Local Heart, Global Soul

July 28, 2013

France On the Horizon … But Where is the Horizon?

Filed under: ENGLAND,Folkestone,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A short drive away from the harbour in Folkestone we start to climb the steep hills that make up the local terrain and include the white cliffs of Dover, only 7 kms away.

What’s maybe lesser known is that France on the other side of the channel, has it’s own matching set of white cliffs, and both are of course a natural geological continuation of each other.

Sadly although we have a beautiful sunny day in Folkstone when we visited, there is a sea mist above the channel and France is somewhere behind the haze.

Instead we turn around to admire the view in the inland direction, part of which is dominated by a truly enormous building that was formerly the Folkestone Metropole Hotel.

These days it houses apartments on the top levels and an art/ exhibition gallery on the ground floor. It was also once a very grand rival to it’s neighbouring  building just a short distance away…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 9, 2011

Cheese Journey’s though Our Back Yard that is Europe…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yes, yet another cheesy post, taken from my archive photos as I take you on a virtual tour of one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

We’ve been looking at the Dutch cheeses on offer, and the Bleu’s from around Europe, but there are so many more to explore in the world of European Cheese. Of course, no shop could even start to hope to stock them all, there are literally tens of thousands of European cheeses, so Ed does the next best thing: he goes looking for the best of the best.

Ed Boele makes regular trips around Europe, sampling cheeses and bringing back some of the more exquisite examples to share with his customers.

Not for nothing does he have Best Foreign Cheese Selection Awards to his name. One of the best things about both him and his shop is that not only are the contents divine but that he and his staff take the time to know all there is to know about everything they sell.

The awards they have earned over the years are based not only on a visiting  senior industry specialist jury but also by multiple random visits by mystery shopper specialists so the staff  have a good incentive to keep their knowledge up to date.

There are the artisan “Producteurs de fromages de chèvre” from the around the area of the Pyrenées, some are mild goat cheeses, other have a real kick to them.

Made in the mountains of north east France,  Munster or Munster Géromé, are the two names for one cheese.  Monks here started making it  in the 17th Century as a way of preserving the milk and to help feed the local people.

Milk comes from cows that graze the Vosgesmountains and is made into cheese by local farmers but bought to the  natural cellars at Rochesson in the Upper Vosges to mature. In the cellars it is washed and rubbed for two to four weeks during which time the rind turns a soft orange colour and the cheese becomes soft and creamy.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The cheese is still made the same way today and the recipe has little changed over the centuries. Ed Boele’s stocks “Munster Ermitage” , an award winning cheese from a company that’s been going strong now for  some 70 years.

Trappe Échourgnac is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese produced by nuns at the “Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bonne Espérance” (Abbey of Our Lady of Good Hope) in the Dordogne area of France.

The Abbey was formerly called “Abbaye d’Echourgnac” and was inhabited by monks who made cheese here, but in 1910 when war broke out the monks left the abbey. Cistercian nuns came to the Abbey, bought with them the new name and picked up the cheese-making production where the monks had left off.

The original cheese production started in 1868, when some monks from the Abbey of ‘Port du Salut en Mayenne’ came to Échourgnac and bought with them the recipe for Port Salut cheese.

Over time the recipe was amended for local taste and has always been popular but in 1999 the nuns decided that it would also be a good idea to combine two local specialities: their cheese and a local walnut liquor, and so they did, with very successful results.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The freshly made cheese is washed in the walnut liquor during it’s two month ripening time in the Abbey’s cellars, and this in turn produces a soft, smooth, creamy mellow cheese that has a wonderful walnut after-taste.

(I like this cheese a LOT).

From Cressier near Morat in the mountains of Switzerland comes Mont Vully cheese, it’s a “different” sort of cheese made in an area that’s the heart of Emmental style cheese country, so is not of the same style at all.

This semi-hard Mont Vully cheese quickly caught the attention of cheese connoisseurs when it won a gold medal at the Käsiade in Tirol in 1998.

Adding the Swiss Cheese Champion Award for the Mont Vully Bio at the Swiss Cheese Championships in 2006 means that Mont Vully is clearly going from strength to strength.

“Le Moulis Vache ” cheese comes from the  Department of Ariège  nestled next to Andorra in the Pyrenées and is pale, semi-soft mild-but-tasty tasting cheese with a flavour all it’s own.

It’s charactorised by it’s distinctive small holes (I always think it looks like bread!) and is matured from between 10 and 12 months, an excellent addition to any cheeseboard!

“Sbronzo Caciocavallo di Bufala”‘ is the strange looking cheese in the temperature controlled cabinet…  it’s a cheese from Eboli, Italy, that’s  made from unpasteurised water-buffalo milk  and then aged slowly at precise temperatures.

As is usual with hand made cheeses, the wheels are hand turned daily but this one differs from other cheeses because it’s  also “dressed” with aromatic herbs, olive oil or vinegar or in the case of this one, grapes.

Because the  10 month ripening process for this cheese needs to happen under exact temperatures,  it’s one of the few cheeses in the shop to require a temperature controlled environment but apparently  the end result will be a crusty looking, sweet aromatic  cheese and I have no doubt that if the rest of Ed’s stock is anything to go by, that it will taste rather good too.

Of course these are not the only non-Dutch cheeses in the shop, these are just a small sample of what’s on offer to show you the benefits of having a shop that’s dedicated solely to something as delectable as cheese and a staff who know their stuff. Like any society, The Netherlands has things that annoy you and things you adore. In the case of the traditional Dutch cheese shop, I  think it’s an idea par excellence…  after all there’s sure to be something in here to suit everyone’s taste, so what’s not to love?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 11, 2009

France; more Sunflowers!

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photo © kiwidutch)

Here is a post that I have especially slotted into the blog schedule for Lissa who liked my previous sunflower posting… (thanks for the lovely comments Lissa!) I have a heap of sunflower photos as we stopped three or four times at various fields of sunflowers ( gotta love my husband who cheerfully says “ok Love, I’ll look for a safe place to pull over” , when probably many a man would be saying “really, more photos, more sunflowers?” Yes ladies, he’s a keeper. He knows that my photography obsession extends to photographing food as well.. food that he enjoys very much indeed, and he ain’t arguing with the cook any time soon LOL. I also indulge his love of second hand books and bookshops and long hikes… it’s a give and take thing. Back to the sunflowers, I like to try a few experimental shots…

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September 9, 2009

France: Hotel Review: Le Vedaquais Hotel, Vaas.

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photo © kiwidutch)

The Le Vedaquais hotel was  formerly a school and the  town hall of Vaas, situated at the end of the main square just a short distance from the Loir river.  Named after the inhabitants of Vaas, Le Vedaquais  is a hotel of two halves, some of the rooms are located in in the building next door. Since dogs are also welcome here, it is this adjoining building where patrons with canine requirements are lodged. There is a Restaurant, but sadly on the evening that we arrived, it was not open for business… pity, because we hadn’t eaten. In keeping with the former use of the building the hotel’s Restaurant is decorated around a School theme and there are slates on the tables, two large dolls at a children’s desk etc. We enjoy a walk around town as we try an locate another restaurant in town . The walk is excellent but fail to find anywhere open that sells food. The bar at the other end of the square provides  liquid refeshments only and although we had only driven three hours away from the Charentes Maritime, they shook their heads and gave us blank looks of bewilderment when I tried to order Pineau. Himself got a beer, I got a Cola Light and we headed back to the hotel. The friendly owner offers bread for free and we snack on that in the room.  

The room upstairs is small but comfortable ( a very cheery and  brightly tiled bathroom that sadly I forgot to photograph) and we sleep well. The next morning it’s  downstairs for a simple breakfast before heading to the highway and northwards home.  Vaas has been a charming place to stay.  I am a little dissapointed that the restaurant wasn’t open last evening but well, sometimes you can’t win  ’em all.  This is definiately an area of France that I would be keen to explore further some time in the future.

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

 

 

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September 8, 2009

France: Vaas, a photographic gem….

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

Vaas.. in photos… The town is

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)
(Photo © Kiwidutch)

beautiful, the war memorial has a magnificent display of well kept flowers around it, the streets are tidy and there is a charm that quickly invades your soul.

Even the older buildings in urgent need of repair have oodles of character. Closer inspection this morning of the massive building on the water that comes complete with water wheel inside it , reveals that Yes, it does need a small fortune (ok, that was too polite, this building needs a large fortune!) of repairs and renovation, but Oh what a renovation it would be once completed!

The sheer magnificence and scale of the building would easily lend itself to a multitude of commercial possibilities, accommodation, retail premises, artisan uses etc…. all would be enhanced by the rejuvenation of these historic timbers and my heart aches that I have not the money to just step in and grant this dying buildings wish, and bring it back to life. Sadly I don’t realistically hold any hope that the one and only lottery ticket we buy each month as our little flutter and dreams of lottery miracles, will ever produce the goods, so it won’t be me saving you today, sorry dear building. But I wish for this charming ruin that it will find someone who can before it is too late.

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

Last evening I took some photos of some houses on the river that appear to be standing on tiny islands, from the road by the bridge I can see what appears to be a small

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)
(Photo © Kiwidutch)

footbridge through the trees, but no apparent road acess. The idea delights me and there are more ancient boathouses around, both close and in the distance. I also roam a small side street close to the church, it turns out to be a dead end, but near in it’s finial meters lies one of the most beautiful, and puzzling buildings I have ever seen. Imagine the letter “V”, upside down so that the two points are facing you, this appears to be the shape of this building…. squeezed tightly into a very small and odd shaped space…the decoration is drop dead georgous but it’s impossible to photograph in one piece because the alley I am in is so narrow. I press myself into the wall and the poor zoom still can not do this building justice.

Further ambles produce more photographic possibilities … if you love French Architecture you will adore Vaas.

The local authorities have several informational plaques around Vaas, here is some of the information that they contain:

The life and history of Vaas are intimately connected to that of the Loir, a navigable river in days gone by. The freestone quarried in the moriers was transported by barges. This method of transport was supplanted by the arrival of the railway in 1858. There were at least 12 mills in Vaas, for cereals, tan (oak bark) and hemp. Les Grands Moulins were owned by the Abbey until the Revolution. It was closed down in 1968. You can find out the history of these mills at the Rotrou Mill (Moulin de Rotrou)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)(Photo © Kiwidutch)(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

September 7, 2009

France: The delightful town of Vaas…

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

We are heading north from the Charentes Maritime and homewards… our French friends have proved to be technical wizards (well anyone is, compared to us) and our revised TomTom route will take us eventually though Rouen instead of through Paris, on the assumption

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

that even though the route is longer it should still be faster considering that we hope to avoid the two and a half hours almost standing still on the Paris ring road.

We encounter a bad car accident on a lonely stretch of toll road, but fortunately it’s quickly clear that the

single car involved, stranded severely battered and upside down in the middle of several lanes and surrounded by a multitude of car-part wreckage strewn everywhere had only one occupant, who is standing behind the side barrier with another motorist who has stopped

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

to give assistance, (and who’s car and passenger further down the road alert us to the wreckage ahead) is clearly unhurt but looking shaken and in shock at having walked away from the mangled mess of his car. The accident is so fresh that the police are not yet on the

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

scene… we creep cautiously around the metal littering the road and marvel that this young guy had a very narrow escape indeed.

We notice soon afterwards that everyone on the road is doing about 100kms per hour as we are, even though the speed limit is 130… obviously we are not the only ones sobered by the scene they have just seen.

We are tired and decide to pull off the motorway for the night and find a place to stay and somewhere for dinner… the small historic roman town of Vaas is in the Pays de la Loire is situated on the Loir River about 30 minutes away from Le Mans. This entire region has more than it’s share of historical sites: abbeys, cathedrals, and famous names of history, as the area is the ancestral home of the Plantagenets, with both Richard the Lionheart and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine rest in Fontevraud Abbey nearby and Joan d’Arc had close connections to the nearby town of Chinon.

Daylight will be gone soon, but the town is gorgeous and we step outside to explore. A few locals are at a bar at the end of the Square… we ask if they serve food, sorry no, only drinks.

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

The street at the end of the Square takes us to the river,… the tranquil waters lead to a weir to the right and on the left the smooth as glass river sports beautiful buildings, old walls and boathouses on the town side and a playground and canoe activities on the edge of the fields on the far side. It is blissfully quiet and serene. The bridge over the Loir has been named after a fallen American soldier to died here during the Second World War. (Pont du Lieutenant Pollingue) A small plague commorates him….

Camera in hand, this place is photographically delightful… I race to take photographs as the light fades.

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September 6, 2009

France: tracking down treasure…

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

We set out from Saintes to find a Pineau maker extraordinare… we have our TomTom satellite navigation gadget with us, a learning curve for us using it on our first big trip. It’s invaluable as we weave though small winding roads that cut through fields of vines, branch suddenly into two, and seemingly weave back on themselves now and again. We find the village of Chaniers without problem… but of course The Pineau makers are never found in the centre of the village, so although the Tom Toms self satisfied assurance that ” you have reached your destination” is technically  correct, it is not quite the full truth. Hubby learnt his French in this area and after spotting several locals on their leisurely walk back home from an unseen bakery, bagettes in hand, he makes inquiries if they might know of a Monsieur Quéré. The first asks if we are seeking Monsieur Quéré the butcher… oops no, sorry… the second inquiry yields the required results with a smile and a fistful of directions.

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

We set out with a long list of tout doits, à gauche, and à doits…. and are relieved to see a few avertisment signs for “Clos de Nancrevant”, leading us up the final winding road and to the door. Officially they are closed at this hour of the day but we can at least ask if they are interested in letting us buy some Pineau. The worst that can happen is that we might get a polite “no”. We knock and ask politely and are greeted with a warm smile and an invitation inside. A degustation follows (for me at least) and my joy of last evening is confirmed…. Even better, we may indeed buy some to take with us, I whip out cash before the kind Monsieur Quéré can change his mind. I try both red and white Pineau’s and both young and old… I like the white but adore the reds. Now, with the knowledge that I have found a treasure and that it will be the first Pineau house that we return to next trip, we prepare to leave the Charentes Maritime.

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

Monsieur M. & C. Quéré-Jelineau can be found at: 75, Chemin de Nancrevant, 17610 Chaniers.

Tel: 05.46.91.09.34

email:closdenancrevant@club-internet.fr

Ouvert tous les samedis de 14h à 19h, Juillet/Août: du lundi au samedi de 10h à 19h.

(Translation): Opening times are: Every Saturday between 14.00 – 19.00 hours, July/August: Monday to Saturday between 10.00-19.00 hours.

“www.closdenancrevant.com” is the website listed on their card but that only seemed to lead me to a very long list of Cognac suppliers and their web addresses… I eventually found them at this web address: ” http://closdenancrevant.over-blog.com/”

A little searching in the advert on the right hand side of the page will give you some photos and a small amount of general information (in French).

Directions that we got on the card (after we found it) were ” A Saintes, prendre la RN141 dir Cognac, puis la D138 dir St. Césaire et suivre le fléchage “Clos de Nancrevant”

(Direction translation): From Saintes take Route number 141 direction Cognac, then route D138 direction St. Césaire and follow the indication [signs] leading to “Clos de Nancrevant”.

September 5, 2009

France: Restaurant review,Hôtel Première Classe, diamonds and lemons…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Hôtel Première Classe (Small)

(Photo © Kiwidutch)

Once again we are caught out finding accommodation, an ultra large wedding in the area with many out-of-town guests, and good weather and tourist season has obliterated possibilities at small pensions, and all rural locations that we inquired at are full and it was now getting rather late in the day. We finally settle at another end-of-the-motorway chain, “Hôtel Première Classe” and were a little nervous pulling in to inquire for a room since the car park is packed. We get the last room available, two single beds, but they push together OK, and there is a restaurant attached to the hotel. Having done quite enough seeking for one day and Hubby desiring a decent amount of wine with his meal, the restaurant location fulfilled the requirements of no drink drive and no searching, so in we went.

We settle down to a nice dinner, Himself sees a nice local red wine that he fancies, but I fancy Pineau and ask if they have a red… certainly they do. They go to get it and we order… we both decide that the buffet of vegetables is a good idea and I ask for any local specialty on offer and am told that fish on todays chalkboard menu is one, (plat du jour) so order that. Hubby goes for Tagliatelle pesto rouge, basilic et jambon forêt noire, and we both go for the Buffet des desserts (dessert buffet).

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

The main courses arrive and I loved the presentation of mine, chic and simple, looking divine. It was therefore a shock to put my fork into it and discover that only the very outside edges of my fish were cooked.. the inside was completely raw. Since no one came to ask if our meal was OK, I ventured up to the staff at the desk and mentioned nicely in my best French that desolé, my meal was not satisfactory. The lady took my plate and looked hard at it and poked at it with my fork to see that yes indeed it was raw inside (surely my word should have been good enough?) and stalked back to the kitchen with my plate. It took so long to return it that hubby had both waited for me, given up waiting and at my request eaten his meal so that his wouldn’t be ruined. When my fish was returned several things were immediately apparent: it was the same piece of fish and rice and they hadn’t bothered to make a new plate for me in any way… surely a portion of fish doesn’t take so long to cook from scratch? and then the final indignity, it was cold, in fact, to try and say that it was even lukewarm would have been a polite lie. Obviously the fish was returned to the pan, cooked though, then covered in sauce to hide most of the damage, nothing had been done to the rice at all, it was stone cold and then the only explanation open to me is that after this operation they then forgot to bring it out again… it was bought out to the table, dumped with a mega quick apology and by the time I blinked, the lady had briskly walked off.

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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I tried to like it but the fish was still far from perfect and for me, liking food meant to be hot, hot, it was far from palatable. After two bites I wasn’t in the least enjoying it and gave up. Hubby had a try and didn’t mind it .. cold and all, and was still hungry after his meal ( he said his was “O.K. in a neutral kind of way” so finished it off. Ugh.

The desserts were far better.. himself headed directly for one of his two usuals whilst in France.. he’s entirely predictable, it will either be Mousse au chocolat or a cheese board. Tonight was a Chocolate Mousse night.

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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It was clear that Customer Service was not something that this establishment was interested in, so after one attempt at making my meal edible and after such a long wait it seemed pointless to attempt a second return to the kitchen. Some battles you know right away you just can’t win. I was heartily disappointed with my non-meal. I suppose what made it worse was that this dish was ” supposed” to be one of their specialties of the house, so ergo I assumed that they should know this dish inside out and it should be one of their trademark dishes, perfection on a plate. C’est la vie… apparently not in this case.

As a cook myself, I know that the dishes that you tout as your specialties should be the ambassador dishes of your establishment, your best advertisement of what your kitchen has to offer. Thins kitchen seems to have missed this central and vital point.

Usually I like to give a rating in my restaurant reviews… sadly because of the disinterest in the kitchen in rectifying my meal and the fact that it was left to the customer to go up to the desk and point out that there was problem, (not coming to the table to ask if our meal was satisfactory) and the fact that the meal was returned cold and that no effort was made to inquire if things were ok the second time around, I would have to give this a 3 out of 10… but on the grounds that the lady was rude enough to actually poke at my fish in a manner that clearly expressed that she didn’t believe my complaint, I will reduce that grade to 2 out of 10. It should be common sense that a customer would not leave their table to have a quiet , discrete and polite word with staff about an unsatisfactory meal if there weren’t anything wrong with it. I found her action immeasurably rude and something that should have been taken as given as a complete “no-no” in the restaurant world. This was surely the “lemon” of the evening.

The saving grace and only redeeming factor in my visit to this restaurant tonight was the Pineau I had ordered…

I had found a “diamond ” … …it was one of the best I had ever tasted in all the years I have loved Pineau and I immediately inquired to see the bottle please. I photographed the label and asked if it was a local Pineau, turns out it was very local, a few villages away. We amended our plans for tomorrow, to get up earlier and aim to squeeze in a visit to this Pineau establishment.

September 4, 2009

France: Château d’eau…

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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“Château d’eau” (Castle Water) is the nickname given to the water towers that are dotted everywhere… they come in many shapes, sizes and styles. I find them beautiful and even whilst moving around in the car I manage a few photos…

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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September 3, 2009

Little photographic gems in France…

Filed under: FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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French architecture is delightful and I love the quirky little details… here are a few photos:

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

These beautiful figures are actually small fasteners to keep shutters open…

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

Even large street lamps can be stylish… and rustic doorways beautiful…

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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(Photo © Kiwidutch)

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