Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paris...Never Enough Time...

I had been waiting for this day...tea and dessert at Ladurée on the  Champs-Élysées.  This famous street with its cafés and luxury specialty shops is definitely a "must see"  when you visit Paris.

Ladurée is a French luxury bakery and sweets maker house. It is one of the top premier sellers of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day! They are still one of the best known makers of macarons in the world. (Wikipedia)

There is an outdoor patio at this location, but we chose to go inside and enjoy the pretty decor.  It is like being in a pastry fairy tale drenched in antique green and gold.

Most people visit for the macarons, but you need to try the  Passion Raspberry Tart - Sweet pastry filled with smooth passion fruit cream and need to savour each bite.

The line ups were very long, but it is like being in a gallery so you need the time to admire these little dessert jewels.  The packaging is also so beautiful-at an additional cost but hard to resist!  I use the little box now to hold some of my jewellery...

A pastry fantasy!

Galeries LaFayette - There is no store quite like this anywhere...I have to visit every time I am in Paris...just to look up at the beautiful domed ceiling made of stained glass. A visit to the lingerie section is a must but you need to set aside a budget just for that- the selection is massive!!!!!

As beautiful as the sweets look and taste at Ladurée.  Camera Guy and I preferred the macarons at Hermes!  Especially the lemon ones...oh my goodness...
There is a counter at Galleries Lafayette....

Besides the famous buildings and sites to visit, there is a joie de vivre everywhere.  We stopped to listen to a jazz group near Notre Dame.

 Notre Dame Cathedral de Paris ("Our Lady of Paris") needs to be a stop on your walking tour.

The Paris Opera House...

An evening at the Eiffel Tower...

The Pont Alexandre - one of the many beautiful bridges of Paris that crosses the Seine

Yes, Camera Guy and I  had a romantic evening on the Bateaux Parisiens...floating down the Seine on a dinner cruise.

After my baking class I headed over to this very famous shop to purchase my new necessary tools!  
This is where the chefs of Paris shop...I was in heaven! 
Camera Guy waited for me at  the corner pub-I think he was on his fourth pint by the time I got back to him.

We planned to spend our last four days of our vacation in Paris, knowing that it wasn't enough time to fully explore the city.  I suppose we will have to go back....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

While on vacation I try to take one or two baking classes.
Camera Guy does his thing and I do mine.  Usually I am right behind him admiring the not what you think!  Yes he is the love of my life, but I meant the scenery!

This summer, in Paris, I enrolled in a  Croissant and Baguette class at La Cuisine  Paris.  The school  is located in the Marais, just across from Notre Dame and the classes are actually taught in English.

I was like a schoolgirl...again... and so nervous about being on time and finding the right place, I had Camera Guy escort me the day before to check it out.
There were seven students  in my class and we made Baguettes Parisiennes (miniature versions of the Baguette) and Fougasses - artisanal breads filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheeses, spices, bacon (or lardons as they call it in France). 
We went through the entire process- From pétrissage à la main (kneading and working your bread by hand) to scarification du pain (scarification of bread).

The second class was  Croissants, as well as two other famous morning pastries: Pain au Chocolat and Le Croissant aux Amandes (croissant filled with almond cream). Pain au Chocolat is one of my favourites!  We  had a little Boulangerie going! And of course waiting for the delivery of the goods was my taster...Camera Guy!

He ate a lot of them...I guess they tasted goooooood!

A la prochain....

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Markets in Provence

To market, to market, to buy a penny bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

That was the first recorded version of this rhyme,  Then they added a pig, a hog etc...

When we plan our trips to France, one of the first things we do, is check out the market days in the villages. There is a lot of activity on market day, great food and of course, people watching!

Valensole market

I have never seen so many lavender products in my life!  Paintings that smelled of lavender, bath products, honey, soaps and even vendors with lavender hair.  By the end of the day, the lavender scent was a little overwhelming...I needed to smell some coffee beans! The last time I was smelling a variety of fragrances, they gave me coffee beans to smell.  It is like sorbet between courses and helps you distinguish between scents!

Introducing the lavender girls of Valensole!

Forcalquier Market - our home on this trip

Sisteron market

Aix-en-Provence Market
There are many market days in Aix...It is a  larger city than the villages we have been visiting.  Many stores, bars, restaurants and opera!  

Some markets are better than others and one of my favourites is the Lourmarin market.  It has a mixture of crafts, food and other local products.  Maybe it is our favourite because Lourmarin is the village where we stayed on our first trip to France.  I love it!

Isle Sur-la-Sorgue Market

He is sooo cute!

Market days are such an important part of daily life in can also pick up some vintage pieces of jewellery!

A la prochain....

Monday, September 2, 2013

Moustiers Sainte-Marie

Located in Haute Provence, Moustiers Sainte-Marie has been given the title of Un Des Plus Beaux Village de France (one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France). It's a great starting point if you want to explore the Gorges du Verdon, which means a drive on a very very scary road!  We did not drive it this trip, but heard that the road had been converted to one way for part of the drive, which would make it a little less harrowing.  When we did it the last time we were here, I wasn't sure our marriage was going to survive!  I was repeating   " I think you only have a few inches more on this side, so you better move over!"  And Camera Guy kept saying
"I know how to drive...!" he white knuckled around  a very precarious curve where we had no idea if anything was coming in the opposite direction. I knew he was freaked out driving when I noticed he hadn't blinked for about 10 minutes.  I am sure you get the picture:) We now laugh about it but there were times I thought we were  going to go over the edge of the road like in the movies - the drive is not for the faint of heart.   The scenery is spectacular so it  is worth it.  This time we settled for a relaxing afternoon in Moustiers Sainte-Marie!  

The village is packed full of Faïenceries shops ( "faïence" ceramics or Faience Pottery) - not my style, but very pretty. There are terrace cafés for relaxing and a fair number of restaurants.  The village has narrow medieval streets and is nice to walk around.
If leaping off cliffs into space with a flimsy contraption on your back is your thing, this seems to be the place to do it.  Above the village there were so  many hang gliders. They were beautiful floating over us!

Ceramics Everywhere! 
Do you see the ceramic insects on the wall below?  Those are Cicadas also called Cicales in France.  They are widely recognized, mainly due to their large size and unique sound.  They are sooooo loud!
By the way, they do not bite or sting in a true sense, but may mistake a person's arm or other part of their body for a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed. hahaha. It can be painful if they attempt to pierce a person's skin with it, but it is unlikely to cause other harm. It is very rare and only happens when they are allowed to rest on a person's body for an extended amount of time, so don't carry them around,  just watch them:)

The village sits on a rushing mountain stream with a dramatic rocky canyon.   It was quite dry when we were there, so it was amazing to see the amount of water flowing down this stream and from the mountain.  We were wondering if it was a man made gigantic  fountain with the water recycled for the dramatic effect...but that was just crazy talk! 

Me and Camera Guy about to go for dinner.

We had dinner at La Cascade restaurant, built on a bridge right over the stream that flows down from the mountain. It's a dramatic location and the food was pretty good as well. 

And my lovely dessert...

A demain


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Photographer's Wife

We set the alarm for 6:00 so we would be on our way by 6:30 to view the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. This iconic place, built in 1148 by Cistercian monks is probably one of the most photographed spots in all of Provence. It is set in a valley and framed with beautiful lavender fields. The plan was to get to Gordes by the time the sun cleared the mountain. We got there about 7:45 and waited ...and waited.  We counted the rows of lavender...the light is on row 4, we wait a little longer....on 5 now. It now hit a corner of the roof. Where is a Tim Hortons when you need one?  Cars stop and people jump out and take photos quickly of the abbey, but we continue to wait. Camera Guy says "not yet", and we wait a little longer. 
Oh look, the light hit the's now 8:39 and the light covers most of the roof. Maybe by by 9:15 we'll be enjoying that long ago promised coffee in a cafe in Gordes. Camera Guy gets the car in the right position, climbs up on the roof and makes this beautiful image.

We found that cafe and enjoyed coffee and pain au chocolate and planned the rest of our day. I think Camera Guy will be waiting for me now, as I shop the markets. 

À demain.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Roussillon...Explosion of Colour!

According to Camera Guy, Roussillon has a magic light about it ...which means we return to this place each time we are in France.  The village is a little touristy, but it is definitely worth a visit.  Pay for the entrance to the trail  (2.50 Euros). Even if you don't do the whole walk, you will see some spectacular views that you would miss otherwise.

Check out the video below...

À bientôt!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Circus...France style!

Circus signs were posted all over Banon when we drove through, so when our neighbours,  Linda and Paul, from California, mentioned that they were going to check it out, we decided to join them.

Camera Guy and I were the first in line - ok we were the first ones there.  The circus was starting at 6:30 and at 6:15 we still didn't see another person.  Goats were roaming around as were llamas, horses, ponies and even some cats.  Were there going to be trained cats since there were no lions???? Dan caught one of the stars in mid-poop!

At 6:25 Linda  and Paul showed up and the tent opened at 6:30.  We splurged on the most expensive seats, 14 Euros with plastic chairs ringside!!! There were about 60 people in attendance and the show was unlike any I had ever seen before.  The animal trainer was also the juggler who was also the ring gymnast and also the clown. He was actually pretty talented.  

The female tightrope walker was a little tense as she made her way across the wire, a death defying height of about 2 1/2 feet. 

She seemed like she really didn't want to be there.  Camera Guy said she looked like she wanted to run away and join the real world:)  She also had other jobs - like sweeping up the dirt in the ring and folding and unfolding the cover for the center ring ...several times. She also was the hula hoop star who managed about 3 rotations of the hoop before it hit the ground. 

The children in attendance had a great time and watching them was very entertaining...we were the only adults in the audience without children...

and we had a lot of fun too. This was rural France at its finest. We love these unique opportunities that present themselves when travelling. What will we stumble upon tomorrow?


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