Category Archives: Travels

Back to Britain

I've been back in the UK for about 3 days now, and, while I'm missing Paris an awful lot, I'm also enjoying being back with my family, and trying to organise the Durham-based next year. There are some flipping amazing adventures to be had in that tiny city.

Today I discovered an incredible ice cream parlour in Northumberland. Wheelbirks is a dairy farm in the middle of the best countryside in, well, the country. They have the oldest, and the only pedigree Jersey herd in Northumberland, and those are some gorgeous cows. The parlour is in a converted barn, and it is stunning. All ice cream is made at the farm, from milk from the Jersey cows.

Adorable table names.

The menu is great – the ploughman's lunch is served with an impressive wodge of cheese, but I couldn't resist the ice cream. Flavours included apple & caramel, maple & pecan praline, peach & raspberry, wild cherry, and a delicious jersey cream. I had maple & pecan and jersey cream, and it was the biggest ice cream I've ever eaten. Incredible.

Boy had wild cherry with peach & raspberry.

Out of the back of the café is an orchard with a wee play area, lots of space for sitting in the sunshine, and some very happy looking chickens. There's also space to visit and coo over the calves from a small distance. A little shop in the parlour stocks local treats. My favourites were the woven baskets, and I couldn't resist some unperfumed honey and beeswax lip balm, made in Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is not very far away at all. Milk from the herd and pints of the delicious ice cream are also available to purchase and enjoy at home.

I love my satchel, and this Union Jack printed chesterfield.

I also love the pictures on the wall, from the early days of the farm (one is from 1936!)
My Father's cycle club were here today as their rest stop mid-ride. I've never seen so many bikes. It was a thing of beauty.

I am fairly certain that Wheelbirks is going to become my new go-to place for all of my ice cream cravings.

Just beautiful.

 

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Filed under Home sweet home, Travels, Very good food

More final countdowns

I think this is the second “final countdown” I’ve had in a year. Oh my ever-changing days. My job in France is officially over, and now I have about a month of Paris time left to take tourist pictures, and explore about a million places. A google search on “free things to do in Paris” brings up an awful lot. Mostly they involve being in parks. Or museums. That’s a hot weather plan and a rainy day plan all in one. Hooray.

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This is just a flipping excellent view

A long time ago (maybe a month?) I bought last-minute evening tickets to Roland Garros, went on a Saturday, queued for a very long time, and ended up on court Phillippe Chatrier just in time to watch Roger Federer play some pretty good tennis against French boy Gilles Simon. Obviously the local crowd were fairly Simon-supporting, but I have a soft spot a mile wide for Federer. He plays tennis like it was invented just for him. Incroyable. The game was quite the tense one, going all the way to five sets – definitely giving us our money’s worth. I am now devastated Federer is out of Wimbledon.  Especially since I have a whole free week to watch it now! I will enjoy the sunshine (please come back, sunshine) in one of the many recommended parks instead.

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Federer, doing his thing

Last weekend was Fete de la Musique in France, so I went adventuring with some girls across the capital. There were performers everywhere, all night long. We ended up at the Grand Palais, for a Wanderlust club night. That building is such a beauty. The metro was running all night to take me home, and great fun was had by all. Highlights included the gay club that spilled out into the streets, with bubbles being blown up into the sky, and a Brazilian drumming group that were playing for hours and hours near Hotel de Ville. They were excellent.

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Filed under Dance till dawn, Lovely folk, Paris, Touristing, Travels

Living local

One of my favourite things about France is how easy it is to live within a tiny radius of your home, and never want for anything. It takes less than a minute to walk from my front door to a fishmonger, butcher, greengrocer, florist, cheesemonger (is that what they’re called?), 2 very good boulangeries, one average boulangerie, and about 4 bistros. There is a supermarket, too, but why bother with a supermarket when you can go to the knowledgeable source?

Here comes summer - 64

Why would I leave my neighbourhood when there are such beauties on my doorstep?

I love exploring Paris, and I really love that there is so much of it to explore, but knowing that I can go buy bread baked around the corner freshly each day is a joy. I can’t wait until I can bake my own bread! Also, the greengrocer man is the absolute friendliest. He always has a hello and a smile when I walk past, and the asparagus in his shop is the nicest I’ve had in France.

May in Paris - 06

About 15 minutes from my house on foot is the most beautiful park in Paris. The Parc Monceau is especially lovely right now, with all of the flowers, and the sunshine, and the people enjoying the flowers and the sunshine. It’s my favourite.

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May in Paris - 08

Yep, Paris looks goooood right now.

In other news, we were at the Jardin d’Acclimatation recently (another local joy), and there were bagpipers! I think they were part of a Brittany celebration (do they have bagpipes in Brittany?). Bagpipes follow me everywhere. And they aren’t subtle about it.

May in Paris - 4281

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Filed under I love, Paris, Phototastic, Travels

Is this the best burger in Paris? Part three: Coffee Parisien

Just to get it out there early on, I think Coffee Parisien might just be it. The best burger, hands down, in France, not just Paris. There are a few branches scattered across Paris, and one of them is a mere 25 minute walk from my house, imagine that! I'm not allowing the closeness to make me biased. I've been to a branch further away, too, in St Germain, and it was just as good, if not better, than my semi-local in the 16th.

On my first visit I opted for an Obamac burger, a true tribute to all that is great about America (as far as I can tell). Eating it almost destroyed me (who'd have thought a double burger would be that much extra food?) but I triumphed, and managed to enjoy every last bite.

The Obamac – ace

The second time, I went for a classic bacon cheeseburger, and it was excellent. Coleslaw is, again, weirdly sweet (it must be a French thing), and fries are incredible (skin on is the way to go. I dont know why anybody bothers peeling a potato, ever). I got my burger properly “French rare” this time, as I ordered it. I took boy, and he had a tuna burger, which was great, and a welcome alternative in a world were beef is king. He also managed to have a stack of banana pancakes for dessert, and I had a sundae (the single burger obviously wasn't enough that time – should have doubled up). In our defence, there's a high chance we forgot to eat lunch that day. I think…

Tuna burger, hash browns, and an uh-may-zing vegetable side.

Apologies for yellow-y blurry shots. My tummy was in control of the iPhone, and wanted pictures over quickly. And the light was bad.

Banana pancakes with chocolate sauce and maple syrup. Beautiful.

 

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Filed under Burgers, Paris, Travels, Very good food

Playing tourist

I'm going to pretend that this year isn't an exercise in touristing with the “but I live here” excuse in my pocket for extra street cred (do the kids still have street cred?) and say that I was a tourist for a week this month. Visitors make excellent excuses for touristing events, and visiting Mothers are the best if you want to visit every museum possible. Even better is the rule that handicapped visitors get free entry for themselves and a companion, and (best of all) get to queue jump. When the weather report app on your phone says “feels like -9,” queue jumping is better than sliced bread.

We visited Montmartre (not a museum, lots of walking, very cold, but gorgeous), the Louvre (twice, and still didn't see even half of it), the Pompidou centre (with 3 hour waits for the Dali exhibit we walked straight into), and the Musee d'Orsay (better than the Louvre, but you aren't supposed to take pictures). I took her on my favourite metro journey, we discovered a vegetarian restaurant, and we watched the Tour Eiffel sparkle at night.

All of this beautiful touristing made me realise that I have a limited amount of time left in Paris, and I'm not sure I'm going to manage to do everything I wanted. Earlier in the year, I was homesick, and just trying to get through a day at a time, and now I'm terrified I'm wasting my time here. Grass is always greener, and all that.

 

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Filed under Paris, Touristing, Travels

Hieronymus Euripedes tells it like it is

When I was young (cough 16 cough) my imaginary baby name short list contained, among other questionables, Hieronymus Euripedes. I named all of my instruments (nerd alert), but it was too soon after everyone I'd mentioned it to had told me that it was a mild form of child abuse to throw away my dear baby names on mere instruments. Enter the age of the iDevice, and I have a number of wonderful inanimate objects to give the names of my childhood dream children. Ideal.

Hieronymus Euripedes is a much better teller of stories than I am, even if I play with his narrative too much with Instagram filters.

Here are some of his recent shorts.

Box of bunnies, anyone? I was tempted.
It snowed, and Montmartre wore it well.

And then it was beautifully sunny and Notre Dame was fit.

I bought myself flowers, and was taught a little bit about flower arranging. Picking flowers to go together is really hard. And I'm really bad at it.

And then I ate the best burger of my life. So far. More on that later.

In other news, I've been watching and rewatching Buffy season 2, and, spoiler alert, the death of Jenny Calendar is always a heartbreaker. I can't even talk about Becoming, parts 1 and 2, because they are tearjerkers like nothing else.

 

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Filed under I love, Paris, Rambly ramble, Travels, Very good food

In the dark

I just sat down to start typing and my lamp has gone out. My overhead lightbulb has been out for 2 weeks or so. I have the light from the hall, an amber scented candle, and laptop glare. I should have fixed the overhead light earlier. Oops.

this is a gratuitous tourist shot.

This week has been excellent. Children are all at school full time, so a routine is sorting itself out. I’ve been making a lot of mixtapes, and eating some great food. I got locked out in the rain, without a coat, and managed to make the afternoon into something other than a soggy disaster. I finished watching Angel, and cried a huge amount. I accidentally baked cupcakes under the grill instead of with the oven on, and so they had crispy tops. I realised after about 4 minutes, so they were edible, but they didn’t taste like cupcakes.

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Filed under I love, Lovely folk, Paris, Rambly ramble, Travels, Very good food