not waving but drowning …

At work we finally submitted our final offer on the bid I’ve been working on for over a year … and promptly retired to bed for the rest of the day to nurse the start of a cold which is undoubtedly due to a combination of exhaustion, lack of healthy food and very late nights/mornings. Miraculously, my cold disappeared when I tuned into the preliminaries of Miss World 2004, hosted in Sanya, China this year. You’ve got a week to cast your votes … but my money (or rather my lascivious tongue *lol*) is on Miss Namibia – an effortless union of beauty and brains! BTW, where is Namibia ?!

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bye bye cy …

I was tad sad to hear the passing of Cy Coleman, the prolific composer of musicals with over 400 songs to his name, including The Best is yet to Come and Firefly … and when Radio 4 played many of his hits on Sunday, they also threw in a Carpenters cover, a WWII song called For all we know – dunno why really, since Cy wasn’t directly responsible for this … Anyway, I’m pretty lousy at goodbyes, but this seemed an appropriate song to bid farewell to one of Broadway’s greatests.

brum brum …

Our annual pilgrimage to Birmingham this time of year for J’s gala dinner at Slimming World and to celebrate J2’s forthcoming birthday at Cadbury World saw us living it up in our own suite (equipped with jacuzzi!) at the Burlington Hotel on New Street. This cosy little 4-star luxury in the middle of a shopping oasis that includes the new Bull Ring complex is an absolute must for the ardent shopper and close enough to drop off shopping bags, and return for more retail therapy. And where better to get treatment than at the new Selfridges … it is simply an assault on sight, smell & taste – open plan themed bars litter the ground floor with a tantalising smorgasbord of indian, oriental, new york deli and of course there is the ubiquitous Veuve Cliquot champagne bar offering osyters with a glass of bubbly. Forget the continent – Christmas shopping can be just as good here, among the friendly Brummies!

french half-term …

Bonjour de Paris … Lille, Auxere, Chablis, Troyes, Champagne and Disneyland! As always, our visit to David saw us covering many more centres than our 4-day sojourn would have allowed. And afterwards, we agreed that we all felt rested and relaxed … even after the trauma of Indiana Jones at Disney, you know the one that loops the loops … backwards – geez, I absolutely hate that ride! But the rest of the time, we turned native and adopted local French attitudes as we surrendered ourselves to David’s kind hospitality and turned into singes capitulards mangeurs de fromage ;o) For me, one of the highlights was the sharing of a Cos d’Estournel ’89, purchased en place when we toured Bordeaux in 1994, when J-G Prats himself gave us a guided tasting. Then there was the delicious cognac by Michel Forgeron, a Grand Champagne at 51%, topped only by something labelled ‘Tonton Andre’ – a 40 year old nectar scooped from the bottom of a barrique that M. Forgeron acquired from his uncle when he took over the distillery. And that was just the first night’s treats!

The next day, we set off early-ish to Chablis, having abandoned grand plans to go further south into the heart of Bourgogne. A Moroccan lunch at our first stop in Auxere (a charming town btw) was lovely – my Zaalook in particular, cooked to perfection. But by the time we arrived at the first Chablis producer, I was fast asleep … and indeed remained so while J, David and the kids tasted their way through the region – a pity as I have since learned to appreciate this rather unique and steely presentation of Chardonnay. Troyes was our destination for the evening, but arriving later in the evening during the half-term break and on a week-end when Troyes was hosting a singing festival, we only managed to find lodgings in a spartan but functional motel some distance outside town. But dinner at the Bon Vivant more than made up for this inconvenience. Our first stop in Champagne was the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil s/ Oger at a producer called Launois, then another delicious lunch in Epernay, a visit to a superb cheese shop, Les Délices de la Ferme (rue Saint Thibault) for some cheesy comestibles, and back to Le Mesnil to see if David can charm the owners of Pierre Peters (which we had at the restaurant at lunchtime) to sell us a small quantity of bottles. She could spare some (normally one would have to be introduced to be allowed to purchase, naturally) and we spent a good hour there chatting and drinking what is probably the best vintage Blanc de Blancs I’ve tasted to date. The kids were beside themselves (literally), having been presented for the first time with their own tasting glass!

We also fooled around in Avize and took this photo of David. Later that evening, back in David’s apartment, we baked the Mont d’Or (Vacherin) as advised, by scoring the rind and giving it a good soaking of white wine and sat it in the a medium hot oven for about 8 mins. It was heavenly! We also concluded that foie gras, topped with melted Mont d’Or produced a remarkably pleasant combination of textures and flavours – David made a note for further experimentation. Disneyland was the destination on our 3rd day – the kids needed a run around and it was Halloween week-end.

On our last day, David took us on the abridged tour (which lasted about 2 hours) of Père Lachaise. He also reminded us that J1 once described cemeteries (after visiting Montparnasse) as ‘places where dead people live’ and admiring some of the great and sometimes ostentatious monuments to the rich and famous who were either French, lived or died in Paris, I found myself thinking how delightfully observant!