Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Anchovy Sauce

So, this is sort of about France, but not really. The photo is a front door in Bourdeaux (Drome) France (not Bordeaux the big city in Western France). 

I always let myself buy a few magazines to while away the driving hours. I've also discovered the joys of bullet journals, though I am in no way as dedicated as some. As a compulsive note-taker this has been quite satisfying.

So, I read and took notes on (English) magazines while we were in France. I also made a notebook, but that's another post.

Wanting to eat more oily fish, which are healthy, and having survived a venture into (ick) anchovy eating via a recipe on The Frugal Scholar, I bought more anchovies, but didn't remember to bring the recipe (and didn't think to look it up). I happened across one in a magazine and scribbled it down.

Bill asked what on earth we were going to do with the anchovies and I brought forth this recipe:

Anchovy Sauce for 6

75 ml olive oil, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 150 g anchovies (drained), 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Heat olive oil on low heat (it burns easily), add anchovies which "melt" in the heat; add minced garlic and chilli flakes. Serve over pasta.

Simple enough. Bill was cooking so he used the olive oil the anchovies came in. And he halved the ingredients more or less for just us two.

We did something (else) odd: we took our bathroom scales with us on holiday in France. We've both been losing weight slowly and I really didn't want to find it all again while we were away. Weighing faithfully each morning kept us conscious of our choices.

The weather being really warm, we had protein and a big salad most nights. The night(s) we had anchovies over 'pasta', there was a handful of bow-shaped pasta in there, but it was mostly strips of courgette (aka zucchini). 

When I was a teenager working in pizza places I really hated handling those anchovies and I never ate one until recent years. They are very 'fishy', but having met and loved smoked salmon, I don't really mind 'fishy' and in addition, anchovies are oily and very salty. Oil and salt are two of my favourite food groups, so while I wouldn't have anchovy sauce every night, it is a reasonable dish on 'fish' night.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Mom's Birthday

Today would have been Mom's 99th birthday. I can't believe how old that sounds - about me, I mean, to have a 99 year old mother. It's crazy - until I remember she was 38 when I was born; what a relief!

I don't have a lot to say about her that I haven't already said. I'm thinking of her all the time in some background sort of way, particularly when sewing or cooking.

I remember as a teen setting out to become the opposite of her, mainly in that she stayed at home most of the time and was content. Now I'm very much like that.

On this blog it looks like we travel constantly, but most of the time we are at home. Bill goes out walking most weeks and to the running club. I spend a few hours at a craft, sewing or knitting group most weeks, and meet up with a friend occasionally for a day out. There are the trips to get food or prescriptions but otherwise we are at home. When younger I felt staying at home was 'boring' but I'm almost never bored anymore. 

If I'm not doing one of my many hobbies, I'm trying to learn something new. That makes me very much like Mom. I'm pleased to be able to say that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Last Day We 'Cheated'

Our last day in Basel had its ups and downs. We saw Jane and Chris off on a train to Zurich where they would catch their flight home to Sydney.  By the way, have you ever heard of the Gnomes of Zurich? I never had, but apparently it is a common catch-phrase that came up when we were discussing the whole Basilisk thing and Harry Potter associations.  Bill and Jane seemed quite familar with this phrase I'd never heard and they also related it to the Gremlins of Gringott's.  

It seems this is a British phrase arising after WWII when British politicians worried about speculation against the value of the pound. If you understand 'speculation etc' you're ahead of me. Anyhow, we waved good-bye to Jane and Chris, which was a bit of a bummer. 

Then we had quite a bit of time to kill before heading to the airport in Basel ourselves. The weather was not very nice. In fact about lunch time it began to pour and although we'd left our luggage in a locker at the train station, I hadn't been able to bring myself to leave my laptop in there. It didn't quite fit into my backpack entirely and I wasn't keen on letting it get wet, so I said I would buy lunch. 

We started out a little picky about where to go, but as the rain increased I just ducked into a brasserie near the Marktplatz. It turned out to be a decent choice, particularly as I had some Swiss Francs to get rid of. They took care of that.

It was hard to choose, but I ended up getting 'white asparagus soup' and 'meatloaf with veg'. Bill had some kind of exotic salad followed by sausages and wonderful looking hashed brown potatoes (only the Swiss call it something different). The soup was absolute heaven, though I'm not sure white asparagus tastes any different to green. I'm sure it was the huge amount of cream in it that made it so good. I was well full after putting most of that away and the meatloaf and (tinned?) veg were a let down after that. Bill's sausage was a far better choice but I wouldn't trade even that for my soup.  

I ate as slowly as I could, not wanting to go back out into the rain. When neither of us could swallow another bite we had to give in and leave. We still had most of the afternoon to fill. Bill led me to the Tinguely museum. Entry was 10CHF and to be warm and dry I thought it was worth it. But it turned out to be an astonishing place, even having seen the fountain.

In the main room there was a contraption, sorry, art piece, about 10-12 feet high with multiple stair cases, mostly metal, some leading upwards to a platform where one could go down some of the other stairs, but not all led anywhere at all. Underneath the frame was a collection of odds an ends that filled the space. 

Three months later (before finding photos to insert) I still remember a red velvet curtain, a doll that was past her best, a tacky gold framed painting of Venice inside a rusty guillotine and a large plastic garden gnome hanging upside down with his pointy head in a blue bucket (with lots of small coins thrown in, presumably by museum visitors for good luck). We walked around the thing several times, open mouthed, then climbed what stairs we could. 

There was a cord attached to a large bubble on the floor that looked like some sort of switch. Bill mimed that he was going to step on it, but there was a child half way up one of the ladders and I stopped him. Someone else stomped on that bubble a few minutes later. 

The red curtain opened and closed in front of the fancy doll. The guillotine opened and closed, obscuring and revealing the painting of Venice.

The upside down gnome spun around. He seemed strangely suited to do that with his pointy head as though trying to screw himself into the ground.

A person couldn't at least smile seeing all the useless activity going on with these pieces of junk.

For a long time, I thought this was the whole museum and did feel a tiny bit ripped off. We took our time perusing the gift shop section and there were some rather clever little gismos, but nothing we couldn't live without. Then one of the attendants said something that alerted Bill to the existence of another floor. 

That was a long string of large rooms each with 8-10 other 'art installations', films and newspaper clippings about Jean Tinguely. Most of the pieces had the bubble on the floor and there were about a dozen children (and more adults) who delighted in stepping on these switches. The thing was, it didn't always make the machines come to life like those street artists who stand immobile until someone puts a coin in their cup. There was an element of uncertainty, or perhaps of intermittent reward (like gambling). Everyone would hope to be present when the switch did work. 

Some machines drew scribbles with a pen on paper, others spun around, one shook a variety of appendages including an elderly and ragged pink velvet shoe. There were several like clock hands that moved continuously, but so slowly that one didn't immediately notice, and the 'hands' weren't affixed together nor did they move necessarily clockwise. There was one that seemed to have some sort of old rabbit fur or foxes tail affixed and when it moved it reminded me of one of my dogs riding a visitor's leg.  Except I could laugh about this instead of be horrified.

I watched part of the film about Tinguely and gathered that he and this woman (Niki de Saint Phalle), whom they didn't mention was his wife (or perhaps they did, but not in English) trawled garbage dumps and salvage yards in America and Europe looking for materials. One of the newspaper articles mentioned that he was a 'nihilist', which I don't quite understand except that it was sort of popular for a while. Several mentioned an exhibit in New York City that destroyed itself, which apparently rather kick-started the successful portion of his career. 

We both agreed it was totally worthwhile having gone to the museum, both from the incredible things we saw and from having the afternoon well filled in. I also promised myself that I would learn to do videos on my camera soon.

In the meantime, I found a couple on Youtube: Here  and Here.

We picked up our luggage and caught the bus out to the airport. Things were downhill after that, sitting for hours waiting for a delayed flight, arriving home to find our luggage had gone elsewhere.  I realised my glasses were packed (but I had 20-year-old ones that would do for a while), also my only house shoes and the charging cable of my lap top were unavailable for a couple of days.  Another couple with two very small children also endured that wait. Worse, theirs had started very early that morning. I was dismayed not to have my charging cable but things could have been worse. From the other woman's expression and her giggle, I would have bet money she'd packed her birth control pills in her checked / lost luggage...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Swimming in the Rhine

Well, I must confess that I am bored with Switerland, hence my absence here. Also, after being away in France for a month there has been much to do around the house, laundry, garden and social-life-wise.

There are still a couple of things to share about Basel that I wouldn't want to leave off. There are still a million photos I could show you, but it's tedious. Instead, I will give you this link. You can use Google maps to walk each of those routes and the leaflet will tell you about the men they were named for and the sights you are seeing.

One day we, the four of us, had completed yet another walk that somehow ended back at the riverside and we had a drink at a sidewalk cafe. A tidy young man, short of stature but with all sorts of bulging muscles approached us. He politely asked if we were going to be there for a while, maybe 10-15 minutes? He explained that he wished to go for a swim in the river, but needed someone to look after his things. We were about to leave, but said we could stay since we had no pressing reasons not to and he was so courteous and speaking very good English. 

Then it got a bit strange. He thanked us and then apologised that he needed to change into his swimming costume, which would require him to strip off. He said he would be quick and mentioned that it was actually legal for people to be naked within 500 meters of the Rhine. I've been unable to confirm that statement but apparently nudity in Basel generally isn't illegal. I'd check that before ripping off your clothes, mind. 

We were generally speechless by then and he was quick about it. He did his quick change behind me, so I missed it all. I was of course moderately curious but felt it was beneath my dignity to turn around and gawp. Chris burst out laughing and the young man was so quick about it he was well down the road by the time I had my camera out. I thought Jane's face said it all.

I went closer to the riverside to see where the young man was going to launch himself. We'd previously seen a couple of teenage boys drifting down the river on some sort of floats. The tide was, as I mentioned about the boats on strings, quite swift, and the idea of going for a swim seemed a bit mental. Well, perhaps in keeping with his behaviour so far. We were all worried about how we would get out once in. 

We needn't have worried. He might have done maybe 400 meters in the water (drifting more than swimming, I would say) before attaching himself to one of the boat piers and hauling himself out. The boat driver seemed acquainted with this practice and perhaps with the young man specifically. 

We were all laughing a lot. In part because of the spectacle we'd just witnessed - well most of us - but also because for some reason Chris had decided to get back down on hands and knees to test the temperature of the water. This wasn't unusual for Chris except that he'd been having trouble with his back, I forget what he did to injure it, and none of us - including Chris - were at all sure he would be able to stand back up. I couldn't decide which of these characters was more ridiculous.

Jantz and Chris both survived just fine. And we all agreed that it had been a very interesting day.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Museums We Didn't Visit and a Fountain We Did

I generally learn a lot from Jane and Chris when we travel together. Sometimes this is about what might be good value for money, but mostly I learn more about how not to spend it. For example, they won't pay admission fees to any museums. I'm fine with this most of the time, but now and then I think there are things worth paying a nominal fee to see, especially if they let me take photos and feel as though I brought something beautiful home with me.

Basel fine arts museum

We didn't visit the fine arts museum, though we walked past it any number of times. 

We poked our noses through the doorway, but stopped and
turned at the payment window.

Across the road was a very strange looking building with almost no windows.

Bill told me it was the new annex built to house priceless art works that could be displayed without danger of exposure to sunlight. I haven't looked it up to confirm this, but it is the only sensible explanation for the weird lack of windows, except perhaps a prison.

We passed by the Paper Mill museum and I would probably have liked to have visited it, but it was shut for lunch when we were there anyhow, so never mind about that. 

I snapped a couple of photos through the window. 

The phrase 'paper MILL' trips off the tongue with familiarity and I do generally know how paper is made. 

In spite of realising paper manufacture involves using a lot of water, I somehow never associated a water wheel with it. Duh. 

(According to Trip Advisor ratings, it would have been good).

We didn't go in this rather scary looking place called the Spielzeug Welten Museum. 

From the window display I thought it must be something about war, given the violent looking characters on display in the window. 

Then again, there was a sweet little carved sign outside. 

My party was advancing without me so there wasn't time to discuss. Turns out it was a toy museum.

One day on our wanders Chris and Jane took us to see something they'd discovered outside the Tinguely museum. Of course we didn't go inside it, but the water fountain outside was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. My photos really don't do it justice, so I found you a video. I'm not sure the link works properly. If not, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk5ck-8YTvg 

It was a great place to sit and have lunch! Almost as good as the fountain was watching the reaction of other visitors. 

My favourite.

The Tinguely museum.

 More about Tinguely later...

We didn't go into the museum of Roman artefacts either, but Chris had a look at part of the archaeological dig on display. Hilarious on several levels, but impressive; I hope I can get all the way down and all the way back up when I'm 71 1/2.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Into Each Life Some Rain...

No, it didn't actually rain, but did you ever have one of those days that you wish you could move it to the end of your life and then die before you got there?

After so many good days together, we split up. Jane & Chris went somewhere else on the train to more mountains, up trails Bill didn't want to try with his dodgy knee. There was a town in one of the French cantons (their name for the regions) that claimed to be an Art Nouveau paradise, La Chaux-de-Fonds (2 km south of the French border). We went there for our third day and last day of train travel.

This fountain is called the Grand Fountaine (original name) and is described as a 'spurt of symbols'. Sadly they didn't say on the plaque what the symbols meant. Only that it was built in in the late 1880s and renovated in 2007...and apparently it's more than a 10 year job. 

I'm guessing dragons, not basilisks.

The turtles made me think of Terry Pratchett's disc world, which I only know about because Bill's a fan.

The train journey was pleasant enough other than having a particular middle-aged Dutch couple sitting near us. Don't ever try to tell me it is only women that talk too much! I've been on plenty of planes and trains and observed the male of the species. This Dutch guy nev-ver shut up. His wife looked like she was half dutifully attentive, half asleep (dreaming of the peace of widowhood). I wondered if she wasn't on tranquilisers not to have strangled him long ago. 

We changed seats at the next train stop. My knitting progressed.

Big boring apartment block, with modern glass things on top?

When we arrived at La Chaux-de-Fonds we discovered that Switzerland's fabulous free toilets had disappeared. The pay toilet on offer at the train station was named something like Mr Clean, which made me laugh. Better than crying about the 2 CHF wee fee, which we did not pay. 

More goth than art nouveau...

Instead Bill found a major shopping mall near by complete with public loos.

A balcony, one of my life's dreams.

Then we found a slightly green place - well it had some flowers - to sit on a bench and each our packed lunch. It was very hot, but thankfully we had plenty of water.

The real trouble began when Bill couldn't get his phone to hold the map of the Art Nouveau walking tour long enough to follow it. I suggested we jot down some notes with pen and paper while he had the map, but he wasn't interested. We tried the tourist info office, but it was shut for lunch. Eventually he managed to get some sort of map up and I duly followed him around.

See the lady looking out her window...all painted on?

I can tell you that this town is very hilly and is absolutely stuffed with cheap (boring) enormous terraces of apartments; they seemed to crowd out too much sky. I hope they were more pleasant to live in than they were to look at. Somehow I doubt it.

There is little green space, some streets stink of sewage and/or garbage and there was a definite contrast to Basel (in one of the German cantons) in terms of litter. On top of this there is precious little Art Nouveau to see for the effort.

At least the window trim was interesting and the colours were nice. There were also little gardens at the back.

I got a fair amount of exercise, trudging up and down hills for the next few hours and an enormous amount of practice time at patience. My small consolation was that Bill wasn't hugely enjoying himself either (how mean is that!?)

Fun window trim

We found the more upmarket neighbourhood further out (and up) with some fairly attractive houses. I took photos of any and everything I could find that was remotely pretty or interesting. I feel hot and cross again just looking at the pictures. (Then again, I am typing this in the south east of France where it is 37 C/99 F today. Thanks heavens for the fan Bill brought and for cold -if not actually iced for long- tea.)

After so many apartment blocks it was a relief to see a house with windows and lawn.

According to Bill, La Chaux-de-Fonds is relatively prosperous, being the location for most of the watch-making in Switzerland. I thought they hid it rather well or perhaps it was just outside of my walking distance. I'm not likely to return to look for it.

Nice front door...actually, nice house.

Having exhausted ourselves and seen perhaps a third of the mapped route (the wrong third, obviously), we stopped for a coffee at a cafe near the train station.

At last, some art nouveau, the brown stuff over the windows...

I recalled earlier having seen a dapper young man coming out of a doorway, maybe he was in his early 20s and something about his shirt or a bandanna, I don't remember the details, made me think 'he's an arty sort' and sure enough he'd emerged from an art school.

Self-portrait by house painters?

As we drank coffee at a sidewalk table I spotted a couple of young women approaching. It was the swinging red 'tassel' that caught my eye. Bill had his back to them, so as a kindness to him, I snapped their photo so he wouldn't miss out (though he did get the back view, which I did not). My theory is that they were also at that art school. What do you think? I've just noticed they are both very tall...

I don't know if it was seeing them or the coffee, or our imminent journey back to Basel, but I felt a lot better then!

One of the best things about having a self-catering flat and eating self-cooked meals each evening is that whatever you are doing during the day, you know it will stop and you can to back to the flat for a sit-down, a cool/warm/wet/maybe even alcoholic beverage and a meal. Followed by a lie down and some sleep to help you forget most of the day...