France 2014: Road Trip – Nothing Toulouse Except Time

On the continuation of the road trip towards southern France, we decided to check out Toulouse, but really, if you are going to try to discover a city, a couple of hours is not nearly enough time.

Parking was an absolute nightmare. We drove into a multi-level parking area which indicated a large number of available spaces, only to find cars taking up more than one space each. Unless you drove one of those tiny smart cars, there was no hope. I was annoyed because we had already taken a ticket and thought we would be stung for parking, but perhaps the authorities realise the difficulties and since we exited within five or so minutes, we were not charged.

crazy parking in Toulouse

crazy parking in Toulouse

a better choice of parking

a better choice of parking

Try this parking area rather than Victor Hugo   in Toulouse

Try this parking area rather than Victor Hugo in      Toulouse

We had much better luck at a newer carpark, from where we went to find something to eat. I was in major need of a toilet stop by this stage, after driving around Toulouse for so long and not really seeing anything, so we ate at Quick, one of a chain of hamburger stores. Oh well, it was food, but not highly recommended by moi. Fast food may be fast, but it never seems to satisfy. C’est la vie.

Quick lunch in Toulouse

Quick lunch in Toulouse

A Quick Burger 

In retrospect, we hadn’t done any homework or research on the area. For example, what is Toulouse famous for? Probably a cathedral or two; perhaps being one of the larger cities in France. We were unprepared, and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Unfortunately when it has taken so long to get into a place, and so long to park, for such a little time, it puts you off somewhat, but as I said in the title, we had nothing Toulouse except time.

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France 2014: Road Trip to Sarlat-la-Canéda

Last time we were in Argenton-sur-Creuse, in 2010, we took a road trip up to Le Mont St Michel in Normandy, a medieval town virtually atop a little island. Google it to have  a look. Is this a case of history repeating itself? Perhaps, but you have to expect medieval architecture scattered across France, which is part of the charm of travelling all the way to Europe.  Australia’s architecture is less than 250 years old, so even our old buildings are relatively new.

scenes around Sarlat (12) scenes around Sarlat (11)  scenes around Sarlat (9) scenes around Sarlat (8) scenes around Sarlat (7) scenes around Sarlat (6) scenes around Sarlat (5) geese symbol of Sarlat scenes around Sarlat (4) scenes around Sarlat (3) scenes around Sarlat (2) Hotel Compostelle

France 2014: Home Cooking in Argenton

As part of our relaxation process during the three weeks prior to our planned Paris apartment expedition with two other couples, we decided to enjoy a few home-cooked meals since we have a lovely kitchen to work in. When I say work, the meals aren’t exactly labour-intensive, when you consider preparing some salad and cooking a couple of pieces of Atlantic Salmon or pork chops!

And yet how delicious these relatively simple meals proved to be. Was it the wine we enjoyed with them, the fact that we are on holidays? Either way, the flavours seemed to leap out at us with their freshness. Perhaps the long, long flight we endured with its less-than-appealing aeroplane food, added to this.

our first dinner of salmon yum

Our first dinner consisted of salmon and a simple salad, accompanied by an inexpensive vin petillant (sparkling wine).

Frequenting the local patisseries is a pleasant pastime, although we are limiting ourselves to one each per day, which we divide in half so that we can actually taste two.

The St. Honoré, similar to the Réligieuse, but larger, consisting of choux pastry filled with your choice of chocolate or coffee mousse, was delicious, as was the Milles Feuilles, literally meaning a thousand leaves, which describes the layers of light flaky pastry interwoven with magnificent thick and creamy custard,  a far cry from the Australian Vanilla Slice, sometimes irreverently referred to as a snot block.

sharing a mille feuille and a St Honore

Why would we waste time actually cooking dessert when you can buy these pieces of heaven?

Scenic Cruising: Food!

One of the most delightful sights on a cruise is in the Dining Room for dinner each evening, with wonderful meals served by friendly, helpful waiters. We have been most impressed with food on the Princess line. Our waistlines are testament to that. Even when you are trying to be reasonable, three course dinners every night tend to take their toll!

Enjoy some of the delectable dishes vicariously. No calories in looking!

From appetisers and entrees,

Delicious seafood

Smoked salmon

to mains…

Lobster tail and prawns

Lamb shanks

Salmon fillet

perfect

Beef Fillet Medallions

and of course, desserts…

Great presentation

Delectable Dessert

And as I post this to my blog, we are getting ready for another cruise leaving tomorrow. Somehow we are doing two cruises in one month, and it’s not our thirtieth anniversary for another eleven months. Perhaps we’re just celebrating early?

Lucky us!

Coffee and Cake for under $4.00

You won’t get coffee and cake for that price in Australia, mainly because of our rates of pay. But in Thailand, it is a different matter. Labour is very cheap, so when we went to Euro Bistro craving a cappuccino and a slice of something, we were delighted to pay only 120THB each.

Both the coffee and the cake were delightful, and I have no hesitation recommending a little visit if you are in the Patong area.

The Cashew Factory

One of the places we visited was the Sri Bhurapa Orchid Cashew Factory. I had never even thought about how cashews grew, and we were very surprised to learn that the cashew nut itself grows on the end of a fruit, rather pear-shaped, but red and yellow. The cashew tree outside the factory is decorated with imitation fruit to indicate its colour and size.

Each of these larger fruits only produces ONE cashew nut. The tree only fruits once a year. I for one am never going to complain again about the price of cashews. A worker demonstrated the removal process.

I couldn’t believe the size of some of the nuts. There are so many other lines I could add to this, but won’t.

We bought a pack of cashew nut slice, coated with sesame seeds, similar to nut bars that you buy in Australia.

At the factory we were able to sample various flavoured cashews. I love cashews raw, roasted, salted, even unsalted, so I didn’t think the flavour needed tampering with. However, some of the varieties were delicious. Deciding one can each would be sufficient, (just in case our luggage weighed too much), I chose the Tom Yum flavour – we were in Thailand after all, and my husband opted for the spicier Wasabi variety.

Now that I have looked more closely at the ingredients of my tin, it appears that the tin contains only 65% cashews, 14% wheat, 11% corn flour, 8% sugar, 1.5% palm oil and 0.5% Tom Yum Powder. Oh well, I guess that’s usually the case when you buy flavoured items. It takes away from the naturalness of the actual nut. The 215 gram tin cost 195 THB, about AUD $6.50. I just realised you could have nearly a whole dinner in Patong for that price! Obviously this cashew factory is aimed very much at the tourist market, but it was a good experience.

Sabai Sabai Restaurant Review

I am happy to add my recommendation to others who have gone before me.

However, don’t expect amazing surroundings.

 Tucked down a side street just off the Patong beach road, Phuket, Thailand, Sabai Sabai is an unimposing little restaurant, with very reasonable prices. A lady by the name of Gan runs this establishment, which is very highly respected by Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans, judging from the posters of gratitude adorning the walls.

Plastic tablecloths don’t reflect the quality of the food. We had been to another place that had gorgeous tables inlaid with roses, but the food had been disappointing. Obviously, if you expect great surroundings AND fabulous food, you will have to look elsewhere and pay appropriately. If it’s just a choice between the decor and the quality of the food, I would choose good food.

Each of our visits there provided delicious Thai food at reasonable prices.

A section of the menu indicates some dishes available.  Soup for just over AUD $2 – yummy!

I chose the Tom Kha Gai for my first visit at lunch.

My husband chose the Phad Thai, which was filling enough after our buffet breakfast.

The butterflied Tiger Prawns were enjoyed when we went to dinner with friends, but as we had all had a few drinks perhaps we didn’t appreciate them as much as we should have. The entree, dinner, dessert and drinks bill came to under AUD $18.00 each! Now that’s a bargain.