Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: France

Things I miss about France

There are days when I just miss France and Bordeaux. I had called the elegant Bordeaux “home” for three years, and everything that was so unfamiliar at first little by little became a part of my everyday life. From time to time (and now is one of those times) I think of the tidbits of my French life and begin to appreciate these beautiful things all over again!

Fête de la Musique

France is probably not the only country that has an annual music festival, where in every city and town, large and small, music comes to life all night on June 21, the summer solstice. I was fortunate to be part of the event in Bordeaux in 2011 and 2013, and all the way till way past midnight, music and dance in all forms invaded the streets. Alors, on danse! (Well, let’s dance!)

Gésiers, confit, and crème brulée

Ah, French food. If I were to piece together a perfect 3-course meal, it would begin with gésiers (duck gizzards) from Les Provinces (the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately) as an appetizer, confit de canard (duck confit) from La Table Bordelaise – they really have the best! – as the main course, and crème brulée from well…anywhere, as a dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about this…

Bonus: I also crave the beef (with the oh-so-delicious special sauce) and the unlimited French fries at L’Entrecôte from time to time. Even though the queue to get into the restaurant is always at least 30 minutes long, it’s never stopped me!

Wine

How can you say you’ve lived in BORDEAUX without mentioning its wine? Alright, while I admit that I’m no wine connoisseur and still can’t tell the difference between one wine and another, it’s become a social and cultural thing that I gladly immersed in. A good meal (the abovementioned, for example) is just not complete without an aromatic glass of wine. Santé!

Coffee shops

Some days I like to go to a local coffee shop with a friend or two and have a quiet, relaxing chat for a whole afternoon. Some days I like to go by myself with a notebook and a pen, writing as it rains outside. My favourite spot is a little place called Les Mots Bleus, but there are so many unique coffee shops around the city that it suffices to just drop by any one and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with maybe a slice of cake.

TGV

The TGV (train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train) makes travel so convenient within France and to nearby countries. Three hours from Bordeaux to Paris (3.5 to CDG airport) and only two hours from Bordeaux to Toulouse – and the rides are always smooth and comfortable! Oh, being young with the youth discounts is an awesome deal in France – make sure you go before you turn 26 (28 in some cases)!

Life in France was once only a dream but one that came true and left behind its traces in the form of these things that I miss dearly. Oh France, what a beautiful country you are!

Skies, seas, and Cherbourg

I’ve been to Cherbourg in Normandy twice, each time was a three-day stay. Yet, I’ve never written about it. For a period of time, the circumstances under which I made these visits bore too much burden on my heart and my mind. After almost three years, I dug out these memories and looked back at those very peaceful days that I spent in Cherbourg, and there was nothing to regret.

Cherbourg is a port city at the tip of northwestern France, part of the department of Lower Normandy, where the sea seemed to be an indispensable part of the people’s lives in Cherbourg

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Paris, the “City of Light”

Since I had been blogging about Paris in the previous two posts, I thought I’d throw in this one to end off the “series” – let’s talk about the “City of Light”. Yes, that is a name for our beloved Paris, or…your beloved Paris, for I don’t love it. I’ve done enough “Paris-bashing” in my blog that regular readers should know that I have never been fond of the city, for more reasons than I care to elaborate.

Yet, I don’t deny that Paris is beautiful, glamourous, audacious, dazzling…more so during the night than in the daytime, that is. I feel like Paris undergoes a makeover when it transitions from day to night, transforming from an ordinary, overcrowded tourist destination into an elegant, mysterious lady as she puts on her night gown. And as darkness falls, the city’s secrets unfold as she shows off, not with any modesty, her diamonds and jewels, revealing why she is indeed the “City of Light”.

There is history significance in calling Paris the “City of Light” (or “Lights”) but for me, the reason is simple – Paris gleams in the night with its millions of lights. Just look at this photo of the Champs-Élysées taken on top of L’Arc de Triomphe during Christmas, which till this day remains one of my very favourite travel photos (taken by me). The Ferris wheel at the other end – Place de la Concorde – isn’t always there, and I was lucky that it was there. And the lanes of traffic on the self-proclaimed most beautiful avenue in the world – with the sidewalks lit in blue, the entire scene looks like a national flag stretched out from top to bottom (though interestingly, out of all the tricoloured European flags, none of them are in the order of white, red, and blue, either horizontal or vertical.)

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Deux jours à Paris avec mon père

Last December, my dad had the chance to visit France when I was still there completing my studies. He took two and a half weeks off work and went all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to attend my Ph.D. thesis defense in Bordeaux, which was one of the most life-changing moments of my 26 years on this planet. After the defense, we headed to Paris for two days, the nth time for me (where n > 5) and the first time for the father. For him, it was finally time to see whether the Paris that he had heard so much about would live up to his expectations.

The official “dad is in Paris and here is proof with the Eiffel Tower right behind him” photo. He was generally pretty impressed with Paris, remarking that most of the prominent landmarks (namely the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, L’Arc du Triomphe) were indeed quite worth the fame and reputation. It must have been somewhat of a culture shock too, since he hadn’t traveled for quite a while prior to this trip, and North America (or Toronto, really) is nothing like Paris in terms of architecture, atmosphere, and customs.

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Hidden in Paris – Le Village Saint-Paul

Paris is not all glamour and romance. And if I liked Paris at all, it wasn’t the glamour and the so-called “romance” that I liked, but the simple, unseen aspects of everyday life. A friend who was living in Paris told me about a little area in the city, hidden from the hustle of the urban center and away from the touristic crowds. In her words, it was “A village within a city, an enclosure of its own, sort of like connected courtyards behind a secret door, hiding a world of art and antiques.” But she didn’t tell me how to find it. According to my friend, she stumbled upon the place through a treasure hunt of some sort, carefully following instructions while not really knowing where she was going. And by the time she reached this “village”, she didn’t remember how she got there or how she got out. Intrigued, I decided to look for this mysterious place one afternoon as I had a few hours to kill in Paris before heading back to Bordeaux. I thought a good place to start would be the area around the metro station “Saint-Paul”, as the village itself is named, of course, Le Village Saint-Paul.

Usually, many signs point to prominent tourist landmarks, and you could be sure to reach these landmarks by following signs alone. Not the case with Saint-Paul. I suppose it wasn’t a place foreigners visited often, and while there were one or two signs around the metro station pointing to the direction of the “village”, they were vague and misleading, to say the least. I was prepared to enter a maze of quiet alleys in a quest to find Saint-Paul. And it did take a while. I was frustrated, turning corners obliviously without knowing where I was and where I was going, but at the same time, without knowing that what I was looking for could be closer to me than I had anticipated.

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