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Category Archives: France

EUROTRIP: LONGCHAMP LIMITED EDITION EIFFEL TOWER BAG!

And so….. France came to an end.

It was one helluva gastronomic holiday! We had a fantastic time and I really enjoyed the trip. I was amazed at how well the French know, cook, and appreciate their food. The weather was lovely (though quite hot at times) as were the people. And it was in France that:

1) I first felt our baby kick
2) For the first time, someone gave me a seat on the train

… so it will always be memorable :)

We didn’t go crazy shopping in France, just bought the stuff you’ve seen in previous posts. But I did get a little French souvenir………… the limited edition Longchamp ‘eiffel tower’ bag!! I saw it selling in the airport and was SOLD. I like how light-weight it is, and how spacious it is inside. It’s going to be our baby bag, because it can keep a lot of stuff inside, and is very durable since it’s waterproof and can be machine-washed.

Most of all, I like the deep navy blue, and the white Eiffel Tower contrasted against it. A wonderful momento of Paris :)

Folds down so it can be popped into your luggage bag and opened out later

Limited edition Longchamp ‘eiffel tower’ bag!

Love the gold hardware

Pretty white against blue.

Modelling. Obviously not by me; this girl was hotter ;)

OK this is the ones of me carrying the bag
 

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Posted by on 5 September 2010 (Sun) in France, Longchamp, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: CASSIS

Annoyed with our failure of a trip to Saint Tropez, Chris was adamant we go to the nearby seaside town of Cassis, which was one of the recommended must-go places by our French friends. Cassis is actually an ancient fishing port by the ocean, but was rebuilt on the old ruins in the 18th century, resulting in a more regular layout than most other medieval villages. However, there are still old buildings that you can see when you wander around the narrow alleys, and they’re beautiful. The harbour is the gem of Cassis. It’s set beautifully against the high white limestone cliffs and is relaxed, chilled and fairytale-like.. very different to the hustle and bustle of Marseilles. We really adored Cassis because of the atmosphere and the feeling of peacefulness and security there.

The beautiful town of Cassis

We were lucky that there was a little outdoor market whilst we were in Cassis. HURRAY for little markets!! *glee* So of course we poked around in there.. or rather, I did, whilst Chris videoed me ;)

Poking around in their outdoor markets

Chris video-ing me puttering around the markets, lol

Bought a cute little orange bracelet!

After pottering around the little alleys and nooks and crannies, we headed down to the Port. It’s formed in an arc, with cafes dotted all along it. It was so relaxing soaking in the sunset and wandering along the harbour, before settling into a random little cafe for some crepes. The crepes were nowhere near as good as the crepes we had in Paris, but still decent and at least it gave us a chance to sit out by the harbour and enjoy the views and people-watch.

Lots of narrow alleyways housing lil cafes and shops

Walkng down to the port area

The beautiful port of Cassis

I like this pic :)

Cassis port area

Street performers, they were GOOD

Video of the performers

Sitting down to enjoy the sunset and have a meal

CREPE TIME!

Vanilla milkshake + fries = awesome

 
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Posted by on 5 September 2010 (Sun) in France, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: SAINT TROPEZ, WHAT A WASH OUT!

Everyone’s heard of Saint Tropez, the French Riviera seaside playground of the rich and famous. We are neither, but I was keen to check it out anyway :P We thought it’d be a fabulous idea to mingle with the *ahem* upper crust of society and soak it all in, not to mention laze about on the beach and jump into the beautiful ocean.

Sounds all magical and lovely, right?

NOPE!!!!!

As we drove in, it started to rain. Not just a drizzle, but a big freakin’ downpour. As we neared, we saw cars. A LOT of cars. Let me just say that this was the biggest and worst traffic jam I have ever been in. The highways were backed up for miles, and on a 90-110 mph highway, we were going at…….. 10-30 mph. We basically spent twice the amount of time getting there as we should have, it was pouring with rain, we were both busting to pee, and I was getting rather irate with it all.

What happened to my perfect sunny beachside bliss? It had scarpered off, that’s what.

In fact, when we finally made it into the little town of Saint Tropez, it was so JAMMED with cars and people in the pouring rain that it took us almost 1 hour to just make a small circle (and I mean SMALL) in the town, as the streets were completely chockers. We were both just about ready to kill someone (or rather, 90% of the people there, so there’d be way less traffic and people, LOL), so ended up not even bothering to park and wander around the main Saint Tropez town – not that we could find a parking anyway.

So instead we headed straight to the famous Saint Tropez beach, called Baie de Pampelonne beach. There were less people in the area, which is to be expected ‘cos of the heavy rain. The only problem? There were no clear signs or indications as to how to get to the beach! We drove all around, despite having a GPS, trying to find a road that would lead there.. and finally we found one. It was a given we couldn’t get out and frolic in the sand, and we certainly didn’t want to anyway. But what we DID see was a little beachside restaurant that we braved the rain and ran into.

I’m glad we discovered that restaurant, at least! It’s called La Plage Des Jumeaux and it was adorable. I can see how it would be massively packed and absolutely GORGEOUS if it were sunny blue skies. In fact, it was already a full house which surprised us. Chris was amused as on his way in, he saw all these fancy luxury cars parked outside – Saint Tropez really is for rich people ;) The inside of the restaurant is spacious, and the floor made of planks of wood. The outdoor balcony area would be divine if it wasn’t raining, as it looked out onto the beach and ocean. Oh how sad I was the weather was crap and we were stuck inside!!!

Inside the nautical-looking La Plage Des Jumeaux

A glass of Cassis wine

Bread with an olive pesto (delish)

We ordered a (giant) pot of mussels and fries. The mussels came perfectly cooked – bitey and springy and with a lovely subtle flavour. They were regular-sized shells but small mussels, is this normal in France? I’m used to Australian mussels which are huge and fat, larger than an oyster. Loved ’em though, and those fries were fantastic. Then again, when do I EVER dislike fries? ;)

The Grilled fish was their “Le Plat du jour” (dish of the day) and didn’t disappoint. Beautifully browned and crisp on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside. Lovely.

FANTASTIC mussels and fries

A lovely fresh grilled fish

And of course… Tarte Tropézienne. Whilst Marseille has its Bouillabaisse, St Tropez has its Tarte Tropézienne! It’s a simple cake dessert that is executed so perfectly I always have to order it when I see it. And yes, it’s what I often get when I’m eating at La Gerbe D’Or in Australia… .so I was very keen to try the true-blue authentic version in Saint Tropez itself :)

Verdict? Freakin’ EXCELLENT!! Fluffy brioche with sandwiching a thick layer of crème patissière and butter cream…. how can you possibly go wrong with that combination? It was served chilled so the cream was like a rich ice cream.. and it was flat out delicious. I must find a place in Shanghai that does this, and does it well. So far I haven’t seen it :(

Tarte Tropézienne!

What the outside deck is like, when it’s not raining

Picture perfect! *envy*

And after that, we left Saint Tropez. Apart from the lovely lunch, it was totally fruitless, uneventful, and just pissed us off ;) Hard to believe and we felt like we stepped into an alternate universe, because Saint Tropez is famous for sun, sea and surf!! All we got was rain and shocking traffic. Boooo.. such bad luck :(

 
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Posted by on 4 September 2010 (Sat) in France, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: CRUISING AROUND THE CALANQUES

Whilst in Marseilles, we just had to go on a cruise around the Calanques, since the weather was totally perfect and the sea a sparkling jeweled turquoise. The Calanques are deep narrow inlets of water in the high rocky white-coloured cliffs along the coast between Marseilles and Cassis, and were formed by rivers flowing into the sea many moons ago. The contrast of the high white rocks and dark turquoise sparkling ocean is magnificent, and many have little harbours or little beaches in each alcove – so cute!!

We went on a 3-hour cruise that sailed around the Calanques, in and out of each nook so we could enjoy the view and the fresh air. There were only a few people on our large boat, which was fantastic as it gave us a lot of room to wander around and enjoy the warm afternoon sun. Ooooo… and enjoy we did! It was lovely chilling out on the boat, soaking in all that fresh air and sunshine, and just wasting time. Instead of, you know, stressing out in the office at our desks ;) I think I prefer THIS kinda life :P

On ze boat!

Casting off from the harbour

A video of me on the boat, about to set sail

HEY PEEPS

This is Château d’If, made famous by “The Count of Monte Cristo”

Gorgeous scenery

Rich people in yachts

Back on land, we had a lovely meal at a random cafe we stumbled upon, which was situated in a small courtyard with a water fountain in the middle. It was fairly good value for money as the portions were large. Though we must have looked rather comical, as Chris ordered the Chicken breast and spinach salad (very fresh and delish, esp with the ratatouille on top!) and I sat with my giant platter of Veal with pasta, heh. I don’t care though, because my dish was AWESOME!!!! So creamy, so tasty, so freakin’ fantastic.

In the courtyard area of Marseille port

A chicken breast and spinach salad

Veal with pasta – I ADORED this!!

A big fat ‘ol ice cream for dessert

A bit random, but I caved and NEEDED A BURGER. So we got this. It was only average :(

 
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Posted by on 3 September 2010 (Fri) in France, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: BOUILLABAISSE OVERLOAD AT CHEZ LOURY

Bouillabaisse. This is a Provençal dish that is famous and synonymous with the South of France.. in particular Marseilles as that’s where it’s said to originate. It’s a fish stew that is made with fresh local fish, shellfish, vegetables and Provençal herbs and spices. Quite frankly, you can’t replicate it at home because of the local ingredients needed for this dish, and I don’t think I’d dare to attempt it because it doesn’t look easy ;)

When you’re in Marseilles, you’re bombarded by places that serve up Bouillabaisse, basically every single restaurant has it. However, tread very carefully. Most don’t do it well, probably served up to tourists who can’t tell the difference. Of course, I am said tourist, but after doing a ton of research by asking friends and surfing online, I can tell :P And this was how we knew to go to Chez Loury restaurant in Marseille (Restaurant “Le Mistral” 3 rue Fortia 13001 Marseille) that came highly recommended. Note that Chez Fonfon also came highly recommended, but it was closed for August :(

At Chez Loury

Pretty blue and white decor

Toasted bread with this INCREDIBLE rouille (mayonnaise made from olive oil, garlic, saffron, cayenne pepper)

Chez Loury is a tiny nook of a cafe, in the midst of a hundred others along the Vieux-Port (harbour). Their little outdoor terrace seats around 15 people and their menu is small. We don’t really care, because we already know what we’re having ;) I should note here that the staff don’t speak a word of English. They did assign us an English-speaking waitress later, but she was quite indifferent and rather pushy, not as good as the French-speaking male waiters.

In fact, it was here that we made a mistake – she insisted the Bouillabaisse was “FOR ONE PERSON ONLY” and we’d need to order another course instead of sharing the dish. Let me clarify first by saying I have a pretty big appetite – maybe around the size of a big Aussie guy’s appetite or so? Anyway, after asking her again if she was sure, we decided to order the Bouillabaisse, as well as another main course.

BIGGGGG MISTAKE!!!!!

Considering both Chris and I have fairly giant appetites, we nearly fainted and killed ourselves trying to finish the meal. It would’ve been more than sufficient if we had just shared the Bouillabaisse. I honestly don’t know how other regular couples with regular appetites can handle this if she also cornered them into ordering 2 dishes. You know why…….?

The Bouillabaisse came out in THREE COURSES.

I picked the Bouillabaisse traditionnelle for myself, and it came out as follows:

  1. Soupe de Poissons – this was just the fish broth, served pure and simple. It came piping hot and with a tongue-enveloping flavour of rich shellfish and seafood. It was luscious. And so creamy and flavourful! In fact, after eating the large portion of soup and the toasted bread, I probably could’ve stopped there ;)
  2. Soup with Saint Pierre, Rascasse, Baudroie fishes – this was the next course. It was the same soup, but with large chunks of the 3 types of fishes floating in it. The portions were large, each piece of fish is roughly the same size you’d find as a main meal. Beautifully cooked, tender, smooth.
  3. Soup with Vive, Galinette, Fielas fishes – we were STUNNED when this one came out, as we didn’t realise it was a 3-course meal. Same broth (again!) and this time with another 3 types of fish. I was pretty fish’d out by now and my eyes were rolling into the back of my head, so I was trying to urge Chris to eat as much of it as possible.

Bouillabaisse course #1 – Soupe de Poissons

Bouillabaisse course #2 – Soup with Saint Pierre, Rascasse, Baudroie fishes

Bouillabaisse course #3 – Soup with Vive, Galinette, Fielas fishes

Chris was a bit smarter, and opted for the Whole grilled fish. It was delicious. So simple, but well executed. It was just a whole fish, grilled to perfection, and filleted at your table. Add a squeeze of lemon and you’ve got yourself a perfectly fresh fish. Don’t be like Chris and ask for more of that rouille mayonnaise to dip the fish into – he was met with a horrified look by the waitress for trying to bastardize the flavour of the fish ;)

A whole fish that they filleted for us. Lovely, simple, fresh.

I was feeling quite woozy from fish, fish and more fish by this point… so decided I needed DESSERT :D We picked a white chocolate and milk chocolate cake, which sounded enticing on the menu but came out tasting rather ordinary in reality. It was pretty pricey as well, so I would not recommend it.

A chocolate cake dessert

Stuffed to the brim with FISH, we walked around the Vieux-Port afterwards where the weather was lovely and cool. It was a delicious meal and yes, the Bouillabaisse truly is a stellar dish that I don’t think can be replicated easily.. but if you go, get that Bouillabaisse traditionnelle to share between 2 people and top it off with a shared Starter and Dessert, and I guarantee both of you will be full afterwards ;)

Night markets around the Marseille Vieux-Port area

Lighthouse in the picturesque sunset

 
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Posted by on 3 September 2010 (Fri) in France, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: ADORABLE BED & BREAKFAST IN MARSEILLES

And so we hit…….. MARSEILLES, another town in the South of France!

When in France, it’s simply not much fun to stay in a regular hotel; I just reckon it’s really unimaginative :P Instead, Chris hunted down little apartments (you’ll see the one we stayed at, Le Chateau, in Paris in a previous post) and bed & breakfasts. The latter is actually what I was specifically after, because THEY ARE SO DAMN CUTE!!! The concept is simple – a French local has a lovely house that they lease out rooms, and provide a traditional breakfast in the morning. Why do I love it? It’s the closest I’ll get to squatting in a French person’s home in France ;) I particularly love how you feel “at home”, and it’s so much warmer in terms of atmosphere to a standard hotel.

The bed & breakfast Chris selected was a lovely gem called La Petite Maison, run by an effervescent and charming French lady named Alix. She welcomed us with open arms and we felt right at home. Located in the center of the Périer area and with easy access to the scenic beaches, it made our stay very convenient. We were shocked at how large our room was – our room alone was as big as the apartment we had in Paris! Her house is pretty massive, with 3 large rooms that she rents out, and I assume at least 1 other room for her to stay in. It has expansive dining and sitting rooms and a pretty balcony as well as a HUGE outdoor yard.

Our room was themed Frambroise and was coloured in its namesake. So pretty, quaint, and comfortable! It was like being in your own home – except a lot nicer ;) The only downside was that there was a giant bath tub…. but no shower. We always have showers and never baths, so we had to get used to taking quasi-baths every morning and night, LOL. Other than that, it was a perfect little nook in Marseilles.

The pretty front door (which is hidden behind all those leaves) of La Petite Maison

It’s a bed & breakfast, a lady’s big house that she rents 3 bedrooms out. This is the living room!

Staircase up to the bedrooms

Our spacious room. So fun to stay in a little French house :P

Other side of the room

Tiffany & Co coloured bathroom, hehe

Our own lil balcony

Chris found this and thought it was funny; the French watching Chinese movies :P

Here’s a funny little story about the French. They love their breads. And boy, do they know how to appreciate good pastries and croissants! To us, we buy croissants and chuck ’em in the fridge, and eat them over a few days (microwave’d back up). That’s normal, right? Apparently NOT!

See, we were to leave at 7AM (!) after a few days at the bed & breakfast. Thinking it’d be too early for Alix, our host, to make us breakfast, we asked “Do you have any leftover croissants and we can just keep it in our room, and eat it in the morning before we leave?” Alix looked at us, confuddled. I repeated the question. It then dawned on her what we were asking and – QUEL HORRORS – the look on her face was priceless!!!!! She was in complete disbelief and repeated, “you want a croissant and you eat it tomorrow?? NON NON NON!”

It was then that we learned that the French have their croissants FRESH daily… and not left over from the night before. Hahahaha! So she refused to give us day-old croissants, and went out to the bakery at 6AM(!!!) on the day we left to get us proper fresh croissants. What a lovely lady :) But so funny! It was an interesting lesson we learned that day, and certainly very memorable :)

In the breakfast room having a traditional French breakfast

Check out the spread! There were 5-6 different types of jams.. mmmm….

Going down to the Port harbour area

Monument #1

Monument #2

View towards the port

 
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Posted by on 2 September 2010 (Thu) in France, Uncategorized

 

EUROTRIP: SOUTH OF FRANCE

We spent yet another day puttering around the South of France visiting little villages and poking our noses this way and that. What a relaxed and laid back life these people live! And we were constantly amazed at the DELICIOUS food here. We love seafood and the Provence region does it simply spectacularly. Extremely fresh seafood, delicately cooked to perfection, and reasonably priced to boot. I love how the French can throw together a few ingredients and come up with something simple yet stunning. How do they do this??

And, for the first time, I stood next to a real sunflower. Actually I can’t remember if I have before, and even if I have, I was too young to remember anyway. This was a HUGE field of wild sunflowers, as tall as me and their flowers larger than dinner plates! It was a stunning sight and made us stop our car and get out to check them out. They were so pretty and, combined with all the lavender fields, made me really pine for living in a country with proper vegetation instead of the concrete jungle of Shanghai :X

Hullo from Lacoste!

Video of me on the top of Lacoste

The people in the South of France must be really fit,
given all the stairs they always have to climb!

Peekaboo!

Some grapes(?) along the way to Manerbes

Al fresco dining in Manerbes

A fantastic lemonade-sort of drink

Delicious fresh fish, butter rice, and ratatouille

Tartine with grilled vegetables – this was giant, haha

A very awesome apple tart

Enjoying the view

Really tall sunflowers. OK fine, they were only as tall as I am ;)

It doesn’t look like it in this pic, but the sunflowers were as big as our faces!

Pretty little daisies

 
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Posted by on 2 September 2010 (Thu) in France, Uncategorized