Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Three of the best department store Christmas displays in Paris

One of the things I love doing during the Christmas period in Paris is taking a day out to leisurely stroll through my favourite Christmas themed department stores. Parisian department stores also offer free Christmas gift wrapping which is a bonus when working through the Christmas present shopping list! By the time evening falls, which in Winter is around 5pm, it's time to pop outside and hit the window displays. They look extra magical and twinkly at night. 

First cab off the rank this year was Le Bon Marché to see this giant centrepiece suspended in the middle of the store.

You know Dasher and Dancer..

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Paris and I on our annual romantic Christmas date


For me, being in Paris is like being in a relationship with her. I'm completely besotted by her beauty, I catch myself doing double takes all the time. Even now going on three years. I love being in her presence, I love getting to know her different personalities and sharing beautiful moments of comfortable silence together. Of course, she isn't perfect. Nobody is and like any healthy relationship, she also likes to drive me insane from time to time. Her cold weather, frustrating administration and metro delays/strikes/station closures. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Château de Fontainebleau - giving Versailles a run for its money



As mentioned in my previous post, I have a thing for castles. 

British castles, French castles, I really don't discriminate. As soon as I enter an old château in France, I'm immediately transported to another era (especially when there aren't any crowds surrounding me left right and centre.. I'm talking to you Versailles). Because, as beautiful a palace as you are Versailles, and as breathtaking as your Hall of Mirrors is, it's hard for me to close my eyes and imagine what it would have been like with a bus load of tourists behind me gently inching and nudging their way forward.  

This is where UNESCO World Heritage listed Château de Fontainebleau comes in to play. A beautiful palace situated 55km southeast of Paris with a long and rich history, originally dating from 1137. It is the only royal and imperial palace to 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Salon Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands

Bright and early this morning, in the harsh 4 degree Parisian Winter weather, I headed off to the Salon Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands. By the way before I continue, how 'French' does the name of this salon sound? Look at all those words used - tastes, pleasures, gourmand. There are no simple words like 'food' or 'festival' or 'eat' or 'foodie' in the title, instead the words have to be a little alluring, a little seductive, a little sensual .. bah, a little 'French'. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

What is with the coffee in Paris...?


Coffee in Paris. 

How do we start this?

Chances are, if you've been to Paris and had a coffee, it probably wasn't the best coffee of your life. I always become a little anxious when visitors tell me "let's catch up for a coffee when I'm in Paris!". My eyes normally start to dart from side to side as I rack my brain trying to think of somewhere fairly central that serves decent coffee, at a reasonable price. All the good places I knew weren't 'typically Parisian' and were often

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Aux Merveilleux du Fred

If you are ever in Lille, there are these famous cakes that you have got to try - Le Merveilleux, 'the Marvellous' : meringue and chocolate whipped cream coated with shavings of chocolate and Le Incroyable, 'the Incredible' : meringue and speculoos biscuit whipped cream covered with shavings of white chocolate. 

I had read about these cakes created by pastry chef Frédéric Vaucamps in loads of blogs before heading to Lille but unfortunately ran out of time towards the end of our trip. I was then forced to head back to Paris without even visiting the Aux Merveilleux du Fred store. This subsequently led to a severe case of food-related FOMO - fear of.. missing out, fear that I would never have the chance again to taste this cake, never again, for the rest of my life. 

A few months later down the track, I met up with a friend of mine, Isabel Lerma, a fellow I-shall-quit-my-stable-job-and-pack-up-my-life-and-move-to-PARIS!-expat whom I met through a writing group called the Drunk Writers. Isabel moved to Paris a few years ago from San Francisco and is the actual founder of the Drunk Writers group. The group now has more than 230 members in Paris and still runs by its unforgettable motto, "write drunk and edit sober".

So anyway, Isabel had wanted to take me on a surprise visit to show me something she'd recently discovered. Lo and behold when we approached the store I couldn't believe my eyes. She was about to introduce me the exact cakes I had been pining over months ago. It was like a romantic love story of fate and destiny, where the protagonist is unexpectedly reunited with his/her loved one, the one they thought they would never ever see again.

Aux Merveilleux du Fred

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Introducing our My Love for Paris collaboration with VOYJER


It's been so busy at My Love for Paris recently but it's all been very worth it as we are super excited to announce our collaboration with Voyjer to help create personalised and customised itineraries for your next trip to Paris..!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

La Baguette (and where to find the BEST baguette in Paris of 2014)

To say the French take their bread seriously is a genuine understatement. The ubiquitous French baguette is the cornerstone of French meals and a common sight everywhere in Paris. 

It also, you know makes a great travelling accessory for those wanting to feel like a bit of a local ;) 

I still unashamedly get a kick out of walking on the streets of Paris holding a freshly baked baguette in my hand. It makes me feel a little Parisienne (except for the giveaway grin on my face because I'm so chuffed at feeling like such a 'local' - which now that I think about it, isn't very Parisienne at all). 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Why Musée d'Orsay is so "easy to do"

Musée d'Orsay is one of my favourite Parisian museums for a couple of reasons. For one, it's much smaller and more manageable than the Louvre (but really, to be honest, it's pretty easy for any museum to be smaller than the Louvre). I love the Louvre and all of its glory, but what I find often happens is that at the beginning of any museum visit, I'm all there - channeling my inner geeky school kid. I'm in awe of my surroundings and I'm super attentive. I want to absorb every tiny detail and read all the information on those little plaques, in French and in English. If only I had a clip board and a pen to take down some notes..! 

But this really only lasts for about.. you know, an hour.

Entering the second hour, I start to subconsciously gloss over the details and skip a piece of artwork or artefact here and there. My goal has changed from taking in the interesting artwork and appreciating its style to just getting through to the next room. By the third hour, my brain has reached its limit. The only thing I'm now capable of noticing is where the nearest bench is located so I can rest my legs and switch off my brain (oh wait, that was switched off roughly an hour ago..)

Needless to say, the Louvre takes well over 3 hours to properly "do". Whereas Musée d'Orsay is easily done under 3 hours, break time included!

Another reason why I like Musée d'Orsay is that it used to be an old train station - Gare d'Orsay. It was built just before 1900 and being on the left bank of the Seine, offers gorgeous views of Paris that you can catch on your "break" from the museum. Apparently Musée d'Orsay was meant for demolition once it became no longer suitable for housing longer trains (due to its short platforms). Luckily it escaped demolition, was used for a few other purposes including a mail centre (I know, that's where Frenchies used to sort mail..!?) and a movie set and is now a uniquely beautiful home to one of my favourite Parisian museums.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Another (free!) Parisian Rooftop View!

The Parisian skyline is one view I can never seem to tire of, which also means that I spend a lot of my time forever seeking out rooftop views - by day or night (for example from here, herehere and here!). 

More specifically, I am always on the hunt for free, incidental rooftop views, ones that aren't so much crowded by long winding lines of tourists. 

My latest find is a Summer rooftop right next to my current (free) favourite rooftop view on top of the Printemps building. It's on the very top floor of the Galeries Lafayette building where I recently met up with a girlfriend for a little vitamin D session.

Galeries Lafayette
40 boulevard Haussmann
Paris 75009
Métro Chausée d'Antin-La Fayette 
Open from May until November

Here is the initial view that greeted me:

Why hello there you...!
Not a bad welcome hey? 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

La fête médiévale de Provins - the Medieval festival of Provins

Once upon a time, in a far away land, lived a little girl called Nhan. Nhan loved visiting places, especially old historic places that made her feel like she had travelled back in time.

One day in the middle of Winter (about six months ago), Nhan decided to visit a little medieval town called Provins, known for its medieval buildings, ramparts, forts and houses from the Middle Ages. Fascinated by this quaint little town (but deterred by the French Winter), Nhan made a note to come back to visit again when it wasn't so cold.

Six months later when Summer finally arrived, Nhan returned to visit Provins to see it in all its glory, during the town's annual three-day Medieval Festival! The weather was beautiful. The sun was shining brightly and the whole town was dressed from head to toe in all things medieval...

Provins all dressed up!

Friday, 4 July 2014

O comfort zone, comfort zone, where for art thou comfort zone..?


O comfort zone, comfort zone! 
Where for art thou comfort zone..?
Deny thy dreams and refuse thy wishes;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I'll no longer be an idealist.




MEH. 
You don't need your comfort zone.
You will be fine without it.
If anything Juliet, you will discover your own life.
You will find out who you are.
You will rise above all the challenges life throws at you.
Sometimes rising higher than other times.
But you will manage.

And you will create your own comfort zone.
You will create a new comfort zone from the experiences you acquire by being without your old comfort zone. 



July the 4th 2014.

On this day exactly two years ago, July the 4th 2012, I packed up my bags, left Australia and moved to Paris.

I took the plunge and decided (with the help of a dear girlfriend who changed the course of my life by encouraging me to realise this dream then and there, instead of putting it off for another 10 years!) that at age 30, it was time to step out of my comfort zone again. 

I had packed up my bags and moved to London at age 25 already. I have such fond memories of London, it was my first taste of real independence and I was addicted. Having said that, London was in English, it was (well it still is!) an Anglo-Saxon country, like Australia, and I had quite a few friends who had moved to London who formed a mini support network for myself.

Hitting 30 was a completely different experience. I needed a new challenge. I felt that I was ready for a new challenge.

It was time to not only step out of my comfort zone, but to throw myself out there so far that I couldn't even look back and see this said zone. I wanted to experience living in another culture, another language, in almost another - world. 

And Paris was exactly that.

Paris had always been a dream I wanted to realise, and it was now or never. The working holiday maker visa for Australians to spend a year in France was restricted to 18-30 year olds. It was my last chance.

And so, I applied for the visa and bid farewell to my friends and family for another adventure. What started out to be just a one year Parisian experience turned out to be a whole lot more than I bargained for. It has been and still is, each day, a beautifully character building journey. I'm constantly discovering new things, learning and understanding nuances within a different context, a different language and a different culture. I am constantly being challenged both mentally and emotionally. Above all, I am constantly finding myself in those surreal "I can't believe I'm in Paris" moments when she takes my breath away, time and time again.

Paris has taught me so much, she's taught me how to effectively stand up for myself, how to hold my ground, how to be patient, how to accept certain things the way they are. How to find the silver lining, how to remain positive, how to appreciate what I have and most importantly, she's taught me how to find myself. Where my boundaries are, where my fears lie and where to find and channel my inner "ain't nothing gonna break my stride" fire. 

She's allowed me to learn more about myself than I had ever known before.


Finding my feet, in Paris.



A little while ago, I was approached to write an article about my Parisian experiences over here, if you are interested, click on the link to read a little more about the 6 reasons why I have appreciated the Parisian experience so much.

Love Nhan x

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Live Below the Line Recap - GOAL: $100 AMOUNT RAISED: $2591!! RANKING: 15 out of 11358 Australians

It's been a super busy 2 months and I haven't been able to blog as much as I would have liked to, I have a growing pile of drafts lined up waiting to be edited and published that I will get to as soon as possible but here is a recap of one of the highlights of my past two months - my LIVE BELOW THE LINE challenge.

A challenge whereby you live (in terms of food and drink) at the poverty line (1.34€ I worked out in euros) for 5 days to help raise awareness and raise money towards providing sustainable change to those in poverty through, education. The ultimate key to breaking the poverty cycle. It is through education, that young generations will be able to lift their nations out of poverty and this is exactly what this campaign is about - empowering those in poverty so they can help themselves.

I started off with a goal of $100, and before I knew it, friends and family and anonymous donors all over the world had collectively donated well over $2500 - CRAZY!! With 5 days left before the campaign closes on June 30th, I am sitting at number 15 (tied with another fellow Aussie Live Below the Liner) with a grand total of $2591 raised out of 11 358 Australians taking part in the challenge.

Monday, 23 June 2014

New Hôtel de Ville Exhibit - Paris in 1914 and 2014 - Stratégique Forêt

There's a new exhibition in town at Hôtel de Ville (the Paris Town Hall) and it's free for all. As part of the World War I Centenary Commemoration (1914-2014), this exhibition aims to demonstrate the role of forests in terms of contribution to the war effort, as well as the reconstruction of destroyed forest landscapes.

Running from June 15th until June 29th, it's an impressive set up with two GIANT 20 X 25 metre maps laid out in from of the town hall, creating two 500 square metre maps. Large enough to walk around, it's a great way not only to 'explore' Paris both in the present 2014 and the past 1914 but also to revisit those memorable places that are special to you and only you in Paris. Everyone who has been to Paris has a personal memory of Paris. Somewhere that immediately transports you back to that very moment you stepped into your very first apartment, your very first hotel, your favourite little street. A flashback to your favourite area, your favourite little shop, your favourite park, where you first got lost. A little reminder as to where you first fell in love with this beautiful city. 

You will be able to find the exact location on the Paris 2014 map on your right, then trace back to the identical location in 1914, on the map to your left. It's a little bit of time travelling as you shuffle from side to side, and great for the kids as well to see how many landmarks they can recognise! 



Thursday, 5 June 2014

Pâtisserie des Rêves

For a beautifully modern take on your classic pâtisserie favourites, head to La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Pâtisserie of Dreams), like right now. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Even if you aren't hungry just head there to have a look at their displays, you will quickly change your mind I can assure you.


I love wandering through their stores just to admire Philippe Conticini's beautiful creations in those big glass cloche-like things. While it doesn't have the warm, traditional feel of your typical around-the-corner French pâtisserie, La Pâtisserie des Rêves does not fail in seducing your senses, albeit in a rather unconventional way - minimalist clean lines, modern playfully pink decor and a surprising almost laboratory-like feel. 

Either that, or I am just easily seduced by all things pâtisserie related ;)

Check this out..!

Friday, 9 May 2014

I am happy to #LIVEBELOWTHELINE so others can #RISEABOVETHELINE.

It's Thursday night here in Paris and I'm on Day 4 of my Live Below the Line Challenge. The hard part is now over (I hope!) and even though I've already eaten Friday's breakfast allowance, I think I'll manage to get through the last day. The hunger pains, constant staring at strangers eating their biscuits, chocolate, ice creams etc and sheer exhaustion (to a point beyond 'hangry') have all come and gone in their cycles. The challenge has been harder that I thought it would be, especially being in Paris when I am constantly running around catching buses, trains and metros all day.

This morning was particularly difficult, it started with those headaches people on the challenge had been talking about. I was doing my fair share of sooking and zombie-like impersonations around the apartment until I decided to spend the morning reading up and signing petitions to Bring Back Our Girls before heading to work. 

Now, being too poor to afford education is one thing. But, being able to be in education in a place where 72% of the population has never attended primary school, then being kidnapped and sold off for "marriage" at a reported price of $12 each as a radical group in Nigeria considers Western education to be a sin is unbelievable. When should it ever be dangerous to obtain an education? Why have these 200 brightest girls in the area been denied their opportunity to study?

Needless to say, my second, third and fourth winds came rushing in. My energy levels skyrocketed to an all time high on my 1.34€ budget and I was determined more than ever to #livebelowtheline so that others could #riseabovetheline, making a small difference where I could. My headache was just going to have to take a raincheck.

I am happy to #livebelowtheline so others can #riseabovetheline.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Live Below the Line 2014 - taking part from Paris!

My food for the next five days!

If there's one thing I've learnt since moving to Paris, it's that I am really REALLY lucky. 

Growing up in Australia, I had never really faced the experience of encountering homeless people, beggars or gypsies on a daily basis. There was the odd homeless person here and there in Adelaide, maybe one or two that I'd see but they were rare, and few and far between. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

France in the Month of May

I love the month of May. I love it not just because it was the month I was born in, but because in France, the month of May represents, the month of 'ponts' - bridges. I'll tell you why ;)

This year, during the month of May there are THREE public holidays, all falling on Thursdays (Labour Day, World War II Victory Day and Ascension Day). 

This then makes May a perfect month for the French to 'faire un pont' - to take the Friday off following the public holiday on Thursday in order to 'make a bridge' to get to the weekend, basically creating a super long 4 day weekend. With many people observing this French tradition of 'making a bridge' in the month of May, you'll find things a little patchier and slower than usual as staff take turns to make their respective 'bridges'! (or all three!)

The 1st day of May is traditionally 'La Fête du Muguet' - Lily of the Valley Day. You will find sprigs of Lily of the Valley being sold all around Paris. People will walk around holding little sprigs, bouquets, pots of Lily of the Valley to offer to their loved ones as a sign of good luck and happiness, as well as to celebrate the arrival of Spring. 

This tradition started in 1516 when King Charles IX of France was presented with some Lily of the Valley flowers. He apparently liked them so much that he offered them to all the ladies of the court. Nowadays it is customary to give Lily of the Valley flowers to family members and loved ones on the 1st of May as a gesture of love and good luck.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

15 French Language/Cultural Tips to Get By in Paris

So you've planned your trip to France and you've booked those plane tickets! 

You've also brushed up on your high school French, taken French lessons, listened to French podcasts in the car and read over your French survival guide phrase book with your best over the top, theatrical, exaggerated Paree accent (picturing yourself with a beret, stripey blue and white top and baguette in hand of course ;).

You arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Paris and are ready to show off all of your hard work and connaissance. 

It is now officially your time to shine.

You open your mouth fairly confidently to ask a well-practised question, it goes smoothly enough until your inner deer-in-the-headlights decides he/she needs to take over. You were great at the question, but now you have absolutely no idea what the response means. Your eyes begin to dart from side to side awkwardly. Umm help..?

Or, you manage to answer a question in passable French and are pretty chuffed with your effort, only for the Frenchie to switch to English after hearing your accent. Appreciate the gesture and all but ouch. Obviously your French wasn't good enough to continue.

And how about when you manage to exchange a few sentences, everything is going well, until you are thrown off by one word, one response, one question, one look, one change in body language. Uh oh, that damn deer is coming back.  

Any of these situations sound familiar?




I'm a self-confessed geek. I used to work 12 hour shifts as a pharmacist from 9am to 9pm, come home, eat dinner then study French on my own until 3am in the morning. I tried every single possible French learning strategy and approach in the book to cram in as much as possible in preparation for my move to Paris. At one point in time I had 4 tutors on the go!
Yet even with all this intense studying, upon arrival in Paris I still found myself in those exact awkward confusing situations I was hoping to avoid.

What I gradually learnt over time was that the best study I could do was of course, a combination of

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with a French Twist

So I'm still in Cannes visiting John's parents (and enjoying the good weather down here at the same time) which is why my blog posts have been a little sporadic lately, sorry!

This morning we went to Marché Forville and picked up some beautifully fresh zucchini flowers! I got so excited at their price of 10 for 2.50€ (with the zucchini still attached) and 10 for only 1.50€ (!!!) (without the zucchini attached!). 

John had to literally tell me to calm down, Nhan calme-toi! because I was trying to tell him too many things at the same time while looking around and running off in different directions in my hyperactive farmers' market state. I always get overstimulated at farmers' markets, especially the ones in Italy and France. I don't know if it's the colours, the smells, the language being spoken or just the general European market atmosphere but I'm like a (hyperactive) kid in a candy store. 


Oh so beautiful!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Easy Peasy Provençal Ratatouille

At least twice a year, we pop down to Cannes to visit John's parents. Once during the Summer holidays and at least another time during the Spring school holidays when John's daughter breaks for two weeks. 

This time around, I asked John's Mum to share with me some of her French Mamie "grandma" cooking tips. Something typically French, typical to the region and not too difficult for me to follow ;)

We started with a classic French Provençal recipe - ratatouille, a really simple slow-cooked vegetable stew of eggplants, zucchinis, capsicum and tomatoes that is typical to French cuisine in general as much as it is typical to the Provence region. 

John's Mum has simplified her ratatouille recipe over the years to require less oil, less time and less effort (woo hoo!) while not compromising on how a traditional ratatouille is meant to taste like.

The success of a good ratatouille she says really comes down to the quality of its ingredients. Good quality olive oil, juicy red sun ripened tomatoes, flavoursome deep-coloured eggplants and zuchinni and sweet brightly-coloured capsicum. This I learnt too well during my extended time based in Rome last year. You can really notice the difference in the taste of good produce when you are based in an area where it is more accessible, where people take it seriously, where there is more sunshine and obviously better natural growing conditions. Even the supermarket produce in Rome was better than that of supermarket Paris. I suppose maybe because there was a higher chance of finding hydroponic/artificially grown tomatoes in Paris than in sunnier Rome..? 

French ratatouille purists will insist on cooking the vegetables separately before merging everything together however John's Mum has done both over the years and she was happy popping everything in the same pot, as long as you paid attention to the correct order in which the vegetables were added to avoid one vegetable getting too soft before the others. 

Ok here we go!

Ingredients 


3 onions (sliced)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed into decent sized chunks)
3 eggplants
7 zucchinis (green and yellow if possible)
5 tomatoes
3 capsicums (red, yellow, green)
Fresh basil and parsley
Dried thyme, basil, parsley, herbes de Provence
Salt
Olive oil 

1. In a large pot add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to gently sauté onion and garlic. 

2. Reduce heat soon as onion and garlic have started to brown, add sliced capsicum. 

3. After about 5 minutes, when capsicum has started to wilt and reduce, add zucchini in big chunks. 

Use decent sized chunks

4. Add some salt to taste. After 5 minutes or so once the zucchini has softened, add chunks of eggplant. 

5. Add dried basil, herbes de Provence and thyme 

Dried herbs can be used to supplement fresh herbs

Remember to use big chunks of eggplant
6. Add fresh basil and parsley (chopped)

7. While the eggplant is slowly cooking with the herbs on low heat, prepare the tomatoes. Remove the seeds and juice and put aside in a bowl. Cut tomatoes into large chunks. 

*Some ratatouille recipes will call for the tomato skin to be removed by plunging into boiling water then removed quickly and put into cold water causing the skin to split and easily removed however in this recipe, to keep things simple it doesn't make too much of a difference to leave the tomato skin on :) 

Try to find deep red sun ripened tomatoes
8. Add chunks of chopped tomato and stir ratatouille gently being careful not to break up the pieces of soft zucchini and eggplant. 

A little smoky sorry!
9. If the ratatouille needs more liquid, add tomato juice and seeds from before. If it still needs more liquid, add some water.

10. Taste and add salt if required and gently simmer over low heat until vegetables are soft.

Ta-dah!

Miam miam

There we go! 

A slow cooked Provençal ratatouille recipe that gently brings out all the flavours of different vegetables to fuse and melanger. Rustic Summer French cooking at its best. Simple, light yet hearty and most importantly (for me at least), easy peasy to put together. 

You can eat it as a side with rice or pasta, served simply with some seared fish or chicken, or even on its own with crusty bread to dip in and mop up those flavoursome juices.


Bon 'app everyone..!


PS - don't worry if you can't finish your ratatouille, leftovers while they may not look as pretty the next day always taste better after the flavours have gotten to know each other better and intensified overnight ;)



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Parisian Notting Hill in the 12th

Rue Crèmieux in the 12th arrondissement, just around the corner from Gare de Lyon is a gorgeous little street to wander down if you're looking for something not necessarily in the guide books to do. I used to walk past this street each day going to work but being myself I was always running just on time and never had the chance to turn off and have a proper wander. Now that it's Spring, the lighting is even better for me to drop by and take some snaps of rue Crèmieux.

It's a bit like the Parisian version of Notting Hill, proving that Paris isn't just hues of grey, white and terracotta orange all the time. But like anything French, it is done in moderation, ie there is only one street in the area splashed with colour. 

I mean it wouldn't be Paris after all if they went all out, right?


This is my favourite shot - quite possibly my favourite apartment on this street. It ticks all the boxes, the red potted geraniums, the classic French simple wrought iron balcony, a beautifully warm door to welcome you home each day and a bike parked out in front for good measure.

Quite possibly my favourite apartment in Paris

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The 37 Bridges of Paris - Le Pont Neuf

Europe is home to some of the most beautiful bridges in the world, each with their own special signature style. I love London's iconic bridges like London Bridge, Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge. I love the bridges in Italy like Rome's breathtaking bridges over the Tiber (I love Rome full stop, I spent 6 weeks 'living' in Rome in Trastevere last Summer and had an amazing time), Venice's Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs, and of course Pont Vecchio in Florence! And who can forget Prague's breathtaking Charles Bridge, especially at night time with its amber lighting.

But for some reason, I have a soft spot for Parisian bridges. 

They are so pretty, so romantic, so picturesque, like a painting..

They are also so well preserved and maintained, beautifully detailed and restored. 

I have always had this idea ever since I first moved to Paris to cross all the 37 bridges over the Seine and choose which would be my favourite. I haven't seen them all yet but so far, the Pont Alexandre III sits at the top of my list. 

Anyway, what better way to get this project rolling again than to receive a task from my friend in Australia to photograph her favourite bridge, the Pont Neuf, from the 1991 French film "Les Amants du Pont-Neuf", starring Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant.




Saturday, 29 March 2014

My Favourite Paris Evening Rooftop View

*Apologies to everyone as I have had to start watermarking my photos less discreetly in the middle of the photo due to a recent issue where my photo was used without my permission and not credited nor acknowledged appropriately - I have always wanted to share what I find in Paris as honestly and 'organically' as possible with anyone interested in my blog and will do my best to continue this, but for the time being I haven't found a more discreet way of protecting my photos   


The final part of this four part series takes me to one of the most magical views I've seen of Paris in my life. 

What started off as an idea to try to find some private (and free!) unknown views of Paris took me to the corners of buildings, squeezing myself (and my iPhone) in between pots and pans and designer bed linen and mattresses. I received more than a few suspicious looks from French sales assistants as I unconvincingly tried to pretend I was perusing through their latest range of overpriced pillow cases. 

I discovered many hidden beautiful views and the best thing was for those brief moments in time, it felt like they were created just for me.

I stumbled across a gorgeous rooftop, with spectacular panoramic views (for free!) that came along with outdoor seating and inexpensive prices. 

I also found a reasonably priced brasserie where you could enjoy views of a stunning stained glass domed ceiling over lunch, a snack, dessert, or even a 3€ coffee. 

But the most surreal moment of all was when my friend and I returned to the Printemps rooftop at 6:59pm exactly. We were told by one of the friendly staff members to come back later on in the evening, but before 7pm. As we ran towards the rooftop, the clock struck 7pm and the Eiffel Tower started to twinkle magically in the distance, against the gorgeous backdrop of a Parisian sunset. 

I squealed and started to embarrassingly jump up and down in excitement with my friend and we raced to the railings to see our dear Eiffel Tower sparkle. It felt like the Eiffel Tower was just as excited to see us as we were excited to see it.

Parisian sunset

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Brasserie Printemps - a Sight Worth Seeing

After surprising my friend with panoramic rooftop views of Paris on Printemps Beauty and Home's top floor, I had a second little surprise up my sleeve. It was another discovery from my search to find some secret, private (and free!) views of Paris, Brasserie Printemps on the 6th floor of the Printemps Mode building. 


Surprise!

My All Time Favourite Paris Rooftop By Day

Following on from my previous post where I tried to seek out some lesser known secret views of Paris, the last department store I went to try my luck at was Printemps. And, this was where I really hit jackpot.

Right on the very top of the Printemps Beauty and Home building is my all time favourite rooftop of Paris. This is where you go to be blown away by the beauty of Paris. Trust me, it offers one of the best Paris rooftop views and to top it off, it is for free.



Opera Garnier in the distance

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Secret views of Paris

One of the beautiful things about Paris is that for me, it is not a city where you have to have a big budget to enjoy and appreciate. Sure it will help of course but it's not the be all and end all. In fact, I would even say that the less financially comfortable I have been during my time here, the more awe-struck and appreciative I have felt about Paris. When you remove money from the equation, often what you discover is how beautiful and overlooked the simple things in life are. 

Just because something is free doesn't mean that it is worth less, if anything I find when you have less, that very thing is worth even more. 

I'll explain why. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Three Vietnamese Restaurants You Should Try in Paris

They say the more you can't have something the more you want it. Visas to stay in a country, that item that was sold out in your size, that guy/girl who takes their sweet time to text you back. 

For me in Paris, it's authentic home cooked Asian food. 

Don't get me wrong, I love love love having delicious French food at my fingertips. I'm very lucky that John is a fantastic cook and that he takes pride in his repertoire of classic French dishes. But every now and then, I just miss the amazing variety of different cuisines we have access to in Australia. I miss "contemporary modern Australian cuisine" (whatever that really is) and, I miss the hearty soul-filling comforting Asian food from my childhood (and, I suppose all the reassuring warm fuzzy connotations and feelings it evokes). 

It's like every now and then my feelings of homesickness manifest through my taste buds. They suddenly crave to be psychologically teleported back to that simple, happy safe place. 

Predictably, the re-enactment of this simple, happy safe place isn't very convincing when it's you doing the recreating for yourself, on the other side of the world. I go out of my way to try and recreate those familiar mouth watering dishes over here. I make traditional Chinese dumplings, spring rolls and Vietnamese bánh cuốn (a type of hot rice roll with meat filling) all from scratch. I can recreate modern Australian okay, but it's the traditional Asian dishes that I can't seem to get right.  

One of these dishes I won't even bother trying to recreate is phở, the classic Vietnamese beef noodle broth. This is serious stuff, it takes days of slow cooking and the addition of various spices at exact quantities. Even a change in the material with which you wrap these spices in before letting it float and simmer will alter the taste of your phở broth. 

Luckily for me, Paris has always had a significant Vietnamese population. Vietnam being a French colony between 1887 and 1954 as a part of "French Indochina" resulted in the establishment of the Vietnamese community in France way before the Vietnam War. With immigration starting during the colonial period well over 100 years ago, it is really fascinating to observe how the French Vietnamese community here differs from the Australian or American Vietnamese communities. 

Good news for my phở cravings because I'm definitely in the right country to be having them! Take a walk in the Asian quartiers and you will be spoilt for choice with the amount of Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian and Cambodian restaurants available. 

Here are my top three Vietnamese restaurants worth checking out. Of course, it's never going to get as good as my Mum and Dad's cooking obviously haha, but it hits the spot pretty well. 


Friday, 21 March 2014

Jour du Macaron - Macaron Day 2014

My love affair with the macaron is immeasurable. I love everything about the macaron. I love how the word macaron sounds in French, I love the beautiful colours. I love the subtle fragrance of macarons. I love how incredibly photogenic they are. I love their cute shape and petite size that fits ever so neatly between my fingers. I love the round delicate crispy shell and its slightly chewy interior. I love the generous ganache, the rich but not too rich buttercream, the delicious filling that always looks like it gently wants to overflow out of those shells but never does. I love sinking my teeth into a macaron and closing my eyes, experiencing the different textures on my palate and explosion of intense yet subtle flavours in my mouth.

I was first introduced to the macaron by my friend who was living in Paris in 2008, she was also the one who introduced me to Rob Ryan, she's taught me a lot that girl! I was visiting her for her birthday that year from London where I was living at the time I distinctly remember she came to meet me at Gare du Nord with some macarons.

My life was never the same again after that day, where had they been all my life..?

Anyway, so last year, I found out about the existence of this Macaron Day, Jour du Macaron started by Pierre Hermé, just after it had already passed. I was gutted knowing that I would have to wait another year. So as you can see, I have been waiting for this day for a long time. 





Here's why. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Friday, 14 March 2014

EUROPAIN 2014

EUROPAIN 2014 was without a doubt one of the best 'conventions' I have been to in my life.

Picture this: a trade show with over 770 exhibitors from France and around the world all gathered in Paris to showcase their finest products, creations, ideas and innovations in the industry. 

Which industry..?

The bread, pastry, ice cream, chocolate, confectionery and dessert industry.

Talk about being a kid in a candy store, this was even better than a candy store. This store had chocolate and ice cream and desserts and pastries and cakes and, did I mention ice cream..!?

Now, aside from spending the day tasting delicious samples (!!) at Europain, I was also able to witness the final ceremony announcing the best bakers in the world at the Bakery Masters 2014 as well as see all their competition creations on display. In addition, I was able to chat with many industry professionals, watch some interesting live demonstrations and also learn a bit about the technology, techniques and expertise that is involved in creating the final product.  

Starting off in the bread section, the largest part of the show, I was immediately blown away by all the beautifully different shapes, sizes, colours, flavours and variations under the sun.

What a perfect place to have a Bread Convention, France, I thought to myself. 

Bread heaven