Tag Archives: shopping

Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Normandy, France

We have the most glorious place to hold the annual Christmas market here in our part of Normandy — the huge medieval market hall where the normal Monday market is held.

This past weekend — the 10th and 11th of December — was the annual Marche de Noel and we were quite lucky to have a relatively mild day with lots of sunshine for the two days of markets. Much nicer than a frigid and wet weekend, eh?

Enjoy!

The heart of the Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France is the medieval market hall in the centre of town.

The heart of the Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France is the medieval market hall in the centre of town.

Just inside the entry, I hadn’t expected to find a manger set up with LIVE animals (and very well behaved ones at that!).

Manger with live animals set up inside the Marche de Noel in the medieval market hall of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Manger with live animals set up inside the Marche de Noel in the medieval market hall of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The twinkling lights inside the market hall added to the festive air whilst shopping.

The twinkling lights inside the market hall added to the festive air whilst shopping.

Yummy cheese for sale at the Christmas market.

Yummy cheese for sale at the Christmas market.

Each stall in the medieval market hall was doing a brisk business.

Each stall in the medieval market hall was doing a brisk business.

A variety of marinated olives on offer.

A variety of marinated olives on offer.

Personalised wine bottles for various events like birthdays and anniversaries.

Personalised wine bottles for various events like birthdays and anniversaries.

More small stalls outside under cover.

More small stalls outside under cover.

The balloon seller waiting for some customers.

The balloon seller waiting for some customers.

A surprising lunch option -- sausages and beer from Germany from the town that is 'twinned' with Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

A surprising lunch option — sausages and beer from Germany from the town that is ‘twinned’ with Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside stalls in the Salle des Fetes across from the Market Hall.

Inside stalls in the Salle des Fetes across from the Market Hall.

Lovely Christmas ornaments for sale.

Lovely Christmas ornaments for sale.

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Photo Of The Day — The Carrot Carrying Man in Normandy

Just in case you wondered about those HUGE sacks of carrots in my Monday Market post, here’s a man hefting one of them across the square towards his car.

So when I wondered aloud if they’re for animals or people — Mark commented, ‘One would think that he’s a man with a horse or two!’

Carrot sack toting man at weekly market in rural Normandy.

Carrot sack toting man at weekly market in rural Normandy.

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Monday Market in Rural France

One of the joys in living in Europe is the quality of markets — no, not supermarkets (and those are frequently quite delightful, too!) — regional weekly markets where the products are straight from the fields or cheesemaker or butcher or fishmonger into your shopping basket. AND they are picturesque as well!

Here are a few scenes from our Monday market inside and outside the medieval market hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Calvados, Normandy, France. Enjoy!

Fruit & veg at Monday Market.

Fruit & veg including HUGE sacks of carrots at the Monday Market.

Market vendors outside the medieval hall.

Market vendors outside the medieval hall.

Feathered friends and pretty plants.

Feathered friends and pretty plants.

Shopping baskets (yes -- I'm going to buy a new one!) and flowering plants.

Shopping baskets (yes — I’m going to buy a new one!) and flowering plants.

And finally — the clothing on offer may not be to our taste — but someone must want it!

A variety of clothing is sold at the Monday market.

A variety of clothing is sold at the Monday market.

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From OMG to OILS!

May I just say — the roller coaster nature of life some days/weeks/months lately is adding to my quotient of grey hair. And smoothing out to much milder dips and swoops would be rather nice.

Two days ago, I discovered that thousands of dollars had disappeared into thin air — out of our bank account in a scheduled transfer — but then missing from the destination bank. Minor panic and some genuine anxiety set in. It wasn’t until last night when I could call across the world at 10 PM to that bank that was just opening at 9 AM in Australia that I discovered what had transpired. Apparently quite a lot of people were left feeling just an anxious as me when their own transactions also disappeared into thin air.

My personal explanation to my husband’s parents this morning? “The bank farted!”

There must have been some sort of security situation for the bank to completely lock down bank transfers — but five days later — the money was all back in our accounts and we had to REPEAT the original transactions. Can you imagine how many people were inconvenienced who were buying houses or businesses or cars or doing something much more complicated than our own personal banking? Still, it’s an uneasy sensation to not know what the heck is going on with your OWN money. A serious OMG moment.

Then today, a friend in France sent me an update from Brittany Ferries about an issue that might affect our own sailing in a few days. Under the ‘you couldn’t make this up if you tried’ category — the harbour in Portsmouth had been SHUT because an unexploded World War II bomb had been discovered this morning!

“Portsmouth to Caen/Ouistreham – Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth
16/11/2016 – We’re sorry to inform you that your sailing from Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth this afternoon at 16:30 has been cancelled. An unexploded bomb has been found in Portsmouth which has resulted in the harbour being indefinitely closed and your ship is therefore unable to arrive or depart from the port. The Royal Navy are currently in the process of dealing with the situation. Please call us on +44(0)1752 648637 for advice and to discuss alternatives. Once again, we’re very sorry for this inconvenience and we thank you for your understanding.”

brittanyferriesroutemap

I called Brittany Ferries for an update as instructed on their website — the Royal Navy has snagged the bomb and are going to haul it out of the harbour late this afternoon to detonate it. They said that yes, there would be a backlog of departures and arrivals that lasted into tomorrow, but they fully expect everything to be fine within 24 hours and weekend sailings should be normal. Whew! #europeanhistoryneverreallydisappears

What put me in a ‘Happy Space’ today was having a ramble through a huge homewares store after lunch and discovering a substantial art department! The ranges of paints made me say, ‘Oooooo!’ out loud and the woman who walked by at the end of the aisle had a wee giggle at me.

oilpaintsattherange-highlarge

You just never know when you wake up lately — you never know… but there is ALWAYS an opportunity for another espresso — right?

expressoatrange-highlarge

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Sometimes You Stop — Simply Stop

When nothing is working, flowing, creating any joy or satisfaction in your life — sometimes it is necessary to stop — simply stop.

The past few years have been a bit like that and it reached a cymbal-crashing crescendo this year. We knew in our bones that we were never going to settle into Australia, our options seemed to be narrowing instead of expanding no matter how we tried to manifest change, and we finally gave in and realised that we needed to sell our JUST renovated Mid-Century house, downsize, and go back to Europe.

Mid-Century dining

Mid-Century dining

Amidst all of that, my darling husband Mark (and yes, he has given me permission to discuss this) began facing the facts about his chronic depression and anxiety and he began treatment. He hasn’t worked at all this past year and it’s been a real juggling act financially. But I don’t actually care about that because the charming sweetie that I met almost 23 years ago is back — well and truly back. Having the gift of time was a blessing and it brought a clarity that may not have arrived if he had been juggling work and 3+ hours per day of commuting. So hooray and then some!

The lovely house sold in 7 weeks, settled 8 weeks after that, and we had a lot of decisions to make about what to sell or donate or keep and ship overseas. None of that was easy, there were moments of frustration, but at the very last minute everything FLEW out the door — from cars to refrigerator to furniture. Hooray again!

On that last night before the movers arrived at 8 AM to put our now-reduced household items into a 20 foot shipping container, we each slept for 45 minutes at most. We stayed up all night long to make SURE that it was all packed and ready — and there was still an overlap in spite of our best plans.

Once the men had left and the house was clean and ready for the new owners, we took the train from Ballarat down to Melbourne and checked into a pre-booked apartment by the sea in our old neighbourhood — the beachside suburb of St. Kilda. Something told me that we would need a few days of decompression before we got onto a long-haul flight across the world — and that was more accurate than I could have imagined. I was shattered and on the verge of being seriously ill. But we slept and ate and walked in short bursts until I was just about back to normal after 5 days.

Sunday in St. Kilda

Sunday in St. Kilda

On Melbourne Cup Day, we headed for the airport HOURS ahead of time and eventually got onto our 25 hour flight towards London. By the time we arrived, we had been awake for over 40 hours!

Again, I knew that we would be two zombies when we arrived at Heathrow at lunch time on the 2nd of November, so I booked us a hotel nearby and we checked in and slept, slept, slept. The next day we headed to Mark’s parents’ house on the east coast of England. That’s where we are now — still resting, still recovering after 10 days, getting ready to leave here on Sunday.

We’ve slowly and carefully picked a new car, bought insurance, reopened accounts, sorted out the banking, purchased proper winter clothing, and done mundane things whilst being spoiled rotten by Mark’s darling family. We are feeling very blessed.

The new car...

The new car…

We’ve arrived about 5 weeks before Christmas and it is rather cheerful to shop for winter coats and shoes in gaily decorated malls — especially when the temperatures outside do actually feel Christmas-y!

christmasreindeeratroyals

These aren’t new ideas, but when life becomes overwhelming — sometimes you just HAVE to stop.

We HAD to stop fighting the fact that nothing was coming together in Australia and it was no longer a good fit for either of us. We had to stop avoiding the fact that Mark HAD to get himself back to a happy and healthy state with therapy. We HAD to have those necessary hotel breaks in Melbourne and London or these two over-50 (and then some in my own case!) folks would have been in a state of total collapse. We HAD to stop thinking we’d bounce back after 2-3 days here in England and be ‘right as rain’ in no time. Um — no — it’s taking a lot longer nowadays!

You’ll notice that I have hardly posted for the last 3 and 1/2 years compared to the stream of information and photography prior to that. Australia wasn’t our cup of tea on so many levels — and I’ll leave it at that.

I have a book to finish and it might be a few weeks until I get back into the groove of posting a few times a month — but keep watching this spot. There are NEW things on the horizon!

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Unexpected Things on Rue Gambetta

Still loading photos online for the (fingers crossed!) upcoming launch of the photo website to link to all of our travels for the last 5-ish years.

Unexpected things that have made me smile immensely tonight as I worked…

Went to Google Maps and pulled up our old address in St. Girons and did a quick swish around the neighbourhood and astonishingly, the Google Maps car had come by on a day and time when Mark’s van was parked in our parking lot across the street!

Then I was editing photos in Lightroom and when I was cropping this photo of Rue Gambetta, I noticed a VERY familiar white van (with some rural mud from job sites splashed on the bottom) parked at the end of this section of buildings — and there it was again — Mark’s van. He must have gone into the bank because that’s the building with the curved arches over the covered veranda.

Feeling homesick for France right now because it is too hot to sleep tonight in Ballarat and Christmas feels so very wrong when it isn’t cold!

Ah well…

The curve of Rue Gambetta leading to the market square in St. Girons.

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Totally Terrific Toulouse — Part 2

Today’s highlights are a walk through the streets of the ‘Pink City’ of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrenees. It was a cold and wintery 3 days there, so you’ll notice that there is very little in the way of blue skies!

Today’s post shows you a few glimpses of the Rue du Taur area with its charming pink brick buildings, narrow streets, wrought iron details, and medieval history.

The origins of the Rue du Taur are actually rather grim! This was the street where St Saturnin, first Bishop of Toulouse, was tied by the ankles to a charging bull and then dragged to his death at the instigation of the pagan priests who were headquartered at the site of the current Capitole plaza.

The basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) is the large cluster of buildings at the top of the Rue du Taur and it is all that remains of a formerly vast abbey complex.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.


 

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.


 

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.


 

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

 

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.


 

Our journey down the Rue du Taur ends as the street opens up into the vast plaza in front of the the Capitole de Toulouse, a government and arts complex covering over 2 hectares (4.4 acres) right in the heart of Toulouse and rebuilt in the 1700s-1800s in the same spot as the original Roman Capitolium.

 

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

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The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

 

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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