for everything I had organised, plus translations into Chinese, and had laminated some of these as well.  Then my normal monthly appliance prescription was returned  – late- with some of the most essential items missing and no explanation.  I spent three days trying to find out if anyone else had the items or knew what the problem was.  I was told eventually that the manufacturer had, with no notice and no explanation, stopped making the items and would not make them again until November.  You can perhaps imagine my feelings at this point?  I was also told that the local hospital pharmacies would not dispense them for me even with my prescription because it was a family doctor prescription not a hospital prescription, even though the surgery had obviously taken place at the hospital.

If anyone ever felt that the fates were against this journey, that was me at that moment.

But I also felt that I had worked damn hard for this trip, at the same time as negotiating other family problems, and pet crises, and that come hell or high  water I was going.

Finally, nearly crying with frustration,   Image result for frustration     I found an online dispenser who listened to my plea, knew about the manufacturer’s situation, and cut through all the red tape by suggesting that she send me the next generation appliance which would be following on from the one I was already using.  It was not yet available on prescription so I could not send her that, but like an angel, she said not to worry, she would send them to me and write them off as sales samples.  She had them despatched by courier and they arrived the day before I was due to leave.  I would have hugged and kissed her if I could.Image result for kind angel


When I was young I knew that I had cousins in Peking (as it was then) who were half Swedish and half Chinese: it seemed very exotic and I always wanted to know about their lives.  Their escape from the Red Guard was legendary in the family.

People from Burma lived in our house when I was very small and I loved it when they were on baby-sitting duties: the stories they told and the clothes they wore were different, prettier, so much lovelier than my day-to-day normality.  Sitting on their knee was to be in heaven: the ladies were loving, dark, petite, fine-boned, smelled gorgeous and wore silky and satiny clothes.  So different from my tall, bony, blond Scandinavian relatives.

One of my favourite stories was a book they gave me called Dabbitse (by Chiang Yee, see note below) about a little boy whose father was called Obstinate Ho.  The boy spent each day with his beloved Water Buffalo Dabbitse.  One day Dabbitse gets into the garden of a rich house and eats the Lotus flowers in the pond much to the distress of the owner’s daughter!!!  The illustrations are wonderful, several in delicate water colour and more in traditional Chinese ink.  It was a book which opened up magical vistas to me.

So although I knew a little about Asia I had never been.  I have also mentioned elsewhere that I have always wanted to stand on the Great Wall of China and when I was first diagnosed with this cancer my first thought was that I will not die without having stood on the Great Wall.

Therefore, I was going.  And if I fell off the Great Wall or some other dire event befell me, then so be it.  Better to try and fail, than not try.

But after all these months of preparation I was emotionally frazzled and exhausted.  And, I am ashamed to admit, although not often given to self-pity, I did ruminate darkly from time to time when I heard other’s complaints about the amount of work necessary  for them to go on holiday;)

So, finally, after all these months, D-Day dawned, and miraculously, I was ready.

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P.S.  I do not own any copyright to any of the images in this post.

P.P.S.  Chinese artist and writer Chiang Yee (1903-1977) came to Britain in 1933, where he lived and worked until 1955. During this time he wrote a successful series of illustrated travelogues using the pen name ‘Yaxingzhe’ or ‘Silent Traveller’. The books describe Chiang Yee’s life in London and Oxford during the turbulent years of the Second World War and record his travels to the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, Edinburgh and Dublin.  Illustrated throughout, with his own unique ink and watercolour paintings, sketches and poems, they represent a significant artistic, as well as literary project.Notably among the first Chinese writers to write books in English in the first half of the 20th century, Chiang enjoyed a prolific publishing career in Britain, in which he also published two seminal texts on Chinese painting and calligraphy, memoirs of his childhood in China, and several children’s books including ‘Dabbitse’.


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It seems to be a pattern this year, just as I am embarking on blogging about a trip away, life intervenes and the posts stop before they really get started.

Oh well, I hope that my Scotland trip will still appear here, but for now my seasonal offering this year is a tradition from Iceland I have just heard about from litlovers facebook page:

The “Jólabókaflóð” – literally, the Christmas Book Flood.  Apparently Icelanders love books perhaps more than any other nation in the world, and every Christmas everyone will find at least one book under their Christmas tree.


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Bells ring out at 6.0 pm on Christmas eve and then Icelanders sit down to a formal meal:  many  listen to the service on the radio even if their families aren’t religious, just because this is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.  Once the meal is over and cleaned up, the gift distribution (or book distribution) begins. In fact, it’s a tradition in Iceland to open the books and spend all Christmas Eve reading and drinking hot chocolate, or better still, to climb into the freshly cleaned sheets of your bed, in your new pyjamas, with your new book plus some chocolate, and spending the night under the covers eating and reading:)

Its interesting that chocolate in some form seems to go hand in hand with reading:  clearly I am Icelandic:)

I hope you get some good books this Christmas!




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We had some family over for tea today: so out came the best china, silver and tablecloths from previous generations.

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Its only Christmas and Easter that these things see the light of day but it seems a shame.

Sunday tea used to be an Institution.  It is rare that I make egg mayonnaise sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Perhaps we should bring the custom back once a month or every six weeks or so.

I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday:)

PS The dogs loved the crusts!!



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This  was our view on 6th March this year driving from our house to have tea out on Mothering Sunday:

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And today March 27th  we have no snow, green grass, young leaves on bushes,  flowers, bright sunshine and blustery winds, and this:

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To all who celebrate the season, I wish a very happy time, whether it be Easter, the Goddess Oestre or just Spring, New Life and Chocolate:)


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I have taken so many medications over the last few days that this morning I feel as if I have been run over by a truck and hit hard in the head! The good news is that they work.  Also, that their effect has been to give me a sleep lasting ten hours: so this morning I woke feeling refreshed, non-achey and as if the worst is over.

I needed a really slow start to the day so L. went out for a long, fast walk to discover some of the old lanes round the back of the Bastille that used to contain wood working shops.  The wood was brought down the Seine and easily transported the few metres to these shops.  Unfortunately for us tourists the little workshops have all gone, to be replaced by more up market boutiquey shops.

By the time she returned she was famished: after a slow start for me and very little breakfast I was more than happy to accompany her!  We had decided on a Bistro we have been to on previous visits down in the St. Paul district. We knew that B, L’s husband, had very fond memories of this bistro and would be pleased that we had revisited it.  On the walls were photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and other film people I did not recognise, perhaps producers/directors: all people who had eaten here in the past! Knowing how full it used to get we arrived there bang on 12.00 noon and already one table was occupied.  It is run by an Italian family but the menu is not what I would expect Italian food to be back in the UK.  Very little pastry or pasta so plenty of choice for me.

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more richard and paris 071L chose a tomato, aubergine and pancetta ham starter and a pasta and calamari dish for her main,  followed by a panacotta mould with a sweet orange sauce.  L loved her starter and dessert but found the pasta to be too al dente for her liking although the calamari and its sauce were lovely so she filled up on the bread as she loves French bread anyway.

I missed out the starter, and went for rabbit with a ratatouille sauce.which had olives and raisins in it, followed by a confit of aubergines with orange zest and frozen ricotta. The dessert sounded so strange and not at all nice, but I always feel that when abroad one should take every chance to experiment (providing one is hurting neither man nor beast) and it was a revelation.  Aubergines had been slow cooked in a syrup with candied orange peel and served in layers inbetween which were curls of very dark, very bitter, pieces of chocolate. The ricotta also had pieces of the bitter chocolate in it and had been frozen.  The depth and mix of flavour was intense.  I had to leave some because they had been overgenerous with the portion. This is what it looked like:


and it was out of this world!!!!!!!!!!!   The whole, taken together, gave explosions of flavour which were amazing.  I was so glad I had taken the chance and ordered it.

We ate slowly, savouring everything, as the restaurant filled up to overflowing, and the wine and the talk increased.  It was interesting to hear French spoken with a very obvious Italian accent by both the ‘patrons’ and some of the customers! After a really lovely meal, we both left feeling very well-nourished and walked gently round the St. Paul area after which we walked to the nearest SCNF office to buy our rail tickets for our two outings next week.  We are not sure how the rush hour will affect our timings on  those days and thought that at least we could avoid having to queue for tickets. They didn’t speak English and were kind enough to say that my French was good, which it isn’t, but I suppose it sufficed for the interaction!  With all tickets safely bought we split up, with L going on to further exploration and me needing to go home to rest up again.  So a liesurely walk home doing some shopping on the way for the holiday weekend: as well as groceries, I bought some flowering branches and some decorations I found reduced to make my Easter branch to add a holiday flavour to the flat. But at least I managed to get out for a bit and think I am on the mend.

In the early evening I rose from my bed again and we regrouped over a cup of tea and decided that the rain was just too fierce to wander forth again instantly, so it was some hours later, after a light supper, when it had cleared up a bit that we went for a saunter  to buy L a special ice cream:)

On our way out we passed people going into the Synagogue with lots of food for a Passover meal, and as always, armed soldiers on guard.  I am sure we passed two plain clothes policemen outside too, because they stopped talking as soon as anyone walked past them.

I went round taking photographs of the chocolate in some of the specialist shops.  During Easter, the confiseries and chocolatieres, are filled with beautiful and delicious chocolates. More often than not, these chocolates look more like exquisite works of art than mere sweets and certainly put our cardboard-boxed, foil-wrapped Easter Eggs to shame.  So for the rest of this post, revel in a chocolatey extravaganza: by the way everything is made of chocolate and is edible!

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Much like peering at a masterpiece, many a Parisian, and I, can be found staring into the windows at the chocolate.

Richard II and Paris 039.jpg 1 The pieces are quite extraordinary and very expensive but they are works of art, even if they did not all appeal.  Richard II and Paris 038

Many French Easter traditions revolve around chocolate, chickens, rabbits,  fish and church bells.  Of course a lot of countries celebrate Easter with chocolate in some form and often with chickens and rabbits, but I think it is unique to France to celebrate also with fish and bells.

I have already mentioned the tradition of the April Poisson: when mischievous French children stick paper fish on to the backs of as many unsuspecting adults as possible, then run away yelling “Poisson d’Avril!” The custom is for the tagged adults to respond by giving kids gifts of chocolate fish.   Swarms, or should it be shoals, of chocolate fish fill shop windows all over the City of Light. They come in varied sizes, some packed in shiny tin boxes holding small schools of fish all wrapped up in foil.

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They are also sold unwrapped, by weight, with the larger sizes often molded to resemble either a pike or a carp.

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So, whilst there is no direct correlation between chocolate fish and Easter, since they usually begin appearing in the shops just in time for April Fool’s Day, and you will often find them still in stores around Easter time because of its close proximity to the holiday,  fish have become an Easter tradition also.

Le Notre had as its theme this year a Treasure Island, so alongside the fish, there were parrots, pirates, treasure, pearls, etc.

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Alongside these intricately decorated pieces, one can also find chocolate bells.paris 2015 easter 018.jpg 1 These “flying” bells directly correlate to the resurrection of Jesus, and with the end of Lent

What about the bells? Cloche volants or ‘Flying Bells’ are another important symbol in the French Easter tradition. Much of the country (about ninety percent) considers itself Roman-Catholic in culture whether they are truly practicing Roman Catholics or not.  Churches, with their soaring architecture and revered history, are an intrinsic part of this culture and you hear the bells ringing out several times each day to announce the times of the old monastic services.

On Maundy Thursday evening, just before Good Friday, all the bells in France become still and silent in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death. This is quite a sombre remembrance and a real change in the texture of daily life. Traditional belief holds that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously ‘fly’ off to the Vatican carrying all the grief of those mourning Jesus’ crucifixion. To ease any disquiet or fears of children, parents tell them that all the church bells have flown off to Rome to visit the Pope.These flying French bells then return to their steeples on Easter morning just in time to ring for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the children are told that the bells have flown home again. The bells also bring back chocolate and decorated eggs in time for children to collect when they wake up on Easter morning.   Hence, the appearance of chocolate bells at Easter time

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And last, but not least, I took this photo especially for Coco the Scottie Dog, from Walkies on Table Mountain – see my side bar of blogs I follow:)

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We had booked Easter Lunch at a Bistro, ‘Au Bon Coin’, following excellent reviews on Trip Advisor by people who said they ate there Easter Sunday 2014, and it was so good that they went back again the next day.

However, we had no preconceptions: so we dragged ourselves away from the music and socialising outside St. Medard and walked down only a couple of blocks, to a small side street, where we found the Bistro on a quiet residential corner.  It did not look much, but there you go, never judge by appearances:)

They greeted us warmly, sat us at a tiny table and almost immediately the whole place filled up, entire families of three or four generations, down to the tiniest in a pushchair, and two elderly ladies dining a deux.

We ordered a starter of chicken livers with a shallot confit and fresh raspberries all on a circlet of puff pastry.  The main dish was roast lamb with spring vegetables, and for dessert I ordered red fruits with cream cheese and nougatine and L ordered a sponge doused in Limoncello and topped with fresh whipped cream.

They brought L the wine she ordered and a carafe of water as per my usual: they also brought small glasses filled with a mushroom sauce topped with olive oil, for us to nibble on with the bread.


I am not very fond of mushrooms but this was absolutely lovely!  Neither of us ate any bread, we decided it was going to be hard enough to eat three courses, but hey, it is Easter.

Then the starters arrived.  I scraped mine off the pastry, (not eating gluten), and found lots of the lovely raspberry sauce.


It was cooked to perfection, and I am not guilty of hyperbole here, and tasted wonderful.  We just sat for a minute staring at each other, not used to eating food like this.

“WOW”, said L.

After a slow, relaxed beginning, the lamb was served.

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Sitting on fresh young turnip, yellow and orange carrots, green beans, freshly hulled peas, a new potato, garlic roasted in its skin and a rosemary gravy.

As she cut into the meat, L stopped, raised her knife and fork, and said, “You try it”.

I did.  Well, what to say.  Enough that L who is a gourmand of some experience said it was the best lamb she had eaten in 60 years.  And it was.

A small, simple, unpretentious corner Bistro, was giving us the meal of a lifetime: this was what one imagined French cooking to be about, and what is getting harder and harder to find.

We spent a couple of hours over our meal, absorbing the atmosphere, talking to the waiters (both of them), and finally the chef to thank him, as well as some of the children and parents at other tables because inevitably the kids moved around and came and talked to us, so the parents followed suit.  It was a real family Easter Sunday meal, and we were made to feel so welcome.

I told them that we would remember the meal for a long time.  We felt as if all our senses had been satisfied.

(In fact it was so good, that we have cancelled our Reservation at Le Train Bleu for our last day in Paris, and made another one at this Bistro instead).

The Bistro emptied gradually, we being the last to leave (!) and we decided to walk over to the Jardin des Plantes:  this houses the Natural History Museum as well as greenhouses and all kinds of planting.  Unfortunately not a lot was in flower or even full growth yet and when the sun went in it became very chilly.




But we met most of Paris out for a walk to exercise after Easter Lunch and we did meet one plant which was feeling Springlike:)


The far exit opens on to the Pont d’Austerlitz, which always make me think of War and Peace, which we crossed, suddenly meeting crowds of tourists: it is interesting where you find the groups, perhaps following some tour plan.  At the other side we saw a canal branching off the Seine and heading towards the Bastille, so we followed it and walked alongside until it vanished underground.  (It then reappears up in the area of St. Martin.)


This was near the Seine, you can just see the bridge in the distance.  We found lots of barges and yachts moored up at each end of the water in wider basins.


Here, where it was below street level, it was warm and sheltered and the plants were further ahead than other places we saw.

wpid-img_20150405_1550394491People were taking advantage of the sheltered sunny spots too.  In places families were sitting on the grass with picnics and the children with their Easter eggs.

wpid-img_20150405_154931225The Bastille coming into view.

wpid-img_20150405_155133473The end of the water, with the metro station up ahead, and the final stop for the boats for a while.


We finally arrived back at the apartment at about five o’clock after a memorable Easter Sunday and flopped down on the sofa with a large pot of tea.

We never ate again except for a tiny snack just before we went to bed to fend off night starvation;)  Shows just how filling a really good, nutritious meal can be.

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You could tell it was a holiday weekend beginning, last night.

People arriving late, suitcases bumping across the yard and up stairs, feet pounding across the floor above us and water running furiously.

This morning I was feeling much better so we got the bus straight to the Musee D’Orsay: on the bus there was the most appalling smell and I could not work out where it was coming from.  Honestly, it was overwhelming.  Later L. said it was coming from a lady near me and I think it was a fungating wound.  My friend Judith had one, although hers was not too bad.  I know that they can be a nightmare to look after and that the smell makes both the sufferer and those close to them go through terrible agonies of stigma and withdrawal from society.  Poor lady, she did not look well.

Anyway, we got to the Musee and the queues were terrible: on previous experience I reckoned it would take about three hours for people to get in.  We sailed past with our Annual membership passes and went straight in.


After a look at a winter rooftop scene by Gustav Caillebotte which L had copied some time ago for her husband, we left the packed Impressionist room and went for lunch.


I really do not think that the marble tables and plastic chairs do much for the decor: when lunch came it looked marvellous.  We both ordered chicken, free range, in juniper sauce with Pear Chartreuse, which turned out to be a cooked, stuffed cabbage leaf.


Well, all was lovely except for the chicken which was barely cooked, pink in places and tough.  So different from previous experiences.  Then I ordered a chocolate and passionfruit dessert, which we both expected to be along the lines of thin layers of chocolate leaf interspersed with passionfruit mousse.  Again it looked wonderful and the layer of passionfruit mousse on the top was good, but the rest was just thin layers of rather miserable sponge, and I left it.  More what one would expect of large scale commercial catering which fancied itself.  I learned later that the Musee has outsourced its catering to some kind of outlet.  Ah, that explains all.

Then L went home via some shops, and I walked every inch of the Marais, looking in shop windows, taking photographs of Easter Parisian Style, and watching people  doing their Easter Saturday shopping.  All was bustle, special cakes, special Ors d’Oevres, special chocolate.  Selling out fast and furious.  A lovely, exciting, holiday feeling.

I bought an Easter gift for myself at the request of my husband since I am not at home for him to give me one,


(sheets of different kinds of hand made chocolate, broken into pieces and layered into a card cone)

and some trifles to spread round my Fertility Altar!  At least, that’s what L calls it, and I see her point.  Photo reserved for Easter Day!!

A scratch supper, which has become our habit: we eat very frugally at the beginning and end of the day, and try new places for lunch.

More people arriving tonight: cries of welcome as families and friends came to visit!  It feels very exciting.

Then plans for tomorrow, checked out Metro stations etc. and to bed.

The bells should be back tomorrow.  They have been very noticeable by their absence.

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