dimanche 22 septembre 2013

Cuisine!

   Stopped by Pierre Hermé today to give them a letter of motivation for Rachel's stage (internship). I do hope she gets it. Of course, cannot stop here without buying a few goodies. Their macarons are amazing. They have a new flavor called Ephemeral..... I guess you can say it is.....olive oil and mandarin orange infused with cucumber water....



On another cooking note, this is the season for carrotte violette - they are beautiful and delicious to boot. Get them before they're all gone!!






Market Day

   Today walking among the crowded thursday market trying to dodge the umbrellas when suddenly my hat was lifted off my head by a random umbrella and off it went. I yelled to the lady, but she didn't hear me. Hmm, hope it saw some interesting things.





lundi 19 août 2013

Vending Fruits and Veggies

   The French must love the vending machine concept. Once again, while in Loire Valley, I stumbled upon a fruit and vegetable vending machine. It was set up by a local farmer - he had his sign proudly displayed letting everyone know the products came from his farm only 800m down the road. You choose your item, put the money in, the door opens and voilá - you have farm fresh fruit or vegetables
- price includes fruit flies.


vendredi 12 juillet 2013

Biking in the Loire Valley

   What better way to see the back roads of the Loire than on a bike. There are so many things you can see on a bike that one would miss if driving. I have always wanted to do a bike trip in France...... So I checked out some sights and opted to go with Rando Vélo. The Loire has around 800 km of bike routes with varing degrees of difficulty. Since it was myself, my younger daughter (11) and my Dad (81) we opted for the family route. My daughter had no problem at all. The route is mainly flat with a couple hills. The first day we got completely lost just getting started! It took us about an hour and many laughs to finally get going on the right direction. Once we got going it was easy peasy. The route was quite easy and the scenery was gorgeous. You follow the Loire Velo signs which are clearly marked. Often times there was no one on the route and other times a few bicyclists. Everyone is quite friendly and there are many "bonjours" along the way. We passed fields of poppies, old farmhouses and the beautiful Cher River with lots of wildlife in and among the marshes. We stopped in Sassionnieres to have lunch before heading on to Our first stop - Villandry for the night. The gardens at the Chateau here are so worth a visit. At a distance of 16km I was so happy to make this first stage. If you opted for a car, you might miss this view:

Poppy Field


The next day the trip continued on to Azay Le Rideau- 25 km in all. Again a gorgeous ride along the river. On these routes there are places to stop to grab a picnic lunch and admire the along the river. There were bakeries in the town and butcher shops that one could buy everything for a nice picnic lunch, meat, cheese, wine and bread and dessert at the bakery. Much better than any café! Many of the businesses along the way have the "Accueil Velo" sign which welcomes travelers on bikes. This is a charming town which boasts a beautiful chateau. The route for bicyclists gets a bit hairy going into town- this was the only thing on this route I was uncomfortable with.

The third day we needed to do 33 km to get back to Tours and catch a train. When we booked this trip I never paid attention to the fact that the Tour de France was running all through this area. We decided to take the D751 route from Azay and then follow the Loire Velo Signs all the way back to Villandry. At first I was a bit skeptical as this part of D751 follows along a highway even though there is a dedicated bike route that is buffered from the road. We only had to travel about 2 km before the 751 veered off and we were among forests only.  It was so peaceful and such a lovely ride. We continued on following the Loire Velo signs and before we knew it we passed backroads and farms and animals we never would have discovered had we taken the suggested route by the company.  We maybe passed 2 bikers along this whole stretch until we got to Villandry.  Here is was a bit busier as things were gearing up for the Tour De France. We continued on to Savonnières and 3 hours later we were back in Joué le Tours having a picnic at the lake.

If you have an opportunity to do a bike trip and you feel a bit adventurous, you can check out the Loire Vëlo site and plan your own routes.  The Loire routes are well marked with this velo sign:

 


A necessity!



I highly recommend doing a bike tour- it's a super way to see the backroads of France. To read more about cycle routes in the Loire, check out this site -Cycling Loire. I'm all ready for my next trip!!




Ready for the next Tour de France!

dimanche 23 juin 2013

Fête de la Musique


The Fête de la Musique is a free event held every year on 21 June - to coincide with the Summer Solstice. Any musician is welcome to perform on the streets of Paris or any open air area. All forms of musical expression are welcome to encourage different styles of music.

It was a clear, beautiful night this past Friday night to enjoy the Fête de la Musique. This was the first time I had gone into Paris to enjoy the event. It was amazing! Musicians everywhere, people everywhere enjoying the free music on the streets. It was soo cool! It is a family, friendly event for all ages to enjoy.

If you are in Paris next year or France during this time, be sure to check out this event.





 

samedi 8 juin 2013

Market Day

Market days are in full bloom at the moment here in the City of Lights. Finally, the sun has appeared and shoppers are looking for seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh cheese, meat, fish.  One can not only find food at the market, but clothes, ribbon, toys, really anything - if you are looking for a particular item, most likely you can find it at one of the many markets around Paris.

I love seasonal vegetables and fruit and look for local farmers at the market. There are a lot of wonderful sellers at these markets, but many of them are not local farmers, instead purchasing their  fruits and vegetables from a big wholesaler and reselling at the markets.

While walking to school the other day, I happened upon a beautiful display of vegetables.  I could tell just by the display, this was a special vendor. Taking the time to speak with them for a few minutes, I found out they are a Mom and daughter that come all the way from Normandy twice a week to do this market. They grow everything on their farm. They told me soon they will have plenty of vegetables as the season is beginning for alot of summer veggies. I can't wait. Who wouldn't want to buy their veggies from here and you support your local farmers:






Those white things that look like carrots are radishes - called radis glaçons - they are delcious!

Isn't this a gorgeous display?!

Beautiful greens for a salad

samedi 25 mai 2013

La Gariguette

It's strawberry season here in France and one of my favorite strawberries is the Gariguette. Small, dark red and bursting with flavors, they are so incredible. The parfum alone will knock you over wanting these cute little berries.






There only here for a short while so grab 'em while you can!!

mercredi 8 mai 2013

Traffic Ticket

 



                              Well, I got my first traffic ticket while driving in the Compagne.




The driver in front of me was going oh so  slow and I passed on a dotted line - I made sure of that - but apparently when I crossed back over, the line was solid - All of a sudden the police appeared in front of me and was waving to me. I said Oh, *****, he is pulling me over. My daughter, said, no Mom, he's just waving you around him. No, he's pulling me over.  He said I passed on a solid line and me, trying to explain myself in my poor French was a losing point - there was no way I could get out of it. He said the fine was 90 euros!! He asked if I was a resident - and I said no - (this is another story - not explaining here) so he said I had to pay right now. I pulled out 60 euros and said will you take this - My daughter said, oh great Mom now you are bribing a policeman!! He said well, follow me to the bank and you can get the money out of the ATM. He seemed to know exactly where to go.....hmmm. So got the money out of the ATM, paid him and was on my way.

So now, I drive so Grandma slow and everyone passes me now - but that 90 euros hurt - brocante money!!


mercredi 1 mai 2013

Life in the Compagne

Spending time in the Compagne* always yields new and interesting finds. Imagine my surprise when I came across two!! very cool drive-up stands. Imagine pulling up to a take-away fresh milk stand where you can dispense real fresh milk that is lait cru**. You purchase sterile plastic bottles - just make sure to read the sign first as unbeknownst to me, the machine doesn't give change so I kept pushing the bottle button and out spilled 5 plastic bottles! Oh well, more fresh milk! Put the bottle under the dispenser and push - voilá! fresh milk - and it is sooo good! I wish we had one of these in our town! What a genius invention.








The second very cool drive-up stand was a wash/dry stand! Imagine, pull up - throw your wash in the dryer, do your grocery shopping and 30 minutes later your clothes are dry!  There are two washing machines available, but I only used the dryer as our house had a washing machine. This is a new novelty at this grocery store and they are trying it out. I cannot imagine it not being a success as most people have a washing machine, but not a dryer as electricity is quite expensive. The downside would be if you had to wait a while for the machine.






*countryside
** raw milk - non-pasteurized

dimanche 21 avril 2013

Spring has Arrived!.....I think!

   After the 23c temperature last Sunday, we are ready to put away our duodoune jackets and brush off our sandals and switch over to Spring wardrobes. Paris is certainly ready. Flowers are peeking out at every corner, cafés are ready with their umbrellas bursting hoping to fill their outdoor sidewalk tables. Paris has spilled out of her somber apartments sprawling all over the city making the outdoor cafés their second home. There is no better time to take a bike tour of Paris.

The velib bikes are all over Paris and a great way to see Paris at a reasonable price. However, if you are not used to Parisian driving, I would not risk it. Instead, try a bike tour company.  This was something on my "to do list" and I have taken two different bike tours around Paris. Yes, a bit touristy, but this is a great, safe way to see the city.  You travel in a small group of 10-15 so it's very manageable. You cross the wide city streets together creating a buffer so no driver dare to run you over.  The wind in your hair as you cycle down the streets and up over the Pont Neuf or cycling through the gardens by the glass pyramid does make you feel a bit like the King of the Castle.  I have done tours with both Bike About Tours and Fat Bike Tours. They were both equally good and provided two distinctly different tours which was great for me! I ended up in areas I had not seen before and were on my list to visit.  Both rides are leisurely and as Paris is basically flat, not much effort involved. My two daughters did both bike tours as well and it was easy for them.  They do provide bikes for children so no worries there. Both companies provided maps of all the stops for revisiting as well as some choice resto stops and other recommendations around Paris.  Fat Bike Tour also offers a night tour - which I haven't done yet, but it's on the list.........

Happy Trails!





dimanche 14 avril 2013

Creative Dessert Names

   
The pastry windows of France are adorned with gorgeous mouth-watering pastries. However, do you ever wonder where the pastry chefs get their dessert names from? Some of them really make me chuckle. "Le Divorce" - each side a different glaze with a white line of cream down the middle - representing the split. Befitting to someone going through a divorce or already a divorcé. How about "Bouchon" - would you give that to someone who has to deal with a long work commute each day? "Mont Blanc" - I guess this would be apropo for a skier or one undertaking an Everest climb. "Dolce Vita" - I like this one - give this to the person who loves the "sweet life". "Religieuse" - for someone receiving a confirmation.
"Indulgent" for that friend who loves it all.  The next time you have to give a gift of some sort to a friend - think about these pastries - they would be a cute alternative for a gift. Now here are some photos of these "bad girls or boys".....

Le Divorce

Bouchon

Mt. Blanc


Dolce Vita

Indulgent





Religieuse

dimanche 31 mars 2013

Brocantes!

   

I love brocantes, flea markets, just poking through other people's treasures - here is a small listing of brocantes around Paris in the next few weeks - check it out if you are just passing through or a permanent member of this crazy city!!


Day           Time                        Place                                 Metro

1 April              not listed                   Blvd. Blanqui (13e)                  Place d'Italie
                                                                                                      (Line 5,6,or 7)



6,7 April           not listed                Blvd. des italiens (2e)                Richelieu-Drouot
                                                                                                           (Line 3)



6 April             8h - 19h                  Avenue de Laumière (19e)         Laumière
                                                                                                           (Line 5)



14 April           7h - 19h)                 Ave. du President Wilson (16e)    Ièna
                                                                                                            (Line 9)




21 April           8:30 - 19h                 Bords de Seine                           RER A -
                                                                                                     Rueil-Malmaison


 I have tried to create an accurate listing - I apologize in advance if something is incorrect - however I am not responsible for irrational purchases!!  Happy Hunting!!


samedi 30 mars 2013

Easter Celebration - French Style

   
Easter is fast approaching as chocolates fill up the window displays of patisseries and chocolate shops. I have never witnessed such chocolate fanfare before with regard to these showy, sophisticated works of art.  Huge chocolate roosters, bells, and fish are the norm for Easter here in France.

The cloche volant* is an important Easter tradition of France. French Catholics believe that on Good Friday all the church bells in France fly to the Vatican in Rome carrying with them the grief of Jesus' crucifixion.  These flying bells return on Easter Sunday morning bringing lots of chocolate and eggs. I know we have the rabbit, but flying bells?..... really??......


Here are some beautiful Easter displays floating around Paris streets.


These are my favorite!




* flying bells

samedi 23 mars 2013

Atlantic Coast of France



  We are lucky as we get to experience different parts of France through a website called Mind My House. Individuals look for others to mind their home and pets while they go away. In return, you get to visit a new area, save some money as you don't have to pay for a hotel and live like a local. This is the third time we have done a house sit, and we have been lucky every time. You can search for house sits all over the world. If you are not familiar with this site, you can check it out here.

La Rochelle

  We recently spent some time near the Atlantic Coast of France in an area called Deux-Sèvres. This is another beautiful area of France dotted with charming villages. I got to visit a part of France I have been yearning to go to - La Rochelle and Île de Ré. While this time of year is not the best time to visit these beautiful places, it was still amazing. There are two towers guarding the entrance to La Rochelle's seafront and a third tower, which is just a short walk along the port was a jail that still has original grafitti from sailors on its walls. We climbed to the top of the third tower and were rewarded with a fabulous view of La Rochelle. The windy streets, the old port and the vibrant city life make this a must-see on anyone's list.






View from the top of the third tower - La Rochelle

They call Île de Ré the "Hamptons of France". I can see this must be a rockin' place during the summer where all the beautiful people hang out. Yet to me, it does not seem to be as pretentious as the Hamptons can be. The island, which is connected via a 2.9 km bridge from La Rochelle is made up of 10 towns. The more notable ones are La Flotte and Ars-en-Ré. Îl de Ré of course is known for their salt and long ago, they used donkeys to help the workers in the salt ponds. The donkeys wore suspender like pants to protect their legs from mosquitoes while in the ponds. Today, they just wear the pants for show. We saw the donkeys, but they were not dressed in their Sunday Best - apparently only for show during the summer months. You can find the donkeys in the town of Saint Martin-de-Ré. One can also rent bikes and discover the island this way.  Bike paths are abundant all over the island.


Donkeys in their striped pants.


La Flotte



fleur de sel




A poster from long ago for the Transpondeur Bridge

Transpondeur Bridge
After, we headed over to Rochefort to hop a short ride on a Transpondeur Bridge or suspended car bridge that long ago carried people from one side to the other for shopping and to sell their wares. Today, it's used as an attraction. We had no luck as it was closed until April.












One other village of notable interest is a village called Coulon. This village is part of a network of canals and waterways that are ironically called the "Green Venice of France." The beautiful white farmhouses with blue shutters are typical of this area. During the summer months, one can take a leisurely boat ride down the canals.

Coulon

Can you imagine living here??





During the Spring and Summer months, this is a great area of France that offers so many beautiful towns and villages.