Chinon and Being Flung Back to Reality

They need to come up with a way of easing you back into reality after a fabulous holiday.  Air France does not know how to do this.  In fact their goal seems to be the opposite of my wish.  I thought my husband might have been over cautious about the time we headed out in the morning to begin the long journey back stateside.  I didn’t mind as I thought it would give us plenty of time to have dinner before boarding.  You would think I was a rookie at traveling or something.

Now flying over on Air France was pretty decent.  Newer plane, it even had foot rests back in the cattle section, and the crew was pleasant.  And, get this, the food was edible!  Well, for airplane food.  See why I thought everything would be civilised for the trip back?

Whole other story on the return trip.  If you aren’t first class or priority for Air France in Paris they become very lazy in providing help.  They expect us to do it all with kiosks and self checking the baggage.  Which means weighing it, scanning it, reshuffling stuff, stand around and hope you can get help.  Then finally watch your bags leave.  This took forever.  And we needed to change the seats.  The kiosk wouldn’t do it so we had to find someone to help.  Now we are feeling bedraggled as we work our way out of that area only to go past the priority where they have several people helping out the passengers as they sit comfortably at desks.  Grrr.

Nothing decent to eat really at the airport and we were running out of time even with the delay.  Now this was a 747 fully booked.  When we flew over they called boarding by rows.  Which prevents people from having to climb over each other.  Not this time.  Everyone queue up and hope for the best.  No surprise it took longer to board.  The delay was because the plane was late coming in and they had to clean it.  What they were cleaning I don’t know but I was lucky to have wipes with me so I could wipe the food and dirt off the tray table, arm rests, etc.  Just gross.  It was an old plane so things were broken and the entertainment system for my husband didn’t work so we switched back and forth during the flight.

Reality was a swift kick up the backside!

So forgive me if I want to wander back to France and enjoy the memories. 🙂  One of the places we visited was Chinon.  Everyone we spoke to said we should visit.  I’m glad we did as it was a neat place.  The imposing fortress overlooking the town dated from the 10th century though evidence suggests people have been there for a few thousand years.

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What was fascinating to me was that they were saying this was the seat of the Legend of Arthur.  I’ve seen a documentary that said there was some evidence that Arthur could have been a French legend but nothing for certain.  But by and large I’ve always thought of it as an English legend.  Of course some of our kings ruled from this area.  But this was what they were going with.  The kids had fun with it.

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For me the real history was fascinating enough.  Joan of Arc was here.  Charles VII was staying at the fortress when she was having her visions and she went to him and convinced him to let her lead an army.

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They even have a transcript of her trial for heresy.

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Quite a bit of the fortress is still standing though extensive renovations have occurred here and there given the age.  The Royal quarters is where most of the exhibits were held.

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The views all around the site were breathtaking.  And it was such a gorgeous day where you could just see for miles and miles.

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Of course all this trekking can make you peckish so we headed into town to find a place to eat.  I wanted a place where you can try new things and we were able to find that.  I ordered for a starter some stuffed mushrooms with escargot.

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It was very earthy but good.  They did a decent job with the escargot.  That is an ingredient which is very hard to cook.  At least that is my impression given how often it is screwed up.  My husband and daughter were brave enough to try it but I don’t think they were impressed!  For the next course I ordered a brouillard of eggs.  No clue what it was but I saw that my father-in-law had it for his starter.  I didn’t think I’d like it given how his looked.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I would say it was like burratta for eggs.  With bacon.  Can’t go wrong with that.

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We finished off the day going down the famous Medieval street.  They are private homes, many of which have been refurbished, but they survived the world wars.

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It was well worth the trip to Chinon.  It’s not a huge town but there is lots to see and it was great to wander round it.  Just a beautiful place.

Tanks Everywhere!!

We are having a wonderful visit here in England. Getting my fix on proper fish and chips, pork pies, and crisps. The weather for the most part has been gorgeous with roses in bloom everywhere.

On the day the weather was a bit wonky we decided to check out the Tank Museum in Bovington. What a place! Because it is the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI this summer and last Thursday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand the museum had a large exhibit of WWI tanks.

Parts of the museum were quite sobering with the displays about the horses being involved against the tanks. What a waste of those beautiful animals. They also had a display of items and letters that were given by loved ones, including embroidered silk.


The Marks were the first tanks to be a success on the battlefield. There were female ones with machine guns and male ones with cannon.


Here is a bit of Corunna which was a female tank.


An interesting and sad fact was that more men died of carbon monoxide poisoning than bullets or mortar when they were assigned tank duty. No wonder when you see how the engine was set up in the tank.


No surprise that by the time WWII came about technology was such that tanks were tailored to different needs. So the exhibit for the tanks from that era was massive. This tank helps clear mines. Can you imagine the racket it made?


This tank was a small two man that brought supplies round with a trailor attached.


They had a separate building housing many tanks awaiting refurbishment.


It was an impressive place to visit and would be worth another go round.

Sometimes First Impressions Are Wrong – Malaga

Our first port of call was Malaga.  I went to Malaga about 20 odd years ago and what I saw wasn’t inspiring.  The bus station was bleak and we drove past, on the way to Nerja, run down neighbourhoods.  I thought why on earth would people visit here?  Well it just goes to show what I know!  In researching what to see when we docked I found that I was probably seriously mistaken in my opinion so I was looking forward to the visit.  I was also looking forward to getting off the ship.  I get seasick on swings so it may seem strange to find me on a cruise.  I bought the wrist bands, a roll on thing for behind the ears, ginger candy and seasick meds.  And they had peppermint tea on the ship.  After a rough first full day I found my sea legs.  Turns out getting a hot rocks massage is not a good thing if you get seasick easily.  I found out the hard way!

We started the day at 6.20 because we were told we would pass through the strait of Gibraltar between 6.30 and 7am.  This would be before dawn but I figured the rock would have lights round it.  So off went the alarm, threw our clothes on, and dashed upstairs to find we passed it a half hour ago.  But we could see the lights of Africa which was something else.  Since we were up we decided to watch the sun come up.  It started to get light about 7.45 and it was beautiful.

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When we docked it was a beautiful day, little on the toasty side, but still lovely.  We walked to the old town and to get there we had to go through loads of gardens.  I’m a bit envious of all the blooms they were having as the garden at home was finished.

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Our first stop was the cathedral and low and behold it wasn’t raining or in scaffolding!  This has never happened to me before.   It’s either or both.  I thought that things were looking up.  🙂  It was an interesting place and I enjoyed walking round it before lunch.

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After all the walking it was time to find a place to have our lunch.  We wandered a bit looking at menus and found a small cafe just off the road.  It just had a few tables.  We each ordered a panini with Iberian ham and manchego cheese.  Simple but very delicious.  I knew we’d eat well off the boat.  It was one of the things I was looking most forward to.

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After lunch we headed over to the Alcazaba fortress.  This place was a maze of amazing gardens, rooms, pottery, and history.  It is centuries old with the Moorish influence.  The Moors built beautiful buildings so we found this quite fascinating.  And it was truly a maze of rooms and courtyards.  It took us a long time to walk round it.  We didn’t have a map so we just explored wherever we could.  I think we saw most of it.

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To end the day we saw the most amazing sunset.  There are times I am in awe of how beautiful nature can be.  I only had my iphone at this time of day so I wasn’t able to take good pictures of the 50 or 60 dolphins leaping about.  But boy were they having a grand old time.

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Malaga is one of the stops that we would go back to.  It was a great start to our exploring Spain.

Bacon Dressing and the Revolutionary War

Are you a loyalist or a patriot?  We were asked that when we went to the kids camp for lunch.  Little did he know!  My husband said pacifist but apparently back then if you said that people just assumed you were a loyalist and were treated with suspicion.  Now my husband doesn’t have any American history in his family but I do.  My mum is American and people have been coming over nearly every generation in this family since the early 1600’s.  Including me.  So it makes for an interesting genealogy.  There was a good number of my family that had to high tail it to Canada as they were loyalists.  They came back down about fifty years later.   You know, when it was safe.  🙂

Not sure if the gentleman playing the father of the camp noticed my Union Jack on the back of my phone!  But we were served anyway.  Lucky us as the kids did an amazing job.  They made blueberry jam, butter, cornbread, pickles and soup.  The soup was tasty but a bit much on a very hot day.  So I was wilting a bit at the end.  Loved the butter and the jam.  So yummy.  We were impressed with everything they did.  And it was hard work keeping the fires going so they could boil the water and keep the tavern guests fed.

After a hot lunch it seemed like a good idea to do a cool dinner.  I had some bacon to finish up.  I know, tough problem to have.  🙂  But didn’t want it to go to waste.  I thought I would have a go at some bacon dressing.  Once I started cooking the bacon the dogs got very focused on what I was doing.  Boy were they optimistic!

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To make the dressing I scraped the bacon fat into a bowl and added some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   I think I put a bit too much vinegar in.  It was tasty but either less vinegar or more bacon drippings.  Which would mean cooking more bacon.  But it had a brightness to it that went well with the salad.

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The genius of salad is you can tailor it to the individual taste.  My husband likes beets and onion on his and he’s not a fan of blue cheese.  So for his I added some jarlsberg.  I love blue cheese and bacon together.  A great combo.

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Very filling on a hot day and I just love all the fresh flavours of the veg.

Why I’m proud of my Irish ancestry…

Today there will be millions of people getting drunk.  Most won’t be Irish.  I debated going out tonight for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day then I realised, not only will a lot not be Irish, but a lot will be college students.  That settled it.  I have my Murphy’s here at home.  I’ll be having a lovely meal with my husband at home.

The notion of getting drunk like the Irish has always bothered me.   Aside from the fact that is a weird reason to get drunk, it’s a horrible stereotype.  Oh sure, Ireland has it’s fair share of drunks but so do most countries where historically hardship has been the norm.  I have found two drunks in my Irish tree.  That’s it.  And many more in the rest of the family tree.  And no my family history isn’t full of drunks but you get the idea.

No, what I like to remember on St Patrick’s day is the journey many of my Irish ancestors took.  The main thing is, if you have any Irish in you, you have some strong stock.  There is a definite survival of the fittest in play.  Though my dad, my sister, and I are from England my mum is American.  My sister and I joined the many generations of my mum crossing the Atlantic.  We had it easy though, the plane ride was hardly roughing it.  There is a term to describe the ships that brought millions across the Atlantic in the mid to late 1800’s.  Coffin ships.  They were packed with people with all their meager possessions looking for a better life.  Many didn’t make it.  My great grandparents, Margaret Mary McGee and John Joseph Morgan did it when they were young.  Not sure how old John was but from what I can gather from the genealogy Margaret was around 10.  It looks like she was an orphan when she landed.  There isn’t any record of her parents in the US.  They were married in 1892 in Massachusetts and had four daughters and a son.  Sadly John didn’t make it out of infancy.  Their youngest Elizabeth became St. Dolerine.  To be honest I’m not sure it was because she had a calling or it was expected of her.  She was elderly when I met her and a tiny little thing who loved her Dunkin Donuts coffee.

I forget the date when Elizabeth became St. Dolerine but this picture was taken on that day.  Margaret and John very proud of their daughter.

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My great, great Aunt Margaret was someone I’d have liked to meet.  My mum has a wonderful mind for finances and figures and I think she got a healthy dose from Aunt Margaret.  She was one of 4 secretaries for John D Rockerfeller.  Can you imagine the tips she would get!  He would dash out and say buy this and that, sell this and that.  Alas, she fell in love with someone who wasn’t Catholic.  These days it isn’t such a big deal but back then it just wasn’t done.  Her parents decided it was time for the three of them to leave Manhattan and head back to Massachusetts.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for her but she did it with grace and went back to take care of her aging parents.  In all the photos I have of her though she has a great smile.  Like there there is a private joke.

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My great grandmother was the eldest and I never got to meet her as she passed away 11 months after I was born and we were in England.  We all call her Mary B as her middle name changed from Agnes to Bernadette after confirmation.  She had a lot to contend with in life.  Her eldest, my great Aunt Myrtle, was very sick as a child.  She survived the scarlet fever and polio but it disabled her.  So Mary B’s family eventually headed to Florida where the doctors said Aunt Myrtle would do better.  By this time she was divorced and had to figure out how to make her way.  Back in the day when the “little woman” needed a man to make the money decisions she was able to get a $10K mortgage to start a hotel.  It ran for several decades.  She was tough as nails but she is thought of fondly as she loved her children.

This picture is of Mary B and Aunt Myrtle.

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Aunt Myrtle was full of vinegar!  What a character she was.  She gave the impression she would outlive us all.  We think because of the scarlet fever she lost the ability to feel pain.  Not very handy when you get old and you fall and break things.  Mum brought her flowers once and asked where she kept the aspirin so she could put some in the water.  She didn’t have any.   No pain killers.  Though that was dangerous as she never felt the cancer.  She survived that as well.  She loved to flirt with the husbands in the family and thought my dad was the bee’s knees.  She took over the motel when Mary B passed away and kept it going until she couldn’t care for herself any longer.  She lived until she was 92.  She was the perfect example of not staying down when live knocks you down.

My Grammy, whom I am named after, was a spitfire.  Her nickname growing up was Gingersnap.  🙂  A very fitting name for her.  Like her mother she was pretty tough.  Once, kidding around, I had my arm around her and wouldn’t let go.  I think I was 10 or 12.  I got a charlie horse for my troubles.  But she doted on me and my sister.  She felt that my mum had lots of promise, that she didn’t need to view college as a place to find a husband and settle down.  Grammy saw that mum hit the books after school.  And she was right.  Mum got into Cornell for nursing.  Grammy was also an amazing cook.  We have a lot of handwritten recipes from her which is so wonderful to have.  She was a classy lady who knew how to have fun.  For me she started the tradition of dancing in the kitchen while cooking.  I’d like to think that tradition went back further to the previous generations.

This is my Grammy in High School.

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My mum has carried on the tradition of these wonderful Irish women in fighting fiercely for their families and making sure we have all the opportunities to succeed ourselves.  My mum has succeeded in life in a way that would make these women proud.  It means their fight and journey to make a life for themselves and their families was worth it.  My mum has shown my sister and me how to be strong, that is it is ok to be strong minded (as all the women have that in spades), and how to make our own way in life.  From Margaret and John, who truly survived the unimaginable at times and forged a life together, we have a family tree with multiple cousins who all work hard and carry forward with the various successes but never forget the journey that brought us to this point.  This is why I’m proud of my Irish ancestry.