Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Canal Saint-Martin

When you go to Paris, the first things people will ask you about is whether you've scaled the height of the Eiffel Tower, soaked up the culture at the Louvre, or walked along the Champs-Élysées. They probably won't ask you if you've been down to the Canal. Today's post is to uncover this less obvious but still absolutely lovely bit of the city. Le Canal Saint-Martin definitely doesn't come under the category of hidden gem, its existence is certainly no secret; but some might be surprised to find out that it's quite as nice as it is, and it really is rather lovely.

I lived in Birmingham for three years, which is sort of known for having canals, and nobody ever believed me that it was as nice as it actually was. Around the canal it was all regenerated and immaculate with tres chic studio flats, restaurants, hairdressers and clothes shops all on the water front. The Canal Saint-Martin sort of reminds me of a Frenchified version of this. It's located in the 10th, just a stones throw away from my flat, so without further ado allow me show you around my patch!



There are lots of footbridges arching back and forth over the Canal and it's fun to criss-cross back and forth over them Billy Goats Gruff style! People sometimes even put love locks on them like on the Pont des Arts.



The area is very pedestrianised so I feel very comfortable ambling around on foot. There are one or two traffic bridges and a few cars going up and down but mainly it's families, couples and friends stretching their legs. There are lots of trendy bars, brasseries and sandwich shops so during weekdays you see smartly dressed business men and women having a break and grabbing a bite to eat. I like to come down here for a coffee, sit on the water front and do one of my favourite things... People watch! This place is perfect for just sitting back watching the world go by because it's so peaceful, you almost forget that you're in the middle of Paris! 



The buildings that overlook the Canal are classically Parisian, with tiny balconettes, flower pots and hanging baskets on the windows. Imagine living in one I those flats! Dreamy.


Friends bring their lunch and sit side by side on the water's edge, dangling their feet as catching up with one another. 



The first spring flowers I have seen! This put a big smile on my face, because air is getting warmer and this means that winter is almost out and spring is most definitely on its way.



Aside from the bars and the lovely places to eat, the Canal is home to lots of artists workshops, galleries and pretty boutiques selling clothes and furniture. This pretty pink, green and yellow fronted shop is all the same shop and is a peristalsis favorite of mine, called Antoine & Lili. It sells lots of gorgeous tableware, cushions, throw rugs, chairs, and bits and bobs for your bedroom; it's what my mum would call a 'twiddly bits shop' and I can't wait to take her in there. I would describe the quality, style and designs of the stuff in here as like a zany more colourful Cath Kidston. 



The only problem with being here is that it's so hard to decide what to buy and where to eat and drink, because everywhere looks so nice; what a nightmare! The best thing is that the Canal has lots of roads leading off it so there are many more avenues to be walked down and lots more things to discover I'm sure. 

Happy Wednesday everybody!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Dimanche

Reading Week is very neary almost over, and once again it's been more of a do-anything-and-everything-except-read kind of week, but hey, I'm in Paris! Can I really be to blame? 

This morning and afternoon were mildly productive on the university work front; I promised myself I would be a good student and catch up on all the reading I had to do for this week (and last week), and I'm happy to report: mission accomplished. Because we are nearly halfway through the term, spring essays need to start being thought about (yikes!) but the whole time I was working I could see crystal clear blue skies over the top of the buildings across the street and the sun glinting on my mug of tea. 

As a treat for working hard earlier in the day, this is what I got up to this evening.

All I grabbed was my camera and my key, it was amazingly liberating to feel so light with no bags or extra bits and bobs. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, so I hopped on the Metro with my Navigo pass in hand and popped up at Tuileries. Seriously that pass is the best investment I have made since coming to Paris. Unlimited Metro and Bus travel for one month for €67.10! I would highly recommend investing if you're going to Paris for a month or more. I have definitely gotten my money's worth already and I've still got another 10 days left before I need to renew.

A short walk from the station and I was at the Place de la Concorde.




I haven't stood in this spot since I was 16, so I took my time like a true tourist to reminisce and whip out my camera. Paris is the perfect place to get in some valuable photography practice. Just look at that sunset! It's just begging to be snapped.

After a little while I was ready to set off on my lovely leisurely walk down the famous Champs-Élysées, mingle with the crowds and soak up the early Sunday evening atmosphere. 



I might have crossed the road back and forth a few times to try and get this snap of the boulevard, the inconsiderate cars kept ruining my shot, but I got it on attempt 5!



The Eiffel Tower kept peeping through the buildings and trees during the entire walk up. I must have taken at least 15 of these sorts of photos! 


Everyone in the know knows that Paris is a glorious city all the year round, but there's just something magical about Paris in the springtime. You can feel that the air is starting to get every so gradually warmer every day and soon the blossom will start to grow on the trees.
 



I love the fact that no matter when you come you always see people from all walks of life co-mingling on this street. Families with their kids up on their shoulders, glamorous ladies in high heels with Louis Vuitton bags, lovers holding hands, cyclists whizzing along the cycle lane, friends happily chattering to one another and other camera-wielding individuals like myself all walk side by side, gradually moving closer and closer to the Arc.


As I got closer the sun started to set making the lights of the traffic look beautiful. I bet it looks amazing from the top! I'd actually like to have a walk up one day and see.





The next time I come to the Champs-Élysées I will have to buy myself something nice. Sadly probably not something from Tiffany but I got a visual on Laduree today, so I think that it would simply be rude not to pop in for a macaroon or two next time I'm here!

Au revoir mes amis.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Baked Camembert and Caramelised Onions

This recipe is simply too good not to share; everybody needs baked Camembert in their life. Seriously now, this is probably one of the most scrumptious, and also one of the easiest recipes you will ever make, and where else to make and eat this amazing meal other than Paris?! The cheese is out of this world here and so easy to get hold of in a delicatessen or just in le supermarche'. And then there's the amazing French bread too; it just makes so much sense.

I love baked Camembert and the addition of the caramelised onions just takes the meal to the next level of deliciousness. I just had to rustle one of these up pronto while I'm here to make the most of these delicious ingredients. This is ideal food for a cosy night in with a glass of something nice, or it's perfect as a starter if you're trying to impress guests.


If you want to have your own heavenly box of gooeyness in less than 30 minutes (and why wouldn't you?!), this is what you'll need:

Ingredients (Serves 2)

A box of Camembert - must be in a wooden box. (I used President, a personal favourite. Only €1.29!)
1 crusty French baguette
2 medium red onions
A generous glug of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c. Remove all of the plastic packaging from your cheese and place it back in its box. Score a few lines in to the top of your Camembert (as seen in the photos) and place in the centre of the oven on a baking tray. Check it after 20 minutes. If it looks all molten and the top is bulging, it's ready. If not, leave it in there another 5 minutes. 

2. Next, get to work slicing those onions, preferably on a glass chopping board (not a wooden one, because the onion can make it smelly!). I like them sliced in to long, thin pieces so than when they cook they wilt and then you can drape them over your bread and cheese (mhmm!).

3. Heat your oil in a large saucepan and throw in your onions; give it a good stir. Glug in a generous amount of balsamic vinegar and your sugar and stir again. 


Keep stirring every now and then until the onions have gone soft and dark and all the ingredients have been incorporated. This should take around 15-20 minutes.


3. Grab your French stick and chop it in to nice big hunks and start laying the table. Spoon your caramelised-to-perfection onions in to a bowl (and put out a spoon for ladling purposes! This can potentially be a very messy job if you don't) and carefully take your cheese from the oven and put it on a plate. Grab a couple of side plates and knives and dig in!




Pure joy. If you have them to hand, why not add a few sprigs of rosemary or some roughly chopped garlic for a hint of flavour. Just push them in to the top of the cheese pre-baking, and remove before serving. 



Drape a little bit of caramelised onion over for the ultimate bite. When I've made this back in the UK, I have to say I have always used bought onion chutney to have with my Camembert (Provender is the best fyi), but this tastes so good and it's so easy and cheap to make, not to mention you get a whole panful of the stuff. So I think I will make this from now on instead of buying the jarred stuff from the shop.

 

You should have most of the stuff to make this in your store cupboard already,  so when the cost of all the fresh stuff is added up this is whole hell of a cheap meal! €1 for the baguette, €1 for the onions and €1.29 for the cheese to be precise, which means that this meal comes in at a mere €1.69 a head. 

This is definitely the first of many times that I will be making this delicious recipe while I'm in Paris!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

City of Light

I'm a very very lucky girl indeed. This year I got to spend Valentine's Day where I'm currently living, in the most romantic city in the world... little old Paris. Throughout the whole day there were red roses and love hearts everywhere, and queues outside patisseries, florists and lingerie shops out the door which snaked down the street, with people buying last minute presents for their Valentines. 

There was a lovely excitable atmosphere which didn't fail to give me a warm feeling inside and put a smile on my face. The amount of men I saw clutching big bouquets of flowers during rush hour on the Metro to protect them from getting bashed was so funny! You've never seen concentration like it. 

I got up very late and had a very leisurely morning and afternoon, by which time I was getting rather peckish. Normally I'm the one who has a burning desire to do something or just generally chooses where we go and when, but it was definitely time for a day off and let myself e told what to do. So my boyfriend and I mosied on down to the Hotel de Ville, which is a skip and a jump's distance from the river. We wandered along, chatting and not really going anywhere particular, and it was lovely. I had wrapped up as warm as I could (dress, cardigan, blazer and favourite cream coat!) but the weather had amazingly been very kind; really mild and, more importantly, dry. 


Hotel de Ville ice rink and carousel twinkling and looking beautiful.

After a little while walking we nipped into a cute little brasserie just off the main road. It had been tastefully Valentined up inside, with single red roses and scattering petals wrapped up in pretty parcels on each table, which I got to keep after the meal! An overly confident waiter showed us to a table in the middle of the restaurant, handed us each a menu and took our drinks orders. My bf is a good boy and doesn't drink at all, which I have to say definitely influences my drink choices when I am out with him - not that he'd mind if I drank in the slightest. I haven't had a drink since Christmas and I really actually don't miss it at all! Maybe if I was round my parents that would all change - they really like a drink. They're visiting in 2 weeks' time (can't wait!) so I'll let you know how I get on..!

I had a delicious Croque Monsieur and salad and Jules had the biggest, juiciest chicken burger you've ever seen and garlic chips, which I may or may not have helped him out with (I did). I was too distracted by the date and the food to take pictures but take it from me it was magnificent. 


The Seine all alight. 

For pudding I was also taken to Haagen-Dazs next to the Notre Dame cathedral for ice cream, which was insanely good. I chose vanilla caramel brownie, and the best thing is that you can choose extra toppings for no charge. I went for melted dark chocolate and chopped roasted macadamia nuts. Deeeericious!

 

By this time it was dark, which was perfect for the next thing on our agenda. We hopped on the Metro and popped up at Trocadero. I've always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and boy was it worth the wait. 




Paris is a beautiful city by day, but Paris at night... Wow. It's just breathtaking! I had the best Valentine's Day I could have hoped for. Jules and I are already planning our return to Trocadero togwther to recapture this view. For me it's without question the best place to see the Eiffel Tower, and even better at night. Especially because every hour on the hour it does this... 

 
The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the thing I want to get across is that it goes crazy: sparkly psychedelic flashing and all. It's pretty cool is what I'm saying!

I hope you also had a fantastic Valentine's Day wherever in the world you were.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pont des Arts

I've been all over the place in Paris but never to the Pont des Arts before now. I've always known of it but I never even knew what it was called before I googled 'lock bridge Paris' about a month ago. It's a pedestrian-only bridge over the Seine that is right opposite the Louvre. I must have walked past it a million times but have never walked over it till now. It has instanty become one of my favourite things in Paris. My boyfriend and I decided to take our first ever trip down to the bridge earlier this week to beat the Valentine's Day rush.


Lovers from all over the world to travel to the Pont to put their own lock on the bridge, to leave their mark and seal their love. 


It looks so beautiful! It has been one of my favourite things to photograph to date. I was a bit sad to learn that the locks only stay on the bridge for 3 months before wing replaced (kind of defeats the whole 'forever' idea) but then again it's up to the couple to make sure of that, not the bridge! 


I loved that every single lock is totally unique, and it was fun to stop and read the names and dates on them. There were tiny heart ones ranging to huge in-your-face silver ones. Here are a couple of my favourites.



The bridge is lovely and wide so you're not bumping in to people, and I really like that there are no cars either. The atmosphere is relaxed and calm and perfect for an early evening stroll with someone special. 



I can't imagine this idea workin in London really, I think it is a very Parisian thing and I'd absolutely love to get a lock myself and put it on with my special person. 




The weather couldn't have been better when I went. My feet were pretty cold when we left but just look at that sky. Absolutely stunning! I can safely say it won't be too long before I am back.