Hello Edinburgh

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Some stars aligned so that my last weekend in Europe could be spent in Edinburgh, Scotland with two of my favorite university pals.

The juxtaposition of a city’s rich history against modern developments is wonderfully displayed in Edinburgh. And my weekend was the perfect mix of exploring (on World Tourism Day no less) and catching up with girlfriends including a hike to catch a better glimpse of the city.

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A Bientot Paris

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This morning as I biked (via the convenient city-wide program) to my last French class I knew, without a doubt, that I must return to Paris.

There’s so much culture and language to learn and neighborhoods to explore. A month was simply a start.

Tomorrow we fly to London for the last month of this trip. Hard to believe and I know time will only go faster.

Tonight though, with the bittersweet sentiments each move brings, I’m focused on the knowledge that I’ll return soon.

Exploring Paris

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I’m here! I’m still in France!

We’re in Paris for the month and I’m already certain it won’t nearly be long enough. While I’ve seen nearly all of the “must-see” tourist attractions, I really must pick up my culinary pursuits. From here on out I’m on a mission to taste this marvelous city’s best pastry. Although I may be slightly limited as a good lot of businesses are taking their annual August vacances.

Rest assured though, I have found the most marvelous gelato care of Pozzetto More updates shortly!

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“Treat Yourself!”

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My travel companion works a lot. He’s doing a stage which means long hours in exchange for knowledge and experience.

That’s really great. He finds it rewarding and I’m naturally inclined to lots of solo time anyway. But one day, after quickly grabbing a subpar meal (seriously, how do you charge 10 euros for microwaved toasts) before his shift at the restaurant, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Rather than stay all Debbie Downer about it (but thanks Heather, Steph & Drea for indulging me for that hour or so) I thought I’d “treat myself” Joy the Baker style and take myself on a full-out picnic at the beach.

It was perfect – lots of veggies, fruit and, a conveniently pre-portioned martini because, as my dad would say, “It’s 11 am somewhere.”

Followed by a swim in the Mediterranean! That, my friends, is called turning feeling bummed into a blog post.

Cafe Gourmand in Paris

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Is it any surprise that there were lots of highlights in Paris? Five nights in this magical city gave me just enough of a taste to get really excited for the month of August which I’ll spend there.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m quite enamored with the cafe gourmand concept which originated in Paris. When I passed by the endearing Coquelicot bakery I knew I had to try their version. Opting for cafe gourmand meant I could forgo the difficult task of making a selection from their extensive and extremely appealing pastry selection.

While I must admit I’m still not a fan of macarons, I was happy to see their brownie included and the lemon tart was one of the very few citrus desserts I’ve ever liked! Their rhubarb tart also got a rave review from my sister. I can’t wait to return for their famous brunch!

Exploring France

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I’ve been neglecting this blog of mine! Is traveling around France a decent enough excuse to have fallen silent? I was lucky to have family visit for a total of five weeks which made for lovely company and the opportunity to see much more of the country than I would have otherwise. Please allow me to share with you some of the highlights over the next few posts.

My parents and I spent a week in the quaint little town of St. Remy du Provence. It served as a perfect base for multiple day trips including one to Les Baux de Provence where we saw the most incredible art installation. The exhibit projected works by the likes of Monet and Chagall onto the walls, ceiling and floor of a former quarry. We hadn’t know what to expect. In fact, we almost didn’t go but it honestly blew is away. Our camera couldn’t capture it but you can find more information here:

Carrieres de Lumieres
On our way home I was able to snap a picture of the incredible view outside of Les Baux.

Our time in St. Remy was complemented by its very popular Wednesday market where I (with slowly but surely improving French) purchased delicious olives, crepe eating and lots of people watching in some of France’s many town squares.

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The French lifestyle

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Oh the French lifestyle is appealing! They just know how to live so well. As we all know, one of the best ways to experience a place is to indulge in its cuisine. How convenient for me!

I’ve found that plenty of the French stereotypes are, happily, true. I’ve long given up counting how many people I’ve spotted carrying baguettes because I simply couldn’t keep up. Most businesses close from 12 until 2 for a leisurely lunch. Dinners start late and are lingered over. And, of course, wine is always present.

One of my absolute favourite things here in France is Cafe Gourmand, an espresso served alongside a selection of small desserts. Believed to have started in Paris in 2005, I’m happy to have found it further south. Thank you Wikipedia Its original purpose was actually to speed up the dining process but I love it because it offers a variety of sweets and an element of surprise as you don’t know what it’ll be until it’s set in front of you.

It seems to be more popular in Provence, where I’m traveling now, than the Menton area so I’ve only had it twice thus far. Most recently I ordered it at a cafe in Gordes and it was lovely, a peach tart, a honey and date square and caramel gelato topped with whipped cream. Just as I’d hoped!

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Making Progress

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Will you allow me to toot my own horn for a minute? I’ve been making some semi-serious strides in regards to my French skills. Being tutored twice a week in addition to completing les devoirs that my tutor gives me means I’m finding myself able to have longer conversations day to day before reverting to English. I’ve even had some compliments on my accent – from a market vendor and an antiques dealer (where I bought cloth napkins for the cliche French picnics I’ve been having).

Perhaps they were just indulging me but I’ll take it! Improving my French was one of my main goals for the trip so seeing progress is cause to celebrate.

Of course, learning a new skill means there’s plenty of room for mistakes and I’ve certainly had a few. Read Oui In France’s roundup of funny language errors including mine where I came across much more enthusiastic than I meant to!

Oui in France

On another note, right before leaving my friend Vanessa popped by my apartment for a little photo shoot. She’s started a new series on her blog where she visits some of her favourite dwellings of people she knows and lucky me was first up. Makes me miss my little place!

Pints and Teapots

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Another first

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Last night was a first for me.

We’re still staying steps away from Monaco, it happened to be Grand Prix weekend and a hospitality company needed extra hostesses for a yacht party. A friend who knew I’d welcome the money put me in touch and, so, I found myself taking drink orders on a huge boat docked in Monaco’s port.

There was a VIP guest list including some of the Formula One drivers but the only celeb I recognized was (former, I think) super model, Rachel Hunter who laughed at my joke about coffee in France leaving a lot to be desired.

It was an entertaining night to be sure. I’ve never spent that much time on a boat and don’t think I’ll be signing up for crew life.

It’s been interesting being here while Monaco geared up for the Grand Prix as the event absolutely takes over the city. Additional barriers and fencing were put up daily, adding further to my navigational struggles. Avid racing fans from around the world swarmed the city just, as I’m told, most Monegasques flee.

As I’ve mentioned before, this scene is not for me and I’m looking forward to moving into the more relaxed Menton. However, I’ve had a fascinating look at this country with its unique society and can now add yacht serving to my life experiences.

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