Into the Ibis

(Our new home…)

We are in our room at the Ibis hotel in Niort. The room is bigger than Ruby and the toilet doesn’t need to be emptied. There is hot water, a shower and the high point: a bath! I am cleaner than I’ve been for 72 days. This is the life. Although we do miss a kitchen.

(Not McDonald’s breakfast…)

We’ve had breakfast and lunch in McDonalds and we went to a restaurant in the French chain, Au Coutelle for a snack. Which turned out to be a bit more complicated than we imagined. We spotted a lovely sounding platter of meats and patês.

(These wildflowers are everywhere)

They take the drinks orders first and Denis ordered a glass of wine while I had a mint juice drink. Then the very young food waiter arrived and we told him we would just have the platter, between us. He was a little taken back and asked hadn’t Denis ordered a drink? We agreed yes he indeed had.

(Can’t get enough of the blue)

Fortunately he spoke the next bit in English because it was getting a little complicated. “Oh you must have a main course meal if you have alcohol” Denis looked at me and I looked back, well that’s interesting, we were saying, in silence. More food? Less alcohol? Denis picked the second. I said, Stop the alcohol order and he (literally) ran to the kitchen.

(Old mile marker)

Very soon he arrived back and said he had talked to his supervisor and it was ok but… (looking at Denis and holding up one finger) you can only have one! Denis promised he would only have one. One small glass of wine was produced. The platter was indeed very good.

(There was a bread machine in Benet too)

It’s funny what you miss when you’re just visiting… there may be a particular alcohol license that requires a full meal? Or this chain is concerned about food intake versus alcohol intake? Orwell, I don’t know what else…

Learning the customs, Mairead.

Yum, Yum, Yum!

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(The restaurant was closed this morning when I went to take a photo so you won’t see how lovely it looked when the lights were shining, but remember the Portuguese Cafe God? The architecture is Art Deco)

We had a lovely restaurant experience last night. I forgot to bring my camera and I forgot to take pictures of the food with my phone. It was just lovely and now there’s no proof. I found the restaurant on the internet and even though it had a strange name I got a good feeling from the reviews. It’s called Art Deco Cafe and the reason became clear when I went back to the a picture of it today. But back to the reviews, they weren’t all good in fact one was very critical but the owner replied to the reviewer in English and in a quirky way. So I was in.

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(This is a different cafe celebrating 125 years in business!)

I’m reading another book called Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination for Teachers, Trainers, Coaches and Mentors (long name!) by Kim Hermanson. It’s really interesting and it talks about becoming more aware of how you feel when you’re reading something or talking to someone because that’s feedback of your experience and that’s where your wisdom lies. So for instance, when I was reading the review for the restaurant, I could be wondering if the critical reviewer was a better judge of food than me. But what’s more useful is to notice what I’m feeling as I read the review (and the reply). I was feeling even more curious about the restaurant than I had been. I felt it might be worth visiting.

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(Spring is here)

It was worth visiting. It was a tapas restaurant and as we can’t read Portuguese and we didn’t recognise any of the options we asked for suggestions and they were great suggestions. We started with a sheep’s cheese from northern Portugal that was melted with olive oil and some herbs and the top of it was crusty – yum. Then we had a baked sausage that was soft like a pie with toasted flaked almonds on top served with an apple sauce – yum, yum. And finally we had brochette with sardines and tomatoes on top – yum, yum, yum. I hope I’m getting across that I loved it and Denis did too.

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(Love the streets)

It wasn’t just a food experience there was music too. One wall was covered with LP covers and there was a mixture of jazz and Leonard Cohen playing in the background. The furniture was also interesting, I’m guessing it was from whenever Art Deco is from but it could have been from the 70’s. There was also a little entertainment. The only other diners, a young couple were having a heated discussion and as luck would have it their language in common was English. The music volume was little too high and Denis was talking non stop about a Mars expedition so the details of their discussion escaped me. They did leave hand in hand, though.

I will definitely trust my feelings when I read a review from now on. Mairead.

Beware – food pictures!

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(Denis can hardly wait to get inside the door of TimeOut Market, Mercado de Ribeira)

Forgot to tell you – yesterday was a beautiful day! A little bit of sunshine and no rain! We woke this morning, surprisingly surprised to hear rain on the roof. We had forgotten that we chose yesterday to go to Lisbon because the Weather app promised cloudy with sun! It promised rain today.

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(My favourite stall)

We have moved to a beautiful place but it’s way too windy and wet to have a look so we are parked in a free aire, five minutes drive from the town and two minutes from a nice supermarket. I really want to bring you pictures of the town tomorrow because it looked amazing through the windscreen. Maybe I should check the weather app. Ok I checked the weather app… might have to take pictures through the windscreen.

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(I choose steak in a cream sauce and spinach in a cream sauce… It was very good but I wish I’d chosen Denis’ meal)

Fortunately I do have some food pictures from yesterday in Lisboa. Denis knew almost immediately what he wanted to eat and he even had a suggestion for me. But I wanted to look for myself so I wandered round and round and got more and more confused. Eventually I saw a picture of the meal I thought looked good and choose that.. without noticing the price.

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(Denis choose pork crackling with special pickle sandwich – it was amazing, he shared. Those crisps were hot and tasted like potatoes…)

When we compared receipts mine was double the price of his… so top tip if you go here (and I recommend you do) check out the prices as well as the nice pictures.

My mouth is watering, Mairead.

Bright lights, big city, sleepy time.


(The street full of restaurants in La Rochelle)

Not a lot happening here today, working away on my crafting. Forgot to mention that we went to the big city on Friday. After our first weekend and becoming accustomed to how things work in France – opening times, closed days, etc. – we came to a decision that weekends would consist heretofore of a Friday and a Sunday. The Friday could include shopping expeditions, trips to the big city and general touristy things. The Sunday would be for long walks and lunch out while remembering to be at a lunch establishment within the golden hour of 12.30pm to 1.30pm… just in case. Just in case they closed!


(Pretty boats)

So, we got up early on Friday as excited as children on Christmas morning (well I was, Denis was just complaining about the time.) We let the hens out with enough food and water to last until Monday and we were driving down the road by 10am. By 10.10am we were driving past our back gate for the second time. It did look familiar. We had driven off before the sat nav had connected with the satellites (seemingly that’s how it works – there isn’t someone in there) and by the time connection happened we were facing the wrong direction. Usually the nice lady says “Take the next U-turn” but around here there are so many road options she decided to take us around in a circle back to the start. Off we went again.


(While Denis was taking pictures of the slipway (above) he heard some shouts of “Monsieur, s’il vous plait?” He had got in the way of the photographers taking pictures of (possibly) famous people?)

The big city was La Rochelle and it was an hour away. Living in the country, tuning into the wild life and my creative impulses and communing with the hens seems to have had an effect already. As we got closer to the city I was becoming more and more restless. There was a lot of traffic and a lot of people and the nice lady in the sat nav was giving lots of instructions and did I mention the traffic? By the time we got to Decathlon (for the runners and the rucksack) I was ready to go home to the nice peaceful place, yes peace, hmmmmm. But as there was promise of lunch I put on a brave face and struggled on.


(Here’s a good look at the (potentially) famous people…. any ideas?)

By the time we left Decathlon it was dangerously close to the start of the golden hour (yes, 90 minutes in a sports supermarket!) Twenty minutes later we were moving through the pretty port of La Rochelle very slowly in heavy traffic looking for a place to park. There were plenty of places and we managed to park very close to a street full of restaurants. We picked one and either they were all really good or we were incredible lucky (again.) It was great. I had Sea Bream on a bed of risotto on top of a little fat crepe – yum. No idea what Denis had I hardly lifted my head to breathe – yum,yum. Sorry, no pictures 😦


(One of the towers protecting the port of La Rochelle)

After lunch we walked around the streets remembering the last time we were here but soon I had enough and we headed back to the car. We had more shopping to do – grocery shopping. We had spotted a huge supermarket on the way in that morning and decided we go back there and get everything under one roof. The normal sized supermarket for this particular chain is called Super U and this one was called Hyper U. I know where it gets its name. It made me feel very hyper. It was ginormous. The sales assistants wore roller blades to get around! An hour passed like a flash. Less than an hour after that we finally found the car (note to self: write down the car park section number, you never remember it) and promised each other we would never, never do that again. Fridays next time would consist of either hyper shopping or little shopping or tourist-ing but never all three.

I’m tired just thinking about it, Mairead.

Killruddery Farm Market is on again this Saturday.

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(This way…)

Last month we went to the Killruddery Farm Market again and it was lovely again. As it happens only once a month (for the moment) I decided to keep the pictures until just before this month’s one, so that anyone who is inspired to visit can do so. It will take place this Saturday 4th August and starts at ten am, (

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(Margaret and a small selection of her creations)

You might remember I met Fiona from Treasurepalace designs ( well, she’s encouraged her neighbour Margaret to come along and set up a stall. Margaret has been making and sewing for “years and years” and she does it for different charities. People give her material all the time and she turns it into something beautiful. The result of these gifts of material is that no two finished items are the same. Margaret makes whatever she can with whatever she has – creativity.

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(Treasurepalace’s stall – notice the dried Hydrangea? Margaret showed Fiona how to do that!)

After our chat we went off for some coffee and I had a blueberry scone. We were sitting at the long table in the middle of the market and we got talking to some other market goers (they were eating the crepes, yum!) It’s a very friendly atmosphere, the stall holders are delighted to chat about their products (we got some lovely pesto and amazing teas and new potatoes) and their’s a constant stream of people happily munching and chatting. We had a great time and felt the benefit of the outing for the whole weekend.

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(Kingfisher Teas from Enniscorthy, Wexford also have a stall at the Dun Laoghaire market on Sundays)

We’re off to Belfast this weekend to visit friends and we can’t go to the market…. so, if you get a chance do go along to Killruddery Estate (it’s off the Southern Cross road in Bray) and tell Fiona and Margaret that Mairead sent you!