Saturday, 22 October 2016

Trauma in the New Theatre in Chalon

The new theatre, in the dark depths of an industrial zone
After a summer chock-a-block full of concerts we were entering autumn, winter and spring with only two concerts in view. The first one was last week - a Fado singer in Chalon.

I am not a fan of Fado, but Cees is, so we bought tickets. As we were on our way through Chazelle, I had a sudden light bulb moment and remembered that the theatre, where all the concerts are normally given, was closing down for a two year renovation as of September – so where the heck was our concert going to be? An emergency three point turn followed by a racing start and screeching halt at La Tuilerie, to check out the theatre website. Of course both of us had switched off our computers (bloomin’ energy saving ideas) and so our departure was somewhat delayed. Good job I did think of it in time, as the new theatre is completely on the other side of town and not at all where I thought it was even when I had remembered it had moved – if you get my drift.

Inflated tarpaulin 
No problem, we are chronically early for everything (too long in The Netherlands) so we were on time for the concert. People were going into the auditorium when Cess handed over our electronic tickets that he had printed out, no cheery beep for us from Ticketman’s scanner we got a blurp – tickets not valid! What?? Ticketman then looked at the tickets and said “these are for an orchestra in May”. Oh no…. someone had brought the wrong tickets with him. There was no way we could get home in time to get the right tickets and still see the concert – “what a pity” I was secretly thinking. Ticketman suggested we talked to Ticketlady, maybe something could be done.

Rplacement ticket
Ticketlady smiled when we told her our story and said “Quelle catastrophe !” and then tick, tick, tick on the computer, we were found and real cardboard tickets were printed out for us. Phew – “this concert had better be worth the hassle” I was thinking by then.

The new temporary theatre is a wooden base structure with an enormous red tarpaulin over it which seems to be inflated by a massive ventilation system. Inside there are 18 rows of 32  seats seemingly sloping up to the sky. When we got to our seats in row O, I felt like we had climbed half way up Mount Everest, but we had an impressive, towering view of the stage. My only concern was the lack of emergency exits. There were two for roughly 600 theatre goers and both of those were meters below us at row A. With only two narrow, steep staircases to get everyone down and out, I wasn’t sure what would happen in an emergency.

Gisela dances an encore, high heels gone,
time to seriously get dancing
The concert however, was fantastic. The singer (Gisela Joao) was quite superb and the musicians were even better. Gisela didn’t only sing Fado but she sang jolly, dancey songs and she was so enthusiastic about the songs that she jumped and danced all over the stage like a little girl. She insisted on trying to translate the words of each song, but her vocabulary let her down somewhat, so the Portuguese speakers in the audience had to shout out the missing words every so often. All in all she charmed the whole audience and her rendition of La Vie en Rose brought the house down.

It was great evening out, it was certainly worth the price of the tickets, the hassle of finding the place and the trauma of having the wrong paperwork with us, but I’m still not too sure about the safety of the theatre itself. I am hoping our seats for the next concert are a bit nearer the exits.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Autumn Holiday

View from our accommodation in 's-Hertogenbosch
Just as we thought that summer would never end, we had a sudden heavy frost. Autumn has arrived in style this year.

Even though end of summer always surprises me, I think it is our strange gite season that has really confused my seasonal clock this year. We do not normally have many guests in September, we wind down gently from the busy summer months into the autumn and then we close for the winter. This year the guests have kept coming and coming. The later in the season it became, the more people we have had visiting us. Everything has been so much later this year, including the hot weather and this has all compounded to profoundly confuse me!

Typical "street" scene in Amsterdam
Being fully booked for September (the first time ever in the ten years we have been open) there was no holiday for us during that month, so a two week visit to The Netherlands was planned for October. Nice and relaxed this time, to enable us to visit everyone we wanted to and not have to rush around like lunatics from one place to another. But the gite bookings just kept coming, a couple of days were initially shaved off the end of our holiday and then some more days were shaved off the beginning and so our two weeks ended up as four days.

What is The Netherlands without a windmill.....
... or bicycles and canals?
The great thing about living here is that we can just pop to The Netherlands for four days without too much trouble and now that there are fewer tourists on the road, the journey is really quite relaxed.

So there we were last weekend, as our guests left the gite on Saturday morning, packed and ready to go. We were easily in The Netherlands in time for dinner.

That evening we went to see a light show in 's-Hertogenbosch, part of the year of Hieronymus Bosch. We missed the light show when we visited during the exhibition of his work back in May as one of the buildings it was to be projected on collapsed a few days before we arrived. We were very disappointed at the time and so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to actually see it this time and it and gave a very holidayish feel to start of our short break.

Amsterdam flower market in autumn.
The next day on to Amsterdam and a chance to see old favourites including the Van Gogh museum and just to wander around and enjoy the sites and sounds.

So that’s it for our autumn holiday, hopefully we will have better luck organising our spring holiday, but on the other hand if we fail to do that one, it means we have an excellent start to our renting season – difficult choice!

For information on holiday accommodation within one day's drive of The Netherlands click here.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Finally a reason to visit Montceau-les-Mines

The sign says it all - La Douce Heure Antillaise
I have been very rude about Montceau in a number of blogs, basically because it is a bit of a dump. No more or less so than any other industrial town which has lost its industry and is trying to redefine itself, but Montceau seems to think it is above the rest of them, which is why I think I have a bit of a downer on the place. We have visited the town a number of times now and to be honest I have found nothing of any interest there, apart from the occasional event in the theatre - we once saw a fantastic Chinese opera. Don’t get me wrong it is not a “bad” place, it is just not got anything good going for it – or so I thought.

I am going to back track now to May when we went to an Antillean mass in Cormatin church see here for the reason why - it is too long a story to tell again. The person behind the Antillean week is Christiane Mathos and we discovered (OK Cees discovered) that she runs a restaurant in Montceau, La Douce Heure Antillaise. We have been meaning to visit the restaurant a number of times and finally looked up the website. Lunch is by reservation only, so we tried to make a reservation. To cut a long story short, we finally went last Thursday.

A touch of the tropics in Montceau
The interior of the restaurant gave a clean, simple and “Caribbean” impression and the menu looked interesting. Starters were a problem for me as everything except the black pudding was fish, fortunately I love black pudding so the choice was simple. The main course proved to be more difficult as there were a number of things that sounded as though they were worth a try, I plumped for Chicken in coconut milk. Cees chose the Antillean starter mix and he went for the only item on the menu which had a chilli-heat warning - Civet de Chatou (pieuvre). Not knowing what either chatou or pieuvre were, I asked and the owner said it was like calamares – octopus! Yum. When Cees said he wanted it really hot the owner said ah ha you want “rougail” which was obviously the Antillean word for “super hot”. So the octopus was ordered and a new word had been learned.

The starters were a great success and then my chicken arrived and Cees’ king prawns??? I thought it was supposed to be octopus – ah well, lost in translation again. I half expected someone else in the restaurant to say “hey you have my food” but no one did, so Cees ate the king prawns which were very nice, but not very hot, fortunately the owner had given him a pot of scotch-bonnet sauce, very tasty and very hot and that livened it up.

Simple, colourful and waiting for the lunchtime guests
So our verdict, firstly take a dictionary with you and read the menu properly. Rougail is a type of spicy sauce and in this restaurant it is served with king prawns, Civet de Chatou is octopus in a spicy oniony sauce, which Cees will definitely be trying if we go again. It is still not clear to us how he ended up with the king prawns, but he did like them so it wasn’t the end of the world. My chicken was good enough to want to return and try out the other offerings on the menu. The meal was not cheap but also not super expensive, however price-wise it isn’t a place to eat at every day, which is just as well as the owner is the waitress and chef, so don’t expect to get out quickly, having said that, the music and general ambiance were chilled out enough to let you sit there and not worry about the passing time.

We’ll definitely be going back; my only worry is that the owner has just celebrated 30 years of running the restaurant and who knows how much longer she will keep going – why didn’t we find this place when we first came here? We could have had years of culinary enjoyment.
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