Sunday, 23 February 2014

213. Six Nations rugby heaven! (and chocolate..)

Wednesday, 12th February. I picked up a new pair of specs this afternoon and it's a pleasure to be back in a pin sharp world again. Now - where did I leave my teeth...?☺     (joke!)

Sunday 23rd February. Forget the Winter Olympics, it's weekends like this that convince me that the RBS 6 Nations rugby tournament (cue hyperbole!) provides the world's finest sporting competition, bar none. Ireland has been the team to beat all season - experienced, hard-hitting, multi-talented and with great support. They beat Scotland comfortably in the opening fixture - the same weekend that saw England lose narrowly to France.

Over the second weekend, Ireland put last year's champions Wales to the sword in Dublin with a convincing 26-3 win and the other fixtures were predictably won by England and France (against Scotland and Italy respectively).

Over this last weekend, Wales played their socks off and hammered France 27-6 on Friday night.. and Scotland looked to be going down in Italy - the Italians just keep getting better - but the Scots scored a magnificent match-winning drop goal in the dying seconds to take a 20-21 win in Rome and the much needed points.

What could England do against Ireland yesterday..? In one of the most gripping and evenly-balanced matches in recent years, both teams were still playing and tackling like they meant it right up to the final whistle in a high tempo, high intensity encounter at Twickenham. I have to say that I think referee Craig Joubert (SA) was lenient with England's Owen Farrell who, on another occasion, could have been sin-binned with no questions asked. The last 15 minutes or so were played at breakneck pace as Ireland looked for a gap in England's defences but it wasn't to be and so England held on for a memorable, if unexpected, 13-10 win over the men in green. Games like this are won by very small margins. This is where rugby logic goes haywire.. French match commentators are fond of reminding us a certain country has logiquement  beaten another country - so in their world if Ireland thrashed Wales, and Wales thrashed France who beat England - logiquement England had no chance against Ireland yesterday.. However, when the game’s played with an oval ball, logique goes out of the fenêtre.

All of this means that the table looks like this - with four countries on 4 points in this order- Ireland, England, Wales & France..
Enjoy the highlights (or not, depending on your shirt colour!), in the order the matches were played:

Vidéo en Français..

Thought for the Day: As Dave Allen once observed, "The best battle hymn known to man is 'Here Comes the Bride'." ☺
Ainhoa (click to enlarge)

Thursday, 27th February. Here's a 5 minute film that neatly encapsulates an out-of-season visit to the
Côte Basque.. The author starts off in Biarritz at the Hotel 7B (which is, as the French say - "très design") before moving on to the interior of the Pays Basque for a short stay at the Hotel Oppoca (right) at Ainhoa - a former favourite of ours. Lunch at the "Oppoca" was always a keenly awaited annual treat for us in the old days when we'd visit the Pays Basque each summer. Unfortunately, the hotel changed hands a few years ago and the memorable country cooking that the previous owners used to offer is sadly now a thing of the past. If you're happy with what I'd call food presented in the modern fashion (you know what I mean!), then by all means go ahead and drop in. If you haven't been fortunate enough to visit this jewel of a region before, then this excellent short clip will surely whet your appetite:  

Wednesday 5th March. I make no excuses for the next few lines on the subject of the annual Chocolate days at Bayonne. I lifted the French text from the website, ran it through Google Translate to produce a suitably mangled version of English for your edification and general reading pleasure.☺ I haven't been able to find the dates yet but this event usually takes place in May.. so it would be worth keeping an eye cocked on the Bayonne web site for further details if you fancy slathering yourself in melted chocolate.. (Quiet at the back please, ladies!) 

Making chocolate is a tradition Bayonne is famous in the city for nearly four centuries. Today, the city still has seven chocolatiers reference. Grouped guild, they perpetuate their expertise and created in 1993, an association working for the reputation of chocolate Bayonne: the Academy of Chocolate. 

To celebrate this divine delicacy, Bayonne hosts a highlight at Ascension du Chocolat days. For two days we book with relish dipping chocolate in the streets of the city. Visitors are also invited to enjoy the gourmet bites made ​​by the master craftsmen. Guided tours of the city, across streets and quays, trace the history of chocolate in Bayonne. Exhibitions, conferences, inductions ambassadors chocolate Bayonne also enrich the program of these delightful days. 

For this twentieth edition, two significant events to report. The first concerns the merger between the Guild and the Academy chocolatiers chocolate, now chaired by Jean- Michel Barate . The second is the tribute will be paid to the pioneers of this culinary art, the Portuguese Jews settled in Saint-Esprit since the fourteenth century , and which had imported know-how.

Historically, these days will be also marked by a conference in two parts, given by Michèle Kahn, author of Cocoa and George Dalmeyda, Jewish history buff, synagogue Bayonne Friday, May 10. Among other animations also a parade of giant puppets papier mache manufactured by Bayonne , leave the city center to reach Breuer homes. They will be accompanied by dancers Orai Bat, Oreka, Street art, the Mascarene, the association for the dissemination of Portuguese culture.

Then, as every year, the 2014 edition will be punctuated by events: dipping and tasting chocolate in chocolate, making workshop topics chocolate for children, guided tours, shop around the book at the library, musical entertainment..


This demonstration is from Antton Chocolatier, Espelette:
This one's from Cazenave..
Followed up by Daranatz:
.. and then finally there's Pariès (no video I'm afraid.. you'll just have to lick the screen!☺)

Monday, 10th Match. You would have had to have been living on the Planet Zanussi not to know that England played Wales yesterday in the 4th round of the annual RBS 6 Nations tournament.. England hit the ground running and quickly established dominance over a surprisingly lack-lustre Welsh side.. Once it was clear that Plan A wasn't working, I fully expected them to switch to Plan B. Unfortunately it appeared that there was no Plan B. Danny Care was a real live wire throughout and he scored a stunning opportunist try in the opening minutes as Wales stood there as if sleepwalking.. The same fixture last year ended in a thumping 30-3 win for the Welsh and it was subsequently billed as "Men against Boys".. Yesterday's match (final score 29-18) could be described as "Men against Boyos" as England dominated Wales in just about every aspect of the game!☺


My doctor told me that jogging could add years to my life. He was right, I feel 10 years older already!

Here's a video of the Pyrenees that someone sent me - stunning images (but, if I'm being honest, the music is a bit dated)..

Best viewed in 1080p HD full screen..

21st March.. aka the first day of Spring..! While I think about it, we ate outside on the terrace yesterday for the first time this year.. I'm told by the neighbour that it was 26°!

"You know you're getting old when.."  This might become a series! I wanted to retrieve something from the car this morning and so I went out across the road to where it was parked.. I pressed the key button to unlock the doors and nothing happened. I made sure I was pressing the right button and pressed it again.. I tried the door handle - hoping against hope - but still nothing.. I looked inside to see if it had been broken into and damaged in some way.. but everything was where it should be - even down the the mini box of Tic-Tacs by the gear lever.. Then - I remembered..! There's a lady with an identical car to ours who parks her car in the avenue every day.. It couldn't be.. or could it? I stepped around to the back and looked at the plate - aaaarrgghh! Yes, it was hers..! D'oh! I'm not safe to be let out on my own!

Followers of the Six Nations rugby tournament will be aware that Ireland carried the day with England breathing down their necks a close second (but still second!). Some excellent rugby was played and a few new faces emerged.. Here's how the table looked at the end..
Here are the highlights:

No story of the 6 Nations and indeed World rugby would be complete without mentioning Brian O'Driscoll - one of the greatest players of all time. He's certainly the greatest player ever to pull on a green jersey and Ireland has produced some legendary players.. Enjoy:
There are few instruments in the world that have the power to move the soul like the Uilleann pipes.. This is Davey Spillane with a high quality recording of "Caoineadh cu Chulainn"..
To finish up with, here's Davey with that old Dubliners favourite "Boulevogue"..
One last one while we've got the Irish bit between our teeth.. Here's Planxty starting with "Raggle Taggle Gypsy O.."