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:

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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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One month in!

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We've hit the one month mark for the trip. I'm trying my hardest not to incessantly count the days as it's in my nature to always think to the future. Just before leaving for this trip I read the Editor's Letter in the latest Chatelaine (it’s no secret I love this magazine) about how many changes in one’s life can make it seem to slow time down. Read May’s edition for a much better explanation of the theory. If it’s true, I think I’m adding years.

I’m out of my comfort zone.

Traveling for six months in a country I’ve never visited, staying with strangers & living out of a backpack. Add to this “living” with one’s significant other.

I can’t complain though, can I? I’m living in the south of France. However now that Ryan’s started his stage, I’ve the ‘challenge’ of how to fill my days. Such a burden right? But I’m faced with concerns about all the things I could be doing otherwise – looking for a job, securing full-time employment, even spending time with family & friends – girlfriends! I need them now in Menton.

For now I’m embracing the uncertain, replaying the words of those who’ve assured me it’ll all work out….& drinking on patios.

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Oh France…

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We’ve made it to Menton, our ‘home base’ for the next 3 months. Referred to as the “pearl of France,” it’s busier & bigger than I’d expected.

We’ve spent the last week or so traveling between Azille & Menton, covering much of France’s country side. One quickly passes by acres & acres of vineyards to then arrive in yet another beautiful, quaint French village always consisting of a patisserie, boulangerie & cafe.

Almost a month in I’ve, of course, made more observations:

Contrary to the reputation the French may have, I’ve encountered very friendly & helpful people.

France’s well signed highway system & its use of round abouts has made navigation relatively painless even with my severe lack of a sense of direction.

This trip consists of a very tight budget as we’re both (at least for the moment) without paid employment. Therefore, we’ve been very strict about meals out. A majority of meals have been consumed (& created) in hotel rooms, the rental car, or parks & have been delicious.

Restaurant meals have largely been underwhelming save the aforementioned meal in Paris & my birthday dinner at La Fourchette in Avignon where everything from the service to dessert was fantastic.

High quality raw ingredients are readily available & for a decent price making dining in very enjoyable (traveling with a chef also helps) but clearly venues for meals out need to be chosen more deliberately. Simply being in France does not guarantee well prepared food! On this same note, I’m still waiting for a really great coffee & croissant.

Finally, my French skills need work. I can handle basic, short conversations but would really like to improve. It’s difficult when most people default to English. However, advances must be made as there have been some translation mishaps. Turns out I’ve been telling people like restaurant servers & my brand new French tutor that I’m “sexually aroused” not simply (& innocently) “excited” as I thought! Oops. First lesson’s scheduled for tomorrow.

Menton is situated on the water & right near the Italian border making for an interesting mix of people. The next challenge is to acquire accommodation at a reasonable price, which may prove difficult as it’s entering its high tourist season.

Time for more photos!

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One week in…

Where to start? Our travel to France, though long, was surprisingly tolerable. Sleep has never come so easy though than after approximately 30 waking hours & we arrived to our Air B & B reservation. Paris is a busy city, you can’t help but keep a quick pace. But there’s so much to see & one is struck by its sheer magnitude of history. Roughly four hours of walking the first day meant a handful of sites, including the Eiffel Tour, had been seen. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we enjoyed an exciting & tasty meal of tapas turned out from a shockingly small kitchen at Mary Celeste. Quite the hipster crowd with a friendly buzz, it was perfect.

Now we’re in the south of France house & dog sitting for a lovely couple we connected with via TrustedHousesitters.com. I’m doing my best to master the French way of eating while taking in all the sites & pleasures this trip has afforded me thus far.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) I revel in the ability to swiftly & gracefully manoeuvre my luggage. Hiking backpacks don’t really allow for this.

2) Packing is a true art. I’ve both over & under packed.

3) Paris is a sick city meaning that it exposes you to many viruses. We were warned & then both succumbed.

4) Little things become very important to travellers. The kindness of (relative) strangers & internet access have never been so important.

Until the next post…hopefully with photos!