Thursday, April 8, 2010

Baby Groves

(En francais un peu plus bas)

Yes, we are still alive, and yes, you have guessed, there will be 3 of us soon!
Philip and I are inviting you all to come and see us at the end of August, when our new born child will be welcomed into this world.

We have just found out it is going to be a boy, and of course, we both have very different ideas of what things will be like in 20 years time...

Bonjour tout le monde!

Et oui, vous avez devinez, Philip et moi attendons un petit bébé qui fera son apparition à la fin du mois d'Aout. Vous etes tous invités à venir nous rendre une petite visite pour nous dire bonjour et lui souhaiter la bienvenue.

On vient juste d'apprendre que ce sera un garçon, et bien sur, on a tous les deux, deux idées bien differentes de ce qu'il sera dans 20 ans....

PS: as usual, as our posts are as rare as sunshine in the Lake District, we will let you know when something new comes up via email, so no need to check before that.

Comme d'hab, comme nos billets sont aussi rares que le soleil qui brille dans la Région des Lacs, on vous tiendra au courant par mail si on y poste quelque chose de nouveau.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Buon Compleanno Valentina!

This post is all about our wonderful time in one of the most beautiful places in the world (but not as beautiful as Corsica... sorry Valentina!), Tuscany. People have always spoken highly of this little part of Italy and being a pseudo 'off the beaten track' tourist, I was sure that while I would enjoy it, and it would be a good holiday, it would ultimately prove to be a tourist trap where fat Americans, moaning Frenchies and pompous Brits would finally take their toll and confirm my belief that A list holiday spots are best left to the unadventurous and the hordes of bogstandardesque types (and yes I did just make that word up). I am delighted to announce, however, that I was proved utterly wrong: our stay in Tuscany proved an outstanding and memorable holiday which ranks at the very top of our list of 'must go back to' spots:

When Valentina, Tommaso, Julie and I walked into a bar and we were asked what we wanted to drink, my attention was drawn immediately to this can with a picture of a little man with his head on fire. Turns out I picked wisely and I discovered this delicious and flavoursome drink which can only be compared to Dandelion and Burdock. The barman did look a little surprised by my selection and Tommaso told me that this is a drink that only old men ask for. Well chosen I say.

The next key factors to our great holiday were the regular consumption of delicious cheeses, age cured hams and to die for wines.

The fact that around every corner ice cream stands sell the most delicious and mouthwatering gelati known to man were a bonus, especially when served in portions that can only be described as gargantuan and sold at a price that is akin to being one step away being free. Puts those Thornton's ice cream sellers who do their very best to put as little ice cream in a scoop as possible to shame.

As you can see from this picture, even the indigenous population get excited about their ice cream... greedy, greedy Valentina!

Now I cannot talk about Italian food without the mention of pizza. Quite possibly the best pizza in the world comes from this little restaurant in Florence where there is no menu, no wine list and certainly no pomp or circumstance. You go in, you are told to choose between two types of pizza (margarita or marinara) and two types of drink (fizzy water or red wine) and then the pizza is cooked in a wood fired oven. The base was not as thin as I had expected but it was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The cheese was gooey, the anchovies delicious and the wine spine tinglingly rich and fresh tasting.

Florence was a city where every turn opened up hundreds of years of history, beautiful architecture and stunning cafes to soak up the pensive mood of the city.

People who know me, will know that coffee can make me a little prone t0 highly energetic bouts of frantic behaviour. As coffee (especially Afogato which is a shot of espresso and a scoop of vanilla ice cream) was consumed on an hourly basis, Julie capitalised on my energy levels and got her wish: for me to get off my rear end, to stop 'soaking up the atmosphere' and to actually visit the country.

I was initially worried that Florence's reputation as being an art capital of the world would prove boring to me but as most statues and paintings were full of gore, violence and debauchery, this worry soon vanished.

Valentina was kind enough to led us her brand new car to vavavoom (I know, different make) around the rolling countryside and stop off in age old villages at our leisure. Considering neither Julie or I had a driving licence or passed a driving test, that was very, very generous indeed!

Wine. How often we overlook this beautiful drink. Italy taught us that no longer can a bottom shelf, randomly selected £3.99 bottle of wine ever be 'bloody good stuff' and the selection of this drink must be done wisely.

Julie took this to heart and to her absolute dismay, she was the one left to swirl, sniff, taste and swallow countless glasses of delicious wines. I was lucky enough to drive and so not have to put myself through such misery.

I am also pleased to anounce that unlike our trip Down Under, I did not have any close encounters with any individuals that could pass even a fleeting similarity to horrible, filthy, state sponging, washing machine boycotting, soap dodging, oil dripping, nit attracting, scabies infected, shoeless scumbag hippies. Hooray!

Valentina and Tommaso live in the really ugly and horrible town of Siena. As you can see, there is nothing special or interesting about it. In fact, I don't undertand why the Italian government has not bulldozed it all down and built something useful with the space... like a car park or a giant Starbucks for example.

As you can see, there were so many beautiful things to see and romance to be had.

The Italians are famous for their sense of extravagance and their sophistication. This is mirrored by their pigeons. Not content to drink from the water in the fountain, they demanded and sought out the freshest spring water... straight from Lupa's mouth!

This beautiful landscape above was the view from Valentina and Tommaso's kitchen. You may be interested to note that from our own kitchen we can see a decrepit shed with a mouldy asbestos roof. They win!

But the main reason our time in Tuscany was so perfect was thanks to the generosity and warmth of our hosts. Valentina and Tommaso welcomed us to their home and their country and they made us feel so welcome that we are certain to go back. So as a little 'thank you' we are going to ignore their request not to put up any videos. The first video is an introduction to our night's meal and the second one is brief window into the sort of meaningful and intelectual conversations we had together... and yes, they really do speak like that!

Finally, I want to wish my good friend Valentina a very happy birthday. I hope that you have a beautiful day and that you smile from morning to night.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Photos du royaume

It was a joke, of course, THIS is the post I am dedicated to you, big sister. This post is happening thanks to you; I had given up on the blog, not being able to make my pictures bigger (cf: previous post, with shitty little photos) but you have saved me. You knew exactly how to solve the problem: ask Thomas!
So it's only fair that I dedicate this one to you (and it's also because I'm feeling a little bit guilty because I've said for months that I would send you pictures of our new house, and I'm only do it now. As you can tell by my outfit, these pictures were not taken yesterday!)

Oh, any chance you could solve my new problem? How do I get rid of the underline. The icon is not on the toolbar and I've tried ctrl+u, but still nothing.

So, let's go back to the beginning....
It all started, in a little house, at the bottom of a hilly garden, by the sea, last July.

Thanks to Celia's amazing knowledge on how to manage a blog (aka: her husband), I managed to make my pictures bigger. So, the house with the red bottom-half, in the background, is ours. (Notice how suddenly, the underline disappears? This thing is driving crazy).

This is the first room you get in (through the wooden and glass door). It's a cloakroom-slash-office-slash-hall, and it features an original woodburner. Unfortunatly, it's blocked, so at the moment, we just have to make-do with being cold.
The second door on the left takes you to...

...the living room. The carpet is already reserved, sorry for the disappointment.
You are not dreaming, the ceiling (beautiful artec) is indeed beige/khaki, thanks to the previous owners being heavy smokers. The nicotine-ridden walls also add a comforting and welcoming smell to our house.
These pictures were taken on the day we were given the keys, and there was already a present waiting for us, that the postman had delivered on that very same day. Thank you Celia and Thomas for this wonderful house-warming present. What a great book, we just cannot put it down. (Revenge is coming!)

The kitchen, which you enter from the last door, the door near the woodburner on the hall picture above.
The floor was covered in lino, then rubber tiles underneath. What you see is the wooden floors underneath all that. This door is the second entry (from the left of the house).

And this was the space behind the cooker. Niiiice!

From the living room, accross the hall, up the 4 steps, and hop, here we are on level two.

On level two, left of the 'stairs' there's bedroom One. The Master Bedroom!
The carpet...

was quickly removed, as you can see on the above picture. The mirror too, was quickly removed.

Bedroom Two. Not decided what was uglier yet: the wallpaper or...

...or the double layer of carpet?

And opposite you, when you walk up the grand staircase, the bathroom and toilets, jeust next to it. The wall between the toilet and the bathroom is beig removed this weekend.

So, in the end, we are very happy with our buy. We know there is still a helluva lot to do, but we feel good here, even though a little bit cold (the heating still hasn't been installed).

We also have lovely neighbours, including the ones who called in shortly after we moved in and brought us homemade cookies and a lovely card. Very Brie Vandercamp-like.

And in the end, it's all worth it, just for the view at the top of our garden.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

leger contre-temps

Oui, je sais grande soeur, on s'est parle au telephone ce soir et je t'ai dit que les photos de notre maison allaient apparaitre ce soir meme...
Mais voila, y a eu la soupe a rechauffer, le dejeuner de demain a preparer, le porridge du petit dej a faire... et de fil en aiguille, il est l'heure de regarder un film (ca sera meme pas The Garden, puisque Phil me bassine depuis des semaines pour qu'on regarde sonprograme sur Churchill) et j'ai plus le temps pour les photos.
Demain, c'est guitar lesson, mais promis, jeudi soir, je m'y mets.

En attendant, ce poste, je te le dedicace :)

A jeudi si vous le voulez bien.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our own Taj Mahal

Dare I say that our blogposts are like pints of Guiness: they come to those who can wait.

It's been a while, and we've missed you. Thank you for being patient, and thank you to everyone who haven't yet lost faith in us and still tell us that they really like our blog and want some more. And lastly, thank you for our only two survivors, Thomas and Jess, who haven't given up on motivating us and wrote posts to encourage us. This post is dedicated to you, guys.

So here come the much awaited pictures of our new house/home/nest/Taj Mahal/ruin/den. As you can see, it's a bit of all of that at the moment. It's still a building site, and will be for a little while longer, but we already feel at home there. It's as cold as the cottage in Alfriston (no central heating yet), it's as cosy as our Nissan in Australia (we sleep in the hall way at the moment, as the bedroom isn't yet finished), it's as lovely as our flat in Edinburgh and it's stinks as much as all the student houses we stayed in when we were students.

And here it is... (click on the photos to make them bigger and clearer... for some reason they are smaller)

It's the house after the turn, which is half red, half white and has a garden that looks like a hill.

From a little bit closer. As you can see, there was a lot of cleaning to do.

It's not much fun living out of boxes. This is our sun room and most of our wordly-possession.
Most of it belongs to the kitchen (apart maybe from the lawn mower).

When I said the garden looked like a hill, Phil would say it's more like a mountain, as he's the one mowing it. (I say, it's character building!)

And you'll agree that it is worth it as this is the view that we have from the top of the garden. I admit, it's a bit of a treck to climb up, it's not for the faint-hearted, but hey, we have a sea view.

And we can almost roll down the hill and access our pebble beach (it's good for the circulation of the blood in our feet, albeit painful). We haven't swam in it yet, and don't think we will. At least, not until we have acquired dry-suits.