Monday, 31 August 2015

A lovely day in Santa Teresa

"1 santa teresa panorama 2014" by Chensiyuan - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

This view is from Santa Teresa towards Rio central with a favela in between.

One day when Ruth had to work a bit we went to a town called Santa Teresa which is a district of Rio. Ruth had to go here anyway as she had a meeting there with her work team.  It is a very traditional area of Rio that used to be a very affluent part of Rio. There are still remains of some very grand houses that sadly are now rather run down.   But this upper class usage of the area stopped a long time ago and now it is mostly bars restaurants and artists studios. The roads are very narrow,twisted and sometimes cobbled and exceptionally beautiful. Santa Teresa sits atop of a long hill called by the same name, and unless you are fit it's best to get a taxi up to the town at the top.

Old grand house sadly now in a run down condition.

After arriving we had a quick look around then stopped at a lovely local restaurant for a beer and a bit of lunch. We went to a cafe called Cafe Alto click here for more info - The restaurant was very traditional and used the colours of Brasil to make it's decorations.  There were some strange hanging dolls around which made up the curtains which were apparently a local tradition and the cafe was bright clean and very friendly with a lovely ambiance.  Ruth introduced us to Aipim (probably spelt wrong) fries which is also called yuca or cassava. It is usually fried and can be coated in lots of different coatings. It is really delicious and we got quite addicted to it while we where there.

The Cafe in Santa Teresa

While Ruth went to her meeting Dave and I wondered around looking at the town and at one point nearly wondered into a favela. We drew some confused looks from the locals but all was ok. The town is peppered here and there by small shops and artists studios and many different local goods can be purchased, but although it is no doubt a bit touristy it also has the feel of a authentic local town rather than a built up area for tourists to peruse.

We found a really interesting artists shop where the artist was disabled and painted miniature pictures on shells and made them into necklaces. These pieces were  really amazing quality so I had to buy one.

This is some info on the artist from a local tour guide

photo credit

This doesn't do it justice. There are clouds, mountains in the background and colourful houses.
Santa Teresa is famous for a yellow tram that runs through the village and transports people up the steep hill. Sadly for us it was out of action when we visited, but apparently they will have it up and running by the time the Olympics occur.

Dave and I were hoping to go to Parque das ruinas (park of ruins) but sadly they were closed while we were there, for more information click here

After all that walking in 34 oc heat Dave and I were in need of a drink and took a while to find the cafe we were meeting Ruth at but finally we made it, and got to meet some of her colleagues as well.

Dave managed to find a art, souvenir and instrument shop - as only he can, and found a odd instrument which of course he had to buy. This was the shop he bought it in, I forgot to take a picture and luckily enough I found one on another website This is a photo from their website.

Photo credit:

The instrument is called a Berimbau and is played by resonating a string through a gourd and the sound changed by manipulating a stone behind the string to adjust the resonance. Either way, Dave loved it. But I think it may take a lot of learning to play, but he is tenacious enough to do so.

After a day of midgemodging about and going to one cafe for lunch and a bar for drinks, we felt the need for yet more drinks and food. So in the evening after Zam had finished work we went to a restaurant that is meant to be one of the best in the area, and weren't disappointed. It is called Espirito Santa and it was a very fun. It is a restaurant specialising in Brazilian food and especially Amazonian food. all of the food was served beautifully and the whole evening was really relaxed.

The best thing was the gourd cocktails that Ruth and I had, they were very strong Caipirinha's and enough to make one go squiffy.

Ruth drinking from cocktails from a gourd 

Dave's not asleep, just caught as he blinked :)

After a lovely day we caught a taxi back to the apartment, and chilled for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Rio part 2 Ipanema Hippie Feira and other stuff


On our second day after a darn good sleep Ruth took us to a Hippie Market. This local market is a permanent market where locals can sell their goods. From what I understand they have to be licensed by the council and make the goods themselves to sell in this market. These are all the stalls:

This photo is from the markets website 

This photo is from the markets website

It was huge and there are loads of colourful vibrant stalls where you can buy so many quality items. Dave obviously got drawn in by the music stall and managed to come away with a bamboo saxophone and flute. This takes you straight to the stall holders info and more photos Some of the artists there did some amazing paintings and there were a few we fell in love with, but we had neither the money or room in cases to bring them back.

After the market we did the only polite thing possible to do and went to the beach and watched the world go by whilst having a few beers. We went to Botofogo beach which whilst looking lovely is not on that is good to swim in. So we just enjoyed te atmosphere.

After sinking a few obligatory beers we walked back to the kids house stopping for shopping  on route and saw a huge religious procession with people carrying a giant statue of Mary, was different.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Rio July 2015 Part 1

Walking by the lagoa.

After arriving and greeting the kids - whom we hadn't seen for 9 months!! we went back back to their apartment for a bit to relax before going back out later for a walk.

We walked all around the lagoa that is near Ruth and Zam's - literally 2 streets away. It is a long walk and it took us about a couple of hours and we stopped off on the way for Ruth's new favourite thing -  coconut water fresh from iced coconuts cut in front of you by the seller and a straw put in. These sellers were everywhere, and coconut water seem to be a staple food and drink in Brasil.

View from the lagoa.
From this view you can see the 2 brothers -  Dois lmaos mountain in the background

Impromptu picnic with fresh coconut water - very healthy

As we were walking around the lagoa the terrain changed many times and at one point the side of the lagoa had a small wooded area next to it. In here we saw a herd (is that the right term?) of Capybara. I have only seen these in zoos before so it was a real treat to actually see them living wild. These animals seem very used to people and didn't mind us taking pictures.

There are lots of bars around the lagoa and we stopped off for some obligatory beers and snacks as we took a gentle stroll around. The bars were lively and great fun.

Ruth introduced us to a drink called Caipirinhas which is made from hard liqour and comes in many different flavours, and we had a couple in the bar. I must admit this became a bit of a favourite for me on our trip, they are quite strong as measuring seems to be a bit of a guess work game, but it makes it interesting. For more info look here

We also encountered some interesting birds and trees on the walk, the fruit in the trees were huge and there were also coconut palms everywhere.

More coconut sellers.

More views from the lagoon.

This ones a bit fuzzy but it gives you a idea of the night view.

By the end of this night we were rather tired, not bad considering we only arrived in the country that morning!. After we got back to the kids house, Zam made the most awesome curry, was really yummy. Good end to day 1.

Rio hols 2015, On our way!

Rio!! we finally made it.

View from Sugar Loaf mountain to Botofogo and Copacobana

So we went on a big adventure this month. A visit to our daughter and son in law to be in Rio de Janeiro! Where they are living for 2 years in the run up to and during the Olympics.  This was a nerve racking thing for us as the flights are very long and we had to take one flight to from Paris to New York then another to Rio soon afterwards. As anyone who knows us knows Dave and I are country folk by nature and international jet setters we are not. This was the first long haul flights for both of us and we were kind of nervous.

So after a kind lift from friends to Poitiers (1.30hrs away) then a train journey to Paris we finally made it to Orly Airport.

The flight to America was actually quite good, it was hosted by British Airways and we were lucky enough to have a tablet each to use with preloaded films and tv series to watch - which meant I finally got to watch Second Best ever Marigold Hotel without annoying Dave who opted for Terminator type films. So 9 hours later we touched down in New York to get ready for the next flight which was in 2 hours.

So after going through security to get into the country and waiting for 2 hours for the flight they announced that the flight was going to be cancelled (at the time we were due to leave!) due to problems with getting a pilot for the plane. Not a good start :( so after another hour or so of queueing  to see customer services to be told we weren't being given a hotel and then the airline changing their minds we finally managed to get a bit of shut eye and be ready to start the whole process again the next day.

Luckily day 2 went a fair bit better than day one and we finally managed to make it to Rio. Strangely enough the security at Rio was the tightest out of all the airports and we even had to have our hold baggage x rayed after we had collected it to leave the airport. But after 2 days travelling we had got there.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A working bathroom!! A first for this old house.

This old house has never had a indoor working bathroom, I have no idea what they used to do here before we moved here, I am guessing it was a bucket and chuck it system.

We for the last three years have been bathing in a makeshift room in the barn heating our water with a large tea urn and then adding cold to try and get it to temperature. It worked but it was blooming cold in the winter and not the most glamorous way of bathing. It  is amazing how much you miss simple things such as running hot water

But now we have a nice shiny new bathroom. We have been trying to get it all set up for a while now but we are both plumbing novices and needed to get a lot of information first so we could put it all together. It also costs a bomb to do, not just the big things but all the niggly joints, waste piping and knees. Yes I now know lots about grey piping, bends (knees) and how to make good joints (in the plumbing sense only!!) Plumbing is a bit like doing and an giant jigsaw puzzle with lots of piping and making up the puzzle design as you go along. I think we must have laid down miles of piping and used loads of ruban. After putting it all together and filling the sparkly new hot water tank for the first time we held our breath and......

There were a few leaks :(

Luckily not raging torrents but annoying drip drip drips.

Dave had spent ages tightening all the joints to a point that we couldn't tighten them any more. But it appears that the new joints expand under pressure / the hot water and pressure of the water had loosened them a teeny tiny bit.

So after going round every joint again and putting on yet more ruban and tightening them all back up. Then making one joint change (we think it was faulty) we crossed our fingers and toes and anything remotely crossable and tried again...

It worked, no drips, phew.

That cupboard at the back right of the photo is where the electrics come into the upstairs, we still need to cover this up and paint it.

This sink is made from a copper bowl we bought at Emmaus charity shop in Mauleon

I must say we are really pleased with it and now can get back to the never ever ending job of re-roofing the old collapsed barn, and no you can't hear joyous anticipation in my voice here.

So until next time....

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A day trip to Cognac

We have my mum visiting us at the moment and decided to go for a decent day out. We thought about the Loire Valley châteaus or Il de Ré but decided on Cognac.

Cognac - the town and all the lovely distilleries is 2 hours away from us and perfectly doable on a long day trip. Dave and I had been there before and took a tour of Remy Martin but mum hadn't ever been - so we arranged a trip to Otard Cognac house.

Its a really old distillery that has been in business since 1795 when Baptise Antoine Otard bought the old Cognac Chateau and set up his business there. You can see black mould all over the walls on the rooms where the barrels age the Cognac.

Image curtsey of Google

The black mould on the walls is caused by a fungus that thrives and lives on the fumes created by the Eau de Vie leaching out of the barrels during the process of making Cognac. About 20% of the Eau de vie that goes into the barrels is lost during the process of making the Cognac, this is called 'The angels share' Eau de Vie is a colourless drink made from distilled wine it usually takes on the flavour of the wine that makes it. It is lovely on its own (if a little strong!) but it is also used as the base for making Cognac and Brandies. Click here for more info on Eau de Vie Otard sits on the edge of the river Charante and its cellars are below ground making them a even temperature all year round (about 13 oc) and quite humid.  As you descend into the cellars the smell of Eau de vie hits you due to the Angels share in the air. No photos are allowed as they worry about explosions due to the high amount of ethanol in the air! For more information on the House of Otard look here

  This is the crest of King Francois 1er of France

These carving depict the boats and sailors that used to bring in the eau de vie
and take out the Cognac. Early graffiti..

I'd have loved to have bought a bottle of the Cognac, but it's a little out of our reach this month. Maybe next time.

Mind you next time we may go to Hennessey as they are just down the road from Otard.

All these photo's were taken by mum as my camera had died, cheers mum for letting me use them.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Long time no blog, so what are we up to now?

Is it just us or is time flying by with speed? We haven't updated this for a while as we have been really busy, but also doing nothing really that interesting and we didn't want to put you all to sleep.

Since we wrote last I have found a job (yay!) it's only very part time but I have been lucky enough to pick up a lot of extra hours. I have been working (for the first time in my life) with kids helping in a before and after school club and educational club for kids as well as covering the cantine and serving the kids of and when needed.  It was really scary at first trying to learn new phrases and try and understand the kids (and the adults too if I'm honest). The kids are from 2.5 to 10 years old and it's amazing how when a young child cries they are impossible to understand, and I never realised how hard to is working kids. But as time has gone on I have got more confident and am actually starting to enjoy it. 

The cantine is a fun experience, we walk the kids from their school 2 by two, with the older kids holding the little ones hands and also holding onto a rope. So they make a cute little procession down the road. French kids don't have a choice of meals, they eat what they are given. And amazingly they eat 3 courses for lunch, (even the tiny ones) They sit at tables and are served by the cantine ladies, if they don't like something they are told they have to try it, as their taste buds can change (these are the rules). They never have junk food and eat what I consider to be good quality food, they can also ask for seconds for more if they want. They certainly learn how to be petites gourmandes from a young age here. This website gives a link to a blog where the blogger describes the cantine very well and also has a link to some menus. Interestingly the children also have what they call le goûter, which is a snack given in the after school club and usually is sweet. Often they literally get pain au chocolate, pieces of  chocolate on a slice of baguette! or fruit compote and yoghurt. Some french houses don't eat till very late so le goûter keeps the kids going until they eat.

In between working Dave and I have been continuing with the huge job of re-roofing the barn. In case you didn't know the barn roof fell in over 40 years ago and ended up have a tree growing out of the roof. It's taken a long time and with the horrible winter weather we couldn't really continue from October until after mid March when the weather started to improve a bit. The front half of the barn is nearly done with just a few lines of tiles needing to be put on and then the edging doing. I am hoping to get this done in the next 10 days or so as we are currently on school holidays here.

The chevrons have been left out for a while so we can cut a clean edge when we have finished,
and also as it makes it safer.
We haven't done the ridge or cemented the edges yet,
 we will do that when we have finished the rest of the roof

We have also made a little boarder at the side of our front garden to separate us from the road. We wove it through with Willow and Hazel hardwood cuttings so they will sprout and finally make a living hedge. And we are pleased to say that we have little buds appearing on it now. 

The boarder that we raised behind the grass and in-front of the hedge to create a barrier against water coming in from the Lavoir when we get heavy rain is starting to grow and develop nicely and the grass seed is also taking and starting to come up, so slowly and surely we are starting to look like a proper garden :)