Sunday, 30 October 2011

Over 1,000 Views

Lillian and Audrey held a little party last night to celebrate this blog getting over 1,000 views.  

 Here's to our Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Avallon - Saturday Morning Market

Lillian :  The Saturday morning market in Avallon is really wonderful.
Audrey : So much lovely fresh, seasonal food.

Strawberries / Fraises

Artichokes and wonderful tomatoes / artichauts et tomates

Audrey :  There were lots of those tomatoes - so red and shiny and ridged - they looked splendid but not like the tomatoes we are used to.
Lillian :  I think they are Marmande tomates, one of the beef-steak varieties. 

Lillian :  We were in Avallon in early Spring - it was the 16th April.  The season for radishes (radis), artichokes and asparagus.

Radishes, large artichokes & flat swedes / rutabagas

Asparagus / asperge

Audrey :  European asparagus isn't green, it is fat and white ... and yummy.  The food markets in France are wonderful - even the cabbages looked great.
Cabbage & celeriac / choux vert & céleri-rave
Lillian : Our people were astounded at the range of vegetables and the freshness of everything.  We don't see some of these vegies in Australia - Trevise is a radicchio, the beautiful Choux Romanesco are ... well they are simply gorgeous!   
I've found a lovely web site about them here.  

Audrey : So much colour, so many varieties of things - even onions!  This seller had 5 different varieties of onions plus 2 types of garlic and hazel nuts, which the French call noisettes.

Melons / melons

 Audrey : In the photo above - bright yellow tomatoes.  
In the photo below - bright yellow plums.

Lillian :  Ah - Mirabelles.  Our people ate lots of those later on, in Nancy.  

The French staples - bread & cheese.  Such beautiful bread and so many different cheeses.

Audrey : Some of those in the photo on the left are Époisses - a cheese that is so terribly smelly, it is banned from being carried on public transport in France.  Our stylist has eaten this cheese and she says it is really very nice - here is a link to a wikipedia article about it  Époisses.
Lillian :  In the deli section there were some yummy looking pies and terrines and some poitrine fumée ...

Lillian :  Most of that produce was in the covered market building - la halle du Marché  Couvert.

Outside, in rue mathé, there were some clothing and bric a brac stalls and some wonderful busking going on - 


Audrey :  They were such fun and sounded great - our people bought their CD!  And the band weren't the only people wearing whacky outfits ...
Lillian :  Yes, there were random medieval folk wandering about - part of Carnavallon.  Avallon's 3 day Springtime / Easter festival.  All good fun and slightly anarchic.  We'll tell you all about it in a future posting.
Audrey : But now, back to the food we ate that evening.  Mostly bought at the marche, including some gorgeous fresh goat's cheese purchased from the young woman who made it.

 Lillian : It was yummy and really very cheap.  
Oh, a hint if you would like to self-cater during a holiday in France like we did occasionally ... pack a cork-screw (in your checked baggage) as most of the wine bottles have corks not screw-tops.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Avallon - Mostly about the églises (churches)

Lillian : When at home we hardly ever set foot inside a church but when overseas ...  
Audrey : Well they are often very lovely buildings with wonderful stained glass windows and things.

Lillian :  Wonderful patterns and colours - wouldn't they make fabulous fabric?

These are minor, side windows in Avallon's most famous church L’église Saint-Lazare 

The more important windows with depictions of saints appear to have been defaced - literally. 
Audrey : Even the babies!!  But why? 
Lillian :  Many things including churches were damaged or destroyed during the French revolution - I presume that is when these windows were damaged.  If we look closely at the saint in the middle (his name is written underneath "St Joahnes")  we can see that his face & hands appear to be scrubbed out - the glass is not broken. 

Audrey : We call it "stained glass" but really, it is sort of painted - coloured glass pieces with all the details added.  I guess that is how it could be damaged like that.

Lillian : L'eglise Saint-Lazare is a very old building - some  of it dates from the mid 1100s - and it has suffered over the years.  The bell-tower was struck by lightning and burnt down in 1589 and storms destroyed more of the church in the 17thC.  Some restoration work was done between 1860-65 and very ornate wood carving round the pipe organ dates from this time.

Audrey :  All that is inside the church - the front has wonderful and famous columns including a very skinny man ...

 Lillian :  Look at the drapery of his clothes!   These are wonderful examples of the Romanesque style and we all love this column - it almost looks like knitting.

Audrey : The tympanums are also famous though they are somewhat damaged.  But Saint Lazarus was restored to life 4 days after he died so I think his eglise could also be restored to its former glory.  

Lillian : Yes, Lazarus is sometimes depicted as a Bishop - because after he rose from the dead he went to  Marseilles and became a Bishop.

Audrey : There is another Lazarus in the bible and dogs are associated with him - sometimes the 2 Lazaruses were conflated.  Perhaps this explains this lovely doggy in a lintel on a house not far from the church.
Lillian :  It was like the dog was guarding the doorway, from above.

Audrey :  Houses in France often have little niches with statues - usually they are religious ones.

St Peter with the keys to heaven
Madonna and Child

Audrey :  The eyes of that wooden Madonna are rather spooky but we like the way she is showing her little one the bunch of grapes, like a good Burgundian mother teaching her son how to be a good wine-maker.

Lillian :  Religious imagery in France often depicts motherly love - many of the Madonna & Child depictions show a loving, teaching / learning interaction between the two.

This lovely window in L'église neuve de Saint-Martin shows Mary as a child, learning at her mother's knee.  "Glorie a la Ste Veirge" is written in the banner underneath.

This companion window shows a very charming family with the young Jesus admiring Joseph's carpentry while Mary looks on, she is sewing ... 

"Interieur de Nazareth"
it is also signed -  "A Vermonet  Reins  1896"

Lillian :  L'eglise neuve de Saint-Martin was built about 1650 but restored and enlarged in 1848.  Here is a side window -

  Audrey :  Isn't that pwetty! 

Lillian :  Our stylist found this - a very early harmonium perhaps?

Audrey : There was some great painting on the walls - some Trompe-l'œil

and a World War I memorial - showing angels amongst the horrid barbed wire, rifles, grenades ...

Lillian : It is signed Alp Jean Stival, 1920 and there are more photos on this blog - go the bottom of the page.  We couldn't find out much about the artist - Jean Alphonse Stival - except his dates 1879 - 1944.

Audrey :  Lillian, shall we show the people all the photos of the wonderful food at the Saturday morning market in our next post?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Avallon - with 2 L's

Lillian :  The Avalon of the Legend of King Arthur has one L but some historians think they are the same - see here.   Avallon was originally called Aballo  -  'apple' or 'apple tree'.  At any rate, our people love this little town in the heart of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and they think it is quite magic.

Audrey : I think they would like to move to Avallon! 

Lillian :  It is a very pretty place - the old town is on top of a hill, surrounded by remparts (ramparts) with watchtowers ...



Lillian :   The river Cousin runs at the bottom of the valley and it is full of fish.

Audrey :  The French people don't say 'cousin' like we do.

Lillian :  No - and they say Avallon in a rather unexpected way too.
Audrey :  The hill-side is covered with little walled gardens where the locals grow fruit & vegetables and some flowers.

 Audrey :  Avallon is quite a sleepy little place where men play boules in the parks in the afternoons - the men in the background here were quite young.


Lillian : There are winding, narrow streets with over-hanging buildings; many of them maisons à colombages (half-timbered houses) and as we noticed at Marie-Antoinette's Hameau  the French don't paint these buildings black & white but use more natural browns for the timbers and soft cream or apricot for the cob or torchis (a mix of clay, chopped straw, lime and sand).
 Audrey :  There are also a lot of cats ... tres francais!
Lillian :  Yes, and that kitty had been visiting the Costume Museum;  it is a private collection, very large - our Stylist went there and was amazed and delighted. 
 Audrey : Perhaps that is why she loves Avallon - a town with a population less than 7,500 and yet there is a costume museum and a Chapellerie (hat-shop)!  Our tour-manager nearly bought himself a very stylish Borsalino!


Lillian : We stayed at Les Capucins - very nice and the restaurant was great but I thought the garden was the best part.  There was muguet (Lily of the Valley) in flower!

Audrey : And this pretty flower, which we had never seen before;  it looks rather like a row of pink wigs from a production of "Hairspray"!   What is it Lillian?

Lillian : I had to research this one - the French call it
Coeur de Jeannette - the Latin name is Lamprocapnos (formally Dicentra) spectabilis - the English call it 'bleeding heart' or 'Dutchman's trousers'!

Audrey : Very cute - more about the lovely town of Avallon in our next post.