I recently spent a literary weekend break in Paris exploring the haunts and hangouts of Paris’ glittering literati. From cafes and cemeteries to bookstores and Bouquinistes I utterly indulged my inner bookworm. This alone made it a weekend to remember but our library themed suite made it the Man Booker prize winner of brilliant weekends! Read on for details…
I’m back from my camping Ilbarritz trip to Yelloh Village Ilbarritz near the French town of Biarritz in south west France. It was my first visit to Pays Basque and my first experience of camping in France. We usually head to the French Alps for winter skiing. I was looking forward to discovering what the region had to offer and seeing if the Basque region differed from the rest of France. I wasn’t disappointed. Fabulous beaches, the friendliest of people, excellent food and a few surprises along the way made it a brilliant weekend. Let me tell you about camping in Ilbarritz and what the area has to offer. (more…)
Every winter the mountains start calling and I begin to yearn for our trip to Morzine Avioriaz in the Portes du Soleil area of the French Alps. There’s a whole host of reasons that I love a week in the mountains, none more significant than any other, it’s all wrapped up together; a feeling of being at one with nature, insignificantly small in a vast mountain landscape and more alive than I feel anywhere else. Here’s some of the reasons I’m drawn back each year…
1. The Views and the wide open spaces. White-topped peaks, soft, billowing drifts contrasting with rocky terrain and the bluest of skies I’ve ever seen. I’ll let the views speak for themselves…
Looking down on Avoriaz
2. The Air is cleaner, fresher and more invigorating than anywhere I’ve ever been and it’s the only place I can really breathe properly – I have allergies but the air is so pure in the mountains they all seem to disappear.
3. The peace and stillness. It’s so, so quiet at times with just the faint sound of skiers schussing through the powder, a muffled laugh in the distance, the breeze, and the sound of my own breathing and I want it to last forever.
4. ‘Jubilee de Neige’ is a french term which I heard for the first time this year which describes the sparkles of sunlight dancing on the snow in the sunshine. Lovely.
Ski Tracks, Avoriaz
5. Hot Vin Chaud. You knew that was coming didn’t you!
6. Evenings cosied around a roaring log fire with friends, wine, comfort food and feeling like you’ve really earned it after a hard day’s skiing.
Back at the Morzine Chalet
7. Ski lifts – I love the journey to the top of the piste – time to really soak up the views and that fresh mountain air.
8. The fact that you can just ski over the border to Switzerland without checking-in or going through security. No passport required.
The top of Avoriaz
9. Cheese, oh yes the cheese! The alpine shops are full of gorgeous, tasty, gooey, smelly cheeses! Comte is my favourite.
Alpine Cheese Shop
10. I love the sense of achievement at the end of the day when I’ve kept up with all the others who’ve been skiing for 10 years longer than me!
What do you love about the mountains…?
Avoriaz, The French Alps
Fun Ski Bunnies
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If you adore chocolate, sweets, French pastries and macarons then your trip to Paris isn’t complete until you’ve treated your taste buds to a tour of the Paris chocolate shops and patisseries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In less than one square mile no less than fifteen of the sweetest Parisian establishments have set up shop in the chic 6th arrondissement – follow me to some world-class chocolatiers and confectioners for a foray into Paris’ sweet spot…
Macarons at Ladurees
First stop is Ladurée a pastel coloured, picture postcard of a shop where you’ll discover a bewildering array of macarons, meringues and chocolates. Ladurée is famous for inventing the double-sided macaron – two delicate almond meringue biscuits in an array of colours and filled with creamy ganache. Salted caramel, rose, orange blossom and violet are just some of the myriad of flavours. There’s a difference between Macarons and Macaroons – the latter are much heavier, made with coconut and sometimes dipped in chocolate – not the same at all. So now you know. There is a small tea-room attached to the shop where you can also indulge your French fancies.
21, Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris – Métro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
For Londoners there’s a Ladurée in Covent Garden
Henri le Roux
I always thought toffee was toffee – until I tasted a Henri le Roux soft, velvety, melt-in-the-mouth, sent from heaven, caramel. These silky, salted, butter caramels knowns simply as CBS (caramel-beurre-salé) are simply sublime. On walking into the Henri le Roux boutique-style shop, his first in Paris, you’ll be dazzled by the bright jewel coloured caramels in exotic autumn flavours of Saffron, Pear, Orange, Jasmine and Ginger. Flavours change with the seasons which is a good excuse to check back and see what delights the Spring collection holds. Pop through to the chocolate side of the shop and you’ll be enveloped in the rich, bitter aroma of cocoa. Be warned you may never want to leave this shop.
1 Rue de Bourbon le Château – 75006 Paris – Métro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Mabillon or Odéon
Read more: A Secret Paris Food Tour in Le Marais | A Literary Weekend Break in Paris
Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
Some Parisian chocolate isn’t actually from Paris. Top Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini creates his chocolate from pure cocoa and travels the world in search of the best beans. Annual summer, winter and Christmas collections mean that Marcolini sounds more like an Italian designer than a Belgian chocolatier. More than 60 varieties displayed in neat rows of tempting deliciousness are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Fillings include violet and Earl Grey tea and more exotic flavours such as Moroccan pink pepper berries or bergamot infusion with fresh lemon and lime zest. My favourite was the four spice – a dark chocolate infused with flavours of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger – all beautifully blended but each flavour standing out individually too. Chocolate covered marshmallows and macarons are available too and with Valentines Day coming up the white chocolate and raspberry hearts are sure to be best-sellers (hint!).
Pierre Marcolini Macerons
89, rue de Seine, 75006 Paris – Métro: Mabillon or Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Un Dimanche a Paris
Un Dimanche á Paris is a boutique chocolatier, patisserie, bar, restaurant and shop in-one – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I walked in here! Tucked away in an ancient little passage off Boulevard St. Germain this uber cool concept store offers chocolates, macarons, and patisserie perfection. There are shelves laden with caramel sauces and jars of spicy little chocolate-covered pink peppercorns, chocolates as far as you can see and of course the exquisite pastries. Of the above shops this is the one place I’d like to go back and spend some ‘quality’ time. Have a little drool over some of their creations…
Sweet salted butter caramel and peanut
4-6-8 Cour du Commerce Saint André 75006 Paris – Métro: Mabillon, Odéon, Saint-Michel
So there you have it, some of the best Parisian Chocolatiers, Patisseries and confectioners all in one sweet little hub.
I hope I’ve tickled your taste buds and if you’d like to visit any of the shops mentioned I’ve added them to a handy little map. Just for you. Sweet.
Fields of Sunshine
In the peaceful French countryside, 40 minutes drive from Poitier, is a tiny village called Saint Martin L’Ars; and if, like us, you visit in July you’ll be warmly welcomed by field upon field of beaming sunflowers. (more…)
We’re off Morzine in the Alps next week for some skiing. We hope. We’re keeping everything crossed right now as the snow has been scant this season to say the least. We’ll ski in Port du Soleil which takes in parts of Switzerland and Avoriaz which at 1800m should, even at this late stage in the season, be ski-able.
We’ve been skiing here for the past three years and so far we’ve always had snow and a nice dollop of sunshine – perfect for a doze in the sun after a vin chaud at lunchtime! We decided two years ago to drive down instead of flying. Home is just under an hour from Folkstone so driving and The Channel Tunnel is a good alternative to flying and between four of us we saved well over £1,000 on flights and car hire – well worth the extra couple of hours travelling.
Morzine Avoriaz has a variety of slopes suitable for beginners right through to the adrenaline junkies who fancy taking on ‘The Wall’ – a near vertical run. I actually went over The Wall myself last year – in chair lift – that was enough for me. There’s The Stash; one of many snowboard parks, horse and sleigh rides for the romantically inclined, skating, cross-country skiing or dog-sledging. If the snow doesn’t make an appearance we’ll be hiking and biking or catching a game of tennis in Morzine – there are courts just by the main lift.
There are bars aplenty; Chez Flo up in Avoriaz is a good stop off for an Avalanche – a vodka based shot designed to warm the cockles and add a dash of Dutch courage. In Morzine itself the Tibetan Cafe is buzzy and full of cosy, rosy apres-ski atmosphere. Morzine is the real thing and has oodles of character; genuine, authentic and full of alpine charm – not a town that’s just grown up around a resort.
So here’s hoping for snow and if we do get some I’ll keep you posted on whether I make the jump from blue to red run…
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