Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 61 – Last day in Paris!

We are only going to talk about the good, not the fact that I’m leaving tomorrow.

Started again this morning with a buffet breakfast – croissants and fruits and yoghurt, before meeting up with a tour group for a tour of the Latin Quarter.

It was a chilly start but the clouds broke and SUNSHINE for the entire day! I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

We started at Notre Dame, before exploring the Latin Quarter, including the famous bookshop – Shakespeare & Co., many many different churches, the museum of the Middle Age, Sorbonne University (very old, very famous, I’d suggest prestigious too), Pantheon and Ernest Hemingway’s house.

For lunch I stopped at a TINY café on the Île St Louis before grabbing an ice-cream from Berthillion, famous and now I know why, the best ice cream I’ve EVER had. Took my ice cream to the streets to enjoy the sunshine.

Had some time to kill so back to the Eiffel Tower for some pretty pictures in the sun. Surprisingly short queues for such a beautiful day! Had another tour in the afternoon, this time of the Marais, so went back to meet them. This time we explored places such as St Eustace Church, Les Halles, Centre Pompidou, the Jewish District, Place des Vosges and finally the former site of the Bastille. So much history!

Dinner tonight near the Bastille. Couldn’t leave France without trying escargot and I must say, it’s not that bad! All you can really taste is butter and garlic…

Home to back up before leaving tomorrow. Can’t believe it’s over already. Which also makes this my last post! Au revoir France!

Until Melbourne!

Day 60 – Les Grands Magasins

Early start this morning to take in Les Grands Magasins – Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.  Luckily, buffet breakfast at the hotel to prepare! I really was not at all prepared for the sheer size of these department stores. We have NOTHING like this. And they combine such a range of things. Lots of people, lots of sales, but unfortunately no buying for me. I did however try on the ‘luxury brands’. Chanel dresses, Cartier jewelry. One can dream…

This is the inside of Galerie Lafayette. AMAZING

For lunch a grabbed a baguette from Paul’s, possible the most famous boulangerie in Paris. Absolutely delicious! Ate it down one of the side streets, entertained by a group of hip hop dancers on the street.

Shopping continued after lunch, and the best buy of the day had to be macarons from Pierre Hermé. DIVINE!. I grabbed a box of seven (which lasted me the entire weekend!). Flavours of choice – Rose, Coing & Rose, Mogador (chocolate and passion fruit), Infiniment Chocolate, Crème Brûlée, Infiniment Caramel and Chuao (chocolate and cassis).

Dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Champs Elysees before heading back home.

See you in a few days!

Days 48 – 59 – Last weeks in Vichy!

So after returning from Disneyland there’s not a whole lot to report. Back to study with new teachers (some good, some not so much). Unfortunately I fell ill and it knocked me out for most of the week.

For the final week in Vichy there really is only one word – soldes! Soldes are the French sales. They only have them twice per year, summer and winter, and pretty much everything gets marked down. So what did Reina and I do? Shop!!

For my final night Reina and I went out for dinner to Josephines. Original plan was the casino but it was closed!! Lovely evening.

Friday was my final class and Danielle made me an oreo cheesecake! Divine! Can’t thank him enough.

Took the train back to Paris on Friday night, got stuck at the station for a while waiting for a taxi (grrrr) but finally made it to the hotel to receive a free upgrade!! And people say the French aren’t nice.

Big final weekend planned!

Friday, January 14, 2011

An apology!

I would like to apologise for my lack of posts! I promise an update very very soon!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 47 – Disneyland!

Really early start today to take the train to Disneyland! So excited!! The morning however, didn’t get off to a great start – Reina & Kevin took the train in the wrong direction, and the bus we were meant to meet was very late, so we were freezing by the time it arrived! But all our complaints disappeared the minute we had our tickets in hand.

There was a surprising amount of people for such a cold day, I really would hate to be there in summer. Most of the rides had around a 45 minute wait, so I cant imagine what it would be like in peak season.

We started with a quick stop in one of the stores to buy Minnie Mouse ears, before heading towards Frontierland for our first ride – the haunted house (really not at all scary!) Following this we took on the first roller coaster of the day – Big Thunder Mountain. So much fun! Nothing like an adrenalin rush to keep you warm!

After this we grabbed a quick lunch of hot dogs and chips, before taking on yet another roller coaster – Indiana Jones. Even better than last time, this one went upside down. We then went to Fantasyland (no rides for us here, but lots of pics) before bumping into a parade on the main street where we got photos with Minnie Mouse and Eeyore.

Next stop – Discoveryland and the best ride of the day – Space Mountain. Another roller coaster, this time indoors, hurtling through ‘space’. I had front row and loved it. We stopped for a quick coffee before heading out for the Once Upon a Dream Parade. It was freezing waiting for the parade to start, but so worth it. Makes you feel like a little kid again.


The ride I had been waiting for all day was the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror, which is in the second park. Unfortunately, when we got there it was a 60 minute wait and we were quickly running out of time. I remember this one from Anaheim though, so don’t feel too bad about missing it.

Had dinner in the village at the Rainforest Café after some more shopping at the Disney store. We flew back to meet the bus, only to find out the bus driver was still in his hotel! Not too long to wait, but we went to McDonalds to stay warm.

Finally got on the bus for a painfully long and uncomfortable journey home, arrived back in Vichy around 3 am. A very long day but it was so much fun. Felt like a little kid again!! Would have loved to have spent more time there though, so much to do and see.

Back to school this week – just two weeks left!


Day 45 & 46 – Paris & New Years

After class Friday afternoon, took the train back to Paris for New Years Eve. Stayed with Danielle for the weekend (he’s so generous, can’t thank him enough!). Had dinner with his family – foie gras, paella and Buche de Noel. So good!

After this we headed out to meet Wala and then off to the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful and not too crowded, but the French could learn a thing or two about fireworks and how to celebrate new years. They have all these incredible monuments and they do nothing to show them off! Nonetheless, it’s the Eiffel tower and I love it so it was a great night.

New Years day was a late start before heading to La Defense with Danielle to see the Grand Arche and the surrounding areas. Very different side of Paris, but as always incredible, even though some of the monuments were a little bizarre.

Met up with Reina and Kevin in the evening to climb the Eiffel Tower. Made friends with a French family while in the line. Waited around an hour for tickets (maybe longer, I can’t remember!), but so worth it. Right up top it was all fogged in, so couldn’t see much, but from the lower levels the view was still very very beautiful.

We grabbed a quick dinner from a little Italian restaurant on the Champs Elysees before heading home to get some sleep for Disneyland!

Bonne Année!!

Days 40 – 44

Very simple week this week. Lots of study and not a lot else! Resting after the Christmas period, in preparation for New Years!

Can't wait for Paris!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 39 – A White Christmas in Vichy!

We had A LOT of snow over night, so woke up this morning to an incredibly white Christmas. So unbelievably happy, and I have had ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas’ in my head all day. God knows why, I got one!

No breakfast for me this morning. Too much food last night, and knew there was another feast coming for lunch today.

Margaux and Alex left for Paris today, so went to visit them this morning and say goodbye. Also got some pretty pictures of the snow.

For lunch I joined Reina’s family again (they really are such lovely people!). The children had all opened their presents early in the morning and there were toys EVERYWHERE. The little girl had received two little princess costumes and kept changing throughout the day.

Lunch started the same as dinner, with champagne and foie gras and this time smoked salmon and the rest of yesterdays seafood platter for entrée. The main meal is where it got a little bizarre.

I ate WILD BOAR today. That’s right. This is the French cultural Christmas I wanted! I believe it’s called sanglier. Not exactly a meal I would have chosen for myself, but it’s actually pretty good! Slow roasted so really soft and moist, served with gravy. For side dishes we had potato fritters and broccoli puree.

The same cheese platter followed again today, before a huge and very delicious dessert of fruit salad, chocolate mousse and assorted petits-fours, including macarons and tarte aux pommes and éclairs. So good!

Spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the children and their new toys, before returning home NOT to eat dinner.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, I know I did!


Day 38 – Le Réveillon de Noël

A short day of classes today to prepare for Christmas! The only sad news is that it was also Margaux’s last day of classes =( We’ll miss you!!

Tonight I was fortunate enough to join Reina and her host family for dinner. One of the French Christmas traditions is Le Réveillon, traditionally a feast held after midnight mass, but now just a Christmas Eve dinner.

Ok, JUST a dinner doesn’t do it justice. We ate for hours! We started with champagne or a Kir Royale for the aperitif and foie gras and other assortments for the hors d'œuvre. We had a delcious salmon and avocado amuse bouche followed by an incredible seafood platter – with oysters, prawns, crab claws and sea snails! (Suprisingly, not all that bad. Here’s my tip – eat them with the mayonnaise that’s offered!)

Following this there was another dish of foie gras, and for the plat principal we had a traditional roast chapon – a fat, castrated chicken. It tastes better than any chicken I’ve ever had, and very very moist. This was served with green beans wrapped in ham, potatoes and hot roasted chestnuts, which I have been waiting to try.  C’était très magnifique!

But wait, there’s more. All this was followed by a cheese platter and green salad, very traditional, but salad is a little strange before dessert! Dessert was a chocolate Buche de Noël, served with champagne rosé.

So incredibly full! It was an amazing experience to be with a family for the Christmas traditions. Unlike in Australia, children don’t put sacks out for Santa’s presents – they leave their shoes under the Christmas tree! The beautiful little girl thought the more shoes, the more gifts, so brought all her shoes downstairs to set out under the tree.  In some families it’s also tradition to leave champagne, not milk, for Père Noël to drink.

They were a lovely family. Very friendly and inclusive and the children were gorgeous. The grandparents even drove me back home! And they had the most beautiful little French home, would love to life in a place like that!

And to top of a wonderful evening, it started snowing! A white Christmas indeed!!


Days 34 -37 (a week of food, but shhhh, it's Christmas time!)

Days 34 – 37

A quick update on the week that’s been…

So after stuffing ourselves for ‘Faux Noël’ the plan was to take it quietly on Monday. Then Margaux and Danielle made sushi and cheesecake. SO GOOD!

Tuesday was a quiet day, lunch and tea at the bakery before an afternoon of study.

Then there was Wednesday – two farewell parties for Lynn and Margaux. For Lynn we went to Olimpia, a little creperie for afternoon tea, followed by some shopping (Christmas gifts for ourselves, I think) and then dinner at Josephine’s for Margaux. They have the most incredible ice creams there, lots of different flavours and it’s all really good!

After dinner we went to a bar for cocktails (once again, alcohol is incredibly cheap!) before heading home.

Today we continued Christmas with the exchanging of our Secret Santa gifts. I got a wonderful little gift from Reina – some delicious chocolates from Jeff de Bruges and an electric blue nail polish!

Some little Buche de Noëls  and macarons for lunch (healthy I know) before starting a new class this afternoon. I love it! Lots of French grammar.

Tonight Wala took us to a Moroccan restaurant for dinner. AMAZING! I had a delicious chicken tajine with dates and walnuts. And I ate couscous and enjoyed it! It’s all about the sauce! After dinner we went with Margaux to the station to meet her boyfriend, before more cocktails. Another very fun evening in Vichy!

Talk soon!


Off enjoying a white Christmas! Promise updates soon!
Merry Christmas to all!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Faux Noël – an early Christmas in Vichy!

Had the most amazing day today. It was our early Christmas party – because Lynn and Margaux will be leaving us next week =(

We started the day with a trip to the Grand Marché for a degustation from one of the bakeries. Divine. The lady who owns it loves us a little (a sign we all maybe spend too much time in the bakery?) We got to try their different types of Bûche de Noël – a French Christmas cake in the shape of a log. We had caramel and chocolate and raspberry and they were divine. Will be buying them during the week for Christmas!

After grabbing the groceries needed for today’s lunch, we headed back to my place to get cooking. Today’s menu:

Appertizers: Fresh bread

Salade de Margaux (Lettuce, carrot, sweet potato and beetroot)

Salade de Reina (Lettuce, carrot, tomato, capsicum, eggs and a divine dressing)

Pâte de Lynn (Farfalle pasta with chicken, broccoli and a cream sauce)

Chocolat and framboise trifle (chocolate and raspberry trifle, with yesterdays whipped cream!)

Côtes du Rhône, 2006

It was amazing! I had such a wonderful time with wonderful friends and wonderful food. We ate for about two hours (stuffed ourselves to the point of not being able to move) and there’s still leftovers!

After all the food we sat back to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Amazing film, a little on the strange side but cant wait to see the sequels/read the books.

All in all, it has been the best weekend in France thus far!

Joyeux (faux) Noël!

Days 31 & 32 and the day when we nearly lost the bus

Gotta love Fridays. Fridays mean weekends, and no classes, and excursions and friends. And to finish off Friday, we played Taboo. In French. And I loved it hahaha.

Today we had an early start for an excursion around our region – Auvergne. It was such a beautiful day – lots of snow on the mountains and the sun shining for most of the day.

We started off in the most beautiful, TINY little village called Orcival, where we saw another cathedral (care to guess the name? That’s right, Notre Dame) and stopped at a little café for hot drinks to warm us up. It was a really small group – just 10 of us for the day.

(this is part of the little Nativity, or creche, in the church. Of the few I've seen, it seems to be tradition to recreate sights from the town and incorporate the stable and baby Jesus into it somehow, but they're very beautiful).

After Orcival we got back on the bus to head to an even smaller town called Les Arnats, for lunch at a restaurant called Auberge de l’âne – literally the inn of the ass (donkey!) and it was decorated with postcards and pictures and figurines of donkeys everywhere! But it was an excellent lunch – salad followed by Truffade (a local speciality, potatoes fried with a LOT of cheese) and for dessert crème anglais and meringue (floating islands!). It was delicious.

Our next stop was Les Mystères de Farges, four little ‘grottos’ which have been around for over 1000 years, used to ripen the cheese of the region – St Nectaire. It was a very strange experience, with projections and light shows showing history that I’m not entirely sure was linked. Then again, my French isn’t THAT good.

This is when the day got fun. We left to get on the bus only to find it was stuck and sliding in the ice. Another reason snow is not so safe. After watching the bus (we had, at this time, abandoned the driver) slide towards the edge of a hill, we decided to head back inside until help could be found. Toes were freezing, but eventually the bus was pulled to safety, and we returned home.

A quick dinner with Margaux at my place, before making dessert for tomorrow. Hand whipping cream, in a small saucepan, with a fork, was not my favourite part of the weekend thus far. I miss having decent kitchen utensils.

Miss you all.