We love Carrefour

During our road trip, we used the French supermarket chain Carrefour often, and especially, We liked their organic range very much. Their readymade salads were a godsend when we became weary of eating out in unfamiliar places.

Thanks to free-roaming by O2, we could find branches of Carrefour on the road and replenish our supplies…

We made a detour to the supermarket before we arrived at Aix-en-Provence…

Mum bought boxes of Calissons d’Aix-en-Provence for her friends. We also bought milk, water, strawberries, a box of Kleenex and pastries.

We visited this Carrefour almost everyday while we stayed in Aix-en-Provence…

Regarding supermarket shopping bags, I thought the French were doing a lot better than the British. I bought this large reusable shopping bag at the Carrefour in Limoges and used it throughout our trip. Unlike the British chains, the French counterparts didn’t give out any plastic bag and the only alternative was paper bags. Why don’t they do the same in the U.K???

Even if the chains increase the price of the bag to 10p, it won’t encourage lazy people to bring their own bags. The only way to reduce the plastic waste is making single-use plastic bags UNAVAILABLE!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gordes

Yes, the snow is here and it makes me feel like we are finally having a proper winter. And I don’t mind the weather as long as it won’t disrupt my journey to the ice rink tonight!

My entry today is going to be a perfect antidote against the present chill because it is about the little village in southeastern France where mum and I visited during our road trip last summer.

From Avignon to Gordes, our first village in the Luberon region of Provence, the journey didn’t take very long…

There were many pretty villages in the Luberon Valley and having to choose just a few was an agony for us. However, it would require at least another week of stay in the area if we wanted to explore it properly and we didn’t have that time.

Gordes was one of those “eagle’s-nest” type villages which were perched on the summits of boulders. As we got closer to the commune, a winding road leading to the place got narrower and steeper. Prior to our visit, we learnt from a guide book that parking in the village could be tricky so we decided to park in a public parking area by the entrance of the village. While we were getting out of our car, a fleet of coaches pulled up and poured out a herd of tourists. ‘I am so glad that we’ve managed to park before more crowds arrive!’, mum and I whispered to each other as we walked behind them.

A view from the roadside…

It was about five minutes’ walk from the car park to the centre of the village…

We wandered around the village for a while…

We strolled down a quiet street which was lined with pretty shops…

Oh, this was exactly I imagined how the village in Provence would look like! Honey coloured stonework and climbing roses. How idylic…

Time to time, we caught a glimpse of a the Luberon Valley between the buildings…

Luscious green of Provence!

These are the colours of Provence. How delicious they look. I really miss them!

Mum spotted a small studio which was selling hand painted plates and she wanted to see the inside…

There were loads of pretty earthenware on sale…

Mum decided to buy a small dish for olive oil. ‘This will remind me about our time together’, she smiled. Oh, thank you, mum!

After shopping, we walked to the end of the row of houses and saw this…

Isn’t it beautiful?

We walked back towards the village centre and came across a little cake shop…

Shall we buy some treat?

Ahhh, our favourite, Tarte Tropézienne! We couldn’t resist it.

Leaving mum with a box of the cake in the village square, I returned to the car park alone so she wouldn’t have to strain her knee.

I saved the best view of Gordes for you…

Upon leaving the village, we did have a little incident and it was hairy! For some unknown error, Google navigation displayed a cycle path instead of car route, and as a result, I drove into an impossibly narrow lane. I am not sure if I could reverse all the way without my mum’s calm navigation. She did save me from badly scratching a bodywork of my car. Thank you, mum!!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

I am so glad that the boys who have been trapped in the cave in Thailand are finally being rescued. I do admire the courage of the rescuers and my heart aches every time I think about the navy diver who lost his life during the rescue operation. I sincerely pray for all the people – the boys, the coach and the rescuers, to come out of the cave without any injury.

If someone asked me which street I loved the most during our road trip, I would answer Rue des Trois Faucons without hesitation. Avignon was such a charming city with many pretty streets and squares. However, I would recommend it because the street was free from chain stores. All the shops lining the street were unique and original.

A vintage book shop which was specialised in art.

Librairie Paroles was another vintage book shop specialised in history and literature.

Mum and I loved this boutique, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, the most. I visited there alone first and returned with mum later because the shop was so pretty. We bought from them mainly jewelries – she bought a beautiful silver necklace and I bought five dainty bracelets which I wore them all at once.

Ahhh, how I wished if they were in my neighbourhood in London! I would shop there every week…

After loading laundry at the laundrette, I strolled up Place des Corps Saints to investigate the street. Further up, the street became Rue des Trois Faucons and I started to see more shops. ‘Shouldn’t I buy a notebook for mum?’, I thought when I walked past Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Why a notebook?, you may ask.

Well, mum and I had a tiny discord that morning and the tiff was about her notebook.

One of my mum’s personal traits was being a bit disorganised and it sometimes drove me crazy. Perpetually, she was looking for something which she mislaid and it caused a mini havoc. ‘Oh no! I can’t find it!!’, was the dreaded cue for her messy search which involved turning a room upside down.

Ever since I was a teenager, I had been witnessing mum going around like a mini-tornado, flipping everything in her path upside down and inside out while moaning how she could lose the sight of it – spectacles, keys, a receipt, a handkerchief, etc.

So that morning, when she started to turn our room over because she couldn’t find her notebook, I became a bit fed up and complained, ‘How can you be so disorganised all the time?’

The corners of her mouth went downward and she looked miserable. Oh dear, I did it. The room was filled with air silently screaming “AWKWARD!” so I grabbed a paper bag with our dirty laundry and left her in the room with her missing notebook.

‘You know she was always like that and shouldn’t have been annoyed.’, I talked to myself as I pottered down the street.

‘Bonjour, madam.’, I greeted a woman behind the cashier as I entered the boutique. By the till, there was a pile of small notebooks and they were very pretty, black and white stripes with gold lettering embossed on their covers. This will do, I thought and bought it for mum.

When I returned to the room with the gift, she was sitting on a bed with bags which were emptied. ‘I think the notebook was gone. I am such a silly woman.’, she shrugged her shoulders and smiled. ‘Then, use this.’, I handed her a new notebook. ‘And you are not silly but a little careless sometimes.’

Mum’s face lit up like a 100w lightbulb and all the awkwardness we had between us early on flew out of the window and gone. Phew!

‘Once the laundry is sorted, we are going out, mum. Let’s tidy up! On the double!!’ Mum and I picked up bits and pieces which were sprinkled by Mum Tornado…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Rue d’Alsace Lorraine

We alighted the metro at Capitole and walked up the stairs to a street level.

Square Charles de Gaulle was basking in the late afternoon sunshine.

I needed to buy some light summery tops because the weather was too warm for all the stuffs I brought with me from UK.

Conveniently, ZARA was right in front of the square, therefore, I started my clothes hunting from there.

After rifling through their clothes rails, I opted for a sleeveless top with a lace detail around the neck.

Then, I spotted a pair of cute Capri sandals in the shop window on Rue d’Alsace Lorraine and decided to try them on. ‘Est-ce que vous avez taille 35?’ I asked one of very friendly vendeuses.

One thing I really loved about shopping in France was most of the shops I visited carried small sizes. For example, I hardly had found any shoe smaller than 36 in UK but in France, I witnessed many models of shoes on the shop floor did start from 35.

Mum encouraged me to take time to choose a pair since we would be moving on to Avignon the next day, therefore, I wouldn’t be able to return them if I changed my mind overnight.

Eventually, I decided on a pair of flat sandals with gold and tan leather and walked out of the shop as a one very satisfied customer.

‘Shall we buy our grocery at Monoprix?’

We bought some fruits and yoghurt at the supermarket and strolled back to the metro station.

Mum posing in front of Mairie de Toulouse…

Now, let’s find a restaurant for well-deserved beer and snack!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bird cage or fish tank?

You know what, I went to a training last Monday. I thought I left ice hockey behind twenty months ago but I was wrong.

I found myself, sitting on a bench in the changing room at Streatham Ice Arena and wondering how did this happen?…

I was so happy to be reunited with the teammates and the sport!

My blog was linked to my Facebook and the people who read the last entry through it left me loads of messages, telling me the door to the team and ice hockey was always open for me and it was very touching.

Ice hockey is like a tropical disease. Once you are bitten by this amazing sport, the fever never leaves you alone, EVER.

Why did I walk away from this joy, I asked myself when I was catching my breath after a drill.

Having thought that, leaving the sport and the team two seasons ago and coming back again was the right decision. After the time-off, what I am left with is a simple desire to skate and to touch a puck. My mind is clear and my expectation is realistic. I have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. I just want to enjoy myself.

My Tuesday morning ritual is back…

Leave my kits alone, Bay-Bay…

After the Monday night’s practice, it had always been customary to dry the equipments at home before re-packing them in a kit bag. The reason was because the damp kits would develop an unsavoury odour if they were left in a bag without being aired properly.

I still remember how badly one of the male hockey players smelt during an open practice session at the old Streatham ice rink. Basically, his equipments were falling apart, literally disintegrating, because he wasn’t looking after them properly. I imagine that he stuffed his wet kits with sweat and everything else in his bag as soon as the practice was over and forgot about it until the next session. I wish if he knew how antisocial his smell was! During the practice, we all stood in a queue, waiting our turn to participate in the drills and I happened to stand behind him. Oh god, how pungent he was. The smell hit me like a blast and it made me dizzy. It was like my face being surrounded by ten sweaty armpits! It was just too revolting to stand and I had to scarper all the way down to the end of the queue, as far as possible from him…

Please know that my kits will always be as fresh as a daisy because they have been maintained properly and they will be cared for as long as I play the sport.

There is a new addition to my kits though…

I have changed my full face protection from a polycarbonate shield to a titanium cage. I always preferred an unobstructed view given by the polycarbonate one. However, it had some drawbacks, such as fogging up and sound blocking. Until I discovered a brilliant anti-fogging fluid for a motorcycle visor, my shield steamed up badly towards the end of a practice and it drove me crazy. And also, I had to shout louder through the shield because the Perspex muffled my voice.

After last Monday’s training, I was awaken during the early morning by a fit of coughs. My throat was very dry and a bit sore due to too much shouting during the session. By swapping the shield to a birdcage one, it may spare my vocal cord, I thought.

Another benefit of wearing the lighter cage is how it can reduce the load on my neck. A typical stainless steel wire cage weighs 329g while my RE-AKT titanium cage by Bauer weighs 165g. Since the previous polycarbonate one weighs 256g, my head will be 91g lighter by changing the shield to the cage. 91g doesn’t sound a lot but a hockey player looks down often and the load on a neck changes dramatically by the angles of the head. For example, the weight of my head, my helmet plus a polycarbonate shield is 4,606g (4kg + 350g + 256g). While standing straight and looking ahead, my neck is loaded with only 4,606g. However, if my head is angled 45° looking down, the load to my neck will increase to a whopping 25.3kg! If I can reduce 5kg from the load my neck has to carry by shaving 91g off from my head, I will do it. It is a no-brainer.

I hope I will not be bothered too much by the grids in front of me during the next training. I am sure I will get used to it soon (I hope!)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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