5 Brilliant Blogs

I read a lot of blogs on a variety of topics. One of the reasons for starting this blog was because I was inspired by other blogs.

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This post would be too long if I selected all the blogs I enjoy reading! Therefore, this is just a selection of some my favourites, in no particular order! There will be future posts about other blogs I love, so I hope I haven’t offended anyone by not mentioning them here.

Some of the bloggers  write about life in France, some on fashion, some on food and some on travel. Other blogs I enjoy may not have one specific focus but cover a wide range of topics. The ones, in this post, are all written by women but I also read blogs written by men! Many are written by bloggers who are in a similar age group to me and who tend to have a very positive attitude to the aging process but I like to read blogs written by younger authors, too.

Not all the bloggers I follow are in the UK or France. It’s great to connect with bloggers all over the world. One of the best parts of blogging – for me anyway – is linking with other bloggers.

Barefoot Blogger : inspiring travel over 60.

This is one of the first blogs that inspired me to start blogging. It is written by Deborah who retired from a career in corporate marketing and divorced after 40 years of  marriage. Three years ago, on a whim and following a dream, she moved from South Carolina to Uzès in SW France.

I’ve followed her adventures and attempts to master the French language with fascination. Her blog is truly inspirational!

https://bfblogger.com

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The Frugal Fashion Shopper: charity shop fashion for the stylish woman

 This  blog is written by 72 year old Penny who lives in Brighton. I mention her age because Penny regularly blogs about issues around women and ageing. Penny mainly buys her clothes from charity shops and then styles them in a stunning way. She is a hat lover and is a great believer in colour. I always enjoy reading Penny’s posts which I find interesting, stimulating and generally fabulous! Have a look here:

https://frugalfashionshopper.co.uk/

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Atypical60: A Typical Blog. A Typical Woman. A Typical Take on Life. With an Atypical Twist!

Catherine is a feisty American Blogger with a sharp sense of humour who writes with a blunt honesty. She blogs about all aspects of her daily life as a sixty plus blogger. Her husband happens to be French and Catherine has developed a love of all things French, fostered by regular visits to France. Catherine is a passionate advocate of wigs. She has thinning hair and changes her style of wigs frequently with impressive results. Her blog makes me smile!

https://atypical60.comFC6DAF8B-333E-4446-9FF4-462F9518380C

 

Taste of France:  The beautiful life in the other South of France

This blogger lives near Carcassonne and has a love affair with France and everything French. I love reading this blog because the author is relatively local and writes about an area I know and like. The blog is written with a great deal of detail and each post has a special quality. If you want to know more about the ‘other South of France’ or even discover some luxurious AirBnB apartments, in Carcassonne, do have a look here:

https://francetaste.wordpress.com

The photo below is one I took in Carcassonne

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This is Sixty: All sorts of everything

Eloise writes about what it is like being sixty and so much more besides. You only have to look at her home page to get an idea of the range of different topics that are covered within this blog. These include family, work, leisure, food, poetry and that’s just for starters!

https://thisissixty.blog

I don’t have a photo or gravatar for this blog so here are some spring flowers!

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about these blogs. There will definitely be a future post about some of the other blogs I read and appreciate. Perhaps you have some recommendations for me?!

6 highlights from my trip to Cape Town

Cape Town exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Initially, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the city, its geography, geology and landscape. My eye was constantly drawn to Table Mountain and the ocean.

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It is actually difficult  to select my highlights when there were so many! Therefore, in no particular order:

Watching the sunset over Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. Incredible! I’m not great with heights, so I was little apprehensive about the cable car trip but it was absolutely fine and I’m so glad I did it. We were very fortunate in having a very good friend, and local resident, to accompany and advise us! His wealth of knowledge meant that we avoided all the long queues to go up the mountain.

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A free Historic City Walking Tour which our friend also organised for us. It was brilliant in terms of understanding what has made Cape Town the city it is. Our guide, who was absolutely wonderful , was one of several who are not paid and only work for tips. He clearly loved Cape Town and did not flinch when talking about slavery, apartheid and the effects of colonialism. Here are some of the photos I took during the walking tour:

If you click on each photo, the caption should appear!

In a similar vein, our visit to Robben Island was outstanding. I think it is an essential destination if you want to learn about and understand some of South Africa’s complex history. It is the symbol of ‘the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice’.

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Robben Island has housed a leper colony, been a military base, a whaling station and a prison which held convicts and political prisoners. Of course, it is most famous for having Nelson Mandela as a prisoner for eighteen years.

To get there, you catch a ferry from the V&A Waterfront. We booked out tickets on line which meant we avoided all the long queues. The weather was very favourable when we went and the sea calm, so we got there in about thirty minutes. When you arrive on the island, you are transported by buses to visit the main sites. One of the stops was at the limestone quarry where Mandela and fellow prisoners had to carry out hard labour. Each bus has a guide and our one was very entertaining and informative.

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The tour ended with a visit to the maximum security prison and was led by a former political prisoner. Their personal experience is very moving and impactful. As was the visit to Mandela’s cell which remains as it was when he was imprisoned there.

 Bo-Kaap is known for its bright, colourful houses and is the cultural home of Cape Town’s Muslim community. We decided to do another Free Walking Tour as we had enjoyed the first one so much. This enabled us to learn about the history, culture, architecture, traditions, religion and economics of the area. Here are a selection of the photos I took of some of the very distinctive houses.

The last highlight was a drive from Cape Town to Cape Point returning via Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town. Our friend drove us along the Atlantic Seaboard from Sea Point, through Camps Bay and Hout Bay. These were just some of the scenic places we passed through, there were many more besides. As we were passengers, we were able to truly appreciate the breath-taking views.

We stopped several times, en route, to take in the stunning scenery and, in this case, to take a look at the Shark Spotter. What a job! If he spots sharks, the call goes out and a warning given to people on the beach.

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Cape Point is where the most powerful lighthouse, on the South African coast, can be seen. The sea is  very dangerous here and there are 26 recorded shipwrecks in the area.  We all walked up to see the lighthouse and to enjoy the amazing, panoramic views. Unfortunately, I was so taken with views that I didn’t take any photos! However, Mr FF did record the views but hasn’t downloaded his photos yet. Eventually, I made the descent alone, as our friend and Mr FF took the Flying Dutchman funicular to save their knees!! Just to confuse you, the lighthouse below is not the one I just described but another one we saw en route!

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Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, Cape Point is not the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, although the warm and cold currents mix slightly in the nearby False Bay…The actual point is at Cape Agulhas.

Whenever we were driving, I was amused by the signs warning of Baboons and tortoises on the road. Possibly, because we had a pet tortoise when I was a child. The most baboons we saw were when we stopped for refreshments at Cape Point.

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Finally, I need to talk to you about penguins! In particular, the colony which lives at Boulder’s Beach, between Cape Town and Cape Point. This is one of the few sites where African penguins can be observed at close range, as they wander freely in a protected natural environment.

This has turned out to be quite a lengthy post but it was extremely difficult to select just a few highlights when there were so many.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I would love to know if you have ever been to Cape Town or South Africa or where your dream destination might be.

Coming up … my highlights outside of Cape Town, including a safari, the Garden Route, Route 62 and the Winelands.

36 hours in Dubai

Dubai has never really featured highly on my list of places I want to visit. However, when the opportunity did arise I felt we should grab it. This was because we were en route for Cape Town to celebrate a special birthday for Mr FF! I am not the biggest fan of flying, so the chance to break our long haul flight was too good to miss. I’ve read and heard so much about Dubai that I thought I should find out about the city for myself.

Our flight was with Emirates on a 380 Airbus. I must say that I was very impressed, both with the food and the in flight entertainment. We arrived in Dubai quite late and caught a taxi to our hotel.

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This is the view from our hotel room balcony. Pretty dramatic?! Our first impressions were of the tall buildings and the lights. Of course, Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa.

We were pretty tired by this time and decided to settle for room service, so that we could get up early and make the most of the next day.

I’ve blogged about Hop on, Hop Off buses before when we visited Barcelona and Glasgow. I think if you’re spending a relatively short time in a city, they are a great introduction.

There are three possible routes: the city, beach and marina. We only had time for one of these, so we decided to take the city route which would give us some understanding of the history and culture of Dubai.

The tour begins at the Dubai Mall. This is the largest shopping mall, in the world, and has over one thousand shops. It also houses an aquarium and an ice rink!

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If you are a fan of shopping, especially designer brands, Dubai is a tax free haven. Here’s the Wafi shopping mall, photographed from the top of the bus. We didn’t go in but from the outside it looks more like an Egyptian museum.

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As we continued our route, I was surprised to see how much green there was in Dubai.

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As we continued, this building caught my eye:

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We decided to hop off and visit the Dubai Museum and see one of the original parts of the city. Unfortunately, we hadn’t factored in the long, lunchtime closure of the museum. Below you can see some of the original city walls. There was a strange type of heat mist and the sun had gone behind the clouds, so the colours seem rather dull.

For our final stop we opted to visit Dubai Creek. Some people say that this is the real heart of the city. It is a saltwater estuary and when trade with the outside world began, over a century ago, this sheltered inlet was the natural place to develop a trading port. The creek has been widened many times and is nowadays busy with abra – small wooden water taxis – carrying passengers between the souks of Deira on the northeastern bank and the historic district of Bur Dubai on the southwestern bank.

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We started by visiting the souks:

I’ve visited souks in other countries but I found the ones in Dubai were much less intimidating than others I have experienced. Although we were approached by guys trying to persuade us to buy their goods, they weren’t pushy or nasty. We managed to resist purchasing any items – even in the utensils souk!

Our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour included an hour long ‘cruise’ on a traditional dhow. This is a traditional wooden boat originally used  by fishermen. The boat trip was a very good way to experience both sides of Dubai, the old and the new.

We ended our day by having dinner in a Lebanese restaurant that happened to overlook Dubai’s Dancing Fountains. These are the world’s largest musical foundations and spray up to 150 metres. The display is illuminated and accompanied by music. It was impressive! Here’s a clip I found to give you an idea of the experience.

I was so glad that we had taken the opportunity to sample Dubai.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever been there and what you thought.

Next stop: Cape Town

5 recommended places to eat in Brighton

We have just returned from a five day house and dog sit in central Brighton.

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The owners of the lovely little Lurcher, pictured above, had left us with plenty of recommendations for places where we could eat, so we decided it would be rude not to try at least some of them!.

One of the reasons we like Brighton and Hove is because there is such a diverse range of restaurants and cafés. I love that it is so easy to find excellent vegetarian and vegan food and that all the places we visited were within walking distance of the house.

Here are the 5 recommendations, ordered only by when we visited them:

  • Billie’s Café 

This is a very homely café which is well known for its all-day breakfasts and massive hash browns. All the hashes are made to order with various toppings. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too. Having seen the size of the hashes, I wimped out and went for the Welsh Rarebit which came with a generous and delicious side salad. This was more Hare-sized, than rabbit, but I somehow managed to eat it all. Will definitely go back and next time have a hash … garlic mushroom and avocado is calling to me! Below is my husband’s hash. I tried a piece and it was yummy.

  •  Flour Pot Kitchen

This is the Brighton Beach branch which is situated in the Kings Road Arches. It was the perfect place for us to stop after a long walk along the beach with the dog! It’s a dog friendly café and has a very welcoming atmosphere. The only problem is what to eat, as there are so many delicious choices. I had a lentil and mushroom roll, the veggie equivalent of a sausage roll! This was followed by a slice of flourless chocolate cake. Mr FF had a pie which did have meat and, instead of having a cake, decided to try the mushroom and lentil roll.

Here is Edie, in the café, hoping for a doggy treat!

  • Bincho Yakitori

Bincho Yakitori was very different to anywhere I have eaten before and is probably best described as Japanese tapas! There are a variety of small sharing dishes on the menu with the addition of daily specials. Everything is cooked to order. Our choices included the Tempura Sea Bream, Pork Belly and mushroom rice. We had some others as well which I can’t remember but I do know that everything we had was delicious!

  • Bankers Fish and Chips

You can’t possibly stay in Brighton and Hove without having fish and chips! This particular venue was recommended by our hosts and was very local. We opted to eat in, rather than take away, on this occasion. I’m not a fan of greasy food, particularly when it comes to the batter on my fish! I’m happy to report that everything was fresh and beautifully cooked. We had mushy peas and Mr FF also had bread so that he could make a chip butty. You can’t take him anywhere! This was all washed down with a very tasty bottle of white wine.

  • Foodilic

Last but not least was the Western Road branch of Foodilic. We actually lunched here twice! The emphasis is on healthy eating and there is something for everyone; vegetarians, vegans and carnivores but I would say the emphasis is on the former. The buffet (eat as much as you like) is incredible value at £7.50 and everything I chose was delicious. I had vegetarian moussaka accompanied with some excellent salads including roasted vegetables, lentils and spinach. I felt spoilt for choice! Mr FF even managed a raw cake for dessert. He chose pistachio and mint, pictured below.

Although we were very unlucky with the weather, we still had a fantastic stay and walked miles and miles every day which is the great advantage of having a dog. In light of everything we ate, this was probably just as well and we thoroughly enjoyed trying out all these new food venues!

 

 

A night out in Reading, Berkshire

I must confess that there was a time when I was rather dismissive of Reading; apologies to anyone who lives there or originates from the town.

The only part of Reading I really knew was the train station. I would pass through on the way to the West Country or up North, often for work.

Then two events meant that I got to know Reading a lot better. Firstly, my eldest son moved there for work and secondly, our first TrustedHousesitters assignment was in Reading.

There is much more to Reading than first meets the eye. There are some fabulous walks. There is a great deal of history. There is the University. There is the River and the Canal. There are a wide range of cafés and restaurants. There are shops. In fact I think I will do another post about Reading when I have some decent photos!

The only photos I do have, feature the two dogs we looked after in Reading! They were very young when we first looked after them. These photos were taken during a walk alongside the Thames.

I digress…

Our night in Reading was to celebrate the birthdays of our eldest son and his girlfriend. They happen to share the same birthday, although not the same year. Mr FF also has a special birthday later this month, so it was celebrations all round! Youngest son joined us as well for a very special visit to ‘L’ Ortolan’.

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L’Ortolan is the only Michelin restaurant in the Reading area and we decided to have the seven course tasting menu. This was a new experience for all of us. I don’t think the photos really do the food justice. My favourite dishes were the hake, the venison and the divine desert!

 

The restaurant is in a former vicarage in Shinfield which is actually just outside Reading. The service was everything I hoped it would be and more.

However, I must confess that I am not a fan of foams and gels. I do find them – dare I say – a bit pretentious or maybe that says more about me!

I also think we have been spoilt by the amazing food we have been enjoying in France, at both ends of the scale.

When we have saved up again – haha – I would quite like to return to L’Ortolan and have a ‘proper’ meal! Watch this space…

Here’s the link to the restaurant’s website, if you’d like to find out more:

www.lortolan.com

6 delights to experience in Castres

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Castres is a large town in the Tarn department which is part of Occitanie. It is about 48 kilometres from Castelnaudary where we have our house.

We are fortunate that there are so many interesting and attractive towns and villages in the vicinity. The only problem is finding the time to see them all!

Castres is not as well known as some other places and is probably not on the main tourist route. We knew that it would take under an hour to drive there and after wasting time on the internet some research decided that it would be worth a visit.

You can see from the first photo that we had amazing weather. Look at the colour of the sky! It was the last Friday in September but the temperature was at least 30 degrees.

When we came out of the underground car park, our first view was of the River Agout which flows through the centre of Castres.

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I was delighted to spot one of the Miredames boats that will take you on a 45 minute trip (1)  down the Agout, as I had set my heart on experiencing a ‘voyage’ in one of these. These boats were traditionally used to transport people and goods. They were built to be able to cope with the very shallow waters.

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Imagine my disappointment when I came across this note; there were to be no boats trips at all. A tree was blocking the river… Best laid plans and all that.

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Instead we strolled around Castres and admired these stunning houses (2). They originally belonged to the textile dyers who needed the water for their trade.

Our arrival in Castres coincided with the end of the market – unintentionally! This is held in the town square ‘Place Jean-Jaures’ (3) and takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Apparently, an excellent Christmas market is also held here.

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As it was such a hot day, we took the opportunity to sit a while and enjoy a cold Belgian beer! This was a new beer to me but the name of the brewery – ‘Sudden Death’ was as appealing as the taste!

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We continued our wanderings beneath these pink umbrellas which were there to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month.

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Heading for the Goya Museum (4) our walk took us through Le jardin de l’Evêché (5). This was designed by André Le Nôtre who was the principal landscape gardener of Louis X1Vth and who designed the gardens at Versailles. We lingered a while by the fountain, in the garden. Can you spot the rainbow? The Goya Museum is in the background. You can probably spot the theatre, too.

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The rest of our time was spent wandering around the old town and through the medieval streets. We  visited the Church of Saint-Benoit (6) which was built in the 17th century and was originally a cathedral. The Church interior is undoubtedly Baroque with soaring marble columns and high windows. It was built on the site of a Benedictine abbey-church founded in the ninth century. I forgot to take any photos of the church but here’s a selection I took while strolling through the narrow streets of the old town.

I do hope you enjoyed the mini-tour of Castres! Have you ever visited this small town? Do you have recommendations for other places we should visit in the local area? I’d love to read your comments.

This is a post I originally published last September but I have decided to link it with #AllAboutFrance. This is a very brilliant linky if you want to read a wide range of blog posts all with a French/France theme. Highly recommended!

All About France linky

 

 

 

Les parapluies de Carcassonne

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Our visitors mainly fly into Toulouse for a variety of reasons. One or two opt for Carcassonne. Last week, a friend came to stay for a return visit. Previously, we’d taken him to the walled Cité, so this time we planned to visit the lower town or Bastide. We had just enough time, after lunch in a local restaurant, before he had to be at the airport. Perfect!

I was particularly pleased that we would be playing tourist, as I would finally get the chance to see ‘Les parapluies de Carcassonne’; rather late to the party on this one!

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There are about 3,000 umbrellas which stretch for roughly half a mile, along the length of the pedestrianised streets. They are part of the Umbrella Sky Project which was began in Águeda, Portugal, in 2012.  The concept and design came from Patricia Cunha, the Portuguese artist who was born and lives in Agueda.

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I have read that the idea behind the project was to make people smile. Well, it certainly worked for me. I didn’t imagine that walking under coloured umbrellas could make me feel so happy!

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There have been many Umbrella Sky installations in other French cities and world wide. Have you ever come across one and, if so, what did you think of it? I’d love to know!