Take a fabulous view in St. Mandrier (near Toulon) -

                  st m best view 2

Mix it well with a glamorous magic wand devotee plus a cheeky master chef -

                 st mandrier family

And stir well in a Provencal Home straight out of a French magazine.  

                       st m home

What do you get ?? A BLOODY good holiday - that's what !!

Start your day typically with a stroll past the fishing boats in the harbour to the Boulangerie to buy croissants for breakfast  - not before 10 am please, and be careful of all the fishing nets from the guys working hard all night !!

                st m boulongerie 

Approx.1.5 hrs late and too replete (good word - aka stuffed full of croissants) to move. Okay lets just roll out the front door where our personal assistant, Fritz, is waiting, and go find a hill top village or a beach resort to explore.

                             a cassis map

CASSIS - an extremely ancient fishing resort now morphed into part of the rich and famous playground of the Mediterranean, and what's more, is only approx 1.5 hours from St Mandrier - bonus. Check out the red star above.

                               a cassis street better

Wander down the hillside through any of the fascinating small streets, and come to the most charming waterfront I have encountered EVER. 

                     a cassis 22

And everyone was here for Sunday lunch - can you see any film stars ??

                     a cassis all eating best

Hmmmmmm - I can definitely see Robert de Nero and over there is Elle, oh and don't tell my brother Murray, but one of the glitterati has stolen his dog.

                  a cassis mixture

Just to be here was a delight. The colours, the beauty, the food, the people, the ancientness of the old town, the boats, the statues even on top of buildings, and the old old streets - it all adds up to an ambience that takes your heart and gives it a sweet little nudge that places like this exist.

                          a cassis dinner

But then, as is our want, trusty Fritz sped back along the roads, and round all the curves, and delivered us safely back to St Mandrier for a delicious dinner by our cheeky master chef in our own piece of heaven.

OOH LA LA life can be damn fine !!

And just wait - there will be more. More escapades of a wand waving celebrity, more food by a cheeky master chef, more ancient towns - coming to a blog near you.


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Stroll across  the waterfront, breathe in the French air, glory in the French sunshine -

                   6 agnes 2

And come to the Saturday markets. 

What would be your pleasure Madame ? Flowers -

                         6 flowers 24

                               Oui, Oui - bouquet pour nous.

                                              6 flowers 40

Pisces ?? -

                             6 fish 10

                                                      Non non not that one - evil eye -

                             6 fish 20

                                                          S'il-vous-plait - THAT one.

Garlic ?

                                      6 garlic 61

Fresh White Asparagus ?

                          6 asparagus 60

Cranberries, Golden Raisins, Goji berries ????

                                  6 cranberries 10

Tomatoes ??

                                  6 tomatoes10

Lavender Honey ??

                                 6 honey10

Cheese, Madame, -  (we took the big piece on top - yumbo !!)

                                 6 cheese 10

Saucisson (low fat) ?? -

                                6 low fat sausage10

or maybe fashion ?

                                         6 fashion10

or a Headband, Parisian-style -         

                                6 headband 20

Ce chien n'est pas un pouf, vraiment! - Straight comme un die.

                                6 dog 2

 Peut-être un peu de flirtation?

                                         6 flirting 10

Oui, Oui, soak up the Gallic atmosphere, enjoy the sounds and the smells (oooh the SMELLS), eat every smelly cheese in sight, sample a sausage or 2, buy a bucket of strawberries, take the fresh white asparagus home and eat it for dinner with a mound of Hollandaise sauce , and / or large dish of the best asparagus soup EVER ( all made by Micha) - groan gr-o-a-n- I am NEVER ever going home !!!


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Remember this ?

                       900 manoora 001

The 900 class locomotive Malkie was building.  He has used his computer to convert blueprint drawings of this train, precisely and accurately, into 3D drawings ready for the 3D printer.

                  train 002 

And this is as far as he got in my last "train tragic" post. The plastic model was excellent, but the sides were not quite detailed enough, so it was covered with a piece of brass etched accurately into doors, windows etc.

All he has to do now, is paint the little model, right ? W-e-e-l-l-l is a bit more than "just" painting.

                    nerve centre 1

Firstly, check out the nerve centre, where the detailed building occurs. Actually very well organised.

                    paint booth

                          And this is the paint booth with its extractor fan at the back. 

                    malkie 2

                 And this is what I have to cope with to get these piccies - lots of cheek !!

                  after silver and red paint

                  At this stage, the red has been sprayed on, and the silver trim as well.

OOPs Malkie - you missed the silver trim on the grill bits - so back to masking and respraying.

            masked 2

           The little guy after masking - very detailed job. Needs more patience than I ever would have.

            masked and silvered

           The silver is resprayed round the grills.

            silver grill

                  When the paint is dry, the masking is peeled off - and voila! Silver grills.

            the decals

               Next, attaching the numbers as a decal. 900 class, remember.

                     cutting the decal best

                        Malkie uses a scalpel to get a fine accurate cut.

                     decal with scissors

                    Then snip the tiny weeny "900" away from the rest with surgical scissors.

                              decal in water

                   Use a fine brush to get the minute decal into water - don't blink !!


Use that fine brush to get the wet decal onto the train, and then use a tiny blob of "solvaset" to make the decal snuggle down, and look as if it has always been there.

     900 with numbers

Getting there - now for the "X" on the front.

                      newby 4   

                     The "900" class rides again, perfect in every detail.  

                     newby other side    


              newby 5  

                     Congratulations, Malcolm. Mission accomplished successfully.  

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Autumn last year, days were getting colder. Trees were turning yellow and red, skies seemed to be lowering, and the air was crisp. Connette said - let's go apple picking, so we did! Staying in the Blue Ridge Mtns - we rug up and head for Mercier orchards.

                    mercier 1

Family owned business, celebrating 70 years selling apples, strawberries,blueberries, raspberries, peaches etc. etc. and they set aside some apple fields for very excited people like us to come in and pick their own apples. What a treat.

                            1 apple u-pick

             1 apple tractor 1

                   First a ride in a wagon, with a great big tractor in front, to the fields.

                         1 apple our turn

Oh boy, oh boy, our turn for a bumpy ride - one guy from the farm stays with us on the wagon, and we get the history of the orchard.

             1 apple farm 1  

                       Round the hills, over and around again, and we come to our patch.

                        1 apple crop 7

                       Lachie fills his "u-pick" bag -

                                1 apple eating

                       Zachie fills his "u-pick" apple tummy!!

                         1 apple crop 16

That's not fair, we all fill our "u-pick" tummies and bags - cause honestly, I have NEVER seen apples as good as these. Large, red, glowing, hanging heavy on the trees, and lusciously juicy, who could resist. And we didn't.

1 apple-arkansas-black 1 apple fuji  1 apple red delicious 1 apple pink lady 4

left to right - Arkansas Black, Fuji, Red Delicious, Pink Lady - and these are only some of the ones they grow.

       1 apple pink lady 3       1 apple crop 19 a

There is such a difference, you buy an apple - it is just an apple. You pick one of these beauties - and it is an APPLE.

      1 apple zach eating A    1 apple crop 12 A

Until you taste one straight off the tree, you will think I'm crazy. You bite into it - it's crisp and clean and the juice dribbles down your chin and you can't chew fast enough for the next mouthful, and it's oh SO sweet - this is an APPLE !! YUMBO. I'm with Zachie.

                         1 apple zachie eating going home

OK enough - bellies are full(Zachie on apple no. 4), bags are full, wandered amongst the apple trees enough, earlier clouds have gone and the day is heating up - time to climb aboard our wagon and go back. 

                         1 apple shop mix cats

But wait - before we climb into the cars, we might just pop into the apple shop - I feel the strawberry cider calling, and maybe some other goodies, and an apple pie (which was the best and biggest EVER), and the boys find a monstrously-big tractor to play on - we aren't in a hurry are we ??

                        1 apple shop both 3 

                        1 apple shop zachie 3

                        Zachie votes this a pretty good day. !!

        1 apple 2     

        And we all agree as we wing our way back to "Bear Hugs"  in the Blue Ridge Mtns.  Pat and Curry Gayle, thank you for this precious time at your mountain home.


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