An obsession with Paris

The Tuileries Garden in Spring
The Tuileries Garden in Spring

Perhaps it is because I have itchy feet or maybe it is a form of escapism, but I have recently become obsessed with finding and reading books featuring Paris. Although reading fiction has always been a passion of mine it is non-fiction that holds my attention at the moment, in particular memoirs, essays, and narrative history.

Currently on my bedside table is ‘Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)’ by Amy Thomas, a light and easy book to read especially if you have a sweet tooth. If you like more depth and less self-indulgence then this book is not for you. Amy works for an advertising agency and writes copy for Louis Vuitton, she loves chocolate and all things sweet and likes to make comparisons between her former life in New York and life in Paris. I have not yet finished reading it. Some of my favourite books featuring Paris that I have finished reading are:

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. A collection of 23 essays and journal entries chronicling the time he spent living in Paris with his wife and son. Paris to the Moon is a humorous portrayal of life in France, filled with personal observations and cultural commentary.

Paris Revealed by Stephen Clarke. I loved this book. Witty, informative and highly entertaining this book is a joy to read.

Joan DeJean’s book How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. 17th Century Paris. The inclusion of illustrations from that period provides the reader with glimpses of life in Paris several hundred years ago before Haussmann stripped the city of medieval character to create the wide boulevards and squares that we recognise today.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter. I loved following John through the streets of Paris, he provides a fascinating view of parts of Paris that are not familiar to me (and there are many). Baxter refers to Hemingway and other authors frequently and after reading all the stories contained within ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’ Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ is on my must-read list.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. A true story that started when the author met and fell in love with a French man. Each chapter is interwoven with delicious food and recipes making this a delightful read for anyone who loves food and dreams of romance in Paris.

Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love. Journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, a dream come true but then her husband is called away to Iraq for a year and Ann is left alone.  To contend with her feelings of loneliness Ann decides to explore France and seek out regional dishes such as cassoulet, Boeuf Bourguignon, and crepes, delving into the history and stories behind these well-known dishes.

The Only Street in ParisLife on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino.  A tour of the author’s favourite street in Paris the Rue des Martyrs. Sciolino’s focus on this one particular street gave me a complete picture of what it must be like to live on Rue des Martyrs. I enjoyed reading her stories about the locals who lived and worked on Rue des Martyrs and the history of the buildings.

Macarons and chocolate, Paris
Macarons and chocolate, Paris

 

Early morning markets, Paris
Early morning markets, Paris
Fountain of Apollo, Versailles
Fountain of Apollo, Versailles
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Travel theme: Colour

Where’s my backpack has colour as the uplifting travel theme this week. I typically don’t wear a lot of colour but I love to see it and my artwork is often quite colourful. In order to fulfill this week’s challenge I trawled through my photos from holidays in Scotland 2016 and Europe 2015, that was fun.

Unison handmade pastels
Unison handmade pastels
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A splash of colour, Victoria Street Edinburgh
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Barrels of colour pigment at the Unison pastel factory
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Tulips in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
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Flowering gorse, Gardenstown
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Gardenstown sunset
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David comes in many colours in Florence
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Flares create colourful smoke at a protest in Paris
Colourful entree of empanadas at an Argentinian restaurant in Berlin
Colourful entree of empanadas at an Argentinian restaurant in Berlin
Venetian window display
Venetian window display

Rest and relaxation in Bologna

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Piazza Maggiore

Just over twelve months ago we spent three nights in the medieval centre of Bologna, heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and the perfect location for meat loving gourmands. The Atlantic Hotel was home during our stay and it was well situated between the train station and the main piazza. It did take us a little while to find it, for some reason I lost all sense of direction and had us going the wrong way before Hubby stepped in to ask for directions. Each of us had a role on this trip, Hubby was languages and I was logistics, it worked really well most of the time. Once settled in our hotel we set off to find typical Bolognese food to eat. We had experienced illness on and off since arriving in Paris, it had affected our appetite and our energy levels and we were keen to use our time in Bologna to recover. The main reason we included Bologna on our itinerary was food, we’re not connoisseurs of gourmet food but we do like eating good food and exploring the medieval old town also had its appeal.

Tamburini  deli is the most amazing shop to walk into, from floor to ceiling the shop is stacked with the most tantalising produce. I was in heaven. The choices were overwhelming so we asked them to recommend something suitable for a picnic in Piazza Maggiore. Unlike other Italian cities we were not discouraged from eating in the piazza, surrounded by like minded tourists and locals we devoured the selection of cheese and mortadella that had been prepared for us, delicious with chunks of fresh, crusty bread. That simple but tasty meal was the beginning of our food focused visit to Bologna. While enjoying the atmosphere of the piazza we got talking to a couple of university students, one of them was walking his neighbour’s dog, a cute French bulldog called Frati (I think that was his name). Sadly, Frati’s owners didn’t take him out much because he had wheels as a result of not being able to walk properly so this student kindly took him out for regular walks. Frati was extremely friendly and seemed to really appreciate the chance to be out of the apartment and say hello to random strangers. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to get some puppy cuddles and I tried taking a few photos but Frati was too busy and the lighting was poor. So typical of me to remember the name of the dog but I don’t remember the name of the students, both spoke english beautifully and were happy to chat with us about travel, Australia and the Paris attacks (which had happened a week before). They recommended checking out the part of Bologna where all the students go to eat and drink, there we would find good food and wine and good prices. We took their advice and spent an evening in that more lively part of town and we tried the wine, it was good and of course we could not help but indulge ourselves at one of the many gelaterias.

Eating out in Bologna was a bit like walking into Tamburini, so many choices that deciding where to dine was really hard. One night we seemed to walk around in circles before coming across a small, underground restaurant in the back streets and for lunches we returned to a busy little cafe situated in the old market in the Quadrilatero, the food was good and the prices were right for our budget. During our stay we tried all the typical dishes: tortellini in brodo, lasagna, antipasti platters of cheese and meat, meatballs, roast pork, grilled seasonal vegetables and little round bread called Tigelle. The narrow alleys of the old market was thriving, lots of noise and activity as shoppers and shop keepers went about their business. Dining alfresco provides the perfect opportunity for people watching however I tired of the beggars constantly hitting us up for money, at one sitting we were approached by at least 5 different beggars. The following day we sat indoors, the weather was much cooler so it didn’t take that much to convince Hubby. The begging in Bologna was constant or so it seemed, perhaps because the central historic area is smaller and more condensed than some of the other cities frequented by tourists. Hubby and I tended to buy dog food at the supermarket and give that to the beggars and homeless that were with their dogs, most seemed happy to have food for their furry companions.

Museums and galleries weren’t a priority for us while in Bologna however we did venture into an old church, the Basilica di Santo Stefano which is known locally as the Sette Chiese or Seven Churches. Supposedly established in the 5th century over the top of a pagan site of worship, the church has been added to over the centuries. Even Hubby enjoyed walking through Benedictine cloister, Pilato’s courtyard and the chapels of varying ages. To one side is a small museum of paintings and sculptures, entry is free although a donation is welcome and it is well worth seeing. For the most part, we wandered through the city via the porticoes which make it easy to get around regardless of the weather. Medieval timber porticoes can still be found in the historical centre, the majority are made of stone, brick and concrete. In addition to tracking down the timber porticoes we searched for the hidden canals of Bologna of which there is roughly 60km, mostly covered over. Two canals can be found near the edge of the historical centre where the Reno river enters the city, and the Moline canal we discovered by accident down a side street.

Bologna is an incredibly fascinating city and well worth including on an Italian itinerary, being there in November made it the perfect time to indulge in some of the more hearty dishes on the menu. Being the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, it is also centrally located making it easy to get to other food lover destinations such Modena and Parma. We did not venture to either of these cities, instead choosing to take it easy in Bologna and recover which was a wise decision.

Eating in Scotland

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Seatown houses, Gardenstown Banffshire Coast

Some might think that it is difficult to eat well in Scotland, but I’ve got the ‘now too tight pants’ to prove otherwise. Not to mention the numerous photos that I am sharing with you. The availability of good wines from all over the world didn’t help with maintaining a balanced, healthy diet nor did the clotted cream fudge or the divine chocolates from the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem and Iain Burnett, Highland Chocolatier in St Andrews.

In Fife we stayed at Dairsie Castle and enjoyed gourmet evening meals provided by Christopher Trotter, a local chef and Fife ambassador. Meals were prepared using local, seasonal ingredients including nettle, wild garlic, seafood and lamb. Scottish cheeses such as Crowdie and Clava were served with oatcakes and fresh fruit, the wines chosen by individuals at the Cupar Tescoe. Day trips to seaside villages such as Crail, Pittenweem and St Monans gave us the opportunity to try more local specialities in spectacular settings. Surprisingly, I did manage to get some painting and sketching done in between all the tasty food stops, there is only so much one person can eat 😉

Gardenstown is a fishing village in the highlands, located on the Banffshire Coast not far from Macduff and Fraserburgh. There is no supermarket in the town apart from a small convenience store and only three choices of places to eat: Teapot One, a nice little cafe serving homemade soups and cakes; The Garden Arms Hotel, a cozy little pub open for dinner a few nights a week; and the Harbour View Restaurant, for fine dining near the pier. We ate regularly at the Garden Arms, the atmosphere was cozy and congenial and the owners looked after us well. The Teapot One was the perfect spot for grabbing fresh fruit scones as a snack or an afternoon pick-me up hot chocolate, and the Harbour View Restaurant was a nice change and they served a most delicious sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream. On one wet and misty day we ventured into Macduff to wander around the woodlands near Duff House, it was the perfect weather for sitting down to a bowl of delicious Cullen Skink, a soup of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The smell reminded me of the smoked fish my family in New Zealand served up, one of the few fish dishes I ate as a child.

When staying in Edinburgh I ate at the Cafe Rouge and at the restaurant in The Place Hotel, I couldn’t resist the charcuterie platter or the duck or the mussels or the snails so I tried a bit of everything. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, so why a French restaurant? After a couple of weeks of enjoying traditional Scottish fare and ingredients I was looking for something a little different and I’ve always been a sucker for french food. It wasn’t only the food I enjoyed but the coffee, it was relatively easy to find a decent macchiato or espresso although the service was a little hit and miss in some places, much like here in Australia.

Enjoy!

I love food

Travel provide so many opportunities to try sifferent and delicious food. In Australia we have access to a variety of cuisines however there is nothing like eating  food in the country of its origin. In Paris it was confit canard, in Turin truffles and in Florence wild boar although the bistecca fiorentina and lampredotto are on the list of thing to try over the next couple of days.

I share with you some of the yummy food we have eaten. Buon appetito!

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

Snapshots of a quick trip to Sydney

Flying into Sydney felt like coming home. Fourteen years have passed by since my time in Sydney but everything is still so familiar. I was in Sydney for two nights for work reasons yet lucky enough to score some extra time in the city for shopping and catching up with a dear friend. Sydney Harbour is a fabulous spot for people watching, the many cafes and bars provide the perfect reason to stop awhile and enjoy the view.

Pitt Street mall is shopping heaven, new shoes and perfectly fitting black pants are easy to come by as is delicious Thai food at Assamm under the Queen Victoria Building. Many shops have Christmas decorations on display, the most wonderful of them all vein the Swarovski Christmas tree decorated with beautiful, sparkling crystals.

Leaving Sydney makes me a little sad, it has been so much fun shopping and sightseeing with my dear friend J and I love being in the city. An electrical storm hit Sydney airport on the way home, delaying the flight somewhat and giving me time to share these snapshots with you.

Have a great weekend!

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