Why Beuvron-en-Auge is one of the most beautiful villages in France

It is one of the most beautiful villages in France (according to Les plus beaux villages de France), this picture perfect village called Beuvron (Beuvron-en-Auge) – and it’s easy to see why!

The village is located in the Calvados department (in Normandy), in the heart of the very popular and touristic Cider Route – and only 12 kilometers away from the beautiful botanical garden in Cambremer and 15 kilometers away from the lovely beach town Cabourg.

normande

The Calvados department is blessed with gorgeous towns and villages, which makes it the perfect destination for those of us who enjoy road tripping through the countryside of la France. Those of us who prefer visiting the country by car, as it gives us the opportunity to make a few stops here and there to pick up some local specialties, take a few photos, have a nice little picnic in the countryside – and just enjoy the beauty of the country that gave us camembert, macarons and Chanel.

Which reminds me, Camembert cheese does actually come from Normandy!

When you think of Normandy, you probably think of more than just the famous cheese, though. You probably think of half-timbered houses, old historical towns, delicious cider and charming countryside. Maybe you’ve made plans to visit the region for a romantic getaway with your significant other?

Well, in that case, you are gonna love Beuvron!

Because, Beuvron is a great example of one of those typical Normandy villages. Fairy tale houses, a quaint village square and lots and lots of beautiful flower displays. Everywhere. Most of the buildings in the village date back to the 17th century – and some even date all the way back to the 15th century!

cafe beuvron

Beuvron is for cider lovers

While in Beuvron, I made sure to purchase a few bottles of cider to take home as a souvenir, from Cidre Calvados Desvoye – a producer of cider, calvados (apple brandy) and pommeau (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). French cider is generally low in alcohol, and is best enjoyed accompanied by sweet crêpes or savory galettes. Mmm, crêpes…

Every year in October, there’s the Fête du Cidre – a Cider Festival in Beuvron!

The festival offers you the opportunity to watch the great apple-pressing take place on the village square, and you’ll also get to taste a wide variety of different ciders from local producers. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t turn down a proper cider tasting!

normandy

…And those who love flowers

The village has been awarded three flowers in the village fleuri contest – a contest organized annually in France, which aims to encourage communes to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants and enhance their attractiveness to visitors/tourists by maintaining their green spaces and enhancing their natural environments.

Beuvron-en-Auge is a small village, but it’s filled with beautiful flowers of different sizes and colors – which again adds to the charm and the postcard perfect look that the village is known (and appreciated) for.

If you happen to plan your visit to the village around spring, you should most definitely check out the Fête des Gèraniums flower festival in Beuvron. It’s an annual event which takes place the first week of May –  to celebrate spring!

flowers normandy

Things you should taste when in Beuvron-en-Auge

  • Obviously, the famous Normandy cider. The classic apple cider, of course!
  • You might wanna try the pear cider, too. It’s delicious.
  • Calvados. It’s strong, very strong. But definitely worth trying!
  • Pommeau. Which is not as strong as Calvados – but with a similar taste.
  • Tarte Normande. Normandy style apple tart.
  • Chausson aux pommes. Light puff pastry filled with chunky apple compote.
  • Crêpes filled with apple slices and cream (I tried this deliciousness from the Boulangerie Durant)

If the weather is nice, there’s a lovely area with picnic tables – not far from the parking. Bring your pastries and dig into the yummy sweet treats while enjoying the beautiful view!

Where to eat in Beuvron

  • For tasty galettes and crêpes, check out the crêperie La Colomb’Auge. Try a galette with cheese from Normandy on it (Camembert, Neufchâtel, Livarot or Pont-L’Evêque) and an apple-filled crêpe. Yum!
  • Celebrating a special occasion or planning to propose to your loved one? There’s a Michelin-starred restaurant in Beuvron. Le Pavé d’Auge welcomes you to a romantic venue (with a traditional fireplace) and offers you a discovery for your eyes and your taste buds.

half timbered

Where to sleep in Beuvron

Personally, I consider Beuvron-en-Auge as more of a day trip kind of destination, and I’m scared I’d be bored spending more than a demi-journée exploring the village. But maybe that’s just me.

But for those of you traveling to Beuvron to visit one of the festivals, or those of you who plan to arrive late in the evening and want to make the most of your stay the following day, I can totally see how you’d rather be spending a night (or two) at a Bed&Breakfast, rather than getting back in the car after a couple of hours spent in the village.

Let’s not forget those of you who prefer quiet villages over vibrant cities, anyway.

And all you creative creatures out there, I’m sure you wanna get up before sunrise, to do photography without a bunch of tourists blocking your shot.

And let’s not forget those of you who plan to visit Beuvron for a romantic getaway with your partner.

And those of you who plan to do a whole lot of Calvados-tasting and worry you won’t be fit to drive anywhere afterwards.

Whatever your reason is, here’s a list of some charming Bed&Breakfasts in Beuvron – with great reviews, of course!

  • Only a few steps away from the Michelin-starred restaurant there’s a charming Bed&Breakfast with fully equipped rooms (Le Pavé d’Hôtes). You can have your breakfast served in the breakfast room, in your room – or in the beautiful garden.
  • Another traditional Normandy house. For those looking for that romantic atmosphere; check out the cozy Bed&Breakfast Le Pressoir!
  • Located right in the heart of the village, the lovely Bed&Breakfast Aux Trois Damoiselles is for those who love country chic interior (the rooms).

epicerie

portrait

Below is a couple of video clips I put together from my trip to Beuvron-en-Auge.

 

Advertisements

Fall in love with Honfleur – the city favored by the impressionists

This summer I visited Honfleur for the second time within the space of two years. Last time, it was me who fell head over heels in love with this charming little city. This time it was my parents’ turn to go “wow” and “aww” while admiring the port, the buildings, the boats, the atmosphere.

I remember that feeling. Being an art lover and all, I probably felt it even stronger than they did.

vieux bassin

“I know I’ve seen this place before”, I thought to myself as my boyfriend and I arrived at the port of Honfleur, two years ago, while road tripping through Normandy.

I was right. I had seen the port before. Through the eyes of Claude Monet and other impressionists. Honfleur is, and always has been, a city favored by artistic souls – and that is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

narrow street

As you stroll along the many narrow cobblestone streets of Honfleur, you’ll notice a great variety of art galleries of different sizes and artisan workshops of different sorts.

And, last but not least, there’s also an artisan chocolaterie in Honfleur. Mmm, chocolate!

chocolate

The beautiful historic houses built around the Vieux Bassin, and the port itself haven’t changed much over the years, but their purpose has. Instead of welcoming commercial ships and fishing boats, the harbor is now mainly filled with sailboats and other leisure boats. The horseshoe-shaped port is without a doubt the busiest part of Honfleur, with its many restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and local boutiques.

girl in honfleur

Honfleur is for lovers, artists and lonesome wanderers

  • Yes, it is the perfect place for a romantic date with your loved one. Enjoy the view of the Vieux Bassin while sipping on high quality wine and satisfying your taste buds with delicious French cuisine (perhaps from the gastronomic restaurant L’Ecailleur) – or do like the locals do; enjoy some fresh mussels in white wine and garlic sauce for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white wine (perhaps at Le Bistro du Port?)
  • And the target of inspiration for artists and photographers, in love with the old French charm, and the works of the famous impressionists!
  • And it’s a great place for solo travelers in need of peace and tranquility. Enjoy the beautiful view, buy something totally unique from one of the many artisan boutiques, visit the fantastic art museum of Eugène Boudin or the whimsical museum of musician and composer Erik Satie.

What are some eatable things you should take home from Honfleur?

Well, like I said before; you really shouldn’t miss out on all that delicious chocolate. You’re on a diet? No, you’re not. Not while in France, honey. Aux Blés d’Or is a chocolaterie worth your time and money (they don’t have a website, but they have a mouthwatering video on YouTube).

choco

Do you like strong alcohol? Then you might wanna visit one of the many wine/liquor stores, souvenir shops or small épiceries offering their finest local specialties. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of Calvados, which is an apple brandy – and a big specialty from the Normandy region. If Calvados is a little too strong for you, try Pommeau instead (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). If you prefer something lighter and more refreshing, try one of the locally produced ciders. French ciders are a lot less strong than the ones from the UK and a lot less sweet than the ones from Scandinavia!

calvados

The Normandy region is also known for using a lot of butter (in baking and in sauces) and cream. Try the Tarte Normande (local apple tarte) served with a little cream on the side. I visited the tea house L’Atelier and tried their version of this tasty tarte. Yum!

tea house

Speaking of dairy products. When in France, you just have to eat cheese. Lots of cheese. The most famous cheese of the region is the internationally known Camembert. Is it the best one? Now that’s a matter of personal taste. Have some Camembert and try the other ones, as well (Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque  and Livarot). Compare, and find your favorite!

What else is there to do in Honfleur?

  • Visit the impressive Sainte Catherine Catholic Church. The church dates back to the 15th century, and is the country’s largest timber-built church with a separate bell tower.
  • Go on a boat trip! Take a guided tour off the shores of Honfleur and discover the Seine Estuary. For more information, click here.
  • Check out the farmer’s markets on Place Sainte Catherine (by the church). The traditional market takes place every Saturday morning, and every Wednesday there’s an eco-market (going green and eating clean is quite a big thing in France). And every first Sunday of the month, there’s a flea market (also on Place Sainte Catherine). Who knows, you might stumble upon some cool artwork or artisan jewelry?

church honfleur

3 things you probably didn’t know about Honfleur

  • Scandinavian Vikings lived there. This was before the Hundred Years War between France and England (where, at some point, Honfleur was taken and occupied by the English).
  • In Early October, there’s the Fête de la crevette (shrimp festival). Join the shrimp peeling competition and compete to win all your peeled shrimps.
  • Honfleur’s own painter Eugène Boudin introduced Claude Monet to his hometown and inspired him to start painting. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the impressionist art history without Monet in it. He’s my favorite painter!

honfleur boats

My personal favorites for food and drinks in Honfleur

  • Bar: The beer bar Le Perroquet Vert, centrally located at the port of Honfleur. With a large selection of beers and cocktails, it’s the perfect spot for a night out (or for apéro before heading to your restaurant of choice). Want a cocktail suggestion? Try the Normand for that Calvados-feeling!
  • Restaurant: The modern gastronomic restaurant La Fleur de Sel was the first restaurant I went to in Honfleur. Not just for any occasion,  but for a romantic date night with my man. Amazing food, lovely staff – and everything looks as great as it tastes. Perfect for a soirée en amoureux.

ferris wheel

restaurant

church

water tower

streets


 

 

Highlights of Strasbourg (and a guide to events you shouldn’t miss)

I’m sure you’ve already seen hundreds of pictures of those cute little European villages with colorful half-timbered houses on Instagram and in glossy travel magazines.

You know, the houses that look like they were taken straight out of a fairy tale.

Maybe you’ve already been to some of those villages. Or maybe you’d love to, but you worry you might get bored if you spend your vacation somewhere small and slightly remote. Maybe you’re more of a shopaholic and a partylover, and the city life is what it’s all about.

As much as you’d love to feel like Belle (or Gaston, if you’re a guy reading this) from Beauty and the Beast while strolling along the little streets of an idyllic village, you just can’t escape the fact that you need something more than that. Is it possible to have a bit of Disney-magic and the urban city-life all at once?

Of course it is!

In the Alsace region in northeastern France, you’ll find plenty of those charming little villages and small towns (examples; Colmar and Eguisheim) – and a city just as gorgeous.

The capital of the Alsace region, home of the European Parliament:

Welcome to Strasbourg.

tourism strasbourg

Back in July, I visited Strasbourg with my mother and one of her friends. Traveling with my mom can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, as she’s someone who could easily spend a full day shopping and an entire evening in a cozy wine bar.

Me, on the other hand, I prefer visiting historical sites and taking pictures of places, people and nature. During our stay in Strasbourg, we both had to make a few compromises, and things didn’t always go smooth as butter (which is often the case when traveling with others) but at the end of the day, everyone ended up being quite satisfied with the trip.

We arrived by train and stayed at the modern hotel Apart’hotel Strasbourg Wilson which is conveniently located close to the central train station, and has an indoor swimming pool. Breakfast was not included in the rate, but I didn’t mind paying the additional fee so I could enjoy the varied breakfast buffet. The rooms come with a fully equipped kitchen, which gives you the freedom to prepare your own breakfast in bed – in case you’d rather not spend that extra money, or you prefer having your breakfast in bed!

flammkuchen le kuhn

We filled our bellies with local specialties, such as the crispy and delicious flammkuchen/tarte flambée (photo above) at Le Kuhn, a veggie-version of the traditionally very meaty Baeckeoffe at Le Baeckeoffe , we stopped by a bakery for some kugelhopf and spent a couple of hours enjoying some refreshing Pinot Gris white wine and sandwiches at L’Épicerie. If Pinot Gris is too sweet for you, maybe a glass of dry Riesling is more up your alley?

pinot gris

I didn’t get enough time (or space in my belly) to taste the famous Alsatian choucroute, so I’ll have to save that for next time. Sausages, salted meats and sauerkraut isn’t exactly something you’d eat on a warm day in mid-July anyway, is it?

While my mother and her friend were busy checking out postcards, fridge magnets and other items from the souvenir shop, I took my time to photograph the beautiful cathedral. The Strasbourg Cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of late Gothic architecture. The cathedral houses one of Strasbourg’s popular tourist attractions; an 18-meter Astronomical Clock!

strasbourg cathedral

We walked past street musicians and painters. Souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Small boutiques and well-known chains. Restaurants and bakeries.

street musician

Snacking on French pastries and enjoying the sunshine, slow and steady, we made our way to the picturesque neighborhood, the one that looks all your fairy tale dreams.

Hello, La Petite France!

la petite france

Curiosity brought us to a nice little artisan market. As tempted as we were to buy something, we managed to move on and continue exploring the neighborhood without any additional bags in our hands.

market

La Petite France contains the historical city center, which is surrounded by water, with the River Ill and various canals cutting right through it. The neighborhood was once home to fishermen, millers and tanners who worked in this part of town.

Visit La Petite France by foot – or embark on a nice little boat trip and let your feet relax while you enjoy the beautiful view.

alsace tourism

My trip to Strasbourg, and my first encounter with Alsace (I’ve since been to Colmar as well) left me wanting more. So much more. I know I’ll have to return to Strasbourg to see all the things I missed out on. And damn sure I’ll be there for at least some of the amazing events that take place in the city!

Ahem. Anyone wanna come with me to the Christmas market?

These are the events you shouldn’t miss in Strasbourg

  • 10.-24. November: Jazzdor Festival (Jazz Music Festival). Celebrate the 32nd edition of the Jazzdor Festival. Around 15 venues will be hosting the event, so check out the program, book your ticket and jazz it up in Strasbourg!
  • 24. November – 30. December: The famous Christmas Market. The oldest Christmas market in France, the Christkindelsmärik has been a tradition in Strasbourg since 1570. I don’t know about you, but I sure need my dose of Christmas markets to really get into the Christmas spirit!
  • 1.-4. February: Sacred Music Festival – The music festival devoted to celebration of cultural differences and different religious beliefs. Build friendships and break down barriers, through music!
  • 21. June: Music Day (Fête de la Musique). This is an event that takes place absolutely everywhere in France. In every city, every small town, every village. The streets of the city become your dance floor and DJ’s, bands and artists will entertain you all day and all night long. Fingers crossed for good weather!
  • 14. July: Bastille Day (La fête Nationale). The most important event in France is definitely one worth experiencing. The national day is nationally celebrated by watching the military parades, followed by the biggest highlight of the year; the spectacular fireworks display!

strasbourg street

strasbourg architecture

strasbourg buildings

kugelhopf(Photo above: this is a Kugelhopf)

artist

restaurant france

baeckeoffe(Photo above: This is a veggie-version of the Baeckeoffe)

AirBrush_20170928122515(Photo above: Blending in at L’Épicerie)

 

 

 

 

 

The botanical garden on the Cider Route in Normandy, France

Back in August, my parents traveled all the way from my native Norway to spend a week vacationing with me in France. More precisely in Normandy.

The beautiful region known for its apple cider (and calvados) production, cheese production (some smelly, others not so much)  and the quaint half-timbered houses that are ever so charming and fairy-tale-esque!

Being given a whole lot of responsibility and becoming my parents’ personal ambassador of France (you know, considering I live in the country and all) I went out of my way to make sure we wouldn’t spend a single second of the day being even remotely bored. While doing my Normandy-research, I found plenty of articles about some kind of a Cider Route.

“When in Lower Normandy, you have to check out the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) in Pays d’Auge. It’s a 40 kilometers stretch of idyllic scenery, pretty little villages and home to several producers of the “AOC Pays d’Auge” cider”.

Alrighty, then. Off to the Cider Route, we go!

Was it worth exploring?

You bet your sweet ass, it was.

If you weren’t already in love with the French countryside before, you sure will be after a day or two spent exploring the scenic Cider Route. The rustic charm of the half timbered houses and old fashioned cafes, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped right into a fairy tale. The traditional farmer’s markets and the cider farms, now this is the icing on the cake. It sure completes the ambiance Normande!

But… Yes, there is a but.

As amazing as it all is, at one point you might wanna take a short break from all that cider shopping and village hopping and do something else, I’m certain.

Because things can get kind of repetitive. And you can get kind of broke.

Luckily, on the Cider Route itself, there is indeed another activity you shouldn’t look past.

cambremer

If you’re someone who enjoys photography (nature, macro, floral) , idyllic picnics, beautiful parks and romantic gardens – or you’re a painter/artist searching for inspiration; you’re in for a treat.

Creative souls and nature lovers alike; you are gonna love Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge (the gardens of Pays d’Auge)!

These charming botanical garden is open from May 1st until October 20th, which means you might want to hurry up if you wanna spend a day in this picturesque location before it’s closed for the season.

pays d'auge

Back in August, while exploring the Cider Route with my mother and stepfather, I took them to Jardins du Pays d’Auge – and, just as I expected, they loved every minute of it.

Well, except from maybe the thirty minutes of sudden rain showers. But hey, Mother Nature decided it was time to water the plants – and just happened to water the three of us at the same time!

According to the lady at the ticket counter, we would need about one hour and a half to quickly see everything Jardins du Pays d’Auge had to offer. The different themed gardens, such as the rosary, the devil’s garden (Jardin du Diable), the angel’s garden (Jardin des Anges), and the September garden (Jardins de septembre), were the perfect spots for photo-enthusiasts like myself – and my mother, to take lovely photos (of each other as well as the flowers and plants).

lavender

While strolling through the gardens, at one point you will end up wandering through a maze, which will then lead you to a cute little chapel. With music playing inside of it.

Apparently the gardens are available for wedding ceremonies, so I guess the chapel is used when celebrating the most romantic events of them all. The big day.

Would you set your future wedding to a botanical garden? I sure would (if my significant other was up for it)!

On site, there are some traditional half timbered houses open for guests to explore. These houses are fully equipped with different tools formerly used in production of food, hardware and clothing, back in the good, old days before modern day technology.

As my stepdad is an engineer and naturally curious about how everything is/used to be made, this was without a doubt his favorite part of the visit.

half timbered house

My mother, on the other hand, was ecstatic when we walked past a small stable with two donkeys in it.

Random, I know.

She went photo-crazy and took maybe thirty pictures of the poor animals, all from the exact same angle (as they were busy eating and couldn’t give a rats ass about my mom) and then she acted as stubborn as the donkeys themselves, when my stepdad tried to pull her away from them so that we could move on and continue our visit.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed to bring your own food into the gardens or not, but we did it anyway. Earlier that day, we bought a couple of sandwiches from a nice little bakery in the village of Cambremer (where Jardins du Pays d’Auge is located). We hid the goods in my stepdad’s backpack and saved them for the right occasion; picnic time in beautiful scenery!

If the weather (or the staff) is telling you your picnic ain’t gonna happen, and you happen to be so hungry you’d easily start chewing on flowers and leaves from the trees, fear not. Put the flowers down and wait until you’ve finished the tour around the gardens.

You see, on site – just in front of the entrance to the gardens – there is a lovely crêperie just waiting for your hungry belly to be fed with delicious galettes (savory pancakes) and crêpes (sweet pancakes).

normandy

Well, if you’re visiting the gardens between May and September, that is.

My parents and I, finished our sandwiches, finished the tour, and ended our visit. The rain showers had made the grass wet and slippery, which again had made our shoes wet and muddy. But it didn’t bother me, nor my parents. In fact, my stepdad was thrilled.

“Now, this has been a great day. Beautiful scenery. Tranquility. This beats all the villages that kind of look the same, anyway”.

His words, not mine.

Go to LesJardinsduPaysdAuge.com for more information and updates.

normandy gardens

view

gardenbirdcage

 

A day in Terra Botanica – The theme park devoted to plant life (Angers, France)

Like many other women, I am obsessed with flowers. Looking at them, smelling them, photographing them, learning about them – I love it and I can’t get enough of it.

So it doesn’t exactly come as a shocker to those who know me, that I’ll always make sure to schedule in a visit to the local botanical garden, whenever I’m planning a trip to a new destination. It’s just one of those things I have to do. Because, enjoying the scent of beautiful flowers while strolling through a picturesque garden is something that gives me a feeling of tranquility. And it fills my Instagram with amazing colorful photos too!

roses

The day I scrolled through my news feed on Facebook and stumbled upon an article (including a video) on Terra Botanica – a botanical theme park in France – I knew I’d just made a great discovery. I had found my paradise.

Right there in Angers, a city in western France.

I thought to myself, a theme park AND botanical gardens in one? That’s just a whole other level of happiness right there – and it’s something for all generations to enjoy.

Me, I have moments where I behave older than your grandma, and moments where I behave like a little child, which makes it all just perfect.

Considering the fact that I already live in France, I knew I could easily go to Angers on a weekend trip – which made the temptation to go there, even bigger. Just a two and a half hour drive from Paris, and I’d be there.

I showed my boyfriend the article on Terra Botanica and played him the video. He wasn’t too excited about it, being a macho man and all. “A flower park? The rides don’t even look exciting. It’s just slow and boring”, were his exact words, when referring to the scenic boat ride and the journey in a nutshell (pedaling through the forest, past the tops of the trees). Boring my ass. It looked awesome.

My puppy eyes and multiple repetitions of “please, please, please” and “come on” – as if I was a little girl begging her parents to take her to Disneyland – paid off in the end.

We spent the day of arrival just visiting the city of Angers, which is a lovely city famous for its medieval castle with as many as 17 towers!

The following day, we left the hotel at an early hour and were all set and super stoked (well, at least I was) and couldn’t wait to spend a full day enjoying everything Terra Botanica had to offer, before returning home from our overnight getaway.

The sun was shining through the windy clouds, bees were buzzing around and flowers of every color imaginable were decorating every corner of the park. Due to the strong wind, the big yellow air balloon was sadly closed to visitors, but we still had lots of other interesting things to see and do!

terra botanica flowers

First thing up, was a 4D adventure. There are actually two different adventures, depending on what time of the day you get there. In the morning and until 2 pm, there’s a film where you’ll see things from a water droplets point of view and follow its journey from the sky to the heart of the plant. After 2 pm, there’s a film where you’re placed at the wheel of a Jeep and you’ll drive right into a dinosaur reserve. My boyfriend is a huge fan of dinosaurs and absolutely loved it. So did I. It reminded us of Jurassic Park, and who doesn’t love Jurassic Park?

walnut ride

Then we pedaled into the forests and enjoyed the view of the park from above while snapping a few photos, before changing the perspective and admiring the view from the relaxing boat ride. I asked my boyfriend if he still thought the park was boring, and he said no. Ah, see? I bloody told him so!

smiling

We fed our brains with interesting information about plants adaptations in different habitats (accompanied by hologram projections) before walking through different rooms to experience those different climate types and seeing the plants adapted to it.

After feeding our brains, we fed our bellies with a quick lunch from one of the restaurants in the park. My fish and chips was surprisingly as good as the fish and chips I’ve had in England – which means it’s freakin’ delicious (for a fast food meal). While my boyfriend was sitting there chewing on a mediocre hot dog, I could tell by the look on his face that he wanted to steal my fish. And then he asked me if I’d really be able to finish all of that, and offered to help out if not…

butterfly

We continued exploring the park and moved on to the butterfly greenhouse. I’ve already been to plenty of butterfly greenhouses/butterfly sanctuaries in my life, and I just can’t seem to get enough of them. Ever. I love how aesthetic butterflies are. The colors, the patterns and even the way they flutter their wings. From a hobbyist photographers point of view, they are magnificent creatures.

butterfly transformation

Before leaving the park, we went to see something kind of creepy, yet extremely fascinating; carnivorous plants. Yes, meat eating (insects, mainly) plants. Some of them have teeth and look quite intimidating, while others just look like some kind of a tube. Harmless. Apparently they eat mosquito’s, so if you’re someone who’s always targeted by those bloodsucking insects, you might wanna consider investing in a carnivorous plant.

carnivorous plants

We left the park feeling smarter, feeling happy and feeling exactly the way I’m sure the park was designed to make you feel.

What else should you know about Terra Botanica?

  • It is closed during winter (doesn’t quite come as a surprise, does it?)
  • There’s an Autumn festival in the park from the 28th to the 31st of October, and a Spring festival on April 1st and 2nd!
  • It is located in Angers, and is a 1 hour drive from Nantes and Rennes, 1 hour 20 minutes from Tours and 2 and a half hour drive from Paris.
  • It’s on the top 10 list of TripAdvisor’s Preferred in France Theme Parks.
  • Book tickets online and you’ll get a discount!

blue dress

terra botanica facepink flowersboat ridepotagesunflowerstropicalveggiescactus

 

 

 

 

 

Day trip to the Gardens of Versailles? Check out The Fountains Shows and Musical Gardens – before it’s too late!

Since April 1st and until October 29th, there’s a special event taking place in the magnificent Gardens of Versailles – and you don’t want to miss out on the fun.

I was lucky to spend an entire Sunday in the Gardens of Versailles last month and let me tell you, although it was quite windy that day and we weren’t exactly blessed with a cloudless blue sky, the wind was not the only thing that had me blown away that day!

water

Enjoy the Musical Fountains Show

Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles (The Musical Fountains show of Versailles) is a celebration of the history and the beauty of the Gardens of Versailles – and a celebration of all the spectacular fountains located throughout the gardens.

Stepping on royal ground while classical music is played in the background and watching the fountains dance along to the melody – now that’s an experience that’ll have you feel like the queen or king you deserve to feel like. Even if only for a day.

fountains shows versailles

Study the map – or risk getting lost and missing out!

The first water display starts at 11 am. You will be handed a timetable and a map once you enter the gardens, and it’s up to you to keep track of what direction to take and which water display you’ll prioritize to see. Because, trust me, there’s a lot!

musical fountains

I was there with my boyfriend and his parents and we tried to see every single water display, but ended up getting kind of lost in the maze while walking from one part of the gardens to another. I don’t remember who started yelling at who, but somewhere along the line, someone got irritated because someone else were guiding them in the wrong direction, and then…we missed out on one of the preferred water displays as we didn’t make it to that specific fountain in time for the show. Bummer.

So, beware of that. I guess that’s the only negative thing I can say about French gardens and landscape with symmetrical and geometrical designs. They’re kind of like labyrinths! For someone who’s really good at getting lost everywhere, the Gardens of Versailles is just the perfect place to be if you don’t want people to find you. And you won’t even know where you are, yourself either.

And just so you know; the public toilets are also hidden in the maze somewhere.

There you go. Trust me. Study the map as well as you possibly can and there will be no issues!

versailles view

Let’s dig into a little bit of history

Ah, the famous Château de Versailles. Just seeing the palace itself – even from the outside – and enjoying the view of the spectacular gardens (especially the Orangerie) is already a magical experience on its own. No wonder the chateau and its beautiful gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

orangerie

If you’re someone who’s intrigued by the history of French Royalty and want to see the most famous gardens of them all, I’ll assure you, you’ll have a fantastic time visiting the historical Gardens of Versailles.

The history of the gardens (as we know them today)  dates back to 1661, under the reign of Louis XIV (also known as the ‘Sun King’). André le Nôtre might just be one of the most famous gardeners in history, and the style “French formal gardens” has its noble reputation thanks to him. The style has been widely copied by other European courts and most gardens of this style is usually compared to the famous Gardens of Versailles. Starting his career as the gardener to the king’s uncle, André le Nôtre later gained fame and fortune for creating some of the most beautiful gardens of the 17th century. He was the mastermind behind the creation and renovation of the Gardens of Versailles – a project that took about 40 years, and thousands of workers, to finish!

versailles sculpture

How we ended up having breakfast in the Gardens of Versailles

That Sunday morning spent in Versailles, my boyfriend and I were kind of hungover and extremely tired from a late night out, the previous night. We got up later than planned and didn’t even have time to eat breakfast. To make the morning a little more pleasant, we went to our favorite bakery and bought croissants, pain au raisin (my favorite) and pain au chocolat and drove as fast as we legally could, en route to Versailles. And then we realized we’d forgotten to bring our prepaid tickets. Oops!

We got to Versailles in time for the first water display and everything went according to plan. Well, apart from getting lost in the maze. That was not a part of the plan.

The security guards didn’t care about my handbag being stuffed with a greasy paper bag with probably 10 different pastries inside of it. I’m actually not sure if it’s allowed to bring food and drinks to the gardens or not, but we did – and we enjoyed it.

Relaxing on a bench and enjoying the view of what might be one of the most beautiful gardens I know, made me forget all about being tired and slightly hungover. And eating those delicious pastries at the same time, yeah, that totally made everything a million times better.

fountains shows

Why YOU should go

Most people who plan a trip to Versailles, go there specifically to visit the palace – which is understandable. Château de Versailles is absolutely gorgeous, and an important part of French history.

But don’t turn down the opportunity to visit the gardens!

And while you’re there, take your time. Don’t rush.

Go for a romantic walk with your significant other. Feel the magic while watching the water displays with your children. Enjoy the music. The nature.

versailles gardens

The Gardens of Versailles is the perfect place to take beautiful photos from all different angles. Landscape photos, photos of the beautiful fountains and sculptures, photos of the dancing water, portraits of your partner, selfies with friends. And photos from above, capturing the symmetrical design that is the trademark of the French gardens.

chateau de versailles

versailles portrait

eauxgoldenversailles walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet romance or steamy vacation fling? How to meet a Parisian (when you’re a tourist)

I’ve spammed this post with a bunch of photos I’ve taken in Paris (of touristic sights)  just to set the mood right and make you want to pack your suitcase and go. Just in case meeting a sexy Frenchie who’ll knock your socks off wasn’t motivation enough.

When most people think of Paris, they think about romance and romantic cliches.

I am sure you’ve seen billions of inspirational Paris-photos online. Photos of beautiful girls in beautiful dresses, enjoying fluffy croissants and pain au chocolat on the balcony of a pricey Airbnb or 5 star hotel,  while watching the sunrise in the morning (I’m looking at you, Instagram-influencers). Obviously they all have a great view of the Eiffel Tower.

Because, it ain’t worth it if it’s not a multi-climax photo with everything there is to love about Paris, in one single shot. Go big or go home, right?

I’m sure you’ve pinned and liked it all and imagined yourself being that girl. All while being swept off your feet by a hunky Parisian, well dressed, well groomed and with the sexiest accent imaginable. He looks like he just walked straight out of a perfume-ad and he smells like a mix of cologne (maybe Yves Saint Laurent or Dior) and cigarettes.

He’ll take you to all his favorite bars and restaurants in the city, introduce you to the best wines you’ll ever drink, and desserts so delicious you’ll never want to eat anything else again in your life.  He’ll tell you you’re trop belle and proudly introduce you to his friends. Champagne high and with a great sugar rush from all the pastel macaroons you’ve eaten,  you feel like you’re on cloud nine and you wish you could just stay in this bubble forever. Just you and this mystery man in Paris.

That’s the cliche that a lot of hopeless romantics believe in, and that’s why a lot of women end up coming to Paris in the first place. To find that little piece of magic. The holiday romance – or vacation fling. Whatever you wanna call it.

This image of Paris is the city as it’s portrayed by Hollywood and novelists.

ferris wheel

The real Paris is different. Very different. Yes, the macaroons, the champagne, the wine, the 5 star hotels, the Eiffel Tower, it’s all there. It’s all real. And French. But all that glitz and glam is not part of a Frenchman’s every day life. Unless you’re aiming for the aristocrats, of course. But that’s a whole different planet than the one the average Jane such as myself (and probably you) live on.

I live in a Paris where a Friday night out means putting on your best jeans and checking the weather forecast to see if you’ll need to bring your umbrella or not. Where you can’t make up your mind whether to go to a Japanese, Korean, French or Italian restaurant. Where snacking on sliced cured sausage while drinking pint after pint of Belgian beer is considered a cultural thing (apéro) to do before dinner. Where your favorite neighborhoods are those where most buildings are covered in street art and beer bars and burger joints are located side by side.

That’s my Paris. And that, my friend, is probably also the Paris of your future vacation fling. I guess this means the way to approach and be approached by the average Parisian man might not be quite as glamorous as you expected. But that doesn’t mean he won’t add a little magic to your vacation.

opera garnier

Trust me, I’m speaking from my own personal experience. The guy will give you fireworks and the whole shebang (metaphorically speaking, of course) and might steal your heart and make you feel bad about continuing your Euro-trip instead of staying with him a little longer.

Like I said, I have experienced this firsthand. I’ve also observed friends who came to Paris looking for long term love or a short term romance. And, yes, I also happen to know a lot of French men who’d love to meet a mysterious lady who’s passing through Paris before heading off to their next adventure. Some of those guys might even ask to join you on your adventures!

Right. The travelers and the Parisians want to meet each other. So what seems to be the problem?

Well.

Yes, there are plenty of locals interested in meeting a charming foreigner and showing her all their favorite spots in Paris.Yes, there are lots of female travelers interested in meeting a handsome Parisian. But the problem might just be that you’re looking in the wrong place and approaching the wrong type of guys.

You don’t wanna end up with the local version of your hometown asshole?

sacre coeur

To make it easier for you to navigate, I’ve listed a bunch of DO’s and DON’Ts, tips and advice. Happy hunting!

How to find him

DATING APPS 

  • Don’t use Tinder, if you’re looking for something more than just a steamy night in bed with a Parisian. Tinder has a reputation in France for being a sex-app, not a dating app – and even if you might meet someone nice and genuine on there, there’s a big chance you’ll just be wasting your time.
  • DO try the french app Meetic instead (if you manage to navigate through it in French). If your French language skills are solid enough (and you’re in town long enough to schedule in an evening dedicated to something non-touristic), you might wanna look into signing up for a cooking class or any of the other events arranged by Meetic. That way, you’ll be able to meet someone in a more neutral environment – and even if you don’t, you’ve learned a new skill or a new recipe.
  • MAYBE try the app MeetMe. This app is either a dream or a disaster, depending on who you meet. I was lucky and met the love of my life on this strange app, but you kind of have to sort through a sea of creepers before you find someone decent to talk to.

INTERNATIONAL MEET-UPS and LANGUAGE EXCHANGE EVENTS

  • Don’t use the language exchange groups on Facebook for romantic purposes. A lot of the users are already in relationships and are only looking for someone who can actually help them improve their English language skills. There ARE a lot of single guys on there too, and from what I’ve been told (by friends who met up with some of them) while some might be genuinely nice, others were rather creepy. If you decide to meet someone off those groups, make sure you meet them in a safe, public place. Maybe in a park, such as Jardin du Luxembourg, or in a coffee shop?
  • DO attend language exchange events where you get to meet lots of different people – locals as well as other foreigners. With Franglish the language exchange is done speed dating style, with 14 minute one-to-one conversations with all the attendees (of whatever age and gender). Who knows, you might end up having a 14 minute conversation with Mr. Right (now).
  • DO attend international meet-ups! With MeetUp and InterNations you can sign up for guided tours, cinema/theater/museum events, brunches, lunches, dinners, hikes, drinks – anything, really. In a natural environment like this it’s easy to meet someone, although there’s a bigger chance of meeting someone not French than someone who IS French (with the exception of the bar/club events).

MEET SOMEONE THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS

This is by far the best way to meet someone, but it’s also the trickiest way. Do you already have a friend who lives in Paris? Or even a friend of a friend? Or a friend of a friend of a friend?

Once you’ve made your way into a circle of friends it will be easier for you to meet someone, have a nice conversation with that person – and hopefully arrange to meet again the next day.

  • DO chit-chat about your life, your culture, food, drinks, the weather, your job – and feel free to complain about things. In France, complaining is not a turn-off. Quite the contrary. It’s cultural to complain about your work, the weather and everything else you feel deserves an eye roll, a sigh and the negative ooh la la.
  • Don’t ask him about his religious beliefs or political views. A lot of French people are atheist and not at all interested in talking about religion. And politics? Just leave it. Unless you  feel like ranting – or you know a really good joke about one of the current or former politicians!

notre dame

How to get him interested

Keep it simple: In Paris, less is definitely more. Don’t go too heavy on the makeup, don’t show off any more skin than what you’re comfortable with – and just be yourself. A beautiful smile goes a lot further than having your boobs out on display. Any day.

Keep it funny: In France there’s a saying that goes; “Une femme qui rit a moitié dans ton lit” (a woman who laughs is halfway in your bed), which means, humor is the key to a woman’s heart (or bed). This does not only apply to women, though. French men love a woman who can make them laugh. A confident, happy woman with a great sense of humor. Now, that’s a keeper!

Keep it mysterious: As charming as he may be, don’t take him back to your hostel dorm to “seal the deal” right after you just met. And even though the bedroom in his tiny Parisian apartment sounds a lot more comfortable than your hostel bunk bed, don’t rush things. Just don’t. Leave him wanting more. Leave him thinking about you all night, waiting, wanting, wishing, hoping. He may be frustrated, but he’ll appreciate it so much more once it happens. And so will you.

eiffel tower angle

Remember the French etiquette

DO greet him (and his friends) with kisses on the cheeks (well, more like air-kisses, really) and say bonjour or salut.

Don’t shake his hand. It’s weird. Unless he just interviewed you for a job, that is.

Parlez-vous Francais?

You’re a tourist. Nobody expects you to speak French. But then again, speaking another language opens up a whole new world and allows you to be introduced to people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate with.

An example; if someone asks you “As-tu un copain?” (do you have a boyfriend), you might wanna say “non, je suis célibataire” (no, I’m single).

Download Babbel and get on to it.

Motivate yourself and think about that perfume ad model and how great it would be to eat croissants on the balcony of a 5 star hotel while enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower, with him.

paris eiffel tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do and what not to do in Montmartre, Paris

Montmarte is a large hill in the north of Paris. Montmarte is also one of the most famous neighborhoods in the city. And perhaps the most touristic and crowded one as well. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of tourists, illegal street vendors, artists who want to draw your portrait “for free”, street musicians, pickpockets, selfie-takers and annoyed Parisians asking you to move out of their way.

tourists

Souvenir shops are lined up, one after another, selling plastic Eiffel Tower’s (made in China) and poor quality graphic tees – and all those handbags you think are oh, so Parisian, but Parisians wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. Don’t even get me started on the berets…

Large groups of tourists line up to buy crêpes from fast food joints and street vendors, while others go to the nearest brasserie with “service continu” written in capital letters, to reassure you they don’t follow the typical French dining hours. Generally, these restaurants have an overwhelming list of dishes to choose from on their menu, and none of these dishes will be made from scratch. Tourists visit these establishments because they wanna dine like locals. Most likely, they will ask the waiter for suggestions.

Let me guess…

Escargots or soupe à l’oignon for starters, magret de canard or perhaps some moules-frites (which is Belgian, by the way) as a main, and a nice little crème brûlée or a mouelleux au chocolat for dessert? Accompanied by a glass of wine?

How obvious.

Well, as delicious as all those dishes are – because they are – you can do better than going to an overpriced touristic brasserie eating something that might not even be freshly made. More on that later…

So, while you’re eating your half decent Nutella-filled crêpe or your overpriced onion soup, you may find yourself wondering why you’re still pretty much only surrounded by other tourists. Where are the locals? And where are the local shops? Is there really nothing in Montmartre but so-called “tourist traps”?

Of course there is!

Montmarte has so much to offer for everyone, whether it’s tourists looking for an authentic experience, expatriates looking for something familiar or locals looking for something they know, as well as something they don’t know at all. Montmartre has always been a neighborhood for artists and all kinds of creative people, and today it’s also a melting pot of different cultures.

But, you can’t go there and not visit the main tourist attraction, can you?

Sacré-Coeur – or, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris – is one of the most famous sights in Paris. In my opinion, it’s also one of the most beautiful. I made the mistake of missing out on the Sacre Coeur the first time I went to Paris. Good thing I came back – and stayed!

This Roman Catholic church may look like it’s been around for a very long time, but the construction was actually only finished in 1914!

While you’re there, admiring the Basilica, please watch your belongings. Pickpockets love tourists, and they go where tourists go. Even if that means climbing up the stairs all the way to the top, just to grab your phone, your wallet or whatever else you may have that’s valuable.

Also, beware of the bracelet scam!

There are people who make a living trying to sell tourists “free” friendship or relationship bracelets. Nothing is free in Paris. Tell them “non, merci” and walk away. Don’t stop, or they’ll put the bracelet on you, and finish making it right there on your arm. Sometimes these people can be quite aggressive and threatening as well. You don’t want that!

sacre coeur montmartre

Salon de thé, Bubble tea or Coffee Shops?

Like I said, Montmartre is a melting pot of different cultures, which also affects the food culture in the city. When I first moved to France from Norway, I missed my coffee-culture more than anything. I hated (and still hate) french espresso and got tricked when ordering café noisette (hazelnut), as I thought it’d be a latte with hazelnut syrup. Turns out it’s just a basic espresso with a tiny bit of milk in it. Yup. Really. What does hazelnut have to do with any of this? I’m as confused as you are.

icedcoffee

But the past two years there’s been quite a coffee revolution going on in France – especially in Paris. At first, Starbuck’s started popping up everywhere. Then expatriates, primarily from Anglophone countries, who’ve settled down in France for whatever reason, have taken their coffee-passion and hipster culture to the next level, and thanks to them, Paris now has lots of cool coffee shops to go to, with or without a laptop, camera, book or someone to drink coffee with. As Montmartre is one of the preferred neighborhoods for expats to live in, it’s no surprise that a lot of the coffee shops are located here.

I recommend: Lomi, Cuillier and KB Cafeshop (photo above: iced coffee and iced tea from KB Cafeshop)

KBcafeshop

And then there’s bubble tea. Not quite as trendy as coffee these days, but I sure like it and I’m glad this Taiwanese invention has made its way to Paris!

I recommend: Ô bubble

For a more local experience, visit a salon de thé. Although tea, and tea houses are not at all a french invention, the atmosphere in a Parisian salon de thé is a lot more french than in a coffee shop. Also, a lot of those places offer varied brunch/lunch menus and wine, so it’s not only about the tea and pastries.

I recommend: Pipalottes Gourmandes and La Bossue

pipalottesgourmandes

Montmartre will always be home to artists and creatives

The definition naive art is used to describe any form of visual art that is created by someone who doesn’t have the formal education and training that a professional artist would have. In Montmartre, there’s a museum and changing art exhibitions dedicated to self taught artists and naive art (Halle Saint Pierre). This former indoor market also houses a book store.

hallesaintpierre

If you’re passionate about designing your own clothing, you’ll find any fabric/material of any color and pattern – and all the supplies needed – at one of the many fabric stores in Montmartre. Best part is, it’s not even that expensive!

fabrics

fabricstore

Now, let’s talk about restaurants, shall we?

As mentioned earlier, there are many bad restaurants in Paris. Especially close to all the tourist attractions. My best advice is to stay as far away as possible from any restaurant with an enormous menu. So they offer seafood, steaks, ten different salads, five different pasta dishes, ten different pizzas, five kinds of burgers, multiple soups, multiple sandwiches, curry, tartar, snails, duck, ten different desserts? Turn around and leave. Nobody can be good at everything, and those guys are generally good at nothing but reheating stuff from the freezer.

Other red flags? Restaurants that are open from morning/noon until late night, without any break between lunch and dinner service are often touristic restaurants, as the french never eat dinner before 7 pm. Another thing, plastic menus with pictures of the food they offer is tacky as hell, for a Parisian restaurant. Don’t expect anything decent to come out of that (although, there could be exceptions).

Small restaurants, especially bistrots, with small menus are generally quite good – based on my own personal experience.

I recommend: Le Grand 8 , Le Lamarck and Crêperie Brocéliande

How about a cinema date – in French?

As you may know, I have previously collaborated with Lost in Frenchlation, who create subtitles for french films and arrange screenings every Friday in Montmartre for non-french speakers. If you happen to be in the area on a Friday night and want to see a subtitled french movie at an old traditional movie theater, here’s your chance!

cinema

Any other tips?

Well, pick up a fresh croissant in the morning from Le Grenier à Pain, visit the Place du Tertre – the artist’s square, wander around, take photos, enjoy your stay – and grab a glass of wine at the wine bar Caves des Abbesses.

infrontofsacrecoeur

montmartre

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written anything about cabarets, such as the famous Moulin Rouge, it’s because I will soon write a completely separate guide to the cabarets, bars and sex shops in Pigalle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of my trip to Narbonne (South of France) – and why YOU should visit!

“Seriously?! You’re going to Narbonne….without me?”

Those were the words that came out of my boyfriend’s mouth after I told him I’d continue traveling for a week, instead of going home right after my trip to Toulouse. Little did I know that he had planned for us to explore that town together. Little did I know that he even knew anything about Narbonne at all – because I sure didn’t (then again, I’m not the French one in this relationship).

My reason for booking a night in Narbonne was no other than it being conveniently located as an overnight stay, before continuing my journey to Spain. Based on the photos I’d seen online, it did also look like a nice little place to hang out for a day. Not even for a second did it cross my mind that my significant other had considered it as a perfect location for a romantic weekend getaway and the ultimate place to go for a wine tasting experience.

IMG_20170606_134425.jpg

As I arrived at the Gare Routière (the bus station), I was greeted with sunshine. And heat. My black polka dot dress was accessorized with black tights underneath, and my cleavage and bare sleeves were hidden inside of my denim jacket. For the climate back home, that would have been a perfectly appropriate outfit for a spring day. Maybe I’d even add a scarf, just for the sake of layering. But here, all those layers were killing me. I was sweating like a pig. I felt like the spirit of the town was calling me, saying something along the lines of “welcome to Narbonne. Now, take off your clothes!”

My accommodation for the night was a lovely bed&breakfast called La Maison Gustave. The girl at the reception helped me carry my luggage to the room and gave me a list of restaurants to check out and things to do in Narbonne. The room looked exactly like the kind of bedroom I always wished I had; Scandinavian style interior, light colors and with a gorgeous view from the window. From my room I could see the old palace and it looked absolutely amazing! I don’t know about you, but that sure beats the view I’ve got from my bedroom window at home (view over a large construction site).

IMG_20170606_125044.jpg

For one second there, I imagined all the gorgeous Instagram-photos that could’ve been shot there. Just imagine a large coffee cup and avocado toasts and me in a silk robe, as part of a pretend “breakfast in bed” sorta photo shoot …Or don’t.

IMG_20170514_184010.jpg

I removed my sticky black tights and took off my jacket before heading out to explore the town. I wanted to visit the palace (Palais des Archevêques) and the Narbonne Cathedral which is situated right next to the palace, and I wanted to take some beautiful photos by the Canal de la Robine.

IMG_20170606_124810.jpg

As much as I’d like to pretend I’m not, I’m probably always gonna be that stereotypical woman who loves to go shopping. My fingers were itching to spend money on something new – whether it would be artisan biscuits, new books, sandals, hair care products, whatever. But, being on a limited budget I decided I’d be better off splurging on a huge meal later, instead of buying a bunch of stuff I’d have to carry around for the rest of my journey. So I went to a bakery and bought myself a pastry instead.

IMG_20170529_173321.jpg

Biggest regret of the day. The pastry, a religieuse (why on earth that thing is called “religious” remains a mystery to me), left my hands sticky with melted chocolate sauce going everywhere, while chocolate cream kept pouring out as I took a bite of the pastry. How was it even possible to stuff that much cream inside of that little thing? And why didn’t anyone ever tell me those should be eaten with a spoon, and not with my hands. My face ended up looking like a two year old’s face after eating chocolate cake for the very first time. Good thing I wasn’t there on a date!

I wandered around for a couple of hours until my feet started hurting, thanks to the combination of poor quality shoes and sweaty, swollen feet. Whoever said ballet flats are good for long walks is a big fat liar. By then I’d done quite a lot of window shopping (and no actual shopping), I’d visited the Tourism Office (to find out what I could have done in Narbonne if I had more time – or a car), I’d gotten lost while wandering off to places that turned out to be all residential neighborhoods with nothing to see (where an old man laughed at me and said “clearly you’re lost, little girl” in French).

IMG_20170606_133726

I finished the evening with a kind of expensive but delicious meal at Restaurant Gaia. The waiters were surprised, and seemed quite confused – kind of uncomfortable, even – to see someone enter the restaurant without a companion. As if solo travelers don’t eat?

Because of this strange welcome, I already regretted entering the restaurant by myself. I should have just ordered a burger somewhere. It would have made me feel less humiliated. But getting up as soon as I’d been seated, to make my great escape would look even more ridiculous, so I decided to stay.

I ordered a three-course menu, completely forgetting about the fact that I was alone and should have just gone for a main dish and get the eff out of there as soon as possible. To make matters worse, they didn’t serve wine by the glass, so I had to take a half bottle. Fine, I thought. It was probably small anyway. Right?

IMG_20170606_134730.jpg

Wrong. It got me drunk. And the staff gave me a bunch of magazines to read, while eating. Probably because I looked like a sad, lonely, pathetic little girl who’s getting drunk on her own and comfort-eating like crazy. I’m sure they thought I was single, with six cats waiting for me at home. I’m sure I would have thought the same if someone like me walked into a fancy restaurant all by herself, got drunk and ate a huge meal – without anyone to share the experience with.

IMG_20170606_134900.jpg

I must admit, though, the food was pretty damn delicious. By the time I got the dessert, I was too drunk to remember to take a picture. Hence its absence.

Before going to sleep, I watched Eurovision on TV and let my sweaty, swollen feet rest on the comfortable, Instagrammable bed.

Narbonne, I shall re-visit you. But next time, I’m bringing a plus one!

IMG_20170515_104915

 

So, if this post made you go “I’ll put some pants on, pack my bags and go there ASAP”, here are some ideas for what to do in Narbonne (apart from the things already mentioned):

In the town center:

Near Narbonne (by car)

IMG_20170606_133044IMG_20170606_134604IMG_20170606_133205IMG_20170606_133905IMG_20170606_133425IMG_20170606_132624IMG_20170606_124859

 

 

14 Cool Things to do in Toulouse, France

Last Thursday, after a hectic morning in Paris, missing my original train to Toulouse due to getting robbed on the train from the suburbs I live in, I left the capital and embarked on what is my last solo travel as a twenty-something. I’ve written all about the incident on Not Quite French (yet) – my new blog on all things France. There’s also another post on Toulouse on that blog (with a lot of the same photos) in case you’d like to know more about the Pink City. Yes, the nickname of Toulouse is la ville rose!

AirBrush_20170512221343.jpg

You might not know much about this city, if you’re not one of those people who go on road trips or train travel to wherever and prefer the medium-sized, underrated cities over the capitals and the hyped up places. Although most people who know a little French geography, know approximately where to place Toulouse on a map, and most people I know even seem to have a friend or a friend of a friend who have moved there. Still, I don’t actually know that many people who have been there themselves (with the exception of French people).

DSC_0567 (2).JPG

Let’s change that. Let’s make Toulouse the next big thing. Let’s put Toulouse on everyone’s top 10 bucket list. Let’s live la vie en rose in la ville rose!

And here are the things you can do while you’re there, livin’ it up or takin’ it easy…

  1. Visit a variety of interesting museums. I’ve been told the space museum (Cite de l’espace) is pretty awesome – and I hope I’ll get to go there next time I’m in Toulouse!
  2. Stumble upon cool art! I was pleasantly surprised with the cool-factor of Toulouse, especially in terms of art. While wandering around, I discovered a lot of fun street art and while hanging out at the Place du Capitole, I noticed a bunch of paintings hanging from the ceiling. How cool is that?
  3. …And visit the art galleries. If modern and contemporary art is right up your alley, check out  Galerie Alain Daudet.
  4. Or visit photography exhibitions…in a water tower. Yes, that’s right. If you’d like to visit a cool photography expo while in Toulouse, you can do that at Château d’Eau (water tower)!
  5. Or an artsy, cool bar? Le Nasdrovia is an art-themed/Russia-themed vodka bar.
  6. Hey, manga is art too. Visit a manga cafe! BD Fugue offers hot drinks, cold drinks and a large range of comics from all over the world, including a lot of Japanese manga!
  7. Or a literature cafe. Read a book, enjoy the atmosphere and grab a cup of tea at l’estaminot.
  8. Try the local specialties! Unless you’re vegetarian/vegan, eat local specialties such as foie gras and the Toulousain dish Cassoulet (french stew with meat, sausauges and beans) or any dish with the Toulousain sausage! I recommend the restaurant le Dahu. If you are vegetarian or vegan, get your greens at La Faim des Haricots.
  9. Celebrating a very special occasion? Visit a 2-starred restaurant. It is known to be the best restaurant in Toulouse, and I am not surprised. The owner is Michel Sarran, one of the judges from French Top Chef. Everything he cooks looks absolutely amazing!
  10. Eat pastries. Because, when in France you stuff your face and get fat. Simple as that. Visit Au Poussin Bleu Père et Fils and try their tasty chocolate or macarons, or go to Maison Beauhaire at the Victor Hugo Market and try their delicious eclairs. I highly recommend the lemon meringue one!
  11. Drink coffee. Yes, France has caught onto the Coffeeshop trend! Me, being Scandinavian and all, I am used to drinking latte’s on a weekly basis ever since I was 12, and it’s good to know that most French cities can give me my caffeine-fix in other forms than as bitterness served in an espresso cup at a dark old brasserie. I recommend La Fiancée and The Flower’s Café.
  12. Chill in the park. Jardin des plantes is the perfect spot if you wanna hang out and read a book and relax, or have nice little picnic, or go for a run or meditate or whatever. Wanna take a nap? Sure. Paint? Go for it.
  13. Check out the bar-scene.  I already mentioned the artsy vodka bar. But there’s a lot of other cool places to go to for a drink or five in the city. n5 Wine Bar will serve you wine and tapas. La Maison will serve you some pretty good cocktails!
  14. Admire the magnificent architecture. The Capitole building and its square, the historical churches, the Pont Neuf, the beautiful old buildings in the Old Town. Ah, Toulouse. Quelle belle ville!

DSC_0557 (2)DSC_0568 (2)DSC_0572 (2)DSC_0575 (2)DSC_0576 (2)IMG_20170513_004633IMG_20170513_004732IMG_20170512_215248IMG_20170512_215554IMG_20170513_004835IMG_20170513_005022IMG_20170515_170812IMG_20170515_171035