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Saturday, 7 January 2017

The coast in December

Happy New Year to all my friends and family! Thanks for following and supporting my blog, despite the lack of posts of late. How was your Christmas? Ours was just us two as usual but this year, after all these years in France, we went 'French' and had a shellfish blowout on Christmas Eve just like the French do. No oysters or yucky whelks for us; we ordered only the things we like - prawns, langoustines and crab claws. I've thought about doing this many times before but always imagined the supermarket on Xmas Eve would be a nightmare, but in fact going at lunchtime to collect our order it was just as empty as it usually is! So we'll be eating a la francaise again in the future.

For Christmas Day lunch, we again forewent the traditional turkey and had roast beef and yorkshire pud, followed by mincemeat bakewell tart. I made this tart three years ago and it was a hit - sorry about my rubbish food photography skills but here's the recipe and a better picture. If you like mincemeat it's really yummy and worth the hassle of making the sweet pastry - but there is no blind baking involved so not as hard as you'd think.

I did make mince pies but this year was a first - I made Mary Berry's pastry which is slightly sweet and has orange zest in it. It made a nice change.

What do you buy the woman who has everything? Some books about butterflies and moths of course, and a butterfly tea light holder. :-)

Right, onto the subject matter of the title. We actually took Mary Moho out three times in December! to the same place on the coast each time, although the photos here are from the first and most recent trips because the second time it decided to cloud over and rain. Yes rain, how very dare it! We set out in sunshine! So no walking that day.

We 'discovered' a new place; well we knew it existed from having looked at google earth, but hadn't explored around there yet. Not everywhere is easy to access or park in a moho, but luck was on our side as we stumbled upon a real moho car park at Pointe du Meinga, which is halfway between St Malo and Cancale. There is a coastal footpath all the way around the headland (it's the GR34) and a farm track up the middle, as some of the land is used to grow vegetables. For us seeing fields of cauliflowers and leeks is quite a change! Each walk (coastal track one way then back via the farm track) took about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, so is a good work out, as the coastal track is very up and down and has some difficult rocky places here and there. I needed Keith's help in some places and the second time took an alpine stick, which was useful in the difficult places.

Here are pics from the first day we went there, and the beach is the one on the west of the headland. Either side of the headland has fabulous golden sandy beaches - wonderfully empty in winter of course!

Selfie time - who needs special effects - those rays are for real from the sun (pure luck rather than photography skills!).

This rock caught my eye - what kind of face do you see? I see a sleeping koala, or a squirrel with its hand stuck out.... people on facebook and instagram saw all sorts of things, parrot being quite popular.

The most recent trip was the Friday before New Year, when it was even more cold and frosty than the first time. Inland was rather foggy and frozen but it was a glorious day at the coast. This time we were able to park in a car only car park with sea view, as the height barrier had been lifted. The following photo is our view from the moho whilst having lunch. Not bad, especially when you are sitting in comfort in the warmth, eating a hot picnic (Nigel Slater's chorizo soup/stew with crusty bread).

A view from the farm track...

...and the beach taken a bit closer from the coastal footpath. That white line is frost!

Steps leading down to the beach and a view back over the headland.

Back home the frost had not melted at all and the next day was even more frosty! I haven't seen frost quite like it here before, and to linger all day long is very unusual. This is chicken wire and that's Blondie the hen in the background.

We had to take Mary Moho back to where she lives, and K had heard that there was snow along the way and cars had gone off the road into the ditch. Thankfully by the time we got there the snow had melted on the road but the whiteness of the harsh frost was even more magical as it was covered in a smattering of snow. It's very weird how you can have such microclimates as this patch had freezing fog which we drove through the day before on the way to the lockup. Here at the lockup it was back to just the normal white frost - still incredibly magical. This is the only photo I have of any kind of view, through the moho window of the barrier gate at the lockup!

Icy weather means a frozen lake, and our ducks managed to get iced into a small patch of water beside the fallen tree, which was out in the middle of the (thankfully) narrower end of the lake. Of course I had a bit of a wade into the water and bashed at the ice with my wellies, but that was fairly pointless and all I got was wet jeans as my wellies are not waterproof anymore. So poor K had to get his waders on and get out in the water with a long pole to break the ice, so that the ducks could come and get some food on the bank.

Can you guess what happened the next day? Yes the silly ducks were iced in again, cue K getting his waders on again. I'm glad to say some of the water melted a few days ago and even though it is icy again, this time the ducks are up the far end under the overhanging trees by the bank, in a sensible place where I can take them food!

We also had our tree guy in to fell some trees but I have quite a lot of photos so that'll be another post. All these photos are taken on my phone - I've barely used a camera since coming back from holiday!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Happy Christmas

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for a happy and healthy New Year 2017 xx

(I'm really hoping to get back to blogging regularly in the new year, but bear with me because I've been feeling like a hibernating slug!)

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

MoHo Trip No. 4: Loire Valley, Part 1

When my brother was staying with us in the early summer we took advantage to get away in the moho together. My bro hasn't seen a lot of France outside of some major cities which he's visited for rugby matches, and of course the Alps/Jura where we used to live. K and I visited the Loire Valley about 20 years ago so we were all happy to get out of Brittany and go somewhere else for a change. It's just about do-able for a short break (we had three nights) but as we soon realised, you really need at least a week, if not more, to see the area properly. It's full of interesting places, quite aside from all the chateaux!

Our first port of call was outside of the Loire Valley or the Touraine as it's known in France, but sort of on the way. My brother had done a bit of research and came up with a Japanese garden that sounded interesting. Well interesting it certainly was and I would never have known of its existence if he hadn't mentioned it. I'm talking about the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier which is just outside of Cholet, between Nantes and Saumur.

I won't go into all its history as that is covered in English on their website (and in more detail in French), but suffice to say it is the usual case of a beautiful garden falling into disrepair after the war, and being brought back to life by careful renovation work in more recent decades, following original plans and photos. The town council own the park now which is separate from the chateau, Chateau Colbert, which is privately owned. The gardens were inspired by the Edo period in Japanese history and this has been recognised by visiting Japanese horticultural professors. It is now apparently the largest Japanese themed garden in Europe.

We spent a really enjoyable afternoon here - whether you are into gardening/gardens or not, just come for a walk - and bring your camera!! Here are some of the many photos that I took.

Chateau Colbert (what a view they have.....)

Cloud pruning, as you will see in the following photos, was everywhere. I absolutely love it, though did wonder how on earth they managed to prune the many trees that jutted out over the lake!

The Pagoda

Khmer Temple

OK so how do they prune these trees then?! They must have scaffolding out over the water once or twice a year.

The bridge must be one of the most photographed parts of the garden, along with the pagoda.

A mallard having a preen of its beautiful feathers for the camera.

The far end of the lake.

From the far end are wonderful views back over the lake and the Chateau.

The planting was special with amazing maples - I fell in love with this tree and its seed pods (I don't know what it is, either maple or sycamore).

Of course there was a building with bonsai trees on display. There's a Salon de Thé and a boutique here too.

I didn't see many butterflies but in the sensory garden at the far end of the lake I came across these Meadow Browns.

The walk back on the other side of the lake - cloud pruning (if that is what it is called here) is still in evidence on these low lying shrubs. I love this style too but it must be oh so labour intensive.

The small purple tree here is 'my' Forest Pansy! I've never seen this tree planted anywhere else other than my garden and another in Rosie's, a fellow blogger's, garden in Scotland. Not very Japanese as I know it comes from N. America! It's Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' to give it its full name, known to N. Americans as the Eastern Redbud tree.

So that concludes the tour, but as I haven't any pictures of Mary Moho, here's one from home of K taking clothes on board. Well, it is a Moho trip after all....

More to come from the Loire Valley trip!