Au sud

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Sadly I haven’t blogged in ages and recently I’ve really missed it. Seeing as I will be off to Montpellier au sud soon, I thought I’d share my trip to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille last year.

Aix

With leafy boulevards, grand fountains and impressive maisons, Aix boasts old-town elegance with an element of Parisian chic. The old town – full of narrow lanes, hidden boutiques and café terraces –  is great for any flâneurs. Quartier Mazarin is home to some of the town’s finest old architecture, including the grand Place des Quatre Dauphins. Those looking for nature can hike up Sainte-Victoire, the white limestone mountain which overlooks the town.

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Vieil Aix – a stroller’s paradise

Marseille

When the French speak of the south, they are often referring to France’s second largest city. While Marseille may have a tarnished reputation in France, it is a beautiful port city with a rich and fascinating history. I only spent a day here and feel like there is so much to see and learn. The city is bubbling with urban culture and won European Capital of Culture in 2013. Next time I am dying to go to Cassis, a little seaside resort snuggled by magnificent ragged cliffs just off Marseille.

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Vieux Port

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Back to my second city

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I can never stay away from Paris for too long. While I don’t know where I’ll end up next year, Paris is only a Eurostar away. I get an odd feeling every time I’m back – I’m by no means a tourist, but I am merely passing through. It’s the little things – from using metro stubs instead of a navigo to no longer having a French number – which make me feel like a stranger in a city I still know so well.

It may have only been a long weekend, but it is always like I’ve never been away. Even after living in the city for a year, there is still so much to discover.

Sunset from Parc de Belleville

There are some spectacular views in the French capital, but I think this one tops them all. Head up to the top of Parc Belleville in time for sunset to see the Parisian cityscape silhouetted against a backdrop of yellow rays fighting against an orange and pink haze.

Metro: Belleville

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Rue Dénoyez Belleville

I had only lived around the corner and never adventured to Paris’s most colourful street. Stop off for a drink in some of the quirky bars or cafés in the quartier – or for Chinese if you’re faim.

Metro: Belleville

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Breizh Café

A trip to France is not complete without a galette or crêpe – and some cidre bien sûr. Top marks for Breizh café who were rather generous with their cheese.

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Marché Président Wilson

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While London’s market culture is growing, I still miss having market stalls flogging local produce at the end of my road.  Stretching along roads with an array of gourmand delights, chatter and friendly stall owners, French markets are an experience. Going in a group of girls, none of whom look at all French, always gets some tasters, bargains and conversation.

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Street art in the 13eme

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Paris has a lot of street art to offer away from the glitz and glam of the Champs-Elysées and the Boulevard St-Germain. We wondered around the area rather haphazardly and managed to find quite a lot of work. There are quite a lot of routes you can find online if you’re not a flâneur who likes to wander.

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Folle de fromage

Since returning from Paris, one of the things I have missed the most about la vie française is the cheese sans doute. To think that I wasn’t too keen on cheese before living in France seems like an absurdity now. Francophiles fear not – there are more than enough places to go to for your French fromage fix.

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Une Normande à Londresimage

The Une Normande à Londres team are based mainly in Borough Market though you can find their full list of markets on their website. I really love the team and the concept behind the company, particularly their cheese ethos. All the staff are extremely friendly and love speaking to customers in French.. The company also take on young stagiaires who want to spend a bit on time in London. Having a welcoming team who are willing to help you and find new flavours is really important when it comes to being a good fromagère.

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La Fromagerie

I really loved La Fromagerie. I was lucky enough to interview the owner Patricia Michelson and hear her amazing story about how she fell in love with cheese. I could see how passionate she was about cheese within minutes of meeting her. The highlight was certainly the tour of the walk-in cheese room – the smell was amazing. Patricia also made sure I did not go home empty handed and went through my favourite cheeses with me as well as recommending some new ones for me to try. I ended up going home with a very generous helping! Keep an eye out for my interview with Patricia on My French Life!

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Androuet

My final recent fromage visit was to Androuet – a great little place in Old Spitalfields Market. Like at Une Normande à Londres, the team is predominantly French. As the owner put it during the interview: “We like to think of ourselves as providing authentic French service without the arrogance!” The place oozes French – whilst I was there several French tourists walked in and immediately knew they were in little Paris. I will have to go back for a fondue at some point as they are rated as the best in the capital.

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Mission Francophile: Finding all things French à Londres

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Since finishing my finals in May, I have been promoted from contributor writer to editorial intern at My French Life. I had originally been offered an intern position in Paris (my dream come true) but I painfully decided to turn it down after receiving a place on several MA Journalism courses in London. That does not mean that I am being deprived of la vie française – in fact London is more French than ever before.

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I’ve already written several pieces on the growing French population in London.  As well as hearing and speaking French being a regular occasion, there are an increasing number of Gallic outposts springing up in the capital for me to enjoy. So when I was asked to undertake a new project and create a Francophile guide to London for the magazine, the only answer was avec plaisir.

 

Without giving too much away, I thought I’d give a snippet of what I have been getting up to so far.

Borough Market

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This is a great place to find French produce and general foodie finds. I spotted several French stalls whilst here for the 14th July and have been making regular visits ever since. I have really been missed the French market atmosphere – the artisan products, the freshness, the wheeling and dealing, the conversations and stories behind the products. All the French stall owners I’ve spoken to and liaised with so far have been so friendly and happy to chat away with me in French.

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So far I have met the French Comté team and enjoyed some free cheese – some essential research bien sûr. I was very flattered to hear their surprise when they learnt that I wasn’t French – my initial email had not given me away! I’ve also met some lovely girls interning at Une Normande à Londres. With one from Bretagne and the other from Normandie, I was put on the spot and asked which region I preferred – I decided not to answer!

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Bread Ahead

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On Bastille Day we had a lot of fun taking part in one of Bread Ahead’s French bakery classes and scoffing on madeleines. After meeting some of the team and discussing my project, I’m hoping to attend another one soon.

Radio Meuh event at L’Entrepôt

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After getting in touch with Borough Wines, a French wine merchant that started out at Borough Market, I was invited a very French-themed event at one of their restaurants. Radio Meuh, a French digital radio station from the Alps, were coming to London and broadcasting from the restaurant. Myself and my plus one enjoyed complimentary cocktails, great French food and chilled out tunes – a perfect Sunday for any Francophile, foodie or music lover.

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L’Occitane events

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My friend had come across this through Look magazine – and what a find! For a mere tenner, we were pampered  to the max – facials and hand treatment, champagne, chocolate, the full works. There was also a 15% discount for grabs – which was a great excuse for a splurge of course. Did I mention that we left with a goodie bag full to the brim of smellies? It’s worth keeping an eye out for these.

Le Beaujolais

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You would never expect such an authentic little French wine bar a stone’s throw away from Leicester Square. This cute bar has a characteristic décor with an assortment of glasses and ties dangling from the ceiling. I came here to say au revoir to my Parisian partner in crime Emma who is interning in Paris for six months. After a few glasses of wine, you will question whether you are in fact in Paris.

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Borough Market: 8 Southwark Street SE1 1TL

Bread Ahead: 3 Cathedral Street SE1 9DE

L’Entrepôt: 230 Dalston Lane E8 1LA

L’Occitane: Join the mailing list for more info.

Le Beaujolais: 25 Litchfield Street WC2H 9WJ

For any Francophiles looking out for all things French in the capital, watch this space. And if you can’t wait, read some of my old articles in the meantime!

Celebrating Bastille Day in London

The best French crêpes in London

Franglish events

The French Institute

Behind the French love affair with London

Missing France? Move to London!

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Radio Meuh

 

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For all Francophiles and music lovers, Radio Meuh is the radio station to listen to. No matter what time you tune in, Radio Meuh never fails to play chilled-out tunes to suit your day-to-day routine – and without the irritating ads. Whilst I like listening to stations like France Inter and Europe 1 in the morning to catch the headlines and get my brain working, Radio Meuh is perfect to work and write to. Based in La Clusaz in the French Alps, the station’s name is named after the noise French cows make: ‘meuh’.

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I was lucky enough to hear Radio Meuh broadcast live at L’Entrepôt, a great little French restaurant in East London which is well worth the trek even for West Londoners who complain about venturing over the other side of the river – more in a designated post!

To listen to Radio Meuh, download the Rad.io app or listen online here

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Londoner in Lyon: bouchons, beaux-arts berges et bon voyage

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I have only just got around to writing my last blog post from Lyon as things got rather busy and chaotic due to our mad rush to get our online city guide published on time. Instead of celebrating with a night out, the editing team ended up pulling an all-nighter on our last night to get everything done.

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Before things got manic workwise I managed to tick most things I wanted to do off my list and more. I had a quick look around Les Halles de Lyon which is an upmarket food hall. I personally prefer authentic local street markets which definitely have more atmosphere, but for high-end gourmet food this is the place to go in Lyon.  The weather was bizarrely tropical during my three weeks in the city, which resulted in dodging thunder storms and basking in sizzling temperatures. During a drizzly day I discovered a great little café – especially for those in need of wifi and strong coffee – called Café Mokxa. All the cobbled streets in the area behind Hôtel de Ville and the Opera House are definitely worth an adventure around with loads of boutiques and quirky cafés.

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The Musée de Beaux-Arts is also another activity to save for a not so pleasant day. Showcasing classic sculptures, Egyptian relics, Roman vases and contemporary art, a visit here takes you through the ages. The highlight for me has got to be Monet’s collection, including some paintings of London. I was soon brought back to modern day reality when I walked into a Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Place des Terreaux. With a large Palestinian Jewish community in France, anti-Israel voices are growing louder by the day, with record numbers of French Jews leaving France for Israel.   

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Charing Cross, Monet

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I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to visit Le Parc de la Tête d’Or, a gorgeous park home to a lake and a zoo. Once inside, you will easily forget that the park is situated in the middle of a city. I also finally got myself on a Vélo’V (Lyon’s version of a Boris bike or a Parisian Vélib) and had a little ride along the berges. Whereas in Paris I would have never dared cycle on the roads, I felt quite comfortable doing so in Lyon.

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Having avoided typically meaty and rich Lyonnais cuisine, I finally had a true bouchon experience – except for the fact that I had my own special veggie menu. With salami slices offered as a nibble whilst we perused the menu, I could tell straight away a meat feast was in order. Despite the stereotypical unsympathetic and incomprehensive reaction to veggies from the French, the staff were most accommodating. Being able to speak French probably also helped to butter them up – I even managed to barter five euros off my fixed menu. Whilst our starter ensemble included lots of meat bits, I did rather well out of the salad, bread and green lentils. While everyone else tucked into some meaty dish for their main, I enjoyed a very nice omelette – and no sarcasm intended. Dessert was certainly the highlight of the meal for everyone, with most of us opting for a heavenly tarte aux pralines – by far the best one I had during my stay.  

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A few of us decided to hike up the Fourvière hill to walk off our meal – think of the climb up to Montmartre but ten times longer and steeper. The view at night was well worth it – the pictures speak for themselves. On the Friday evening we took some time out of production and editing to attend out final team meal at Croque ’n’ Roll, a hip café/resto joint doing croque monsieurs with a twist.

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Myself and a fellow team member decided to spend our last full day in the city in a rather unusual way which tested our French and riddle-cracking skills. We signed ourselves up to a murder mystery style challenge called Qui veut pister which is run in several French cities. This is a great way to discover a city in a completely novel way, where you have to run around cracking clues and solving fictional stories. Our piste was to solve who stole le Gros Caillou – a large stone in the Croix-Rousse district which I have mentioned in an earlier post. Without giving too much away, the piste will get you shining torches to find clues written in UV pen, solving anagrams and getting some strange looks when blowing your lungs out onto a compact mirror. For anyone spending more than a week in a French city with a good level of French, Qui veut pister I definitely something I would recommend.

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Overall a great three weeks in Lyon – it’s no Paris but it has so many of its own charms.

Les Halles de Lyon: http://www.hallespaulbocuse.lyon.fr/

Café Mokxa : http://www.cafemokxa.com/

Musée de Beaux-Arts: http://www.mba-lyon.fr/mba/

Parc de la Tête d’Or : http://www.lyon.fr/page/culture-et-loisirs/ville-nature/le-parc-de-la-tete-dor.html

Croque ’n’ Roll : http://www.thecrocknroll.fr/fr/

Qui veut pister : http://www.quiveutpisterlyon.com/

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Annecy

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Annecy is one of the most photographed towns in France – and with good reason. Placed at the foot of the wooded and snow-capped Alps and lying at the tip of a startlingly turquoise lake, this little town is home to a natural paradise. On top of its phenomenal backdrop, the Vielle Ville is incredibly pretty. Known as the Venice of Alps, this picturesque town is dissected by small canals and streams running out to the Lac Annecy. Dating back to the 14th century, this medieval wonder still has its cobbled streets, pastel-daubed houses, turreted castle and old prison.

À voir :

La Vielle Ville:  While on a summer’s day you might want to rush straight to the gorgeously blue lake, Annecy’s old town is a must-see. Wind down alongside the canal before wandering around the town’s photogenic jumble of narrow cobbled streets. It’s worth taking time to admire the pastel-coloured houses and to rummage around the cute boutiques.

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Palais d’Isle :

This little castle built in 1132 is in the centre of the Thiou canal. Originally the residence of Lord Annecy, it has since had various roles in the town before becoming a prison in the Middle Ages. The town’s landmark now houses a local history museum.

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Lakeside & Pont des Amours:

After exploring the old town, continue down to the Jardins de l’Europe and the lakeside. During the summer the Champs de Mars becomes a popular picnic spot for both locals and visitors. Make sure you cross over the iconic Pont des Amours which has no padlocks weighing it down unlike its counterpart in the French capital.

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Lac Annecy : This strikingly turquoise natural lake is Annecy’s main attraction. Its water is one of the purest in Europe, something which the habitants of Annecy work hard to maintain and are very proud of. The wide range of water and mountain activities available attracts hordes of holiday-goers. A boat trip is the best way to see the lake and its surrounding mountains in their full glory. Sadly my pictures do not capture their sheer magnificence.

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Château d’Annecy: While going inside the town’s old castle is not a must – especially if you are only in Annecy for the day – it is worth trekking up the small hill to take a look.

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Plage d’Annecy-le-Vieux : If you have time, walk along the lakeside over to Annecy-le-Vieux. Independent in its own right, this commune has one of the cleanest beaches in France and neighbours the region’s towering mountains.

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La bouffe

Neighbouring Geneva, Annecy’s specialities are fondue and tartiflettes. The town is home to lots of quaint cafés and restaurants serving traditional dishes. Whilst dinner by the canal or lakeside may seem like a wonderful idea, these restaurants are often tourist traps with prices to match – it’s better to stray away from the canal into some of the smaller streets for a good-value quality meal. Having spent only the day there, the only eatery I can recommend La Bolée, a crêperie breton with a wide selection of savoury galettes and sweet crêpes washed down with cidre bien sûr. My galette was not lacking in trimmings which is sometimes the case in some crêperies and really hit the spot after a long day of wandering around.

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41 Rue Carnot Annecy

http://www.labolee.fr/repertoire/menu_accueil_1.html

While Annecy’s main sights are doable in a day, a holiday here is perfect for those who want a mixture of lounging by the beach, water sports and walks in both a picturesque town and glorious natural surroundings.

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Londoner in Lyon: vin, vol et voyages

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The end of my second week is drawing to an end – while three weeks seems like a long time, there will still be a lot of things that I haven’t seen or discovered in Lyon.

Having started to feel a bit groggy and stiff, I finally had a jog along the riverbanks. This was quite a novelty – I sadly live nowhere near the Thames in London and in Paris I would have had to have been either incredibly fit with an impressive geographic knowledge or resorted to the metro. It is funny how many things you notice when you are running – I told myself I would have to come back with my camera – which ended badly as you will find out… The lack of recent exercise other than walking and the picturesque setting must have encouraged to push myself more than normal as I ran for well-over an hour.

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Our team decided to suss out more of the nightlife here and went to a quirky wine bar called La Cave d’à Côté around Hôtel de Ville. After finding out that the bar was a haunt for French Resistance members, its décor and small size made more sense. We were then intending to go to a well-known jazz club, only to find that the party ends abruptly at 19h – rather strange for a jazz club, mais bon. Our change of plan led us to another find – a beer place with happy hour running all night at 5 euros a pint. Le 405 Lyon immediately won my vote with its wide selection of Belgian beer and was full of friendly twentysomethings enjoying the pleasant summer evening. I got talking to a lovely girl from Marseille who was really interested in what we were doing – it was a shame that we had to hurry for the last metro.

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The highlight of this week was definitely our trip to Euronews. Talking to journos there was both inspiring though perhaps a bit demoralising for some.  Many jokily hinted at going into law or finance instead – nothing I have not heard before having done work experience at a local paper recently. What I really love in an enterprise like Euronews is its diversity and international outlook – the fact that it combines varying opinions and views throughout Europe. Whilst one of the journos in the English team admitted it is not the ideal place to start off in journalism as the majority of the work is post-production (with the same information broadcast and put online in 13 different languages), such an environment seems attractive for me. I am also still pretty set on going back to France after my MA so I am looking into European news platforms.  I hope to have made some valuable contacts for the future and have already been asked to contribute to a sister blog under Euronews called Generation Y.

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Instead of going back to the apartment straight away to get stuck into my next article, I decided to make the most of the sun. Seeing as the last time I climbed up the Fourvière hill it was muggy which did not make good panoramas, I trekked up to admire the city skyline in full clarity before meandering down through the gardens. Before heading back chez moi, I detoured onto the river berges to fill another missed photo opportunity.

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Within 20 minutes, I was in a police car being taken to the local police station. ‘What did you do?!’ was the first reaction from fellow project members. The sad news is I was on the receiving end. I am usually so vigilant but this guy was very sneaky and caught me completely off guard. I had decided to be a responsible pasty-skinned person and re-apply my sun cream, plonking myself down on a deck. Whilst I’m smothering away, the guy comes up to me and asks me for some cream. I gave him a bit before he started taking liberties and asking for more – to get rid of him I gave him some. Whilst my bag, as always, was firmly closed and safely on my shoulder, my camera was hanging around my wrist. When I realised it was missing, my first thought was that I must have put it back in my bag and started rummaging around. Unfortunately my bag had a lot of clutter to work through. In the meantime I started following the guy whilst searching my bag because I didn’t want to start throwing accusations without being sure. To check properly I went onto a peniche terrace to check in a secure place – I didn’t want anything else lifted – which is when I lost him. The bar owner pointed out the police to me when I told what I thought had happened, and voilà.

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The police took me on a tour of the berges and the surrounding road, but with no luck of course – the guy would have scarpered rather sharpish. They encouraged me to file a report so off I went to the police station, where I bonded with a Bosnian boy in the waiting room who was asking me if Justin Bieber was English and did I know where he lived. What is annoying is the sentimental value more than anything – I had taken lots of pictures that day, some of which were to be used as part of a piece I am doing for the guide.

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Today I went to Lac Miribel which is about 10km outside of Lyon, which was gorgeous. It was great just to relax and doze off in the sun after yesterday. As I went by myself I didn’t want to leave my stuff unattended to take a dip, so I just had a paddle instead. If you’re in Lyon for more than a few days, I would definitely recommend a trip.

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Off to Annecy tomorrow – I am rather nervous about the weather as storms are expected in the evening, but this weekend was my only chance to go. I’ve signed myself up to the editing team so next week will be chaos.

Today a year ago was my last day living in Paris – maybe one day I’ll be back!

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La Cave d’à Côté: 7, rue Pleney, 1er arrondissement Lyon http://www.petitpaume.com/etablissement/la-cave-d-a-cote.htm

Le 405 Lyon : 33 rue Terme, 1er arrondissement Lyon

http://www.bar-a-biere-lyon.fr/

Lac Miribel : From Lyon get the metro A to Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie and then get the bus 83 (best to look up bus times beforehand as they come twice an hour)

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Londoner in Lyon: cailloux, Croix-Rousse et canuts

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With the work mound increasing and deadlines for our guide looming, my free time will be narrowing after my weekend in Vichy. What is great about this work experience is that not everything is necessarily sitting in front of your computer screen, but outside finding inspiration and chatting to people – probably what I find most attractive about a career in journalism.

Last week before going to Vichy I had another trip to a local market in Croix-Rousse. For market standards I had arrived rather late – around 1pm – and a lot of vendors were already starting to pack up their stalls. One benefit was some last minute bargins – I managed to get a load of nectarines for 1 euro. They were pretty ripe and needed eating straight away, but it was a pretty good deal.

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Whilst in the area I decided to find Le Gros Caillou (literally the large stone/rock) which one of my fellow project members had written an article on. Its name gives away the whole package, though there are several intriguing theories about the stone’s origin. Some tourists might hear from locals that it is the remnants of an ice-age glacier, others will be told by guides that it was the heart of a bailiff which turned by stone – everyone would want to avenge a bailiff after all. It was in fact discovered by tunnel workers in 1890 when construction started for the first funicular train in Lyon.

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Whilst Le Gros Caillou may not be the most attractive of sights, it has become the symbol of the Croix-Rousse district and marks the beginning of Parcours des Voraces, a winding and picturesque path ending up in Place des Terreaux. It was during this route that I found my favourite traboule (passageway) so far as well as lots of intriguing street art.

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Our team also had a tour of famous Croix-Rousse silk workshop. Lyonnais silk is well-known not only in France but is in fact the global capital for silk. Whilst this is not necessarily my thing, it was very interesting to see traditional silk production on a highly complex machine which takes years of intense training to operate. I was merely impressed by the amount of discipline and patience a silk-weaver must have – an expert weaver will weave about 30cm a day and is not paid a lot.

For my latest article about the Guignol puppet I had managed to arrange an interview with a museum and boutique owner. He was a great help and gave me free entry – I hope I have some nice touches now  to add to the interview I did with two puppeteers last week.

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Le Gros Caillou: Croix-Rousse, at the end of Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse, 1er arrondissement Lyon

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