Posts tagged France
Posts tagged France
Food galore at the Christmas markets. Clockwise from top left: Kugelhopf (bundt cake) and gingerbread men, pretzels, beignets (doughnuts), choucroute (sauerkraut) and sausages
Nothing says Christmas like the Christmas markets in Europe, and for me, it’s all about the food at the Christmas markets. I went to Strasbourg last weekend specifically for the Christmas markets. Every year since 1570, Strasbourg, self-billed as the Christmas capital of France, welcomes thousands of visitors to its Christmas markets. This year, there were 12 within walking distance of each other in the city.
My favourite was the Christkindelsmarik at Place Broglie, the largest in Strasbourg. It had a large variety of trinkets and baubles that would make excellent stocking stuffers.
Hotels in Strasbourg get booked out at this time of year, so be prepared to stay outside the city. I chose a bed and breakfast in Wingersheim, about 30 minutes’ drive from the city. Catherine was a very gracious host, who stayed up past midnight chatting with us over a plate of Christmas cookies, and even served us some home-made Kugelhopf for breakfast!
And for an extra special treat, we woke up to the first snow of the season in the morning.
View from the Catherine’s B&B
Considering how popular Le Mont-St-Michel is, it’s no surprise that accommodation prices sky rocket the closer you get to the famous island monastery. Rather than join the eager throng of tourists, we decided to stay a 20-minute drive away in a beautiful little farmhouse that’s been lovingly converted into a B&B. La Petite Chesnee, run by Glenda Timmons, is a gem of a find. She’s English, too, so you won’t run into the language barrier. She’s also a wealth of information on things to do in the area.
A huge plus for those with families: La Petite Chesnee is an actual farm, with a pony, sheep, geese, and hens. You get to pet the pony too!
Closed for lunch. Half day Sundays. Coming from a city where everything is open until 10pm at least and hypermarkets stay open until midnight, this is VERY hard to get used to!
I spent a lazy afternoon wandering through the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris last weekend. Sprawling across 110 acres, the cemetery is the largest in Paris, with more than a million bodies buried there.
Opened in 1804 by Napoleon, the cemetery was not a very popular burial ground back in the day. Parisians considered it too far from the city and the Roman Catholics refused to be buried on unconsecrated ground. Desperate to boost “sales”, the managers arranged to have the remains of famous French personalities like La Fontaine and Moliere moved there. The bodies of Pierre Abelard and Heloise were subsequently transferred in 1817. The strategy worked as more and more people wanted to be buried with the famous.
Today, the cemetery houses such internationally renown personages as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and more.
Clockwise from top left: Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin
The Pere Lachaise cemetery is a veritable necropolis, a true city of the dead. There are wide tree-lined boulevards, complete with road signs; there are statues for decorations; and there are, of course, doors to keep the unwanted out.
Portals at Pere Lachaise
A tree-lined boulevard
You may even come across a faithful companion.
A cemetery may seem like an odd tourist destination in Gay Paris. But with its famous residents, it’s not surprising to find that Pere Lachaise is one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. If you need some peace and quiet, if you need to pause for a breath before diving back into the whirlwind of Paris, the Pere Lachaise cemetery is a great place to visit.
There is something very special about staying in a 600-year old French manor with views of sunflower fields and a castle in the distance. We have a suite at the Manoir de l’Abbaye in the Loire Valley, and at 150 euros per night for four people including breakfast, it is a steal.
Our rooms have two immense fireplaces, big enough to roast a pig in. There are huge, exposed wooden beams and an uneven stone floor. There is a four poster bed. There is a winding stone staircase. There is a pool outside. Fields of sunflowers are on the doorstep. Some of them have been carved into smiling faces.
For breakfast, there is home-made yoghurt, piles of croissants and pain au chocolat, baguettes, butter and jam, coffee and hot chocolate and juice.
This is the life.
It’s been a time of upheaval and change. Packing up and changing continents is never easy. I’ve left my beloved and Sydney behind for a year in France. It’s called self-enrichment, although hopefully not of the physical kind. With all the delicious food on offer here, keeping the pounds off certainly won’t be easy.
It will be a time of learning, of new friends, of travel, and of self-discovery. And what better way to start the year than with the discovery of a macaron from Laduree?
We didn’t really plan to spend much time in Bordeaux, France, which was perhaps our first mistake. Arguably the capital of France’s wine industry, Bordeaux is a picturesque town, full of interesting architecture, excellent food, and of course, some of the best French wines. Unfortunately for us, we were just treating it as a convenient stop over en route from Nice to San Sebastian and didn’t budget more than a night in the city.
And what a night that was. It was at the tail end of our trip and we were low on funds so we decided to go with a budget hotel. After all, we only needed a place to sleep. For EUR 35 per night for two, that was exactly what we got. A rickety bed, a shower with water that would turn hot and cold when you least expected it, and no towels. Still, for EUR 35 per night, you can’t really complain.