Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Let the festivities commence!

I've come to London with only my ipad, so the posts are likely to be short and (hopefully) sweet (and full of typos) for the next little while. I got up to catch my flight at the ungodly hour of 6.20 this morning (cue everyone informing me they get up that time every day) and am subsequently feeling quite sleepy. Just hoping I'm not actually getting sick, cos it feels a bit that way.

 I simply don't have time to get sick, because this kicks off a semi-whirlwind of social activities in honour of the thirtieth anniversary of my birth. I'm not usually a "birthday week" kind of person, but I decidedI should do something special for my 30th, and since my sister and a handful of friends live in London, it seemed reasonable to come here the week before my birthday, and then have drinks back inTours the week after. In between, I'm taking my first ever trip to a disney-whatever park, since Mary Kay let me know about the special free birthday passes they're giving out this year. And capping it all off, the lovely Mary Kay and her daughter will be accompanying me to the park and hosting a blogger brunch for me the following day! I'm definitely being spoilt this year :)

So my trip over today went smoothly and I tracked down my sister's place to drop off my bag and pick up keys to her place with no probs. I'd decided to spend my afternoon at the courtauld gallery, even though I app,ied for a position there a while back, and I think they never even replied to me. Bastards. Actually, that may be what gave me the idea of goi g, since it's a relatively small and low-profile collection, but filled with some nice stuff. I was expecting themedieval collection to bebigger, but otherwise it was a good size and definitely included some proper famous paintings, like that manet one of the barmaid (photo to follow).

I have photos but can't work out how to add them from ipad, so that will just have to wait! Currently hanging out at my sister's about to make some vege soup before getting an early night. It's cold and gets dark way early here, but loving the hustle and bustle of the big city, especially when there's a bit of christmas cheer in the air (but not too much, cos christmas begins after my bday!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Come with me on a journey through time and space

Hey, look! Up there, top right... I added a new page with some things to see and do and eat and drink (mostly eat and drink) here in Tours. Since I don't live in Paris, aka The Centre of the Universe, probably this will be of limited interest to everyone, but if you'd like to read a personalised guide to places Gwan likes to go in Tours (maybe they're the kind of places you'd like to go to too?), then feel free to click up there, or here, if that's easier for you. If nothing else, you'll learn the name of the bar where the old arse-grabber hangs out, and in which club you have the greatest chance of getting free drinks out of old hippies.

Other than writing Tours guides (see what I did there?), there's not much to report. I spent SO much money last weekend, I wanted to have a quiet one this time. All I did, really, was watch the F1 (what a cracking race! Whyyyyy is the season almost over?) and go to a Salon of Organic Wine at the town hall. This was quite pleasant, and I got to add another wine glass to my collection, but I felt quite sick when I got home. I'm not sure why, since I wasn't drunk or anything, but had definite nausea, shaking hands and heartburn. I think my body was rejecting the organic-ness, there's no other logical explanation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Farmer Gwan

Sometime last week, I received a facebook message from my friend Laura asking if I wanted to accompany her to the Tours Farm Expo on the weekend. Ordinarily, this isn't the sort of thing that would appeal - probably full of children and competitions to see who had the biggest turnip. But after a quick look at the website, I realised that this is France and thus naturally there was a heavy emphasis on consuming the farm-fresh produce. So I messaged back "I don't want to look at the latest milking machines, but if we can spend all day eating and drinking and maybe pat a few cute animals, I'm in!"

Such was our enthusiasm for the eating and drinking portion of the expo, we actually almost missed the whole shebang. We entered through the "restaurant" portion and, since it was after 1pm, decided to get lunch first, a delicious feast of duck sausages and chips. We then wandered around the different stands in this area for aaages, becoming slightly perplexed by the fact that, although the website had promised dégustation, most of the stuff on offer you had to pay for. We did stop at a couple of wine stands that gave tastings, and a couple more where you could buy a glass for a euro or two, plus we tasted the odd bit of cheese and jam, but overall we were a bit confused and disappointed that we'd paid 7€ to get in and weren't getting our fair share of free stuff. Although, after buying one glass of wine from a vendor, Laura pointed out that she had the same large, plush erotic die (which she won at a fair) as he did, which seemingly prompted him to offer us another glass of bubbly on the house. I guess he thought it was a good move to liquor up the owner of a sexy die. There's no arguing with that logic.

Anyway, when we had finally exhausted the possibilities offered by the outside bit, we decided we'd take a quick look in the expo itself - only to find that here was where they were hiding all the free food (and the cute animals)! Slightly kicking ourselves for having spent so much time outside, we attacked the tastings with gusto. Amongst other things, I tasted saffron whipped cream and chocolate with truffles (the mushroom kind). On both occasions, Laura marvelled at the distinct saffrony/truffley taste, and I honestly couldn't taste anything out of the ordinary. I suppose that means that I don't have to worry about ever wanting to blow a lot of money buying saffron or truffles though! I also don't really like caviar or foie gras, so I'm a cheap date. Although, later on we had a lovely little broth with foie gras, capers and crème fraîche in it, and it was just divine. I'm guessing that was cooked foie gras, so maybe it's just the pâté version I don't like? Another highlight was finding a wine section, where you could buy a glass (to keep!) for one euro and then taste about a dozen wines. I was a little bit tipsy by the end of this...

Actually, one of the best things was that we got to chat to a lot of people, and they were all super nice. The French do have a certain reputation when it comes to customer service, which is often not undeserved, but whether it was because it was small producers trying to sell their own products, or that they were pleased to come across some French-speaking foreigners eager to learn about the regional cuisine, or that they were just nice people, everyone was really friendly. And almost every conversation consisted of them asking where we were from and then proceeding to talk to Laura about their friend/cousin/sister/daughter living in the United States, strangely enough. One old dude even told us at least three times that his son, a literature student in Indiana, had been quoted in the French press about the US election, bless. (Of course, he wasn't the only one.)

Finally, we had a quick look around at the animals - and yes, even managed to pat one or two. And I succeeding in staying entirely ignorant of developments in milking technology. All, in all, a good day.

I had chicken for dinner tonight. Hope it wasn't this fancy lady

I got a picture of exhausted mum and happy piglet babies just before someone who was either a dickhead, or the farmer, or the dickhead farmer started kicking the side of the cage and startled them all into getting up. I especially love the piglet right in the middle with his little snout sticking up, so cute!

This sheep's a master of camouflage

These turned my teeth blue! (These were not on offer at the farm expo, this is out on the town with my ladies on Saturday night.)

Mini-Cheesewatch: I went home from the expo with a goat's cheese camembert. I've never even heard of goat's cheese camembert before. It has that very strong, mouldy feet-like taste and oozy texture which is obviously not to everyone's liking, but it is quite nice really!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! Before getting on to my evening, I have to give a shout-out to my Dad. It's long been a family tradition to make fun of him for his tales of turnip carving as a lad in semi-rural northwest England, but this year he finally ponied up and showed us all how it's done. After finding out first-hand how much effort goes into carving a pumpkin, I'm extra impressed by his turnip lantern:

And by the size of that thing, Baldrick would be beside himself

Moving on, I don't have that much to say about our Halloween festivities, except it was a lot of fun! Started off with drinks at Liz's (who made a huge effort with decorations, spooky food etc.) and then hopped our way around three different bars until 5 in the morning, when we headed home in the pouring rain. Feeling surprisingly decent this morning, especially considering the horrible straight tequila shot (not even with salt and lemon!) Max bought us.

Luckily my evil Frenchman costume was well-received by the natives!

A lot of them said, however, that they wouldn't have known what I was dressed at if I wasn't carrying a baguette around. The baguette cracked under the pressure of being under my arm all night, but luckily one of my friends came as MacGyver and duct-taped it up for me. How MacGyver is that?? And then I was explaining this to a 21 year-old Irish boy, and he didn't know who MacGyver was. Give me strength...

Me and Charlie and our spooky Halloween eyeball kirs

Liz, dressed in random spooky style, me and Charlie, who came as zombie Marie Antoinette

I don't know who the girl on the left is. My friend Caroline on the right came as Medusa and was a bit pissed that no-one knew who she was. In fairness, it's not at all obvious! The makeup was great though!

Caroline and Max. She's been going on about how I have to meet these guys for ages, and then we finally catch up with them and I totally knew them already. Tours is a small place.

Me and Caroline and sexy Pierre. Sexy Pierre, if you're reading this, give me a sexy call, k?