Thursday, February 6, 2014

Spicy Travel in Europe - Lili de Luxe: Picnics at the #Eiffel #Tower #Paris, #France

Spicy Travel in Europe - Lili de Luxe: Picnics at the #Eiffel #Tower #Paris, #France: A picnic at the Eiffel Tower... doesn't that sound romantic? Something on your bucket list?   This is something our family does e...

Picnics at the #Eiffel #Tower #Paris, #France

A picnic at the Eiffel Tower... doesn't that sound romantic? Something on your bucket list?
This is something our family does every July when we fly from Calgary to Paris. Our flight arrives in the morning and we stagger off the plane jetlagged.  All three of us travel with carry on luggage, so we do not have to deal with lost luggage or waiting for the bags to arrive. We take the train from the airport into Paris, find our hotel room, checked in, change and wash up and head out again. Trying to adjust to a new time zone is a challenge but we find it easier if you can get some exercise, fresh air and sunlight.
We head down to the Notre Dame as a reminder to ourselves that we "really are in Paris!!" We stop in at a boulangerie for a baguette (or 2) and into a pâtisserie for some amazing desserts. Off we head to the fromagerie for at least 3 different types of cheese. We stop into a petite épicerie for wine, tomatoes and chocolate. Then off we head to the metro.

We bring an old bedsheet from Canada for our French picnics. We join families, locals, and tourists on the grounds of the Jardin du Champ de Mars. If you didn't buy wine before you came to the jardin, don't worry. There are "vendors" walking around with bottles of wine to sell to you. There are other people trying to sell you the latest plastic toy from China as well.

Just after sunset the Eiffel Tower sparkles like a Christmas tree. Every hour on the hour until midlights, the twinkling occurs. There are always "oohhs" and "aahhs" from the spectators. It doesn't matter how many times I see this light show, it still is a beautiful sight.

Bring a sweater or hoodie with you because it does cool off at sunset. Happy travels!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Spicy Travel in Europe - Lili de Luxe: #Flowers and #food in #Provence, #France

Spicy Travel in Europe - Lili de Luxe: #Flowers and #food in #Provence, #France: Markets in southern France... blogs have been written about them, stories in travel magazines, travel sections of newspapers, travel shows...

#Flowers and #food in #Provence, #France

Markets in southern France... blogs have been written about them, stories in travel magazines, travel sections of newspapers, travel shows... the list goes on and on and somehow we never tire of learning about markets in Provence. Just the mention of going to a market in France conjures up images (smells, textures, sounds) for those of us who have experienced it. I think, visiting a market should be on everyone's bucket list.

One of my favourite villages in France is Uzès (see previous blog It has (in my opinion) the best market in southern France.
What is on your shopping list?
Fresh from the farm produce, freshly killed chickens, cheese right from the cheesemaker, baguettes still hot from the boulangerie, olives straight from the trees, honey from the hive... it can all be found here.
The market in Uzès is in The Place aux Herbes, with its fountain, arcades and terrace cafés. The plane trees provide much needed shade in the summer months. 

In order to enjoy your experience at the market, one must arrive early to find parking. The market can be very crowded if it is in a popular (read touristy) village or town. One needs to practice their patience when at the market. The vendors are more then willing to give you samples and to talk about their "goods" to each and every customer!
Remember to bring your own basket or bags to carry all your purchases.

Mini-Lili loves olives. She especially likes Picholine olives. They are small green olives that have a very "meaty" texture and refreshing taste. It is the most widely available cultivar in France. Originally from Gard in southern France, picholine olives are grown all over the world today. The Picholine is best known as a cocktail olive, though it is also used to make olive oil. Mini-Lili can eat her own weight in green olives! Papa prefers Nyon olives.They are oil cured, chewy with a pleasantly bitter taste. In the picture above, Mini-Lili and her papa are sampling green olives.

Honey... now that you have decided that yes, you would love to have some "fresh from the beehive honey", you have to decide which flavour. Honey from bees that feed on specific plants render honey with unique flavors. To taste the difference, try honey on a baguette - or do what professional tasters do and try some all by itself spooned out of the jar. Apparently, Mini-Lili considers herself a professional taster because she likes honey on a stick, provided by the vendor, on its own. Her favourite flavour is lavender.

A trip to the market would not be complete without stopping by the flower vendor and picking up a bouquet for the house, gîte, apartment, or hotel room. The French love their flowers.

After spending the morning shopping and wandering around the market one can sit at a local café and listen to the musicians. My family has spent many hours sipping our café noisette while listening to amazing jazz, classical and blues. This is a great way to end your market experience.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Kid's Capture the Colour #KIDSCTC by Mini-Lili #France #travel

Mini-Lili is 8 years old and has been to France 6 times. She is familiar with Paris and the metro system. She is entertained by the musicians that board the trains and subway cars, especially the accordion players.
We were crossing over a bridge in Paris, when she spotted a train coming towards us. She captured this shot which she is submitting for the colour red.

The Living Museum of the Horse, which is a museum in Chantilly, France, is located 40km north of Paris. The museum is in the Château de Chantilly. Mini-Lili loves horses, so we went to see them and the show they perform for tourists. It is an amazing show with beautiful and talented horses. Mini-Lili took this picture as we were entering the stables. The photo makes one feel like they are in church; in the nave, with the stables almost like the aisles, looking towards the altar. This is her entry for white.

We drive around France... we drive a lot around France!! Mini-Lili likes to place the chosen stuffies (those who get to come out on the road trip and get their picture taken at various locations), on this day, it was NezNez and Pinkie. She placed them on the dashboard of the rental car for this day's driving. While sitting at a red light, she leaned around the passenger seat and took this picture. She captured green in various locations- the trees on the left and at the end of the street, the pharmacy's green crosses and the word Pharmacie over the entrance, the road signs and even the rental car sticker above Pinkie's head. This is a typical street in France's cities.

When one thinks of France they think of the Eiffel Tower, good baguettes, cheese, wine, lavender, Tour de France and fields of sunflowers. Mini-Lili had her papa pose NezNez in one of those sunflower fields. A trip to France is not complete, for our family, without the "stop the car and take a picture of the sunflower" pit stop.This is her entry for yellow.

One has to experience a sunset in southern France to truly appreciate the colours of the sky. The sky starts with blue, which Mini-Lili capture when she placed Daisy, Pinkie, NezNez and Rocker with a bottle orosé wine. The sky then changes to pink, orange, lavender and finally to black with the twinkling of the stars. Those photos might be in the next Capture the Colours contest! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mini-Lili's Capture the Colour #CTC13 Entry (her version)

Mini-Lili has some special stuffies that travel with her on all the trips to France. In the picture for grey, she placed them on the railing of the hotel in Paris. From L to R: Ginou, NezNez, Rocker and Pinkie. She liked the way the railing and the brown stuffies stood out against the grey of the roof and the grey, cloudy sky in the background.

For pink, Mini-Lili chose her new stuffie Daisy on the Vespa in Paris. A tweeter friend @MarlowMoo gave it to her just before the trip to France. Mini-Lili's favourite colour is pink and after seeing this moped, Mini-Lili announced she wanted one. 

What trip to France is complete without the picture of a 2010 Bordeaux decanting. Mini-Lili posed Daisy with the decanter and took the picture at sunset. The wine took on a dark purple colour. Daisy does look a little glassy eyed but did not part take in any wine consumption. This photo was taken in Saussignac, a small village located in the Dordgne region. 

 Mini-Lili posed NezNez and Rocker with this sleeping cat in the village of Brantome, one of my favourite places in France. The cat was sitting on a table in a small cafe just off the market square. Mini-Lili named the cat Noir and this is her entry for black. Noir did not wake up for the photo.

We went to Arcachon for Bastille Day. It is located west of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic Coast. Here, Mini-Lili played for hours on the beach, collecting shells, making sand castles and surfing in the waves. She loves to collect shells and rocks from her travels and these were added to her collection. This is her entry for gold.

*Please note that all the photos were taken by Mini-Lili and picked for this special "Her version of Capture the Colour Contest" (and note that colour is spelled with a U since she is Canadian).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The dance of the #Blue #dragonflies in southern #France

In one of my previous "Capture the Color" blogs, I wrote about the uninvited guest that appeared on our red insulated food bag at a picnic. Well, at another picnic, we were treated to "a dance of love" performed by 2 dragonflies. One of which was blue. The color of this entry.

La libellule, in French, is our friend since it eats mosquitoes. As we spread out our picnic blanket and unpacked our basket, we noticed 2 dragonflies chasing one another in circles on the river. This went on for the entire baguette and local cheese, topped with sliced tomatoes and roasted chicken lunch we had just purchased from the market.

The dragonflies had just come to a brief stop on this branch. It was like they were poising for the picture because as soon I took the shot, they were off again. It is those simple but special moments that I love while picnicking in France.

Happy picnicking! 

#Yellow #sunflower fields in southern #France

When I first see a field of sunflowers, tournesol in French, I know I have arrived in southern France. 

Sunflowers seeds were brought from the Americas to Europe in the 16 century. Every part of the flower is used- the seeds for oil, leaves are cattle feed and the fibre from the stem for paper production.

Fields of sunflowers all have different personalities. Some are short with their droopy heads, some are tall with small little heads, others are medium height with medium heads and then there is the field that makes you stop your car and get out to take a picture. Sunflowers can grow anywhere from 5- 12 feet tall. The flowers petals within the cluster grow in a spiral pattern. There are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other direction. When you are in the middle of the field of 12 foot tall sunflowers it makes you realize how amazing these flowers are.

I didn't know I had captured 2 bees when I took this picture. I can only imagine how delicious their sunflower honey will taste on a freshly baked baguette purchased from the boulangerie just down the road. 

Next time you are in France, make sure you stop to smell the roses... or take a picture of a sunflower.

Friday, August 23, 2013

#Green #Seine in #Paris #France

La Seine river is almost as famous as the Eiffel Tower when it comes to things associated with Paris, France. It is the background in many paintings, photographs, movies and is the subject of a song The River Seine sung by Dean Martin.

The Seine is 776 km long with 37 bridges within Paris. Of these bridges, The Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge dating back to 1607. The Pont des Arts has become a popular bridge for tourists to attach a padlock, with their initials engraved or carved into it, lock it to the railing and throw the key into the river. This gesture is said to represent the couple's love for one another.

One can take a river boat cruise and enjoy the sights of the city from the water. I recommend taking this tour at night when the City of Lights really comes sparkle. One can also go to the beach in the summer when the paved banks are transformed into sandy beaches in what is known as Paris-Plagues.

One can spend hours exploring the river. I captured the river on a day it was green. The colour of the river did not take away from its beauty. For me the river is alive with many moods- green being the mood on this particular day. 

Capture the Color Contest 2 #white in #Bourges, #France

Every year as we make our plans for our trip to France we pre-book some hotels (the first few nights in Paris and the last night near the airport). The other nights, as we make our way down south to the Dordogne or Provence, we like to explore and discover new places. This year we ended up in Bourges; a city I have never visited before. It is a beautiful city with an interesting centre ville, the Palais Jacques-Coeur and Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Bourges.

Saint- Etienne cathedral is a gothic masterpiece. When you first see it, there are similarities between this one and the Notre-Dame in Paris. However, the interior of Saint-Etienne is larger then the Notre-Dame. The vaulted ceiling, higher then the Notre-Dame, is breath taking when you first walk in. There are 183 stained glass panels, dating from the 12 century, around the cathedral each teaching the ways of the church.

I was drawn to this statue set against the stain glass windows. The soldier, his sword indicates this, seems very at peace while he prays. But on closer inspection one can see while his face is calm, his hands appear to be clenched in prayer. If it wasn't for the colour in the stained glass, one could almost think you were seeing in black and white and that I took my picture in black and white. 

I strongly recommend throwing away the map and taking that unknown road into a new village, town or city. There is always something new and breathing taking to discover in France.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our guest at our #picnic in #France Capture the Color #Red

I would like to think of myself as a "seasoned picnicer". I pack my own bed sheet (to be used as a picnic blanket), insulated food bag, reuseable biodegradable forks and knives and bring them to France for my months stay. 

The picnic is not a "Saturday event" for people in France. It is a part of their culture. When driving on the super highways, pull into any aire (rest area) between 12-2pm and you will be hard pressed to find a parking spot, let alone a place to lay your picnic blanket. Families, couples, single men on motorcycles, truck drivers are all enjoying their picnic. And at every picnic blanket, you will see a baguette or 2, several types of cheese, grated carrot salad (very popular) and seasonal fruit from the region.

After a local market, the village park is often full of people and their picnic blankets enjoying their purchases. Our favourite things to buy are: baguettes, local cheese, fruit, tomatoes and a roasted chicken. 

We had a special guest at the picnic in Issigeac after the morning spent at the market. We let the bug stay on the insulated food bag but we didn't share our chicken!

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Enjoying the #markets in #Southern #France

Enough can not be said (or written) about the markets in Southern France. My family has a love affair with markets. When we arrive to a new location, I search for all the local markets in the area and off we go to explore them.

Markets give us the chance to observe and participate in an experience that is French. In the markets, it is "real" people fulfilling "real" needs- buying food, clothing, household goods, book, plants, chickens, etc. One does not need to buy anything, you can just observe. But the draw of the fresh strawberry or tomato, the smell of the lavender or the call of the vendor to sample some delicious cheese will lure you into participating in the "market experience".

When I arrive at a market, I like to "do a lap". This allows me to see what the vendors are selling, what is the speciality of the area and to take note of where lines of customers are waiting since that is usually a good indication of some of the better vendors.

Remember to have cash (Euros) since you might be buying something out of a vendor's truck. Very few farmers will have machines to process your Visa or Mastercard!

Markets start early and usually end at noon of 1pm so do not delay in getting there.

The best part of the market for my family is to have a picnic after with all the produce, baked goodies and cheeses we have purchased. 

Bon Appétit!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lili de Luxe: Discovering #villages in #France

Lili de Luxe: Discovering #villages in #France: The joy of discovering a new town or village in France is just a right or left hand turn away! And t...

Discovering #villages in #France

The joy of discovering a new town or village in France is just a right or left hand turn away! And that is what we did one Sunday in July. We drove along the Lot river, turned south and discovered a beautiful village, Collonges-la-Rouge.

Collonges-la-Rouge is entirely built with red sandstone, its existence is proven since the eighth century thanks to the donation of the count of Limoges of the parish to the monastery of Charroux.
The village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association ("The most beautiful villages of France"), and is actually where this association was created. Its one of the most visited sites in the Limousin.

We came across the the Boutang du Peyrat house, with parts of the 15th, 16th &17th centuries, which is a historical monument. The protected elements are a window with preserved Louis XIII woodwork, a 17th-century entrance door, a wooden chimney, its facade and roof.

We had a wonderful afternoon walking the streets and discovering stores selling "knight gear" as Mini-Lili calls the swords and shields, restaurants, bakeries and ice-cream stores (as you know, I will only have lavender ice-cream while in France and so I was able to resist the vanilla, strawberry and coconut offered at most the of the shops).

We encountered many cats. They were in window sills, behind flower pots, on roof tops, under tables. We stopped counting after 10.

We bought a baguette from the local boulangerie and had a picnic in the park with a few other tourists. Our cooler was proving to be the best idea we had come up with this trip! Our 
rosé, tomatoes and strawberries were chilled. We unpacked our cheeses, yes 3 different types and laid out the picnic blanket and had a wonderful lunch watching the life on the streets of this lovely village.

We found this village by "accident" and had a wonderful afternoon. I highly recommend taking a right when you should have taken a left!

Happy travels!