Tuesday, 28 February 2017

News From Chateau Gaudrelle

Cyril, the cellar master, presents their natural sparkling Vouvray, made with just the natural sugars in the grapes. It is unlabelled and sealed with a crown cap because it's only been bottled and undergoing its secondary fermentation for a few weeks. It is too young to sell, but it was already very drinkable.

As anyone who reads the blog will know, Chateau Gaudrelle is our favourite winery. We take clients there a lot, and last week they held a networking event to which hotels and tour operators who work with them were invited.

Marie opens up the amuses bouches, which were both beautiful and delicious, from an outside caterer. The foie gras at the front left was particularly popular, and earned the approval of someone who had grown up in the south-west, where most foie gras is produced.

They presented the latest wines and their new labels. The old labels were classic, but confusing for the customers because although the corporate imagery was strong it was difficult to distinguish between the different wines in their range just by looking at the bottle. With the old labels the one on the front was identical, and it was only when you turned the bottle around and read the back label that you could tell what it was. So now each of the wines has its own colour for the label and they are named after the parcels the grapes come from, instead of for the style of wine.

The medaille Saint Martin is a limited edition pin in silver or gold produced by a local jeweller. Proceeds from the sale of the brooch go to various heritage projects (at the moment the restoration of the Basilica Saint Martin in Tours).

The other news they had to impart is that they have decided to apply for organic certification. They've effectively been in conversion for the past eight years, and everyone is committed to a sustainable way of farming the estate. The decision to actually get the certification has come about because they are finding that the first question customers ask these days is 'are the wines organic?'


French Presidential Campaign: I posted my assessment of the campaign and candidates so far on Facebook. You can read it here if you are interested.

Monday, 27 February 2017


The top right hand (or for those less geographically gifted, the north-eastern) corner of the Paris tramline T3b gets quite interesting. Although the area isn't the most picturesque (it strays outside the Périphérique for a while, and then along the edge of a big redevelopment zone), the names of the tram stops are a pleasant surprise.

I was a little saddened to see there isn't a bus interchange (I was hoping for extra irony in the photo), but there is a swimming pool near Colette Besson, a cinema at Delphine Seyrig, and a concert hall near Ella Fitzgerald.

Which is nice.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Nothing to do Here

The past few days I have written about stuff to do at Paris Austerlitz station. No such luck at Marulen station southwest of Sydney.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Other Stuff to do at Paris Austerlitz

I wrote the other day about the short story machine at Paris Austerlitz station. This is by no means the only diversion to fill in your wait. If you have time you can take a little wander and look at the building itself (quite ace, actually) and its surrounds.

There is a lot of work happening at the station, which includes restoring the old train shed (the glass canopy) and building a new wavy concrete canopy along one edge to take the TGV trains for Tours when they move over from Gare Montparnasse in 2020 (not so long away, scarily enough for those of us who still get a surprise it is the 21st century now)

The old train shed

Trains, Cranes and Automobiles (and a boat).
The station is only 50 metres from the river and has great photo ops
I love the way the metro station is attached.
Just across the road is the newly restored Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée

And there is always some art to look at. I was particularly taken by a set of
re-imagined renaissance heroes by Sacha Goldberger.

Friday, 24 February 2017

La Petite Ceinture

A panoramic composite view of the 15th arrondissement from the Petite ceinture.

La Petite ceinture ('little belt') is an abandoned railway line that runs for about 30km around Paris. Until recently it has mostly been out of bounds. The railway company still owns the land and there has been a lengthy argument about what to do with this serendipitous brownfield space. Most people want it in public ownership and repurposed for leisure activities. Up in the 18th arrondissement the local residents took matters into their own hands a few years after the railway closed and have created some much loved community spaces and facilities. However, despite spending time in the area, we've never visited this section of the Petite ceinture (kicking ourselves now, to be honest...)

One of the many info boards along the track.

So when we went to Paris in early February one of the attractions of the apartment we rented in the 15th was that it overlooked the 1.5km section of the Petite ceinture in this arrondissement. This part has been developed by the local authority to form a walking path and long skinny nature reserve. Left for 25 years to become overgrown it became a wildlife haven, a corridor for foxes, hedgehogs, birds and bumble bees.

The new path, incorporating the old rails.

The section through the 15th is the most gentrified. It's used by joggers and dog walkers primarily. It has lifts from street level up to the old track bed at regular intervals, benches made from 'sleepers', and decking 'platforms'. A generous path was formed by packing the track with hoggin so that there was a level walking track but the rails are still visible, integrated into the path.

The lift in front of our apartment, taken from the apartment window.

All along the track are information boards describing the wildlife you might encounter at that spot. One of the most impressive is a tall dead tree, sprouting honey fungus out the top, nicknamed la Chandelle ('the candle'). The info board explains the tree has been left there for large wood boring beetles.

The entrance to one end of the section of the Petite ceinture that runs through the 15th.

The information board at the beginning of the section says:

Constructed around Paris under the Second Empire (1852 - 1869) this railway line transported passengers up to 1934 and goods up to the end of the 70s. In the 15th arrondissement, it particularly served the Citroën factory and the abbatoirs of Vaugirard. Since then the vegetation has spontaneously appeared on the banks, ballast, bridges and walls, forming different strata where numerous animal species can live.

To allow public access to the site the City of Paris has landscaped it whilst preserving the railway heritage and improved the unique biodiversity. The trail is reversible in case of occasional rail usage.

The Petite ceinture in the 15th brings together varied and interesting natural habitats in Paris such as woodland, grassland, wasteland, woodland edge and vegetation colonising the ballast and walls. Each of these environments harbours different animal species. Two hundred and twenty species of plants and animals live here or use it as an ecological corridor between the Parc André Citroën and the Parc Georges Brassens.

Along the wooded slopes 21 species of birds nest, amongst them the threatened Spotted Flycatcher Muscicarpa striata (Fr.  Gobe-mouche gris). In the more open areas like the woodland edges, the grassland and the ballast, bees, wasps, butterflies and beetles come to nectar.

This walking trail was developed so that the public could use it whilst respecting the existing natural heritage. The habitats have been preserved and elements of the railway heritage have been conserved and reused. Finally, in order not to disrupt the lives of the wildlife, no lights have been installed, and the site is closed at night. The banks are not accessible.

Maintenance is timed so that it does not disturb wildlife, particularly nesting birds. The idea is to maintain three stages of vegetation, and the grassland is mown once or twice a year. Woodland clearings are created to encourage the growth of local trees and shrubs, such as Field Elm, which is becoming rare, or English Oak and Sycamore. The trunks of dead trees and piles of wood are left as habitat for micro-organisms, fungi and wood boring insects. These all work to decompose dead wood and are essential for maintaining the ecological balance in a forest ecosystem.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

I want!!

If you have to have a chimney, you'd want one like this if at all possible:

And if you're going to have one, you may as well have its matching pair at the other end (although I am not convinced by the ornamental metalwork):

I am not sure if they are identical, but I do know where they are.

Do you?