ooh la loire …


If you like rillette, you will love Hardouin. Whether it is worth a special trip to Vouvray to purchase it sur place is debatable, but as we were already in the Loire area visiting chateaux and wineries, it seemed the most natural thing to do.

What is unquestionable however is the beauty of Chenonceau – I doubt any of the photographs taken on my Canon EOS will do the place justice so you will have to click to the link to see the aerial shots, or better still, go in person! The Loire is driveable from Paris, but for a day trip I strongly suggest that you venture no farther west than Amboise to get the greatest bang per kilometer driven. We, however, decided to go as far as Chinon to track down the producer of Clos de l’Echo 1997 (Couly-Dutheil) which David was kind enough to share with us the night before, only to discover they are closed during the winter months!

Chambord looked nice from the outside – somewhat eerie for the time of day when we visited, with a low mist almost touching that highly recognisable, decorated roofline of Francois I’s royal pad.

And when we were not in the Loire, we loitered around La Défense, admiring the variety of office towers that line the cours leading down to a small but curious vineyard, overlooking the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.

Wandering around the 3e and 4e, we stopped for the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted at Jacques Genin. His atelier on rue de Turenne looks more like a jewellery boutique than a place to buy chocolates – see below. Ummm, methinks this will now be a regular haunt whenever we visit Paris. Go easy on the Tonka bean ones as these contain coumarin which is lethal in large doses – why is it that the nice things in life are never good for your health 😉 Dinner afterwards at Les Enfants Rouges (Rue de Beauce) was made more pleasant when washed down with a lovely bottle of Cornas 1993 (Domain Courbis).


Of course, no visit to Paris has ever escaped the generosity of our host David. This time, we were treated to Jaboulet Aine’s La Chapelle 1995 (Hermitage) which left our palates tinging with tobacco and leather, nor will we ever forget the youthful crispness of Pfaffenheim’s Sylvaner (a varietal from Alsace, but not from a noble grape family) despite having spent 24 years in the bottle! That’s what I love about David’s tastings – your taste buds are always challenged, from the sublime to the ridiculous.


bokehlicious …


What happens when you combine an old pastime (getting phissed on nice wines) with a new hobby (photography) … well, you get this of course 😉 It is so much sweeter when the new hobby came about as the result of winning a new Canon EOS 450D digital SLR on a Swoopo bid for next to nothing.

So peeps, look out for more of the combo above … especially as we are visiting Paris next week.

a new hope …

A wonderful day indeed – especially if your name happens to be Barack Hussein Obama. And what a speech! You go boy … the world is in awe of your ascent to greatness and we are expecting you to deliver on your promises. Not bad indeed for the son of a man who 60 years ago might not have been served in a restaurant in some states in the US …

p.s. Did anyone else think the prayer before the swearing in ceremony was a tad over the top for what is afterall a secular event – you know, references to Israel and the full Lords Prayer. And as for the Aretha Franklin number sung to the tune of ‘God Save the Queen’ – what was that all about?!

on proposition 8 …

Ok, so this is a much debated issue in blogosphere and social networking sites … but I’m bored with it now. And quite how a local ruling affecting Californians was allowed to achieve limelight status on the global stage is just beyond me. Yes, banning gay marriages is probably unconstitutional – but only if you are American and you behold Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal” as your pillar of faith in freedom, truth, justice and the American dream.

But here in Blighty, we have no constitution, and like it or not, our laws are founded on biblical laws (arguably past their sell by date) yet we are not immune to similar prejudices, for example the ordination of gay priests. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that because of our historical baggage, Americans through their Founding Fathers had the advantage of a unique opportunity to separate affairs of the State from those of the Church when drafting the Constitution: Proposition 8 is just one of many thorny modern issues that no one could have foreseen at that time.

So fellow Americans – count yourselves lucky! And just because progressive thinking appears to be drowned by bigots and zealots in the state of California does not mean the system is broken. The fact that you have a constitution should make you better placed to lauch a (hopefully) successful 3rd vote … but spare a thought for other less fortunate citizens around the globe who live in a environment that is still bogged down and handicapped by religious proprietary and legal precedents.

when to say sorry … not

I am confused. It doesn’t happen to me often, but today I am baffled … and for all my efforts to try and untangle and understand recent events, I find myself falling deeper and deeper into this … quagmire of very dark thoughts, drowning in an angry soup of paranoia that I never sought nor deserved. Yet, I must have caused offence somewhere … somehow … sometime. Otherwise, why would I be the recipient of such callous (or perhaps it’s deliberate) treatment from someone who purports to be a good friend?

William Blake observed that ‘It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend’, which if you look at it another way, sort of translates to ‘It is easier to hurt a friend than an enemy’ – hence a friend’s forgiveness is that much more difficult to secure. Well, if that’s the case poor William couldn’t have had many good pals because my definition of a good friend is one I can afford to offend, and yes, sometimes hurt – without intent or malice of course, and more importantly I should be able to be myself, say the things I I feel passionate about, without fear of any recrimination, nor should I feel under constant pressure to apologise for the titchiest remark made, whether in bad humour or questionable taste.

There is a line of course, a boundary of tolerance one should never cross … but for crying out loud, I’m not Russell Brand … I haven’t bedded anyone’s grand daughter nor have I taunted her grand father in public, on live radio … and this is definitely not a resignation matter!

So, I shall soldier on … in ignorance of the cause of this tension, and beligerant to point of becoming an arse that my principles on friendship are sound: that friends are there for hurting, and the best ones are those you can afford to hurt the most, and to receive nothing but forgiveness in return.

the demons of capitalism …

Unless you have retreated to a yurt in deepest Mongolia, it would have been difficult to miss the headlines of meltdown in the global financial markets in recent days. But, tucked in a corner of yesterday’s FT was a curious rallying call by David Cameron to not allow the ‘lefties’ to destroy capitalism by putting the blame of the recent crises on ‘this important part of the British and world economy’. Excuse me???

When Gordon Gecko espoused the virtue of greed in the 80’s, Wall Street was awash with city yuppies with fast cars, and faster incomes. Two decades later, it seems not much has changed – the financial instruments have evolved in technicality but the basic desire to get rich quick is more prevalent, albeit a little less transparent. Today, simple debts have been transmogrified into complex securities and bonds, to the point that no party in the food chain fully understands the risks … until it’s too late, when bad creditors default on mortgage payments and savers like you and me start withdrawing our hard earned cash from the banks, thus fueling a bank run like the one we witnessed on Northern Rock. But as someone observed, banks buy long and sell short – that is what a bank does – so when they to use funds from their retail business (our money, and ultimately our pensions) to gamble in complex products in the wider financial markets … AND lose, should we feel sorry when we see images on the telly of jobless bankers and their sad office boxes walking out of the building of a collapsed bank? I think not!

I suppose the irony of the Lloyds and HBOS merger is not lost on the ‘lefties’ either: in the golden days of capitalism, mergers were used to promote growth and now they are being used for reasons of survival, and in the case of HBOS, handed on a silver platter to Lloyds TSB with the full blessing of the UK government. Whilst I agree that administrations have a duty to maintain financial stability, I can’t help thinking that perhaps it may be worthwhile to do nothing, thus sinking the economy in order to teach banks a lesson in liquidity and risk management. The only problem is that the collateral damage in these sorry times are folks like you and me – people who would feel the pain from a greed we never subscribed to. And the medicine used by governments to cure this ailment? Oh, that will be taxpayers’ money too. Someone please explain to me how this is good …

leisure – a myth …

Do y’all know this poem by William Henry Davies?

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Surely there must be more to life than the weekly commute to London/Milton Keynes!!! Ummmm, I so need another holiday …