Sunday, April 28, 2013

POULET ROTI



Roast chicken.  Maybe one of the more traditional dinners around the world. No matter where you go around the planet, you are bound to find a Rotisserie selling chicken.  Can't think of any country or religion that has an issue with chicken. (Veganism, though a belief, is not a religion. I googled it.)

But when was it the last time you made it yourself? From scratch? I can say that unlike here in France where we make it very often, during the years in Vegas and Calgary we made chicken almost never at home.

Costco, Sobey's, Boston Market and many more vendors made it too easy really. And sadly, too cheap.
 I have to stay on track here, otherwise I am going of on a tangent about true value of food. And I am not good at complaining, or sincere, since I really miss Costco. (not so much for the chicken though)

Anyway. The chicken we ate today came from the butcher around the corner, where I buy a lot of our meats now. By North American standards, this bird was very expensive. Not a 5.99 special, let me tell you.  But when was it the last time you ate a chicken to the bone, gnawed around all sorts of weird pieces and enjoyed doing that? Not because it's expensive and you want to get your money's worth, but because it actually tasted really good, not just salty and there are no weird looking "extra bits" hanging around? You know, that yellowish gelatin kind of textured end at the bone? 

Needless to say and almost like a stew, roast chicken is a very easy and forgiving meal to make. Whatever you feel like flavoring the bird with, just stuff it up it's rear end. Lemon pepper?  If it fits. Garlic paprika? Why not all of them and make it a bunch of flavors that during the hour and some  of roasting will make your home made chicken dinner much better than any store bought ever can taste. 
If you miss the salty brine they use at Costco, no worries. Just dip in salt while you eat it. With a side of Lipitor maybe.

And the rest of the meat if you are a smaller house hold? Perfect, just perfect for chicken fried rice.



PERFECT WITH A LITTLE SALAD ON THE SIDE





BUTCHER RECOMMENDED

NUMBERED? WHAT ? WHY?

DOES NOT NEED MUCH FOR FLAVOR

READY TO ROAST

THIS BIRD TOOK 75MINUTES @ 175C 

WHERE THE FLAVOR COMES FROM

FEEDS THREE, TWO MEALS



Thursday, April 25, 2013

CAMPING ON WATER


Or as it' known more common, House boating. Camping has never been a favorite activity of mine, but there are tons of fans out there and this seems to be a great alternative version for a tent on a campground. A decent equipped boat. Some people call them yachts, ehm well, how to say this? They are not. At all. Too much plastic and polyester......

In the early summer month when we walk to school along the river and after the maintenance crews finished cleaning and inspecting the fleet of a local boating company, Isabella and I always get to look at  families on their boats, enjoying leisure times on the river.
There is something serene about that scene,  they are discussing the day's activities, while enjoying breakfast on deck watching the town wake up. Families look relaxed, they all greet us walking by, their happiness about it all clearly visible. They are on holidays. 

That look of content sometimes does turn into worry and concern, especially for first timers when they enter a lock to go up or down stream. Not that hard at all, most locks here along the Charente are operated manually and you are given excellent instructions, but a fun spectacle to watch nevertheless. Usually the head of the family takes control of the boat, while his family is being instructed where to tie up and hold the buoys. And if only one kid or spouse does not perform to the Captain's orders, especially in front of a bunch of know it all locals, it can quickly become entertaining. 
There are about 24 locks between Jarnac and Rochefort and after the first or second trial, the families usually become very good at it. 






PART OF THE FLEET


PRACTICAL INTERIORS

THE VIEW WHEN YOU FLOAT

FOR SALE

SOMEONE LIVES ON HER

NICE AND EASY SPEED

THINGS TO DO IN JARNAC

L'ECLUSE DE JARNAC

MANUAL OPERATION


A COUPLE OF METERS ELEVATION DIFFERENCE

SIGHTS ALONG THE RIVER CHARENTE ARE VARIED
 


Monday, April 22, 2013

JARNAC IN THE SPRING



On my first walk around town (sans mon chien) since coming back from Austria, I could not help but being amazed in the change of colors around Jarnac. How quick the seasons turn.
Only ten days ago all I saw was some trees budding, but now all are in full bloom. The Mairie has planted all public spaces with spring flowers and we are back with gorgeous impressions. Even people seem to have a better disposition than a few weeks ago.

There are some major construction sites going up, another clear indicator spring has arrived. The old tourist office at Place du Chateau has been demolished and is being replaced with green space (I hope).
The town also finally started to renovate the market building, a ten month process (make that 14, this is France). They are making it bigger by a third almost. In the meantime the current vendors moved into temporary digs down by the river.  There is talk about a major roundabout in town and a large canalization repair job is under way as well. Gotta love public funding.......

The shoe repair store has closed and moved to Angouleme, a new Epicerie has opened next door, no doubt taking advantage of low low rents in town.
It seems that a lot of houses are being renovated and improved by their owners, I saw a lot of "For Sale" signs on my walk, but even more important, quite a few "Sold" signs  around Jarnac today.  The buzz is definitely on, you can feel it.  Tourism season is starting soon, there was a large cleaning crew down by the boat rental company, bringing all the equipment back to it's summer glory. Spring in France. The best times.

Hope to see you soon.




COLORS, SO MUCH MORE VIBRANT WITH THE SUN

OUR FAVORITE HAZELNUT BUSH

THE WHOLE TOWN IS CHANGING COLORS

FLOWERS EVERYWHERE

BEAUTYFICATION

LOTS OF SOLD SIGNS

SOME SHOPS CLOSED

 SOME SHOPS OPENED

THE MARKET HALL IS BEING RENOVATED

Sunday, April 21, 2013

FRANCE FAILS

While most Blogs about France (including this one) will tell you all the great stories about life in France, you won't read much about issues that can get to you in a big way when one decides to live in this great country. Sure, you've seen the odd story about french bureaucracy proceeding at snail's pace, or other fun stuff about incompetent plumbers that one can laugh about when it's fixed.

But how about things that really are different here in a not so great way? Since I just came back from a 3k road trip through France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, I am going to say something about one of my biggest disappointments about being in France. Speed traps. No, I did not get any tickets this time around, I paid my dues last year. I learnt quick. 

But on this trip I contemplated about the french government's line of installing more and more radar traps in the name of road safety. Bullshit. Only lemmings (there are a few....) would believe that road safety is improved by installing a forest of radar camera and hiring more cops to patrol the highways in unmarked vehicles for speeders.

If you read that France is generating 700 million Euros of revenue (a cool billion in USD) through speed fines alone, you gotta realize it's all about money. Much need money for Francois III.
Were the french government to say, "Yes, it's all about revenue to support our unsustainable socialist ways, we need every cent we can get from entry level criminals who go 5km/h over the speed limit so we can keep paying lazy people who don't want to work", I would be OK with the concept. But feed the general population a line on safety?  Yes, lemmings. I am no lead foot but like to move it, especially when driving on wide open roads with almost no traffic. 
Driving 90km/h on a deserted road at midnight does NOT make me concentrate more, it puts me to sleep. Zipping down the Autobahn at 150 and being passed by faster cars makes me pay attention. 
Germany, a comparable country in size and population here in Europe with a much more liberal speed policy on it's roads has less traffic fatalities than France. 
Safety? That argument is out the window right there. Unless of course french drivers suck, or their french made vehicles are sub par to those the Germans produce.  Mind you, a recent law here in France mandates that you carry an alcohol test kit in your car. Could it be that french drivers drink and drive more than their neighbors? No speed limits will make driving safer then either. 

Anyway. Here is a funny video:

http://youtu.be/uvYxXBMqEOM




Friday, April 19, 2013

GLUTEN FREE ESTERHAZY SLICE



Maybe one of my favorite cakes. Besides poppy seed cake, Sacher Torte and many others. But ever since childhood I do remember this hazelnut flavoured butter cream cake with the funky design glazed top.
Named after a Hungarian blue blood diplomat from the Esterhazy clan, this cake can be found everywhere in Austria.
Even in Calgary I was able to find it at Gunther's bakery. Just not gluten free.  Imagine how surprised I was when I bought some sweet treats for a friend of mine in Vienna and saw it right there in the display case, Gluten free Esterhazy slice. 

I bought a slice for Victoria to taste and not only did she approve but I myself have to say the difference was non existent. Makes sense as the amount of flour used is minimal and can easily be replaced with more ground hazelnuts. 

The pastry shop is called Kurkonditorei Oberlaa and they have multiple locations around Vienna. When I tried to google the place, I found this Blog post from a Celiac who travelled to Vienna as well a couple of years ago and was equally impressed:



So, if you visit Vienna and crave some great gluten free cakes, here is the shop's website:




And if you speak Hungarian, here is a video how to make that cake. If you don't speak that language, visit Margaret at Kingsland's Primal Soup Company. She might be able to help.......


BEST WITH COFFEE
Image courtesy of  http://chefthomas.org/about/

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

VIENNA 101



We went to Vienna today for a meeting, a short trip but still enough time for a quick family tour into the center of Austria's capital. We took the very efficient subway from the outskirts to Stephansplatz and I did my usual touristy walk along the Dorotheergasse to the Reitschule on to the Kohlmarkt to the Graben and back down past the cathedral to Schwedenplatz before heading back out of the city and go to the meeting in the 22nd district, Donaustadt.

While Isabella did enjoy some of the sights such as the show kitchen at Demel's pastry shop and the horse drawn carriages, she was more concerned that I would be able to locate her favorite clothing store.....she may be taking after other family members in that regard. So the ladies went shopping, while I did some premium people watching in the very busy pedestrian zone. 
Vienna has always been a melting pot throughout history, but it is amazing how many different and to my ear, new languages I heard today. Exciting times in Vienna, that's for sure.

We barely had enough time to walk longer than a couple of hours, so if my images seem rushed, well they were.  Let me point you to a blog about all things Vienna for pictures that do better justice to the beauty of this city:






YES, IT STILL HAPPENS

TOURIST TRAP ALERT....NOT THAT SPECIAL

AM GRABEN

FAMOUS

TAKE A RIDE

SHE FED THEM CARROTS. HAPPY HORSES

A GREAT INSTITUTION

ANTIQUE POCKET WATCHES

VINTAGE BLING

SHOW KITCHEN AT THE DEMEL PASTRY SHOP


THE SHOP

JOSEPH BROT DISPLAY (NOT GF)

AT MEINL DELIKATESSEN

MUST BE GOOD ICE CREAM. 40 PEOPLE LINED UP

LUCKY ISABELLA WENT SHOPPING FOR NEW CLOTHES


Monday, April 15, 2013

@ 49




I turned 49 today. 365 days  prior to the half century mark. Not a really important birthday, just one of forty nine. 
No complaints. Happy & healthy. No regrets either, short of not having learnt an instrument when I could have.  Yes I know, it is never too late to learn, I am just not a late learner.
Having chosen a Nomadic type of life early on, gave me the opportunity to see the world at an age when most others start families or an all important career path. It was a choice, not more. Not  better or worse. Just what I felt was right for me. I always wanted to get out into the world and that's what I did. It may be a medical condition, a rare one, called "Nomad virus". 

Since we are on the road right now (See? It must be a virus....), there is no birthday cake, just lots of kisses from my family. Yesterday though, I did have a bit of an excess with chocolate (we are in Austria after all) and I am a bit queasy today, which believe me, feels much better than a hangover from too much booze. 

So. Onwards and upwards I go, now with family in tow. (Hey, that rhymes...) I doubt we will stop exploring, so there will be plenty to tell about for the future.


49

Sunday, April 14, 2013

TRAXLMAYR



No visit back to Austria is complete without a small trip down memory lane. This time around I took Victoria to a coffee shop in Linz that has been around since 1872 and where I spent oodles of hours some 30 years ago. 
Not much has changed since, still the same good service, largest selection of newspapers and magazines in town and a front row seat for excellent people watching. 
Coffee culture in Austria is slightly different from your average Starbucks experience where 90% of  the business is takeout. 
Here you sit, meet and talk, or read newspapers for hours and nobody will ask you too harshly to consume more or vacate your table. A novel concept for North America, where turnover is everything, but it does work apparently, how else could they have stayed in business longer than 140 years.....in the same family no less.

During the times when I worked in that city, Cafe Traxlmayr was the place to meet. The now dedicated smoking section used to be a chess playing area where at all times of day you would be able to engage or watch a game.  If you wanted to be reachable pre cell phone era, you'd just leave the Cafe's phone number at your office or home and the staff would page you in case  someone called for you. I think a lot of people just had themselves called to show off that they can hang out at a coffee shop all day. 

Linz is not the most touristy town, but if you find yourself on the road through Austria, it's worth a stop and then of course a coffee here is great idea. 
The place as quite busy Saturday afternoon and I did not want to take too many shots, so here is a link to their website.





OUR FAVORITE CAFE IN LINZ

PACKED TERRACE


PLENTY OF NEWSPAPERS TO READ

ALL DRINKS SERVED ON SMALL TRAYS

YOU CAN SIT THERE FOR HOURS

VICTORIA'S SNACK. HAM & EGGS

THE ORIGINAL PHONE BOOTH