Archive for January, 2011

Awaken to Crozon, Brittany.

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Travel, North West France with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Your sitting outside ‘Jupiter’s Cafe’ at the western tip of Brittany, in the quaint French village of  Crozon…

and there’s decisions to be made, while guillemots (french sea birds) glaze the sky.

Do you venture over to the weekly marketplace outside the church to purchase fresh oysters and mussels for lunch or tempt yourself with the local produce of ‘Coquilles de St Jacques’ (scallops)- the taste of which will be impregnated in your memory forever?

Do you contemplate a sublime boat trip leaving from the Quai Kador down the road to explore the stunning green waters of the famous Caves (and ‘Devil’s Bedroom’)?

Perhaps a visit then to the local prehistoric menhirs by traversing the slopes of wild flowers or a local browse of vintage aura in Jeanne’s Brocante shop around the corner?

Or… do you simply order another cup of coffee and take refuge in a plate of bread and runny camembert under the Crozon Sun?

Arhh. Big decisions in beautiful Brittany. My french awakening to Crozon unfolded just like that!

Crozon is easy to reach by car- 22km from Brest Airport. If you go in Summer, you’ll be part of the audience of the ‘Festival de bout du Monde’, the music festival literally at ‘The World’s End’.

For more information on visiting the Caves, go to:

http://grottes-morgat.com/

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Copyright@2011 Therese Waddell

 

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Awaken to a New Year in Colmar

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Music, French Travel, North East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonne Annee mon amis,

A New Year! No mistakes as yet. Are you ready to indulge in some New Year resolutions which may involve getting out of your routine and experiencing something new? See it as doing a good deed for yourself. You know you deserve it!

Well then, my french awakening instantly puts France on your see and do holiday list for the New Year. Let me give you a taste of things to come my darlings…and follow me through the many villages and cities of France one by one- to gorgeous regions where you will be hard pressed to find better gastronomic, cultural and scenic visions and where you will want to return again and again.

Today we’re going off to the north east of France, towards the German border. In fact, this place was occupied by Germany for such a long time, so Germanic influences are evident in its cuisine and half timbered architecture. Where am I talking about? It’s Colmar!

Getting us to the very pretty capital of the Alsace white grape region is dead easy.A direct train trip from Strasbourg or Basel (Switzerland) or from Gare de l’ Est (in Paris) will do the trick! We’ll be on foot after that (some of you may choose to cycle) but either way, were not going to miss anything…

Like all these fabulous iron shop signs made mostly by the local caricaturist Jean Jacques Waltz, who mastered the art of forging squiggly iron work and a great sense of humour!

The whole place is adorable. It’s not just a museum town (as indicated on the road sign before you arrive). Yes we can visit the Unterlinden Museum and there’s also the Museum of Bartholdi, you know, the guy who sculpted New York’s Statue of Liberty in 1886. We are told that Bartholdi used his mistress as the model for the body but the face was that of his mother. Of course.

Colmar is so much more than museums and is very much alive. It’s cultural, not delicate. Homey and comfortable. The things REAL people like. (did I just say that?)

With a sprinkling of fancy boutiques like the French linen house of  Yves Delormes…

and exquistely expensive pen shop (Mont Blanc) and classic millinery…

Colmar’s Old Quarter has a casual ambience which is created more by patisseries reeling with the smell of good gingerbread (pain d’epices) while accompanied with the occasional home made bunny family decorating shop front windows like any good fete stall…

and restaurants wafting with grand mothers’ recipes of sizzling sauerkraut (which is basically the same as the French choucroute but with a German twist!), oniony quiches and the unforgettable aroma of mouth watering sausages and potatoes (baeckeoffe) with baked ham and munster cheese. Arh! One can never get enough of the delicious aromas of Colmar!

Now what do we see? We look up and above our heads hang pure shots of mediterranean red and orange geraniums spilling from wrought iron lacework balconies and again along the bridges of the canals of the Lauch river, in the Old Quarter known as “Petite Venise” (Little Venice). Strolling along is so pleasurable here.

We can choose to kick back in one of the chairs of any restaurant along the quayside…

or in the cafe terrace of the Anciennes Duoane Square (The old Customs House) just to absorb the atmosphere and perhaps some foie gras. Fancy a drink? Let’s sneak behind the statue of the Schwendi Fountain…

and nestle into one of those gorgeous heavy wooden chairs under century worn beams in a cosy Alsatian winstub (bistro). Colmar, famous for its Reisling, is a must here!

Sounds good to you? …

Some of us could venture a little further (by following our noses in the general direction of meat pie and creamy pastries) and ooze into the treats of the single minded. Enter one of eight (after counting) very casual Salon de’ The’ rooms…

A chair is waiting for you…

You’re gonna like it here! How sweet it is! Hanging bretzels on sticks above counter tops will tempt the strongest of wills but this is also the time to try Colmar’s kougelhopf- a cake/bread with a magical concoction of almonds and raisins, sugar and cinnamon baked in a traditional ceramic Kugelhopf mold and dusted with a dash of snowy icing sugar. You can always take away petite kougelhopfs and other sweet jewels to have on the way home too. Generally, they won’t make it home…How easy it is to unwind (and unfasten) in Colmar.

Much later, wander the long maze of winding streets to admire the architecture or have a play in any of the souvenir shops selling good quality iron cooking utensils and tableware.

Gaze upon the embellished roof treatments…

and the grand wooden gallery of the Renaissance built Pfister House…

(which was once residence of the bourgeoise), while standing in the footprints of famous Alsations like Marcel Marceau or Mozart. It’s possible. They both came from neighbouring Strasbourg so I’m guessing it would be a manageable trip to Colmar. (Marcel would do it silently I’m sure!)

Above it all, Colmar is friendly and unpretentious. If we arrive around Christmas time, Colmar in time honoured tradition, will entrance you with her beautiful twinkling lights and magical Christmas markets. We could build upon our decoration supplies! Being surrounded by friendly locals and warming Christmas cheer might not be all that bad for some of us!

For more information, check out the Colmar Office de Tourism at:-

http://www.ot-colmar.fr/

Happy New Year once again everyone! Let’s begin the New Year with our dreams firmly placed under our arms. I hope to see you Colmar!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell