Monday, July 23, 2018

Not so tiny bubbles

During one of our recent rain storms, during which some big raindrops fell, I noticed these bubbles forming in a puddle in the road outside our kitchen window. I thought they were interesting, so I went to get the camera. As soon as I did that a car went by, through the puddle, and obliterated the bubbles. Fortunately, they formed again in a minute or two. Life is so exciting around here...

Plop, plop.

Ken and I have been thinking about how to deal with our current zucchini glut. He gave four more away to another neighbor yesterday. Today we plan to grate a couple of the squash and make zucchini fritters for lunch. I made a list of some other ways to eat zucchini that includes batter-fried, baked into a casserole with corn, stuffed, and broiled with garlic, spices, and cheese. The next few days will be like a zucchini-palooza.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tomatoes from the heart

This variety of tomato is called corazón which, I believe, means "heart" in Spanish. It's shaped a little like a heart, and has distinctive ridges from top to bottom. And it's not the only heart in the garden. We also have cœur de bœuf (bull's heart) tomatoes. They are also heart-shaped, but with smooth skins, no ridges. I've grown those before, but this is the first time for the corazón.

You have to imagine the heart shape. The point is at the top in these corazón tomatoes. The point is at the bottom in the other variety, cœur de bœuf. They'll start turning red soon, I hope.

Ken and I were very productive yesterday, working to clean the utility room and also the drains under the house. The drains are working fine, but it's good to blast them clean once a year to keep them that way. Now we've got to put most of what we moved out of the utility room back in, and sort through what can go to the dump or to the recycle center.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

And the livin' is easy

Summertime. We're enjoying the weather. It's often a little too uncomfortable for sleeping, but that comes with the territory. Last night was nice and cool. Our big rain from Thursday night will start the grass (and weeds) growing again, so I'll likely have to mow before too long. But I get a couple days off from watering the vegetable garden.

The wild chicory is blooming all over the place now.

There are a lot of chores to do, as well. We have to clean out our utility room, something we try to do once or twice a year. The floor gets gritty because that's where the animules enter the house and where Tasha gets cleaned up after a wet walk. I want to clean out the drains to keep them running freely, and we have a drain inspection next week to ensure that there's no rainwater going into the sewer system. I have a dentist appointment and a stress test in a few weeks. The teeth need cleaning and I lost a filling, so that will have to be dealt with. The stress test is a follow-up to my recent visit to the cardiologist for a check-up. All is well, just routine, given my family history.

And this weekend I'm cat sitting for a neighbor again. It's pretty easy, just letting the cat in and out of her house and making sure she's fed twice a day. Otherwise, we're harvesting zucchini and beans from the garden, eating some and processing some for the freezer.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Gad-zukes!

The zucchini plants are in full swing right now. I've picked about two a day this week; this morning I picked five more. Yikes! We were able to give four away yesterday to neighbors. I've been grilling them, I've made a tabbouleh-style salad with some, we've baked some into a lasagna, made some ratatouille, stir-fries with zukes, and even made a zucchini pie. We'll likely make stuffed zucchini and zucchini fritters soon. I've blanched and frozen several of them to eat later in the year.

There's plenty of Swiss chard in the garden, and the tomatoes are getting bigger. I picked a bunch of green beans yesterday.

I guess that three plants are too many, even though there were three plants last year (plus a fourth if you count the lemon squash). Come to think of it, there is still some grated zucchini in the freezer from last year (zucchini bread!).

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Orly ordeal

Our day had two goals. The first was to see some of Versailles. As you've seen, we did. The second goal was to get Sue to Charles de Gaulle airport. She had a flight out to California the next day, and had made reservations for the night at an airport hotel. That worked out, too, but it was much less fun.

The gardener's house in Marie Antoinette's hamlet at Versailles.

The problem was that the SNCF (the French national railway) was on strike. That meant that trains were not running normally. We decided to go to Versailles as part of driving Sue up to the Paris region because the regular direct trains from where we live to the airport were not running. Sue would have had to cross town to change trains in Paris with her luggage, not a good option. There was also a suburban train near Versailles that normally has a direct train through the city to the airport, but that wasn't running either, requiring another change in the city to get an airport train. And because the trains were on strike, driving around Paris from Versailles to the airport (and back for me) promised to be a traffic nightmare.

The mill, with it's non-working water wheel.

Ken had found another option on the internet. There is a bus that runs directly between Orly airport, south of Paris, to Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris. The bus company advertised that their drivers handle luggage for passengers, so Sue would not have to schlep her bags onto a bus. Orly airport is about a half-hour drive from Versailles in normal traffic. My plan was to leave Versailles before rush hour, get Sue's ticket and see her off on the bus, then get out of the Paris region as quickly as I could. The best laid plans...

What I didn't know was that Orly is in the middle of a giant renovation. They're building two new train lines into the airport to connect it directly to central Paris. The main parking garage in front of the terminal was closed. Car traffic through the airport crawled. I asked a guy that was helping direct traffic what to do. He said to just park in the passenger drop-off area and leave the car briefly. It took a good fifteen minutes to crawl about a hundred yards to the drop-off area. I found a spot for the car and we went into the terminal. First we had to go downstairs to the arrivals level, where the bus stops are. Once we found the elevators (remember, we had luggage), they were out of order. An uniformed airport employee standing (and smiling) in front of the bank of three non-working elevators politely directed us to a second bank of elevators at the other end of the terminal. Once we found them, they too were out of order. All three of them. A clone of the first airport employee was standing in front of them as well. Smiling.

So, we found a stair and, with a rush of adrenaline, I carried Sue's big bag down the stairs. I'm glad I didn't have to carry it up. We made our way toward where the bus stop was and along the way Sue spied the ticket machine. She bought her ticket without any problem and we went outside to the stop which was pretty much where it was supposed to be. According to the sign, the next bus to CDG airport would come by about a half-hour later. I got nervous about the car being parked in the passenger drop-off for so long, so I decided to move it while Sue waited for the bus. I told her: if I'm delayed, and the bus comes while I'm gone, get on it! We said our good-byes, but I assured her I'd be back, if only to make sure she wasn't still waiting or stranded.

Well, getting around the airport took forever. Every parking area I found was either full or closed. I pulled into one open parking garage only to see, once I was at the entrance barrier, that it was for monthly subscribers only and, since I had no ticket, I had to back the car out. What fun! Traffic moved at a snail's pace. The time for Sue's bus to leave came and went (I actually saw the buses go by me on their way to terminal in the restricted bus-only lanes). When I made it back to the original passenger drop-off area, I parked the car again and went into the terminal, back to the stairs to change levels (no elevators, remember?) and hurried to the bus stop. No Sue. I assumed the bus came and she got on it as planned. The only thing to do now was to go home. I got out of the airport and on my way south on the autoroute. Traffic was heavy, but not too bad, and about two and a half hours later I was home.

I decided to call Sue at her hotel to make sure she had made it. The hotel phone went unanswered for about a half-hour. I'd get voice mail, then after a minute or two of waiting, the line disconnected itself. Finally, I got a person on the line who told me that there was no Ms. N. at the hotel, and there was no reservation under her name. WTF? I verified my information and called back. When I finally got through again, the same woman scolded me, saying that she had already told me there was no Ms. N. at the hotel nor was there any reservation. I insisted that there was a reservation. She asked for the reservation number. I fumbled around but couldn't find it, so I hung up. Then, of course, I immediately found the reservation number. I called back once again and read the number to the lady at the desk and, presto! I heard Sue's voice say, "Hello?"

She told me the bus arrived on time, the driver helped her with her bag, and they drove up to CDG without any hassles. She checked into the hotel and was settled in. Boy, was I relieved! All's well that ends well, eh?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Sue and I didn't have time to spend at either of the Trianons. We made a bee-line to the hameau (hamlet) at the far end of the park. First, we took a walkway that led to the farm. The animals were all in their pens: cows, goats, sheep, and chickens. I read that the farm was restored to its original state between 1992 and 2006. Still, some of the buildings had sections of their roofs missing and some were protected by tarps. I wonder if they were damaged in the recent spring storms?

The farm seen from across the cow pasture. There's a vineyard parcel just visible on the right.

Next to the farm is the actual hamlet where Marie Antionette enjoyed time away from the château and her responsibilities as queen. The buildings in the hamlet have just undergone a very thorough renovation. Ken and I saw a television program about the Petit Trianon and the hamlet just a few weeks ago that showed a little of the renovation, inside and outside of the buildings. I saw on the news the other day that the main house in the hamlet, called the queen's house, is getting its finishing touches, but the interior will only be open to guided tours.

The hamlet itself from across the artificial lake, the queen's house is the building on the right.

We spent some time walking around the impeccably maintained vegetable and flower gardens that surround the hamlet buildings. We saw the observation tower, the gardener's house, the dairy, the mill (with its fake water wheel), the queen's house, and others, all only from the outside. We could have spent a lot more time, but we were on a mission. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trianon

It's hard for me to remember, exactly, my experience of Versailles in the early '80s. I didn't really have a grasp of the history of the place, apart from it starting out as the hunting lodge of Louis XIII and being transformed into the seat of French government by Louis XIV. Bits and pieces of my first visit come back to me, but probably what made the most impression was the size and scale of the domain.

The entrance courtyard at the Grand Trianon. We didn't go in, just looked from outside.

I was surprised last month to learn the château and the Trianon complex have their own entrance fees as if they're separate attractions. So, when Sue and I decided to go see Marie Antoinette's hamlet, we had to get an additional ticket to enter. We also had to wait a while because the Trianons didn't open until noon. We walked from the entrance to the Petit Trianon over to the entrance to the Grand Trianon while we waited. We also decided to grab a bite before going in. There is a small restaurant at the entrance that offers pre-made sandwiches and salads. We enjoyed that!

With the Grand Trianon at my back, this is the road that leads past the Petit Trianon and the hamlet.

I also did not know what the word "Trianon" means. Apparently, there was once a village in the area called Trianon. That village was annexed into the domain of Versailles by Louis XIV and destroyed so the park could be expanded. All that remains is the name.