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Hidden Paris: from Pernety to Alésia

Let’s continue to explore Paris, the parts that are seemingly hidden but actually just right there, quite easy to miss. They don’t boast Hausmannian buildings that we are familiar with, but retain the charm of small, green streets, with very little traffic passing by. Today, we take a peek into rue des Thermopyles, Cité Bauer, and rue du Moulin Vert. Just three streets, nestled in between Pernety and Alésia in the 14th arrondissement.

rue des Thermopyles

rue des Thermopyles

When we last looked at Villa Santos-Dumont, I briefly mentioned the name Chauvelot. We’re revisiting this name, which is today honoured through rue Chauvelot that is mere minutes walk away from Villa Santos-Dumont, for without him, we may not have rue des Thermopyles today. Alexandre Chauvelot was a successful real estate developer in his time, and had contributed towards the growth of the neighbourhood around Vaugirard, Pernety/Plaisance, Vanves, and Montrouge. Part of the old village of Plaisance, what we find on rue des Thermopyles is a narrow, picturesque lane, seemingly a favourite spot for photoshoots.

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Banana and chocolate chip cake

Right, if you want to eat these bananas, you can. However, if they are left alone for a few days, I’ll whip up some banana cake for you.

Bananas don’t last long in our apartment. The few times I half-heartedly trying to get some ripen, they inevitably got gobbled up quickly. This time though, a simple request with an offer of a reward does the trick. The initial intention was to make a simple banana cake but since F asked so nicely to incorporate chocolate chips in it, he got it!

Banana cake

This good size loaf didn’t last very long either. I baked it late in the morning, so clearly we must have some as dessert during lunch. Two hours or so later, oh look – it’s tea time! With cake, of course. Always with cake. When dinner came round, there was just enough for another round of dessert. F also quipped that it would be unfair to the cake if some were kept overnight since it was best when truly fresh, therefore same day consumption made the most sense. What a logic ;)

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Hidden Paris: Villa Santos-Dumont

What does one do on a sunny Saturday afternoon? Well, F and I went out for a walk of rediscovery. Early last year, we have came across streets neatly tucked away from the public eyes – quaint, lush, calm – the little pieces of paradise anyone would wish to have in a bustling city like Paris. We certainly would love to live on one of these hidden-yet-within-Paris streets with a village charm. Today, let me introduce you to villa Santos-Dumont (formerly villa Chauvelot), named after a Franco-Brazilian aviator.

Villa Santos-Dumont

Villa Santos-Dumont

Villa Santos-Dumont is a serene and picturesque cobblestoned impasse that branched out from rue Santos-Dumont in the 15th arrondissement, a short walk away from Parc Georges Brassens. Brassens himself famously lived on 42 rue Santos-Dumont, after a 22-year stay on 9 impasse Florimont, another few minutes walk away from here.

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Guinness is better in a cake

Blasphemous as it sounds, I do not like the taste of Guinness. All the years living in Ireland didn’t help me personally in terms of taste acquirement. I admit to a twinge of jealousy when observing Erasmus students and other visitors – F included! – taking to it quickly and could declare the pint in Ireland as the best they’ve had.

Guinness cake

A clever idea came not so long ago. Like mothers who slyly hide peas and brussel sprouts so the kids would eat them, I thought using Guinness as a cake ingredient could be a neat trick in improving how I perceive the taste of Guinness. With St Patrick’s round the corner, I even have the perfect excuse to whip the cake up without the guilt (or the worry) of eating it all by myself.

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Postcards: Île de la Jatte (FR)

River Seine snakes around Paris and Île de France, and with it, a number of small islands grace the region. We know all about the Île St Louis and Île de la Cité within central Paris, where the city’s history began with the settlement of the Parisii, but other islands are very much “invisible” to many. I should definitely explore more of them!

Île de la Jatte

Île de la Jatte

To the west of Paris, straddled between the communes of Levallois and Neuilly-sur-Seine, lies a small, picturesque island called Île de la Jatte, aka “Island of the Bowl”. We stumbled across it quite by chance, when Chloé and I went to Levallois for lunch at the weekend. I struggled to pinpoint why the name sounded familiar, but Chloé knows it well – it used to be a favourite hangout among Impressionist artists. Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’île de la Grande Jatte (now housed in Art Institut of Chicago) is indeed a very well-known painting to many!

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Levallois, reflections

It is too quiet at home. F is currently trekking in the Moroccan desert with his friends, boys-only trip. It’s an adventure where they have camels to carry their bags, a guide to lead the way, and a chef to prepare all the meals. Tough life ;) Sadly for me, he took the 100D with him too. Yes, yes, I know, it’s his camera, and it’s to photograph exotic locations including the Sahara – all’s fair in love and, err, photography?

Reflections

Reflections

Not one to sit and grumble, I whipped up my good ol’ compact and went out exploring parts of Paris unknown to me. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the blocks of glass buildings around Levallois, reflecting back at one another while taking on the colours of the sky and cloud. It almost felt like I’ve been away in another city myself, until I hit the River Seine and saw other familiar sights.

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Frenchie To Go

Something must have lined up in the celestial. I am constantly in search for good grub in Paris, but I am by no mean someone from the “in” crowd who score tables at the latest gourmet openings in the city, not to mention our eating out budget doesn’t quite stretch that far to be a fixture in the dining scene. Imagine my surprise at easily snagging a table for two at Frenchie (via La Fourchette), albeit two months in advance, and then successfully wrangling Chloé to lunch at Frenchie To Go in matter of days.

Frenchie to go

Frenchie to go

Tucked away in rue du Nil (very near to the Passage du Caire, of course) and adjacent to Gregory Marchand’s other ventures – Frenchie and Frenchie Wine Bar – it wasn’t too crazy busy when we were there on a warm Sunday afternoon, but clearly well-loved, as we just about snagged the last two seats in the cosy café-deli. ***

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Project 365: Week 7 – Galerie

This week’s word is not an entirely foreign word, but when F suggested it to me as the theme to photograph, I knew immediately that this makes a good opportunity for me to explore the galeries et passages of which some are well-known but many stay pretty hidden. These Parisian galeries can be think of as precursors to modern shopping malls.

Created at a time where waste management was a citywide problem yet demands were there for more comfortable (window-)shopping experience, these covered passages offered well-maintained arcades and shelters from the elements. Some of them are still kept in good condition, but sadly a good few more are quite run down. Many had also been demolished – in its heyday, some 150 were present but only about 1/6 of them remains today, and not all are open to public.

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Galerie Vivienne

Galerie Vivienne

10 Feb: I couldn’t resist posting more than one photo of Galerie Vivienne, the most elegant galerie that I’ve visited in Paris, and certainly the best known among the visitors who search for something off the usual grid. Elaborately decorated entryway, mosaic flooring, stylish lighting, and surely enough, the shops that line this passage are also seriously upscale. A walk deep into the passage reveals private spiral staircase, presumably leading to some residences. I wouldn’t mind having such a prestigious address here ;)

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La Table d’Aki

F and I marked our anniversary with a small splurge – dinner at La Table d’Aki. Promptly at 8pm, the window cover was raised, and we stepped into a dining room about the size of the living room in our cosy Parisian apartment. Definitely minimalist in decor, monochromic palate of white (except the draft-blocking curtain and the low wall, both in red, by the door), as we were seated, I whispered to F: “16 covers only!”

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

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Project 365: Week 6 – Finesse

La finesse is one of those words I hear often but the changing context had me questioning if I really understood it. My 20-year-old mini dictionary said little except “fineness” yet I often hear it as a word that describe the finer things in life, of elegance, of delicateness, of refinement. Other contexts suggest physical shape of a person, in the state of being slim and slender, as well as one’s behaviour, worthy to be noted as in fine moral standing. I suggest we explore the finesse in French objects.

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Sea nymph

3 Feb: This is not the first time I’ve posted a photo of this water nymph on Pont Alexandre III, and it’s unlikely to be the last. I adore this sculpture. I always drop by to say hello when I’m in the area, and I’m also very pleased to see it free from the clutches of love-locks (yes, some muppets put locks on her before). There are many other sculptures on this same bridge, but I find her presence calming and radiates a certain inner beauty.

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Observing Paris from La Grande Roue

Or, how to mend a spirit challenged by the darker side of life.

Friday morning started out extremely windy – Anne lost her skylight window in the process! – and somewhat wet, but by late morning, the clouds had been swiftly blown away too, leaving clear blue sky that made me yearned to be out and about. The unfortunate incident from the previous day still weighed me down a little, so the want of fresh air became even more urgent.

F indulged me on my whim and off we went to Parc Georges Brassens for a most delicious bo bun, bahn mi and an Asian version of creamed rice dessert from the Camion BOL. We followed it up first with a visit to Grand Palais for Depardon’s exhibition, then taking a turn at La Grande Roue on Place de la Concorde. Cue: more vantage photos of Paris!

La Grande Roue

La Grande Roue

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Naïve little Asian

January kickstarted the year with a busy bout of moving-related activties and whats not, but February doesn’t plan to be overshadowed with a peaceful lull. Instead it throws in a challenge that had been most unexpected – something that threw me off, shakened me – and had me questioning, for one short second, if I am suited to live in a big city.

Sculture

In short: I was blindsided and scammed in my own home. Definitely not my day.

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A sunny February afternoon

My dad’s cousin was in town with a few friends, and they got lucky as the weather turned from grey and dreary to blue and sunny overnight. On their first afternoon, I took them on a long walk and to show off a good number of the city attractions. They probably wondered if I was trying to punish them though, given all the walking they did with me… (Disclaimer: I love exploring Paris by foot and I am also a pretty brisk walker)

This walk also rewarded me by way of photographs that I’d like to share with you. This is Paris, all set to charm and to seduce, that it is hard not to fall in love with it all over again. Then again, as a friend pointed our recently, even in rainy weather, Paris has a way to translate that into a poetic romance.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

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Project 365: Week 5 – Écarlate

When the word écarlate was picked, I thought photographing this should be relatively straight-forward. Not quite so. To try to differentiate scarlet from all the different shades of red is far more challenging than I’ve prepared for, so much so that I think renaming this week’s theme as red would be more appropriate. Well, enjoy “scarlet” ;)

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Swatch watch

27 Jan: Some of my friends would be surprised to hear that it has been a while since I ventured into any Swatch shop. It is for my own good, considering I have hard time resisting picking up a new one every so often to add to my collection. While I don’t have as many to rotate for every day for a month (yet?), it is a tad excessive to own quite so many watches – am thinking I should donate some away.

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Vantage Paris

Another fun thing about organising my archived photos is the realisation that, over the years, I’ve been very lucky to have seen Paris from many vantage viewpoints around the city. Nearly all of these locations are accessible to everyone all year round, free or ticket-requiring. If you are looking for a place to see Paris from higher grounds (without breaking the bank by hiring private flights), up up you go!

Viewpoints of Paris

1. Eiffel Tower: This is an obvious one, and my last visit there was as a family outing. We were very pleased to have a wonderfully sunny weather, despite strong wind earlier that day which caused closure of the top-most level. It had reopened by then, but the crowd trying to access it was too crazy for us to even consider tackling. The mid-level viewing decks worked perfectly fine for us.

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Tasty surprises at Pierre Sang Boyer

Having read many good things about Pierre Sang Boyer, bolstered by the image that I had of the chef from watching him on the French Top Chef Season 2 (ah, my first months in Paris and watching TC2 was, ahem, “a way to improve my French”), F and I recently found ourselves queueing for dinner in his restaurant in Oberkampf. Not once, but twice, in as many months.

A no-reservation policy (unless party of 6 or more – used to be strictly none) was the main factor that put us off for a long time from dining here, but now that the early days buzz had calmed down somewhat, we found that by arriving a few minutes ahead of opening time got us our table without any problem. Just as well, given the winter weather is not particularly suited for long wait outside.

Dinner @ Pierre Sang Boyer

So here’s the concept of eating at PSB: He’s a champion of the ethics of locavore as well as sustainable fishing. He works with local producers and sources what’s fresh and available according to the market and the season. The menu therefore changes day-to-day, sometimes even within the service if something runs out. This simplifies thing (and cooking), and fret not, guests are enquired shortly after being seated if there are any food restrictions or allergies.

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Project 365: Week 4 – Doré(e)

It’s strange to look at the calendar and to note that January is coming close to an end. Among family and many friends, the chatters of the day revolve around the preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year, prompting some action on my part to organise a CNY dinner with a few close friends next week. Sadly, it has been years since I spent CNY at home. Ah, those were the golden times indeed… And oh, speaking of golden, that brings us to the word of the week: doré(e)!

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Perfume

20 Jan: Have you ever wonder why perfumes exist mostly in shades of gold? I understand from marketing stand point, of trying to evoke this sense of luxury and wealth, and link it to a certain status bestowed among perfume users, but shouldn’t the fragrant matters more than the colour of the liquid? In my mind, the darker the shade of gold, usually the more off-putting the scent. Too strong, too intense, just too much.

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Paris sera toujours Paris

My first digital camera was bought back in 2004, then a shiny ultra-compact Canon Ixus i – not that I really knew what I was doing and photography was something geared towards typical holiday shots. Here’s me in front of the monument X, and here’s me, again, but in front of the garden Y…

Our move into the new apartment marks a point where a thorough spring cleaning of our belongings makes perfect sense. I throw myself into a massive re-organisation effort, which includes digging up my digital archives stored in various external hard disks. Within, I found a folder named “2005 – Paris” and it has been fun going through the photos, looking at the antics my friend and I were up to during the trip, and to also marvel at how little Paris changes over the year.

Paris

Paris

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Les Pipelettes, café-épicerie

While breakfast meeting is a rare occurence for me, I found myself at Les Pipelettes, bright and early, to brainstorm with fellow volunteers of a scientific outreach programme on this year’s activities that promote collaborative works between high school students in Paris and in Turin. How apt, that we met in a café which name means the chatterboxes, since we chatted for a good couple of hours before wrapping it all up.

Our breakfast was very French, with most of us ordering a “get out of the bed” menu that consisted of a hot drink (hot chocolate with salted caramel for me please!), tartine with beurre Bordier and a basil-based jam (surprisingly good mix of sweet and savoury), and a juice (a combo of carrot, apple and ginger). The service was efficient and friendly, and we felt very much at ease, as if we were working from the home of a friend.

Les Pipelettes

Les Pipelettes

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Project 365: Week 3 – Composé

When I was photographing with this week’s word – composé (composed of, compound) – in mind, I was wondering how much of a stretch can I go in interpreting it? I’m still trying to familiarise myself with my new neighbourhood, and there are still things to be done to turn the apartment into a home. With my head half in the air, certain interpretation may be shaky. If only it’s possible to photograph the compounded stress I was feeling earlier in the week but slowly dissipated as more and more task got struck off the check-list…

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Pastries

13 Jan: You know the whole “stressed spelled backward is desserts” thing? Yes, I sought some sweet cure today, in the form of a mixed box of bite-sized treats. Adorably called the children’s selection, six different desserts have been put together, checking the boxes on: fruitiness (lemon tart), nuttiness (hazelnut tart), chocolateness (chocolate tart), crunchiness (candied choux), silkiness (vanilla slice) and fluffiness (praline choux).

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Coconut and lime cake

F grumbles that I don’t often bake for him. Sadly, that is quite true. Can I blame it on the equipment I have in our very little Parisian kitchen? Or actually, to be more accurate, the lack of equipment. Back in Dublin, I had a wonderful and spacious kitchen, with all kinds of tools and ingredients at my disposal; I kid you not when I say I used to stock 7-8 different types of sugar! Now, we have two: white or brown…

Coconut and lime cake

But the mood does strike from time to time, and my recent kitchen experiment had been met with reasonable success. F adores the moist yet zingy-fresh slices of cake (“perfect for afternoon tea”), and my friends who have tried it have been asking for the recipe too. Last I heard, even their friends are asking for the recipe. I guess that means it merits a blog post, in particular because it’ll make my life easier in event of future recipe sharing.

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Project 365: Week 2 – Bordélique

This week has been completely bordélique and I have pretty much abandoned a whole bunch of things aside to concentrate on the move (although not before completing another MOOC). Packing up our lives after two very comfortable years while accumulating more things than ever was a lot of work, and cleaning up two apartments added to the load too. It appears the previous tenant to our new apartment doesn’t understand the concept of hygiene and cleanliness…

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Brochures

6 Jan: I guess packing could be a whole lot easier had I not been obsessively keen on keeping every single brochure, map, ticket and whats not from our travel. I’ve been meaning to sort them out and save only the most “important” ones in a travel scrapbook, but clearly I’ve been procrastinating… I won’t have time to go through them now but I will definitely get working on the scrapbook as I unpack, so nothing beyond the necessary will stay in the new apartment.

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10 first bites

It is no secret that I love to eat and I always prioritise things that seem unusual when picking from the menu. Sometimes, when there are more options than I can manage on my own, I throw the puppy eyes at my dining companion in hope he/she picks up on my inner plea to order one of them… ;)

Last year, in writing the list of 101 goals, I added “10 things I’ve never tried before” and hope it’ll make food discovery more interesting. However, actually having dishes in front of me often translates to “busy eating, no time to think or take photos” and therefore writing this post had taken a little longer than expected.

10 new food

1. Courgette flower: semi-hidden here between a slice of chorizo and a cherry tomato, the courgette flower is bright to look at and delicate to taste. They don’t transport well nor last beyond a few hours after picking, so it’s not something that can be easily found in Paris (much easier in south of France though). It tasted like, well, courgette, but a “lighter” version. The flower also has a soft velvelty texture, like most edible flowers really.

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It sparkles at Cartier

Hurrah, I finally got round to getting my Grand Palais Sésame 2013/2014 pass! The first exhibition I saw with my all-access pass was that of Cartier, slated to run until 16 February 2014 in the Salon d’Honneur.

I am not one who’s particularly interested in sparkly and expensive jewellery, but still curious enough to want to see what makes others gasp with joy given the beauty of gems and precious metals set into decorative items, both wearable and non-wearable. It is also always interesting to learn the role that Cartier plays in the history of decorative arts, and to take a brief look into the creative process behind some of the exhibited pieces. I must say I still don’t know the topic sufficiently well to try to write about it, but I have some photos that I can certainly share with you.

Cartier

Cartier

Cartier

Cartier

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Project 365: Week 1 – Aléatoire

With seemingly a gazillion and one things happening, this week’s photos consist of a random mix, summing up the chosen word rather nicely: aléatoire. I must admit, photography is low on my priority at the moment, as we dealt with certain apartment-related hiccups, postponed our move by a week, and started to pack (and still packing – how much stuff can one own while living in a small Parisian apartment?!) everything up. Intermittently, there were friends to see, closing exhibitions to catch, and galette des rois to eat.

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Carousel

30 December: Throughout the month of December, all the carousels owned and operated by the city council have been offering free rides to much delights of the children, and perhaps parents/grandparents too, especially those whose young ones normally want to ride it over and over and over and refuse to leave without throwing a tantrum. Afterall, it can get expensive quickly. The danger, of course, is said children in question will continue to seek the same, if not more, number of rides once they are no longer free again…

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To learn and to make mistakes

Index cards

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

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Another chapter closed

Happy New Year

I pondered about writing a recap of my 2013, but after a few false starts (text typed, deleted, typed, edited, deleted, typed, deleted again etc), I realised my heart is not in it. How could I? Sitting right next to me is a list of things I have to do in the next 2-3 days, largely because F and I will be moving to a new apartment.

Sometimes, things happened at an incredible speed in Paris. Moving is usually one of them. Mind, apartment-hunting is not. My head is still whirling at the timeline involved: apartment viewing (2 weeks ago), verbal acceptance (a week ago), lease signing (yesterday), inventory visit (this evening), moving day (end of the week). Had we not been away from Paris for the Christmas break, everything could well took place even sooner.

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Project 365 – Week 52

Another round of Project 365 more or less completed, even though we have a couple more days to go to end the year. I’ll put those two photos towards the first week of the next project, so to keep the week running nicely from Monday to Sunday. Still hesitating though over the set up for the new series, and I don’t even have quite as much time as I thought to ponder over it, because F and I are moving to a new apartment and there are tons to do!

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Christmas baubble

23 Dec: While presents that we bought have been safely delivered, they remain unwrapped. Cue: a morning spent covering up gifts with papers that will quickly be shredded into pieces on Christmas day. This glass baubble reminds me of how fragile trees are in our current environment, to be torn down, often without much second thought. I normally do not wrap presents – I’d rather put them in reusable paperbags – but since F’s nieces won’t understand such concept, I make my peace with the wrapping paper use and vow to be more vigiland with my effort to stay green.

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My first French Christmas

On Christmas morning, I woke up to a video of my adorable niece sent by my brother, saying “Ho, ho, ho, mehwy chwistmas”.

It had been a very merry Christmas indeed, and my first experiencing it the French way. My own family doesn’t celebrate Christmas per se, but for one that loves to cook and to eat, it does mean three festive meals (we start with a good Irish roast, followed by a Chinese steamboat, and finally Korean barbecue) with mere few hours break in between. That’s a lot of eating in a single day.

The celebration in France is bound to be different, and in fact, my belle famille doesn’t buy into the overlong meal with extravagant dish after dish in one seating. Instead, we get to spread the feast over two days. A satisfying Christmas eve dinner and a boisterous Christmas day lunch makes the whole experience much more manageable, and I did enjoy my meals a lot more. (Here they are, in pictures.)

Christmas meal

Christmas meal

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Joyeux Noël

I am currently sitting in the living room of my belle famille, to a background of lovely classic and seasonal instrumental music, all set for my first Christmas in France. I’ve taken some photos of Christmas ornaments around the house and of the creche at the corner, although this year we’re doing without a sapin de Noël. No worry, the presents will still appear in a timely manner to reward everyone on their good behaviour this year. ;)

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

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