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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Short Getaway to "The Island"

We have had such a cool and rainy autumn this year. Yet the trees have turned fabulous colors.
My husband and I decided that regardless of the weather, we would go to Mackinac Island for an overnight getaway at the Cloghaun B & B. As luck would have it, we were there the only two sunny days in a stretch of gloom. It was a delightful visit. The afternoon "tea" and the breakfast fare was above and beyond anything we'd ever had before at B & Bs. Highly recommended!

Mackinac Island is situated in the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron "meet" or join, if you will. In 1670 a Jesuit priest wintered on the island. The British in 1781 made it a center of their military and fur-trade activity. The island was occupied by the Americans in 1796. Held by the British during the War of 1812, it became the hub of Astor's fur empire after 1817. Mackinac Island was already becoming a popular resort when fur trading declined during the 1830's. The Michigan governor's summer retreat is here.

Arriving by ferry, one immediately realizes no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island which makes for a very peaceful vacation. Bikes are for rent. Carriage rides and horseback-riding are offered. It's a beautiful escape to another era. I've included photos of the Grand Hotel, a retired Coast Guard ice-cutter which is now a museum & the Cloghaun B & B.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Typical Market Day

While in France we visited the Saturday market in the lovely town of Uzes which is about 20 miles north of Nimes. Besides the typical fresh produce one finds at farmers markets in the U.S., French markets also offer linens, clothing, soaps, meats, fish and street performers. People come from all over, make a day of it and stay for lunch after the vendors pack up. The cafes fill up quickly so it is wise to make reservations. Last picture is a sweet one of the children watching the mime/clown.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Storybook Villages in France

While hiking through and around the small villages and hamlets in the Ardeche region of France mid-September, I was amazed at the age of the buildings and remarkable way they are maintained for generations. I am posting just a few of many photos. The first is of the village of Banne - simply charming. It is situated in the foothills of the Cevennes Mountains just below the ruins of a Knights Templar Chateau built around the early 1200's.

Second is the very small walled village of Lussan where the well-known ceramic guinea hens are made. It is perched high on a hill for easy defense.

Within the smaller hamlets I found many archways connecting homes one to another. They are not large enough for even small cars to pass through but just right for a donkey with wagon.

Last photo is the farmhouse where I stayed for a week. Portions of it date back to the 1300's with the majority of the visible structure dating to the 17 - 1800's when it was a silkworm farm.
It has been lovingly restored with all modern conveniences and an indescribable view.

Monday, October 5, 2009

French Plum Crumble

Mid-September I took a much awaited trip to France. I traveled with a couple of friends to Paris where we caught the TGV (high-speed train) to Nimes. We picked up a rental car and drove an hour to a small village/hamlet in the Ardeche region where we stayed at a renovated French farmhouse, parts of which date back to the 1300's. This is an area where chestnuts have been the main crop since the Greeks brought them in 700 A.D. More recently the silkworm industry has been important in the area. Oh, and don't forget grapes and French wine!

Our hostess at the farmhouse is an artist/friend who also happens to be a marvelous cook.
Here are pics of the Plum Crumble she made one evening. She cut cold butter in chunks into the
flour/sugar/oatmeal topping mixture and mixed it all by hand. Dark brown sugar as well as white sugar over the plums. Baked long and slowly. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche.

First Frost

Back to the CSA next summer! I just have to face it.... my little garden spot does not get enough hours of sunshine to grow veggies. Most herbs do well and semi-shade loving flowers do well.
Between the chipmunks, squirrels, shade and insects..... not much to harvest. I did pick a half quart of green beans. The green peppers were there one day and vanished the next! Here is a photo of the full tomato and potato harvest at frost time!