Archive for December, 2009

Awaken To French Presents After Christmas

Posted in Decoration & Design, French Affair, French Travel, Paris, Paris Shopping with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes ami,

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day, no doubt still feeling the effects of much socialising, abundant food and perhaps alcohol. Did you know that many French families have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve?

This family dinner is called ‘le reveillon’ and will generally last for a long time that evening, drinking champagne or kir royale until the wee hours. (reveillon means “waking” by the way!) A similar feast applies at New Years Eve with more friends involved.

The day after Christmas in France is St Etienne’s Day (known as St Stephens day elsewhere) and is actually declared a bank holiday in the Alsace-Lorraine region, but not anywhere else I’m afraid.

In Paris, things do quieten down as there are quite a few restaurants and other establishments closed over the Christmas period until the New Year. So, in the post Christmas Paris days, you can reacquaint yourself with a museum (check opening) or the cemeteries, a circus, a movie, a musical, the Aquarium or Centre Pompidou, the Opera or Ballet and even the Moulin Rouge offer entertaining shows at this rather quiet time.

You may like to go to http://ticketac.com to obtain tickets to many French shows.

 To see if places are open or closed over the Christmas period, there is a very good website found at www.parisgratuit.com which you may find very useful if you’re in Paris Christmas Day and beyond. 

 You can always walk the Champs Elysee to ogle at the magnificent avenue of Christmas lights extroadinaire or try your ice skating skills at the rink outside the Hotel de ville (but not on a Saturday or Sunday) . Or if you don’t feel like expending that amount of energy, you can see the magnificent ice sculptures in the gardens off the Champs Elysee. While you’re down that way, the Christmas Markets will still be brimming with people and sparkle.

 I wanted to show you all a few of my own french Christmas presents from beautiful friends and family members who understand the francophile within.

A girl can’t get enough bubbles and I was so lucky to receive a bottle of vintage Moet from my beautiful brother. 

 

Now take a look at these divine chocolate EUROS which are such a treat in their own cute little purses. I wonder if  Santa has a good exchange rate?

 And who can say no to smoked almonds? Eaten whole or used as a topping for French Toast at breakfast time the day after Christmas.

Writing thankyou cards and invitations to friends on french style black flocked stationery with the initial ‘T’ is special and something I will use for months to come. Great decoration to any desk as well. A beautiful gift my friend, thankyou.

And when all is said and done, and the guests have gone and you’re lying down, the little lavender filled heat pack for weary eyes can be used to guarantee some rest. For a while at least….

..until New Year celebrations. Try and catch the light shows at the Eiffel Tower this year which is celebrating its 120th anniversary. It’s going to be a spectacular event.

 Now there’s a present to wake up to!

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Advertisements

Awakening to Monet’s Garden

Posted in Day Trips from Paris, Food and Recipes, French Travel with tags , , , , on December 26, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

First of all let’s get two things straight.

Monet’s garden is a must see when in France. It’s a wonderfully peaceful haven from bustling Paris and a fantastic insight into French Art History and Impressionism.

Secondly, to save you any heart ache, Monet’s Garden at Giverny is closed between November through to March, so its open from the 1st of April to the Ist November ( except the 26th April) with the last gates closing at 5:30pm.

Admission is 6 euro per adult and you need to catch the train from Paris to Vernon, which is the closest town to the gardens. Take the train from Gare St Lazare in Paris and forty five minutes later,  a bus will meet the train at Vernon, to take you to Giverny.(Buses meet trains every fifteen minutes or so). Alternatively, you can take a taxi or follow the signs and even walk to Giverney.

Begin earlier rather than later and you  can save a little time queueing at the entrance to Monet’s Garden, by buying your tickets online via The Foundation Claude Monet website at

http://www.fondation-monet.fr

Move through the entrance way, and allow yourself at least two hours or more to meander through the ‘Les Clos Normand’ (the garden) and Le Jardin d’Eau (the water garden), inside Monet’s House and not forgetting to view Monet’s own collection of  ‘Estampes’ (Japanese prints).There’s also a lovely bookshop to buy for family and friends back home.

Even though you won’t find any of Monet’s original artwork here, Monet lived here for over forty years (being born in 1840) and the whole place is captivating.

Monet is known as one of the fathers of Impressionism who was fascinated with how light changed the colour of things, layering his paint with brushstrokes to achieve depth of colour and shadows. Monet painted here whilst studying light and its effect on his world at Giverney. His ‘plein air’ (open air) paintings remain influential  the world over.

In 1927, after Monet died, his ‘ WaterLily’ series which was his later works, was placed in the eighty foot rooms of the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens and these are regarded by the painter, Andre Masson, as “The Sistine Chapel of Impressionism”.

Walk over the bridge across the pond and look downstream as Monet did whilst painting the water lillies (he grew himself) which became so famous.

The fondation-monet website has a fabulous chicken and onion recipe I’d like to share with you,taken from the book,’les Carnets de Cuisine de Monet’ by Clare Joyes Toulgouart.For more recipes you can purchase  her book  which is available at the bookshop within the gardens.

You will need one large chicken, 16 to 20 onions, half pound of butter, some flour, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper.

1.Brown the chicken in warm butter. Cut the onions in four, and put them around. When the chicken is well browned on all faces, sprinkle it with a little flour.
2. Salt and pepper and add  parsley. Cover and cook.
3. Take care so that onions do not stick to the saucepan. At mid cooking, add a half glass of bouillon or, if not available, hot water.
4. In a saucepan, brown one dozen small onions in butter with a little sugar and salt and pepper.

5. Serve the chicken surrounded with onions. Bon appetit!

Enjoy Giverny. Whether you get out your sketch pad, it’s up to you!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awaken To A French Christmas

Posted in Decoration & Design, French Affair, French Travel with tags , , on December 24, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Joyeux Noël mes amis,

Perhaps we should all take some pearls of wisdom from the French and really stop in our day to sit back and enjoy the good things life brings. 

    Excerpts from my  book reads…

…’One of the first things I had learnt years ago, was that the French have a unique capacity to  learn to stop in their day to rest, to lunch and reacquaint themselves.

The general rule of thumb is don’t expect much to be opened before 10am and definitely not between 12 and 2.30 in the afternoon in most places across France. Sundays have nominal trading really, except in the Bastille area of  Paris where for the most part  Sunday commerce takes place (but is reduced on Saturdays here). Sunday is the day that is ideal to visit museums and be surrounded by painters, sculptors and architecture.

Alternatively, you can visit the many gardens or cycle through them at leisure. If this doesn’t take your fancy, perhaps you would like to catch a French film or float on a Batobus along the Seine or just sip coffee and people watch from a cafe. You can use more of your energy of course,  bartering at any one of the outdoor Markets or even climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower after a picnic on the lawns below but eventually though,  it’s important to slow down for a while as the French do and just take it all in.

Even Mondays in villages outside Paris come to a gigantic stop.

 Initially, this proved very frustrating as we would drive from one supposedly “dead horse town” to another on a Sunday or Monday or around midday, until realising that the French live to the beat of a different drum and we grew into their pace and scheduled our day to theirs. Then it all became so much clearer.’

  Understanding that, mean’t that  I could never get Paris nor France for that matter, out of my head or heart.  My inner sanction had been poked about and I was inspired to see more, do more, live more. Above all, I was challenged to live better!’…

Look after yourself by drawing a deep breath and surround yourself with those you love or admire during your day and especially at Christmas time.  

 So I’m wishing you all my dear friends, a wonderfully SLOW Christmas, French style.

P.S  I’ve sending you some snapshots of my French pressies given to me from dear friends and the adorable Christmas decorations I bought in Galeries Lafayette. These hang on my tree at present and are a constant reminder to slow down and really enjoy Christmas Day.

If you’re lucky enough to attend the Christmas Day service at Notre Dame, look up and feel the heat of the chandelier above you. I hope it warms your soul for another year.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awakening To Paris Cafe Culture

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Travel with tags , on December 21, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

This time, I want you to feel the atmosphere of a typical Paris cafe.  I hope you can feel the essence of being in one and when you’re next in Paris, make sure you experience at least one of the hundreds of cafes dotted around the city and more often than not, right outside your hotel door!

Some cafes are real literary landmarks in the cafe culture of Paris. Famous people like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklias, Lenin and John Paul Sartre for instance, spent many of their waking hours in Paris cafes such as Les Deux Magots or Cafe’ de Flore and even Closerie de Lilas in Montparnasse  for instance to name a few. These establishments have often been the birthplace of great books and poetry.

Other cafes hail themselves to be centres of philosophical debates as seen in some around the Place de la Bastille.

Whether you fancy yourself as a literary or intellectual elite, the Paris cafe also heralds a great vibe for ordinary people like me, who like to dream and discuss or just watch others  having coffee. Who knows who could have been sitting in your chair before you got there!

Excerpts from my book reads…

…’Then, il pleut. (It rains). The first few splatters of rain fall lightly which escalate to a fine momentum stream. We  take temporary residence in a petite corner café which offers a warm retreat to peruse the many tourists and Parisians who by now, are scurrying like mice to smaller protective hideaways; some dashing down metro stations and others behind enormous wooden panelled doors off the street.

The rain obscures finer details of the French world outside but inside another world is created. The café’s vintage lights have been turned on, even though it is only four in the afternoon. The air is redolent with the aroma of coffee and the clinking of glassware, as we sink deeper into our velvet booth and under the lights’ soft illumination, we both sip strong coffee and take slow mouthfuls of a delectable pear tart.

“Does it get any better than this?” was the question on my mind constantly throughout the trip. My friend could only smile and rotate her head from side to side very, very slowly…’

Be willing to lounge away at any one of the cafes in Paris.

If you have more time, you will eventually find a cafe that you feel relects you. When that happens, as it did for me, it’s an experience in itself.

When you’re next in a Paris cafe, it could well turn out to be your “Movable Feast” as it was for Ernest Hemingway!

Always be ready to be inspired.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes. Therese Waddell

Awakening To The Music In St Sulpice

Posted in French Music, French Travel, Paris with tags , , , on December 20, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Comment êtes-vous aujourd’hui ?  I hope you’re all well and ready to be inspired by France.

Last time, we passed the Palais de Luxumberg, admired the colossal Pantheon, were blest at Saint Etienne next door and headed off to Saint Sulpice, the church made popular in a recent best selling book, ‘The Da Vinci Code”.

I noticed that some people have tried to carve out some of the actual granite stone flooring around the base of what is referred to as the Meridian Line Obelisk, since last I stepped foot inside St Sulpice. Intriguing for all Da Vinci Code followers but albeit over the top for such a sacred space.

St Sulpice remains one of the largest chuches in Paris, with its own 

Metro stop these days. It was originally built over ancient ruins.  Did you know that the famous poet and Romantic writer Victor Hugo (who wrote ‘Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and many more)  married his neighbour’s daughter, Adele Foucher, in St Sulpice? ( They later had five children like me!) I read somewhere that Victor’s brother went insane after their wedding as he was also in love with Adele.Hmnn.

Excerpts from my book reads…

…’Candles were aglow and the preparation for an Easter Vigil was taking place within the silence of St Sulpice.

It’s interesting to see that all the chairs in French churches remind me of the very same type depicted in Vincent Van Gogh’s famous yellow Chair” painting of 1888.I am told by locals that French women still hand weave the rush chair bottoms, in a little village along the Rhone River near Avignon, from the rush that grows wild along its banks….’

So, sit back on one of these chairs, close your eyes and listen to some amazing pipe organ music made by Daniel Roth from above. No, not from Heaven, but in the loft. Even better, go up there after the 10.30am mass and let the music waft through your senses. Amazing.

Perhaps you could even spare a thought for all those unfortunate French who Victor Hugo wrote about… If not, the music alone is really  impressive.

Au Revoir.

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awaken To The Gardens Of Paris

Posted in French Travel, Paris, Paris gardens and all things green with tags , , on December 15, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

A walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg is a must when in Paris and not only offers a quiet interlude during your stay, but you can walk in the footsteps of Parisians from past centuries and dream the dreams of days gone by!

Taken from an excerpts from my book, let me begin…

…’With adequate rest, we proposed a long walk up Rue de Rennes, across Rue Vaugirard to the imposing spring colours of pink and yellow tulips at the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Everyone here tried to succeed in catching the warmth of the sun’s rays and the many wired garden chairs are well and truly occupied. Children squeal with delight in the playground watching the puppet theatre, while serious chess players give advice in true competition. A group of photographers continue to click away looking for any artistic happening in the direction of a group of elderly Jeux de Boules players.

Jardin du Luxembourg is dotted with more than a hundred statues and the fountains and formal gardens which makes for a calm ambience to stroll exactly as they would have strolled in centuries long gone.

The Palais du Luxembourg is an imposing sight at the end of the Jardin. It was once the home of the mother of Louis x111, Marie de Medici, then a prison during the Revolution and is now the residence of the French Senate.

We walk on the crunchy gravel to the Grand Bessin at the centre of the park, where ducks preen themselves in the sun while a group of graduating school students gaggle on the stone steps awaiting a photograph, dressed in an assortment of cocktail wear. Black and purple stockings (or tights) seem to be popular on skinny girly legs as well as hair fascinators of feathered plumage and gemstones glittering on one side of their shiny, dark heads.

These very cool, adolescents looked and behaved like those strutting their stuff oh so nonchalantly on the catwalk of some high fashion parade. If only I could have placed one giant gilded frame over the entire graduating crowd, to capture their artistry and elegance forever.

So Parisian!…’

The Jardin Du Luxembourg is a sight to see.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awakening To French Recipes

Posted in Food and Recipes with tags , on December 15, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

For those of you who have a passion for all things French as I do, and particularly love French food and a Paris setting, treat yourself and go see the latest Meryl Streep’s film, ‘Julie and Julia’.

Meryl Streep plays Julia Child who spent several years in Paris while her husband Paul worked for the American Embassy there. With the help of the Berlitz Language School, she gained  confidence enough to enrol in the  Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Julia Child was  about thirty seven when she began to really sink her teeth into something she loved. (Perhaps there’s a message for us all!)  The rest is cooking history. It has been said that Julia Child revolutionised cooking across America. She later scores her own cooking show on television and produces  many cook books on French Cooking, including the ever popular, ‘Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.’

It is this cookbook which seems to demystify cooking French food. Her supreme goal is for all of us to master the techniques of producing fine French cuisine in our own kitchen. So, it doesn’t come as a big shock to any of my family and friends, that after the movie I raced out and bought the two volumes of ‘Mastering The Art Of French Cooking’ by Julia Childs and started immediately.

You can feel the passion of Julia Child in many of the recipes as she gives so much detail and personal notes throughout.  She makes it all so straight forward, not leaving out anything and makes it so much easier for us than we can ever imagine.

If I can do it anyone can and with great success (and applaud),I now know how to poach an egg which turns out divinely restaurant style and with no hesitation,moved on through the first few chapters of Volume One. The Beef Bourgnoine was made popular in the film (perhaps a turning point in Child’s career) and is the best Bourgnoine recipe I’ve ever used, so I’m going to share it with you.

Make sure you file it under “D” for Died and Gone to Heaven Beef Bourgnoine!

You will need:

6 ounces of bacon ( which has had rind removed and both simmered in water for 10 min, drained and dried),  1tb olive oil, 3lbs lean stewing beef cut into cubes 2 inch long, 1 sliced onion, 1 sliced carrot, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. 2tb flour, 3 cups of a full bodied red wine (such as Burgandy orBeaujolis, or even Chianti), 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon, 1 tb tomato paste, 2 cloves mashed garlic, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1 crumbled bay leaf, 18 to 24 small white onions, 1 lb  mushrooms sauteed in butter and don’t forget the parsley sprigs.

Method:

1. Preheat oven 450 degrees.

2. Saute bacon in oil over mod heat for 2 to 3 min. Remove to side dish.

3. Reheat oil (and the bacon fat) until smoking and saute beef which has been dried in paper towel. Once sauteed, add beef to bacon side dish.

4. In the same fat, brown sliced carrot and onions. Pour out fat.

5. Return beef and bacon to casserole and toss with salt and pepper.Ssprinkle with flour and toss again. Set uncovered in middle of oven for 4 min. Toss meat and return to oven for 4 min more. Remove casserole and turn down oven to 325 degrees.

6. Stir in wine and add enough stock or bouillon to just cover meat. Add tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Cover casserole and set in lower level of oven. Adjust heat to simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

7.While beef is cooking, prepare mushrooms.

8. When beef has cooked pour contents of casserole into sieve set over saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

9. Skim fat off sauce. Simmer sauce for 1 to 2 minSauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. (If too thin, boil down rapidly. if too thick, add more stock or boullion.)

10. Taste for seasoning and pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

And as the wonderful, booming Julia Child’s would announce,

“BON APPE’TIT!”

Share the passion in your food, listen to wisdom and the rewards are plenty! Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell