Wednesday, 28 December 2016

WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM PARIS - Alsace region (Part 2 : Strasbourg, Colmar, Eguisheim, Kayserberg and Riquewihr)


Continuing on from our previous post - we finally reached the Alsace region to see France's most famous Christmas markets, the oldest in Europe too. The whole region is incredibly charming, it feels like you have travelled back in time to the Middle Ages or to another era with its characteristic timber framed architecture, to a classic French fairy tale. Here's the essential information:

DESTINATION : Alsace region 

EXACT LOCATIONS : Strasbourg, Colmar, Eguisheim, Kayserberg and Riquewihr

DURATION : 2.5 days - left Paris Friday afternoon, came back Sunday night (ready for work Monday morning)

DISTANCES AND TRAVEL TIMES : Paris - Nancy (385km, about 4 hours depending on traffic) 
Nancy - Strasbourg (160km, about 2 hours depending on traffic)
Strasbourg - Colmar (73km, about 1 hour depending on traffic)

The other little towns we visited were super close to each other 20-30 minutes max and very easy to reach (trust me you'll spend longer looking for a car park than actually getting there!)



So we started off with Strasbourg as it is the most famous and known as the Christmas capital of France. The old town is a must visit even though it has become a little touristy over the years. Just take a deep breath, be patient for the crowds to pass and imagine yourself there without everyone else around you. You'll be able to take some snaps without too many people in them and recreate memories from there. Each time I look at my photos taken in Strasbourg I don't remember the crowds, instead I remember what my photos reconstruct for me.





Apart from Strasbourg, what's really worth visiting are the little towns that are nearby. We had driven from Nancy to Strasbourg on Saturday morning and spent the day in Strasbourg (tucking into the typical Alsatian dish "flammkuchen", thinly rolled bread dough topped with fromage blanc, creme fraiche, thinly sliced onions and lardons) before heading to Colmar for the night. Colmar is a must see that I cannot recommend enough. After that, we chose three little nearby towns Eguisheim, Kayserberg and Riquewihr to try and visit. 

We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning in Colmar and surprisingly enough were able to squeeze in all three towns on Sunday before returning to Paris on Sunday night.


Some snaps of the Alsatian Christmas markets at night. Mulled wine, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, hand made arts and crafts as delicious local market food galore!






These are some magical snaps from Colmar - my favourite place in the Alsace region. I woke up to this ridiculously fairy tale like scene outside our window and went nuts. I couldn't believe my eyes. Of course Frenchie and his daughter didn't flinch too much. To them this was considered "normal". NORMAL??! Some people just don't know what magic they have on their doorstep!   



Oh and before I move from Colmar, I have to mention that when we arrived in Colmar on Saturday night, we realised that I had made a booking for the um, wrong YEAR haha. As Strasbourg and the whole Alsace region get booked up really fast during this season, if you're thinking of going make sure you get in fast. I think that's what happened with me when I accidentally booked the dates A YEAR IN ADVANCE haha. 

Luckily as fate had it, we were able to find accommodation last minute due to a family whose car had broken down and weren't going to be able to make it to their accommodation in Colmar. 

Thank goodness the universe had my back..!  

Now put the Alsace region on your list. Like all these posts from the "WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM PARIS" series, I've shown how it's very doable leaving Friday evening after work and getting back in on Sunday night. Why waste a weekend catching up on the housework when you can visit another region of France, spend your Friday night in a random 13€ per person triple share motel, then the following night scrambling around for last minute accommodation because you'd booked the room for the wrong year haha :)











Tuesday, 27 December 2016

WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM PARIS - Alsace region (Part 1 : Nancy stopover)


Carrying on from our previous weekend getaway post, here's a quick post about our visit to the Alsace region of France during the Christmas season, via NANCY. I needed to separate it from the others otherwise the Alsace region post would get too big! Here's the essential information:

DESTINATION : Alsace Region via Nancy

EXACT LOCATION : Nancy

DURATION : 2.5 days - left Paris Friday afternoon, came back Sunday night (ready for work Monday morning)

DISTANCES AND TRAVEL TIMES : Paris - Nancy (385km, about 4 hours depending on traffic)




So I've always wanted to visit the Alsace region of France, notably for its famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg and surrounding little cities. We covered more or less everything we wanted in two days - here's how we planned it. Friday afternoon after work, we hopped into the car and drove to Nancy which was on the way to the Alsace region. I didn't expect much, it was just meant to be a quick stopover to break up the drive. I booked a cheap triple share motel for myself, Frenchie and his daughter for 39€ which was clean and more than sufficient for our pit stop. I've always believed that travelling doesn't always require loads of money and this was a prime example of my theory in action. 13€ per person for a night's accommodation was a pretty good deal if I say so myself. 

We arrived late on Friday night after driving for four hours from Paris, checked into our basic motel and headed to the city centre where we were very pleasantly surprised by the UNESCO World Heritage listed Place de Stanislas, decked out in its best Christmas attire. 

Radiating out from the central town square were lots of streets with restaurants and lively bars. We stumbled across a little cheese restaurant (I kid you not it was a restaurant purely devoted to cheese based cuisine) called "La Puce d'Oreille" (literally "The Thumb of the Ear") with several meanings from sensing something to suspecting something. On the windows it advertised "la cuisine de fromage" - cheese cuisine I told you right? And the menu did not lie, tartiflettes, raclettes, cheese fondues - everything cheese related was possible. At 10:30pm we were digging into our raclette and tartiflette dinner. Gooey, melty cheese, potatoes, charcuterie, tart cornichons - all those rich, heavy cold Winter flavours and textures piled up on a plate to keep us warm well after we'd finished our meals.  

Here's a picture of a dog on the counter I took. I remember thinking, you really know you're in France when you see something like this. OHS rules, take that haha! 


The next morning we woke up early to try and squeeze in a little Nancy by day before driving to our proper Alsatian Christmas destination, Strasbourg. Turns out the Place de Stanislas is just as stunning by day as it is by night. 





Free books anyone? A great Nancy initiative, drop off your books that you no longer need and pick up something else that might interest you!



We found a gorgeous little boulangerie to pick up our breakfast, a finalist for the Best Boulangerie of France. 


And how could I resist picking up some dessert at 9am in the morning when the mouth watering baked goods on offer looked like this..?!


Although breakfast was a fleur d'orange croissant, devoured while seated in front of the 18th century Middle Ages cathedral, as you do when you are in France. Next stop : the Alsace region of France - home to Europe's oldest Christmas markets, Strasbourg!


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Three (adventurous) Drinks You Have to Try in Paris

Tried every clichéd Parisian experience in the book already? Sick and tired of ordering chocolat chauds and café crèmes and un verre de vin rouge? But at the same time don't want to be the one ordering green smoothies, chai lattes or a Coke in Paris? 

Here are my top three Parisian-esque drinks you have to try out on your next trip to Paris. Classic French drinks at heart, with a little twist for those looking for une petite aventure...!

(By the way, just letting you know I found and paid for all of these drinks on my own, this isn't an ad of any sort and I don't get anything in return, it's just how I blog). 


1. Blue cheese espresso 



Yes you heard it right. STINKY SALTY BLUE CHEESE, with your ESPRESSO. It even comes out on a slate and a little fork! Your freshly made espresso will come served with a teeny side dish of crumbly punchy blue cheese (as you can see they aren't stingy on the cheese serving!) 


Monday, 19 September 2016

Galettes de Sarrasin - Easy Savoury Buckwheat Crêpe recipe



As some of you may know, I'm a little domestically challenged in the kitchen. It's probably more Frenchie's home turf - the kitchen, more than mine. When we first moved in together, I confided in a friend who had lived in Paris before about my feelings of incompetence when it came to my culinary abilities. Don't get me wrong I'm fantastic at appreciating, tasting, savouring and trying literally everything and anything on offer (including oyster hot chocolates and blue cheese espressos). But Frenchie is just more apt at the whole process of creating these finished products. 

Which is why you've probably seen a lack of French cooking posts on my blog, EXCEPT for those recipes that I personally deem foolproof/super easy..! 

This Buckwheat Crêpe Recipe is one of them (and also gluten free for those interested). 


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Military Parade, Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower and the Firemen's Balls- Le Quatorze Juillet/Bastille Day trifecta in Paris Guide


Every year on the 14th of July, Paris celebrates its biggest event on the French calendar - its national day "la fête nationale" commonly referred to as "le quatorze juillet" by Frenchies and "Bastille Day" by English speaking countries around the world. 

What does it commemorate?

Two things: 

1. The Storming of Bastille


Sunday, 10 July 2016

The BEST View of Paris - Tour de St Jacques


I'm in my fifth year of being in Paris and I can't believe it's only now that I have finally gotten around to visiting the Tour de Saint Jacques. This is a My Love for Paris MUST SEE, a much lesser known attraction admittedly because it has been closed for the majority of its 500 year old history. 

Offering one of the best views of Paris I have ever seen (and I've seen quite a few in my time here), the Tour de Saint Jacques will take your breath away with its 360 degree 54 metre high view of Paris. By the time you climb up the 300 steps, you will be oohing and ahhing at every single monument you can see.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Paris RATP Metro Pranks Commuters on April Fool's Day..!!


The French RATP group of the Paris Metro System got in on April Fool's Day (known as "Poisson d'avril" in France) with metro name change pranks that caught commuters by surprise.

About 13 metro stations were replaced with new names, drawing on hilarious play on words aka "les blagues de papa" (Dad jokes) as I like to call them. 

First up was the station "PREMIER AVRIL" (1st of APRIL) which replaced the station "QUATRE SEPTEMBER" (4th of SEPTEMBER). This metro station was originally named "the 4th of September" to commemorate the date of which the third French Republic was declared. Today, it would commemorate the RATP's April Fool's Day prank instead!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM PARIS - the French Alps



Kicking off a new series of blog posts about weekend getaways from Paris is one about our recent trip to the snow! Here's the essential information:


DESTINATION : the French Alps 

NEAREST CITY : Annecy 

EXACT LOCATION : Centre Nordique d'Agy, Saint-Sigismond 

DURATION : 2.5 days - left Paris Friday afternoon, came back Sunday night (ready for work Monday morning)

THINGS TO DO : trekking/walking, sledding/sledging/tobogganing, skiing, Husky rides, snow angel making, snow name writing 

DISTANCES AND TRAVEL TIMES : 
Paris - Annecy (559km, about 5-6 hours depending on traffic)
Annecy to Centre Nordique d'Agy (75km, about 1 hour)

Thursday, 11 February 2016

My Top 5 Transport Apps for Getting Around Paris


My top five favourite apps for getting around Paris (and they are all free as well!). 

1. RATP

I use this app every single day. The best function is the route planner. You just plug in your start and end points (the address or metro station) and Bob's your uncle, it'll give you the exact directions (metro, train, buses, trams - whatever you select although I tend to stick to the metro because there is less chance of getting lost that way) of how to get there. It will also estimate the time needed to arrive at your destination (I always add on an extra 5-10 minutes for delays/wrong turns). 

To double check, rule of thumb is to allocate 2 minutes for every station and 5 minutes for each station change to be on the safe side. 
Best of all, the app is available in English and there are always three options to choose from: fastest, least amount of walking and least amount changes. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

2016 Parisian WINTER SALES


THE WINTER SALES ie "les soldes" will officially begin at 8am, Wednesday 6th January. So brace yourself for exactly 6 weeks of markdowns and price slashes throughout the month and up until Tuesday the 16th February 2016.

Major "soldes" are big thing in France because French laws tightly regulate when stores can and cannot heavily reduce their prices. I'm assuming it was put in place to protect businesses so that the big stores couldn't drive out the smaller ones with their power to discount whenever they wanted, all year round. This way, all stores are treated the same at least regarding the time frame they are allowed to be on sale, regardless of their capacity to slash their prices.