Wednesday, August 28, 2013


While up in the mountains last weekend Jeanne and I came across a horse show in Breil sur Roya.  

We stopped to watch an exciting game of "horse ball" which is a combination of polo, rugby and basketball with goals on each side and a large basket to throw the ball through.  Below is the 6 handled ball which is tossed back and forth.

It is the same game as that of "pato" that originated in 1700 in Argentina but was played with a live duck instead of a ball.  They stopped playing in 1790 because of the high mortality rate among the players ( and presumably the ducks).   By 1953, however, after regulations put in place over the years, it had gained status as Argentina's national game. 

 It seemed the game we saw was "boys against girls" ( the girls with the pink stripe and black shirts and the boys in navy shirts).   The women seemed to be holding their own.

 In fact this young #2 player was really scoring and blocking with hutzpah and daring.  She was having the most fun too, it seemed.


Here is what it looks like to pick up the ball "ramassage" which keeps happening after every play. 

When the ball is dropped or falls on the ground, anyone can pick it up so long as they are going in the same way as the game was going when the ball was dropped. This is to avoid any riders coming head on whilst someone is picking up, as the player picking up would have a head on collision.

The first rule for pick up is the horse has to be galloping (or at a trot with this small field and less experienced riders) when picking up the ball.  Stopping is forbidden as it may injure the horse's back (and usually means that the player has less of a swing to pull himself back up). This can result in a fall due to losing a stirrup also.

You would have to have steel thighs to hold onto the horse when you are handling the ball as your hands often leave the reins.  It's pretty exciting to watch and requires good horsemanship.

I found out that the teams we saw play were from Mouans Sartoux and Mougins but there are teams all over the Cote d'Azur.  

Notice the net and hoop at the left side of the photo.  That is the goal.

  Here's our little champion player again.  We were told that that the women's team only had one season of experience and the men were a more experienced team.      But hey, the girls were kicking their collective "derrieres", it looked to me. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sanglier Invasion or the March of the Wild Boar

On one of our nature strolls on Saturday, up at Breil sur Roya, at the foothills of the Alps,  Jeanne and I came across a property whose fencing was festooned with small net bags seemingly filled with wool. 

 A bright old lady meditatively pacing her garden answered my question.  "It is human hair from the 'coiffeuse' ", she said.  It was meant to discourage the wild boar from digging under the fence and coming into the yard all night into the wee hours and digging for roots and tubers. "It doesn't work" she sighed, "we get more every year and with lots of babies. We can't go out after dark."

 It seems that a litter of 18 young "sanglier" had been spotted in her area.... that is a greatly increased number from litters of even 6 years back.   I have also heard that the boar in Europe have adapted their reproduction so that they reach fertility earlier and produce more and larger litters.   In Berlin they have been found marching boldly into the city. 

Monsieur's 19th century lead figure of a Sanglier or wild boar. 

In France, the law prevents shooting the boar at certain times of year and those who come in close to homes..... so of course, the boar have figured this out and are coming in boldly for foraging... which includes just about everything including carrion, refuse and small insects as well as grass and roots and tubers.   

When Jeanne and I  came rushing back down from our hike ,  we were not being chased by boar, but by flies, biting ones.  Nobody had warned us about this nuisance so we cut the hike short at La Brigue.

  But when we reached a picnic spot that Jeanne knew about to eat our lunch, we found the most absurd "Edith Anne" sized benches and tables.  I wonder if the boar have been bothering the locals while eating their lunches.  Or can you explain the hilarious height of our picnic table? 

Breil sur Roya walk

Jeanne just before we waded for a few minutes in the cold, cold brooke

The blue gate

Boar free garden, what is their secret?

Some friendly Dutch hikers took our picture .  Look at my legs hanging off the bench.  I felt about 9 years old. 

A jewel of a church in a tiny hamlet

Well, we don't lack for charming medieval villages around here.  Take your pick , most of them have something of intrigue or appeal or are just so tiny and boring as to be fascinating on that account. 

 I mean, being stuck in a tiny cluster of houses where water is rationed and the town square is as big as a handkerchief, and where one is far from the nearest bakery or store takes a certain kind of resident. This does get my imagination going, no kidding.  Who is this person? 

 This weekend, Jeanne invited me to stay overnight in her place in the Roya Valley.  Lucky me.   She wanted to introduce me to some of her favorite spots.   On Sunday we headed for the small hamlet of Brigue which is not accessible on the "Train des Merveilles"  and which I had never visited ( not having a donkey or a car.) 

 It happened to be the day of a giant brocante sale   (second hand goods and some antiques being sold in stands).  These are very popular in the south of France but we were headed for a hike so we by-passed the village and kept on going.  

Just outside of the town, on the way to our trail, was a chapel, not to be believed.  A  Church is tucked in the woods there.. filled with quite expressive and impressive "fresci" painted during the 15th century!  The panels are almost in perfect condition and they have never been restored!  Take a look. 

We are told that when the Seven Springs dried up the villagers prayed to the Virgin at this spot dating even before the Christian faith. 

When water again flowed, the villagers suspected a miracle and built a church honoring the Virgin.  This was then the 12th century.   The nave was added to the vestry and chancel in the 14th century. 

 The design of the chancel was done al fresco by Giovanni Baleison in 1481.  It depicts the last moments of the Virgin's life.  It is quite striking with its deep, rich colors.

The walls of the nave are entirely covered in paintings by Giovanni Canavesio.   His work marries seamlessly with that of Baleison.   He began his work in 1489 and completed the panels in 1492.  

The altar and the vestry

 Canavesio creates the whole  Passion of Christ in 25 numbered scenes.   Here I have included three of them.  Notice how spirited the drawings are , especially the "flagellation" scene above.  That must have captured his imagination.   But two panels remain un-numbered, " the hanging of Judas" and the "last judgement" which are depicted on the exit wall.   This is an exceptional village church for those of you who are delighted by such things. 

This is the modest exterior of the Chapel Notre Dame des Fontaines in La Brigue

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vieux Nice: Day Two

It seems that I never finished showing you , the great photos my brother , John Puckett, took while he was here in Nice last spring.   Each one has some aspect that attracts me although I am starting to take these sites for granted the longer I live here.  I need to get out there with my camera again so that I can see things with new eyes like he does.  

I love the simplicity of the repetition of the arches

I forget that this is how it really is, crowded most of the year

Old world faded charm is in fact "old world faded charm"

..this color is so startling for old Nice, but that orange leads my eye down the path..

I didn't expect a photo could glow!

...the graphic of the path is a good modern contrast to the old walls

The transparency is captivating and I know he took this from the bus window at Villefranche outdoor market.

A bird's eye view can only be obtained from the walkway above.  I have never even been up there!

Such colors for an overcast day.  Brilliant!

The textures and colors are as interesting as the choices of dried fruits...

France's Gourmet School Lunches

 From what I can see of the average American, the populace is becoming so fat that the whole country might just sink into oblivion.   I hate to say it but a large part of the problem is DIET folks, simply diet. 

Americans have adopted a diet that simply doesn't work for the human body.  You will find whole multi-million dollar industries used by America devoted to developing flavors that "addict" (and that is actually the word they proudly use ) us to commercial food products.   These fake flavors are of course to put into all the fake food consumed more and more in America and now sold world-wide.  And the way animals are treated , abused in their diet and slaughtered in America is a shameful practice which detracts tremendously from the quality of the meat.

You may have noticed how fat phobic the American diet is.  There are lots of good Omega 3 fats that Americans are not consuming , those being the good fats.     Stars among them are coconut oil and olive oil (1/2 omega 3's & 6's).   In the States, all fats are considered bad by the average Joe who learned to eat the SAD ( standard American diet).  But it's fat that makes food taste good.  That is why there are no fad diets that work in the long run.   No one can stay on a diet without good flavor built into it.

Recently there have been some changes in both the American and French school lunch programs.  For the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this means increases in the availability of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the school.  It also means less meat. 
There is also a focus on decreasing the amounts of fat and in particular saturated fat. 

Unfortunately the kids detest the school lunches now.   The new lunches treat every child as if he were obese and put him or her on a restricted diet of tasteless food.  Now the students are protesting by boycotting school lunches and lining up at the nearby snack bars after lunch to pig out on chips, pretzels, candy bars and soft drinks.  Strike out.

In France the new nutritional targets for kids have been less defined but in general the goal is to have one additional calcium rich food at each lunch, fewer condiments at the table (salt, mayonnaise and ketchup) and portion sizes according to age.   But as milk is not digestible to all people, the French are putting in cheese and yoghurt, both naturally fermented milk solids which are better for you and more delicious than the watered down 1% cows milk that the Americans are offering.

Also the French are wisely subsidizing the lunches of children who can not afford the price of around 5 dollars a meal.  The quality and the preparation are more considered... not just the bottom line pricing as in America.  Now isn't that a wiser use of tax dollars than more drones and missles? 

Here are some menus that I found on the site of Mary Brighton, a dietician who has as her goal the dietary improvement of all, especially young people:

A Week of French School Lunch Menus Compared To American School Lunch Menus

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ames, Iowa versus Poitiers France

Ames, Iowa

Whole Grain Chicken Nuggets OR Yogurt/American Cheese/Crackers/Crackers Fun Lunch

Mashed Potatoes OR Jicama Slices w/ Lite Dressing

Orange Wedges OR Pineapple Tidbits

Poitiers, France

 Radishes with Butter

Daube Marseillaise (Beef Stew with tomatoes, olives, onions and green pepper) with Rice

Emmental cheese, Applesauce

November 27, 2012 (note: for Albi, France November 27 menu not available as of publishing date-using November 20, 2012)

Fort Collins, Colorado versus Albi, France

Fort Collins

Veggie Lasagne OR Cheeseburger OR Uncrustable PB&J

Green Beans

Albi, France

Green salad with Avocado, Surimi, Endives, Grapefruit with a vinaigrette

Chicken sausages

Aligot cheese and Whole apple

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Irving, Texas versus Nantes, France

Irving, Texas

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce & Bread OR Stix or Turkey Ham OR Deli Turkey Sandwich OR Chef/Veg. Chef Salad w/Bread Stix,

Green Beans

Tossed Salad, Peachy Pear

Nantes, France

Organic shredded beets

Breaded fish

Cauliflower with B├ęchamel sauce

Tomme cheese and Chocolate eclair

Friday, November 30, 2012

Toms River, New Jersey versus Pau, France

Toms River, NJ

Domino’s Pizza OR Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Tossed Salad

Baked Apples w/Cinnamon

Pau, France

Lentil Salad

Fish Casserole

Butter Beans

Basque Cake

 Now which menu would you prefer?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thumbs up and thumbs down for the City of Nice

Well, I'm happy to report that the pile of dead rats got carted away two days after I posted about them and now even the gross pile of throw-away-household items full of baby beds and potty chairs..... making the neighborhood into a virtual dumpsite..... have been hauled away by the city as well....  This even in the high season when lots of services are put on hold. 

If they are private services like plumbing and electricity you can be landed with a bill that is doubled if you call in August.  So thumbs up to the city of Nice for taking care of the pick-up of the "offal" and the awful.  

Yes, there really is a very organized service for garbage collection here in Nice.  If you ever were to visit the "dechetterie" ( the dump) in West Nice you will see how organized and orderly it is.  There are huge semi trailer beds with rubble , rocks and tiles , plant matter, organic matter , plastic etc.  and each carload is inspected before they let one dump it in the bins.

Trash pick up in our neighborhood is every night except for Saturday with Wednesday's reserved for a modest re-cycling effort  of cardboard, stiff plastic, and cans. 

 You have to take the glass down to the big bins in the town, though.  They don't pick that up at your door.  But thumbs up for the reliable and efficient service of the trash pick up.  Our garbage collectors even speak English.  They probably have Ph.d's and are just filling in while they find jobs as chemistry wizards.  

But I heard another story this week that comes out of the local newspaper: Nice Matin that I didn't agree with.  I understand ( from good authority, I spent a half hour looking for the article) that the piece is "taking the piss out" of the low budget tourists who are making Nice their holiday destination.

  The writers of the article don't "get" that a lot of these tourists come from countries where customer service is valued.  They site a man and his wife and three small children coming into a bar for the wife to use the toilet.  The man pays for a beer and asks for water for the children.  "Vittel monsieur?"  "No, just tap water is fine."   The bar keeper is annoyed that the tourists are so cheap.  
operationhappilyeverafter. blogspot

Well, I have no sympathy for the barkeeper.  There are practically zero toilet facilities in the city besides a bar or restaurant.  The only two I know of are Galleries Lafayette and Nice Etoile and one pays 50 centimes a person to use the restrooms there.  The same with the few public toilets run by the city.  (Most of the creepy machine toilets are out of service now.  Maybe FNAC still has a free toilet but lets keep that a secret.)   This is as shameful for a tourist town as not running a regular night bus service.  So thumbs down for the city for this one too.    If you want to attract tourists,  make it at least possible for them to pee!!

One more story from the article:  An ice cream shop gives out 4 "sample tastes" to a family before he makes the snarky comment that he also "sells" ice cream and they have to now make up their minds.   The family leaves without buying and he is angry.

  I am willing to bet they felt insulted by the way the man handled the situation and so went elsewhere for their ice cream.    An amusing but positive attitude can always win the day, but that has to be valued in a culture.   Thumbs down, sorry , thumbs down again.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Heap of rats

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Monsieur comes home with a new sighting, a pile of 8 dead rats at the bottom of the street.  

We begin to speculate on what happened to these wayward rodents all in a pile beside the "poubelle"...not in the "poubelle" but meters away.

Theory #1:   A "clochard" cat is interviewing for a job and wants to impress someone enough to take him in.  

Theory #2:  Someone is poisoning rats and is not going to bury them...or wants the other rats to take notice so won't bury them. Of course, NIMBY applies and so they get dumped elsewhere. 

Theory #3:  Rats got together in a Jim Jones style version of the "rapture"....did the cool-aid acid test and failed or ...   Got beamed up to rat paradise?

Theory #4:  We have a maniac living on our street experimenting with ways to kill the neighbor's dog....or, perhaps,  the neighbor.  

Theory #5:   There was a "rat-nado".  Monsieur knows that there is a film called Shark-nado (though luckily he has been spared from seeing it.)   Maybe all of the rats were swept up in the last tornado and dumped as the storm got bored with itself.  

Theory # 6:  In an attempt to catch the rats, peanut butter was smeared on the inside of a trash can and when the rats fell in they were drowned by the perpetrator.     This is a real suggestion for how to catch rats from my friend Jody D.   Of course, as Jody points out there is always the choice of re-homing them elsewhere.   But who is going to carry the rat can to it's new homing site...tell me that.  

Well one thing is sure....rats are here to stay whether it is country or city and we have a little of both here on our street.  

 We had our own intruder.... rat or weasel... in the adjacent property recently.  We are the caretakers so Monsieur has put up enough grill work to tame a teenager's teeth.    It is two rows deep but with the unsheathed barbs on the outside.  That and the ammonia that smells like fox piss should discourage the lodgers.  

So far so good.  No more ominous sounds from the ceiling have been reported next door. ...  but I'll never know what happened to the hapless bevy down the road.

   Of course, it being August , they may stay there for a long time.   City services tend to center around the beaches in summer as crews get stretched because of the traditional August holiday.  Rats!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Indian antics at the Asian Art Museum

Last night Jeanne and I went along to the Parc Phoenix in Nice to hear the Bollywood Masala Orchestra from India as it makes it's way through Europe.  

If you missed it you have another chance tonight at 9pm and since it's free, it's well worth it.  Parking was less than 5 euros at the nearby Arenas 2 so you could say we both got in for two and a half euros.

 There are eighteen performers on stage that vary from beguiling dancing girls,  singers and a variety of  musicians representing in this event , a tour through India. 

   They are almost eclipsed, however, when a short , nimble "fakir" walks on stage , treads on a bed of nails (and various other torture instruments) while balancing a jug of water on his head which is only supported by a slim column of water glasses).  After that feat, he then proceeds to spit fire and wow the crowd with his dragon breath stripped down now to only gypsy pants and a string of impressive pearls!  Lord knows what is in the glass he keeps gulping from!!

My pics didn't turn out well but I will post them anyway and you will be able to see much better ones from their site.

Actually there are a few videos on You tube of the group but the real thing will entice you much more. 

 The last act was amusing to the mostly French audience as the Indian Orchestra leader wound a turban on the head of French master of ceremonies ( as a sign of respect and thanks) and as we filed out,  the female dancers had us doing a response call to their seductive arm and hand movements. 

  It was a jolly evening and I would recommend it if you are here this summer. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pigeon with Peas

I got an email from some "foodies", friends of a friend, who found my blog and are coming to Nice  for a restaurant tour and I realized that I have not posted any recipes lately nor have I been to many of the new restaurants.   If you have any suggestions for them, please give a shout. 

Monsieur's latest kitchen caper was pretty darn tasty so I can post one of his efforts and the source.

The recipe was found in the Financial Times where Rowley Leigh listed Pigeon with Peas in his column.    Just go online and find it under the title.  I won't list it here although I can say that it is  pretty basic... with only , spring onions, pancetta, white wine and chicken stock as ingredients.

Here in France the pigeons came with the heads on ( of course) and they had a white ruff around the neck....  so any relation to the nuisance birds which are ever present in city life is taken away right at the get-go. 

 I suppose in America these pigeons would be called squab.  If you are interested, go ahead and try it.  Pigeon makes a nice change for a poultry choice.