Archive for January, 2013

What’s the difference?

A little change to the usual routine this week, we’re having the guest blogger on Thursday. So here it is, an interesting lesson in language….

 

What’s The Difference? – 1

English is a language with many foibles and quirky bits of spelling and grammar. It is though like any sport or game – you need to know the rules if you’re going to play properly. I’m sure there will have been instances where you were writing something and wondered what the correct word or phrase to use was. There may be other times when you look back and realise you’ve used the wrong one. This post is about just a few of those often confused words or phrases that maybe sound or look the same or have a different shade of meaning. At this point I must make it clear that the differences I’m looking at are those defined by English grammar and may differ from those in the US. This is not to say that the UK has it right and the US has it wrong; they’re simply different and should be accepted as so. When in the UK spell and use as we do, when in America spell and use as they do, when in Rome etc. Anyway that’s just a roundabout way of saying that what follows may be specific to Britain and may not be the case in the US. I’m sure budding writers out there will know these but many ordinary folks don’t or they get mixed up.

Ok, so here we go.

What’s the difference between:

1. Continual/Continuous and Continually/Continuously

See if you know the right words to use in these sentences:

a. The clock needs to be wound continually/continuously to make sure it tells the right time.

b. The annoying alarm on the house sounded continually/continuously through the night.

c. There is a continual/continuous danger to pedestrians crossing this road because some motorists break the speed limit.

If you know the difference these are easy. If not then here are the answers:

1a Continually 1b Continuously 1c either is possible depending on your interpretation of the meaning.

Why?

The word “Continual” refers to a repeated action over a period of time where there are breaks in between occurrences. “Continuous” means repeated action but with no breaks.

That means in 1a the clock had to be wound otherwise it would run down and not tell the right time. It needs re-winding many times. However if you wound it continuously you would keep turning the winding knob and of course eventually the spring would break because you kept turning without stopping.

1b Continuous because the alarm sounds a constant tone without stopping (well the ones in my area do)

1c This is more difficult because you could say the danger exists only when the car is a speeding one and not when it isn’t (so continual) or you could say the danger is always there because you don’t know which car will be speeding so you have to be on your guard all the time (so continuous). In cases like this where there is a clear ambiguity you should re-write the sentence. For example Pedestrians, in this area, should always take care crossing this road because some motorists break the speed limit. This is quite clear.

2. Hung and Hanged

I’m assuming most of you will know this one but check on these examples:

a. The authorities hung/hanged the prisoner last Thursday.

b. The museum hung/hanged the picture in their newest gallery.

c. The man hung/hanged his head in shame.

Answers: 2a hanged, 2b hung, 2c hung

Why?

Hung is used when it is inanimate objects being referred to; hanged is used when human beings are referred to. Prisoners are hanged not hung; pictures/objects are hung not hanged and so on.

3. Compared to and Compared with

Again you probably know these but check on the sentences below:

a. The height of the zebra when compared with/compared to the height of an ordinary horse is not markedly different.

b. The weight of the winning jockey was compared with/compared to his weight before the start of the race

c. There is a vast difference when the speed of an elephant is compared with/compared to that of a cheetah.

Here are the answers:

3a. Compared to 3b. Compared with 3c Compared to

Why?

Because when using the word compare you can be comparing two objects which may be of the same kind or different. We can compare horse with horses, dogs with dogs; or we can compare horses to dogs. In other words when the objects (or people) are alike we use compare with but when they are different we use compare to. If you find it difficult to remember try this Rambler memory aid: think of the letter “i” in the word “with” and remember there’s an “i” in “alike” so things which are alike are compared with each other. For the comparisons between things which are not alike think of the word “to” and that the last two letters of the word “not” when reversed make “to”. So compared “to” means comparing things not alike. Just be careful if the compare and the “with” or “to” are separated in the sentence as it’s easy to forget so in this example: The safari park wardens compared the eating habits of the elephants with/to those of the rhinos. Which do you think is right?

4. Stationary and Stationery

I won’t bother with sentences here as it’s easy to remember using the Rambler memory aid: Stationary ends in “ary” so just think of “a railway” (a-ry) and the station which doesn’t move (it’s the train that does!). For stationery just think of the “er” bit also being part of the word “printer” and therefore it refers to paper and other office stuff. If you have your own ways of remembering why not let us know and reply to this post. It would be interesting to see how different people have mastered remembering the two words.

5. Due to and Owing to

This can be a difficult one and even the grammar books vary in explaining the best way to tell the difference although not about the actual instances where each should be used. Check the sentences below:

a. The truck driver was late for his delivery at the factory due to/owing to the snow on the roads leading to it.

b. Due to/owing to the recent heavy rain the river had overflowed its banks flooding the streets in the village.

c. The difficulty the students had in finding out information for their exams was due to/owing to the library being closed and the campus computer being down.

d. Flooding in the village streets was due to/owing to the recent heavy rain.

a. Owing to b. Owing to c. Due to d. Due to

Hosie & Mayhew (Choose the right word) give the easiest way to remember how to use the two expressions. First remember not to begin a sentence with “Due to”. Then thanks to them for this rule of thumb: choose “owing to” when the words can be replaced by the phrase “because of”, and choose “due to” when the words can be replaced by “caused by” without the sentence sounding odd.

For example in the above in a. if you chose “due to” it would read, with the substitution, “The truck driver was late for his delivery at the factory caused by the snow on the roads leading to it.” The sentence really needs a bit extra to make the meaning clear so “The truck driver was late for his delivery at the factory and this had been caused by (due to) the snow on the roads leading to it. This doesn’t read as smoothly as “The truck driver was late for his delivery at the factory owing to (or because of) the snow on the roads leading to it” which needs nothing extra. If you are in doubt go for “owing to” or try re-phrasing the sentence.

In sentence d. you could easily put in the words “caused by” (due to) and it makes perfect sense and needs no alteration.

6. Reason and Reason why

a. The reason why/reason I’m writing this letter is because….

b. The reason why/reason the flood happened was because of recent heavy rain

c. An empty petrol tank was the reason why/reason the car came to a stop.

In each of these cases the correct form is to use the word “reason” on its own because it is being used as a noun as in each of the sentences a,b,c. Reason contains the element of why something happened so it’s duplication to say “the reason why”. Similarly with “the reason is because” and “the reason is due to”. A reason cannot be “because of” or “due to” as this is already in the meaning of the word itself. However, when reason is used as a verb then it may be followed by why. For example: The scientists were keen to reason why this particular result had happened. In other words “reason why” can be used in the context of an investigation into finding out how something has happened.

There are of course many more of these types of usage differences and maybe I’ll do a part 2 on them in the future.

The igloo

One snowy day in Liverpool, my brother and I decided we were going to make an igloo. No snowman-based nonsense for us! We were going to build a full-on snow house. I’m not sure how old we were. I was probably about nine or ten and my brother is three years older.

In our back garden, there was a gate in the fence, which led out onto a massive field where football and cricket competitions were played. At the far side is the athletics track where my brother took me with a bike and taught me to ride without stabilisers.

So when it snowed, all the kids with gardens which backed onto this field would be there, rolling massive snow balls and building snowmen and having snowball fights. It was loads of fun.

It was on one of these days that we decided to build the igloo. We used our fence as one wall and got to work on three more walls. It took a looooong time. We brought snow, packed it onto our little walls, getting ever so slightly higher each time.

After a while, we came up with an energy saving scheme where I would be Wall Builder and my brother would be Snow Bringer. We did this for a good while longer, making slow progress. Snow doesn’t actually go that far when squashed down onto a wall. This is what I learned that day.

To become even more efficient, we brought a long board type thing from the garden and put it on the ground, pointing in to the igloo. The plan was that my brother would put his snow on the other end of the board and slide it along to me at the igloo door, thereby saving him the vital energy that he otherwise would have expended in those two steps to the door. We are geniuses.

The funniest moment of the igloo building session came when my brother emerged through the gate from our back garden onto the field. He had scooped the hugest pile of snow from our lawn and was carrying it toward the igloo. It was so big that he couldn’t even see over it. He approached the board, which by this point, was wet and slidy and, you guessed it, couldn’t see where it started.

He stepped on it and a loud squeak announced his error. In a second, he had fallen flat on his back. His pile of snow, however, moved a little slower. He had thrown it in the air so it took another second to come back down to earth… and landed all over him lying on the floor!

It’s probably the funniest thing that I had ever seen up until that point in my life!

After ten minutes of breathless shivery laughter, we got back to work but we had been out for ages by now. After the wall was a little bigger, we balanced our slidy energy-saving board on the top of the walls, to make a roof. We went inside and boiled a kettle of water to melt the snow on the igloo floor.

Once it was habitable, we got inside and lay down, for it was far too small to do anything else.

We had a little chat about what fun it had been, maybe we read books, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it took us about five minutes to get bored of it, get out and go back inside the house to watch television.

Danda and me and Hide And Seek

So, to understand the fabulousness of this story, I need to tell you about the history of Hide And Seek in our house. For some absurd reason, whenever I hear Danda’s key jangling as he approaches the door to come home, I have to hide. I have to. It’s like a compulsion. I can’t help it. Sometimes if there’s not time for me to find a real hiding place I’ll just throw a coat over my head and crouch down in the middle of the floor. On times like these, Danda play-acts not knowing where I am, then I leap out and yell ‘Boo!’ and he asks if the joke is over now and can we please be grown ups.

But so overwhelming is this compulsion to hide, like a small child, that I have hid when I thought I heard his car arriving back. I was so sure it was him that I quickly nipped out of the back door, holding it gently closed. And I waited. I listened. I waited. And I shivered a little, for it is cold in that little section of the house, which is basically like being outside.

Inevitably, he did not come in because it was not his car I had heard.

Sometimes I am upstairs when I hear him come in so I dive under the bed. Danda often forgets about me hiding and when he sees I am not downstairs, he simply puts the kettle on and sits down to watch the news. At times like these, I have to call him to remind him. The phone call usually goes something like this:

Danda: “Hello?”
Me: “Come and find me!”
Danda: “O! I thought you’d gone down to the shop.”
Me: “….noooo. Come and find me.”

He will then come upstairs and find me and we turn back into adults and continue our evening.

Well tonight, ladies and gentlemen, tonight I excelled myself. When I heard Danda approaching the front door, I ran into the front room and looked around. I’ve done every hiding place at least twice but this evening I hid somewhere new. I squeezed a little space inbetween the computer desk and the big comfy chair and I crouched in there silently.

Danda came in, looked in the kitchen and front room and didn’t see me and, remembering my recent phone call, checked upstairs, under the beds and in the bathroom. Upon not finding me, he thought I must have popped to the shop and re-entered the front room to turn the fire on.

It was at this point, with his guard lowered and not expecting me to be home, that I chose my moment and emerged from between the furniture shouting “BOOOO!” like a madwoman. I must confess, the longer he went on without finding me, the more my excitement built. I couldn’t wait to jump out and surprise him! Hence my almost-scream of “Boo!” when I saw my moment arrive.

Danda gave a startled “Aah!” then clutched at his heart and sat down heavily on the sofa laughing and just about staving off the heart attack from shock that threatened to take hold.

It took about twenty minutes of breathlessness and sitting quietly to recover from this one.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what keeps me happy day to day. Little pockets of fun such as this. I derive immense joy from a successful hide and seek escapade and am thinking about putting it on my CV as a ‘life skill.’

Try it one day. I dare you. When you hear your nearest and dearest fumbling about at the lock with their keys, just run and hide somewhere. Anywhere will do. It doesn’t have to be especially inventive. I go through long periods of hiding in the same place every day. It doesn’t matter. It’s the potential for fun which counts.

Advertising nonsense

The other day I was flipping through one of the many catalogues we get sent at work. They are full of new products on the market and cool discounted deals and all the usual advertising jargon you see in the world of products of this sort. Occasionally, though, I come across something which is utter crap.

The most offensive one I saw recently was this nonsense tag line for a coffee company…

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What can this possibly mean? Hand-roasted coffee? Hand picked, maybe. Even handmade. But hand roasted? How is that even possible? The workers at Union have limbs which can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees so they simply hold the coffee in their hands for a while? Or they have huge walk-in ovens so they each take a handful of coffee and walk in the oven to caress the coffee beans gently whilst they roast, in the process roasting themselves alive and getting third degree burns, but they don’t mind. They sacrifice their bodies for the sake of bringing us ‘hand-roasted’ coffee. How lovely.

What?! What can it mean? Hand-roasted? Any suggestions?

Next up, a tea company.

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Design led. Is that supposed to be a good thing? I’m not sure why that would seem good. Do I want a tea company which is taste led? So I know I’m getting a nice tasty cup of tea? Or even innovation led? So I know that maybe I’m getting something new and interesting. Perhaps a fantastic new tea experience which could change my life.

No! This tea company doesn’t give two hoots about the taste, the innovation, the potential for new experiences. It couldn’t give a cuppa for my morning being made or ruined on the strength of my tea-drinking experience. No. What they care about is the design.

The design. That’s right. They’ll throw any old PG Tips in the box without a care in the world. So long as the design is good, this company is happy. They are design led. Good to know.

The next nonsense is geography-specific.

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Stonewall Kitchen, advertising their product in a UK magazine, which is being sent out to small delis and shops around the country, are enticing me to buy their product and stock it in my shop by telling me that I will recognise their product from ‘artisan shops in the US.’

O, thanks for pointing that out. I couldn’t think where I recognised it from. I just knew I’d seen it somewhere!

Because I’m always hanging out in artisan shops in the US.

Always.

I’m never out of them.

I practically live in them.

Ridiculous.

Omygoodness, you HAVE to see this

Readers, prepare yourselves. Prepare yourselves for a post filled with horror and awfulness. For we are going to take journey into the world of….

1970S COOKBOOKS!

I came across this in a box of old cookbooks a friend was giving away and boy, was I glad I picked this one up! It is called Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook. And let me tell you this, it is all colour. It is proud and gregarious in it’s all-colour horror. It would have done better to leave the photographs off, for I shall show you the pictures of what the 1970s considered haute cuisine. Are you ready?!

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Mmm, I just love a mysterious lumpy white mass for my dinner.

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Wowzers. More lumpy white nonsense, this time surrounded by green leafy stuff. Can we have that for dinner today, Mum? Can we?!

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Ah, some white nonsense on top of salmon steaks, again the obligatory green leafy nonsense. This is actually a jellified mayonnaise layer, in case you were wondering.

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And again, jellified mayonnaise, this time on top of chicken. LOVING the decorative anchovies… Kind of.

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Talking of things being jellied, check out this turkey-slices-set-in-jelly type of thing.

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Next up, a small roasted chicken, sitting on a bed of jelly stuff squares. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US? Why, Britain, why did we do this to ourselves? Mary Berry has a lot to answer for.

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More chicken related nonsense. A cake type thing, made of chicken. Vomit. And the asparagus on the top. That’s quite fresh and lovely, you think, at least that bit’s ok. Well, no, no it isn’t. Because it is FROM A CAN! In fact, I am instructed to use many things from cans.

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This ‘peach tart’ requires 1 can of creamed rice for the filling. Ridiculous. On another recipe I am actually told to get frozen chips! Honestly now, frozen chips. If I have frozen chips at home and I choose to eat them, that is different. But to actually include it as an ingredient for a meal in a cookbook?! Has the world gone crazy?! I think probably the worst sentence I have ever seen written down in a book anywhere is the line, ‘Fry the frozen chips in the lard.’ What. On. Earth.

Fry.

The frozen chips.

In the lard.

Honestly. I’m not making it up. Look.

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This book has a continental section though. We’re aware of the fine cuisine offered in other countries. Let’s get fancy in our kitchens. Ok, check out the next recipe. I’m sure it will be delicious. Mmm, continental food. Italian pasta… French fancies… There’s bound to be something good here.

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Frankfurter salad. I have no words.

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This one’s good. It’s cheesy buttered noodles. The ingredients? Cheese, butter and noodles. Brilliant.

Last up, some lovely desserts. Don’t let me down here. The British have contributed some well-loved cakes to the world of food. Come on. What will it be? A Christmas pudding? An eccles cake? An apple crumble? A rhubarb crumble? Something cakey and warm. A hearty cake to heat one up on a cold winter’s evening.

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That’s right. We’ve gone with a dish of pasta shells in chocolate sauce with lines of cream for ‘decoration.’

And now, the award for the most attractive sounding dish in the history of the world ever, goes to….

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Woop woop! Can I get a round of applause for the LARDY CAKE! Mm mm. Don’t you think? Yes, a peice of lardy cake for me please! Am I allowed seconds? Oo, hold me back, hold me back! I can’t get enough of good lardy cake, me.

Well, after that romp through the annals of British food history, I feel thoroughly disheartened and can only apologise in earnest to the world for our below-par cuisine ramblings. We have failed ourselves as a nation.

I understand if you would like to un-follow me, fellow bloggers.

Hobbies I will take up in my old age

Got a slight emergency this morning as Danda’s got a gammy elbow so we’re off to A&E to see what’s wrong with it. So I shall just give you a little post today about something I’ve been debating over the past few days – the hobbies I will take up in my old age.

Music
I’ve always played piano. It’s in the family. My mother and grandmother both played. I got lessons from my grandmother for a while. And then from the music teacher in school. I can still play everything I learned from memory. I don’t have a piano now and there’s no space even if I did want one. But when I am older and can give myself over to things of fun and jollity, I will forgo my dining table, my sofa and my television so that I can fit in a grand piano and I shall become the most talented 90 year old piano player the world has ever seen. Just you wait. Perhaps I’ll play piano at the assemblies in the local primary school and they’ll all call me Grandma Laura.

Gardening
Not really proper gardening actually, as that requires skill and dedication and I shall probably forget what to water and when. Something quite straight forward. Maybe a vegetable patch. Carrots and onions and broad beans and the like. I think tomatoes aren’t too hard but they take over a bit. Anyway, I mainly want things I can either eat, or sit and look at on long summer days.

A regular contributor to Chat magazine
This speaks for itself. I will dedicate myself wholeheartedly to falling in love with inanimate objects, contracting odd diseases and photographing myself doing nothing at all and sending it in.

Knitting
When I lived in Namibia, the sun would set at 5pm and we had no TV and we had read all the books in the apartment and had run out of evening activities. Lucy had learned to knit years ago so we got some wool and knitting needles and took up knitting. In quite a serious way. In fact, we had so many scarves by the time we left that we had to give them to people as presents because we couldn’t fit them in our bags to take home! I loved getting into The Zone and just knitting the hours away. When I am older and work less or not at all, I would like to take it up again as I will have more time to learn patterns as all I can make is a scarf. I might even make some fingerless gloves!

Wordsearching
I used to be a master wordsearcher when I was younger. I never went anywhere without a wordsearch book on me. I could take it up again in my old age and maybe attend the Wordsearching World Championships?! I’d definitely win if I did so maybe I shouldn’t go, you know, give the others a chance.

On the other hand, I might just jack it all in and run off to India, a la The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel….

Midday in Paris

So yesterday, if you remember, I was swanning off to Paris for lunch. There wasn’t any real reason for it. Everyone was just being really January-ish. You know, ‘what is there to look forward to now that Christmas is over,’ and ‘it’s so cold and miserable’ etc etc. Now I don’t get too bothered by January. I like cold weather as I feel quite uncomfortable and sweaty in heat. So snow suits me down to the ground. Plus it’s good fun. I also didn’t have ‘a terrible year that I’m trying to move on from’, or need to ‘make a new start’ etc etc. All in all, I feel ok in January. As though to prove this point, I determined to have a January filled with fun. I have seen friends I don’t see often, taken lots of long walks and become dedicated to my Michel Roux cookbook in my Masterchef dreams.

In light of all this (and a deal on the Eurostar), I decided to go to Paris for the day. My manager had highly recommended a restaurant for lunch so it was sorted. The train journey there was fairly nondescript, apart from coming out of the Eurotunnel on the French side and being greeted by a sea of white…

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It was beautiful. It was a crisp cold day and the snow sat on everything in sight. It was still there when we came past again going home, the cold weather preventing any snow from melting.

We hopped off the train at midday, our minds boggled by the fact that we were now in France. It seemed silly, so easy and effortless. Get on the train in London. Get off it in Paris.

We had bought tickets for the metro on the Eurostar train so we just found our way downstairs and got on the underground, no fuss. When we got off to switch trains, however, there was a policeman shouting something at everyone on the platform about the ‘sortie’ – exit. We asked him what was the problem and he said there was a ‘suspicious bag’ so everyone must leave the station.

Welcome to Paris. You’re about to get blown up.

Optimistically, we looked at our map of Paris and concluded that it would only be about 15 minutes to walk the five stops to the restaurant so we set off along the river.

Let me just say this – it did not only take 15 minutes and, despite the freezing weather, we arrived three minutes late, out of breath and quite warm!

The restaurant itself looks unassuming….

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…but inside has the lively fun atmosphere typical of a French restaurant. Four men discussed business loudly in the corner, a large family chattered happily, laughing when one of the teenagers looked suspiciously at the food they had been served, a group of Japanese tourists next to us photographed everything excitedly.

And us? We watched. We watched everything. We watched the kitchen.

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We watched the food going to the tables. We watched the animated waiters telling their little jokes as they rushed about. And we loved it. It was such a fabulous little place to tuck into a corner and watch Parisian life happening.

And we ate. Of course we ate. We chose the tasting menu and prepared to eat whatever the chef was cooking that day. We started with a cauliflower and fish soup, which was definitely a highlight of the whole meal.

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We then had a beef tartate, with oyster, shrimps and radish.

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We moved onto mackerel with white beans and a green salad foam.

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Next up was a rich slow-cooked beef dish with a carrot soup.

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We were then given a dish to share, which looked like short pieces of pasta dressed with chilli oil. We looked closer and realised that, actually, we were eating baby eels! They were way tasty.

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Then it was onto another hearty French dish, a small rack of lamb with pomme puree. This was the best of the mains we had.

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It was then time for dessert, which blew our minds. We were presented with a huge bowl of rice pudding and two smaller bowls, one with salted caramel and one with caramelised walnuts and almonds, to put as much as we wanted of each in our bowls.

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Midway through this delightful bowl, small glasses of lemon sorbet and mango were put next to us, so that we hardly know where to start.

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It was dessert heaven.

After this onslaught of foodie indulgence, we paid and emerged into the sunlight, three hours later and thirty stone heavier. As we wandered along, carefree and a little cold, I saw it….

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A TRUFFLE SHOP! A shop. Full of truffles. The most truffley things I’ve ever seen in one place. It blew my mind. Danda took a seat and left me to it in the end. They had truffle pesto, truffle pasta sauces, truffle aperitif, truffle flavoured chocolate drinks and (this one floored me), truffle popcorn!
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I purchased some truffle honey and a truffle pasta sauce and of course a bag, to carry things in and pretend it’s a bag of truffles.

By this time it was late afternoon and we had wanted to catch Notre Dame in the fading light so we walked back the way we had come and found our way to the cathedral.

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It’s so massive that it’s almost impossible to get the whole place into one picture. We wandered in and took a seat. Suddenly the excitement of the day gave way to a moment of tiredness and we had a sneaky little nap under the colourful mosaic windows and beautiful chandeliers.

After realising we must have looked like homeless people, we pottered off to make our way to the station for our train home. We still had two hours so we dawdled along the river and stopped off if we wanted to.

We came unexpectedly across the Pompadou Centre and went inside to look at the bookshop. There was a coffee shop so we sat for coffee and I bought some little cakes. They weren’t quite the beautiful petits fours and delicate macaroons I had been envisioning for the afternoon coffee stop but the centre itself was lovely so we sacrificed taste for ambience.

With an hour until our train, we kept going and reached the station twenty minutes early.

We then had a second dose of wierdness when we boarded the train in Paris, got off it in London and went back home to have a cup of tea on the sofa and watch an episode of Family Guy.